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Parents take on a loving experience.

Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

Jane Williams and Greg Young have grown philosophical about the question they sometimes get from total strangers.

They'll be out with their daughters - 1-year-old Gracie and 6-year-old Maya - and someone will say: "Are you the real parents?"

For those who adopt, life doesn't get more real. For them, children aren't the inevitable outcome of biology, but the result of a deliberate effort that often takes years.

Williams, 46, and Young, 48, added Maya to their family circle five years ago, after a lengthy journey that took them to China. A trip back last September brought them Gracie.

The Eugene couple will share their knowledge about the adoption process at a free conference this weekend.

Williams and Young knew when they married in 1996 that they wanted to have a family, but biologically it wasn't in the cards. When they tired of the emotional roller coaster of fertility treatments that raised their hopes then dashed them, they decided to adopt a child.

Williams had always had a fascination with China, and she had heard of unwanted girls languishing in orphanages, where government policies restrict the size of families and cultural tradition favors boys, she said.

"It had always been at the back of my mind that if we couldn't conceive, I wanted to adopt a baby from China," she said.

Her husband agreed.

"Greg felt that adopting a child was a better way to go, since there are always so many children who need homes," she said.

The adoption process itself was a lengthy one, with 18 months of paperwork and waiting for Maya.

When they went to China the first time, Maya was a year old. She'd spent most of her short life in an orphanage, weighed just 15 pounds and could only sit up. She lacked any upper body strength.

"She really seemed like she was ready for a family and ready to be loved," Williams said.

Back in Eugene, "She ate and ate and ate and grew and grew and grew," quickly catching up with her peers physically and intellectually.

The bonding between parents and child was spontaneous and deep. But after a few years, the couple felt the family would be more balanced with another child, Williams said.

"We thought of adopting a little sister so that Maya would have company, a sibling that came from a similar background," she said.

Once again, they turned to China. This time, the paperwork took a full two years with delays because of the SARS epidemic, she said.

With Gracie, the initial transition wasn't quite so simple. Their new daughter had lived in foster care for a year, bonding to her foster mother, Williams said.

"It was different. She was attached to someone, and she clearly grieved," Williams said.

Gracie initially clung to Young and didn't want anything to do with Williams, and their first night together was rough on all of them, she said.

Home for about six weeks now, Gracie has accepted Williams, who has found more than enough room in her heart for another child.

"People say when you have another child your love expands. ... It's hard to imagine it any other way. It's amazing how quickly you bond with these babies," she said.

In Oregon, 1,832 families adopted 2,293 children in the fiscal year that ended last June, according to Oregon Department of Human Services records. There are plenty of hoops to jump through, many different adoption agencies to work with as well as private attorneys and many decisions, including whether to adopt locally or seek a child overseas.

At the conference, Williams and Young will focus their comments on pre-adoption, but other speakers and panels will address legal issues and working with adoption agencies. Other adoptive parents and adult adoptees will be on hand to answer questions.

Two adoption films - "Secrets and Lies" and "Catfish in Blackbean Sauce" - will also be shown.

Williams looks forward to sharing her experiences.

"People see us now and say, `Oh, such lucky girls,' but we're the ones who are lucky. We're the ones who benefit," she said.

ADOPTION CONFERENCE

Sponsored by Adoptive Families of Lane County, a local support group for adoptive parents and their children.

Presentations: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, EWEB Training Center, 500 E. Fourth Ave., Eugene.

Films: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday, EWEB Training Center.

More information: Call Ajit Maan at 344-1599.

CAPTION(S):

Jane Williams and Greg Young play with their adopted daughters, Gracie, 1, and Maya, 6. The couple, who went to China for both girls, will share their adoption experiences at a conference this weekend in Eugene.
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Title Annotation:A couple who adopted two girls from China will share their love and travails at a weekend conference; Family
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 14, 2003
Words:778
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