Adoptive mom Marrero to receive award for volunteer work
By Kyle Peveto
Advocate staff writer
September 22, 2012
When 7-year-old Christian Marrero was asked if he could define adoption, the blond-haired boy had a quick answer.
“Adoption is being loved,” he said.
Christopher was adopted at birth by Robin and Hugo Marrero, who have chosen to tell him from a young age they were not his biological parents. But they never knew how much he understood.
“Did he really understand what adoption was?” said Robin Marrero. “He just knows it is being loved. It was perfect. We had tears in our eyes when he said that, because he said it so well.”
Robin Marrero, the mother of Christian and another adopted child, 15-month-old Michael, will receive an Angels in Adoption Award on Wednesday from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
In addition to adopting two children, she has also volunteered for years with the St. Elizabeth Foundation, a nonprofit Baton Rouge adoption agency. When the foundation was without a licensed clinical social worker, Marrero filled in for a part-time role that became more of a full-time job. She directed placement of children and counseled birth mothers through the difficult process in addition to operating her own private social work practice.
The St. Elizabeth Foundation and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge nominated Marrero for the honor.
“Talking about Robin brings tears to my eyes,” said Terri James Casso, the director of the St. Elizabeth Foundation who nominated Marrero. “She is an amazingly talented counselor in her private practice. What she does here, she does from her heart.”
Marrero had just adopted Christian three years earlier when the foundation needed help in 2008.
“I was glad to do it,” she said. “I had this beautiful little boy, and I couldn’t not do it.”
By the time they adopted Christian, the Marreros had tried to have children for 10 years, Robin Marrero said. In addition to their own full-time jobs — he was a financial planner and she was a social worker — they owned Mount Hope Plantation on Highland Road, which they ran as a bed and breakfast.
They sold the plantation house in 2002 to prepare for starting a family. They decided to stop infertility treatments, Robin Marrero said, and commit to adoption, knowing they could not afford to do both. Making the decision to stop trying to have a biological child was difficult, she said.
“We both went through a grieving process,” she said. “You envision that you will be able to have your own children. I’m not going to have a child who looks like me and acts like me. You go through some sadness after that.”
In February 2005 they applied with the St. Elizabeth Foundation, and in June, Christian was born.
In the years after his adoption, St. Elizabeth was in need of help. The foundation’s number of adoption placements had fallen, causing its staff to shrink.
“There is a little bit of an ebb and flow in the number of women who will have adoptions,” Marrero said. “We don’t know what it is. We wish we did, because we could certainly work around it if we did.”
As Marrero worked with the former director, Lillie Gallagher, the placements began to rise. In time the foundation added staff, but Marrero continued working.
“I think you would have to build your family by adoption to feel the commitment Robin feels,” Casso said. “Without this program they could not be parents. They are extremely grateful, and as a result, they are generous with their talents.”
Christian, an active boy who loves playing golf and riding his bike, constantly hangs around the St. Elizabeth office with his mother. Seeing the adoption process has likely helped him understand what it means to be adopted, Marrero said.
“He had seen someone pregnant, and he asked if he was inside my tummy,” she said. “I explained to him that ‘Momma had a bo-bo in her tummy and someone else very special carried you.’”
Seeing his younger brother added to the family has helped, too.
As Christian grew, they wanted him to have a sibling. Because she worked so closely with the foundation, Marrero sought an adoption through another channel — an identified adoption. Through a friend, Marrero found a woman who wanted them to adopt her child. Marrero and her husband were heartbroken when she lost the baby late in pregnancy.
“When that identified adoption fell through, I really didn’t think I wanted to try again,” Marrero said.
Their family was on vacation during Easter 2011 when the St. Elizabeth Foundation called about a mother who had not connected with anyone they tried as a possible match. Because Marrero had not counseled her — they had not even met — there were no ethical or legal problems with the adoption.
The mother wanted her son to have an older brother and grow up in a Catholic family — describing the Marreros perfectly. Marrero was able to go to doctor’s appointments with the mother and get to know her before Michael was born.
“It was just such a blessing,” Marrero said. “We were so thrilled.”
Both of her adoptions are open, so the birth mother can remain in contact with her child. Marrero will meet with her children’s birth mothers regularly and send them emails and photos of the boys. While Marrero said she believes the open adoptions are healthy for the children and adults involved, it remains difficult.
“The funny thing about adoption is it’s really bittersweet for everybody,” Marrero said. “There’s always some sadness involved for (the birth mother) because even though they know they’re doing the right thing for their child, they’re still sad they’re not parenting. It’s a little bit sad for adopting parents because it’s hard to be on the receiving end because the birth mother has such sadness.”
But the sadness gives way to joy.
“I feel blessed at the same time that I get to parent these boys,” Marrero said. “It’s bittersweet.”