LIMA — When Eric and Nicole Sweeney decided to adopt a young boy from Haiti in 2010, they had no idea it would be more than three years before they brought him home.
Once the couple made the decision to adopt, they immediately looked into the process. They had heard of Chris and Hal Nungester who ran H.I.S. Home for Children in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, so they contacted them.
The Sweeneys sent in their application and began looking on the orphanage’s website which listed all the children that were available for adoption. They were drawn to two little boys, and they talked to them on video phone. They felt an almost instant connection with one of them — Jean Daniel who was almost 2 at the time.
Once the Sweeneys decided to adopt Jean Daniel the long application process began. In addition to the original application, they had to submit to a home study, numerous fingerprints, background checks, physicals and blood work, as well as turn in numerous reference letters. Once the many documents had been organized, the couple had to get the entire set of papers translated into French.
All that information, called a dossier, was then sent to the Haitian consulate to be authenticated; after which, it was sent back to the Sweeneys. The entire package was then mailed back to Haiti where a lawyer submitted it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Haiti. Then Jean Daniel’s many documents had to be prepared. After the dossiers were prepared, they were then sent to the Haitian social services department.
After all that, there were complications with the birth mother which held up the adoption. “His birth mom is a prostitute and she has no home,” explained Nicole Sweeney. “She never went to see him, but when they took her in to interview, she didn’t understand the questions; she didn’t understand adoption.”
The U.S. government required the birth mother to undergo medical testing which included a psychological evaluation and other tests, all for which the Sweeneys had to pay. The court then appointed the birth mother a guardian.
“At one point,” said Nicole Sweeney, “we thought we were going to have to start all over again.”
Despite the long wait, the many ups and downs, and the additional costs, Nicole Sweeney said she never thought about giving up. “That’s my son,” she said. “God gave him to us. He had a plan and was in control. When I was very discouraged, that thought just made me fight harder to get him home.”
The couple got the happy news in August that Jean Daniel, whom they call JD, could come home, and they flew out to get him.
“He was waiting in the orphanage driveway,” said Nicole Sweeney. “He ran up to the car and just held on tight.”
They brought him home Aug. 18, 2013. When the family pulled up to their home, Nicole Sweeney said Jean Daniel pointed to the house and said, “Go home,” and ran inside.
“It was such a joy to see him,” she said. “He looked at and touched everything. When the characters would run off the TV screen, he’d look behind the television to see where they went.”
Although having her son home was wonderful, Nicole Sweeney said it was also exhausting. “We had to watch him like a hawk,” she said. “Developmentally, he acts like a 2 or 3 year old. With some things, it’s like having an infant in a 5 year olds’ body. We had to teach him everything like the stove is hot and will burn you.”
Jean Daniel also did not speak much English, his native language being French Creole. “When he came, he had very few English words,” said Nicole Sweeney. “Now, he’s at the point where he says very few Creole words. He’s speaking three to four word sentences.”
Having Jean Daniel finally home has been an adjustment, not just for Eric and Nicole Sweeney, but also for their three older children, Jaden, Jacqueline and Jennessa. “My three older ones have been amazing,” said Nicole Sweeney. “Jaden particularly amazed me. He’s 16, and he shares a room with JD. That’s a little different than when he was 12 saying he wanted to share a room with a preschooler, but he’s really wonderful with him.”
Even though the past several years have been difficult, Nicole Sweeney said she would do it all over again to bring Jean Daniel home. She advises that while those looking into adopting should brace themselves for the ups and downs that are part of the process, they should not let that be a deterrent. “If you ever feel led to adopt, you should,” she said. “No matter how hard it is, if our family can do it, yours can do it, too. There are so many kids both in the United States and abroad that need a Mommy and Daddy. It is such a joy to bring a child into your home, and JD was definitely worth it.”