- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

Steven Curtis Chapman says he never imagined he would adopt two girls from China. The Grammy Award-winning singer already had three children with his wife, Mary Beth. However, his daughter Emily, 11 at the time, wanted a baby sister. Emily, now 17, used to leave letters on her parents’ bed at night, explaining how she believed their family needed an addition.

She eventually wore down her parents. In March 2000, the family traveled to China to meet their first adopted daughter, Shaohannah Hope, who is now 4. In May, Mrs. Chapman returned to China to adopt a second daughter, Stevie Joy, who is now 11 months old.

The family also has established Shaohannah’s Hope, a nonprofit foundation based in McLean that provides information and assistance to people who want to adopt but lack the financial resources.

“I use the word ‘miraculous’ many times when I talk about adoption, because it really is the most incredible miracle that I’ve ever had the privilege to experience firsthand,” Mr. Chapman says. “Every part of it is a miracle.”

Mr. Chapman, known for his contemporary Christian music, will perform tonight at the Angels in Adoption Awards presentation, sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. The ceremony will take place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Northwest.

The nonprofit organization will honor 165 individuals from throughout the nation who have been selected by members of Congress for their extraordinary work in adoption.

The group also will present its national awards for leaders in the field. This year, actor Bruce Willis and boxing champion Muhammad Ali and his wife, Lonnie, will receive the honor. Past recipients include Mr. Chapman; Wendy’s restaurant founder Dave Thomas; comedienne Rosie O’Donnell; and Antwone Fisher, whose life story was portrayed in a 2002 film starring Denzel Washington.

Despite the example of these individuals, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, said she is concerned that the government isn’t doing its part in facilitating adoptions. She says it fails to adequately match children with families that want to adopt. She said she hopes the Angels in Adoption Awards raise awareness for the cause.

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute says more than 550,000 children are in foster care in the United States, with more than 120,000 of them in immediate need of a home. There are an estimated 30 million orphans worldwide.

Mrs. Landrieu and her husband, Frank Snellings, have two adopted children, Connor and Mary Shannon.

“All children are adoptable,” she says. “There is no such thing as an unwanted child. There are unfound families.”

Even deprived children who come from institutional settings can be transformed into healthy individuals, says Ronald Steven Federici, director of Neuropsychological and Family Therapy Associates in Alexandria. He has developed programs to deinstitutionalize children who have lived in abusive settings.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, nominated Mr. Federici for recognition at tonight’s dinner.

“I have been in every sewer in Romania,” Mr. Federici says. “I have a pure understanding of what these children have been through. … Hard work and dedicated families bring the kids out of it.”

Through Care for Children International in Alexandria, an aid organization Mr. Federici founded, he is commissioned to design new living conditions for children in terrible situations. He has set up projects in Romania, Russia, the Republic of Georgia, China and Poland. During his time abroad, he has adopted children from Russia, Romania and Belarus.

“I always believed that adoption was an outstanding option,” he says. “I wanted to help the most hopeless kids, who had the least chance of being adopted. I also wanted to prove a lot of people wrong, that you can fix a lot of damage. You can rehabilitate and bring them to a productive life.”

Since some women put off having children to focus on their careers, adoption gives couples another option, says Dr. Patrick Mason, director of the International Adoption Center in Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children.

Dr. Mason offers pre-adoptive and post-adoptive services and parenting classes. He encourages families to obtain as much information as possible about the circumstances from which their adopted children came. Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, nominated Dr. Mason for recognition at tonight’s ceremony.

“The families that go through international adoption are generally very satisfied,” Dr. Mason says. “I’ve seen many children who are doing wonderful. They are doing so much better than if they were left in an orphanage.”

Although adopted children obviously benefit from having loving parents, recording artist Geoff Moore says, he has yet to meet adults with enlarged families who don’t feel that they got the better end of the deal.

He says he was reluctant at first to commit time and energy to the adoption process. But the encouragement of Mr. and Mrs. Chapman made him reconsider. Mr. Moore and his wife, Jan, were inspired after reading Karen Evans’ book “The Lost Daughters of China,” which documents the effects of that country’s “one child” population-control policy.

After realizing that many children in China grow up without family, Mr. Moore and his wife decided to adopt two girls, Anna Grace, who is now 2, and Ashley Rose, now 11 months old. They also have two biological children, Josh, 15, and Justin, 13. Mr. Moore will perform for the award recipients this evening.

“Adopting was as profound as any experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he says. “As a Christian … I’ve come to believe that God is in the adoption business. … If there’s one cause where people from different political and religious persuasions come together under a very common banner, this would be it. It’s exciting to see people working together to try to help so many kids in need.”

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