All you need is love

The Carr Family of Morgan Hill laughs with their newest family

Many residents in the South Valley who adopt kids know that
love, not biology, is the real tie that binds families
together.
Just ask Kirsten Carr, the executive director of the Gilroy
Visitors Bureau. Last year, she and her husband Larry Carr brought
into their home a beautiful 13-month-old girl whom they absolutely
adore. The adopted child makes a wonderful sister for their
five-year-old son.
Many residents in the South Valley who adopt kids know that love, not biology, is the real tie that binds families together.

Just ask Kirsten Carr, the executive director of the Gilroy Visitors Bureau. Last year, she and her husband Larry Carr brought into their home a beautiful 13-month-old girl whom they absolutely adore. The adopted child makes a wonderful sister for their five-year-old son.

“My family had adopted my younger brother when I was five,” Carr said. “It was something my family has done and we’re familiar with. It’s something that Larry and I said we wanted to do… So we started researching the options, looking at private adoptions and international adoptions.”

After considering their choices, the Carrs decided to adopt through the Santa Clara County Social Service Agency. The couple’s only stipulations were the child had to be a girl less than 1 year old, and her parental rights had to be fully terminated – to avoid an emotionally heart-breaking situation if the biological mother ever demanded her child back.

“Our son would never understand why they were taking away his sister,” Carr said.

The Carr’s little girl is part Hawaiian, Filipino, Puerto Rican, Caucasian and Chinese. For privacy reasons, she and other children referred to in this article have not be mentioned by name.

“She’s a little dark-haired princess,” Carr describes her daughter. “My son has never noticed that his sister does not look like him.”

In San Benito County, Curtis and Ellen Hill adopted their son 15 years ago when he was a five-week-old infant. The Hills went through deeply personal interviews with the birth mother who decided they were the best choice to raise her son. The Kinship Center, a private adoption agency based in Salinas, helped the couple through the entire process.

“The whole experience going through the Kinship Center was very smooth, very comprehensive,” said Curtis Hill, who serves as the San Benito County Sheriff. “For anybody that is looking at adoption as an option, I would recommend them. They were fantastic.”

The entire process went surprisingly fast, he said. The couple filed their initial application in October of 1989. They picked up their son seven months later. The usual adoption process period is from two to three years, Curtis Hill said.

“It completely changed our lives for the better,” he said. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done. What’s amazing is, he looks like me and has Ellen’s eye colors.”

Today, the Hill’s son is a normal, happy eighth grader. The boy is considering one day working for the railroads.

“He’s known for his love of trains of all kinds,” his proud father said. “We’re in the process of putting in a garden railroad in our yard for him.”

For one Morgan Hill couple, the process of adoption was truly a story from Russia with love. Eleven years ago, Art and Deborah Rawers had a 5-year-old birth daughter when they decided to enlarge their family – by three.

Through a friend, they heard of an international adoption agency called Accept based in Los Altos. The couple put in their paperwork in January 1994. Four months later, Deborah flew to Moscow to retrieve three Russian kids.

“It was very quick,” she said. “That was not the norm even at that time. It just worked out that way.”

One reason for the speedy processing was the Russian government had changed its adoption laws. If the Rawers had waited until June as they first planned, the adoption would have cost them much more money and require both parents to stay in Russia for three weeks. Because of business commitments, Deborah’s husband couldn’t travel with her to Moscow.

The day after arriving in Moscow, Deborah took an airplane to a small town of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. That afternoon, she went to the orphanage to meet her new children, a sister and two brothers.

“My first reaction when I saw them was: ‘Oh, my God! Here are three little human beings that I’m now responsible for.’ It was absolutely overwhelming. It had all seemed kind of like a business deal we were going through up to that point.”

Deborah said the international adoption process went relatively smoothly. Most of the paperwork had already been done, including getting official permission from the U.S. State Department to adopt the children. The Rawers had to prove to both governments they could provide for the three new additions to their family.

Arriving in Morgan Hill, the three children quickly felt at home. That first day, the neighborhood had a welcoming party. Despite differences in language, the Russian and American children soon were playing together.

The Rawers’ birth daughter was 7-years-old when the three Russian children became her siblings.

“She was a great kid,” Deborah said. “She accepted them immediately. ‘These are my brothers and sisters, this is it.’ She just accepted them right into the family.”

The Rawers made sure they included their birth daughter in much of the adoption process, making a point to explain to her why they were doing it, Deborah said. That way, there were no jealous feelings or craving attention — a common experience for many birth children whose parents decide to adopt.

Adoption involves many emotional decisions that must be weighed carefully along with financial considerations. In doubling their family over night, big adjustments had to be made by the Rawers family.

“We didn’t have any surprises as far as the adoption costs,” Deborah said. “We knew every time when something was coming up. The bulk of the money was paid here to the agencies for the services and the arrangements that had to be made in Russia before we got there.”

Kirsten Carr, Curtis Hill and Deborah Rawers all agree that a key to their successful adoptions was the assistance of a professional organization that served their individual needs. People considering adoption should find an agency they feel comfortable working with, said Nancy Murphy, program director for the Kinship Center.

“You’re going to be sharing personal information about yourself with a social worker,” she said. “There’s a lot of private questions asked in the home study.”

Adoptive parents should also consider what training – if any – the agency might provide them in such areas as basic child development, trauma and injury, loss and attachment, and all the various issues involved with adoption.

After-adoption services should also be considered. The Kinship Center has such a service, and parents don’t necessarily have to have adopted through that specific agency to participate in its after-adoption service. Potential adoptive parents should educate themselves as consumers and understand that agencies can vary considerably in their approach to adoption, Murphy said.

Adoptive parents should find an agency that suits their specific needs, said Barbara May, who is in charge of the Kinship Center’s family development programs.

“Don’t assume they’re all the same,” she said. “I think a lot of it is gut level. It should feel like they’re being up front and honest with you and they’ll be supportive… If you check one agency that has parameters you don’t fit, don’t assume that’s the world of adoption.”

Local and state adoption agencies

Calif. dept. of social services

Fresno District Office

770 East Shaw, Suite 109

Fresno 93710-7708

559-445-6556l

Fax 559-229-9685

accept

339 S. San Antonio Rd., Ste. 1A

Los Altos 94022

650-917-8090

kinship center

124 River Road

Salinas, CA 93908

800 454-67447

831-455-4777 Fax

www.kinshipcenter.org

hand in hand

foundation

200 Helen Court

Santa Cruz 95065

(831) 476-1866

future families

3233 Valencia Avenue, Ste. A6

Aptos, CA 95003

(888) 922-KIDS

www.futurefamilies.org

family network

820 Bay Avenue, Suite 206

Capitola, CA 95010

(831) 462-8954

aspira foster and family services

333 Gallery Boulevard, Ste. 203

Daly City 94015

650-758-0111

adopt

1000 Brannan Street, #301

San Francisco, CA 94103

415-934-0300

Fax:415-934-0700

www.adoptinter.org

[email protected]

lds social services

6060 Sunrise Vista Drive, Suite 1160

Citrus Heights 95610

(916) 725-5032

Thinking of adopting

The ten steps of adoption

1 Learn about

adoption

2 Select an agency

3 Complete a

homestudy

4.Search for a child

5 Exchange

information

with child’s agency

6 Learn that you have been selected for a child

7 Meet and visit with the child

8 Receive a placement

9 Finalize the

adoption

10 Life as an adoptive family

Important questions to ask an adoption agency

• How long have you been in business?

• If you provide help in adopting foreign-born children, do you have your own staff overseas?

• How long will it take before the adoption is completed?

• What are the total costs involved in adopting? When must they be paid?

• What is included and what is not?

• How much are the agency fees?

• Is financial assistance available to help me adopt?

• Is there a tax credit?

• Has your agency ever been investigated or sanctioned by a government or legal entity?

• What services are available before and after the adoption?

• Can I meet other adoptive families that have gone through your agency?

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