Adoptive parents to conduct course on making decision to adopt children Class to cover range of options

June 15, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

A group of adoptive families from Howard and Prince George's counties is forming a summer class for residents interested in adoption.

The organizers are volunteers of a nonprofit group called Patapsco Families Adopting Children Everywhere.

Course topics include overcoming depression associated with infertility, making the decision to adopt, U.S. and international adoption, independent adoption, agency adoptions and adjustment issues.

"We go over the good and the bad," said instructor Arlene Stephenson, who adopted a Korean girl nearly 10 years ago. "We arm them with questions to ask agencies."

The 12- to 15-hour course, taught by adoptive parents, is offered three times a year by the Patapsco chapter. The latest offering is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 7 and 8.

Although many who take the class have already decided to adopt, some haven't made up their minds yet.

"Some people come into the course asking themselves if adoption is right for their families," said Gail Pendergrast, Patapsco chapter coordinator. "People want to know what are their options through adoptions."

Others come to class with misconceptions about the adoption process.

"They still tend to think there are orphanages around," Ms. Stephenson said.

Former students say the course offers emotional support for those unable to conceive children of their own.

"It made you feel a lot less alone," said Trina Torkildsen, of Glenelg, who adopted two children.

The road to adoption can be long and arduous, officials said. Rather than wait years to adopt an American child, some parents choose to adopt children outside the United States.

After Ms. Torkildsen discovered it would take five years to adopt an American infant, she and her husband, Jorg Freyer, adopted a Korean child. The whole process took nine months.

In addition to their first child, Mia, the couple have a 3-year-old son from Mexico and a 2-year-old biological child.

Parents say they become emotionally attached to their adoptive children before they even see them.

"When they put her in our arms, there was no holding us back," Ms. Torkildsen said of Mia.

All adopted children must adjust to their new families regardless of age, Ms. Stephenson said.

"Even the little infant has bonded to their caretaker," she said. Children who are grieving for their previous caretakers may regress in development. For example, a child who is toilet-trained may suddenly need diapers.

Older children, who have already developed personalities, have a more difficult time adjusting to their new environment, Ms. Stephenson said. Those from foreign countries face even greater challenges adapting to their new homes.

Some have "never had an opportunity to choose their own clothes," Ms. Stephenson said. "They may never have slept alone."

But adoptive parents emphasize that no matter what their children's origin, they need love, nurturing and care.

"They are our real children," Ms. Stephenson said. "We are the ones who stay up with them all night and who wipe their runny noses."

Cost of the program is $90 per person or couple; FACE members get a $20 discount. For more information or to register call Arlene Stephenson at 997-4581 between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. or Gail Pendergrast at 997-1231.

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