Is your heart open to love a child?

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    WARWICK-Walt Disney has done it. Senator John McCain has too. Former President Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Magic Johnson, and Jamie Lee Curtis belong to the same group. What do they all have in common? All of these well-known people have adopted children. November is National Adoption Month, and Nov. 20 is specifically National Adoption Day. Adoptive parents and children, along with adoption agencies throughout the country are celebrating the day with information forums and special events. This is a national day, however, there are many options when adopting a child. 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 how they went so far to bring such enormous love into their lives. "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 adoption process averaged about one year, she said, from the time they began until they had their girls. "It was encouraging to know that there was without doubt a baby waiting for us. You work hard for it but it is well worth it," she added. 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." The event, which took place at St. Stephen's Church in Warwick, was attended by 45 families. Some with children, others were families-in-waiting and some couples just interested in exploring the possibility. "It's a great opportunity for both the parents and children to share the tremendous joy this process has brought into our lives." 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."