Bringing home baby

Julia Munson, 3, is a ball of energy as she jumps on her parents, Melinda and Paul Munson of Clinton, while they are sitting on the family couch Monday afternoon. The Munsons are hoping to have another set of little footsteps tromping through the house soon and are fundraising to be able to adopt a child from India. - Cynthia Woolbright
Julia Munson, 3, is a ball of energy as she jumps on her parents, Melinda and Paul Munson of Clinton, while they are sitting on the family couch Monday afternoon. The Munsons are hoping to have another set of little footsteps tromping through the house soon and are fundraising to be able to adopt a child from India.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Little Julia Munson could not have been more excited Monday morning. “Cinderella” was playing through a ballroom scene on the family television, the 3-year-old blonde-bobbed girl had a doll tucked under her arm and the two were bounding joyfully on the family couch.

“Careful there, Julia,” said Melinda Munson, 25, Julia’s mother.

Despite breaking just about every house rule the Munson’s have about bouncing on the furniture, the scene is one Melinda Munson and her husband, 28-year-old Paul, hope to repeat. Only, instead of Julia bounding around the living room with a doll named “Indian sister,” the couple hopes to introduce Julia to a young girl they all can call part of their family.

In December, Melinda’s sister adopted and brought home an Indian boy, and Melinda fell in love with her new nephew and the possibility of helping other children in his nation. The needs of children in the areas hit by the late-December tsunami only cemented their mission, their need to help children.

“It’s a part of life; It’s unexplainable why we want to do this,” Paul Munson said.

The Munsons are currently in the process of applying to adopt a child; their file is under review with the Seattle-based international adoption agency, the World Association for Children and Parents. There is an 8-month old girl with special needs from the Bangalore Province of India they are watchfully aware of, but are unsure if she will be the baby they will bring home. Just the same, they are diligent in their adoption filing duties.

At any given time, there is an average of 40 families looking to adopt children from India through WACAP, according to Martin Stillion, WACAP communication coordinator.

Post tsunami, the agency has seen an increased interest in adoption in Thailand and India — the two countries in the tsunami area with preexisting international adoption programs. WACAP received close to 700 requests for adoption information packets in January, nearly double the 315 in January 2003. The WACAP Web site saw one million hits in January, versus 600,000 a year earlier.

Out of a total 22,884 visas issued to immigrant orphans, the U.S. Department of State reports issuing 406 immigrant visas to Indian orphans coming to the U.S. in 2004. That number was 472 in 2003, 466 in 2002 and has yet to be tallied for 2005. Whether people will be sending back all the requested adoption applications and following through with the adoption process is yet to be determined, Stillion said.

Long road for a happy home

Adopting has been something the Munson’s have pondered through most of their six year marriage, Paul Munson said. Both grew up in families of eight kids each, and both had adopted siblings. But to them, they were always just their brothers and sisters — no matter if they were of blood relation or not. They want Julia to share that same bond.

Melinda Munson at one time worked for an adoption agency, so she still has all the statistics in her head about the number of orphans out there and how long they wait in crowded institutions to find a home to call their own.

“An institution is never a substitution for a family,” she said. “The tsunami was a horrible thing and it shouldn’t have taken that much catastrophe to be people to come to the aid of these children.”

Only two months into the process the Munsons have spent over $3,000 for adoption application processing. The average total cost of an adoption through WACAP is $12,000, not counting travel expenses and any incidentals according to Stillion. If a special-needs child is to be adopted, fees are generally waived or are reduced drastically.

The couple remains optimistic in their endeavor. Financially they are fine. Paul is a chef at Café Langley. She just graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in English and journalism and is a part-time therapist for autistic children when not at home with Julia. They got lucky in finding an affordable home in Scatchet Head home in June. Food is on the table. Everyone is clothed.

“We’ve learned that having what you need isn’t exactly having what you want,” Melinda Munson said. “But we’re perfectly happy.”

The couple will host an Indian dinner March 15 at the Bayview Cash Store as part of a fundraising process to adopt a child from India. That night they hope to not only raise funds for the adoption process, but raise awareness of the Indian culture of their future child.

“We want it to be India through a child’s eyes,” Melinda Munson said, of the informational and fun evening that will include everything from food and bellydancing to a presentation on the plight of children in Indian orphanages. “What better time to support adopting from India than now.”

The Munsons’ desire to adopt doesn’t surprise the couple’s friend, Patsy Brereton.

“This is important, even if it is only one child,” she said. “If you save one, think of all the future generations that will come and be saved also.”

The Munsons have already sold their second car, a Chevrolet S10 pickup truck, to raise money. Friends have donation jars on their desks. Later in the year they will hold a car wash and there will probably, no doubt, be garage sales organized by family and friends.

“Adopting is like getting married or having kids,” Paul Munson said. “If you wait until you are emotionally, financially and physically ready, well, you can’t guarantee it will all happen at once.”

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