by Jane Cox PhD, ARNP

My story begins in Mishawaka, Indiana,where I was born and spent 35 formative years. As a junior nursing student at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, I became interested and pursued international adoption. I had always felt that I was a caregiver being the oldest of five children. My father had served in the Korean War and my mother had developed blindness due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Older relatives called me a “second mother” and it suited me.

Kim Min Jung, who became Amber Julia Andel, arrived to be greeted by her new forever family near Valentine’s Day in 1981. She was from South Korea and had been living with a foster mother since birth. Escorts helped transport about 30 children over on the flight. We picked her up at the airport in Detroit during a fierce snow storm. She was an adorable, active eight-month old who was naturally cautious during the first couple of days. A pale blue macramé swing was her favorite spot in the living room. It was not long, however, until she was outside enjoying her swing and sandbox.

That same year during summer, an adoption case worker called to ask if I would be interested in being a foster mother for a recently born baby. As it happened, many other potential foster parents were away on summer vacation. By the next day, she had delivered a tiny, pinkish girl to me who was only five days old! Carissa was a temporary name until she became adopted. Happily, after eight months, when I asked the case worker if I could keep her and adopt her myself, she agreed. Her name then became Ashley Elizabeth Andel and, interestingly, her daughter is now named Carissa in her honor.

Those simple, early years were blissful as we explored zoos, museums, parks and church events. When Amber was three and Ashley was two, two
more sisters joined our family. Autumn, who was 10 and Aubrey, who was two, arrived from South Koreaon Valentine’s Day of 1983. Language was difficult for about a year. Both girls were fascinated with their new siblings and made smooth transitions as time went by. Time seems to have flown by.

Autumn was the first to attend and graduate Saint Mary’s College with a degree in Fine Art. She is now a videographer who lives in Portland and enjoys traveling the world. The three younger girls each graduated from Florida colleges and have each taken their own paths in life. Amber helps me with day-to-day operations of NCH Community Home Care, Ashley is a teacher and busy raising Carissa, and Aubrey lives in San Francisco while working for an architectural firm. We all get together for the holidays and often during the year.

Over the years, I have been asked if I can recommend adoption to others. My answer is always and forever YES! Follow your heart and follow
your dreams. Open your arms and hearts to a child. Remember this poem which has become well-known among adoptive mothers: Not my flesh
of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still, miraculously, my own. Never forget, for a single minute. You didn’t grow under my heart, but in it!
Jane Cox PhD, ARNP, is the Executive Director for NCH Community Home Care and teaches at FGCU in Community Health and at NOVA Southeastern in Advanced Practice Theory and Research.

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