THE NASONS' `CELEBRATION FAMILY' -- ITS RISE, FALL

Date: 1992-09-21

Author: GORDON OLIVER - of the Oregonian Staff

Summary: After 25 years and 82 children, allegations of child abuse bring about a disintegration

Dennis and Diane Nason created Oregon's largest family, with more children than perhaps any parents could manage, with the assistance of countless institutions as well as the lax regulations that make Oregon a wide open state for private adoptions.

The self-described ``Celebration Family'' -- which during 25 years numbered 82 children and once included 64 at home -- fell apart in January amid allegations of child abuse.

The children, many of them foreign-born, split into feuding camps to testify in Juvenile Court for or against the parents who raised them. The Nasons viewed the custody hearing as a family ``civil war,'' said their attorney, Tim Vanagas. Some children received death threats.

The bitter court sessions involving the status of 12 Nason children ended 11 days ago, midway through the state's case against the Nasons and before the couple had presented their defense.

Deschutes County Circuit Judge Thomas Mosgrove announced that lawyers had reached a voluntary settlement, but he ordered that the terms remain secret.

Sources close to the case, however, said Thursday that two teen-agers who have lived with their parents while in CSD protective custody would remain in the family home. Both are biological children of the Nasons. Another Nason biological son, age 12, and a 2-year-old adopted grandson have not returned home, as requested by the Nasons. Eight adopted children who were taken from the Nasons in January will remain in foster care, according to the sources.

Other children who lived with the Nasons during the last 25 years have been adopted by other families or are living in group homes or institutions. Some are adults. Nine of the children have died over the years, either under the Nasons' care or after leaving their home. Not all the children were legally adopted -- due to inadequate paperwork in their birth countries, according to the Nasons' lawyer -- and many were seriously ill when they arrived.

In court testimony, one Nason child said his parents had failed to get medical care for two children who died years ago of a rare childhood disease. Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan said he would investigate those deaths.

The story of the rise and fall of the Nason family is a troubling one.

``It's a heartbreaking human interest story that we all hope does not recur in the state of Oregon,'' said David Beebe, regional director for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. ``It's like an airliner going down. They don't go down very often, but when they do it makes you forget about all the deaths of one or two people on the highway.''

In the family's heyday, the Nasons could turn to many people and institutions for help. Sen. Mark Hatfield and other politicians cut paperwork and even passed legislation to help the Nasons bring in more foreign-born chldren. Some were ``throwaways'' who had no homes and came without paperwork necessary to complete adoptions. They stayed with the Nasons anyway.

- Assistance plentiful
Supporters, including many affiliated with churches that shared the Nasons' religious values, sent money, food and clothing for the children. Assistance was plentiful enough to allow Dennis Nason to quit his job as Sisters postmaster.

Adoption agencies in the United States and overseas were willing to fill the couple's boundless desire for children. Children adopted abroad simply entered the country with their new parents, without legal involvement of U.S. courts. As the Nasons adopted dozens of ildren through U.S. agencies or private arrangements with lawyers or birth mothers, the state Children's Services Division hewed to its standard practice of allowing private social workers to inspect the Nason home.

In every case, the social workers wrote positive reports about the Nasons. CSD sometimes waived its required home investigations, said Karen Pierson, CSD's adoptions manager. Local judges in Jackson and Deschutes counties, where the Nasons lived as their family grew, gave their legal blessings.

News outlets ranging from ``60 Minutes'' to The Oregonian and the Bend Bulletin pictured the home as a bastion of love. The Nasons courted Christian broadcasters who reached people with the religious values they espoused.

- Show lends clout
``The whole thing escalated when they were on `60 Minutes,' '' said Brad Mulvihill, director of the Deschutes County Juvenile Department. ``They gathered a lot of clout. Any time CSD would make inquiries, the Nasons would go on the offense, and that caused (CSD) to back off.''

The Nasons, whose brood included six biological children, say they adopted children out of a religious zeal to help the world's needy. Both have lived in Oregon most of their lives, and the state was the right place for carrying out their vision. ``Oregon is considered one of the wide-open states,'' said Pierson of the CSD.

The state requires that CSD and local judges review and approve private adoptions, but only after paperwork is completed and the children already are in their new homes.reject a private adoption after a positive home study, since such a rejection would obviously disrupt the adoptive family, Pierson said.

The Nasons ran into few stumbling blocks as their family expanded to the size of some neighborhoods. By 1975, the Nason family had grown to eight children - three biological and five adopted, three of those placed by CSD. But, at that point, CSD stopped placing kids with the Nasons because it judged the family large enough.

The couple turned to Catholic Services for help in obtaining two sisters from New York City, according to a book about the family co-written by Diane Nason. A social worker opposed the placement, despite her respect for the family, because the Nasons already had so many children. But the agency's board overruled the decision and allowed the Nasons to adopt because of the positive attributes cited by the caseworker.

Two years later, the Nasons sought to adopt a disabled Salvadoran boy. Federal law then allowed only two foreign adoptions per family, and the Nasons already had two children from Vietnam. Hatfield, Sen. Bob Packwood and former U.S. Rep. Jim Weaver introduced special legislation to end the two-child limit. Hatfield smoothed the way for the Salvadoran adoption, and the two-child limit was lifted in 1980.

- Obstacles ignored
Such obstacles barely slowed the Nasons. For the most part, they were able to expand their family with little official challenge. No flags went up.

The family reached peak size in the late 1980s, when 64 children lived in the Nasons' 33-bedroom house and filled their own private school. But a combination of marital problems, a drop in donations and Diane Nason's health problems caused the couple to take stock of their situation. In 1991, they kept 12 of their children and arranged other placements for the rest. They were preparing to move to Toutle, Wash., when CSD removed the children on abuse allegations.

The Nasons, who have not been charged with any crime, maintained their innocence during the custody hearing. They say they are victims of excessive CSD scrutiny and a pressure campaign by the state to get their chldren to testify against them.

But wherever the truth lies in this family's failure, dozens of children were lost in the middle of a storm that never flew gale warnings. And nothing today in state or federal laws would prevent a repeat ``Celebration Family'' if another couple surfaced like the Nasons. Oregon does not limit the size of anyone's family, and CSD's proposals to restrict private adoptions stalled in the 1991 Legislature. A proposal to require home inspections and interviews before adoption, rather than after, died in committee.

Nationally, Pierson says, eight states prohibit private adoptions and 13 require an adoptive home to be studied before a child may be placed through private adoption. Pierson would like Oregon to follow those states in requiring a pre-adoption assessment.

Beebe, however, thinks current regulations work most of the time.

``There are checks and balances in the system,'' he said. ``How many Nason family scenarios do we ever see out there in the community?''

0

The kids from the family

Hi, my name is william and i lived at the nason house for 12 years and I am going to fine the kids from this family . I am doing this because it wasnt are falt that we had to split up. I live back in Bend oregon agian and drive by the house some times. I and 30 years old and worrk at lowes in bend. So if anyone wants a story please email me and week can sit down a talk about it . i think that it is bull shit that they only got 30 days each in jail. they should spent the rest of there life i n jail. what they did was wrong amnd they got away with it . that seys a lot about the system. starve the kids and bet them its ok .

My name is Darin and I am

My name is Darin and I am happy to here that you are O.K. And living alright.I love in Missouri now and am looking forward to your letter.I can say that you were right and the things that happened in that house were unfounded and wrong,and they were the luckiest people I know.You should be proud of yourself that you are working and have a life to talk about and live to tell your future children.the world is not a bad place and you can make it better with your good heart,I believe in you and will pray for your letter.For the people in Sisters and Bend,(And this means you Mr. And Mrs. Nason)this is to tell you that for all the stuff you all put the kids in that family told you and you did nothing but ridicule we are better off without your help and faux support.The tables have turned for me and I am happier for it,And I am sure all those kids are better off without CSD or the Nasons.You all knew that there were too many kids in that house,you know they beat those kids and if I had made it to the stand 6 month would have been the last option they would have got.I got dirt on this and have been holding it for years along with other things that have hapowned to me since.The State of Oregon is a beautiful place,but I really miss New York, and I thank you for having me.I will miss the Three Sisters and the clean air, I will also miss the people who helped me and looked after me all that time I was fighting this.To all the people I hurt, I am sorry that all this happened and pray for your forgiveness,I am learning to grow up and be a real man. ThAnk you for your time,I send love to the Northwest in Seattle and Portland. Darin

Nason kids

Oh my God, I rememer you darin, and I can't beleave this. I am glad you are ok and going great. If you want to get a hokd of me here is my email - williamnorquist@hotmail.com. Please get a hold of me, I would like to stay in contact with you. This is for the paper. If there is anyone else from the family that comments on here then that should tell you something, and you can help me look for more kids by putting something in the paper about this. please. this means a lot to me thank and you now were to write me back. ps I WILL NOT GIVE UP WILLIAM NORQUIST

Hi Darin

My name is Roy Brinker and I am from Israel.
Few weeks ago I found out that I have a twin sister that has a down syndrome that was adopted by Nason family at 1986.
Her name before the adoption was Lee Brinker and I think her name now is Kamera Lorilla Nason.
If you know anything or any information or someone to speak please let me know. my email address is brinkerr@gmail.com and my phone number is +972543970283.

Thanks a lot!!!!!
Its very important for me so please please help me if you can...

Hi Darin this is Tes

Hi Darin this is Tes (Theresa) how I have thought of you often, I am not sure that you remember me, I believed you lived with me for a moment in SE Portland. Do you talk to you twin Dorelle? at all. Do you keep in contact with her? I am from New York and I have to say, I always love to go back home. I am still in Portland. I am so glad to hear that you are doing well and I know that you suffered at the hands of the Nasons but I glad that didn't get your spirit. I am happy for you and keep you in my prayers. My prayer is much success will come your way? If you want to talk, please contact me on my email tes@theulgroup.com.

truth of the nason family

they the state and nasons got by with murder, call me at 541-350-4648

Hi William

My name is Roy Brinker and I am from Israel.
Few weeks ago I found out that I have a twin sister that has a down syndrome that was adopted by Nason family at 1986.
Her name before the adoption was Lee Brinker and I think her name now is Kamera Lorilla Nason.
If you know anything or any information or someone to speak please let me know my email address is brinkerr@gmail.com and my phone number is +972543970283.

Thanks a lot!!!!!
Its very important for me so please please help me if you can...

I was a foster child in Adel

I was a foster child in Adel Oregon in 1986/87 my foster parents took the family to visit with you all! I am so AMAZED AT THE STRENGTH YOU ALL HAD/HAVE!! I am now 33 I was 6 or 7 years old at the time. I remember having south playing with so many & the many amazing talents!!! I got very close to two girls who did not have arms & the were sewing doll clothes!! I just want to let you all know I think of you & have told stories of the fun I had!! I'm so sorry to hear of the pain many endured! It is hard to be a foster child an adoptive child, a child torn from what you know as home... I know my brothers and sisters wre torn apart and separated. I just found one brother after searching 27 years & found out my mom died when I was 17. I wish the best to you all!!!! Much love!
Melissa <3

Nasons

Hello Melissa, I was curios to know if You remember meeting a Child in THE Nason Home named Clifford? He was a Korean, about 3 or 4 at that time. I have had contact with Someone from there recently.

Nason Family

Hello William, I just came across this site a few minutes ago. I have been looking up information on the Nasons as because I have Adopted One of the Children that was found in their home. So excited to come across this message of yours. I do not believe that it is a coincidence. I am very anxious to talk with you if you can give me some time. I have lots to share with you.

Nason Children

Hi I was one of the Nason's children, I was adopted in 75 and left in 83, but was around sisters, OR until 87. Which one of the Nason children did you adopted? I can be reached at tes@theulgroup.com.

Tes

Grew up in the Nason house

I'm Stephanie. I grew up in the Nason house from 1 to 4. I was little so don't remember a lot of people, but I've always wanted to know more of the older children because I believe they protected me and took care of me. Please if you are one of them get in contact with me!!!! :)

Pound Pup Legacy