Chances for Children: Changing lives, making families

Laura Sosnowitz had always wanted to adopt a child to be a little brother or sister to her son Blake, but knew that international adoption was a lengthy process. She never really thought it would become a reality, until she met Kathi and Craig Juntunen at a charity event.

The Juntunens made their first trip to Haiti in 2005. That trip changed their perspective on life, and they left Haiti knowing that they needed to do something for these children so impacted by poverty. They adopted three children but knew that alone was not enough, so they created Chances for Children. Since then the organization has grown to include a crèche (adoption orphanage), pediatric medical clinic, agricultural and feeding programs, clean water systems, a vocational program for young adults, empowerment programs for women and more.

Laura and her husband, Andrew, talked to the Juntunens and learned more about their organization and international adoption. Before the event, they had read Craig’s book Both Ends Burning: My Story of Adopting Three Children from Haiti. By the end of the evening, Laura was thinking, “We can do this – we can really adopt a child!”

Their fate was sealed when they first saw a picture of Caleb, then just 6 months old. “I knew that he was the one,” says Laura. And five months after their “match” Andrew was on a plane to visit Caleb in the crèche, located in the small village of Lamerdelle, east of Port au Prince.

Although Laura never ventured to Haiti, Andrew made the trip a total of four times, mostly to work through the Haitian government’s red tape, including visits to the embassy to sign paperwork. On Andrew’s second trip, he helped build a new Chances for Children orphanage  in Kenscoff, a mountainous area 15 miles east of Port au Prince.

During these trips to Haiti Andrew would Skype with Laura and Blake, “We were able to see Caleb and interact with him,” and they were always sending him pictures of his new family. Laura and Andrew never worried about leaving Caleb in the orphanage because, “we knew that he was in a safe place, being cared for until we could get him to Arizona.”

Then on May 30, 2013, Andrew brought 2-year-old Caleb home. And even though there are four years separating Blake and Caleb, they bonded from the start. Blake even commented, “Look, mom, he’s my twin – I’m just a little taller than him!”

Since his arrival in Arizona, Caleb has thrived. He attended preschool at Temple Chai and has embraced both of his cultures, telling people he is a, “Haiti Jew.” Laura and Andrew would love to take him to Haiti when he gets a little older, possibly to meet his family that remains in the country. “His mother’s wish was for him to go to school and have an education,” explains Laura. So they send pictures to Chances for Children for them to share with his biological mother.

Another way that the Sosnowitz family connects Caleb to his Haitian background is by attending the annual Night of Hope that Chances for Children hosts. This year, the fundraising event will be held at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess on Nov. 11-12. During this weekend, families who have adopted through the organization join for an evening of dining and dancing, followed by a day of cultural classes for the children. The biggest treat is that some of the caregivers travel on temporary visas from Haiti to reconnect with the children that they loved like their own and cared for at the orphanage.

Laura enjoys watching the children interact with these women, and realizes that Caleb would not be the loving and smart child he is today without their influence. “You see the children react when the women start speaking to them in French and Creole, and you know that they recognize their first languages and their first caregivers.”

Although Laura and Andrew would like to return to Haiti someday with Caleb, they have no plans for further adoptions. “Our family feels complete,” she says and she is grateful to Chances for Children for making them feel that way.

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