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One+one makes a family

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Adoption specialists also encourage parents to establish cultural links with their children's native country. Five of the six families who traveled to China with Bowden live in the Chicago area. They get together often to enjoy Chinese-oriented activities with their daughters. This includes celebrating Chinese New Year and "Gotcha Day," the day they picked up their infants.

When Linda Hill of Pocatello, Idaho, began considering adoption in the mid-1980s, she focused on South American countries that accepted single women. Working with an agency in Texas, she chose Peru. She spent a month there, adopting a 2-month-old daughter in February 1988. But the baby became ill and died a year later.

Ms. Hill, director of admissions counseling at Idaho State University, started over. In May 1990, after three months in Peru, she adopted a 6-month-old girl, named Rosa by her birth father.

"As much as we're emotionally prepared to be a parent, you can never totally comprehend the impact [children are] going to have on your life," Hill says.

Noting that the first adoption cost $15,000, she adds, "I knew I would be in debt for a good part of my life, but I knew why I would be in debt."

For some single women, adoption creates a mixed-race family. Eliana, a professional woman in the San Francisco Bay area who does not want her last name used, adopted a daughter from Haiti in December 2000.

As an older, single white mother with a dark-skinned child, Eliana has become keenly aware of the complexities of transracial adoption. Such matches, she says, "require a lot more thinking, planning, and reflection than would otherwise be the case."

Betsy Burch, executive director of Single Parents for Adoption of Children Everywhere (SPACE) in Boston and the adoptive mother of four black children, now grown, finds a lot of support for adopting transracially. But, she adds, "I don't encourage people to do that who are not certain about it."

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