- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

An Alaska couple who have cared for more than 700 foster children were named “Parents of the Year” at a Capitol Hill ceremony yesterday.

Gordon and Bonnie Lange, married for 34 years with three children of their own, have adopted four other children while also caring for hundreds of additional children with medical problems.

“I just love kids,” said Mrs. Lange, adding that she and her husband — now also grandparents — also raised their niece from the age of 10 until she was grown.

The Langes were honored along with five other couples yesterday by the National Parents’ Day Council in advance of Sunday’s observance of National Parents’ Day.

Mr. Lange, a computer technician, and his wife said they became interested in foster parenting because Mrs. Lange’s cousin was a foster parent.

“We went into it together, as a family,” Mrs. Lange said.

As years went by, she said, the couple found themselves increasingly caring for children with medical problems.

“It’s getting more and more, because they’re bringing these children out of hospitals now, where it used to be they were in hospitals or institutions. And then the increase in [pregnant women using] drugs and alcohol, that’s causing a lot more of the medical problems that they didn’t have years ago,” she said.

In 1982, the Langes took in their first child with severe medical problems, a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome who died of respiratory illness in 1984.

“It was from him that we sat down as a family and decided that we wanted to continue to take children like him,” Mrs. Lange said.

The couple were “shocked” earlier this year when they learned they had been chosen National Parents of the Year, said Mrs. Lange, who described the “ongoing learning experience” of raising so many children.

“Every child’s different,” she said. “Now we’ve raised part of our family and we have grandchildren now. So we’re dealing with being parents and grandparents. And we’re still raising our adopted children at home.”

It was an experience the couple never imagined when they married in 1969.

“We had no idea we’d be where we are today,” Mrs. Lange said. “We didn’t plan on adopting when we got into foster care. It just happened.”

Also honored in yesterday’s ceremony were five couples who received “Excellence in Parenting” awards:

• Vincent and Anni Beach have been married for 43 years. The interracial couple have helped children overcome racial prejudices while caring for Navajo children on the reservation in Chandler, Ariz.

• Chinese immigrants Dr. J. Wey and Sue Chen have raised two children while serving in leadership of Chinese-American organizations.

• Isa and Hadiza Wada, Muslim immigrants from Nigeria, have been married for 22 years and raised five children while earning advanced degrees at American universities.

• Robert and Marguerite Steele have developed community programs to combat racial tensions in their hometown of Xenia, Ohio.

• The Rev. Lionel and Margaret Etwaru, immigrants from Guyana, have been married for 26 years. Mr. Etwaru leads a Christian organization that does humanitarian work in 68 nations.

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