by: Rebecca Taylor

“Children are a big responsibility, Miss Denton,” said Gloria Hayes, manager of the Sunville Orphanage.

            “I know that and I have done a lot of searching in these last few years. This is not a decision I take lightly, but I do not want to spend my life alone with only me and my cat in a house when I could provide a child with so much love. I have a steady job as a bookkeeper at an accounting firm and want to take a year off to be with the child that I want to adopt so that we can spend the year bonding. I was hoping to adopt a child that was about four years old so that when I go back to work he or she will be in school.”

            “The first year, that’s fine, Miss Denton, but what about when they have holidays from school especially in the summer.”

            “I’ve thought about that but right now my sister runs a daycare out of her home and she could watch my child. I also have three weeks of holidays from work each year and I have statutory holidays as well as sick days if my child is ill one day.”

            “Miss Denton, being a parent is hard; being a single parent is harder especially when you adopt a child. These children don’t come from homes where everything was sunshine and flowers,” said Gloria Hayes her face expressionless.

            “I know that and I want to improve a child’s life. I want to help a child and I am a very determined person. If the child that I adopt has obstacles, we will work them out. Some children, however, will probably have come from situations which I am not prepared to accept because I know that there are things which happen out there that I cannot even imagine and I don’t think it would be fair to a child with such special needs to live with someone like me who cannot comprehend what they need.”

            “That is true and I believe you have good sense in making that clear. It makes it easier for the child. We don’t place children in situations which we feel probably won’t work out because it only makes it harder for the child when their next chance at having a loving home comes up.”

            “If anything my child will have a loving home. I live in a wonderful little house in the country very close to my parents’ farm where my parents and sister live in the two houses there. As my sister runs a daycare there are always children to play with. My child could get on and off the school bus there and I would pick him or her up afterwards.

            “Your police check and references are infallible. You would be a good candidate for adopting,” replied Mrs. Hayes her light blue eyes softening.

            Emmalee Denton sighed under her breath, running her fingers through her short light brown hair. Mrs. Hayes is the stereotypical orphanage worker. Stern and frightening even to someone of my age. Her hair up in a bun. I suppose she has to be though because you can’t just let anyone off the street come in and adopt a child because that would lead to…well let’s not think about what that could lead to. It would be like that poor little kitten we adopted when I was growing up. Frightened, hurt, and alone; just needed somebody to love it. It can still be skittish even with us now even though it’s lived at home for eight years but at least it’s safe.

            “Does that mean that I will be able to adopt a child?”

            “Yes, it does, however, this process is far from being instant. First, we have to find a child that is right for you. Then, you will have several sessions with that child here at the orphanage just so that you get to know each other when the child is in familiar surroundings. After some of these sessions, you may take the child on day outings. If all goes well then you will be granted a six-month trial period. If after the six months both you and the child are a match then the adoption process can begin. There are some children here whose parents have given them up, and signed away all of their parental rights. There are other children who are not that lucky, they could find the perfect home but the parents may not be willing to have their child adopted into a loving home and so the time that you get to have that child before the parents may want to get him or her back can be numbered.”

            “I think that I need to attempt to adopt a child that is adoptable, I’ve had a job before that was up in the air and that was hard and that only went on for six months. If I were to take one of the children into a foster type situation because I could not adopt it when it was four years old I could spend fourteen years worrying and wondering. I cannot do that, I doubt very many people can.”

            “Some people only foster and have numerous children over the years to get them out of the orphanage until a suitable home can be found or to help children whose parents still hold the balance of power.”

            “That isn’t for me. I am looking for a child who will be able to be mine, one that nobody can take away from me because the parents decide that they feel like caring for a little while. I know that my decision to adopt a child is all or nothing. Either I adopt a child and have one or I don’t. I cannot decide to be a parent during certain hours of the day. It is a lifetime commitment that I am willing to undertake.”          

            “Let’s get started, you’ve already decided that a child around the age of four is what you are looking for. Do you want a girl or a boy?”

            “I think I’m leaning more towards having a daughter, not that there is anything wrong with having a boy, I’ve just never imagined having a son. As a woman, I think I would be able to provide my daughter with the positive role model that she would need and even though I could have a positive influence on a boy’s life I’m not an athletic person, throwing around a baseball is not who I am. I would try but it wouldn’t be like doing that with a father.”

            “Are you in any type of relationship with a boyfriend right now, Miss Denton?”   

            “No, I’m not and if that were ever to happen my daughter or son would need to come first. Also, could you please call me Emmalee it makes me feel more at ease?”

            “Certainly, Emmalee,” answered Gloria Hayes. “I think that a daughter would be your best choice. Are there any particular hobbies or interests which you might have that may make pairing you with a child easier?”

            “I love gardening, painting and cooking. When I’ve imagined myself mothering, I want to be able to bake chocolate chip cookies or rice krispy squares with my child and have them really enjoy it.”

            “Let me just put this into the computer and we will see if we can come up with some matches.”

Five minutes later Gloria Hayes had several profiles for Emmalee to look at. Five of which were four year old girls which could mesh well with her.

            “We have Samantha, four years old, very energetic, loves being around other children, shares well and has a lovable personality. Then there is Elvira she likes doing puzzles, is a bit shy but just needs to come out of her shell but she has a kind heart. There is Sarabeth, she loves animals and if your cat is sociable could be perfect for your household. She came here after her mother passed away in an accident, her father passed away from cancer a few years before that and there was no other family to place her with. Jenna is an artist; she loves drawing pictures, at her last foster home she started to learn to read, she went back to her mother briefly before coming back here but her mother decided to sign off and let her have a family. Lastly of the ones that would probably be for you is Lily, however, Lily comes with added responsibility as she has a slight hearing impairment and has to wear a hearing aid. She also has a twin brother Liam and if possible, we would like to place them together. That is just the basic summary, if any of them interests you, you can read some more about them or even watch them from behind a two way glass. You can see them but they can’t see you so they won’t know that they are being watched as that can be very hard on them. It gets their hopes up too high.”

            “How do I decide, all of these children need somebody. I can’t imagine being in their shoes. Sometimes it’s hard to choose a book off of a library shelf or the paint colour for the living room walls. I can always exchange books at the library and repaint the wall but we’re talking about choosing a child here, a human being that I will eventually take home and care about for the rest of my life,” exclaimed Emmalee her hazel eyes wide and full of surprise.

            “I know, Emmalee, it is hard but you have to make the decision that is best for you and the child that you are adopting.”

            “How can I make a decision for any of these children, I have never met them before and I know that if I do it will break my heart because I cannot take all of them home with me. I know that you and everyone else here does the best you can for them but they don’t get the one on one attention that all children need and there aren’t enough funds to buy them the special things in life not that money can give them what they need most – love, happiness and a family.”

            “You cannot save the world but by adopting one child in need you are making a big difference.”

            “What about the others?  If it is like anything else, the babies will be the first ones to be adopted and by the time the children are probably seven or eight they become less wanted, I suppose because the longer they are in different foster homes or here or bouncing back and forth with parents or whatever the emotional trauma deepens. Getting this child doesn’t mean that someday I won’t want to adopt another but it is always going to be the same, too many children and not enough prospective parents.”

            “I get the feeling that you have a strong sense of the pain in this world and that you can teach a child good morals. You’re going to love whatever child you have with all your heart and teach it and give it a wonderful life. That’s all anyone can do, would you like to watch the children or read one of their profiles to get a better understanding of them.”

            “Which of these children has the least chance of being adopted?”

            “Probably Lily and Liam, just because there are two of them but if you only feel prepared to give one child a home don’t choose them just because you feel sorry for them that would be far worse.”

            “Tell me a bit about Liam and his interests, is he the kind of boy that would need a father figure to play ball with, because if that is so I’m not the right person and as much as I think I could help Lily they probably have a better chance here.”

            “Liam loves sports, when one of the men gets a chance to play with him and some of the other little boys out in the back his face just lights up. I think that you’re making a smart choice not choosing them because you cannot provide Liam with the things that he loves and in turn that would make the three of you unhappy.”

            “Which of the others would be considered the least adoptable?”

            “Either Sarabeth or Elvira. Samantha has very good chances of finding the right family because she could be adopted into a family with other children and do just fine. Jenna also has a pretty good chance because she is an open child and willing to take the love that is given to her. With Sarabeth losing her parents, she wants to love someone but is somewhat afraid of losing them. You having a cat could help. Elvira is a shy child but she came here a few years ago and just hasn’t found a home yet but she likes it here. She will probably be a candidate for a good fostering situation if she isn’t adopted soon. She doesn’t have the emotional scars that Sarabeth does.”

            “Then I think I need to learn more about Sarabeth, her love for animals and being on a farm could be invaluable. My parents have dogs and cats and seeing as how she will be spending quite a bit of time with my sister, I think it could help her to be in an amicable situation. I will do all I can to help her. She’ll never totally get over her loss but I can try to provide her with a sense of security.”

            “Would you like to meet her?”

            “Yes, I would, now that I pretty much have it narrowed down to one child, it makes it a lot easier even though I still feel really awful about not being able to help the others.”

            “You can’t feel like that, it won’t help anything. We can all only do so much, if we’re lucky these children will all make out okay.”

            “Could I have a few minutes to get something from my car, I brought a photo album of pictures of my house, the school, my cat, my parents, my sister, and stuff.”

            “I think that would be great, it will give Sarabeth a better understanding of where she will be going provided the two of you hit it off.”

            “Hopefully the photo album will help us do that.”

            Fifteen minutes later after Emmalee gave herself a pep talk, she and Sarabeth, who was a tiny red haired little girl with beautiful green eyes were sitting next to each other on a sofa in a private room looking at the photo album.

            “Nice cat,” said Sarabeth when they got to the picture of the cat, “what is its name?”

            “Her name is Marmalade because her fur is orange. She has a spot on one of the windowsills where she sits and suns herself. She is always sitting there when I come home from work.”

            “Like she’s waiting for you?” asked Sarabeth timidly.

            “Yes, I love going home and knowing that she’s there waiting for me.”

            “Do you think she could be lonely and need a friend?”

            “She always seems happy but we could always get her a friend. My parents have some cats on the farm and they have kittens sometimes, I bet you could choose a kitten and it could come live with us.”

            “Could I name the kitten?”

            “Sure, I bet the kitten would like that.”

            “What colour would the kitten be?”

            “You never know for sure but probably black or tiger, most of them are on the farm.”

            “I had a tiger kitten before my mom died, her name was Stripes, but they said she couldn’t come and live with us here so she had to go live at the animal shelter.”

            “She’ll find a good home then but you will always love her anyways. We have cows and calves too on the farm, a few of them are friendly, do you like cows Sarabeth?”

            “I think so but I’ve never seen one up close before.”

            “How about one day we go and visit the farm and my house and get you acquainted? Mrs. Hayes says it will be a while before you’ll be able to come and live with me because we have to get to know each other.”

            “I’m going to miss my friends here,” said Sarabeth.

            “You’ll make new friends at my sister’s daycare and when you start school next year and we’ll see if there is someway you can keep in touch with your friends here.”

            “What if you go away and leave me like my mom and daddy did?” asked Sarabeth moving a bit closer to Emmalee on the sofa.

            “I hope that that doesn’t happen for a really really long time but if it does you won’t have to come back here because I have a sister who will be your Aunt Anna and my parents who will be your Grandma Clarice and Grandpa Peter. You’re going to have a family for life. How does that sound to you?”

            “Okay, I guess, I don’t know, I want to live with the cats and meet the calves and see the dogs but I just wish I could do it with my mom and daddy instead of you.”

            “I know you do and I wish you could have too but sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to, it is okay to be sad and miss your parents but they wouldn’t want you to miss out on having a family.”

            “Will I have any sisters or brothers?”

            “Not right now, but maybe eventually, it is too early to tell right now. Right now, it is going to be you and me. I’m going be your new mom but you don’t ever have to call me that if you don’t want to. I’m not going to replace the mom that you had.” Maybe someday I will adopt another child or get married and have a baby but I don’t know. I am twenty-eight years old and at this point in my life who knows what the future has to bring. I suppose it all has to do with how well I like motherhood and how well Sarabeth and I do.

            “For now can I call you Emmalee?”

            “Sure you can, we’re going to do all right together. Once you come to live with me fulltime I am going to take a year off from work and we can get to know each other better. It is going to be a big change for both of us. It will make a big difference to Marmalade too.”

            Time flew by and two months after Emmalee and Sarabeth met, they went home to live in Emmalee’s house in the country in Rainbow Valley. Sarabeth adopted a little black and white kitten from the Denton Farm and named her Princess. Grandpa Peter gave Sarabeth a little red calf of her own which she could take to 4-H shows once she got enrolled. She named the calf Poppy because of her colour. Despite the difficult moments for the family like holidays when Sarabeth especially missed her parents, the Denton family and Sarabeth meshed well together. A year after meeting; Emmalee officially adopted Sarabeth and had her name changed to Sarabeth Lisa Hamilton Denton. Sarabeth wanted to keep the full name that her parents gave her but both she and Emmalee wanted her to feel like part of the Denton family thus giving her the family name that she would use daily. When Sarabeth was nine years old, Emmalee got married to an amazing man who loved both of them – Jake Dawson, he, and Emmalee adopted another daughter Maude shortly after their marriage as well as having a son Clay a few years later. Emmalee never forgot the choice that she had to make when deciding on getting a child that was right for her and even Maude’s adoption wasn’t much easier, although she did have the moral support of a loving husband and knew the procedure. After the first few years Emmalee stopped wondering, what life would have been like if she had adopted different children and was completely happy with what her life had become.