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A Family from the Web

"Thirteen-year-old Jaimee Zook found two children while surfing the Internet who may become her brother and sister someday.With their mother's help, Jaimee and her 9-year-old brother Jordan have started a fund raiser to bring two Bulgarian orphans to their Oak Harbor home.If successful, the local family will be joining in a national trend that is changing the way adoption is done: Using the free-flow of information on the Internet to find and adopt orphaned children across the world.For the Zooks, it's not an idea that comes out of nowhere. Darcy Zook said she and her two children have been looking into foreign adoption for about four years. She runs her family in an unusually democratic way, giving her kids say in such major family decisions. The family was first inspired by a TV news report that showed the shocking condition in Chinese orphanages crowded with abandoned infant girls. Jaimee and Jordan offered to give their Christmas toys back if they could bring one of those children home. 'Can we get one?' was their actual question, she said. They were a lot younger back then.Darcy was swayed by their altruism, but found the high costs and red tape were roadblocks for the family. Although things have since changed, Darcy said the Chinese government wouldn't allow single parents to adopt back then, and she's a widow.Enter the Internet. Jaimee, the computer whiz in the family, was able to search orphanages and adoption centers around the world with her PC. She looked at places like Ethiopia and Haiti, but found that Bulgaria has the easiest road for foreign adopters.When she found the photographs of five-year-old Lyubka and nine-year-old Alexander through on-line adoption center Wasatch International Adoption, the search was over.We fell in love with the kids, Darcy said, and decided we were going for it.But then little Jordan got sick from a chronic intestinal problem and spent four months going back and forth to Seattle hospitals for treatment. With her savings depleted by medical bills, Darcy nearly gave up on the two children so far away in Bulgaria. But her kids wouldn't let her. She said Jaimee and Jordan came to her with a coffee can full money they had saved for a trip to Disneyland - all the money they have - and begged her to adopt the children.It was an offer she couldn't refuse, but the kid's money isn't enough. Under Bulgarian law, she has to travel to the orphanages for three days to meet the children. She will return home to complete about four months worth of paperwork, then make a final trip to Bulgaria to pick up the children.To pay for the trips, the family has been selling suckers in front of Wal-Mart and plans to have car washes next to Ennen's. Darcy said she opened a back account under the name A Forever Family at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union for donations.The Internet made the connection possible: The fate of the two children now rests on how many suckers a family of strangers thousands of miles away can sell over the next few months and how generous the people of a community they've never heard of can be.If the Zooks aren't able to adopt Lyubka and Alexander, Darcy said it's unlikely the children will ever have a family of their own. Most people looking to adopt, she said, simply don't want older children.Yet it won't be easy if they do make it to Oak Harbor. Neither of the children speak English, and Lyubka has stopped talking because of some kind of trauma.Having new children in the family, though, won't be a new experience for Jaimee and Jordan. Darcy is a trained special education teacher and has been a respite care provider for years. She's taken five different children, all girls, into her family over the years. She said the girls, many of whom were ill or had disorders, were having trouble at home and lived with the many for up to six years at a time.Darcy's love for children, especially children in unhappy situations, goes back to her own children. She was an adopted child who dreamed of starting her own orphanage to help other children.Some things never change. If I had a million dollars I would adopt 20 of these children, she said. Really I would.To helpTo help the Zook family adopt two Bulgarian orphans, donations can be made to A Forever Family account at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union. For more information contact Darcy Zook at 675-7151 or Angela Benjamin at 279-9737. Zook can also be reached through email at werzooks@whidbey.net.While the Internet posting of orphaned children who are up for adoption has brought both criticism and support from child advocates, it's a method that is widely used and has matched many orphans around the world with families.It started in 1994 when a homemaker in Waco, Texas, created a photo-listing of orphaned children on her own Web site, with contact information about the orphanages holding each child.Since then, most major adoption agencies across the world have set up their own sites with photolistings, according to a March 18, 1996, article from USA Today.The Internet makes both foreign and domestic adoption and the process involved accessible to a much wider group of people, many of whom previously could not afford it, were misinformed or simply were not inspired by a photograph of a real child.Oak Harbor resident Darcy Zook and her two children are trying to raise funds to adopt two Bulgarian orphans they found on the Internet. Without the tool, she said foreign adoption may not have been an option for the family.On the other hand, the abundance of information on the Internet also makes the adoption process seem a little like a shopping trip. Looking through the lists of children, Zook said, is like looking at real estate listings.The sites, like www.precious.org, list hundreds of children by identification number or by their first name. The kids are often grouped by their countries of origin.When you click on a name or number on the list, you get a photograph of a child and a short biography. The site rarely explains how the child came to be orphaned. Instead, it has a brief description of the child's personality and whether he or she has any physical or mental disabilities.Here are some Web sites with photolistings or adoption information:www.angels-haven.comwww.achildshope.orgwww.abcadoptions.comwww.adopting.comwww.africancradle.com"

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