It began in Verona, Pennsylvania in 1969 when he and his wife, Muriel, were married. Shortly after their marriage, they moved to the Washington, D.C. area to finish school and begin their careers. In the late 1970s, they decided to start a family. After three years of failed pregnancy attempts, they pursued infertility testing. They soon learned that he had male infertility, and his wife had health issues that would also prevent them from ever conceiving a child. Fertility treatments were costly and the couple wasn’t prepared for the expense without the certainty of a child. That is when they began considering adoption.

During the period of testing, they decided to attend an adoption support group in the Washington, D.C. area. Being a part of the group let them know they were not alone in their struggles and pointed them in the direction of international adoption. Muriel was a staff nurse at several local hospitals and had worked with many Indian colleagues. The couple also had Indian acquaintances. This led them to look into the possibility of adopting from India. 

After moving to a larger apartment, they searched for an agency to do their home study. Joel states that their biggest concern was, “fear of the white glove treatment” by the social worker. “The social worker was very friendly and put us at ease quickly. We had our series of home visits and passed the test! Next, we wanted to find an agency for our adoption.”

Once they chose the agency they wanted to work with, they moved forward with their plans of adopting a son. They had been told that boys were harder to adopt because in some cultures they were considered more desirable. Muriel and Joel were shocked and surprised to learn that a baby boy was available. They were happy to hear when a baby boy was born in India on November 9. 

They received a picture of him in the nursery and prepared for his arrival. On February 13 the following year, they received a phone call informing them that their son would be coming the next day. In the excitement, Joel mistook the flight attendant for someone trying to sell him a newspaper! 

“So on February 14, my son arrived on a snowy February day at the Washington International Airport. It was about six months later that we wrote to the court to officially adopt him.” 

He had been given a name in the nursery, but the family chose to change it. They were required to give him an Indian name according to their adoption agency. They chose the name of someone they admired and gave him the middle name of family members on both sides. In the state of Maryland, they were not required to have an attorney at the time. So, they filed a request and finalized the adoption in Children’s Court. Joel recalls worrying about one of the children in the courtroom saying, “Here comes the judge!” and, of course, one of them did and everyone laughed, including the judge. After the adoption was completed they were required to send photos and progress reports to the agency in India for two years.

Three years after the finalization of their son, they decided to adopt a daughter. Once again it was necessary for them to use an Indian name as either the first or middle name. Joel and his wife were undecided on a name. There was an Indian exhibit in Washington, D.C. that they decided to explore. While viewing the displays they saw an exhibit on Indian faith. 

Joel Wilcher_family Picture

“We noticed a pedestal with a jade-colored figurine on it. The name plaque entitled the statue, the Goddess Tara. That small figurine helped us decide on a name for our adopted daughter. We chose the middle name, Lynn, after my wife. Our daughter was born on April 30 in Calcutta, India, and arrived in Pennsylvania on August 13. Both times the airline attendant walked off the plane and handed us a baby with no books on how to care for a little person—the most scary moment of my life because reality hits right in the face! We had moved from Washington, D.C. during the time after her birth. We were worried that my wife would have to stay behind until the adoption was completed, but she was able to join me and finalize the adoption in Pennsylvania.”

This time around, they had to hire a lawyer for the adoption of their daughter, but it was finalized within a nine-month time period. 

Joel worked as a United Methodist pastor, so the family had to move often during the children’s growing up years. They were both in good health when they arrived in the United States and Joel and Muriel received medical records. Both of their children graduated from college and are working contributing to society. Their son recently married and is the father of twin boys. 

Joel is now 75 years old. His adoption story is special to him because it was the only way for him and his wife to have a family. Whether across the states or across the ocean, adoption is a beautiful thing. 

Once in a while people contact us and want to share their stories. Joel is one of those people. He wants to share his story because he believes it may be helpful and interesting to others. He survived being hit by a car a few months ago, so his story is very important to him. Now that his children are adults and one has children of their own, he says, “Frankly, it’s one of the best things I have done in my life.”

“Every child deserves to know the love of a forever family. Every family deserves the chance to thrive.” — Unknown