Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Angels in Our Community"

Weekly Column by Senator Susan Collins

There are few things in life more touching than to see individuals give generously of themselves to improve the lives of children. There is no place where this is more evident than in homes that have opened their doors and their hearts to children who do not have a family to love and care for them.

One of the most basic needs of a child is to have a safe and loving home, with a family to cherish and support them. But for hundreds of thousands of children in America-50 million worldwide-unfortunate circumstances have robbed them of the love, support and stability of a family. But among us are "Angels," who are eager to provide loving homes for these children.

Some of these angels live in Maine. In October, a family from China, Maine will be honored for its commitment to children.

Each year, Members of Congress have the privilege of recognizing members of the community who have truly made a difference in children's lives through adoption with "Angels in Adoption" awards. As a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I nominated Tarren and Anna Bragdon.

Their story as adoptive parents of is a story of love, patience and inspiration. Four years ago, Tarren and Anna adopted their first child, Wyatt, as an infant from South Korea. They wanted their new son to know the joys and closeness of a large and loving family so they subsequently adopted an infant girl, Waverly, from Korea.

As the love in their home grew, so did their desire for a larger family. Moved by the plight of children around the world who need families, they began the adoption process again. In March, the Bragdons were granted permission to adopt Muhammad and Habib Kedir, twin boys born in Ethiopia who came to an international care center at just three days old and each weighing less than three pounds.

While waiting for approval from the U.S. Embassy to bring the boys home to Maine, however, the Bragdons learned that one of the twins had become very ill and needed critical medical care. Muhammad, now named Jude Randon Bragdon, suffered from bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, and subdural empyema, an infection of the brain-conditions with a high mortality rate even in the U.S. He needed to remain hospitalized. Tarren and Anna agreed that Jude should not be alone and one of them needed to be at the hospital. Although they had never met the boy, Tarren traveled for 20 hours to Ethiopia to be with his newly adopted son. There, he stayed for more than three weeks dividing his time between the hospital with Jude or at the orphanage with Jude's brother, Habib, who is now named Asher McNamara Bragdon. Soon, Anna joined Tarren and they waited patiently for Jude's condition to improve.

Once the twins were medically cleared to travel, they were issued visas and came to their new home to Maine in June. Today, they are healthy, happy, and thriving young boys.

It gives me great pleasure to provide such well-deserved recognition to this exceptional family. It is extraordinary people like Tarren and Anna who are making a difference to a growing number of children.

It is for this reason that I was pleased to be a cosponsor of the Adoption Promotion Act which was signed into law in 2003. This legislation extended and improved the Adoption Incentive Program, created as part of the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act.

The Adoption Incentives Program, which rewards states for their efforts to unite foster children with permanent, loving families, has been a great success. Since the program's inception, adoptions in our country have increased by 64 percent. There are, however, still thousands of children nationwide, including hundreds in Maine, in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption but are still waiting for permanent homes.

Many older children wait for years to be placed with an adoptive family, if they are adopted at all. I was therefore pleased that the Adoption Promotion Act included a new incentive to encourage the adoption of older children. Older children also need a stable and loving environment so that they can grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive adults.

It is efforts such as those being made by the "Angels in Adoption" program and the Adoption Promotion Act that are raising public awareness of the ways that committed individuals can help children through adoption and foster care. And it is the example set by people like Tarren and Anna Bragdon that will inspire others to think about adopting.

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