Is your heart open to love a child?

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:18

    WARWWICK-Mena Messina and her husband Gary Genetti of Pine Island made the trip to China twice to adopt their daughters, Rosa, 8 1/2, and Josie, 6. It is something Messina looks back on fondly, as she discussed - as part of National Adoption Day last month - how they went so far to bring such enormous love into their lives. It was a discussion "We wanted a child and when we heard the stories of what was happening in China, that there were so many girls available, it just pulled at our heartstrings," said Messina. "We tried domestic adoption but because of the long waiting period we became very discouraged." Messina's experience adopting from China, like any mother, is softened by having that child in your arms. She said that while there was lots of paperwork, her experience was a good one - she went back and did it again two years later. The process averaged about a year, she said, from the time they began until they had their girls. Her family life changed in more ways than you would think. Sure, they now had two daughters, but they also incorporated a new culture into their lives. "We look at our family as part Chinese," she said. She and the girls have attended Chinese school for the past six years in Monroe, run by the Orange County Chinese Association, learning the language and participating in cultural events like the recent Autumn Moon Festival. "It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth moon," Messina said. "It is a traditional festival when we thank God for our bounty and share our secrets with Chang-Er, the legendary woman in the moon." Messina is a coordinator for Families with Children from China-Lower Hudson Valley Chapter. It is a group that can help families navigate the waters through their adoption process and afterwards offer support. The Chinese program is one of the few that offer the possibility for single parent adoption. Messina also goes to her daughters' school, Pine Island Elementary, and talks to their classes about adoption. "The kids are very interested in hearing about adoption," she said. "We talk about it in a very positive way and answer questions about how our particular family was made." Adopting runs in Messina's family. Her brother is also an adoptive parent, adopting domestically. And, she has learned, there are many other families out there built the same way hers was. "You slowly learn that every adoptive family has their own unique story. It's a story of life not biology," she said. This year's theme for the National Adoption Day is "Answer the call-You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent." There are many resources out there for anyone interested in adopting a child, either domestically or from another country. Messina's group can be located on the web at Another resource is the Orange County Adoption Support Group. They are available through their answering service at 845-427-3955. There is always a need. Thousands of children live within the foster care system in the United States. Internationally, orphanages are packed with infants in need of a permanent family. In Messina's words, "Adoption is a journey that begins in the heart. It's an emotional process that is both challenging and rewarding. Above all it is as natural as love itself."