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Adopted Kids Adapt - 2002-04-18

English Feature #7-34315 Broadcast December 4, 2000

Americans adopted over 16,000 children from other countries last year. The largest number came from Russia and China, followed by South Korea, Guatemala, Romania, Vietnam and India. How do these littlest immigrants adjust to life in a new country and in their new families? Today on New American Voices ten-year-old Nadia Jones and her adoptive father share their experiences.

Nadia was seven years old and living in an orphanage in the Siberian city of Krasnodar, Russia, when she was adopted by Ernie and Debbie Jones. The Joneses, who did not have any children of their own, brought Nadia home to their rural community not far from Seattle, in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington. The first obstacle to overcome was the language barrier.

"We knew just a few words of Russian, some basic words for eat and drink and to take a bath and brush your teeth, that type of stuff. We used pictures, gestures, and like I said a few Russian words, and she picked up English real quick."

Nadia remembers what she had to do to communicate.

"To talk to my parents I sometimes drew pictures, and I sometimes showed them the thing, if I wanted to show them something that was in the house…"

When she arrived, Nadia was placed in the first grade in a regular American public school, even though she spoke little English.

"I didn't really talk to the kids when I first came here, I sort of just looked at the teacher."

Thanks to English-As-A-Second-Language classes and an outgoing personality, Nadia soon made friends and settled into her new life. The little girl from Krasnodar in Siberia remembers her first impressions of Washington state.

"Like there's a lot more trees in America than and there's a lot more buildings in America, and the furniture is nicer, I think. I get to eat more, and I can climb trees and do that kind of stuff."

It was not only Nadia who had to adjust to a new life. Ernie and Debbie Jones also had to adapt to having Nadia.

"You find that when you bring in an older child into your home like that, their personalitiy is already set, their likes and dislikes, and how they react in different situtions, and you find that you have to make some adjustments yourself to kind of accommodate them."

But the adjustment went well enough that the Joneses went back to Russia a year later to adopt Nadia's sister Julia, who is three years older. Ernie Jones says that although the girls sometimes still speak Russian with each other, they rapidly became Americanized.

"The older girl, she's thirteen now, and right away into the music. She was eleven when she got here, so into the Backstreet Boys type, in the music that's marketed to the kids that age. Picked up on that right away. Of course, blue jeans and tennis shoes - over there they were mostly in dresses...and wanting everything - Ooh, I want that, I want this. But the bright side of that is every once in a while they'll stop, either one of them, independent of each other, they'll stop and get kind of serious and say, no I have enough stuff, I really don't need that."

Although the girls are quite different, their father says, both are very interested in their new world.

"Julia has gotten into basketball, and she did real good on last year's basketball team, and I was just watching her practice and she's right in there, you can tell she's got a lot of drive and a lot of competitiveness. Nadia, she just wants to try everything. To her life is kind of a party, and she's always - something's new, let's do this for a little while…"

As an adoptive father Ernie Jones is a member of FRUA, "Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption". This is one of a number of organizations that offer support and information to people who adopt foreign children. FRUA recently conducted a survey of its members to determine how well adopted children have adjusted to their life in America. Dr. Patti Price conducted the survey.

"A large majority of the parents said that their children were doing very, very well. Only twenty percent had any emotional issues, about a quarter had developmental issues, and 63 percent were having to do with some kind of physical issues, which generally were things like malnourishment, they may have experienced some anemia, they may have had parasites, which is very common."

Dr. Price says that while such problems have to be taken into account, they do not seem to deter many prospective adoptive parents. Neither do the costs of adoption, which generally range between 15 and 20 thousand dollars. In the end, she says, her survey indicates that the benefits far outweigh the liabilites, for both parents and children.

"Ninety-nine percent of the parents said they'd do it all over again, that they loved their child unconditionally, and that, considering what the child had been through, they are very well adjusted."

Next week on New American Voices -- immigrants talk about their jobs.