November is National Military Adoption Month and for many of the families MyCG has spoken to, adoption is a choice that means opening their homes, lives and hearts to children who otherwise may have not been able to experience the gift of family. National Adoption Month is an annual campaign sponsored by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids.
Here are some of the stories Coast Guard families shared about their adoptions during the last year.
In a seemingly fated conversation that took place nearly three years ago, before they were married or even had their first date, Petty Officer 2nd class Santiago Vazquez wanted to know how his eventual wife, Cait Vazquez, felt about adoption. “It was important to him,” she recalls, “he has family that was adopted.”
Turns out, it was equally important to her and was a key way she wanted to become a mother. Having gone through two hip surgeries she wanted to have children but didn't want to carry a child. “There are so many children out there already and we wanted a child [who] needed a family so we thought—let's fill the need in both of our lives,” said Vazquez.
The couple decided to adopt internationally from Bulgaria. They are the proud parents of Antoni Vazquez who is now nearly three years old; the adoption was legalized July 22.
The Vazquez's were passionate about both adopting internationally and about becoming parents to a child with disabilities. “We felt our actions were being tugged by our heart- strings in the decision to adopt internationally where kids can die in orphanages due to lack of care and medical attention,” explained Vazquez.
She went on to share about her own challenges being disabled and the connection she can now share with her son. “I wanted to be a mom [who] could relate to my kid and the challenges they’d face being disabled.” Antoni has Crouzons Syndrome, which is defined as an abnormality of the skull where it doesn't grow and “they have to surgically make room for his brain.”
Financially, the Vazquez’s credit the Coast Guard, along with grants, as being helpful throughout their journey. “One of the big helps the Coast Guard provided was reimbursement up to a certain amount for the home study. Our home study was fully covered including our social worker having to travel to get to us. It was about $1,700," said Vazquez. “All of these bills came at once and knowing that it would be paid off almost immediately was a huge sigh of relief for us.” Vazquez also reminds readers, “There are plenty of opportunities for grants out there, being military members.”
The Vazquez’s also acknowledges their unit for making the adoption process easier. “You have great commands, good commands and ones you can't wait to leave and our unit here has been amazing! They actually collected money for us and when we had very short travel notices his command did everything possible to get it approved as soon as possible because they knew we were waiting for our dates,” said Vazquez. “It’s amazing to have all of that support.”
The Vazquez’s are stationed at Sector North Carolina where Santiago Vazquez serves as a marine science technician and has been in the Coast Guard for seven years.
Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Lavergne and his wife, Hiedi Lavergne, recently welcomed their son, Isaac Joseph-Martinez Lavergn, into their family. Samuel Lavergne is stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and is currently underway aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf. His wife, Hiedi, is responsible for intakes and marketing at a law firm also in San Antonio.
The couple started the adoption process during the spring of 2021. “For years my wife and I have been trying to conceive a child—a hope to complete our family,” said Lavergne. “We even sought medical help and tried intrauterine insemination (IUI), but still no luck.”
The Lavergne’s tried the foster care route in Texas near the beginning of 2021. “We did the training and met with foster care agencies, but there were multiple hurdles that kept getting in the way, and children we were interested in fostering would find homes before we could help," explained Lavergne.
Besides, the couple really wanted to start with a newborn and many restrictions within foster care only allow the adoption of older children. "We were about ready to give up when we were incredibly lucky to learn that a family friend of my wife’s who runs a pregnancy center in Louisiana (we were in Texas) had found a mom [who] was looking to put their child up for adoption,” said Lavergne. “From there, our adoption journey began.”
The couple underwent many challenges to make their dream of becoming parents come true. "I think the adoption process really showed just how determined my wife and I were at wanting to complete our family. The long nights with the lawyers, the constant phone calls back and forth with the pregnancy center, the difficulty of myself being away from my wife for various trainings, the financial struggle to save and build up for the expenses—it really took its toll," said Lavergne.
He continued, "But as we got to the hospital, we were there from the very beginning for our son. I was always worried that something would go wrong or the adoption wouldn’t go through, but I knew the moment I held my son, we were family. The struggle was worth every bit of it.”
The Lavergne's acknowledge the Coast Guard for helping to lift a lot of the burden off their shoulders. "The Office of Work Life’s adoption expenses reimbursement, along with CGMA’s home study reimbursements, helped ensure my wife and I were able to focus our energy on raising our new son rather than worrying about emergency expenses,” he said.
Lavergne wraps up his thoughts on their adoption journey stating, "Adoption is a very challenging experience. It’s a difficult journey that can easily lead to heartache, frustration, confusion, even desperation. With that said when you’re finally able to hold your new child, it’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’re not just helping yourself complete your own journey, but you’re helping someone else start theirs.”
Stay tuned for stories from two more families.