Celebrities from Madonna to Angelina Jolie are adopting babies from foreign countries. An adoption agency here in Rockford has made Guatemala one of the most popular and easiest countries to adopt from in the area. A local music teacher was the first in the Stateline to bring home a Guatemalan baby.
Janine Brass is a music teacher at Beloit's Converse Elementary School. Today she's teaching her students to sing "Feliz Navidad." It's not quite Christmastime yet, but Janine already has her gift.
"Aria is my little blessing from God," she says. And it's fitting that the carol she's teaching her students is in spanish... the native language of her adopted baby girl.
"If I was to do domestic adoption, as a single mother, it would have taken me a long process, that may not have ever been completed," Janine says.
Janine had another challenge in getting adoption approval. She had an aneurism in her back when she was eleven. She's paralyzed from the waist down.
"I had talked to several other angencies that were not sure if that was a possibility. That it probably wouldn't work out and the government would turn me down."
But last July, the Children's Home and Aid Society in Rockford arranged the adoption. Finally Janine flew to Guatemala and brought home baby Aria.
"There are many challenges. She's fast and I was like how's this going to work. How am I going to even get her in and out of the crib? So there were some things we had to adapt to make it physically possible for me to raise Aria."
These were simple changes, like lowering the crib a few inches. Harder is how to help Aria adapt to two cultures at once.
"While we were in Guatemala, I purchased several things from her heritage. For example, things that are around her room. We're trying to keep those connections with Guatemala."
Janine looks forward to spending the holidays with her daughter. This Christmas she's singing "Feliz Navidad" as Aria learns to talk.
Janine says the adoption process took about nine months. She says the hardest part was getting together the money. It cost her $30,000 to adopt Aria. Those payments are spread out over a long period and there is a large tax credit available to families who adopt. For more information, contact the Children's Home and Aid Society at 815-962-1043, or log on to their website at www.CHASI.org.