Don’t let Gayla Slaughter’s soft Texas twang fool you.
She makes herself heard when she needs to.
Four years into a complicated international adoption, Gayla and Dwain Slaughter of Rapid City are still fighting to adopt Michelet, a 7-year-old handicapped Haitian orphan.
“Sometimes to get something done … you just have to go be a squeaky wheel. It was my job to fight for him,” Gayla said.
After making six trips to Haiti since 2011, the Slaughters finally brought Michelet to Rapid City in 2015 on a temporary medical visa, with a home study done by Catholic Social Services.
Michelet was born with hydrocephalus in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Orphaned before his first birthday, he received no medical treatment and languished in a small, ill-equipped orphanage where Shylah Joyal, Gayle and Dwain’s daughter, met him during a missions trip in 2011.
By then, his head was enlarged and his legs were so atrophied from lack of use that he could not crawl or walk.
Shylah convinced her mother to travel to Haiti to be with Michelet when he was finally scheduled for surgery at age 3 to relieve the pressure on his brain. Gayla spent a month with him and when she returned to Rapid City, one of her first calls was to CSS’s Family Services Department. Adoption specialist Lisa Spielmann answered her questions about international adoption and eventually did the required home study for the Slaughters. “Lisa was one of the first people I talked to. She has stuck by me and encouraged me every step of the way,” Gayla said.
Dwain, who was stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base but deployed to Iraq, didn’t meet Michelet until 2013. By then, Gayla already had made four trips to Haiti and spent countless hours lining up donations of services from medical professionals here in Rapid City to apply for a medical visa. Until the adoption is final, Michelet isn’t covered by the Slaughters’ health insurance.
The Meadowbrook Elementary kindergartner is soaking up the English language. Physically, he’s made huge strides, too. He’s learning to walk, thanks to donated surgery to release atrophied tendons in his legs and twice weekly physical therapy sessions here in Rapid City.
The Slaughter home is filled with a child’s laughter again, six years after daughters Shylah and Sharayah left home. “It was appealing to have a kiddo in our house again. Especially this kid. We laugh so much. We have so much fun. He’s just a bundle of joy,” said the 49-year-old Corral Drive Elementary physical education teacher. Dwain, 50, is retired from the Air Force. Also a Texas native, he works as an operations manager at RPM Associates in Rapid City.
International adoption requires both faith and action, especially when adopting a child from Haiti.
“They have hit about every road block known to international adoption and have been in the process for going on five years, which is a much longer wait than our average adoptive family,” said Natalie Lecy, director of CSS’s Family Services Department “Any family considering adoption needs to know that the experience is not always easy and it calls for both patience and endurance. However, as you can see in the Slaughter’s story, if you talk to families who were able to endure the adversity, they will tell you it was well worth the wait.”
UPDATE: Shortly after this article was written and published, Michelet’s adoption was finalized and he is officially a member of the Slaughter family!!!
To Donate: To help give Michelet the gift of mobility, please donate toward the assistive gait device that he needs at: http://www. adaptivemall.com/micheletj.html.