Adoption of Haitian Toddler Sped Up With Quake

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Thursday, little Benicio was still in Haiti. But after several flights and delays, Saturday night, he finally was getting used to his new home with his new family.

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21-month-old Benicio rests comfortably with his new parents, Kevin and Catherine Downes, after a long journey that took him from a Haitian orphanage to their Visalia home.

"It's great to have him home. It's a little surreal."

"You know, Kevin used the word surreal and that's what it is. I mean we've been looking at his picture, the orphanage had sent us pictures. So we're watching him grow from these pictures."

Most of Benicio's young life had been spent just outside Port-Au-Prince, the Haitian capital left devastated by January 12th's massive earthquake.

The orphanage he was living in survived. But the surrounding destruction was enough to speed up his adoption process, which started in October of 2008.

"And for us, he is our son. We were going to have him in our home in 6 or 7 months. All of our paperwork was done; it had been done for a while. It's just a lengthy process in Haiti."

After qualifying for a humanitarian visa, Benicio left Haiti on Thursday, flew to Miami, and made his long-awaited debut at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Saturday.

"This has been a long time coming and it's a dream come true." Both parents say Benicio is finally where he belongs. Their inability to have children is what first drove them to adopt.

But Benicio now joins his younger brother, 7 month old Nathaniel, making this happy family complete.

"This boy, I mean we've just been waiting and praying and hoping for him to come home for so long and he's here and you know I'm thankful that something good came out of something so horrible." Kevin and Catherine Downes say they credit their adoption agency and valley representative Devin

Nunes for helping them bring their new son into the United States. Benicio is his Haitian name, so initially they wanted to rename him Benjamin. But, after this experience, they still haven't made their decision.

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haiti, earthquake, fresno, local, shannon handy
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