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EVERYDAY PEOPLE: "Maddie's Team" provides support for adoptive family

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When a stranger in an ocean-side Haitian community handed Tracey Malone of Baxter a baby, in hopes the infant might have a better life with her in the United States the enormity of the problems in that ravaged country hit home with her.

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“I sat for two hours,” the veteran of five Haiti mission trips recalled. “I cried.”

That random incident helped initiate the thought process that eventually led she and her husband, Eric, to consider opening their Baxter home to a Haitian orphan. It wasn’t an easy decision. She said they had thought they were done adding to their family of two biological and two adopted children.

“I thought I had my life planned out,” Malone said. “We just really felt that God had called us to adopt again.”

Malone met Mandalynn, nicknamed “Maddie” at an orphanage in Chatulay, Haiti. Maddie was not the baby the stranger temporarily gave her to care for but she was the first baby in Haiti that Malone held in October of 2010. On a second trip back to Haiti, after she and her husband had decided to adopt Maddie, the couple spent four days with Maddie in May of 2011. Leaving her at that point, Malone said, was one of the most difficult things she had ever had to do. Malone has since returned to Haiti for visits in August and October of 2011.

The Malones currently have two biological children and two who were adopted from a North Carolina couple. Anxiously waiting for their new little sister are Austin, 15; Kobe, 12; Mason, 11; and Kennedy, 7. Maddie is now 16 months old.

When Malone phoned her husband from the Haiti airport and first broached the idea of adopting a Haitian infant, he asked one question.

“How many do you have?” Eric Malone asked.

In time, she said, he came around to the idea of adopting one more child.

“God just kind of worked on him for a couple of months,” Malone said.

Once the couple made the decision to adopt again, the hard part began — the waiting. The Malone family had its hopes that Maddie would be able to spend Christmas at their Baxter home, but complications delayed the process.

“We’re hearing things are starting to move,” Malone said. “It’s pretty much impossible to predict. It’s been God’s time (schedule), not my time.”

Malone, who works part-time at Lakes Country Counseling and is working on a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from St. Cloud State University, described this adoption process as a series.

Standing behind her throughout this ordeal has been an informal group of about a dozen women who began following Malone’s mission trips and who now serve as a support group as Maddie’s American parents suffer through the frustrations of the adoption process.

“That’s why I have these people,” she said Thursday as the group gathered at the Early Childhood Development Center in Brainerd “It’s been an exhausting journey.”

“Maddie’s Team,” as the group has been unofficially dubbed, has prayed, cheered and empathized with Malone in her anxious moments. Some of the team members Malone sees in person regularly while others support through emails and phone calls.

“I come back (from Haiti) crying on their shoulders,” Malone said.

The team members said all of the support they are credited with providing Malone has been returned in kind.

“She’s been that to each of us,” Barbara Matich said.

Charlotte Stokes is adopting a girl, Michelle, from the same orphanage where Maddie lives. She already has three adopted children and one biological child.

“Tracey’s faith has also stretched out and reached out,” Stokes said, reminding them that all that takes place will happen in God’s time and not their own.

Deb Isle even received an inadvertent phone call from Maddie when the young girl was playing with Malone’s phone and accidentally dialed back to the Brainerd area.

“We all have a place in our heart for children,” Heather Isle, another team member, said.

Malone said the adoption process, although frustrating has been a good teaching opportunity for her children. Through it all, she said, they have tried to adopt the philosophy of “pray, wait, trust.”

She expressed gratitude and thanks to this team of women who “come along side you and support you and love on you.”

“I realize that everybody has to have a team,” Malone said.

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Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860
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