Children, parents transition to families

Children born oceans apart played together Sunday afternoon while their parents visited during the Catholic Charities’ National Adoption Month celebration.

Paula Davis said that happiness is what makes her job worth it.

“Getting to see people become families, that’s it,” Davis, 46, an international adoption social worker for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, said with a smile.

“You do it because you love it, and I love working with the families and the children, and honestly, this event is one of my favorite events of the year because you get to see the families and the kids,” Davis said.

Catholic Charities has facilitated hundreds of adoptions since 1964, she said.

“It’s a great time for us to be able to celebrate adoption with the families who have adopted through Catholic Charities and for us to show them how happy we are for them and their children,” Stephanie Sterling, director of the organization’s maternity, adoption and behavioral health services department, said

“It’s heartwarming for families to be able to interact with their own, especially with our international adoptions, Sterling added.

Families who attended Sunday’s festivities, where a clown painted faces and created animal balloons, said their lives are enriched beyond measure because of their adopted children.

Lori DeBenedetto-Webb, 37, a social worker who works for Catholic Charities, and her husband, J.J. Webb, 38, adopted three children from South Korea, Tae-Woo Webb, 9, Neena Webb, 7, and J.C. Webb, 6.

DeBenedetto-Webb said children adopted internationally face several obstacles in their transition from one country to another.

“A different country, a different house, different faces, a different language, different foods, different sounds, different smells — everything becomes different and it’s definitely a process,” she said.

DeBenedetto-Webb said she has been on both sides of the adoption fence and she works hard to dispel stereotypes and stigmas associated with adoption, especially ones about parents who put their children up for adoption.

“There is so much love and thought and planning that goes into that decision, and I’ve seen firsthand how difficult that decision is and how much they love their children and want their children to have things they can’t provide at that time,” DeBenedetto-Webb said.

She and her husband decided to immerse their children into the Korean culture — they attend a Korean church, practice the Korean martial art Han Mu Do and they spend time with Korean families — so they would embrace their culture. DeBenedetto-Webb said she feels this is an important aspect of international adoption.

Paul Lang, 38, and his wife, Leslie Lang, 39, adopted 2-year-old Jackson shortly after his birth and they both said they do not view him as adopted.

“In a lot of ways, it’s no different than having a child,” Paul Lang said. “He’s pretty much a full-time job.”

Paul Lang said that when they attend events like Sunday’s, they feel comfortable because they are among families who went through the same process and scrutiny.

“Coming to this meeting, adoption’s not an issue, it just is. It’s life,” Paul Lang said. “It’s a non-issue.”