Teen waits 10 years to be adopted

Zachery Wright main

Zachery Wright has waited 10 years to be adopted by the family who has reared him since he 
was a baby. 

The decade-long delay in his adoption reached an urgent point recently when it looked like the 15-year-old needed to go off-island to undergo a medical examination for seizures he has been experiencing. However, he cannot leave the Cayman Islands because he does not have a passport and cannot get one until his adoption is complete, his family said. 

The Wright family has tried repeatedly to finalise Zachery’s adoption, but has never been given a court date to complete 
the procedure. 

Zachery lives with his biological father, Dorson Wright, and his father’s wife, Gaylette, who wants to adopt him. Shortly after he was born, his Jamaican mother, who gave birth to him in Cayman, asked his father to come pick him up in Jamaica, where she and her newborn baby went when authorities told her she had to leave Cayman. She signed the guardianship rights to the child over to the 
father and his wife. 

Although her husband is Zachery’s biological father and his name is on the teenager’s birth certificate, Mrs. Wright said she wanted to be acknowledged as Zachery’s mother, a desire her son also has. “She’s the only mother I’ve got. It would not be fair to have someone else’s name as my mother,” he said. 

The family first applied to adopt Zachery in 2002, Mrs. Wright said. 

“It’s my right to adopt him as my son, to be his mother,” Mrs. Wright said, adding that over the years, the family has dealt with several case workers within the Child and Family Services Department and each time their case worker leaves and a new one takes up the post, everything goes back to square one. 
“The last time we talked to the latest social worker, she told us you don’t have to worry, by the time school opens again, it will be over. We’ve been here so many times before … and now she says she’s leaving, too. 

“It started back in 2002, then it all started over again in 2003, it’s been going on like that, on and off. The reason is they keep changing the social worker. Everybody leaves. Whenever I call, there’s a different social worker and the new one wants to start all over again,” Mrs. Wright said. 

Zachery, who has had four unexplained seizures during the past year, needed to undergo a check with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, to measure electrical activity in his brain because X-rays and MRIs have been unable to determine why he has been having the seizures. 

“Now, I have been sickly, the test I’m supposed to do is in Jamaica because they don’t have the facility here, but I don’t have a passport and I cannot travel there,” said Zachery, in an interview with the Caymanian Compass last week. 

When the Compass approached the Health Services Authority to determine if EEGs were available in Cayman, Chief Executive Officer Lizzette Yearwood contacted the Wright family and helped arrange for the teen to be referred to a consultant visiting Grand Cayman this week who could carry out EEGs. Zachery had the EEG on Tuesday and will undergo further checks locally. It looks likely he will not to have to go overseas for treatment or diagnosis, after all, Mrs. Wright said. 

But the issue of his delayed adoption and his lack of a passport still rankles for the youth. 

He said the long wait to be adopted is always on his mind. “I’ve been waiting so long and it is stressing me out,” he said. 

He has never been away from Grand Cayman and has had to pass up trips overseas with his classmates at John Gray High School and with his family over the years, due to his lack of a passport. 

“I’ve had opportunities to travel in the past, but I had to turn them down because I cannot travel. It brings me down. I remember in school my year were going to a cruise to the Bahamas and they raised money for me to go but I could not go because of the situation,” said Zachery. 

“I’ve been here on the island since I was born almost and it will be really ludicrous if I go to the court and they turn me down. I will get really upset because this is the only family I know … I may get turned down and that never leaves my mind. That is a constant fear,” he said. 

Even without his health issues, the teen said he worries that if his adoption is not completed soon, he will have trouble getting into a university overseas or getting a scholarship.  

“There are scholarships for schools and universities overseas. If I don’t get my passport, how am I going to be able to go? It will affect my future,” he said. 

Mrs. Wright said Zachery was told he might be able to get a Jamaican passport, but the family opted not to do so because they feared it might jeopardise him being able to get a Caymanian passport later on. 

 

Not the only one  

Zachery’s case is not unique. Other families in Cayman have also been waiting several years to complete adoptions. 

According to statistics released in 2010, following a parliamentary question in the Legislative Assembly, at that time there were 21 cases before the Adoption Board – two of those cases had first been presented to the board in 2003, one in 2004, one in 2005, eight in 2007, four in 2008, three in 2009 and two in 2010. 

Requests to the Child and Family Service Department and the Ministry of Community Affairs, Gender Affairs and Housing for an update on those statistics were not met by press time. 

Mike Adam, who heads the ministry, in his response to the parliamentary question in 2010, said adoption cases typically take about two years to complete, if everything in the initial application is complete. 

He pointed out at the time that a number of factors can impact how long an adoption could take to complete. These included: incomplete applications; getting back references on the applicants; workload of social workers; the ability to get home studies or the three-month supervision reports completed on a timely basis; problems with consent of natural parents; family conflicts within the prospective adoptive family; the adoption board requiring additional information pertinent to the adoption process from the applicants; delays in the prospective adopter obtaining a child or the adoption involves a child from overseas; or by the secretary to the board not following through on matters in a timely fashion. 

Speaking to the Caymanian Compass this week, Mr. Adam said he had seen recent cases take as little as 16 months to complete. “I am trying to get it down to one year. That’s what I am challenging them with,” said Mr. Adam. 

Mr. Adam, who said he had no personal knowledge of the Wright case, said amendments to the Adoption Law had been drafted and would come before Cabinet “very soon”. 

Zachery Wright

Gaylette Wright, pictured with her granddaughter Zalina, has been waiting 15 years to adopt Zachery, right. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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9 COMMENTS

  1. At age 9 my son too developed unexplained seizures and had to go through all the tests etc that Mrs. Wright is speaking of. After many vists to GT Hospital and being told he was acting out bad dreams we finally saw Dr. S. Ebanks at CT Hospital. Dr. Ebanks referred us to a doctor in Jamaica. My son has been seeing her for years and is on medication permanently.

    Every year tests are redone and no cause is found. However, what I have learned is that studies were done and shows that video games have a strong impact on the brain. My son was an avid gamer.

    Flickering lights, such as christmas lights and strobe lights can also trigger a seizure.

    Now, you can rest be assured that there is not one video game to be found in my house for my other kids and my sons love for games is a lot less.

    I’m not trying to point fingers or cast blame as I know exactly what Mrs. Wright and her family are going through. Seizures are scary and very traumatic not only for the individual but the family members as well.

    Parents please do not let tv or video games raise your child – take the time to do activities with your kids and encourage them to get outside as your parents did with you.

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  2. I have raised the funds most of which are located in accounts with Cayman ARC to purchase an EEG machine to donate to the George Town Hospital. I have been in contact with the hospital, both before I started raising funds with Dr. Hoeksema, last fall and after I completed the process with. I had consulted with Steve Holan Manager for Neurophysiology at Baptist International Miami, they were keen to help in training and would receive data, they were even interested in providing used equipment.
    I asked the Georgetown Hospital if they had any particular equipment they would want. I was directed to consult with The tech division. I did send emails back and forth, but they did not have any particular equipment suggestions. SO, I researched and found a good EEG manufacturer, Neurovirtual offers the portable BW2 EEG. In March I gave the tech folks at the hospital the name and web site and phone contact information for Felipe Lerida who represents the Neurovital and who could provide training. They are willing to come here. They are willing to receive trainees in Florida. The digital EEG machine can send test results to Neurologists all over the world via internet.
    PLEASE, GEORGETOWN HOSPITAL, I WANT TO GIVE THIS EEG MACHINE TO YOU. CONTACT ME [email protected].
    Because my adopted son needs regular EEGs to monitor his seizures too.

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  3. I find it had to believe that one case worker can’t either complete review of cases dating back to 2003, 2004, 2005, and maybe 2 0r 3 in 2006 or or close the cases out. How many case workers are there? It appears there is quite a turn over but does not anyone file any reports? It should not require a need to start all over on an investigation just because a worker leaves. This is nuts. You are dealing with humans and not just numbers. They have feelings and deserve respect from this office. Please, please do something for them and since it has become a mess so I can only assume that the Government has not addressed this operation and its problems in a very long time.

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  4. The adoption system in Cayman is broken and needs tobe fixed. No orphan should be without a family.

    BUT, the above story is just silly. The boy has lived with his biological father all his life. He is not an orphan and there is no reason why his grandmother needs to be listed as his adopted mother.

    This is no reason not to have a passport. This child was here during Ivan with no passport.

    In America they have HillBillies. In Cayman there are no hills so what do you call them?

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  5. I do apologise. It is not his grand mother but his father’s wife.

    Still no excuse not to have a passport or live a full NORMAL life.

    The Child is not an ORPAN or foster child or one of the many other children that the social services should spend there limited resources on.

    He is legally almost an adult with no passport in an area that experience tropical storms and hurricanes. ,!!!!

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  6. 2 years or 10 years for an adoption process. These people who should provide the necessary help to the rest of us seems to live under a different solar system and time line.

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  7. This is a case for a smart lawyer to appeal directly to the law lords in London, appealing for a Writ of Mandate against incompetent public officials.

    Her Majesty the Queen also might take a personal interest in this matter and issue recommendations accordingly.

    Government bureaucrats and officials have a tendency to wilt in the tropical sun and slack off from their duties. This seems to be a good example.

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