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Adoption Resource Center of Connecticut

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Glastonbury, CT 06033

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No Longer Foreign: Agency Helps Families With Adoptions In Other Countries

Hartford Courant
August 05, 2000

Any day now, Ria Van Hoof will be going to China. She's waiting for the phone call telling the family that a little girl is available for adoption.

When Van Hoof and her husband, Dana Gordon, board the plane, they will be accompanied by their two daughters, Maia, 6, and Ai Lin, 4.

Michelle Wuesthoff of New Britain and her two adopted girls from Korea: Noel Yung Joo, 2 1/2, and Emilee Mee Jin, 7 months.

Both daughters were also adopted in China. But despite Van Hoof's familiarity with international adoption, she has periods of anxiety. It comes with the territory.

"The biggest difficulty with international adoption is that you have no control," said Van Hoof, of West Hartford. "You worry about all the things that could affect the process. When the Chinese Embassy was bombed [in Yugoslavia by the United States], we thought, `Oh, my God, are they going to stop adoptions?'"

That's where Penny L. Rearick comes in.

As executive director of the Adoption Resource Center of Connecticut, she helps families who are adopting here and abroad get through the tangle of bureaucracy that accompanies the process, and through the emotional ups and downs.

"We don't actually place children. There are a lot of really good adoption agencies, but people don't know how to find them," Rearick said. "What we do is help people find the good agencies, steer them away from the less than reputable, and provide information and support."

The center, a non-profit agency based in Glastonbury, offers what Rearick calls "adoption college" - courses and classes especially for international adoption.

"It's a roller-coaster ride. There will be highs and lows," Rearick said. In the United States last year, 16,396 children were adopted from foreign countries.

Van Hoof attended a talk by a therapist who discussed bonding issues known as attachment. "It's very helpful," she said. "It lets you know that if you run into trouble, there is someone out there that can help you."

The most popular countries for international adoption are China, South Korea and Russia. South Korea, which has had a foreign adoption program for nearly 50 years, can be a relatively smooth process. On the other hand, press reports have documented problems concerning children raised in orphanages in the former Soviet Union.

"The majority of those placements go very well," Rearick said. "It's the ones that don't that you hear the most about."

The Adoption Resource Center gives families someone they can work with locally while going through the international adoption process, which usually involves agencies outside the state, Rearick said. The center conducts home studies, a basic component of any adoption. The home study costs about $1,400 and is conducted as a series of interviews in the home, in conjunction with parent-education and -support groups.

The center has a staff of five, including licensed clinical social workers and a marriage and family therapist. There is no charge for support-group meetings. A recent seminar for waiting parents was led by veteran adoptive parents who have come through successfully.

Bruce Putterman and his wife, Teri Bayer, of West Hartford recently adopted a baby girl, Karolina, from Guatemala. They have two biological sons, Alex, 6, and Jack 4.

"They gave us some insight," Putterman said. "For example, in Guatemala, children are constantly held when they are young. So you can't just put her in a crib or swing, as we did with our other children. It was good to know that and to be braced for it."

Putterman said he enjoyed the camaraderie of meeting other families who have adopted children from Guatemala. "It's like a little club you never knew existed until you were thrust into it," he said. "It's been a phenomenal experience. While the average adoptive family is a married couple, 40 or older, who have been unable to conceive, Rearick said, couples with biological children are also turning to adoption to increase their family size - and to give a home to a child who needs one. Such families make up about 15 percent of their clients, she said. The numbers of single parents and gay and lesbian couples adopting children are also increasing.

"Our families run the rainbow," Rearick said.

The resource center also works with parents after the adoption is complete.

"Adoption is a lifelong process," said Rearick. "It's not just bringing the child home. Lots of agencies can do that. Lots of issues arise as they grow up. We work with people now so that they can successfully prepare for questions their children will ask them and what society will throw at them."

Michelle and Martin Wuesthoff of New Britain have one biological son, Erik, 7, and two adopted girls from Korea, Noel Yung Joo, 2, and Emilee Mee Jin, 7 months. Michelle attended a seminar on adjustment issues. "I learned some things I could do differently the second time around," she said.

As the girls get older, Michelle said, "we have a commitment to provide them with what they need, not being the only Korean child they know." She said the family started learning about Korean culture when their first daughter arrived and have developed friendships with Korean people here.

Ria Van Hoof said the family's trip to China is important for their two girls, who are getting to the age where they are beginning to ask questions about being adopted.

"This is how they got here, and I think it's important for them to understand what went on and to see it themselves," she said. She believes their presence will ease the transition for the new little sister, who is 3 years old and knows only Chinese. "I don't think they will have any problems communicating. I have total faith in the kids."



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