'A heart for India' Four families adopt six children from India
June 6, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 6, 2012) -- Editor's note: In the Feb. 29 edition, The Bayonet featured an article on the Harts, a military Family adopting two children from India. This article is an update on their story and introduces three other Families, also adopting from India.
Of the 31 million orphans* in India, six will soon be coming home to the Chattahoochee Valley. The four Families adopting them -- three active duty and one former military -- have followed different paths to reach this decision and now they're months away from meeting their children for the first time. This is their story.
Like many military Families, the Harts live on two continents. Although it's not yet official, and their daughters are still in India, Aimee Hart said she feels like the two sisters, ages 3 and 4, are already part of the Family.
"We are all in," she said. "To us, they're ours."
As the Harts began looking at adoption last year, the needs of orphans weighed on them. They were particularly burdened by the circumstances facing girls in India, where, according to the Gender Issues Education Foundation, the high price of dowries often make a female child undesirable.
"At first, like most couples and Families, we were exploring adoption to get the girls we didn't get naturally," Aimee Hart said. "However, somewhere in the process, while being exposed to the plight of orphans both here and around the world, the focus moved. Everything has changed. The entire perspective on the whole thing isn't even the same anymore. (We) believe God is leading us to adopt."
Chaplain (Maj.) Michael and Aimee Hart have two sons, Sean, 12, and Ethan, 7, who have been eagerly helping their parents raise funds in anticipation of meeting their sisters. In about four months -- though it's hard to pin down the time frame -- all four hope to fly to India.
"We want them to see where their sisters are from," Aimee Hart said, "and help their sisters remember where they're from. It's going to impact the rest of their lives, what they see. This is a Family thing."
The Harts still have more fundraising to do.
"We are anxious to get the funds raised, so when we get the notice that the 'powers that be' are ready for us to come get the girls, we will be able to do so," Aimee Hart said.
"It has been said that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. We have been blessed by people who have given cash … donated things for us to sell … and friends who have come alongside to do the work it takes to pull off these fundraisers. It is quite a humbling journey -- to have to ask for help many times over -- and then to see the love and support in these various ways; it is all so beautiful. We are truly grateful like never before."
As a teenager in college, Virginia Crutchfield was certain adoption was something she wanted to do someday.
"It was absolutely a call on my life to bring a child home who didn't have parents," she said. "I felt like that had to happen."
When she married, her husband, Spc. Kyle Crutchfield, knew about her desire to adopt. Three years after the wedding, they're planning to bring home their first child, a 5-year-old girl named Tarana.
"I'm incredibly excited," said the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Soldier. "I've been thinking about her every day and night for the past nine months. I can't wait to pick her up and hold her for the first time. It's going to be wonderful. I can't even imagine."
With his unit slated to deploy, he won't be able to make the trip to India later this year to pick up their daughter. His wife said she's disappointed he can't come, but she's trusting it will all work out. That includes the money still needed for the adoption.
"We are about 65 percent there," she said. "It's a good way to prove to yourself that God is faithful because you absolutely have to rely on him for the finances you need."
The Crutchfields have received two grants and have sold handmade necklaces from Uganda and notecards from India. Meanwhile, they're preparing Tarana's bedroom, painting the walls and putting everything in place. Virginia Crutchfield hopes to travel with one of the other adopting Families to India, but if not, she still feels "prepared," she said, to make the journey.
Like the Harts, Maj. Todd and Gwen Lewis were drawn to the plight of Indian girls. They hope to travel to India to pick up their daughter in October.
"I think initially I was very apprehensive," said Todd Lewis, a radiologist at Martin Army Community Hospital. "I knew it was something I wanted to do, but it took me a while to step out in faith. Now I'm just anxious to get her home."
In their 11 years of marriage, which blessed them with a son, 3, and daughter, 6, Todd Lewis said he and his wife had met many friends who had adopted from all over the world -- Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, South America.
"We've always talked about adoption, but we really didn't have a good idea of where we'd adopt from or when," he said. "It was really just an obedience issue. We feel like Christ has called us to go to the orphanages, the homeless.
"There's lots of ways to do that. You can support people financially; you can give of your time. But I think, for us, we were at a place in our lives emotionally and financially where adoption was feasible. We shifted from adoption as an idea to something we feel called to do … and specifically India. There are millions of orphans over there living in the street. It's just a hopeless position to be in. All those factors have given us a heart for India."
Abandoned at a train station a year and a half ago, the 4-year-old girl the Lewises are going to adopt is currently in an orphanage.
Todd Lewis said he would caution anyone considering adoption to look into it thoroughly.
"It sounds kind of romantic and it sounds great, but when you're actually doing it, it becomes completely different," he said. "It's a lot of work. It's a big investment. But the whole process has been just incredible. Seeing the generosity of others … it's been wonderful."
Fort Benning was Jeff and Amanda Carroll's first duty station after basic training. They returned to the Valley two years ago when he got a job on post. Between the two moves, they had decided to adopt.
"We believe you're adopted into God's family," Jeff Carroll said. "This is the perfect demonstration of (that) -- giving them your name, your inheritance and birthrights for nothing that they've done. It's out of love."
The 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, veteran said he wasn't surprised the other adopting Families were military. International travel, including tours and deployments, offers a glimpse of how fortunate people in the U.S. are, he said.
"I think it prepares you for something like foreign adoption," he said. "I've been to 18 countries. Most of the poor in America don't know destitution at the same level as the poor in foreign countries. They suffer far greater than anything we know here."
The Carrolls have two girls, ages 8 and 11, and are planning to adopt an 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. For years, they had talked about adoption casually but didn't feel certain it was right for them. Last year, they were expecting their third child when the unexpected happened.
"Our first doctor's appointment with an ultrasound was scheduled at the eight-week mark, which happened to fall on Good Friday," Amanda Carroll said. "We waited with anticipation to hear the heartbeat or to see it flashing on the screen, but it never appeared."
After the initial pain and shock, Amanda Carroll said she had a sense of peace, and it was then that a new path opened to her.
"Adoption had never been on my radar before the miscarriage, but it suddenly started to bombard me from all directions -- friends, Facebook, magazines, books, signs, television, sermons at church. All of a sudden it was everywhere," she said.
They decided to adopt siblings.
"There is such a need in India," Amanda Carroll said. "If we could adopt one child, why not two? We have plenty of room, plenty of food, plenty of love. We received the first pictures of the children on Feb. 17. The children were so adorable. There was almost a familiarity to them. I had never allowed myself to dream of what I wanted my adopted children to look like, but if I could have, they would have looked like this."
"We couldn't stop thinking about them," Jeff Carroll said. "All we had was one photo."
He said his daughters are also excited to welcome their sister and brother. Because of delays in the paperwork, that won't be sooner than Christmas.
"We've got a long way to go," he said. "It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's going to be rewarding. It will be good for all of us."