The Success Story that Finally Happened
By: Malky Kearsing
Published in Building Blocks, December 2011
June 13, 2007, was an unforgettable day for many; most importantly, for nine year old Rafi. It was a day marked by accomplishment and success, the day in which Rafiâ€™s adoption by the Mazal family was finalized. It was a relatively quick encounter held in a conference room on the eighth floor of the family court. Present was a family court Judge, an adoption attorney, the Ohel case worker, the adoptive parents and Rafi. On speakerphone from Israel, listening in on the proceedings was the Mazalâ€™s older son, Menasha.
Documents were reviewed, notarized and signed. While procedurally it was anticlimactic; emotionally it was moving. When everything was completed, Tova Mazal tearfully handed the phone to Rafi so that Menasha could greet his new brother. June 13, 2007 marked the end of a period of loneliness and rejection, and memorialized the pledge of acceptance and belonging. This adoption was the confirmation that Rafi was longing for; that he, like every other child he knew, would be part of a permanent family. Rafiâ€™s story began years earlier. He was in foster care since the age of one and lived with several different foster families.
After several years, the court decided Rafi should be freed for adoption, and Ohel began looking for an adoptive family. There were several families that met Rafi, but then decided they did not wish to continue the process. In August of 2005, Ohel began working with what seemed to be the optimal adoptive family. The parents had successfully adopted several special needs children in the past. After a lengthy exploration of the family, months of planning and several extended visits, Rafi moved in with this family. It initially appeared that this would be the fairy tale ending for this little boy. The first few days went well, but after several weeks, the family decided they could no longer keep him. His behaviors were challenging and disruptive. Although Ohel staff explained that these behaviors were predictable under the circumstances, and that Rafi needed time to adjust, the family requested that Rafi be moved. Months of planning had failed, and everyone was saddened that Rafi still did not have a family he could call his own. Disappointed and disillusioned, Rafi returned to his previous foster family. The agency then arranged for him to attend the last two weeks at a local day camp. The first person at the camp who was introduced to Rafi and his case worker was a woman who would be his art teacher. After spending the two weeks with him, she decided that she wanted to be more than just his educator. Over the next few months, Rafi visited her home often, and spent many extended weekends with this special woman and her family. Finally, they decided that they wanted him to move in with them with the intention of adopting him. Rafiâ€™s transition was far from simple.
Children like Rafi who have already experienced so much loss, trauma, and instability need time and patience to understand and believe that a permanent family really exists for them. There were to be many challenging moments ahead, with intense emotions and behavioral issues, but the Mazals stayed strong in their belief that ultimately time and commitment would help Rafi make the necessary adjustment. The first time the Mazals mentioned the word adoption to Rafi, it made him sad and angry. Based on his previous history of failed adoptive placements, the word had become synonymous with being told he would leave a home. On June 13 â€“ 6/13, the adoption was finalized. The number 613 is a significant number in Jewish life. There are 613 mitzvos, commandments in the Torah. The Torah tradition teaches that whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world. When the Mazals saved Rafi, they saved a world. Consider saving the world by becoming a foster parent.
For more information about becoming a foster parent or about the children currently waiting for families please contact Ohel at 718.851.6300.