Adopting Jesús, Chapter IV: They Made the Adoption Possible

This adoption happened because of people who did their jobs in the middle of an economic crisis

Illustration by Platanohay

I was walking the dogs at quarter to seven when my phone rang. “Señor Ellsworth,” came the voice of NB, a prosecutor with the children protection tribunal. He had called to let me know that a document request had not been processed correctly. This could delay the adoption process by months if I didn’t get down to the courthouse to correct it. I vividly remember this phone call as an example of a public official going out of their way to help me navigate the labyrinth that was the adoption process. Many others over the years did the same.

The fact that I managed to adopt my son was a minor miracle that depended enormously on public officials like NB. He was the prosecutor who filed the lawsuit that severed the remaining legal ties between Jesús and his biological mother. He was always impeccably dressed, deeply informed about the law, and available to answer questions. Though he stood out as the most above-and-beyond of all the public officials I came across, I can honestly say that everyone else was courteous and competent. 

This adoption happened because of people who did their jobs in the middle of an economic crisis. People who kept working for salaries that were going up in smoke, out of the conviction that their work was important. Civil servants who stayed in their jobs while others quit in droves. This is my chance to thank these people.

They were a contrast to the public officials I reported on throughout my career. These were the ones involved in the ubiquitous currency scams or phantom food imports by Panama-registered LLCs. It was a contrast to the self-important Venezuelan officials – of every political persuasion by the way – who I’d come across in most areas of government.

The hollowing out Venezuela’s public administration was another reason the adoption took so long. Relatively simple tasks could extend for months. Child protection offices had case files piled in towering stacks or cluttered in boxes under desks. For every 10 cases the officials resolved, another 20 would land on their desks.  I did not have a chance to ask them: What keeps you here? I think many were genuinely committed to helping families like mine complete a process. Some answered this question by quitting. 

This is also a chance to publicly answer the question I heard several times a week over those eight years: No, nobody ever asked me for money. Not a single picheame p’al fresco. What I did hear was repeated advice that I offer to pay someone to speed up the process, which I systematically shut down not only because it would be illegal but also because I know it would not have solved the problem.

I understood that the most common form of adoption-related corruption was one that did not apply to my situation – the well-known “ID swap adoption.” This involves a pregnant woman entering a hospital under the name of the woman seeking to adopt the child. The adoptive woman becomes the official birth mother through small payments to hospital staff. 

As political tension with the United States heated up over the years, I’d frequently have people ask me if state officials gave me a hard time for being an American. My answer was the same – not once. Apart from people struggling to pronounce my last name, I never felt like I was treated differently.

I understand that not everyone had the same experience as I did. I can remember friends who were also in adoption processes being jaw dropped to learn that people were even answering my phone calls.

I walked away feeling a debt of gratitude to those people who made it happen. Behind the headlines I was writing about the latest corruption saga, there were thousands of officials out there who did the work to help families like mine. NB was one of them. He started out as a prosecutor who led the custody severance and ended the process as a judge who signed the final adoption order. This is my attempt to thank him. To thank all of them.

Chapter I: Finding Joy In a Hopeless Place
Chapter II: He Called Me “Papá”
Chapter III: Suing My Son’s Mother
Chapter V: “He’s my kid. Nobody believes me”
Chapter VI: Immigrating to Lady Liberty
Epilogue: Becoming Gringozuelan

Brian Ellsworth

Brian Ellsworth with a Washington based journalist and communications advisor. He spent 18 years in Venezuela, principally as a correspondent for Reuters.