Faculty members open hearts and homes to children overseas
Gabriel (left) and Tomas dote on Mia, their new sister.
Director of Asian American Studies Tim Fong knew there would be more pink in his household with the addition of a 16-month-old girl to the family. What he didn’t know was just how much pink there would be—or how well she would fit in with her new family.
Fong and his wife Elena Almanzo wanted to adopt for years and when the right time presented itself, the Fong-Almanzos began the paperwork and did the inevitable—waited. After 10 months of anticipation, in March 2007, the family was on its way to China and on its way to completing their family.
“It seemed like there were fewer issues in doing international adoption,” Fong says. “China happened to be a place that’s done quite a bit of adoption and has the most developed system.”
And adopting a child from China was something of a visit to the history of Fong’s family, whose father grew up in South China before immigrating to the United States.
Sitting in a conference room at the Chengdu Children’s Welfare Institution, Fong and Almanzo completed the last of the paperwork needed to obtain their newest family member, whom they had only seen pictures of. Their two sons, 9-year-old Gabriel and 6-year-old Tomas, sat with them.
“We were told not to bring our kids, but we chose to bring them as a part of the process, and it turned out wonderfully,” Fong says.
The next few minutes were a blur as Mia suddenly appeared with an attendant to meet her new family for the first time. Gabriel reached for the video camera and began filming while Tomas snapped photos on a digital camera to document the arrival of their new sister.
“It was so fast we didn’t really have time to think about it,” Fong says. “It was just one of those magical moments in life that doesn’t happen very often.”
Fong knew that it was not uncommon for children to shut down and keep to themselves after such a traumatic experience and had prepared the boys ahead of time. But Mia, who Almanzo describes as “strong” and “very independent,” displayed her true colors right from the start.
“When we got her she cried for about 30 seconds, and after that she was fine,” Fong says. “We have it on videotape that one of our kids said, ‘See, she didn’t shut down.’”
Now, eight months later and back at home, the family is adjusting to having three children, particularly a girl.
“There’s more feminine energy, more pink,” Almanzo says. “Tim says, ‘I knew there’d be more pink in the house, but I didn’t know there’d be that much more pink.’”
While Mia does love to play gently with her dolls, she can hang with the boys, Almanzo says. Tomas has taught her how to play, jump and ride a scooter, while Gabriel enjoys that he can “boss around the little kids.”
For the Fong-Almanzos, the family is finally complete, and both parents are very pleased with how seamless the whole process was for them and consider themselves very lucky.
“It was literally like we went on a family vacation and came home with this wonderful surprise, and Mia was it,” Almanzo says. “She’s adjusted incredibly well, and the boys have adjusted incredibly well to her. Now it’s just as if she’s always been here. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Additional faculty members who have adopted internationally
Jacqueline Anne Chong-Bo Cameron, 5 years old, adopted Oct. 2003 from China
Mimi Lewis and Larry Boles
Jasmine HsunJu Lewis-Boles, 5 years old, adopted from Taiwan
Jade MuTzu Lewis-Boles, 3 years old, adopted from Taiwan
Linda Roberts and Tom Savage
Claire Qingdong Savage, 5 years old, adopted May 2003 from Jianxi province
Abbie Dian Savage, 1 year old, adopted Oct. 2007 from Fujian province