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Published Friday May 15th, 2009 at 5:55pm

Original Article by Ken Camp

When family members gather to celebrate holidays and birthdays of 4-year-old Evelyn Rose and her 2-year-old brother, Daniel, reunions include multiple grandparents, aunts, uncles, Dad—and potentially three mothers.

Although Brian and Kara Rose of Houston were at the hospital when both Evelyn and Daniel were born, the children didn't become theirs until their biological mothers signed the necessary legal documents and then placed them in the arms of the adoptive parents during an entrustment ceremony.

But the Roses chose open adoption—an option that provides their children ongoing contact not only with their birth mothers, but also with their biological grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Kara Rose and her children, 4-year-old Evelyn and 2-year-old Daniel, enjoy the clowns and face-painting that were part of a recent Buckner-sponsored event in Dallas for adoptive families--including extended birth families who stay connected to the children through open adoption.

"When we get together, there's something we all have in common—love for those two children," Kara Rose said. "Anybody who loves my kids is special to me."

Brian Rose recalled that when he and his future wife met through the singles ministry at First Baptist Church in Houston and began dating, they realized quickly they were a good match and likely to marry.

So, the two had what he called "a pretty serious, profound discussion early on" about their desire for a family. That conversation included the fact that she was a survivor of early childhood cancer, and the aggressive treatment used to fight the lymphoma left her infertile.

After they married, the Roses investigated several adoption agencies before deciding on Buckner Foster Care & Adoption Services.

"We liked the fact that Buckner is openly and overtly Christian," said Rose, a Baylor Law School graduate and assistant district attorney in Harris County. "We also were impressed by the professionalism of the staff, the fact that they are experienced and the assurance that Buckner is a stable organization with a proven record."

Early in the process, Mrs. Rose said, they were introduced to the concept of the adoption triad—birth parents, child and adoptive parents.

"The question was asked, 'Who is the most important person?' Of course, that's the child. Then came the questions: 'What is lost by the child who is adopted?' and 'How can those losses be alleviated or eliminated?'"

As the Roses looked at what an adopted child stood to lose—family history, a sense of identity, medical information and relationships with extended family—they realized many of those issues could be resolved by open adoption. Even so, it took awhile for them to reach that conclusion.

"Adoption, in my mind, meant never having any contact with birth parents and being transplanted into a new family. When we were introduced to the concept of open adoption, I had never heard anything like it, and initially it did not hit my ears as good news," Rose recalled.

"But I grew up with a very close relationship with my grandparents, and the argument in favor of open adoption that really swayed me was, 'Why strip away the child's relationship with grandparents?'"

Close Relationship

The Roses' children have maintained a close relationship with their birth grandparents, as well as other family. Mrs. Rose calls the birth mothers of her two children "the most selfless people I've ever met."

When Daniel's birth mother, Laura Lemke, discovered she was pregnant during the second semester of her senior year in high school, it took everyone by surprise—her parents, members of her church and, most of all, her.

"I was raised in a loving Christian family as one of five kids. I never would have seen myself in that position," she said.

As she looked at the options before her, she immediately ruled out terminating the pregnancy. Faced with a choice between parenting or placement, she finally concluded she would not be able as a single parent to offer everything she wanted her child to have—particularly a stay-at-home mother in his early years.

"I wanted what's best for him. More than anything, I knew if I tried to parent him myself, I would have to quit school and go out to get a job, and I didn't want him to be raised in daycare," she said.

When she decided to place her child through Buckner and learned about open adoption, it seemed the best approach. "I couldn't imagine placing my child and not seeing him for 18 years," she said.

Extended Families

In the last two years since the Roses adopted Daniel, Lemke said, she has been able to visit him at least 20 times.

"Sure, there still are losses. I'm not there every minute of his life. I saw him take some early steps, but I wasn't there for his first step. I'll be there for some of his ballgames, but I won't be there for every game," said Lemke, a student at Baylor University's Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas.

"But I want what's best for Daniel, and I know he's in good hands. I try not to think about the 'what if's. I wouldn't change my decision."

The Roses also have stayed in close contact with Evelyn's birth mother, Liz, and her extended biological family. Although her recent move from Plano to California will mean less-frequent visits, "technology makes it easier," Mrs. Rose said, noting they anticipate frequent phone calls and e-mails.

Regarding the extended birth families, Rose acknowledged there was "initially some understandable awkwardness. There was some tension the first time we got together. Everybody was on pins and needles. It was a pretty sensitive meeting."

But in time, the families grew to know, trust and love each other. "When we get together now, it's not some awkward, stiff, required meeting. We show up and have a party," he said.

"We love our birth families. We look forward to being around them. You generally don't get to choose family. You don't get to pick your parents. But in some ways, we picked them. We chose each other."

Because they chose open adoption, Mrs. Rose believes her children benefit from the love and prayers offered by people they consider "extended family" now—not only their own biological mother, grandparents, aunt and uncles, but also those of an adoptive sibling.

"Some people think of adoption as being like a divorce, but in our case, it's more like a marriage. These are people who knew and loved our children before we even knew of their existence. They have become part of our family, too," she said.

The Roses have initiated the process at Buckner to adopt another child. And Mrs. Rose noted they look forward to seeing their family grow by more than just one member.

"Our family grows exponentially with each child," she said.