A Southern family travels half way around the world to adopt a baby boy
photographs by TINA RICHARDS & NATASHA CHALKER
Alabama is a long way from India, but in 2012, Natasha and Scott Chalker left the comfort of their home in the deep South and traveled to an orphanage in Pondicherry, India to find a child they could bring back to the United States to join their family.
“The first time we met the children, they swarmed us with hugs, kisses, laughs and tickles,” says Chalker. “I miss those precious children and pray for them every single day.”
One little boy caught the family’s attention.
“The moment I met him was surreal, it was like a dream,” says Chalker, who had waited 11 years to adopt. “He glanced in our direction and then toddled off.”
Chalker says the nuns brought the little boy over and he peered curiously at the family.
“After twenty minutes, I scooped him up in my arms, the same arms that had waited years to hold him, and we locked eyes for ten seconds,” says Chalker. “It was at that time our souls connected and I knew that he knew I was his Mama.”
“It was at that time our souls connected and I knew that he knew I was his Mama.”
In 2012 there were 159 adoptions from India to the United States. According to Indian law potential parents must be at least 25-years-old, but are not required to be married. Same-sex couples are not eligible to adopt in India. Indian families within the country are given first priority for adoptions, followed by Indian families abroad.
Despite the red tape, Chalker knew that one day she wanted to adopt since she herself was adopted by her Dad when she was three-years-old. “He showed me that love wasn’t about blood, but about the people that choose to be with you, accept and love you.”
But she never imagined that the adoption journey would lead her to India. It was a friend’s experience of adopting a daughter from that country that caught the Chalker’s interest.
Foreign adoptions can be expensive and lengthy.
Leena and Sabu Varghese know this all too well. They are in the process of adopting a little boy from India. They decided to adopt from that country in 2012 because they wanted a child of the same culture.
She says the first step was to find an agency that took care of Indian adoptions. After the initial approval a social worker came to their home to evaluate their living situation and then file paperwork to submit to the Central Adoption Authority in India, which then helps to match the Varghese’ profile with an orphanage in India. “To sum it up, there are mountains of paperwork and lots of patience,” says Varghese.
Although the couple has not yet met their little son, they say they still fell in love with him the moment they saw his picture.
“It is a very hard process, but just like childbirth, it is worth it,” says Varghese. “There are so many children who need parents.”
Chalker agrees that the process was challenging. “We didn’t know how long we would wait to get approvals,” says Chalker. “All the while our little boy was growing up without his family.”
The Chalkers were matched with Ryan when he was ten months old, but he didn’t come home till nearly a year later. But Chalker says some Indian adoptions can take two to three years. She blogs about her journey at A Heart for India.
And there is the cost. The Varghese’ says the adoption fees are anywhere between 18 to 20 thousand dollars.
The Chalkers had plenty of help from family and friends who helped them raise money through garage sales, grants and donations to help with the cost. “While our adoption was expensive, our son is priceless,” says Chalker.
The Chalkers say they plan to teach Ryan about his South Asian heritage through the years. They also want to take him to India when he is older. “Preserving his identity and culture is very important to us,” says Chalker, who is also Mom to daughter Katie, 18 and son, Braden, 12.
Ryan loves listening to Indian music and dancing with his big sister. The family also bought him little kurtas for him to wear at on his birthday and they plan to celebrate Holi and Diwali together.
“All children deserve to grow up in a family where they’re loved and treasured and adoption is a beautiful way to make that possible,” says Chalker.
“The fact that a little boy 9,000 miles away made his way into our hearts, and eventually our home, was a miracle in itself,” says Chalker. “Every day is a sweet blessing with Ryan.”