By Kim Kupfer
When you walk into Cristina Stanton’s bedroom, you cannot help but be drawn to the fabulous mural on her wall. It is a hand painted mural of Antigua, Guatemala, her birth city, created by her
Grandfather. That is the way the Stanton’s are: they embrace their adopted daughter’s culture into their home and family in the most unique ways.
Cristina is 70% Mayan Indian, born in Guatemala, and was adopted at 4 months of age. Her birth mother chose to give her unborn baby a chance at a better life then she herself was able to have. Cristina’s older birth sibling had recently passed away from severe malnutrition and her other siblings were raised by their grandparents in impoverished conditions. Her birth mother lived in a remote village in the mountains and was unable to read or write. She had limited choices and options in her village and decided to pave the way for more opportunities, health, and education for her unborn daughter. Having the unusual access to prenatal vitamins and nutrition, Cristina was a whopping 8 pounds at birth, far larger than most babies from the same community.
Margo Stanton, Cristina’s mom, was raised with the values of Social Justice. She grew up in Spain and her father had to leave the country to fight for freedom under Franco’s dictatorship. As a young man, he went to South America during his exodus from Spain. He always told his daughter Margo that the Guatemalan Indians were special people. Hence the Stanton's chose to initiate Cristina’s adoption from Guatemala.
“At first I didn’t like being so different in my family. I was the only brown skinned one. I was hurt that I did not come from my mom. Eventually I realized I really am part of this family. I belong, no matter my skin color.” Cristina’s struggles are typical for any adopted interracial child. But her ability to build a healthy identity around her adopted family while integrating her past has been crucial to her happiness and maturity. The Stanton's have always honored
Cristina’s past by eating typical Guatemalan dishes, rice and beans, by buying her a Mayan Indian blanket from her village, and by giving Cristina special Christmas ornaments decorated with Guatemalan birds. Cristina explains: “I love myself. I love my skin.”
Margo Stanton encourages incorporating your child's culture and background into your adopted family but also to continue to fight for the social injustice of the inequality of minorities, including adopted children and children waiting to be adopted. Additionally, minorities are overrepresented in being removed from birth families and aging out of the system. As we honor Martin Luther King's message of freedom, we can keep Cristina’s story close to our hearts.
The Stanton family is currently working with the JFS Post Permanency adoption program. Since 1995, Jewish Family Service of Greater Harrisburg has provided services to children in foster care and their families who wanted to adopt. Jewish tradition teaches that anyone who raises a child, is considered as if he/she had given birth to that child (Talmud, Sanhedrin 19b). JFS honors this tradition for children and families of all faiths and backgrounds. To find out more about foster care and adoption, call JFS at 717-233-1681 or go to https://www.jfsofhbg.org/services/adoption/