Adopting during a pandemic: Part one

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 4:37 PM EST
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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - The ongoing pandemic has made it challenging for many families looking to adopt or waiting for a child to come into their home.

Thanks to the coronavirus vaccine and loosening travel restrictions, more families are no longer in limbo.

In 2020, we introduced you to Justin and Kate Russell from Scarborough.

They were able to adopt their young son from South Korea, the same orphanage Kate was adopted from when she was just four months old.

They, like so many other prospective adoptive parents, sought out Maine Children’s Home in Waterville to help with the process.

Now, the Maine Children’s Home has also helped a Skowhegan couple add to their family.

“We’re the only Hague accredited agency left in Maine,” said Lindsay Bragdon, the Family Adoption Program Director for Maine Childrens’ Home in Waterville.

Many local families looking to open their hearts and homes to adoption find guidance from Maine Children’s Home.

They provide a number of services that cover domestic and international adoptions.

“It’s the best part of our job to be with families when that child comes home and how we support families to be the most successful with their newly formed family - however that looks. It looks different for everybody,” Bragdon said.

Bragdon is going into her 14th year as the Family Adoption Program Director.

“When adoption has touched your life, and typically when it does, it’s a pretty joyful experience,” she said. “For a lot of our families adoption has touched their life so once they get to adulthood and becoming parents, they bring that into part of becoming a parent for them.”

That rings true for Jeremy and Hope Herrick in Skowhegan.

They’ve recently become a family of five after welcoming three-year-old Marieva into their home from Bulgaria.

“Very early on in our relationship we had talked about a family and what kind of family we wanted to have,” said Hope. “We knew we wanted to have several kids and we knew adoption was going to be a part of our plan.”

Part of that plan was knowing it could take some time.

Their adoption process began in 2016. At the time, the Herrick’s were told it would take about a year for their dossier to be completed.

They were then told it could take two years from when their dossier was accepted. It actually took five.

“It was a longer process, I think probably due to COVID some. There were some government changes in Bulgaria that slowed us down a little bit. It was a practice with patience for sure,” said Herrick.

Jeremy and Hope Herrick of Skowhegan adopted three-year-old Marieva from Bulgaria. They're...
Jeremy and Hope Herrick of Skowhegan adopted three-year-old Marieva from Bulgaria. They're pictured here with her and their two oldest children.(WABI)

“The process to ensure a child truly holds what we call an “orphan” status and making sure that they have been through all the steps in their country of origin takes a long time, and then the process to become a citizen, that also takes a long time. You add those two things together and here we are,” said Bragdon.

This is not the first time Maine Children’s Home has helped a family bring home a child from Bulgaria.

In fact, they’ve assisted in adoptions from more than a dozen countries.

While the Herricks chose international adoption, some families may choose domestic.

“With domestic we are talking about getting matched with a set of parents who are experiencing unplanned pregnancy,” Bragdon explained. “Internationally we’re talking about getting matched with a child from another country. The birth family is typically not a part of that process. I say typically because there are countries now where it’s kind of there, Columbia for example. There are kiddos from Columbia who do have connections with their birth families.”

Early on in the pandemic, Maine Children’s Home saw an influx of families interested in adoption. Bragdon says that has since leveled out.

“I think for us, COVID allowed us to take a step back and be flexible as we ask families to be in the process,” she said.

Bragdon also says they’re more intentional about what families need, especially since the adoption process can be discouraging at times.

The Herrick family, like so many others, experienced those struggles as well - everything from navigating the application process, dealing with travel restrictions, and more.

Bragdon says those hiccups did not steal Herrick’s joy.

“They still had so much hope and excitement for the process, which I will never forget,” she said. “They just had so much joy and were willing to learn and do whatever it took.”

Maine Children’s Home hosts free information meetings every month that are open to anyone who is interested in exploring adoption.

Meetings are held virtually on Zoom every last Wednesday of the month from 6- 7:30 p.m.

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