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Adoption: There’s much to be thankful for

by Linda Hiller, staff writer

Tomorrow, while you are saying your thank-yous on Thanksgiving Day, the chances are pretty good there will be families on your block saying a similar gratitude to people not sitting at their table.

To birth mothers and fathers who gave up their children to have a chance at a better life. To social workers, foster care parents, doctors, nurses and lawyers who helped smooth the transition of children into homes of parents wanting the pitter-pat of tiny, or even not-so-tiny, feet.

In the 1990s, the average number of adoptions in the United States was around 120,000 per year, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and many Carson Valley families have adopted children from a variety of situations.

– City of Refuge. Crissy and Todd Jezek tried for years to have a baby of their own. After a miscarriage and two failed pregnancies with premature deliveries, the Indian Hills couple had all but given up.

“I became bitter toward pregnant women,” Crissy said. “My mom told me I couldn’t go around all the time being mad at pregnant women, so we had some money left over in our daughter Rachel’s trust fund – she lived for six hours – and we took that money to the City of Refuge where Diane Gamble asked us to volunteer. At first, I thought, ‘I don’t want to work with pregnant teens – how am I going to do that?'”

But they volunteered, and one day got a phone call that changed their lives – a pregnant teen at the facility had chosen them to adopt her baby.

“She checked us out one weekend, and then Diane called and told us … she was six weeks away from giving birth,” she said.

Crissy, 32, an elementary school teacher at JVES, and Todd, 31, a Bently Nevada employee, decided it was fate and said “yes.”

“Todd and I were both there for Seth’s birth. We took him home when he was 3 days old,” Crissy said.

A year or so later, another baby was similarly offered to the Jezeks, so Allison Susanne joined the family.

“It has been such a positive experience for us,” Crissy said. “We feel they’re definitely meant to be ours.”

– Overseas adoption. Jeannie and Richard Wickerham had also tried unsuccessfully to have a baby of their own. Richard is a pharmacist at Rite Aid and Jeannie teaches preschool at Creative Garden Christian School.

Living in San Jose in the late 1970s, they had a friend stationed in Korea who told them of the plight of Amerasian children there – not socially accepted and needing adoption.

“At the time, these kids really needed adopting, and they made it pretty easy for families to do,” Jeannie said. “We decided to do it even before we learned we couldn’t have children.”

After much paperwork and patience, 5-1/2-month-old Kim arrived on Jan. 26, 1977, and baby Krista came home Nov. 20, 1981. Kim – now 23 and the mother of Andrew, 15 months, and Christian, 1 month old – and Krista, now 19, have mentioned the possibility of a trip to their birthplace someday, but not in the near future.

“They’re truly all American girls,” Jeannie said. “They’re our kids. This time of the year, we have lots to be thankful for.”

– Private. Dan and Cindy Rogers were newly married and although Dan brought one daughter to the union, the couple talked of having a child of their own or adopting.

A cousin in California who’d already adopted children called them one day with the news that there were twins babies needing a home in his community.

“It all happened so fast – within three weeks we had 7-month-old twins,” Cindy said. “It was a blessing from God. The mother had been killed in a car accident.”

The private adoption paperwork took around two years, but in 1995, Seth and Emily joined sister Mandy, then 18. Dan, 46, a barber at Main Street Barbers in Gardnerville, and Cindy, 38, a full-time mom, recommend adoption because it helps so many families.

“I believe there are so many people out there who want children and can’t have them, and so many who have children and can’t take care of them,” Cindy said. “We let our kids know that God gave them to us – that it was such a blessing. They are our kids and we don’t think of them as anything but ours.”

– Special needs adoption. Lorraine Vazquez always dreamed of having a large family. She started with two daughters, Beth, now 20, and Brianne, now 12.

“It turned out I wasn’t able to birth the seven kids I wanted, so it was always in the back of our minds to adopt, but I don’t think we would have done it had we not talked to someone who had already done it,” she said.

Today, the Vazquezes have adopted four “special needs” children and await the adoption of others.

“Special needs children can be lots of things – older kids, sibling groups, kids with health problems – we went for the sibling groups,” she said. The first two “special needs” children the family took in were a brother and sister 5 and 7 years old. Bryan is now 10 and Mia is now 8.

“Their file was thick, but these kids are nothing like their file,” Lorraine said. “None of them are – they just need stability and once they know they’re here to stay – they settle in.”

Bryan and Mia’s mother subsequently had two more children and was unable to care for them, so two years ago, the Vazquezes took in Hannah, then 2, and Courtney, then 1.

Lorraine, 42, works part-time as a bookkeeper and Tim, 42, works in the warehouse at Winans Furniture store in Carson City and recently completed police academy training.

“When you adopt special needs kids, you can get a subsidy through the state and also Medicare,” Lorraine said. “There are so many special needs children out there, and my only regret is that we’ll have to stop someday, and when we do, there will still be more kids needing families. It’s just a matter of commitment -you have to commit to these kids, and in the end, when they finally figure out that you’re not going to throw them back into the system, they relax and become your kids. A child is what they’re going to be, whether you birth them or not.”