Earlier this summer Sandra Bullock made headlines not only because of her announcement about her pending divorce, but also because of her revelation that she has adopted a son. While this may be a novelty for many people, some non-celebrity parents have already blazed the trail of adoption for Ms. Bullock – not only for trans-racial adoption, but for single parent adoption, as well.
One such mom is Denise Bertoncino of Pittsburg, KS. Denise, who teaches at Pittsburg State University, is a single parent to two African-American children, Jack and Eve. Denise always dreamed of being a mom, and several years ago decided to act on that desire. Initially Denise considered adopting from Russia because they allowed single-parent adoptions, but found herself altering her plans when she learned of a birth mother who was looking for an adoptive family for her unborn baby. After exchanging information, the two mothers agreed to the adoption and worked privately with an attorney in order to legalize the adoption agreement
At the time of Jack’s adoption, Denise was living in Fayetteville, AR, and teaching at the University of Arkansas. While the college town provided Denise and her young son ample opportunity to meet other families from many diverse backgrounds, Denise felt that the most important gift she could give her young son was the gift of family. So, she decided to move back to Pittsburg in order to provide Jack the opportunity to spend more time with his extended family. As a result, Jack was able spend more time with his grandparents and an array of cousins from around the area. However, as the only African-American member of his family, Jack longed for a closer family connection with someone who shared his cultural background. Jack made this desire known to his family, which prompted Denise to pursue another adoption in an effort to find a sibling for Jack with whom he could more closely relate to culturally. This decision led Denise to adopt Eve.
When Denise decided to adopt, the first thing she did was talk to her family about their feelings toward trans-racial adoption. She was delighted and relieved to learn that her large family was supportive not only of her decision to adopt, but also about her decision to adopt an African-American baby. Family is incredibly important to Denise, and having the positive support of her parents and siblings was vitally important to her before she made the leap into parenthood.
For Denise, the toughest part of being a single parent to two African-American children has been: being a single parent. Obviously, when one decides to parent alone, there is no one to share the work with, and sometimes there can be a lot of work to do. However, by moving to Kansas, she has allowed her children the opportunity to spend time with many members of their extended family, and these family members have in turn given Denise much-needed assistance in raising her children. Denise’s connection to her family and cultural background has led her to encourage her children’s own interest in their unique cultural background. Jack is extremely interested in Africa, and Eve has expressed an interest in her birth parents’ Jamaican heritage. Denise wants her children to be both proud and knowledgeable of their heritage, just as she is about her own Italian-American background. Already extremely well-travelled, the Bertoncino family plans to visit both Africa and Jamaica to give Jack and Eve an opportunity to explore their individual cultures more closely, just as Denise has done on her trips to Italy.
Says Denise, “I wanted a child and I didn’t care what he or she looked like. There are so many children out there without homes, I just wish more people would adopt.” With such heart-warming stories like Denise’s and Sandra Bullock’s, perhaps more people will adopt in order to give these children loving homes to call their own.