Written by Lisa Johnson
November is recognized as National Adoption Month, an entire month devoted to raising awareness about the positive option of adoption. It also highlights the thousands of children (over 100,000) here in the United States awaiting adoption, and the millions of orphans worldwide who dream of finding their forever family. This year’s theme “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family” focuses on the adoption of older youth currently in foster care.
As part of National Adoption Awareness Month, we’re highlighting some incredible Coast Guard families who have opened up their hearts and homes to adopt a child and, in several cases, multiple children.
“We brought Jaehoon home from South Korea in October 2012 and Hannah completed our family in October 2014. The process felt long and challenging at times, but we cannot imagine our family without our two, joyful, spirited little ones. We are reminded every time we watch our children laughing and playing together how truly blessed we are to be a family.”
Lt. Cmdr. Hoon Park, assistant cadet training officer at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy
“On June 19, 2014, my wife Petty Officer 1st Class Lindsay Jones (right) and I (Theresa DiJoseph, left) welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world. The state of Alaska did not recognize our marriage at the time of her birth and had no means to place both of us on her birth certificate. Having Lindsay legally adopt our daughter, Virginia, as the non-biological mother was imperative in protecting our family should an emergency arise. Although same sex marriage is now recognized in all 50 states, certain states still do not place both parents on the birth certificate and will not recognize the non-biological parent. It is critical to legally adopt to ensure your family’s protection wherever you may be stationed.”
Theresa DiJoseph, Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak
“After I married my beautiful active duty wife, Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Crist, I was excited and touched that her daughter, Ashley was also excited and wanted to call me ‘Daddy’. After my wife changed her name to Rosen, we hired an attorney and started the adoption process. After the fact, I found out that Work-Life had a program to assist with expensive adoption costs and associated fees, which helped us to become a family and share one last name.”
Chief Petty Officer Benji Rosen, Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Virginia
“As a new father to two sons there wasn’t a thought in my mind that would lead to adoption, at least not for a decade or two. Late 2011, my wife and I came across an organization that helps orphaned children from Ukraine be hosted over Christmas and the summer months. We decided we would invite two children to stay with us for the holidays and give them the gift of good memories. On Dec. 21, 2011, I picked them up from the airport and began a two-year journey that concluded with not one adoption, but two. It was another year, to the day, that we were back in Ukraine again, adopting four of their best friends. Now, less than four years later, I’m a proud father to nine children. From our home to my career we have been so blessed! The Coast Guard, through its family-focused values, has allowed us the opportunity to pay it forward. They have been a phenomenal supporter of adoption; granting me with large periods of leave, providing thousands of dollars in Coast Guard Mutual Assistance grants, thousands in adoption reimbursements, and free medical and dental for my numerous additional dependents.”
Lt. Cmdr. Chris Weber, Coast Guard Base Seattle
“My wife, Wendy and I both did step-parent adoption. I adopted her daughter, Gabryella who is four years old and she adopted my oldest son, Evan who is 14. We wanted to make our family more whole and felt this was a way to do it. Most people might not know the requirements for step-parent adoption, and of course each states requirement varies. We both feel it was a rewarding experience, for us and the kids.”
Chief Petty Officer Jason D’Onofrio, Coast Guard Base Cleveland
“Adoption has been the greatest blessing of our lives. It has changed our perspective on so many things. You can’t walk through an orphanage, with desperate children clinging to you and begging for your attention, and not walk out of it profoundly changed. There are an estimated 140 million orphans in the world today. These children need families. Every child deserves to grow up in a family. We are so grateful to all who supported our journeys to China. CGMA and the Coast Guard Grant helped make two sick orphans a beloved son and daughter. We hope and pray other Coast Guard families will say ‘yes’ to adoption. You will never regret it! Adoption is a blessing!”
Lt. Fannie Wilks and Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Wilks
Each of their personal stories are inspirational and truly unique and we thank them for sharing their journey. Many of the families took advantage of the below resources and benefits available to Coast Guard families.
1. Adoption Reimbursement Program: Coast Guard active duty members and reservists on active duty for at least 180 consecutive days are eligible for reimbursement of up to $2,000 per child per year and a maximum of $5,000 in any calendar year, within budget constraints.
2. CG SUPRT: May assist Coast Guard personnel and their families with adoption resources and can be contacted at 855-CGSUPRT (247-8778).
3. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA): Offers two types of assistance directly related to the legal adoption of a child: an interest free loan up to $6,000 for qualified expenses relating to the adoption, and a grant, not to exceed $1,000, for the cost of a home study fee.
To help promote and support National Adoption Month visit the Health and Human Services website . To locate the Work-Life staff at your Health, Safety and Work-Life Regional Practice, dial 800-872-4957.