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Adoptive parents offer group where being different is normal

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2001

When Eve Schroeder was little, other kids taunted her for being adopted, a fact she couldn't hide since her skin is much darker than her parents'.

"One kid used to make fun of me," said Eve, now 13. "He said my parents didn't want me and threw me in a trash can."

To counter that kind of ignorance and cruelty, the Schroeders and about 50 other adoptive families get together four times a year for picnics, potlucks and outings. The biggest event is an overnight at Echo Ranch over the Mother's Day weekend. The families go hiking and boating, ride horses, try archery and enjoy campfires.

"It normalizes us, because when you're in camp most of the families are interracial," said Eve's mom, Elaine Schroeder. "When you're at camp that's the norm, so that's neat."

Through the group Eve made friends with other children adopted from around the world. Juneau families have adopted children from China, Korea, India, Yugoslavia, South America, and other countries and continents. Most of their parents are Caucasian.

"When you don't look like your parents you can sometimes feel a little odd," said Destiny Sargeant, who has two children from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. "It's good for the kids to see they're not alone."

Besides adapting to a new culture, the internationally adopted children face the same feelings of anger and abandonment other adopted children go through as they grow up, Sargeant said. Questions from ignorant strangers don't help.

"People ask really dumb, stupid questions," Sargeant said, "like 'Where's your real parents. Where's your real mother.'"

Her 7-year-old son, Marshall, is sick of people asking if Sargeant is his grandmother. Sargeant was 39 when she adopted him and 45 when she adopted his younger sister, but that is becoming more common as more single people and older couples adopt, she said.

The adoptive families group gives the parents and children both a chance to talk about their experiences. Some of the children keep culture scrapbooks and have opportunities to learn about the culture they were born in. Debbie Hull is one of several parents of Chinese children now studying Chinese on Wednesday nights.

Like many adopted children, Hull's daughter Bailey was developmentally delayed when Hull brought the 2-year-old home from China. The tiny girl would just sit still in a chair and had to be taught to play with toys. Now Bailey is 7, caught up in school and flourishing, Hull said.

"For people who've just adopted it's kind of reassuring to come and see our kids, who we've had two, three or four years, and see how they've done," Hull said. "We just hope that people realize that we're here and we love to talk about it and there's a place where we're all together at times."

To find out about Adoptive Families activities call Destiny Sargeant at 721-9828 or Mary Carson at 789-3049.

Kristan Hutchison can be reached at khutchison@juneauempire.com.



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