International adoption offers hope to forgotten youth 

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Paula Davis’ office at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is filled with pictures and letters telling of the tears, fears, struggles and snuggles of families she’s worked with as they open their arms over thousands of miles to welcome children from other countries through international adoptions.  

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Ken and Koni Maat when they first brought home their daughter, Jing, from China.  Photos provided by Paula Davis | Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge


Davis, CCDBR Clinical Director of Maternity, Adoption and Behavioral Health Services, said adopting families face many challenges but yet the rewards can be far greater.  

Parents who tend to adopt children internationally are already parenting other children, Davis said. And their reasons for wanting to adopt can vary, she added, noting November is International Adoption Awareness Month.  

Sometimes God has “put on their hearts” the desire to help a child from another country, or they have travelled to another country and desire to raise a child from there, or perhaps they might already have a couple of boys and, especially for moms, they “want a girl so they can put bows in her hair and have her wear a dress” and the other experiences of raising a daughter.  

Children who are adopted domestically are often newborn but those adopted internationally are typically two years old or older and come from orphanages and institutions, Davis said. CCDBR connects families with these institutions and the guidelines are set by the foreign government.  

Davis explained many of the circumstances of children adopted domestically and internationally are similar: typically children of color, have lacked prenatal care, the birth mother was under stress during pregnancy, the baby was exposed to substances in-utero, they are often premature and may have special needs. 

In foreign adoptions, English might not be the child’s native language but the child tends to pick it up quickly, according to Davis. If not, the child is referred to speech therapy.  

CCDBR steps in early to help potential families navigate the adoption journey. After the parents go through the pre-applications and application process, they go through training and a home study. Davis said Catholic Charities always wants to be sure the parents have realistic expectations when adopting a child.  

COVID-19 has presented unique challenges affecting the adoption process, said Davis. Concerning the application process, interviews are conducted virtually and home visits may be conducted virtually or outside the home. Some families have been matched with a child but cannot travel to the child’s native country.  

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Jing is thriving in her adopted home.


Adopting parents are provided little information about the background of the children, sometimes not even their age. Because the children typically come from institutions they may have developed “survival skills that can be challenging for families.”  

But CCDBR provides individual and family counseling for those struggling with adoption-related issues. The agency also provides supervision after the child is in the home.  

Adoption can mean the difference between life and death for the children, according to Davis, who shared stories of children who had emergency life-saving surgeries and procedures that they otherwise would not have had.  

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Senator John Kennedy presented Paula Davis with the Angels of Adoption Award.


Davis, who received the 2019 Congressional Coalition Institute’s Angels in Adoption Award, has enjoyed helping connect children with families through international adoptions for more than 21 years .  

“It’s nice to see pictures and updates on how the kids are doing,” Davis said.  

One couple Davis has journeyed with are Ken and Koni Maat. While on a mission trip to China Ken met Jing, who has special needs, and the couple fell in love with her and adopted her. The Maats wrote that their first day started with “fears and tears” but ended with Jing nestled between them.  

Their letter read, “Over the past five years there have been many days with fear of the unknown, a few tears, but the constant is the complete love we have for this little girl who has given us the privilege to love and raise. We often look at her and marvel that she is really ours.”  

Next issue: Stories of families who adopted children internationally through CCDBR.