Six-year-old Omar ran into the Evermon's living room clutching an R2-D2 toy, pushing every button he could find on the Star Wars droid.This takes speed-dating for children to a whole new level, doesn't it? Here you get to move it with your speed-date and stay awhile. . . .
The boy with sparkling blue eyes, who arrived from Colombia on Saturday, has much to explore in this new world.
"Omar is definitely very interested and curious," said Vanessa Evermon, whose family is hosting three of the 16 orphans making a summer trip to Houston with Orphan Hope International.
If all goes well, the Evermons, who already have three children, may expand their family.
To the Colombian orphans, this three-week journey is a chance to learn about American culture and to escape their everyday lives. In reality, the high-stakes vacation is designed to find permanent homes for older orphans from the poverty-stricken, war-torn Latin American country.
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Several other groups around the country also offer host programs to allow families to meet children before deciding on an international adoption. Despite the rising popularity of this type of program, some worry about the ramifications on the orphans' already fragile emotional well beings.
Programs and participants must be sensitive to the children's feelings and careful not to raise their expectations of being adopted, one expert said.
"How you do it, how thoughtfully you do it, how carefully you do it, and how sensitively you do it, really matters big time," said Adam Pertman, author of Adoption Nation. "Because done well, this is a technique that can really work to a kid's benefit and to a family's benefit, but they haven't always been done well. And some children and some families have been hurt emotionally by it."
Fredy Rincon, a Colombian psychologist chaperoning the kids on the Houston trip, said Orphan Hope International has addressed these concerns. "The children were not told that there may be a chance they may get adopted," he said. "We prepare them by telling them they are on a vacation and before we leave, we prepare them for return to Colombia."
While they emphasize that this is a vacation, the "orphans understand the reason for the visit and pray for adoption," according to the group's website, which also touts that host programs have average adoption rates of 85 percent.
2 weeks ago