Uniting as a Family After Adoption
Ashlyn Daniels of York County resembles her mother, Diane Dooley, and her brother, Thomas. They have similar traits and personalities. In fact, no one looking in from the outside would ever guess that Daniels is adopted.
Now 35, with a family of her own, she feels incredibly blessed to have been “chosen” by her family.
Daniels’ situation is hardly unique. Some estimates put the number of children living with adoptive parents in the United States at 700,000. That includes domestic adoptions, which can be private and hard to track, foreign adoptions and foster-care adoptions, which are recorded by the government. In fact, some two million Americans are part of adoptive families.
Just like any new parents, adoptive parents and their children need time to adjust, to learn to trust, to bond. “The nuns at the Catholic charities told my parents when they came to pick me up that I was such a good baby,” recalls Daniels. “My parents brought me home and I cried the whole night.”
This type of crying is actually a positive sign. According to Amy Durie, contractor supervisor at the Welcome House Adoption Program in Perkasie, “Sometimes a child crying or being upset when they are first placed with their family can be an indication that the child had a good attachment to their previous caregivers. Children who have had a previous, nurturing relationship with a caregiver often go on to have a strong attachment to their adoptive family.”
No matter what age a child is at the time of adoption, the first couple of days following placement can be rough for adoptive families. “The child’s whole world has been turned upside down and it is normal for the child to have strong emotions,” says Durie.
Adoptive parents should also take the child’s innate temperament into consideration, as well. “Some children are easy going and adaptive and some are slow to warm up and need extra reassurance. Bonding and attachment are a two-way street. It takes time.”
Mary Pat and Chuck Endres involved their biological children in the adoption process from the start. Their sons were in second, third and fifth grade when they adopted Kristin, an 8-month-old little girl from Vietnam. “We checked out library books about the countries we were considering, and we let them help with as much paperwork as they could,” says Endres. “Before I even flew over to get her, we had seen her picture, and the boys were already introducing her as their sister.”
The Endres family meshed so easily they decided to adopt again through Hope International when Kristin was 5 years old. This time they flew to China to bring home Kaitlyn, who was almost 2 at the time.
“The orphanage was so overcrowded. Because of that, Kaitlyn didn’t really have much language at all,” says Endres. “After we brought her home, she soaked up English like a sponge.”
Mary Pat has experienced some separation anxiety issues with Kaitlyn but feels that should be expected. “I mean, here is this woman who doesn’t look like you, whom you’ve never seen before, and she is promising to take care of you. How, as a 2-year-old, could you ever be sure of that? Is it any wonder she worried that I might not come back, that she didn’t want me out of her sight? You can hardly blame her for that.”
Even now, at ages 9 and 5, the girls are just coming to an understanding of what it means to be adopted. “They have both expressed a desire to one day visit their birth countries, but even my oldest sometimes worries that if she goes there she won’t be allowed to leave,” says Endres.
When asked if she had advice for parents considering adopting a child older than 2, Endres is encouraging, but cautionary. “Be prepared
for a huge amount of screaming at first. Kaitlyn screamed and kicked and tried to get down, but soon realized that things were going to be OK. It can be quite traumatic to parents who aren’t prepared for that type of a reaction.”
It takes a while for a child, especially an older child, to feel fully settled in and bonded with her new home and family. Just like new parents who have recently given birth, it takes time for adoptive parents to feel confident in their parenting abilities and to trust in their decision- making abilities.
Durie equates the process with falling in love. “There are families who fall instantly in love with one another, and families who gradually grow to love and trust one another. They can both be equally strong.”
For the Glens, it was love at first sight. Melinda and Gordon Glen of Cumberland County decided to adopt before even attempting to have biological children. As an adopted child herself, Melinda knew from the start that adoption was something she wanted to do.
“I drove Brittney’s birth mother to the hospital and, after Brit arrived, it was my arms that held her first. Gordon was handing out cigars and we just couldn’t wait to take our precious daughter home.”
Brittney was 11 when they adopted again. The Glens decided to go through Adoptions from the Heart. They completed their paperwork and six short weeks later they learned that daughter, Carli, would be joining their family. Having already adopted interracially (Brittney is Hispanic), the Glens knew that race and ethnicity were not issues for them. Carli is African American.
“I remember going to sign the papers and Carli’s dad asked if he could see her,” says Melinda, “Once we let him see her, he asked if he could hold her. My husband placed her in his arms and after a short while he handed her back and said, ‘Thank you for being her dad.’ I will never forget that.”
At that point, the Glens thought their family was complete. Until they received a call from Adoptions from the Heart. Carli’s birth mother needed to place another child and wanted to know if the Glens were willing to take the baby. After a mass e-mail and total support from friends and family, the Glens raised $10,000 and welcomed their new son, Brian, into their family.
The Glens’ daughter Brittney, who is now 22 and a mother herself, once wrote a poem describing her family. One verse reads, “We don’t look alike, but we love alike.”
No matter how it happens, becoming a family takes some work. There are highs and there are lows, but, through it all, there is love.
Adoption and Foster Care Resources
For more than 20 years, the adoption community has observed November as Adoption Awareness Month (AAM). Originally and historically, the purpose of AAM was to dispel myths and focus on the normalcy of adoptive family life, as well as to call attention to the need for homes for hundreds of thousands of waiting children. AAM
is about celebration, gratitude and hope—a perfect time to begin exploring adoption opportunities. Below is a list of Central PA adoption and foster-care resources to help families with their questions and to walk them through the adoption process:
Adoptions From the Heart
Adoptions Home Studies and Services, Inc.
Adoption Links at Jewish Family Service of Greater Harrisburg Inc.
Adoption Services Inc.
Camp Hill • 737-3960
Lancaster • 431-2021
The Bair Foundation
Bethanna Adoption Services
Bethany Christian Services Adoption Agency
Catholic Charities Adoption Services
The Children’s Choice
Children’s Home of York
COBYS Family Services
Common Sense Adoptions
Cumberland County Children & Youth Services
Dauphin County Social Services for Children,
Youth and Families
Diakon Adoption & Foster Care
Families United Network
Lancaster County Children & Youth Agency
La Vida International
King of Prussia • 610-688-8008
One Another Adoption Services
Hellam • 600-2059
PA Dept. of Public Welfare, PA Adoption Exchange Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN)
Perry County Children and Youth Services
STARS (Sharing, Transracial, Adoption, Resources and Support)