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Families cross globe to adopt

January 11, 2020

SANTA CLARITA – Heard the one about the traffic engineer who has no car? Punch line: Why? Because his wife needs the family minivan to cart around their two biological kids, two adopted daughters from war-torn Liberia and soon, in the remaining empty seat, an adopted son from Uganda. Shades of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Santa Clarita? No. Ian Pari, a senior traffic engineer for the city, and his wife, Cheryl, who home-schools the kids, are among a growing number of local couples who eschew a suburban manse brimming with goodies in favor of sharing their possessions and following religious beliefs that call for helping those less fortunate. Their neighborhood pals include blended siblings in the Stewart household nearby. Kayla and Chad Stewart, both 37, had four biological children, all girls, before they adopted twins Matthew and Mark, now 6, from Liberia four years ago. “They were only 11pounds (Matthew) and 18pounds (Mark) when they came to us,” Kayla Stewart said. For comparison, she notes U.S. babies 2monthsold weigh 11pounds. “About a year and a half after Matthew and Mark were with us – they told me to sit down first – the adoption agency called,” she continued. “One day, they found out (the boys) had a brother, and three weeks later they found out there were more.” That was two years ago, and those youngsters are now 9 and 7. Chad Stewart, a digital animator with Sony Pictures Imageworks in Culver City, will travel to Liberia in the coming days to meet the boys’ biological father. `Missing pieces’ “My plan is to try to fill out the missing pieces of the story for my boys,” Chad Stewart said. “When they’re older, to try to give them some answers: what their mom was like – she died the day after the twins were born – what their dad is like, the history of when they were there, the events going on around them.” The record will be mainly audio, but Stewart will bring an MP3 recorder and a digital camera with some video capacity. He plans to write a book detailing the trip. An armful of vaccinations has prepared his body for the experience, but his mind is another matter. “The farthest I’ve been out of the country is Niagara Falls or Tijuana,” he said. According to the CIA World Factbook, Liberia was settled in the 1800s by slaves freed from the United States and experienced political upheaval, dictatorial rule, revolt and civil war. It notes the “security situation is still volatile, and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country remains sluggish.” At last, a brother The Paris daughters were escorted to the United States by a Liberian pastor who works for Angels Haven Outreach, the local nonprofit agency that assists with international adoptions. The Paris plan to travel to Uganda on April28 to appear in court and handle the logistics for the safe passage of Jay – known as J.J. – a 31/2-year-old boy found abandoned on the road and taken to an orphanage when he was about 7weeks old. “I’m excited about it,” Daniel Pari said. “I won’t be the only boy. I can teach him different things.” Alison chimed in, “(Yeah), how to make armpit noises!” Someday, Jlatu and Armie can tell J.J. about how their dad died from cholera and their mom, unable to care for them, put them up for adoption. The two boys will share a bedroom, and the three girls share a room in the three-bedroom home. To emphasize the bonds of family life, the Paris have simplified their schedule, eliminating cable-TV service in favor of watching videos and DVDs and casting off sports and clubs, except for an after-school Bible study program at a local elementary school. Daniel’s favorite pastime is whittling, and the girls’ favorite is universal. “We’ll spend a whole Saturday just doing hair,” said Cheryl, 40. Armie recalled life before Valencia, when she could not sleep over at her grandma’s house because the roof had so many holes. “It rained a lot,” she said. “We had to use buckets over our heads.” The girls saved their traveling outfits from Liberia, sewed by the great-grandmother. “Jlati’s fits me.” The cost of caring for the children over a lifetime is borne by the adoptive families, but the cost to adopt the sisters was about $20,000. Ian Pari said the U.S. government provides a generous income tax credit for adoptive families, but they must spend the money first. He likened the nine- to 12-month lead time before the kids arrived to viewing an ultrasound. “You have the photos, but you don’t have the kid,” he said. judy.orourke@dailynews.com (661) 257-5255 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “In the Old Testament, God talks about caring for orphans. There are a lot of orphans in the world,” said Ian Pari, 44. “Through personal meditation and prayer … my reasons for not wanting to adopt – selfish reasons, I didn’t want my lifestyle to be impacted – once I put those thoughts aside, I thought `We have so much to share.”‘ The couple talked 20 years ago about how many biological kids they desired: two. If they wanted more, they would adopt someday. After becoming born-again Christians in the late 1990s and finding their kids were self-sufficient, their desire to adopt and the pool of prospective adoptees grew a lot larger. Some ask why an international adoption. “I have limited resources, have a certain income, my house is only so big, where are orphans in the greatest need?” Pari said. “Without question, it’s the continent of Africa.” When orphaned sisters Armie, pronounced Ah-mee, now 5, and Jlatu, now 7, stepped off a plane in Los Angeles after a 36-hour flight three years ago, they were culture-shocked and ill. Their intestines were riddled with roughly a dozen parasites, and Jlatu had an eye condition that untreated could have left her blind. The girls are now bouncy and blended into their new family, which includes Alison, 15, and Daniel, 12.

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