When Sarah and Shawn Basile made their first adoption, they never planned to go through the same process again.
Two years later, they're traveling to Eastern Europe to adopt their third daughter with Down syndrome.
The Basiles will leave their Erie, Pa. home for Eastern Europe on Monday, traveling to the same area where they adopted their first two daughters, Zoya and Mila. Their initial trip will likely take more than two weeks. It will include an appointment with government officials, a meeting with the child, paperwork and a court date.
Shawn and Sarah Basile with their adopted children Zoya and Mila. The Basiles are in the process of adopting their third child with Down syndrome, shown below, from Eastern Europe.
"It's hard," said Mrs. Basile, a Chautauqua Lake Central School graduate. "You go with a one-way ticket and try to figure it out from there."
Through Reece's Rainbow, a nonprofit that advocates and fundraises for international adoptions of children with Down syndrome, the Basiles have picked out the young girl they would like to bring home. They do not know the child's birth name since Reece's Rainbow lists children with screen names, photos and brief biographies.
"The government there does not let you pre-select a child per se, so we won't officially get the file until we travel," Mrs. Basile said. "We sent a letter to our facilitation team in country, asking them to please put this child on hold if she is available."
The Basiles will return home during a mandatory, 10-day waiting period before heading back to Eastern Europe for another week or two. After completing the final steps, they plan to come home with their new daughter.
'THEY ALL NEED A
According to Mrs. Basile, who volunteers with Reece's Rainbow, Eastern European parents feel pressured into abandoning their children born with Down syndrome.
"There are a lot of misconceptions about kids with special needs in Eastern Europe," she said. "Parents feel that they just can't provide the medical needs, the medical costs, the therapies, things like that. These families really feel that they have no other choice than to just abandon the children."
Eastern European children with special needs are transferred from orphanages to adult mental institutions at age 4, Mrs. Basile said. The majority of those children do not live for another year.
"Their needs aren't being met," Mrs. Basile said. "If they aren't able to take food by mouth for some reason, they wouldn't get a feeding tube or anything like that. They come from these baby homes, which aren't great orphanages, but they get a little more care and attention there. Then they're transferred to these adult mental institutions, where the conditions are pretty bad."
The Basiles initially decided to adopt a child with Down syndrome after doing volunteer work with special needs children. They planned to adopt domestically, but their plans soon changed.
"We looked domestically, and we found out there was a pool of about 300 families with home studies completed and an application and family story on file," Mrs. Basile said. "They're willing to adopt children born domestically with Down syndrome. ... Our whole thought process was that we could offer our home and our love to a child who needed us who wouldn't otherwise be chosen by anybody else."
They continued to research and discovered Reece's Rainbow, taking note of all the children in need. The Basiles soon learned the estimated adoption cost was around $25,000.
"We came up with all these excuses as to why this was a bad idea," Mrs. Basile said. "We prayed a lot about it, and we just kept coming back around to the thought that there are all these children waiting. ... I think it doesn't matter where they had the privilege or disprivilege of being born. They're all children of God, and in the end, they all need a family."
For Mrs. Basile, deciding which child to adopt based on a sentence and a photo was difficult in 2010. She didn't know why one child would be more deserving than another. Her husband, however, looked at a photo of a girl named Zoya and knew she was the one. At that time, Reece's Rainbow did not use screen names. The girl's birth name was listed.
Although she was skeptical at first, Mrs. Basile said she received signs that led her to believe her husband was right.
"I had gone to get my hair cut. I walked in, and they had this nail polish line they were featuring," she said. "There was this big sign, and it was called 'Zoya.' It was like 10 minutes after Shawn had told me that."
The Basiles brought Zoya home in the spring of 2010. She turned 4 this year.
When searching for their second daughter, the Basiles had a more difficult time. They had their sights set on one child, but weeks before they traveled to Eastern Europe, the girl was no longer up for adoption.
"We didn't know what our plan was going to be," Mrs. Basile said. "Our facilitation team presented to us two children who were in need of immediate medical care since we were coming so quickly. Out of the two of them, they told us that Mila was the neediest. They wanted to know if we would consider her because that would probably be her only shot at surviving."
When the couple met her, Mila weighed just 7 pounds and needed heart and airway operations.
"She wasn't receiving the medical care that she needed," Mrs. Basile said. "When we brought her home, doctors kind of shook their heads. They couldn't give any explanation as to how she could still be alive with all of her health needs that she had going on."
Mila, now 20 months old, came home with the Basiles in late 2011.
BRINGING A NEW DAUGHTER HOME
After adopting Zoya more than two years ago, the Basiles didn't think they'd return to Eastern Europe to adopt another child. However, the memories of their trip led them to return.
"When we were there, we had all these children running up to us, yelling, 'Mama, Papa,' thinking that we were there for them," Mrs. Basile said. "That was really hard to see all these faces of children who had nobody, and we were there just for one.
"As time went on, we couldn't forget all the kids who we left behind. We decided we could step up again and offer our love to one more. Then after two, we thought for sure that we would be done. Here we are again getting ready for our third."
The Basiles have done fundraisers and cut back on their costs in preparation for their third adoption. They took out every non-essential item in their budget, Mrs. Basile said.
For the first two adoptions, the couple took on extra work. Mrs. Basile has since resigned from her teaching position, however, to stay at home with their daughters.
"It's been a little bit harder this time, but we know we'll get through this," she said. "We know this is God's plan for us, and he'll make a way for it to happen.
"Right now, we're not what we would consider fully funded. We had about half the costs saved up before we decided to adopt again. It's not that we won't find a way. We'll take out a loan or do whatever we need to do."
Reece's Rainbow has a grant account for families. Donations can be made to Reece's Rainbow for the Basiles. Visit reecesrainbow.org or reecesrainbow.org/46971/sponsorbasile-3 for more information.
As they prepare to make their third adoption, Mrs. Basile described her family life as "happy" and "full." She said her family isn't that different from most.
"One of the things that bugs us is, people will say, 'You guys are just so great and so wonderful. I could never do what you're doing.' ... We're so blessed by our children," Mrs. Basile said. "We don't look at it like we rescued their lives and they should be thankful to us. We're just so thankful that we've been blessed with them as our children. In a lot of ways, they've saved us more than we've saved them. ... In the end, we're just a family like any other family, with children whom we love and children who love us."