Fighting for Fairness, Part Three

Yesterday, Edie Windsor, an 84-year-old widow, was hailed as a hero for her successful battle for equality in benefits.

In 1955, Rosa Parks, a defiant bus-rider in Montgomery, Alabama, held fast to her ideals, and ended up moving mountains.

Over the years, countless women have effected change while fighting for fairness.

Amy Slack, a 41-year-old mother in New Jersey, aspires to be one of those women. She has spent the past five years fighting to free her daughter, and others like her, from foster homes and orphanages in Guatemala.

(Note: If you missed Parts 1 and 2 about Amy Slack’s efforts to adopt a child from Guatemala, click here and here.)

38649_1553888894251_3696498_n The struggle to unite with Lilly—the Guatemalan baby she and her husband were “matched” with for adoption in late 2007—has caused Amy to become more politically involved than she had ever imagined.

She works with an advocacy group, Guatemala900, which, according to its website, is conducting a campaign to “call attention to the stagnation of the…remaining Guatemalan adoptions that were begun before 2008.”

Amy and her husband, Spencer, joined about 20 other families in hiring an international adoption lawyer to gain support for action in Washington, DC.

She has twice traveled to DC to advocate for the completion of in-process Guatemalan adoptions – once for a march and candlelight vigil, in 2009, and, more recently, with other families and their lawyer to urge the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, to take action. (That’s Amy in the above photo.)

Amy has kept herself abreast of politics in Guatemala, as well.  She knows that Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina discussed the adoption quagmire with a U.S. delegation including Ambassador Susan Jacobs (special adviser regarding children’s issues with the State Department), Alejandro Mayorkas (head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency) and Fernando de la Cerda (counsel to the Guatemala ambassador in Washington, DC).

Ostensibly, President Molina is committed to expediting the open cases, Amy says, “but in April 2012, he promised that our children would be home in 100 days, and it is now 400-plus days and they are still not home.

“There are a lot of promises, but no action,” she says with exasperation.

Emotionally and financially, Amy needs the battle to conclude. After five years of paying for attorneys and Lilly’s care; making trips to Trenton, NJ, for paperwork; traveling to Washington, DC, for advocacy; and flying to Guatemala to attend hearings and visit with Lilly; the Spencers’ financial burden has become nearly unbearable.

“The drain on our resources has probably been the worst part of all of this,” Amy confides.

To continue the fight and foster care payments for Lilly, the Slacks held a fundraiser at a bowling alley and more than a dozen yard sales. Fortunately, they have also received support from their families and community. “Everyone at my job, at my mom’s church and at my mother-in-law’s work gives us anything they don’t want anymore.”

backsOn a more personal note, she adds that “it’s hard not going out to dinner with the girls cause the money could be used for paying a bill or [something for Lilly], and it’s hard when Ben wants something that his other friends [have] and we just simply can’t do it.”

In fact, the toll on Ben, the big brother waiting for his sister’s arrival, has been heavy, too.  “Ben has had a rough time,” Amy says.  He decided to stop mentioning the adoption at school “because it was taking so long, [the other kids] just thought he was lying.” (Ben and Lilly are together in the photo at right.)

Ben, who is 12, is concerned about his parents’ struggles and has internalized his own frustrations and sadness. Recently, Amy and Ben were able to talk through his feelings, and concluded that Ben would benefit from knowing more about the process.

Out of that discussion, one major decision was made: Ben will accompany his parents to Guatemala to pick up Lilly. And Amy believes in her heart of hearts, as any good mother would, that she will be united with her daughter soon.

 – Linda Williams Rorem, 27 June 2013
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  1. Joan Bowman says:

    We are friends with Susan and Adam, Amy’s parents. We have followed the long, struggle this family has gone through. Our niece and nephew adopted two children from Guatemala. Joey is now 12, and Gabby is 10. They waited for Joey for several years, I think, but they did not go through what Amy and Spencer and their families have endured. They are in our prayers that Lilly will soon come to the USA. Gary and Joan Bowman

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