The Cornutt family and their adoption journey

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

CHELSEA – After a year of waiting, Jared and Kandace Cornutt have finally been able to bring their son home from India.

“We matched with him back in April 2022,” Jared Cornutt said. “But then, in September of last year, we hit a bit of a roadblock.”

Jared is currently a minister at North Shelby Baptist, and he was first inspired to adopt children after a faithful mission trip to Zimbabwe in 2012.

“Just being around so many fatherless and motherless children made me realize that I would love to give a child a home and a family,” Jared said.

Jared met his wife, Kandace, and the two of them quickly realized that they shared the same desire to adopt, even if they could have children naturally. After the two of them married, the Cornutt family decided to adopt their first child from India in 2018.

“We chose India because one in five of all the orphans in the world live in India,” Jared said. “And if a child’s not adopted by the age of about five or six, the likelihood of them going into trafficking greatly increases.”

According to data from the National Crime Record Bureau, a child in India disappears every eight minutes. With one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the world, Indian orphans over the age of five are at significant risk of being sold into forced labor, begging and sexual exploitation.

Jared and his wife matched with their eldest son in August of 2017. They traveled to India to bring him home in July 2018. The Cornutt family spent a few weeks in India getting to know their new son and seeing famous sights like the Taj Mahal. When the family returned to the States, they found a surprise waiting for them.

“We got pregnant two weeks after we got home, unintentionally, but we wouldn’t change a thing,” Jared said.

The Cornutt family waited a few years after their second son was born before they decided to try and have a third child. Once again, they decided to adopt from India and were matched with their third son in April of 2022. Then, their troubles started.

In 2021 India passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, a change to the country’s adoption policy designed to expedite the process by transferring the authority of who finalized adoptions out of Indian Civil Courts and to the District Magistrate. Unfortunately, this new policy has resulted in wide-scale protests throughout India due to many citizens being concerned about potential civil rights violations this policy may cause. This has also caused hundreds of adoptions in India to stagnate and be delayed.

In the Cornutt family’s case, while they knew who their son was, they weren’t able to bring him home for over a year. During that time, their lives went through many changes, including the birth of a daughter and a move back to Alabama for Jared to preach at North Shelby Baptist. Despite the long wait and all these changes, their faith sustained them.

“We believe that God is never late,” said Jared.

Then, right before Thanksgiving, the Cornutts’ wait ended and they were finally able to return to India.

“The last step of the process was waiting for his US Passport,” Jared said. “We thought that we’d get it in October, but we didn’t hear anything. Then we reached out to our adoption agency and they said it would take another few weeks, and this was in November. So we thought it would be December when we finally got him. Then, three days later we got a message from a friend of ours in India asking when we;d be there because they just got his passport.”

Jared, Candace, and their one-year-old daughter left for India four days later. The Cornutt’s two older sons were left with their grandparents while they waited for their new brother to come home.

“We had to book flights and hotels, and we didn’t know when we were going to be able to leave,” Jared said. “When you adopt, you have to go to the orphanage, you have to go from Mumbai to Delhi, than in Delhi, you have several days’ worth of doctor visits in order to go to the US Embassy.”

Throughout all of this, the Cornutts had their infant daughter with them, but by all accounts, having her there was a benefit when they finally got to meet their new son.

“I think bringing her with us helped him a lot,” Jared said. “We first met him at the orphanage, and then the next day we took him back to the hotel. He had to leave everything behind, his friends, his caretakers, everything.”

Jared notes that sort of transition was terrifying, and that his son, Benjamin Raj, was initially leery of his new family. But things started to shift when he observed how his new parents were treating his new sister.

“He saw us loving her, changing her diapers and feeding her,” Jared said. “He’d see those things and would want us to do the same things to him too.”

The Cornutts experienced a few last bumps on their trip home, starting with an unusual Thanksgiving dinner, which gave them all food poisoning that endured until their return to America and was quickly followed by some last delays in paperwork.

“When you adopt you have to get an exit permit, which basically means ‘this child you’re leaving with, you’re legally adopting,’” Jared said. “Kandace got her exit permit, but it was like 12 hours until we left and I still didn’t have mine, and I needed that to be able to leave the country.”

Finally, Jared managed to get his exit permit, and the family began their 30-hour trek home. Starting in India, the family flew to first London, then Atlanta and finally to Birmingham.

“We were beat,” Jared said. “We were exhausted. We had some family at the airport to meet us, which was great. The older boys were there, and it was great to see them and hug them. It was hard to be away from them for those two weeks.”

Now, almost two weeks later, the Cornutts are settling back down into their new normal. Jared commented that the kids are all getting along well, with Raj excitedly tottling after his new little sister while also being bossed around by his new big brothers.

“A lot of times people will say, ‘Oh he’s (Raj) so lucky or he’s so blessed to have you,” Jared said. “But really, we’re lucky and blessed ones. I mean, he’s our son. You look at the first few pictures of him with us, and he looks completely shell-shocked. But now, every day, I come home from work, and he’s at the door yelling, ‘Dadadada!’ Adoption is hard, and it’s expensive. But it’s incredibly worth it.”