One-year-old covergirl Maddy Devitt appeared on the cover of Focus on Adoption magazine in 1994. She is now a gorgeous 18-year-old working as an au pair in London, England. What has her life been like in between? “Like a Skittles box!”
Madeline Devitt was born Alcinia Dore in Dessalines, Haiti on March 8, 1993, in a typical cinderblock home with a dirt floor. Her family already had four children, and her birth mother died soon after due to complications from the birth. Her birth father tried very hard to find a wet nurse for Maddy but couldn’t. So he walked with her for days, keeping her alive on lime juice, to get her to Rainbow of Love Orphanage in Port Au Prince.
Maddy was proposed to her Canadian family in June of 1993, and in March, 1994, Maddy’s adoptive mom came to Haiti to get her and bring her home to her new family in Delta, BC. She joined the Devitt family: Mom Yvonne, Dad Jim, sister Johanna (then four years old) and brother Jacob (then two years old). Maddy’s parents worked hard to find support systems for Maddy and her siblings. She describes how her mom built “a village” of support by connecting with people from the black community. They had close neighbours who were black, and the mother became the kids’ babysitter and Maddy became best friends with her daughter. There were more friends who had been transracially adopted, too, so that they could discuss similar issues.
“It helped that I was surrounded by people of all different cultures and races,” says Maddy. “My life was a little bit of a Skittles box, and it made me realize that not everyone is the same and that everyone has individual qualities that make them who they are. In my highschool there were lots of Asian people and black people and white and mixed race. I was surrounded by people who looked different. There were lots of different colours, different people—everyone is different. “
Being a multi-racial family didn’t really affect Maddy growing up. She says, “It’s just how my family was.” She admits that she struggled with her views on what it means to be a black woman and not raised by a black family. “But then I realized that I’m me and different people are raised differently,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what my race is; it doesn’t make up the whole of me.”
Her parents were also very open in their communication about adoption and adoption-related issues. “If we had trouble at school, or finding our identity, we could talk about it. Any questions about my birth family and where we came from were talked about openly. It made it much easier for me,” Maddy says.
Maddy hasn’t had contact with her birth family, yet. An attempt when she was younger proved unsuccessful, but she hopes to travel to Haiti in the near future and investigate possible connections more easily from within the country.
“I think it’s natural to hope that they’ll look like you,” she says. “It would be amazing to meet someone who has the same features as I do, has the same face as me—to look at them and feel the comfort and closeness of being alike. As an adoptee, I haven’t been able to get that.”
Regarding how adoption fits into her life now, Maddy says that she is creating her own personal story, helped by the fact that she is experiencing a fresh start in London. Making new friends who don’t know her background has allowed her to consider whether or not to tell them that she’s adopted. “I’m realizing that people don’t need to know everything about me or about my family, and I don’t always need to explain myself.”
Maddy is enjoying her gap year in London and describes the city as “pretty amazing!” When asked where she sees herself in another five years, Maddy says, “Hopefully happy, in a good job, probably working with children, probably actively involved in the adoption community, either married or in a serious relationship, being happy wherever I am.“