Family Feature: Lani, Joe & Charlie

By Brittney Bagiardi
July 9, 2021

Family Feature Series

We live for the beautiful, resilient, loving, and precious moments that our families experience on their adoption journeys. No two adoption paths are the same. No two families are exactly alike. Each story is precious and filled with love. There are hopeful adoptive parents who are waiting for a bundle of joy to call their own. There are also many birth parents making a loving sacrifice to place a child with those adoring families in waiting.

We hope that our Family Feature Blog Series gives both adoptive and birth parents a beacon of hope, a realization that no matter what the future holds, there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. The journey to adoption is often filled with many emotions, but at the end of the path, it’s all in the name of a shared love for that beautiful child.

Lani, Joe & Charlie’s Story

Lani and Joe holding baby Charlie


Choosing adoption was easy for us. I’ve always known I wanted kids. My husband came around to the idea after we got together. We’ve
been on the same page for a long time, but it just wasn’t happening for us in the “old-fashioned” way. “Unexplained infertility” was where we
were with doctors and we had to decide what to do next if we were serious about growing our family.

My husband, Joe, was the one who suggested adoption and pointed out that we have a habit of collecting people wherever we go and
making a family. Our found family and our biological family have become one for us, and it has been this way for a long time. Because of
that, adoption felt right to us.


We decided to go with domestic infant adoption and chose an agency that specializes in Florida adoptions (Heart of Adoptions Inc). The
staff was amazingly helpful, but the process is amazingly tedious. Background checks, fingerprinting, book reports (not joking), training
(water safety, sleep training, how to feed and diaper), reading about the birth mother experience, the adoptee experience, learning about
open adoptions. It was eye-opening and overwhelming.

We knew that we would likely adopt a child who was not Caucasian (we are both very Caucasian, despite my Asian heritage), and because
we made that decision we had special training we had to do about interracial adoption as well.

There are certain circumstances that make a baby “high risk” and therefore many adoptive families leave some boxes unchecked. We
looked at the list of “high-risk” factors and determined that many of them were simply stigmas today and not deal breakers in any way for
us. Some examples of things that we accepted as possibilities: a baby born with HIV, or Hepatitis C (both very treatable). A baby with no
prenatal care. A baby born addicted to opioids. When we finished our training, our home study, home visits, and were approved, we knew
we were waiting for a baby who would likely spend weeks in the NICU before we could bring them home.
Every bit of this was perplexing and emotionally draining.


Chrlie smiling with Lani looking at her

After a wait of only 3 weeks– We got THE CALL. I was taking a rare and much-needed break while out of town for work. I was with a
friend at a nail salon. My phone rang, and I didn’t recognize the number, but my friend immediately says “This is it!”
I thought, “No way, too soon.” I let it go to voicemail. It was the adoption agency.

As it turns out, this highly intuitive friend was right (typical), and we had been selected by a woman who would be giving birth in
March 2019. I fished a business card out of my purse (the only paper I had on me!) and wrote down all the details they could give
me, then eagerly called Joe.

We got the paperwork and ultimately decided that we would agree to the match. We asked if the birth mother would be willing to
meet us via video or in person. She is in the same city as us and will give birth at a local hospital! What luck! I arrived home amidst
this chaos and excitement and we debated whether to tell anyone yet. After all, we know so much can change about a situation.

After some time had passed, we decided to tell people that we’d been matched. We didn’t share on social media but we told close
friends and family. We got excited, cautiously. And then the match fell through, for reasons that are not mine to share. We were
disappointed, but we persevered. A little later we got another call! Another match! Baby due in December, which was right around the
corner. We were more cautious about sharing, and I found a lactation consultant because I planned to breastfeed.

Then we got the phone call- the mother had decided to parent. I was happy for her, that her circumstances had changed, that she
was able to care for her sweet baby girl. I was also crushed. We had so much more information this time and the due date was so
soon. We had built the crib. I was storing breast milk. We grieved the loss of this possible child in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Then, the week before Thanksgiving, 2018, I had a meeting at the adoption agency, just to see where we were and what the next
steps would be. A friend went with me for moral support. I was heartened by this meeting. They mentioned that there was a baby due
Thanksgiving week and that the parents intended to place with the agency but would not do so until the baby was born. This is a
“Stork drop” scenario- the baby is already born and then we would get the call to come take placement of that child.


Charlie sleeping

November 29, 2018. Joe and I are in two different vehicles driving from two different cities to meet at a private dance lesson. My
phone rings and I answer. It is the adoption agency.
That conversation was surreal. The agency waited until the parents had signed the papers severing their rights, and committed to the
adoption. The executive director and our contact stayed after hours, waiting for that call so that they could call us together (which by
the way, was such a lovely and supportive thing for them to do). There was a baby girl, in Naples, FL and she was two days old. She
was ours if we wanted her.

Our hearts were pounding and we said yes, we want this baby! But we had to wait to receive the social-medical background before
we could sign anything. It would take a couple of hours for the social worker to prepare the paperwork.
The next few hours were a blur- we got the papers, read everything over, and could not believe our luck. A totally healthy baby from
a family with no concerning medical background and no exposure to drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. We needed supplies, and it takes a
village, so we called around ours. By the next day we were stocked up on borrowed and hand-me-down baby supplies and the only
thing we really needed was a car seat.

Naples is only a two-hour drive from us but in rush hour traffic it took us FOREVER. Our daughter had been discharged already, so
the social worker in Naples took her back to the agency’s Naples office to hang out until we got there. It was around 9 pm when we
finally made it, and I cannot possibly describe how I felt as we parked, rode up the elevator, and knocked on the door. I was handed a
tiny baby girl, so red and squishy looking. I’d been staring at pictures of her the whole drive down, but I was not prepared to hold her.
I never wanted to let her go. But I did pass her over to Joe, and I’ve never seen anything more perfect than the sight of my husband
holding our daughter.

I rode home in the backseat of the car, smushed in next to the car seat, staring at our new baby girl. We FaceTimed family and
friends to share the news and invited people over to see her that weekend if they could get their shots. We stopped for drive-through
dinner and my first-ever diaper change on the car back seat.

When we finally pulled into the driveway with our daughter, it was 12:01 am on 12-01-2018. We were exhilarated and exhausted. We
brought her into the house to meet her Aunt, and then bundled her into her bassinet in our bedroom and attempted to sleep. We had
our girl, our dream had come true, but the process doesn’t end just there for an adoptive parent.

The Finalization

Lani and Joe with adoption finalization judge

There was still a lot to go before we could finalize our adoption. We had to have a few more visits with the social worker to check in
on how we were doing. When you first take placement of a child in Florida, legally the adoption agency is the guardian and the
adoptive parents are given guardian status by the agency until the day you go to court and a judge grants you the legal status of
parents. From picking Charlie up in Naples to going before a judge, it took 159 days.

On May 7, 2019 we finally went before a judge. We swore that we would care for our daughter until she was 18 years old. We
already knew that we would care for her forever. Our story isn’t over, far from it. We now have many happy years ahead of us, raising
this bright, funny, cheerful, willful, little ball of energy. She is dear and sweet and feisty and everything we could have ever hoped

Lani and Joe smiling with CHarlie and holding a sign

A Message from Heart of Adoptions

There is nothing more heartwarming than hearing amazing adoption love stories like these! Thank you to Lani, her husband Joe, and of course cute Charlie for sharing their story with us. If you’d like to speak with someone about placing baby for adoption with an individualized plan, call us at 1-800-GO-ADOPT). We are available via text too: 754-238-5537.

If you are a Birth or an Adoptive Parent and would like to share your Heart of Adoption story for our next Family Feature, please email [email protected]

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