An Adoption Journey Home

Eye on LSSI, Winter 2007-2008 ( Note: This article has been abridged. Click on PDF to see complete article.)

The Baker FamilyJody Baker and Rosita (“Rose”) Yutuc had their first date on January 8, 1988. Then a 29-year-old Air Force officer, Jody was stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Rose, 28, lived with her 4-year-old son Reggie and her family in Lubeo, a small rural community surrounded by fish farms and rice fields, about an hour south of Manila.

“She was the first Filipino woman I met who spoke English,” Jody says. “We hit it off right away,” he says.

Rose and Jody were married in 1990, and the family moved to the United States, first to Oklahoma, then Texas and Ohio. They wanted to have children, but after four years of infertility treatment and several miscarriages, the couple began to ponder adoption, specifically from the Philippines.

Despite having thousands of miles between them, Rose has always maintained close ties with her family. She learned that a 14-year-old niece had given birth to a child in December 1996 and would not be able to raise the child.

Meeting Jasmine

In June 1998, Rose flew to the Philippines for three months to visit her family and meet the little girl, then 1 1/2.

“It was the rainy season, and she had water up to her calves,” Rose remembers. “She was just kind of staring at me — she looked at [a picture we had sent] and looked at me. She wanted me to carry her.” At that point, Rose knew she wanted to move forward with the adoption.

Rose, Jody and her family decided to name the little girl Jasmine. The couple made arrangements through the Philippine government for Rose’s brother and his wife to care for Jasmine during the lengthy adoption process. Jody and Rose sent money on a regular basis to help pay for Jasmine’s care. “It’s really hard over there,” explains Rose.

While in Ohio, Jody and Rose began working with an agency to complete their home study, as well as the required paperwork. Unexpectedly, Jody was transferred to Scott Air Force Base in Mascoutah, Ill. They had to re-do some paperwork and update their home study, because every state has its own adoption laws.

The Bakers found out about Lutheran Social Service of Illinois (LSSI) through Holt International, a well-known international adoption agency. In many international adoptions, a local agency, such as LSSI, prepares a home study and provides pre-adoption training, while a placing agency, such as Holt, serves as the liaison between the country, the orphanage (or other guardian) and the adoptive family. Jody says the Bakers chose LSSI because it is a “[well-recognized] adoption agency, [known for] outstanding, quality home studies.”

A year after her first visit, Rose went back to the Philippines and stayed for several months. By this time, Rose and Jasmine, now 2 1/2, were not strangers. The families had sent photos back and forth, and Jody and Rose sent videos showing what their life in Illinois was like.

Finally, two and a half years after first meeting Jasmine, Rose brought her home. Overall, the family made an easy transition. While Jasmine hadn’t met Jody before, because of their ongoing correspondence, “Jasmine knew my voice, knew what I looked like, knew what the park nearby looked like,” he says. And Reggie, a junior in high school at the time, enjoyed having a sister.

After Reggie graduated from high school and moved out of their home, the couple began to think about adopting again. “Raising Jasmine was a wonderful experience, and we just wanted to expand our family,” says Jody.

The couple decided to come back to LSSI to have their home study updated. “We had a good, positive experience with LSSI,” says Jody. They also selected Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to be their international agency. Jody notes, “It was seamless working with the two agencies.”

Preparing to adopt: a learning experience

During both adoptions, Jody and Rose found the home study process and their pre-adoption training to be very helpful. Training covers a variety of topics such as adoption laws, psychological issues, including separation and loss, and the cultural aspects of international adoption.

“This was their second adoption, so they were familiar with what was needed,” says Kim Holder, who supervises LSSI’s adoption programs and foster parent licensing in southern Illinois.

“Instead of viewing it as just another hurdle to get over, we viewed [the training] as a learning experience,” Jody says. “[LSSI] was always there for us if we had any questions or concerns.”

When they went through their first adoption, like many other couples, the Bakers were initially focused on adopting a very young child. Through their experience, their perception of adoption changed.

“By the end of the process, we were very open to accepting a wider range of ages,” he says. “We were then blessed with Jasmine, who was placed with us when she was nearly four.”

The Bakers learned that another one of Rose’s nieces had a son in 2000, and another in 2002. While the practice in the Philippines is to keep children with their birth families whenever possible, it quickly became clear that the birth mother couldn't manage the day-to-day parenting of the boys. The couple arranged for the boys to be cared for by one of Rose's sisters, and in 2003, the Bakers began the process of adopting them.

Initially, the couple expected to adopt the two boys, but in June 2004, they learned that the boys’ mother was pregnant with a third child. “We didn’t know about Jade until two weeks before she was born.”

“I was befuddled,” admits Jody. “We discussed it and didn’t want to break up the group.” The Bakers had to amend their paperwork, update their home study and receive approval from the Inter-Country Adoption Board to adopt a third child.

Carol Hakala, coordinator for the Philippine Adoption Program at Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, says, “The fact that [the Bakers] would open their hearts to all three kids is a tribute to family and extended family. It’s pretty rare that we have a family that steps forward to say that they’ll take on three children. That was a big decision for [the Bakers] to make. It’s [also] a tribute to the culture of the Philippines to reach out and support family members.”

In August 2006, Rose, Reggie and Jasmine went to the Philippines to pick up Riley, now 6, Ryan, now 5, and Jade, now 3. On the 21-hour journey home, all the kids did was “sleep and sleep and sleep,” says Rose.

Life together in the U.S.

So 15 months later, how are the three newest members of the Baker family doing? “They’ve made a really good transition,” Jody says. “When they first got here, the kids didn’t speak English. Riley’s in the first grade and has done very well in an ESL (English As A Second Language) program. They’re healthy and happy.”

“They’re enjoying themselves here,” agrees Rose, noting that the kids get along fine with each other. “They love it. When they saw the house, they were excited that they would have their own rooms.”

“It’s a lively house,” says Jody, who admits he’s never bored and only worries when it’s quiet, which, he jokes, could mean someone might be drawing on a wall.

“We’ve morphed from a life of only having one child [first with Reggie, then with Jasmine], to having four kids and two dogs. So that’s a major transition.”

The Bakers maintain a regular schedule so that everyone knows what’s happening and when. A large calendar hangs in the family room and lists everything from dental appointments to soccer or basketball games.

Their patience, Holder explains, is one of the attributes that makes Jody and Rose excellent parents. Rose is easygoing, while Jody brings a sense of discipline and structure, providing a nice balance that’s helpful in managing a large family.

For the Bakers, it’s not difficult to maintain the children’s connection to their native country. Rose often cooks traditional Filipino dishes for the family. There’s also Direct TV, which has five Filipino channels. The kids still seem to understand Pampangan, Jody says, but as they learn English, inevitably they are losing some of their ability to converse in their native language.

Big brother Reggie, now 24, loves having brothers and sisters. “It’s great,” he says. “Until I was 18, I was the only child, which was pretty lonely.” When he met Riley, Ryan and Jade, “It was exciting. It was one of the happiest moments [of my life].”

And Jasmine, now taller than Rose, “is a really big help,” says Rose. “We’re happy that we have all these kids — they’re really good kids.”

“It was really a blessing to adopt,” says Jody. “Everybody has a different journey before they decide to adopt.”

“We thought about it, talked about it. You can have a big house, a fancy car, but there are other good things. We consider adding [Riley, Ryan and Jade] as an expansion of our family and a real blessing. We just wanted to have more children.”

For more information on international adoption, visit www.AdoptionIllinois.org, or call toll-free at 1-888-671-0300.