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With US adoptions stalled in Haiti, Frederick family works to get son home

"He’s 9 and a half. We’ve already missed out on almost 10 years of his life and he’s just stuck there because of this," said Ryan Antonio.

FREDERICK, Colorado — Christy and Ryan Antonio have been trying to adopt a child from Haiti for seven years. But now, just as their son was about to come home to Colorado, they've hit yet another roadblock. 

According to the Associated Press, a United States policy change is allowing some Haitians to more easily gain entry to the U.S. which has set off a rush to get a Haitian passport. 

There's only one passport office in Haiti, and people with appointments for adopted children can't get through the crowd. 

It's preventing kids approved for adoption from being united with their new families. 

The Antonio family tell us they're not giving up hope their son will be home soon. 

"It’s hard because a lot of these toys we got for him was when he was seven so he might be too old for them now," she said.

Credit: 9NEWS - Bryan Wendland
Wilguens, 9

For nearly two years, the playroom and bedroom Christy and Ryan Antonio made for their adopted son, Wilguens, has sat empty.

"As hard as things are down there for him, he just, he has so much joy," she said. "He’s just ready to be home."

Christy said she and her husband, Ryan, have been in the process of adopting a child from Haiti since 2016. 

"It's always been uncertain in Haiti, especially with adoptions on timelines," he said. "There's been turmoil there for years."

The assassination of Haiti's president, a deadly earthquake, COVID-19, a fuel crisis and gang violence are just a few of the things that have prevented Wilguens from coming home.

Now they face yet another roadblock, which Ryan said was supposed to be the most predictable part of the process. 

"He can't even physically get in to get a passport," he said. 

Credit: 9NEWS - Bryan Wendland

Without a passport, Wilguens can't come to the U.S. even though he is now legally the Antonios' son. 

"When we started the process, our daughter was five. She's now twelve," said Christy.

"I know he will come home," said their daughter Raleigh. "I just do, just do."  

Raleigh has been waiting more than half of her life to meet her little brother in person. 

"I made him one of his signs in his room," she said.  

"So when we showed him that, I was pretty excited to show him that," said Raleigh. 

Thanks to a tutor who visits Wilguens, the family gets to see their son over video chat every Friday morning.

But lately, Ryan said those calls have become more and more difficult. 

"He normally would say, 'Oh, I'm great or I'm very good,' and now he's just saying, 'I'm okay,' and he just keeps asking us, 'When are you going to come and pick us up?'" he said. 

The Antonios thought Wilguens would be in Colorado by Christmas. 

"We just keep showing him every week, we still have the tree up," said Christy. "We're still going to do Christmas."

She said they aren't taking down the tree, they aren't giving up hope, until their son comes home. 

"Whether it's here or we live in Haiti, boy we'll have him," said Christy. "I just hope it's here."

The Antonios said their only hope right now, besides moving to Haiti, is getting Wilguens a passport waiver from the State Department. 

“It’s not advised to go to Haiti obviously by our government because it’s so dangerous down there," said Ryan. "But, we’ve actually been having conversations about going there and risk it, just to be with him or at least so he can see that we’re real, that we’re actually trying to do something."

The State Department said adoptions are one of its highest priorities and along with the Department of Homeland Security, it may waive passport requirements on a case-by-case basis. It said families would still have to comply with Haiti's exit requirements.


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