Adoptive families share their stories

Tess DeGayner, Content Editor

The VanCamps

Photo by Hope Dagenais

Sisters freshman Johanna, sophomore Jada and senior Brook VanCamp were adopted by their great aunt. Brook was two years old when she started her new life.

“My adoptive mom is 68 and my adoptive dad is 72 so compared to other parents, they have a different way of parenting,” Brook said. “My adoptive mom is my mom. She takes care of me. I don’t talk to my birth mom. The only thing that is weird about me being adopted is the fact that I have two moms and two dads. I don’t mind, but sometimes it is hard to explain to people.”

A few years after Brook’s adoption, Jada and Johanna were added to the family. Brook’s birth mother could no longer support her two younger daughters, so she gave the parental rights of Jada and Johanna to their great aunt.

“Our family tree is sort of like a pretzel. People usually don’t understand because I have a different dad than my sisters,” Brook said. “The only downside is I do not have extended family. Also in public, people don’t believe that we are sisters because of the race difference, both Jada and Johanna have black fathers and my father is white.”

Johanna vaguely remembers her biological parents.

“I do not know them on a personal level because I was so young when I began living with my aunt,” Johanna said. “I would not be averse to meeting them again, but I don’t believe I would go out of my way looking for them.”

Although the children do not remember their birth parents parenting ability, they can only imagine what life would be like if their aunt did not gain the parental rights. Both girls agree that their life now would be drastically different if they were still living with their biological parents.

“Life with my birth parents wouldn’t be as amazing as it is with my family. I am thankful,” Jada said. “I know that I wouldn’t be at Fenton High School and I would not be able to have the feeling of coming home to the ones that I love.”

Sophomore Alex Keith

Alex Keith copy
Photo by Hope Dagenais

Born in Cambodia, 8,445 miles away from Fenton, sophomore Alex Keith was adopted at two months old, not ever realizing his life could be entirely the opposite of what it is now.

“My adoptive parents were living in Japan at the time and were looking to adopt a child,” Keith said. “Because of health reasons, they could not have their own children. An adoption agency they were working with called them when I was only three days old, but becasue of legal reasons, I could not be adopted until I was two months old.”

When it was time for Keith’s parents to pick him up, they met in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Since then, he has lived in two countries. His family moved back to Japan until Keith was three years old. Next, they came to the United States and lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. Finally, in 2006 the family moved to Fenton. Culturally his life has been flipped around completely.

“I am so lucky to be in America with my family. If I was still living in Cambodia, I imagine myself uneducated and working in a rice field or being a monk,” Keith said. “It would be a totally different life than I have now.”

Although Keith says he is grateful for his current life, he hopes that one day he can return to his birth country of Cambodia and visit the city where he was born to see what his life would have looked like had he not been adopted.

“I would love to travel to my home land,” Keith said. “I would not plan on staying to live there because my adoptive parents have been providing for me since I was young. I would miss my friends also. But the biggest part about being in Cambodia would be the fact that people don’t know how good they have it until they are in a third world country that does not have it as good as our nation”

Because of the lack of information about Keith’s biological parents, he is left with curiosity about who they are and what they are like.

“I am really curious to know who they are and what they do,” Keith said. “Sometimes I think about what it would be like meeting them. I hope that one day I could go back and just visit and see what it is like in the country and to be in the city I was born.”

The Caligiuris

Photo by Makenzie Cool

Lynn Caligiuri works in the main office as a clerk. She and her husband knew they wanted to adopt two children. To become adoptive parents, they were required to complete an extensive application which included information about their finances, health and good standing. In addition, the couple had to have a complete background check as well as attend social worker meetings.

Once eligible, they were put on a waiting list before they entered the adoption pool. From there, they had to wait until a birth mother chose them based on their profile. Caligiuri described the process as “very nerve-racking” because of the wait and the fact the birth parents can change their minds.

“You know the court date for when the birth parents terminate their parental rights, but you don’t know if they are actually going to follow through. Depending on the situation of the parents, they could change their mind and keep their baby. We waited about an hour and a half when finally our social worker called and said ‘Go get your baby,’” Caligiuri said.

That baby was named Emily. She is a junior who wants to someday learn more about her birth family.

“I do want to meet my birth parents one day,” Emily said. “I have so many questions, and I hope that they don’t feel negative about it.”

Emily seems grateful to have been adopted at birth.

“Say I was [placed] in a foster home,” Emily said. “Today, at the age of 17, I don’t think I would have the confidence in myself that I do because my parents are such a big support system for me.”

Her adoptive brother, freshman Matthew Caligiuri, shares the same perspective regarding their parents.

“The environment of the birth home probably does not compare to my home life now,” Matthew said. “My parents are unique and probably not anything like my birth parents.”