The number of children waiting to be adopted has dramatically risen in recent years. There are 280 children currently living in Guam’s foster care homes, according to the Archdiocese of Agana.
Ohala’ Adoptions, Guam’s first adoption agency, builds a bridge between families looking to adopt and children in need of homes. And amid the recurring debate on abortion, the agency also provides a “compassionate choice” for young single mothers who are not ready to raise a family.
Ohala’ Adoptions Agency, which opened its doors in September, was conceptualized by Lori Boss, a certified birth doula.
“I was thinking about going to the different shelters to inquire, and actually, I was praying about it,” said Boss, Ohala’s executive director. “What to do and where to go. I felt impressed that I should start an adoption agency.”
Boss wanted to offer free services to single and struggling mothers who have no support.
Over lunch with friends Traci Anderson and Kelley Larsen, Boss mentioned her desire to start an adoption agency. Anderson and Kelley quickly got on board.
Ohala’ Adoptions went from a dream to a reality. “We received a wonderful reception,” said Anderson, the agency’s co-director.
Ohala’ Adoptions provides consulting service and offers advice to those who want to adopt and those looking to put a child up for adoption. The agency is building a list of potential foster families, locally or off-island. A pregnant woman choosing this option will get the list and interview the best candidates. From there, she chooses the best family she feels is the best fit for her baby.
“It isn’t quite the severing of ties as it used to be,” Boss said. There are some mothers who want to keep in touch with their child either through email and pictures, and there are those who want to be more hands-on, she added.
Anderson said Guam law allows parents to reconnect with their child or children. “But there is a time limit for that,” she said. “(Our) next goal is to get this partnership with the Department of Public Health and Social Services.”
Ohala’ will build a partnership with DPHSS through a memorandum of understanding to facilitate adoptions of children under foster care.
There are military families that open their homes for foster care, but when it is time for the military family to leave, and the child hasn’t been adopted or reunited with their parent, then they would have to move to another disruption to the child. They have to start all over to get used to being in a new household.
“Our main goal with DPHSS is to help these children find permanent homes,” Anderson said.
Noting that DPHSS is overwhelmed with many duties, Anderson said the partnership would help facilitate the adoption process and ease the department’s burden.
The adoption process requires FBI background checks, interviews with parents and home inspections among others. One does not have to be married to adopt. As long as you’re 21 or older and you pass the criteria, you can adopt.
Ohala’ is the Chamorro word for “hope.” Anderson and Boss thought it was a fitting name for their project, which provides hope for parents wanting children and children looking for permanent homes. “We believe all children deserve love and permanent families and will strive to provide support and hope to all those touched by adoption,” Ohala’ said in its mission statement.
In his Christmas message, Archbishop Michael Byrnes urged the community to “consider helping foster children who need love and security through the embrace of adoption. Guam has been blessed to see the creation of a new non-profit group dedicated to offering hope, comfort, and dignity to expectant mothers through safe and loving adoption.”
The group can be reached at email@example.com.