Friday, December 22, 2006

International adoptions

Adoption group tries to bring world a bit closer
Crawford, Byron. Louisville Courier-Journal, Oct. 13, 2006, pg. B1.

She has a recurring, bittersweet memory of being surrounded in a South American orphanage by 30 adorable kindergarten-age girls — each begging to be hugged.

"They were all holding up their hands going, 'Momma! Momma!' " Lucy Armistead remembers. "They just wanted to be held and touched and loved, and it just broke my heart."

Armistead's compassion is the cornerstone of Kentucky Adoption Services, an Owensboro-based, Christian, not-for-profit adoption and humanitarian aid agency that she founded in 2002. T he group has assisted 274 U.S. families , mostly with international adoptions.

Two of Lucy and Dale Armistead's five children were adopted from El Salvador. Lucy, 30, worked as a counselor — handling background investigations for a large human services agency with a small adoption program — before founding her group .

"We probably will place 30 to 50 children from Guatemala this year, and probably 20 to 25 from China," she said.

Charlie and Amy Walker, a young couple from Corbin, Ky., recently adopted a baby boy from Guatemala through Kentucky Adoption Services .

"We did a lot of research and luckily found them on the internet," Amy Walker said. "I liked them because they are a smaller agency, and Christian."

In addition to child placement, the group has established humanitarian aid ministries for neglected and abandoned children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti, where they help older orphaned children reconnect with members of their biological families.

Their worker in El Salvador was recently able to locate the grandmother of a boy whose biological mother had moved to another country. T he grandmother had no idea of her grandson's whereabouts. S he now is able to visit the boy and re-establish a relationship with him .

Armistead's greatest frustration is the cost and politics involved in many international adoptions, and pending rule changes that she believes will make it more difficult for smaller agencies to provide affordable adoptions.

"You see these kids that are in desperate need, and you know that there are good families that could love these children and want to adopt them, but there's so much politics involved to bringing them into that home," she said.

In the mountains of Haiti, Armistead met a woman known as "Grandma" who lives in a thatched-roof mud hut with a dirt floor, where she cares for nine of her grandchildren and sends them to school. All of her children are dead.

"She's basically running an orphanage in her little mud hut," Armistead said. "When I met her and looked in her eyes, I lost it, and it's hard for me to talk about her without crying."

Armistead recalled that the small aid mission nearby had given Grandma $20 to take her son to a doctor, one hour away from her home, not long before he died.

"The hospital didn't use all the money, so when she got back, she brought the change back to the mission," Armistead said. "That was the most humbling story to hear — that somebody with nothing would bring back a couple of dollars. And from that point on, I was like, 'OK , we've got to help her.'"

Congress honored Armistead last month with an Angel in Adoption Award.

For more information about the group , go to


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