MARA CASTELBAUM, 9, came home from school last year puzzled about what to do. Her teacher had asked her pupils to bring in a baby photo. Mara, who had been adopted from Russia when she was 5, had no such photo.
What was she to do? she asked her mother, Susan Castelbaum. Susan, a guidance counselor at Hollifield Station and Stevens Forest elementary schools, called the teacher. Mara brought in another photo -- one taken in the orphanage right before her adoption. The photo marked her life in America, her birth with her new family.
Her story illustrates the unexpected -- and sometimes emotional -- situations that parents face as they create families by adopting children.
On April 5, Jennifer Geipe of the Center for Adoptive Families of Adoptions Together Inc., an organization based in Silver Spring, presented a workshop at Centennial Lane Elementary School, "Talking with Your Child About Adoption."
The school's guidance counselor, Karen Gladden, had arranged the program at the suggestion of a parent who serves on her guidance advisory committee. Gladden knows of 10 families associated with the school who have adopted children from Russia, China or Korea.
The guidance counselor had promised to ask a question for a mother: How should she respond when her daughter asks, "Why do I have to do what you tell me to do when you are not my real mother?"
That questions evoked nods from some of the 12 parents in the room. Some told other stories. One woman described being asked in the grocery store where she was shopping with her four adopted children, "Are any of these kids yours, or do you do day care?"
Another mother described her child's distress when her adopted daughter came home and said another child had asked her: "Who threw you away? Why did they throw you away?"
Geipe encouraged the parents to do role playing with their children to prepare them for the playground, when parents cannot protect them from the taunts of other children. In support groups that the center runs for children and parents, the center advises children to choose to "tell, ignore or keep private."
"Questions come at oddball times," Geipe said of adopted children's interest in learning more about their birth families. "If kids are asking the questions, they're old enough to know the answers."
Geipe asked whether the families celebrated "Gotcha Day" -- the day that the family had gotten their adopted child. Some families call it "Adoption Day," "Airplane Day," "The Courthouse Day," "The Anniversary" or "Brothers Day."
Some remained quiet throughout the workshop but listened intently; others shared stories freely. One or two parents wanted to form a support group for families with adopted children.
The Center for Adoptive Families plans to lead eight-week support groups in Baltimore, Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
Ellicott City resident Melanie Gleaves competed in the Mrs. Maryland Pageant held in Kent Narrows on April 1. She was named first runner-up and recognized for her community service.
Denise Everhart and Lauren Everhart, juniors at Centennial High School, were recently promoted to the rank of field team member by Maryland Search and Rescue, a program for young men and women of high school age and adults.
The program provides all-weather searches for lost persons and wilderness rescues in the mid-Atlantic region at the request of local, state or federal authorities.
Mount Hebron senior Daniel Weinstein won one of 12 $2,000 scholarships awarded nationally from the Sociedad Honararia Hispanica, the National Spanish Honor Society. Weinstein wrote two essays in Spanish for the contest.
Danielle Martin, a graduate of Centennial High School and a freshman goalkeeper on the University of New Hampshire women's lacrosse team, was named Rookie of the Week by America East on April 3.
Howard High School was recently awarded a Carson Scholars Fund trophy to recognize the outstanding academic achievement of a former student, James A. Cadogan. Cadogan received a $1,000 scholarship and is a freshman at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.
The Carson Scholars Fund, co-founded by Dr. Ben Carson and his wife, recognizes outstanding academic achievers and role models in Maryland public and private schools.
Bob Cordwell, Dan Eschliman and Ben Miller from Elkridge Landing Middle School placed sixth at the state MathCounts competition, held at the Naval Academy on March 18.
Bob Cordwell placed second overall and will be one of four pupils representing Maryland at the national competition next month in Washington.