Hampstead Couple Adopts Two Boys From Romania

September 08, 1991|By Jane Lippy | Jane Lippy,Contributing writer

HAMPSTEAD — Joy and Don Isner were elated when their two boys finally arrived.

Well-wishing neighbors decorated the lamppost in front of the Isners' Brodbeck Road home with two blue satin ribbons.

Joy, along with about a dozen relatives and friends, welcomed Donand the couple's newly adopted sons at Baltimore-Washington International Airport Aug. 25.

"We're ecstatic," said Joy, 38, a registered nurse in the oncology unit at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore. "They're beautiful children."

Blond, brown-eyed Mahaita, 5, was renamed Stokes Morris, after Joy's father. Brown-haired, dark-eyed Vacile, now Paul Norman, is 4.

They answer to both names and "go back and forth," Joy said.

The brothers, who were given up for adoption by their impoverished Romanian mother when they were 18 months and 6 months old, speak no English. And their new parents know no Romanian. But the boys are learning fast, Joy and Don say.

"They understand more all the time," said Don, 40, a welder at AIM Inc. in Parkton, Baltimore County. "They're doing great."

Upon arrival in New York, he introduced the boys to potato chips and Pepsi. Days later, at his new home, Stokes continued to hold the empty chips bag.

Don said the boys are adjusting well to new surroundings and unfamiliar culture,and quickly took up the American habit of fast food beneath the golden arches.

The richness of life in America is a far cry from what Mahaita and Vacile are used to.

The boys spent 3 1/2 years among some 100 undernourished children in a crowded, joyless orphanage at Sinia, three hours north of Bucharest, before they were adopted by the Isners.

"Children were not taught anything and were forced to sleep a lot of the time," said Joy. When the Isners visited Mahaita and Vacile there, they would ask the women in charge to let the boys get out of bed.

Now, the brothers laugh at picture books and squeal in delight at having toys to play with. They have their own jeans, sneakers and T-shirts. The patter of active feet fills the Isner's modest home. But the ample yard, with lush grass and shady pines, has presented something of a challenge.

"They're not used to being outside,"Joy said.

And they were "terrified at seeing the two ponies we have," Don added.

The two dogs, four cats, three goats, three ferrets, three rabbits and several birds that the Isners have "adopted" also will take some getting used to.

"They love the rabbits, adore the cats and birds, and are getting used to the ponies and goats," saidJoy, adding that the boys are still afraid of the dogs.

The Isners have no other children and had not tried to adopt before. But afterDon and Joy saw on ABC's "20/20" in late 1990 the plight of the morethan 150,000 children who languish in Romanian orphanages, and aftertheir pastor, the Rev. Chris Brammer of Hampstead Baptist Church, told them of his mission there last year, the couple determined to adopt.

The Romanian government gave the Isners the boys' names.

After calling for an appointment in February, the Isners met with a Romanian adoption committee on May 26. Peter Venu, pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Oridea, Romania, arranged their stay in Bucharest.

The Romanian bureaucracy seemed turtle-slow in approving the adoption, the Isners said.

Don came home after two weeks, while Joy and her mother, Anne Morris of North Carolina, stayed a month. Romanian friends from Second Baptist Church helped with translators, guides andpaper work.

"There is one problem after another dealing with people who don't speak English," said Joy.

The Isners got to know the boys' mother, Stephana Banu, a 22-year-old peasant who patches holes with a road crew.

Banu's husband had died in February 1987, and she had had to relinquish their children when she could not care for them and work, too. The boys' younger sister, whom the Isners had also wished to adopt, died in an orphanage last spring before they could see her.

"Stephana had no permanent place to live," said Joy. "We took supplies and sent her food and things she couldn't afford.

TheRomanian government performed a "home study" of the boys' natural mother to make sure "we had not coerced her in any way," Joy said.

"She fell in love with us and was overjoyed that the boys would have agood home," Joy said. "She lived too far away to visit them."

TheIsners were helped through the adoption process by Families AdoptingChildren Everywhere, a national training and support group for adoptive parents.

Lutheran Social Services in Washington checked out the adoptive parents, as is required by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service before a foreign child can be adopted.

The Isnerssaid Brammer and members at Hampstead Baptist provided needed moral support.

The Isners said the boys will be raised "to know the Lord, learn love and to care for others." Joy said she doesn't think theywill become spoiled.

"These children have never had a toy," she said. "They deserve anything they are given.

"Most of all, they need love and someone to care for them."

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