Maryland Woman Leads Adoption Effort by Example

Article excerpt

Many childless couples and adults spend tens of thousands of dollars and travel across oceans to try to adopt a child when they could find happiness much closer to home and without the huge expense, travel and waiting time.

Jannie Hayes of Upper Marlboro, a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., can attest to the joy of adopting close to home. As head of the Prince George's County's chapter of the One Church, One Child adoption ministry, she can tell you the wonder and beauty of adopting a child without having to travel afar.

Hayes should know. She has four adopted kids.

The One Church, One Child program is a national adoption education and recruitment project founded in 1980 by the Rev. George Clements of Chicago. Clements, the first priest in the United States to adopt a child, asked all churches to identity one person in their congregations who would like to adopt a child.

Hayes got involved with the adoption program after she heard Clements speak and began trying to adopt a girl in the District of Columbia in 1991.

The girl, named April, then 3--she is 18--had spent all her life in isolation in the Hospital for Sick Children in the District. She had had two major heart surgeries and an infection, and weighed only 18 pounds. Doctors later told Hayes that had she not adopted the girl, the little one would have perished in six months.

Hayes found out later that the girl had a younger sister, Laura, also with special needs, in the same hospital, so she and her husband, Dennis, adopted that child. When she found out that the two girls had two older siblings, they adopted them as well in 1992. The siblings are 26-year-old Phillip and 24-year-old Jerrika, who works at The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). Laura is 15.

The couple also have one son, Jonathan, from Hayes' previous marriage.

Hayes said her passion to help foster children find homes stems from her love of children and her spiritual beliefs. "I believe that everyone is God's child and that everyone deserves to have a home," she said in a recent visit to APHSA. "Everyone deserves to be loved."

Her determination to help foster/adopted children drew so much attention and admiration that she was approached by the District Department of Social Services, now the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency, to get involved with the One Church, One Child program. …