By Latoya Burgess
Raising kids is never an easy job. But for the parents of adopted children, the job can sometimes be even harder.
Cherish Adoptive Families, a Coral Gables, Fla.,-based nonprofit group, tries to help these families by offering support and advice.
The group was started 20 years ago by an infertility support group of parents who ultimately chose to adopt.
Cherish President Jeanne Becker, who has an adopted 13-year old son, has some tips to offer other parents of adopted teens.
"The best advice I can give as a mother is to be open and honest with your teen," Becker said. "The questions could be about school, growing up or adoption. You never know, so be ready and be patient."
Becker says Cherish provides its members with many informational programs that educate families about diverse topics.
Group member Lily Rodriguez says she uses Cherish as a tool to educate others.
"There is still a stigma attached to adoption. I want to put an end to misconception and ignorance," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who is Cuban American, and her Irish-American husband adopted an African-American baby girl in 2007.
The 40-year-old says she believes Cherish is the key to making adoption less taboo.
"People ask me if I'm a nanny or if I'm babysitting, I have more problems with black people than white people," she said "My hair-dresser is black and she does my daughter's hair. I do the best I can."
The group tackles different subjects at each meeting from international adoption trends to dealing with adoption in the classroom.
Cherish's next meeting in May will teach potential adoptive parents how to do a home study, the document needed to begin the adoption process.
Terilee Wunderman, who has two adopted children who are now adults, was invited to speak at a recent Cherish meeting about the ways adopted teens can deal with cross-cultural adoptions, better communicate with their families and how adoption can affect social relationships with peers, parents and siblings.
"In an adoptive family, sometimes questions may arise during the teenage years related to heritage and background of both the teenager and adoptive parents and how it relates to both the teenagers' sense of identity as well as the family as a whole," Wunderman said.
Becker says Wunderman has hosted Cherish's meetings in the past, saying the psychologist "knows her stuff. She's a therapist and she has been through it with her own two kids."
Wunderman says adopting a child as an infant is different from adopting a teenager.
"It can be less challenging because the child hasn't experienced multiple placements or multiple losses as might be the case when adopting a preteen or teen who has moved from foster homes or group homes," Wunderman said.
Cherish currently has 100 official members and a mailing list of 400 people inquiring about the group and its benefits.
"We are a small group. We haven't met as often as we'd like, but now we are trying to have meetings every two to three months," Becker said.
Becker says every year Cherish celebrates National Adoption Day on Nov. 21, and hosts a summer picnic where adopted kids meet with other adopted children, something group member and adoptive parent Robertson Adams looks forward to.
"It is important to gain adoptive family support. Networking is really valuable," Adams said.
Adams, who adopted his daughter from Kazakhstan nearly four years ago, says he is looking forward to hearingWunderman speak at this month's meeting, but the 43-year-old says he has no worries about his daughter becoming a teenager.
"I have a bigger problem with age," Adams said. "When my daughter is in high school and I'm the oldest parent at the basketball games."
For more information, call 305-444-2181 or go to www.cherishadoptivefamilies.org.