Robert Thomas Smith-Heinzmann, age six, joined his new family in Texas on November 19, 2013. For Jennifer Smith and Tom Heinzmann, this day culminated almost six years of waiting, worrying, and persevering through one obstacle after another. Robert’s adoption from Guatemala is an example of the years of delays, hurdles, and frustrations that can occur when adopting a child from a country embroiled in corruption and political turnover.
Jen and Tom first sought to adopt Robert in 2007, when he was less than four months old, but his case was suspended in 2008 when the Guatemalan government imposed a moratorium on inter-country adoptions. During that time, over the course of 60(!) visits, they travelled to see Robert frequently, making every effort to build a relationship across the many miles that separated them. When Robert saw them, he would scream with excitement. They always assured him that they were his mommy and daddy.
Robert first lived in a private home, then was moved to a state facility when he was two. This was a huge institution where he lived for almost four years. During that time, it took a court order for Jen and Tom to see him. Communication became even more difficult when Robert was again moved, this time to another home, with strict rules and visiting hours limited to Fridays from 4-8pm.
Private attorneys worked on the case relentlessly for the couple, and they were always encouraged that their case was “clean and good” and moving along, however painfully slow. Jen and Tom lived in Maryland (from 2007-2010), and received support from Senator Ben Cardin. Upon moving to Texas in 2010, Senator John Cornyn advocated for the couple. Throughout the adoption process they also received support and help from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, and the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington.
LSS began providing services and support to Jen and Tom when they moved to Texas in 2010, keeping their home studies and paperwork updated.
Ultimately, after waiting six years, the adoption was completed. “We prayed every day, were persistent and often scared, but we never gave up and never thought it wouldn’t happen. We are so blessed and so thankful that Robert is our son. He is truly a gift from God.”
After so many years of waiting to be together, Robert Thomas Smith-Heinzmann is enjoying life with his new family in Texas and thriving in his new school. Congratulations to this amazing family!
A related story appeared January 26,2014, in the Wall Street Journal: Guatemala’s Stranded Orphans.