Hoping for a bundle of joy

Lenora Schmitt, 2, holds photos of Lance, a boy with cerebral palsy that her family is hoping to adopt from an Eastern European country. With her are, from left, her sister Elliana, 7, mother Melissa, and brother Louis, 4 months.

Melissa Schmitt and her husband, Todd, always knew they would adopt.

It wasn’t a question of if but when.

The couple already have a decent-sized brood, with three young children under 7.

However, Melissa could think of little else after she saw a picture of 2-year-old Lance from the orphanage in eastern Europe. About six weeks ago, the couple launched headlong into the tricky international adoption process and haven’t looked back since.

“We were a couple of years away from being committed,” Melissa said of the planning she and Todd originally had done.

That was before falling in love with the toddler with the big doe eyes, looking up at them from the crib. Lance has cerebral palsy. The Schmitts have been told the boy may not be able to lift his head and do other simple things compared to toddlers his age.

His precious head is becoming flat on the back because he’s been confined to a crib most of his life. Without having enough people to stare adoringly at him, his eyes don’t focus well.

All these details hardly matter. What the Schmitts want most is to hold him and tell him how much he is loved. Every day Lance is in the orphanage, the family’s heart breaks a little bit more.

“We’re hoping that we can get him home as soon as possible,” Melissa Schmitt said. “Every time we delay it makes it that much longer. How do you save one life and not another? At the same time, at least we can make a difference in Lance’s life.”

Especially during November’s National Adoption month, it’s this kind of thinking that adoption officials hope loving people will consider when deciding to build their families.

In Mesa County, about 20 children each year are in need of adoption. There are 277 children waiting to be adopted in Colorado. In 2011, U.S. residents adopted 9,319 children from other countries, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Before marrying Todd, Melissa traveled to Romania with folks from The Pregnancy Center in Grand Junction to care for children in orphanages. It was there that she began to realize the plight of children in need of love.

Shortly after locating a brief history on Lance and viewing a one-minute video, the Schmitts acted quickly to start the adoption process.

Lance’s government nearly had started the process of stopping his file — in other words, not making him able to be adopted by anyone but residents of his home country.

Melissa Schmitt said the adoption agency requires that she not release the name of the country where Lance lives, only that it borders Romania.

To date, the Schmitts have spent about $6,000 in required documents to adopt Lance. Melissa Schmitt estimates it will cost a total of $24,000 to complete the adoption. That includes twice traveling to Lance’s country — once to meet him and the second time to pick him up. If all goes according to plan, the earliest the family may have Lance under their roof is by next October.

While the price tag to adopt Lance is steep, Melissa Schmitt said the family is prepared to sacrifice in other ways. It will mean forgoing dinners out and pinching pennies where they can. For example, Christmas presents for the Schmitt children will be kept to a minimum this year, Melissa Schmitt said.

“It’s $24,000, but oh, my gosh, isn’t a life worth that?” she said. “If I had to explain to him why we never tried to bring him home what would my excuse be? Of course he’s worth it. Over how many years and months have I wasted so much money and these children are starving and neglected? The money is a reality but I’m confident that it will work out. We have the ability to provide for him when he gets home.”

Melissa Schmitt stresses that the encouragement the family receives is equally crucial. Often people try to dissuade families from adopting, stressing that the burden will be too great.

“I want to be a source of encouragement for people out there that it is a possibility,” she said. “There are sites you can get on and donate $5 to one of these families who are in the adoption process. That $5 may seem so little but when they see their account is $5 more, that is so encouraging to them.”

Melissa Schmitt said her family was in the process of becoming foster parents for local children with developmental disabilities when they discovered Lance’s profile. They decided to focus their energy on bringing him home. Lance was abandoned by his mother at birth, Melissa Schmitt said.

“I can’t imagine some of the struggles that might be ahead for us,” she said. “It’s so amazing to see how children can flourish when somebody loves them and has patience. You can make a difference in that one life.”

Anyone can donate to support adoptions at Reece’s Rainbow, a website for families who are attempting to adopt children with developmental disabilities. The site is at reecesrainbow.org. Search for the Schmitt family to donate to their cause.


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