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Entries in Adoption (6)

Monday
Dec242012

After Son's Death, Family Adopts Two Disabled Children

gavinowens.com(NEW YORK) -- Last Christmas, newly adopted Angela Owens sat motionless in her toddler-sized wheelchair, unable to interact with her new family because of her disabilities, which include cerebral palsy and a genetic disorder called 1p36 deletion, which renders her unable to speak.

But a few days ago, the 3-year-old accidentally knocked over the family Christmas tree as she tested her little legs on a walker.  As her mother tried to grab the tree, she saw that Angela was laughing.

"Those things are just miracles for us because last year, she had no mobility whatsoever," said Karen Owens, who brought Angela home to stay on Dec. 10, 2011.  "This year, she's going to steal the show."

Now, Angela can use her hands to communicate with an iPad and she's learning some basic sign language.  She even vocalizes a little bit.

Karen and her husband, Adam, have adopted two children with disabilities since their son Gavin died of mitochondrial disease at age 3 in 2009.  They didn't want the skills they'd honed taking care of him to go to waste, so they requested to adopt children from the foster care system who had special needs, Karen said.

The Owens brought home the newest addition to their family over the summer, a little boy named Jayden.  He has injuries from shaken baby syndrome, and came to the Owens with "broken bones from head to toe."  He, too, was introverted back then, but now he's "spunky" like his sister, Karen said.

"He's finally starting to understand what it means to have a mommy," Karen said.  "Adam and I feel like we were destined to do this, and Maddy, too."

Maddy is the Owens' firstborn, who is now 7 years old.  She's embraced her new siblings and doesn't see their disabilities, Karen said.

On Thursday, Maddy posed with her brother and sister for Karen's blog, GavinOwens.com, hanging onto the back of Angela's pink wheelchair and Jayden's green one.

In an older photo on the site, a younger Maddy gives baby Gavin a one-armed hug as he sucks on a pacifier from his throne of medical equipment.

"We always know that someone's missing," Karen said.  "But then stepping back and taking a look at our family, it's just amazing.  God used the darkest situation to create the most beautiful situation.  We hope other people can see the hope."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul192012

Single Men Listening to Biological Clock and Becoming Fathers

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- Growing numbers of men who have never been married -- gay and straight -- are shattering that old stereotype of the befuddled dad struggling with how to care for a baby.

There are now more than one million single fathers raising children in the U.S., according to 2010 figures from the Williams Institute at UCLA.

The 2010 Census found that in 2.2 million households, fathers raised their children without a mother. That's about one household in 45. And the number of single-father households rose 62 percent in 10 years.

"I always wanted kids and I never imagined my life without having a child," said Steven Harris, the father of 5-year-old Ben. "I figured I'd get married, have a family."

Harris, 57, a New York City lawyer, told ABC News he dated in his 30s and 40s and even got engaged at the age of 50. He later called the wedding off and set his sights on becoming a father.

Because surrogacy contracts were not legal in New York, he went to California, where he used a donor egg from an anonymous woman and hired another woman from Sioux Falls, S.D., to be the surrogate.

He said he met her and her husband twice in California and that he was present for her 10-week sonogram and the 20-week sonogram. The entire process, including forms, lawyers and more, totaled $200,000.

"I got a call at midnight on a Thursday night from the surrogate saying, 'Steve, my water broke. ... You better get out here.' And I jumped on a plane and I was there at noon the next day when he was born, and I took him home on a Sunday," Harris said.

He said there was nothing "not fun" about raising a child. Harris said even changing diapers was fun. And those 3 a.m. feedings? "You know what?" he told ABC News. "It wasn't that bad."

"It's fantastic," Harris said of being a father. "It's enriched my life so much."

Brian Tessier, 46, of Boston, adopted two boys through foster care after researching surrogacy and overseas adoption. He said he heard his "biological clock" ticking after ending a 10-year relationship.

"[I] decided at that point to look inside myself and see what I wanted to do and really what it came down to is that I really wanted to be a dad," he told ABC News. "I think a lot of men do hear that biological clock. ... I just don't think we talk about it as men or admit it."

Tessier started the hotline 411-4-DAD to give adoption and surrogacy advice and information to prospective single fathers. He said the hotline directed men interested in becoming parents to agencies that were welcoming and competent. Tessier said that men he encountered told him some agencies were chilly and questioned their intentions.

"I think that's why a lot of men give up on that dream" of being a father, he said. "They think, 'Oh, I can't,' rather than get the facts -- and that's really what we're trying to do, to make sure that people do have the right information."

Tessier said that the number of callers has tripled since the hotline started.

And when it comes to questions from others -- and even Ben -- about the whereabouts of the mother, Harris in New York says he answers honestly.

"He's been asking for a long time and I started telling him the truth from the beginning," Harris said. "I tell him there are all kinds of families. ... We're a family with you and me with one dad. And for now, that's enough. ... I'd like certain things to be different in my life but they're not. You know, we're very autonomous -- me and Ben -- and I don't feel like there's anything missing in my life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May212012

Adoptees Who Reunite with Lost Parent Risk Genetic Sexual Attraction

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Julie DeNeen was raised by her biological mother and a step-father who adopted her after DeNeen's birth father relinquished his legal rights.  But she yearned for the father she never knew, wondering why he abandoned her.

"I had no picture and no contact with my biological father," said DeNeen, now 31 and married with three children in Clinton, Conn.  "I hardly knew he existed."

At 13, DeNeen sought out and found her father, but after a few visits they grew apart.

"I viewed him as a strange relative," she said.  "I wasn't prepared … and it was just awkward."

But in 2011, again obsessing over her family roots and wanting her children -- 8, 6 and 5 -- to know their grandfather, DeNeen wrote him a letter, telling him she was sorry "I had fallen off the planet" and that she loved him and wanted him to "be a father figure in my life."

So they reconnected, but what evolved was far from a healthy father-daughter relationship -- amidst her grief and longing, sexual sparks flew and it nearly destroyed her 10-year marriage and a fragile new bond with her biological father.

"I had this strange falling in love feeling, holding my Dad's hand," said DeNeen.  "It wasn't like a daughter, it was like something else."

That something else was genetic sexual attraction or GSA.

Psychologists say that taboo is normally in place when family members grow up in close proximity by virtue of reverse sexual imprinting, or the Westermarck effect, which desensitizes them to later sexual attraction.  Researchers hypothesize it evolved so biological relatives would not inbreed.

The phenomenon was first identified by Barbara Gonyo in the 1980s.  She wrote a book, I'm His Mother, But He's Not My Son, that recounted her personal story of reuniting and having sexual feelings for a son whom she had placed for adoption when she was 16.  Gonyo fell in love -- a byproduct of delayed bonding that would normally have taken place in infancy, had they not been separated by adoption.

GSA is "not incredibly common," but is seen among parents and adult children and between adult siblings, according to Susan Brancho Alvarado, an adoption therapist from Falls Church, Va.

And because of that, mental health experts are not experienced in helping patients.  They often mistakenly confuse GSA with incest or sexual abuse, shaming adoptees.

Alvarado, who has treated four families with GSA, also blames the adoption process itself.

"It fuels the secrecy and builds up the fantasy about what the other family might be like," she said.  "It is mitigated when you have open access to records and birth certificates and the family from infancy is included."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr272012

Oklahoma Blind Dog Gets New Life with Canine Pal

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(TULSA, Okla.) -- Putting two dogs of different breeds and from different backgrounds together in a confined space will usually end up in a lot of bark and likely some bite.  Rarely does that pairing end up in the two pooches becoming an inseparable pair.

That latter, more unlikely scenario was just the case, however, with two young dogs in Oklahoma who not only built a friendship but also cured each other’s ills.

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Blair is a 1-year-old black Labrador mix brought to the Woodland West Animal Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., after she was shot while living on the streets.  After he recovered from his wounds, Blair remained at the clinic, a timid and nervous pup whose difficult history made her hard to place with an adopted family, the hospital’s director, Dr. Mike Jones, told ABC News.

Then there was Tanner, a two-year-old Golden Retriever puppy who was born blind and with a seizure disorder so severe he was sent to Woodland Hospital as a last resort after his first owner died and the Oklahoma City-based Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue organization that had assumed his care, was unable to find a family to give him the around-the-clock care he needed.

“His seizure disorder was really, really bad and nothing -- no medications -- seemed to be helping,” Jones said.  “Anytime he [Tanner] seizes he expresses his bowels.  It’s a nightmare anytime you have a 90-lb dog experiencing this nightly; it made living in a home very, very difficult.”

Tanner and Blair lived with their respective conditions until the two were placed together a few months ago in a chance encounter, first reported by local ABC affiliate KTUL.

“One day they were exercising in a play yard together and they got together," Jones said.  “Blair all of a sudden seemed to realize that Tanner was blind and just started to help him around.”

Recognizing the dogs’ immediate connection, hospital staff began to board Tanner and Blair together, and the results spoke for themselves.

Tanner had been seizing almost nightly, Jones said.  ”After two or three weeks, we realized Tanner wasn’t seizing anymore.  He’s not completely seizure free but it’s not constant anymore.”

“We’ve worked with a lot of different service dogs to provide these services for people,” said Jones. “But it’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this, the special relationship these two dogs have.”

The bond is so strong and instinctive that if Tanner has a leash on, Blair will pick it up and guide her friend around, according to Jones.  Likewise, he said, Tanner has had a calming influence on Blair, making the former street dog much less timid and anxious.

The next task is to find the two dogs a home together to continue their joint recovery.

“They absolutely have to be adopted together,” Jones said.  “But it’s going to take a special home with someone who understands their special relationship plus understands seizure disorder and is ready to take on the responsibility.”

The adoption search is being handled by the same Sooner Golden Retriever Rescue organization that brought Tanner to the hospital, a lucky decision that brought on the recovery process no one could have predicted.  The hospital has, to this point, taken care of Blair’s recovery through its own foster care account.

“The big thing about this is just finding the right home for Tanner and Blair, which is a very specific mission,” said Jones.  “This is not a typical adoption.  Tanner is only two-years-old.  We’re looking at probably ten years or so care for Tanner.”

Calls to the Sooner Rescue organization placed Friday by ABC News for comment were not returned.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct272011

Surrogate Mom Stuck with $200,000+ Medical Bill

Comstock/Thinkstock(WINDSOR, Colo.) -- Carrie Mathews of Windsor, Colo., said she became a surrogate because she just wanted to provide a couple with children.

Despite that simple desire, Mathews said she nearly died after giving birth to the twins she carried for Theresa and Rudolf Bakos of Austria, and her family now finds itself entangled in a legal and financial predicament.

According to NBC Colorado’s 9News, Mathews contacted the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, which introduced her to several families looking for a surrogate.

She chose the Bakoses, an Austrian couple in their 50s, who had been trying to have a child for 20 years.

“I feel like they became my family,” Mathews told 9News. “They adored me and I adored them right away.” Calls made to Mathews at various numbers by ABC News were not returned.

Mathews, who has four children of her own, ages  2, 4, 6 and 8, said all her pregnancies had gone smoothly. She told 9News she “loved being pregnant.”

And there was no indication this pregnancy would turn out otherwise.

Mathews and the Bakoses signed a contract more than 30 pages long, which outlined payment for all possible scenarios during pregnancy. She would get paid $25,000 to carry the child -- $2,000 per month, to be placed in an escrow account.

But Mathews’ pregnancy was anything but smooth. After undergoing in vitro fertilization at a clinic in Cyprus (recommended by the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center), she became pregnant with twins. She told the news channel she was “extremely sick” throughout the pregnancy, experienced severe swelling, developed preeclampsia, followed by HELLP syndrome, which causes low platelets and elevated liver enzymes.

Even after Mathews delivered the twins back home in Colorado via Ceasarean section, she still experienced physical problems. She was rushed into an emergency operation for internal bleeding only hours after giving birth.

“While I was in the OR, I died and had to be resuscitated,” she told 9News. Mathews spent 20 days in the hospital after delivering the children for the Bakoses.

In the meantime, the Bakoses brought their new babies home to Austria, but Hilary Neiman, an attorney for the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, whose website is no longer functional, told 9News that the couple still owed Mathews more than $14,000. Mathews said Neiman could not reach the couple in Austria.

Mathews now owes more than $217,000 in medical expenses that stem from her pregnancy complications. She and her husband are reportedly still waiting to find out how much their insurance company will cover, and how much they will have to pay out of pocket for children they won’t even raise.

Sherry Smith, program administrator for the Center for Surrogate Parenting, an agency that has functioned for 31 years, said it’s important for both parties to do the proper due diligence before getting involved with a surrogacy agency.

At the Center for Surrogate Parenting, intended parents must enroll in an insurance program so that their new children are sufficiently covered, Smith told ABC News. The surrogates must also have medical insurance that will cover her pregnancy when she herself is the patient.

“We expect intended parents to be honest and forthright to take on this responsibility,” said Smith. “The surrogate is putting her life on the line and delivering their dream.”

Surrogacy is not regulated. There is no licensing board, so “this really allows people to put their shingle up and say, ‘I’m a surrogacy agency,’” said Smith.

“Do your research, talk to other people who have used the agency, ask fertility clinics for recommendations,” continued Smith. “If something doesn’t seem right or there is a short cut, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying for it later on.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep232010

Battered Adoptive Parents Give Away Their Out-Of-Control Child

Photo Courtesy -- ABC News(LONG GROVE, Ill.) -- An Illinois family that sent their troubled seven-year-old adoptive daughter, Ellie, to Washington State to live with another family has decided to take their story public.  Craig and Lori Gertz say they adopted the troubled child at birth, unaware of the newborn's exposure to drugs and alcohol in the womb.  Ellie's behavior was said to be become so violent and problematic that the couple's other two children were also at risk.  At three years old, she was diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) -- a condition that affects as many children as autism, yet gets a fraction of the medical attention and resources.  Later, the Gertzes found out that Ellie would need more concentrated care in a residential treatment program that would cost $160,000 per year -- a cost they could not afford.  The Gertz family made the difficult decision to enter into a third-party guardianship and hand over full control of Ellie's education and upbringing for a year, when the families involved will then make a final decision about her care.  Lori Gertz, 47, emphasizes that this is not an adoption-gone-wrong story, and that she would adopt again in a heartbeat.  Of giving her child to another family, Gertz said, "I just never, in my life, could imagine even associating with having to let my baby go.  I will always love my Ellie."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio








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