Thursday, March 23, 2006

Amazing Brazil Adoption

I had a great 10 day trip to Brazil. I could recount the great beauty and diversity of the sights I saw, but the most interesting part was on the flight home from Rio where I sat next to an energetic woman from New Jersey who was traveling with 9 children and her husband. She had just spent 2 months in Brazil finalizing the adoption of 7 siblings.

<>When asked why she did this seemingly insane thing, she quoted the bible, something about helping widows and orphans. I thought that was a proofreading term, but apparently there is more to it than hanging words on a page. Since that was the first thing she said to me, I prepared to be converted to the faith, but she never came back to it, only to say that she was pleased that the one sight they got to visit in Rio was Corcovado, and to see Jesus up close. Since I also saw that sight, I paid no further heed to her potential Christian fundamentalism. Her second reason was that she was told that it was impossible to adopt children from Brazil, which made her more determined, because that is the type of woman she is. <>

The 7 children (5 boys and 2 girls) have 3 other siblings who were old enough to care for themselves, and were already settled in their mountain village with job training and getting on with adulthood. The remaining 7 being adopted range in age from 6 (a toothless cutie who was infatuated with the plane's headphones) to 14 (a boy crazy cutie swaggering around the airport).<>She was traveling with 2 of her 4 children. Which means, yes, that she now has 11 children between the ages of 6-15. Her youngest natural son, age 7, was on the plane, playing his gameboy and suffering from terrible ear pain, and not getting the attention he craved for such discomfort, both in his ears and in his new life.

This couple and their youngest son had just spent 2 months living in Brazil with their new family, bonding and proving to the courts that this adoption would work. I peppered her with all the questions I could get in between her jumping up to care for one or the other kids who demanded attention for various arguments, seatbelt adjustments, snacks and general fidgetiness on the 1 hour flight to Sao Paulo (where we all changed planes and then I didn't sit near them).

Here is more of what I learned:

- they are not rich, a teacher and bookeeper;

- they recently bought a "7 or 8 bedroom house" (she wasn't sure which) and a 15-seat van;

- she is in college to get a degree in accounting but will probably stay at home a while until the kids are settled;

- the Brazilian kids eat candy and cake for breakfast and have bad teeth, but otherwise they are in excellent health;

- the 13 year old girl seems to be the most challenging, not dealing too well with the idea of having a new mother;

- the kids' parents are actually alive, they aren't orphans at all, but can't care for them;

- the kids had been in the orphanage for 5 years;

- the woman recently lost 110 pounds;

- the family is from a small mountain village a few hours north of Rio;

- while they knew they wanted to adopt an orphaned family, they didn't count on falling in love with such a large group and tried very hard to become involved with smaller families, but they kept coming back to these particular kids;

- the educational system is so different in Brazil that the 14 year old boy is actually at the 6th grade level, though in the US he is ready for High School, so she isn't sure exactly what they will do about school;

- the kids speak not a word of English and while her Portuguese sounded good to me, she assured me that it was difficult to communicate with them easily;

- they will all be signed up for Little League this spring despite my attempts to convince her that she had an entire team of soccer stars living in her new house.

The canoe trip in the starry night on the Rio Negro was also pretty cool.


dhskee said...

This was fascinating. Welcome back.

Anonymous said...

Good Evening! I recently stumbled upon your blog while researching adoption topics, what a wonderful discovery. I have started a new phase in my adoptee process and would love your support and words of wisdom. I am new to the international adoption reunification process and have reached out to the world wide web for guidance.

I can be located at, this is a new journey and a wonderful time in my life to explore. Please join me!

P.S. I am from Bahia, I loved reading about your travels.

Gary Matloff said...


I am a single adoptive father with a pair of brothers from Brazil. I have newly published my book: See You Tomorrow... Reclaiming the Beacon of Hope. It details our early experiences together in our becoming a family. I am pleased to share with you its premise:

When Dr. Gary Matloff reached out halfway around the world in Brazil to adopt a pair of brothers as a single father, already a seasoned child psychologist, he thought he was prepared in ways most adoptive parents might not be. But the journey that ensued for the three of them was fraught with life lessons of love, patience, and humility none of them had bargained for.

After many years dreaming, then more years persevering through one door slam after another in seeking to adopt, this single dad-to-be found waiting for him brothers, Matheus and Davi on the other side of the equator. Well-practiced in working with maladjusted children, Dr. Matloff thought he was supposedly knowledgeable, and equipped to manage children with emotional disturbances and their temperamental behaviors. Yet he discovered all too soon that textbook prescriptions and a personal storehouse of professional skills in working with other troubled children and their parents in the past did not necessarily apply to his own sons. As their three strong-willed personalities navigated together the all-too-formidable twists and turns of forging a new family, transient language and cultural barriers quickly gave way to reinterpretations of relationships, love, and the rekindling of life’s potential.

Dr. Matloff is a licensed psychologist with his Ph.D. in school psychology. He has specialized for the last fifteen years in counseling children and adolescents, including many who had been adopted or were in foster care. He is well-versed in handling a variety of their behavioral and emotional challenges, and has been successful in helping their parents to work through many of these challenges. Dr. Matloff has had original studies and literature reviews published in academic journals, and has presented at local, state, and national conferences on a variety of psychological issues pertaining to children’s mental health and emotional adjustment. Yet he is anything but the perfect foil for the unpredictable attitudes and behavior of his two adopted sons; Dr. Matloff is just an ordinary person who is eager to share the joys of bringing up these boys, and the challenges of picking up from where their lives, as they had known it, had been taken from them. But his experiences as a professional in child behavior make this more than simply a memoir.
Please do contact me if you'd like further information.

Gary Matloff, Ph.D.