Baby Flights Welcomed
The Daily Oklahoman
Author: Kelly Dyer
David Reed paces the floor. His wife, Becky, bites her lip and tries to steady her fidgety hands. Richard Giroux waits solemnly.
American Airlines Flight 179 glides to a stop outside the airport window. Faces tense and eyes dart toward the doorway.
Countless people stroll down the jetway carrying suitcases, tote bags and magazines. As more and more passengers saunter through the door, Mrs. Reed stands, then sits, then stands. . . .
Suddenly shouts of ""Here they come,'' and ""I see them'' sing out like a playground chant. More than 25 men, women and children crowd toward the gate.
The babies are here.
""Which one is ours?'' asks Mrs. Reed. ""Get ready, honey, to take her,'' she says with a soft elbow in her husband's rib cage.
Giroux walks over to his wife, who has escorted the babies from Chicago. He takes their new daughter into his arms.
""She's a finger sucker,'' says Mrs. Giroux in a tired voice.
A long journey for two Korean infants has ended. They are home.
This airport scenario is becoming common as more and more hopeful couples opt for intercountry adoption. Some are tired of the long waiting lists necessary for adoption of an American-born child. Others cannot afford the often high cost of private adoption.
Meanwhile, in Korea, many babies are born to unwed mothers. The illegitimate infants face a life of deprivation _ shunned by the Korean society.
But the hope for those children is that they might just be a ""Dillon baby.''
A ""Dillon baby'' is a lucky child. At a young age they have two close friends and protectors _ Jerry and Deniese Dillon of Tulsa.
The Dillons founded Dillon International, Inc. Mrs. Dillon estimated that the adoption agency has placed ""close to 2,900'' Korean children in American homes since 1973.
She said ""probably 97 percent'' of the children are under one year old, but they have placed children up to 13 years of age.
The Dillons chose Korea for intercountry adoption after visiting the country.
""We were impressed with the integrity of the people,'' Mrs. Dillon said. Also, ""poverty is very real in Korea.''
Parents are young, she explained, and the number of illegitimate babies is extremely high.
""We don't encourage moothers to give up their babies,'' she said, but many of the young mothers cannot afford to rear their children.
So, in Korea there is a surplus of illegitimate babies _ in America there is a surplus of couples eager to adopt. Reasons for wanting to adopt are diverse and numerous. Some couples are unable to bear children _ others enjoy parenting.
The Dillon agency has a role not only in adoption but in parenting, too.
They counsel each couple intensely before an adoption is completed. They have formed a network of couples helping one another. They prepare parents for possible reactions and prejudices.
The Dillons encourage adopting parents to let their new children keep their Korean heritage. Mrs. Dillon feels the children will always look Korean, so they should learn about their country of origin.
The Dillons suggest that parents tell their children they were loved by their biological mother but she wanted a better life for them, so she let them come to America _ a place with better opportunities.
Joanna and Michael Smith, Oklahoma City, don't totally agree with that philosophy. They have a 17-month-old Korean daughter, Molly Sil. Mrs. Smith said when Molly is old enough to understand, she will be told that her mother could not afford to keep her.
Telling a child that her mother loved her so much she gave her away ""just doesn't equate,'' said Mrs. Smith.
The Smiths want Molly to learn about Korea. ""We may go back someday to see what the whole Korean culture is like.''
Though the Smiths disagree with that particular Dillon theory, they have high praise for Mr. and Mrs. Dillon. ""They were just tremendous.''
Mr. and Mrs. Smith, like many other adopting couples, still go to the airport occasionally to watch couples like the Reeds and Girouxes pick up their new Korean children.
When all the airport excitement comes to an end, the new parents have many adjustments to make. In the Korean culture, Mrs. Dillon said, babies are not allowed to cry for any length of time. So the infants are accustomed to being held continuously. The new American parents may not have time to hold the child continuously, so the entire family has some changes ahead.
Also, infants in Korea sleep with the entire family on the floor in one room. A private nursery and a crib is a new experience for the baby.
After a few weeks at home, Mrs. Reed, of Chickasha, reported that their new daughter, Ginnie Lee, has been sleeping soundly all night in her crib.
The Reed family has adjusted well. ""It's been like she's been mine all along. I don't think of her being different anymore,'' said Mrs. Reed.
Recently, Mrs. Reed said, an Oriental visitor came to her home and she feared that Ginnie would be attracted to the visitor more than to her ""new mom.'' But she wasn't _ ""she's just a great baby,'' boasted Mrs. Reed.
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Giroux reported that all is well in their Duncan home too. ""She sure made herself at home,'' said Mrs. Giroux with a giggle.
Tamara Lyn Sun Giroux sleeps throughout the night in her crib.
Mr. and Mrs. Giroux have a biological son, Dawayne, 8.
""He accepted her really well,'' said Mrs. Giroux. She added that their whole community, for the most part, accepts the latest addition to the Giroux family.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Giroux said, she has heard some negative feedback. ""We just ignore the comments.''
She said they were the only family in Duncan with a Korean child but, ""others are already inquiring.''
Mrs. Giroux said she and her husband are planning to adopt another child in ""about a year. We're going Korean again.''
Though interracial adoption may cause problems within the family or community, Mrs. Giroux, a Caucasian, said she has no prejudices.
""I would adopt a black child if it would be accepted _ but it wouldn't in Duncan.''
Mrs. Smith, also Caucasian, said she would adopt a black child but, like Mrs. Giroux, fears social reactions and prejudices.
Mrs. Smith said her father-in-law participated in the Korean War. Before his new granddaughter arrived he had a few reservations about the adoption, she said. But now that Molly is here, Mrs. Smith said, he is proud and accepts her.
The adopting parents must be well prepared to deal with prejudices and problems. Mrs. Dillon said sometimes, less than one percent of the time, a baby is returned to the agency.
The reasons may have to do with prejudices or possibly that the parental bond just did not form. Mrs. Dillon explained that bonding is a ""magical kind of thing.''
Though it is tragic for a child to be returned, it may be for the best, Mrs. Dillon said. The agency lists families who may want a second-placement child. ""Some families have asked specifically to be a replacement family.''
When the Dillons observe a special couple they believe may be capable of adopting a hard-to-place child, they inform the couple about American children in need of homes, too.
""Our priority is still the local child,'' she explained.
The ""local child'' is top priority in Korea, too. The Korean government has compiled a long list of regulations for the American-based adoption agencies to abide by. Recently, it mandated that a child must be adopted in the same state as the agency where it is placed.
The Dillons can only place children where they have offices _ Oklahoma, Texas and New York.
Mrs. Dillon said that when they began working with the Korean government they agreed with most of their stipulations. ""We built in extra safeguards,'' she added.
""We look at everything,'' she said. A home study is done, financial resources checked and extensive interviews carried out. The initial application is long and in depth. ""We take applications from everyone.''
Adopting parents must be at least 25 years of age and married. Mrs. Dillon said the Korean regulations prohibit single-parent adoptions.
Cost of adopting a Korean infant is ""about $4,000,'' she said. The price includes transportation fees from Korea. The adopting parents can request a son, daughter, siblings, twins or triplets. The Dillons do their best to meet requests. Mrs. Dillon said after the initial application, from nine to 11 months is necessary for delivery.
The Dillon philosophy is to find a good family for a child _ not find a child for a family.
When the babies arrive they have Korean names. The Reed baby was Hee Jin Lee. Her new parents chose to keep part of her Korean name, Lee, and change Jin to Ginnie. The Giroux baby was named Sun Hee Shin and is now Tamara Lynn Sun. Molly Smith's parents kept Sil, her original name, for her middle name.
Like all new parents, selecting a name is difficult. And, as with all parents, rearing children is no easy task.
Mrs. Smith said, ""I hope when Molly has questions we'll be able to talk.'' She added her thoughts on the adoption of her daughter _ ""Her being Korean in culture does not make her any less ours.''