A Father’s Fight: A U.S. Dad Adopts Abandoned Moroccan Girl with Facial Anomaly

Press Release
Posted 6/25/2019

This Father’s Day, Bernie Ramirez, reflects on his decision to adopt an abandon baby girl from Morocco.

Imagine being discarded by your biological parents because you were born different. It’s a painful reality for 17-year-old Cristina. “I was born in Morocco and I had a cleft lip which is a tear in my lip. I didn’t look like other babies.  It’s the reason why my birth parents abandoned me when I was a few days old,” said Cristina.

An American man, Bernie, heard about Cristina thanks to Operation Smile, a global non-profit that provides free surgeries to children and young adults born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial difference. “I always wanted to be a dad, but my wife and I couldn’t have children. When we found out about Cristina, we knew we wanted to meet her,” said Bernie.

Bernie and his wife, Nadya, left the states to meet Cristina. “She was wearing a red suit. When she looked at my wife and I we knew we had to adopt her. We didn’t care that she had a cleft lip and we didn’t think it was fair for her to be ostracized because of her condition,” Bernie added.

Bernie faced barriers and setbacks during the adoption process. “It was a struggle. There were cultural barriers, language barriers and a lot of paperwork. We made multiple trips to Morocco – each time hoping to bring Cristina home with us,” Bernie explained.

Disappointment turned into determination. “We weren’t going to give-up on Cristina. She deserved a chance and we knew we could giver her that chance,” said Bernie.

Then, a magical moment. “After 11-months we were able to bring Cristina home with us to Virginia Beach, Virginia. She was two years old. I was thrilled, nervous and exhausted. Our family was complete,” Bernie recalled.

As Father’s Day approaches, Bernie reflects on the past and offers a message of support for other dads: “I can’t imagine what Cristina’s life would have been like if we gave up on her. I encourage all dads to stay strong and to always fight for your children. A lot of patients and being open-minded is also helpful,” Bernie jokingly added.

As for Cristina, she’s had surgeries to correct her cleft lip. The teen will graduate high school this year and plans to attend college in the Fall. “I’m grateful for my dad. He has helped shape my life and he supports my future plans. Without my parents, I wouldn’t have a future,” she concluded.