Family happens in all different ways. You bring someone in your life because you want them to be there. That’s how adoption works. It’s about opening your home and making room for love. These challenging times might make it difficult to think about the possibility of adoption or foster care. Most families who have gone through the process of adoption say it’s worth it, although it takes time, some patience and, often, a few heartaches to complete.
Kinley Blake’s Story
Laura Watilo Blake and her husband, Chris Blake, of Bay Village, met at the University of Missouri in their Spanish classes. Both have been immersed in South American culture over the years, whether traveling or working overseas.
Years later, the married couple decided to pursue adoption — domestically and internationally, specifically in the Spanish-speaking countries of Colombia and Ecuador.
“Chris and I always had the intention to grow our family through adoption ever since we were in college,” Laura says. “It was always ‘someday we will adopt.’ It was only when we started reaching the end of our 30s that we said, ‘maybe someday is now.’’
“We investigated very carefully what agency to use — domestic and international,” Chris Blake says. “Laura was the first one to stir the possibility (of adoption) in my mind. It’s just another way to start a family.”
“Chris was on the board of Adoption Network Cleveland, which was instrumental in helping us start the process, find an agency and offer support.” Laura says.
Chris Blake adds the process — which includes volumes of personal disclosures, background checks, home studies, travel and expenses — took six years for the couple, who used international agency Children’s Home Society of Minnesota.
Waiting to hear if a child is available can be heart-breaking for most families, including the Blakes.
“We were keeping all our options open at that point,” Laura Blake says, adding international adoption has become harder to do.
“We are not ones to give up easily,” Chris Blake says. He notes couples should carefully research their options and be their own best advocates because no one will have your best interests at heart more than you.
Once the couple did get a referral, it was from Colombia.
Laura says the Blakes’ social worker told them the referral was a special needs case. However, when they met their daughter, Kinley, 2 at the time, that wasn’t the case. Although, she was ill with pneumonia.
“We went on faith — this is who we wanted,” Laura Blake says.
Chris Blake says he’s never been more excited in his life than when the couple was traveling to meet their daughter, and he had to keep his emotions in check.
“I really wanted to be a father,” he says. “Right when we met Kinley, I remember turning to Laura and saying, ‘That’s it, I am done.’ Kinley already had me wrapped around her finger.”
Kinley, who’s now 6, has parents who also help her embrace her Colombian culture.
Chris, Laura and Kinley have traveled to Colombia every year since the adoption, seeing friends they met during the process.
Kinley also has attended the Mi Pueblo Culture Camp, a local summer camp created to give adopted children from Latin America an opportunity to learn about Latino culture through music, dance, art and language. Also, the Blakes are involved in the Ohio Colombian Foundation, which is the sponsoring organization for the first Latino garden in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens along Martin Luther King Drive.
“We participate in events like One World Day and Hispanic Heritage Month,” Laura says. “One of the teachers from Mi Pueblo, Luzelena Klopp, is from Colombia and has taught Kinley traditional dances from Colombia, and eventually we’d like to put a troupe together (after the pandemic) to help raise funds for the garden project. I can’t wait for Kinley to have a public space in Cleveland to call her own, where she can show off her Colombia pride.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited their travel to Colombia, but Laura Blake says they were able to have other virtual opportunities to connect with friends and attend camp.
“I have never been a part of something so special,” Laura Blake says about her daughter’s dual citizenship. “There is another whole country we adopted. Colombia is like a second home to us.”
Laura Watilo Blake and her husband, Chris Blake, of Bay Village, sent a wishbone necklace with a thank you and a poem to the Colombian liaison after adopting Kinley. “I wrote it using good luck symbols as my inspiration,” says Laura Watilo Blake, who wrote the poem before leaving their three-week stay in Colombia. “It was part of a thank you gift to my liaison who has since become a great friend and godmother to Kinley. It comes down to the fact that we were so lucky to have grown our family through adoption and to have found our daughter. She was meant to be with us.”
Thanks to the furcula,
most birds can f ly.
So, make your wish.
Come on, give it a try.
You have the power
to make dreams come true.
Fly after them and
and they’ll come into view.
The more you believe,
the luckier you will be.
We should know, becuase
you helped us find our family.
— Laura Watilo Blake
Daniel Ramos’ Story
For Gertrudis (Trudy) and Jose Ramos of North Olmsted, July 30 represented the end of a long journey. The COVID-19 pandemic hindered their opportunity to stand before the judge with family and friends for the adoption of their son, Daniel; instead, the ceremony was held virtually. Still, Trudy Ramos says there was a flood of emotions when signing the papers.
The couple, who have two daughters, began the process of foster and adoption as a licensed foster family in 2015 through the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services. Within a few weeks, the agency placed a baby girl with their family; however, after several months of fostering, she was united with a family member.
It caused a lot of emotional stress for the immediate and extended Ramos family. They began to think of the impact foster care has on everyone.
Trudy Ramos says they thought they were done fostering until they got a call in January 2017 about a premature 4-week-old boy who needed to be placed.
“I called my husband and I told him I felt like we needed to pick him up,” she says.
The baby, Daniel, who was exposed to drugs, had issues with feeding as an infant. Now, at almost age 4, he has developmental delays and other challenges.
Trudy Ramos says in each milestone, he works harder to learn the next task he has to master.
“First healing, getting to that acceptance, (and) putting your heart out there again,” Trudy Ramos says. Adoption and foster care can be difficult, but to her family, the rewards have been worth the heartache. Daniel and every child they have brought into their home as a foster family have brought joy and love to their immediate and extended family.
“Your whole world changes for the better,” she says. “Things do get more hectic with one more child, but what you get in return is so much more. It’s the greatest thing we’ve ever done.”