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International Adoption Takes Off in the Ozarks

A growing number of families in Southwest Missouri are turning to international adoption. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann talks with local adoptive families and has this report.

In the Wasson family home, toddler toys have become part of the décor. Family pictures line the walls. In January of this year, the Wassons adopted a baby boy from Ethiopia. Abby Wasson talks, like many new mothers, about her son’s milestones and how quickly he is growing up. Already she says that she is keenly aware of the importance of recognizing his cultural heritage.

She’s already thinking of ways to help her son grow up with positive cultural influences, like participating with other adoptive families, sending him to diverse schools, and traveling to Ethiopia.

"My husband thinks that I am crazy for already saying this, but I would love, love, love to be able to go back to Ethiopia on a fairly regular basis. We are planning to adopt from Ethiopia again, but I just think for us to go back to Ethiopia would show our son that his country is important to us. His heritage is important to us." said Wasson.

A trip back to a child’s homeland is just one of the suggestions that many experts in the area of international adoption suggest. Jessica Gerard is one of the founding members of International Adoptive Families of Southwest Missouri, a local support network for adoptive families.

"We have several functions. One of them is to deal with issues of adoption [in general] per se. Another is for issues that arise from children that have been in institutions, like emotional or learning problems. And the third one is to provide opportunities for children of different cultures to experience their cultural heritage." Gerard said.

Gerard says there are several things adoptive families can do to raise their children to be proud of their personal histories. Those include: teaching the child his or her native language, having toys from their native homeland, and surrounding them with other adoptive families.

John Prescott, music professor at Missouri State University, is the proud parent of two children he and his wife have adopted from China.

"One of the things we do is take them to Chinese language lessons once a week. [This is] to try to increase, and in some cases, maintain their [language] skills. I've also taken Chinese myself for the past three years, in hopes to encourage them to learn their cultural language. Being a professor of music, I have also been involved with traditional instruments." Prescott said.

Adopting from abroad is a huge responsibility that can come with even bigger obstacles than domestic adoptions. Jessica Gerard cautions that parents really need to be invested in taking on those extra responsibilities required for this kind of adoption.

"The most important thing, absolutely, is to be educated about what your child's needs are if you adopt. Many of these children are from less than optimum enviroments. They have a lot of issues; heath issues, psychological issues, learning issues, that parents really need to be educated for. It's not like adopting a new born from here [in the states]." Jessica Gerard said.

You can find a link to more information below.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.

Click here for International Adoptive Families of Southwest Missouri

Springfield resident John Prescott adopted from this orphanage in Fuling, China, which is located in the Chongqing municipality, formerly part of Sichuan province. (Photo provided by John Prescott) Chinese orphans roll in walkers in the Lily Orphan Care Center in Fuling, China. (Photo provided by John Prescott)