Biological or adopted, parents say ‘he’s our son’

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

Zach and Ali deVries are brother and sister bound together not by birth but by the stronger ties of family.

Their parents, the Rev. Dave deVries and his wife, Jeanne, adopted Zach as an infant three years ago through an open adoption process in Michigan and later had their first biological child, Ali.

Despite the biological difference in their children, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Natchez and his wife say they view their son and daughter the same.

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“The fact that (Zach’s) adopted doesn’t really have a lot of meaning to us,” deVries said. “He’s our son.”

Families in the Miss-Lou today are meeting the challenges of adoption and finding they, too, can be successful because love, not genetics, ties the family together. “They both came to me in the same way — I walked into a hospital room,” deVries said of his two children. “When Zach was put in my arms that was it.”

Betti Watters, director of adoption and maternity services for Catholic Charities in Mississippi has handled adoptions for more than 30 years.

She agrees love is never an issue for parents who adopt children.”The challenge for the parents is to help the adopted child understand that situation — help the child feel a good choice was made, a loving choice was made by the birth parents for him or her.”

The deVrieses adopted Zach through an open adoption — one in which the biological and adoptive parents get to know each other and stay in touch after the adoption — and deVries described the process as “so healthy for everybody.”

Yet, even with changing processes, the number of adoptions taking place has decreased in recent years.

At the start of her career, Watters said adoption agencies each dealt with hundreds of cases each year.

But during 1999, her agency only oversaw 35 adoptions, including international adoptions. Watters blames this drop on changes in society.

“Adoption is not very popular any more, unfortunately,” Watters said. “It seems to me peer pressure (from friends) and even peer pressure from the families is to keep babies today.”

Agencies no longer have trouble finding families to adopt babies. They have a hard time finding babies, Watters said.

For this reason, more couples are considering other alternatives today such as international adoptions or choosing to adopt preschoolers or toddlers, she said.

Watters said she wishes adoption was considered a more viable choice for parents unable to provide for their children.

“I wish it did not have a bad rep so to speak,” Watters said. “I wish it were (considered) a good choice.”

And like the deVries family, couples often mix adopted children with biological children either on purpose or unexpectedly.

Albert and Sophronia Hughes Jr. last year adopted three foster children ages 9, 10, 12 who had lived with them for several years.

“We don’t treat them any different, and a lot of people find that hard to believe,” Sophronia Hughes said of her newly adopted children. “A child needs to feel they are just as equal as the next child.”

The family also has two biological children and have raised another foster child, who is now an adult.”It may be hard and it may seem like you’re are not making a difference, but you are,” Hughes said.

Jeanne deVries learned she was pregnant with Ali not long after the couple had decided to adopt a second child. As ironic as the situation may sound, the couple views both children as special blessings.

“They’re both phenomenal gifts that came to us in different ways,” Dave said, who often jokes about how Zach has ironically been the easier child to raise.

“There’s never been a time when we felt Zach was adopted.” &160;