‘Inspired by their example’

Published 8:04 pm Thursday, November 22, 2012

Most parents can recall with vivid precision the terrifying moment when their child became ill or was injured in an accident. The trip to the emergency room, perhaps the wound that had to be stitched or the broken bone that needed to be set, can leave permanent imprints in our memories.

Other children battle chronic illnesses, and their families bravely endure the brutal heartache and stress of endless doctors’ appointments, medical tests and difficult treatments. As mothers and fathers, we endure the fear, exhaustion and even frustration, because at the end of the day, we would do just about anything to make our children healthy and whole.

Yet countless children in the world will never experience the love of parents — the protection and stability that come from belonging to a family. In 2011 there were more than 400,000 children in foster care just in the United States. More than 100,000 of those were waiting to be adopted.

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Across the globe there are millions more. Many of these international orphans are alone, often overlooked, and many lack basic necessities. For those struggling with serious illnesses, the chance of adoption can be slim, because many prospective parents are unable to make the sacrifices needed to care for them.

But not Mark and Susan Walrond. They adopted Shane, a 3-year-old boy from China who had a life-threatening heart condition. The condition is usually detected and surgically fixed within a few months of birth; however, this little boy did not have an opportunity for surgery.

The adoption process can be long and grueling, particularly when adopting children from other countries. Yet the Walronds did not give up. Just before Easter this year, they welcomed Shane home to Chesapeake.

Before a child is approved to enter the United States, requirements must be met from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, National Visa Center and the relevant embassy. Due to the critical nature of the Walronds’ situation, I had the privilege of providing assistance to ensure the case moved swiftly through the required channels. My office contacted liaisons at each agency and alerted them to Shane’s critical needs to ensure that his case was quickly handed off to the subsequent agency. Meanwhile, the Chinese government also had to work through its process of releasing the child for adoption.

With both sides moving in unison, the visa was issued fairly quickly upon our first intervention with a federal agency.

After several months of gaining strength, Shane had heart surgery in Boston last month. He is now recovering at home, and doctors are optimistic he will have a full recovery. The Walronds have other biological and adopted children, but they opened their hearts a little more and created a place for Shane in their family.

Because of the Walronds’ generosity, Shane will know the love of a “forever family” and will receive life-saving health care that otherwise would have been out of reach. To honor this extraordinary commitment, I selected Joseph and Susan Walrond as 2012 Angels in Adoption. Their selflessness saved Shane’s life. Their continued love and generosity will ensure that it is a full one.

The Angels in Adoption program is the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the good work of constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad.

CCAI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the tens of thousands of orphans and foster children in the United States and the millions of orphans around the world in need of permanent, safe and loving homes through adoption.

I applaud the organizations and individuals across America that dedicate each day to the most vulnerable among us. To those who adopt, serve as foster parents, act as mentors and advocate on behalf of orphans, I express my deepest gratitude.

May we be inspired by their example

U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his web page at forbes.house.gov.