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Adoption

  Barbara Lau  

CHALLENGES AND REWARDS

Bob Sullivan ’70 also adds a note of caution: “I believe firmly in adoption, but go into it with your eyes open.” He and wife Debra, of Dundas, Minn., have adopted five children from Texas, Peru, Ecuador, and the Republic of Tuva, ranging in age from 3 to 14. His own experience affirms adoption literature that contends that the older the child when adopted, the greater the struggle to form intimate bonds with parents.

“You basically have three different situations; I have one of each in my family,” Sullivan explains. “If you adopt infants, they will become attached at the hip, no problem. But a child who has formed close ties with a birth mother or foster parent will need to go through a grieving process before re-attaching to a new family. And he may carry this experience with him for years.” The third situation, which Sullivan says can be “a loose cannon,” is when a child has been abandoned or has lived in a managed care institution. His son, Reeder, from southern Siberia, lived in a hospital his first year, then spent several years in an orphanage without consistent emotional care. “Even after living with us for a year, the first time he seemed to truly grasp what it meant to belong to a family—a close-knit group of people—was at a McDonald’s when he watched lots of families having a meal together.” At age 14, Reeder is “a terrific kid who has come a long way,” he adds.

Despite these challenges, Sullivan and his wife were enthusiastic about adopting two Ecuadorian orphans—3-year-old Ana and 2-year-old Adrian— after seeing their photos in an adoption brochure. “When my wife received some money from an estate, we couldn’t think of any better way to spend it,” he says with a nonchalance that belies the commitment and caring behind their actions.

Another alumni couple with five children is Perry Lowry-Luther ’80 and Diane Lowry-Luther ’83 of Minneapolis. Their clan consists of two sons from the same orphanage in Calcutta, India; daughters from Bangalore, India, and Bogota, Colombia; and a birth child who “sometimes wonders why he is white unlike his siblings,” quips Diane Lowry-Luther. What’s life like with five unique children, all having some disabilities ranging from major to minor? “We cannot imagine it any other way, and each is loved unconditionally,” they respond. Their adopted children are “all well-adjusted,” Lowry-Luther says, though some have, at one point or another, stated that they don’t want to look different. But the Lowry-Luthers embrace their diversity and encourage them to be proud of their ethnicity. In addition, their children are well-accepted although they live in a primarily white community. “At one time we considered moving, but the community that was an option was not as cosmopolitan as Minneapolis. Also, we have purposely not moved around so that our kids could grow up in just one community.”

The Lowry-Luthers advise obtaining as much information as possible about the child and the birth parents’ health backgrounds. And for an international adoption, “See a doctor as soon as you return to the United States. In all of our children’s cases, medical issues and disabilities were not discovered until after their arrival here.” Also, premature infants involve additional risks.

For example, Aaron, age 13, arrived at age 6 months weighing only 6 pounds. “He had tropical sprue and was extremely sick. His development lagged for some time as he attempted to gain weight. Though he struggles with certain learning difficulties, he’s a cheerful seventh-grader,” Lowry-Luther says. Janina arrived at 18 months and had a more difficult transition from her Indian orphanage to her new home. Today she’s “a happy child who excels in dance.” Angela needed kidney surgery and later lost developmental skills such as walking and talking. “But she’s a happy little girl whose smile will melt anyone who meets her,” Lowry-Luther says.

Their eldest child, Shan, age 16, will be a senior next year and while he had a difficult start to life at only 3 pounds, now plans to attend college and major in computer science and environmental issues.

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