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Larry King Live

First Lady Praises Adoption; Panel of Adoptive Mothers Discuss Their Experiences

Aired March 16, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on adoption. She wants you to know there are thousands of kids who need it. Entertainer Marie Osmond joins us, one of four fabulous adoptive moms joining us in Los Angeles. With her is actress Donna Mills -- she has an adoptive daughter -- actress Valerie Harper -- got an adopted daughter, too -- actress-singer Nell Carter, two adopted sons, and in Columbus, Ohio, Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's and founder of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. That and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. There are about 120,000 adoptions every year in the United States, but there are still tens of thousands of kids waiting to be part of a loving family. Hillary Rodham Clinton started working on children's issues long before she entered the White House, but she's made adoption a special priority as first lady, and it's in that role she joins us from New York. We'll save talk of her Senate run for an upcoming show.

Hillary, why adoption? You're not adopted. You didn't adopt Chelsea?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, Larry, I think it goes back to the work I did 30 years ago when I was in law school, and I decided that I really wanted to do everything possible to help children, and the most vulnerable of our children are children who are caught up in the foster care system, who are given up for adoption, who are abused and neglected. The very first case I did as a young law student was to work with a lawyer to try to help a foster mother adopt a young foster child, and in those days, back in 1970, oftentimes the decisions were made not on the best interests of the child, but who had the biggest house or the most material possessions. And we've come a long way in making adoption much more available and affordable for all people.

And I hope one of the messages of your show tonight is that we have 400,000 children in foster care. About a hundred thousand of those are available to be adopted. We have many children who are not in the foster care system, but who are given up for adoption, and we don't have enough permanent loving homes for those children, so anything we can do we ought to try.

KING: Why -- is it that most people who want to adopt want babies? They don't want to adopt the 4-year-old or 7-year-old in the foster home?

CLINTON: Well, I think that's part of it. But I also think that the system has not been as user-friendly as it needed to be. You know, starting back in '93 and '94, we began to try to change the laws at the national level, to try to begin to expedite decisions about whether a child would go back the that child's biological family or be freed for adoption, and we've done a lot of events at the White House. I know that Dave Thomas will be on with you, and he has been a terrific ally in our fight change and really open up the adoption system.

And you know, one of the great joys that I have had in the years in the White House is seeing that magic happen when a young child is adopted and finds a permanent home. We have opened the White House time and time again. I remember, particularly, a young woman who had been in foster care for most of her life who was turning 13. All she wanted is what any child wants, which is a room of her own and a family of her own.

And so there are so many success stories that I hope everybody will be sharing and knowing that there are a lot of children out there waiting. We now provide more financial support through the federal government for people who adopt and tax credits. We provide support for people, especially, who adopt children with special needs, physical or emotional nature, so there's a lot of help out there.

KING: The late Bob Constantine, the writer, once wrote, "I have four children. Two are adopted. I forget which two."

CLINTON: Yes.

KING: Has society accepted this more?

CLINTON: I think so. And I know that as I travel around New York, I meet so many people who are products of the foster care system themselves, who are adopted, who are adoptive parents.

You know, I was just yesterday at Central High School out on Long Island, and I was having a town hall meeting at the high school about education. We talked about everything -- you know, overcrowding, and qualified teachers and the kinds of courses kids have to take, and then a young man stood up, and he said he was in the foster care system, and he wanted to know what would happen to him when he graduated from high school, and I was so pleased I could tell him that we changed the law last session of Congress. It was a bipartisan effort, so that we could continue to provide support services.

You know, it used to be, Larry, that when a child aged out of foster care, either on his 18th birthday or when he graduated from high school, whichever came first, there would be literally a knock on the door of his foster home or his group home, and there would be somebody standing there with a big old black garbage bag, and the kid would be told to put his belongings in it because he was moving. Well, we've now changed that, and I want to thank people on both sides of the aisle. You know, we have brought together some unlikely allies. I worked with the late John Chafee, a wonderful man who was very devoted to kids, and in the House, I worked with Tom DeLay, who doesn't have the same views on a lot of things I do, but cares about foster kids and adoption. So I think there's a growing public awareness and acceptance, and there is now more support for people willing to adopt. And I really hope that we can increase the number of children adopted. We set a goal. We're trying to reach that goal, of doubling and then tripling the number of children adopted out of our American public system by the year 2002.

KING: One other thing, Hillary, do minorities have a tougher time being adopted?

CLINTON: Well, you know, it's interesting, because there are a lot of informal adoptions in the minority communities, particularly African-Americans, who have always taken in children of cousins, or grandchildren or people in some kinship relationship. I would like to see us do more to support that kind of guardianship and custody arrangement rather than having a child be put into the foster care system. If we can keep that child in some system of relatives or kinship, I think it would be better.

And the other point I wanted to make is that yesterday, after this young man stood up at the high school, another young man stood up and said that his mother had been a foster mother for years, and it got so difficult, and the kind of compensation available was so inadequate for what is truly a 24-hour-a-day job, being a mother. I'd like to see us give more respect to the people who do a good job of fostering children, as well as helping more people understand what adoption could mean in their lives as well.

KING: Thanks, Hillary. Thanks so much. I'll send your best to the rest of the panel as they join us.

CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you so much, Larry.

KING: I'll see a lot of you on the trail.

CLINTON: I'll look forward to it.

KING: Hillary Clinton, the first lady of the United States.

Our panel of Marie Osmond, Valerie Harper, Donna Mills, Nell Carter, Dave Thomas and the director of his foundation joins us right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. We're going to bring our panel on in stages, and we begin with Marie Osmond, the cohost of "Donny and Marie," the very popular daytime talk show host across the United States. She's an adoptive mother. Four of her seven kids are adopted.

MARIE OSMOND, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: Really, I can't remember. Is that what it was?

KING: Since you can have children, why do you adopt children?

OSMOND: That's a very good question. I think, first of all, I can say honestly from my position that there is no difference, that literally, it's one of those things that...

KING: You don't look at one and say adopted.

OSMOND: No, you really, truly don't.

KING: Why do you adopt?

OSMOND: Honestly, Larry, my kids chose me. It was almost like God put them in front of me. And if you ask a lot of adoptive parents, it really was almost that. It was a gut feeling they had. It was almost like I knew where to go.

KING: But you had to make the initial thing, to say...

OSMOND: Yes, but it wasn't your typical adoption, all of them. And everybody that I talked to, there's a feeling -- and we'll ask the panel -- but it's like an intuitive mother's intuition, almost like from the birth mother to you saying, find me, and it's the most incredible experience I have ever had.

KING: Hillary talked about foster parents. Would you have adopted -- all of your children were adopted as infants, right?

OSMOND: Yes, they were.

KING: Would you have adopt a 3-year-old, 4-year-old?

OSMOND: Absolutely.

KING: Still might, never know with you, Marie?

OSMOND: Still might?

KING: You still might.

OSMOND: No I think I am done, Larry. Seven's good.

KING: But you would have adopted an older child?

OSMOND: Absolutely. I don't think there's any difference. I think that that feeling comes from the parent. And mine just happened to be an infant, different -- you know, a couple of weeks, a couple of days, whatever it was.

KING: What's the most difficult aspect of it? There has to be some difficult aspect to adoption.

OSMOND: No I think...

KING: I am going to guess the personalities of the children might be so different, other problems...

OSMOND: You know what, I think sometimes that adoptive parents will use that. They'll say my child is difficult because he's adopted. That's not true. Some of my -- every child is born with a personality. Every child comes down with an agenda, I swear, and whether it's biological or whatever, you take that child and say, OK, I will deal with this child how I need to deal with this child, but the difficulty, to me, is sometimes you look at these children, and you remember the birth mother, and that's why I have recorded songs about it. I've designed dolls about it. I have done adoption dolls and things like that, because I really think they're the ones that initially -- we get the blessing of it. You know, they go through that loss periodically.

KING: In all of your cases, did you know the birth mother?

OSMOND: I didn't -- I don't know my birth mothers.

KING: None of them?

OSMOND: No.

KING: Don't know their names.

OSMOND: I would have to look in the papers. But I have all the information if my children want to know.

KING: For health reasons?

OSMOND: Well, no, but if my children want know, I think that's their privilege and prerogative.

KING: And if they want to meet them someday that's okay, too?

OSMOND: I look forward to it.

KING: There are some who say, don't do that.

OSMOND: I think that's the child's choice. I think it's very important. My children have known from day one that they've been adopted. My one little girl says I am more special than you because I am adopted. And she's just fabulous.

KING: Do you always tell the adopted child they're adopted? Is that a good policy?

OSMOND: I think they just kind of know it. They know they came a different way. They know that there's no difference. They know that some came in mommy's tummy and some didn't, and they all have different circumstances, and I think that's where you spend a lot of time on your knees and a lot of time with God determining how you handle each child.

KING: There's a lot of aspects to this.

In a moment, we'll be joined by Dave Thomas. You know him as the founder of Wendy's, see him in all the Wendy's commercials. But he's the founder of the Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption. Also with him is Jann Heffner, the executive director of that foundation, and then Donna Mills will join us, and Valerie Harper and Nell Carter, all adopted mothers -- adoptive mothers.

OSMOND: That's right.

KING: When we come back, Dave Thomas and Jann Heffner will join us. Marie Osmond stays.

I'm Larry King. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 15, 1999)

KING: What's adoption like?

ROSIE O'DONNELL, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: The best thing that ever happened to me in the world, and it's the greatest gift. And I think in the whole adoption story, the birth mothers are often the ones who are not celebrated. And people have said to me, it's such a great thing that you adopt. Well, it's not really a great thing that I adopt. I'm the lucky one who gets to adopt. It's a great thing that the parents of both of my children knew that they were not capable of giving them the kind of life they deserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Marie Osmond remains, and we're now joined from Columbus, Ohio by Dave Thomas, the senior chairman and founder of Wendy's, the founder of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption -- he was adopted when he was 6 years old -- and Jann Heffner. Jann is the executive director of that foundation.

Dave, lot of people are adopted, but they don't start foundations. Why did you?

DAVE THOMAS, DAVE THOMAS FOUNDATION FOR ADOPTION: Well, Larry, I was adopted when I was six months old, and I've got to say hello to Marie.

OSMOND: Hi, Dave.

THOMAS: I know Marie.

Hello, Marie, how you doing?

OSMOND: I am doing great.

THOMAS: And Hillary has just been fantastic, and what she said, I can't say enough about her. And the reason why I started the foundation was that I wanted just to get -- I just thought if just one boy or one girl, we could get a loving home and a permanent home, you know, that would be our objective, and awareness has been one of our biggest things, and we really have been working at it, and there have been so many people have helped us and awareness is so powerful.

KING: Jann, as executive director, one would wonder, with so many people wanting to adopt and so many people available for adoption, what's the problem?

JANN HEFFNER, DAVE THOMAS FOUNDATION FOR ADOPTION: Well, I think, historically, when people have thought about adoption, they have thought about adopting infants, and currently, there are probably only about 17,000 to 25,000 infants that are available for adoption at any one time in the U.S., but there are 110,000 kids who are in the foster care system.

KING: So 25,000 infants available at any one time, but 110,000 by what age group would be available?

HEFFNER: Oh, from newborns all the way up to 18, and these kids just need the chance to be able to be brought into a loving home, and they flourish.

KING: How does the foundation, Dave, work?

THOMAS: Well, the foundation...

KING: What do you do?

THOMAS: What we do, basically, is for example, anyone who has maternity benefits, we try to get them to put adoption benefits in. And I know you have it at CNN. And what I'd like to see happen is that everybody in America, including government, business, would put adoption benefits right into their maternity benefits.

KING: That means if you adopt a baby, you get the same benefits the maternity mother would get?

THOMAS: Right, right, give an incentive to adopt.

Larry, let me just tell you this, it's so important to be adopted. You know, I was born out of wedlock, and I never knew my mother and father, but I did find a home. And you lose your childhood so fast. And I wish -- I knew Marie when I was going to be adopted, she could have adopted me.

OSMOND: I'd take you.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Was it any different, Dave, growing up adopted? Did you have siblings who were biologically from their parents? Only child.

THOMAS: No, I was the only child, and I really didn't know until I was 13 years old, that I was adopted, but I knew there was something different about me, and it was something I didn't really want to talk about, and I never really talked about being adopted until I was about 21, 22 years old.

KING: Why? Were you shameful? THOMAS: Yes, I didn't want anyone to know I was born out of wedlock, and I didn't want to let anyone know that I was adopted. I mean, I just didn't think they -- you know, it was really important to me. And I was at a manager's meeting one time, and I was just talking to our people, and I said, look, how many of you have seen your mother and father? I said, "I have never seen my mother and father. And If I can do this, you can do it." And a manager come up to me, one of the young men, and he says, why don't you talk more about adoption? I said, well, if it will help, I'll do it. And so that's the reason why I went public.

OSMOND: Dave, being adopted, what would you suggest to parents who do adopt their children? Would you tell them at an early age? Or would you wait for awhile?

THOMAS: No, I would tell them at an early age, absolutely.

KING: In other words, as soon as they have understanding?

THOMAS: Absolutely.

KING: Jann, isn't it a joy to bring people together, to see a baby or an infant, somebody adopted, and you're there for the presentation of the child to the parent?

HEFFNER: Oh, well, it certainly is exciting, but it's I would say equally as exciting if you bring together a sibling group of two or three kids, and they have a chance to stay together, and they had a chance to find a new home and to all grow up together. It's -- that kind of feeling is tremendous, and we're seeing more and more of those kinds of stories happen as people begin to understand about the 110 000 kids that need families.

KING: Boy, we're making good points here.

We're going to take a break and come back.

As we go to break, Jamie Lee Curtis, an adoptive mother, reads from a book she wrote about adoption -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 13, 1996)

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, ACTRESS: "Tell me again about the night I was born. Tell me again how phone rang in the middle of the night and they told you I was born. Tell me again how I screamed. Tell me again that you called granny and grandpa right away, but they couldn't hear the phone because sleep like logs. Tell me again who you couldn't grow a baby in your tummy, so another woman who was too young to take care of me was growing me, and she'd be my birth mother, and you would adopt me and be parent. Tell me again about the first time you held me in your arms and called me your baby sweet. Tell me again how you cried happy tears. Tell me again about the first night you were my daddy, and you told me about baseball being the perfect game, like your daddy told you. Tell me again about the first you were my mommy and you sang the lullaby your mommy sang to you. Tell me again about our first night as a family. Mommy, daddy, tell me again about the night I was born."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There are about six million adoptees in the United States. Each year about 40,000 birth parents relinquish their children for adoption.

We're joined now by Donna Mills, who adopted a baby girl, how long ago?

DONNA MILLS, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: Five and a half years.

KING: She's 5 1/2 years old now. She was how old when you -- four days?

MILLS: Four days old.

KING: You're a single parent. Was it harder to adopt?

MILLS: Not really. I don't think so, you know.

KING: How long did it take from the time you said I wanted to do this to getting the baby?

MILLS: About nine months, strangely enough.

KING: You're kidding, right?

MILLS: No, it really did, because I adopted out of state so I had to do a lot of things with that, and then it took -- and I wanted a girl. It was the only criteria that I had. I just felt I would be better able as a single mother to bring up a girl, and so...

KING: So you cut the odds in half then?

MILLS: Right, and the agency kept having boys. They'd call me up, "We have a boy." Nope.

KING: As a single -- did being single have any block to it?

MILLS: No.

KING: Why did you want to adopt? Why did you want a baby as a single woman?

MILLS: I felt I was at a place in my life where I could finally give to someone else, you know. I had so much time with focus just on me, careerwise and everything, and it was great, it was wonderful, but I wanted to be able to share a lot of what I learned, what I knew. I just had a lot of love that I thought I could give to a child.

KING: No regrets.

MILLS: God no. KING: You adopted a black child.

MILLS: Half. She's biracial.

KING: But when you look at her, she's black, right?

MILLS: Yes.

KING: Was that any problem for you?

MILLS: No, it wasn't. As a matter of fact, they called me when they finally had a girl and they said, we have a girl. They said, but there's one thing -- because I'd said -- they'd said "We'll get you a blond, blue-eyed baby," and I called them back and said, you know, the men in my life that I've always loved have been dark haired, dark skinned, you know, and so they called me up and said, you said you like dark men. How dark?

(LAUGHTER)

MILLS: And I said "What do you mean?" And they said, well, the baby is biracial. Her biological father is black, her mother, white. They said, "You have overnight to think about it," and I went "All right." And I did. I thought about it. I didn't sleep that night, talked to my family and everything, and I said, I don't care. For me, it makes no difference whatsoever. I felt that this child -- I just had this feeling in my heart that this child was for me. God sent her.

KING: It wouldn't have bothered you either, Marie?

MILLS: Absolutely...

KING: It would have meant nothing to you?

MILLS: Well, no, one of my children is half Hispanic. And you know what, I look at her, I think she looks more like me than any of my other kids, because I've got the chocolate eyes and...

KING: Jann, do any white parents adopt black children?

HEFFNER: Well, there's a federal law called MIBA, the Multiethnic Placement Act, that in a sense makes it illegal to hold up an adoption of a child just for race purposes. Now, of course, it's always easier in terms of culture and being able to understand some of the physical characteristics, if African Americans do adopt African American kids, and that's why one of the things that we really try to do is encourage more and more African American parents and single individuals to sign up and learn about this so that they can, in fact, adopt these youngsters.

KING: By the way, Jann, can an African-American parent adopt a white child?

HEFFNER: Sure.

KING: There's no problem? Works both ways?

HEFFNER: It works both ways. You have to be able to understand the culture and work with all of those issues and make sure that you have friends of that other culture.

KING: Are there any problems, Donna, with mommy, why am I a different color than you?

MILLS: No. It started out with, why is your hair blond and mine isn't? That's the first thing she saw. And there are questions about it, but it isn't a problem. And like Jann said, you have to be sure that you know the -- what it means to a child to have an ethnic and racial identity from the way they look. So I am very concerned about her always having children of color in her classes as friends. She has a -- teachers that are black. I try to keep her in a very mixed world, and she seems to be taking to it quite well and very, very happy.

OSMOND: I think more importantly than color, any of those issues, is love, and I think that's the most important issue, is that your child feels loved.

KING: Dave, Hillary says that the stigma of adoption, that's over, what you felt when you didn't want to talk about it, that's over now? People do happily discuss it, true?

THOMAS: I think so. I think it's true more and more.

KING: We've gone way beyond that in the last 20 years.

THOMAS: Absolutely. And there's more people -- adoption is -- you know, let me give you a good example. We -- I want to ask you something in just a minute, but I might as well do it right now. We have a postage stamp, adoption stamp, that's going to be coming out May 10.

KING: Really?

There it is.

THOMAS: It's Steven Spielberg -- Children's Action Network and Steven Spielberg -- we're going to sell a stamp in L.A., and I would like to invite you with the postmaster general, you, Marie, Valerie now and Donna, all to participate, and it's for awareness, and I think that this stamp...

OSMOND: Do I get a hamburger for it?

THOMAS: Yes. we'll work...

OSMOND: And French fries.

THOMAS: Not a problem.

OSMOND: I want a cheeseburger. THOMAS: Larry, we think this stamp is just going to be -- the awareness is just going to be unbelievable. We want to sell 200 million stamps, and this is all for awareness.

KING: It's about time, about time.

THOMAS: Let me get a break and we'll pick up on that.

There's a stamp coming in May.

When we come back, we'll be joined by Valerie Harper. And as we go to break, Michael Reagan talks about being adopted -- watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 13, 1996)

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I went to my father one time. I said, "Dad, if you could do one thing as president, I wish you could hold a press conference, and one time tell the members of the press to quit referring to me as the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman." I said, "It drives me absolutely nuts. I am your son. That's the bottom line."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our guest earlier was Hillary Clinton. Our subject is adoption.

With us is Marie Osmond, the host of "Donny and Marie"; Donna Mills, who is probably the most successful actress in the history of nighttime television; Dave Thomas, the senior chairman and founder of Wendy's, in Columbus, Ohio. With him is Jan Heffner, the executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

We're now joined by Valerie Harper. Rhoda! Valerie Harper is the adopted mother who has adopted a girl -- who adopted a girl nearly 4 years old, and that girl turns 17 next week. Her name is Cristina. We'll talk about that.

But Dave, you wanted to add one thing about this stamp. What was it?

THOMAS: Well, I just wanted to mention that it's for awareness. And to kick this off, Rosie O'Donnell really helped us a lot to launch this. And the Post Office and the postmaster-general and all the people from the Post Office are just really supermotivated to get this stamp out.

So I hope that you will consider helping to sell this stamp in L.A.

KING: I'll be happy to. And it sells for the same price as the face of the stamp, right?

THOMAS: Yes, right, right. KING: You just want the stamp out there.

THOMAS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KING: All right. Valerie Harper -- Valerie Harper joins us. You adopted a 4-year-old?

VALERIE HARPER, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: That's right. Cristina was four.

KING: Why? Were you married at the time?

HARPER: Oh, absolutely. Tony and I wanted to adopt.

KING: You had no children?

HARPER: No. Tony had four sons, big ones, and he thought I should be a mother. And it's the best thing I ever did, was listen to my husband.

And we were looking at infants. We worked through a wonderful local attorney, Durand Cook, who is still in the adoption business, and we adopted privately. And we were thinking of it, about infants, and then suddenly this little one came up and she was four.

KING: How did you -- you had to know the parents then.

HARPER: No, not at all. This was Durand.

KING: Where was she?

HARPER: She was on the East Coast.

KING: In a foster home?

HARPER: No. She was in a care situation. And she -- we saw an album that had been kept for her, and we just said, this is our child, exactly what Marie and Donna have expressed. I just knew.

And she adopted us, because 4 years old is quite an advanced child. And Durand said to us, Valerie, Tony, understand, if it doesn't work out over the weekend, if it feels strange, there are couples waiting for this little girl. She's an adorable little -- your coloring, green-eyed.

And I said - I said, well, I don't think that'll occur. But she got off the plane. She leapt into my arms. She adopted us.

And I saw Shirley MacLaine a couple of days later with this little munchkin. She's very light, thin little thing. Also built like Donna, only taller now. And I had her on my hip, and Shirley at a shop in Malibu said, "What's this?" I said, "This is my new daughter." And she's going, mommy, mommy, let's go, and she's pulling my hair.

And I said, "Shirley, it's only two days and she's calling me mommy." And Shirley said: "It's a miracle. Just accept it, Valerie!"

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a miracle.

HARPER: And I said, "Shirley, of all people to meet in the world, you are the great one to say" -- she said: "You're her mother. She's your daughter. You have found each other in the universe." So just accept it as a miracle that it is.

KING: But there has to be some...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe they do pick you. I do believe it.

HARPER: Oh, I -- oh, I...

KING: Even as infants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that...

HARPER: Oh, yes.

KING: But isn't there an adjustment with a 4-year-old? I mean...

HARPER: Not with Cristina.

KING: It's got a personality.

HARPER: It was amazing. It was effortless.

But you know, having your kids, having biological kids, it's all a crap shoot, Larry.

KING: Of course.

HARPER: You don't know how they're going to turn out.

KING: You're not kidding.

HARPER: And Cristina used to say to kids: "Your parents had you. They had to take what they got. My parents picked me."

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter says that too.

KING: Did you ever find out who her parents were?

HARPER: Oh, sure, we know. And I want her -- we know some, and when she's 18, it's her choice.

KING: If she wants to see them, that's fine?

HARPER: Oh, absolutely. It's not the stigma, like when we were kids, Larry.

KING: Jan, this should be very encouraging to you.

HEFFNER: Oh, well, it certainly is. And Larry...

KING: Because that's the hardest to adopt, is not infants, it's those beyond infancy.

HEFFNER: Well, the average age of a youngster who is waiting for adoption right now is between 8 and 9 years old, and about 50 percent of the kids are minority youngsters, and many of them are in sibling groups. And so what we're asking folks to do, if they'd like to understand a little bit more about these youngsters, is there's a number of really terrific Web sites out there. The one that we happen to fund is www.adopt.org, which is Faces of Adoption, and you can see 2,000, 3,000 youngsters that are available for adoption.

KING: You can see them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that's great.

KING: That's a great idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't that fabulous?

KING: And you can contact the Dave Thomas Foundation in Columbus, Ohio as well. And you have a Web site, Donna.

MILLS: Yes. I have a Web site that'll be up in the next month.

KING: To do what?

MILLS: It's DonnaMillsOnline.com, and it's a -- it's a celebrity Web site, it's a fan Web site. But it also is to discuss adoption, ecology, all kinds of things that I'm passionate about. And we can have chats online and a lot of information.

KING: Would you adopt a child with a disability?

MILLS: Absolutely.

KING: Would you? Would you?

HARPER: Yes. As a matter of fact...

OSMOND: You know, it's interesting because -- no, no, go ahead.

HARPER: No. I was just going to say I have a Web site also with -- all about the stamp and several books and Durand's...

KING: Do adoptive -- do adopted people tend to get -- the senior executive producer of this program, whose name is Wendy, by the way...

HARPER: Wendy!

KING: ... she adopted. She's adopted two children. And she -- and I made her adopt. She didn't want to adopt. Well, initially. I made her adopt. HARPER: Did you? Did you encourage her to do it?

KING: Well, I encouraged her to do it.

OSMOND: I think that people worry about, if they're going to love that child as much.

KING: That's right. But then, once they get it, they get caught up, right? They become adoption people.

OSMOND: Hey, when you change those diapers and you do those bottle feedings...

(LAUGHTER)

... I mean, that baby is yours. That baby grows up on you. It is yours.

HARPER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So you don't look -- you don't look at your daughter as adopted?

HARPER: No. It's my child.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You don't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) adopted?

OSMOND: No.

(CROSSTALK)

HARPER: No, it's my child. They do it in press. They say Valerie Harper and her adopted daughter. But it's my daughter.

MILLS: I don't like when they do that.

OSMOND: I don't even like them naming the numbers. I just say, you know, you have seven children.

HARPER: Yes. Exactly.

KING: All right. Let me get a break, and when we come back, we'll meet Nell Carter to complete our panel. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 18, 1998)

KING: Did you like motherhood?

CONNIE CHUNG, JOURNALIST: I'm enjoying it tremendously.

KING: You have two now?

CHUNG: No, one.

KING: Just one?

CHUNG: Yes, just one.

KING: What is it like -- what is it like, the feeling of adoption?

CHUNG: It's extraordinary. It's -- it's parenthood. And...

KING: It's your baby.

CHUNG: Oh, absolutely, and I really believe that it was meant to be. It was meant to be that Matthew was our little boy. So it's wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We complete our panel with one of our great entertainers, Nell Carter, an adoptive mother herself, two boys adopted as infants. They are now 10.

Were they twins?

NELL CARTER, ADOPTIVE MOTHER: No, they're two months five days apart.

KING: So it's amazing if it was biological, right?

(LAUGHTER)

And they are Joshua and Daniel.

CARTER: Yes.

KING: All right. Why did you adopt, Nell?

CARTER: Well, I had had so many miscarriages, and I really wanted a baby even if it meant not having a husband. And I decided to get rid of the husband and...

(LAUGHTER)

Really! And I went -- I got an attorney...

KING: Was it a good move?

CARTER: Great move. Paid a lot to get rid of him, but it was a great move.

I met with one lady, and she was going to have a baby in February. And I was all content and ready, and then on December 6, before, I had a phone call about this baby that had been born the night before. Would I like to meet this baby? I immediately got everyone together. Like they said, the child chooses you, why, I don't know. But I get on a plane, everyone is ready, checks, lawyers, everything. We get -- seats, everything, go there, and I go through this drill with the birth mother. She's very quiet, but her counselor was grilling me because I was in show business.

KING: Yes.

CARTER: And I was getting a divorce, and I was Jewish, and I was everything.

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: Yes, yes, it happens.

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: Anyway...

KING: So when will they be born? Go ahead?

CARTER: They will. Anyway, I walked out and I turned around to the mother, I said, look, I'll just give you a check, because I felt like if I do a good deed, something will happen, and she started crying. She said, "Would you like to see the baby?" I said, "Yes," She took me, and I went into the apartment -- I won't go through the whole story -- I walked upstairs. There is this old lady standing by the door holding this baby in a bundle. And I don't know, I just felt like please let me hold him. I won't look at him. Just let me hold him. They put that baby in my arms, and I promise you, I knew at that moment, this is my baby.

KING: What does it cost, Donna, to adopt?

MILLS: Well , it doesn't -- I mean, it's not like you...

KING: Not as expensive as you would think, right?

MILLS: Well, you pay the expenses of the birth mother in the hospital.

KING: You pay the lawyer or whoever handles it, right?

MILLS: Right, the agency.

KING: But it's not like a hundred thousand dollars.

HARPER: No. No. In fact, in our case, Larry, it was very inexpensive, because there were no birth -- there wasn't the pregnancy to go through or hospital -- not at all. It was very inexpensive.

(CROSSTALK)

OSMOND: But I think now they're being much more thoughtful of the birth mothers.

HARPER: Yes. OSMOND: Because now you're not only paying for the hospital and things like that, but you're paying for to them see -- you know, to have someone to talk to afterwards, to help them get through that transition period, which they have proven now that these girls that do put their children up for adoption, that they go on being much stronger women and they end up being more responsible, getting an education. They feel good about their decision.

KING: Jann, do you have to own a home to adopt?

HEFFNER: Oh, no, Larry. Oh, no.

KING: Can you adopt if you make $35,000 a year?

HEFFNER: Oh, certainly.

KING: you can?

HEFFNER: In fact -- oh, yes. You can be single. You don't have to own a home. It's -- they will make sure...

KING: Can you be gay?

HEFFNER: There are a number of gay couples that have adopted. And the other thing I wanted to mention is, in terms of the youngsters that are in the foster care system, that these kids actually, because of the fact that they have been in foster care, there is a subsidy that is available with these youngsters also to allay expenses, and all of your adoption expenses are paid for. You don't need to put any out-of-pocket money out.

KING: You were telling, Donna, me about an organization called Pact?

MILLS: Pact, yes, it's an agency that helps people that want to adopt transracially, or you know, either white there's want to adopt blacks, but it helps them know what to do for the children.

CARTER: My children are biracial.

KING: Do you agree with everyone, though, that the child picks you?

CARTER: I honestly believe that.

HARPER: I was just going to say what Donna stalking about, we've come such a long way, Larry, ladies, because a very famous novelist, Pearl S. Buck, was so horrified at all the babies that were left in Asia in the late '40s after our boys had been there. They were absolutely despised in their communities, and our State Department and the Veteran's Administration saying they didn't exist. And those children that were biracial were put into insane asylums, because adoption agencies in America would not take them. So Pearl Buck built up her own. it's called Welcome House. It's still operating. But it's so wonderful where we've come from the late '40s to now.

KING: Dave, is there preferences? For example Rosie O'Donnell was on. I think she's adopted three children now.

THOMAS: Right.

KING: Is it easier for her to adopt than other people because she's Rosie O'Donnell? No?

THOMAS: No, I don't really think so. Do you, Jan?

HEFFNER: No.

KING: Anybody think so? Anybody think you have a break because you're who you are?

OSMOND: I think it used to be that they were very careful to say there are so many children to go around, and we'll give you one or two, but I think that door is opening, and I think that they know that family and love is the most important thing, and sometimes these children fill a wonderful camaraderie, and they know their special. And it's just like you said, it's getting more awareness out there.

KING: Donna, you were going to say?

MILLS: Oh yes. People know that there are children out there, and you know, they -- it's just so much easier. It used to be if you weren't of the same religion, you couldn't adopt a child. My aunt and uncle...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: There were Jewish adoption agencies for Jews, Catholics for Catholics.

MILLS: Yes.

HARPER: And redefining family and what the family is.

OSMOND: Also they're giving the birth mother more choice.

KING: I want to talk about that.

And I know you have a song or a poem.

OSMOND: Well, no, no. Because all the girls will be interested in this, and so will Dave and Jann.

OSMOND: I am not going sing.

(LAUGHTER)

HARPER: You have got the pipes.

KING: As we go to break, Greg Louganis talks about being adopted. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 28, 1995) GREG LOUGANIS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: There was a lot of thought going -- that went into me being adopted, you know, the decision to put me up for adoption, and so then I knew that, you know, my natural parents loved, me and they cared about me enough to try and give me a better chance than they could provide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's include a call.

Crystal River, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I am a 14-year-old girl, and I was adopted when I was 12 years old. I noticed that the show was more or less oriented around children being adopted, but the truth is adopting an older child can be just as fulfilling, and I spent 10 years in the system due to difficulties in the courts and things like that.

And I have a few questions. One of which is, what can be done to get children through the court systems more efficiently?

KING: Jan Heffner, do you know the answer to that?

HEFFNER: I certainly would speak to the answer. But I want to say, hi, Ashley, how are you doing?

KING: Oh, you know this girl?

HEFFNER: She is a wonderful youngster who was in the, quote, system until the time she was about 12 years old, and actually a pair that I know who had done a tremendous job in producing videos for us adopted Ashley.

And I would say, Ashley, that you are flourishing, and your parents are so proud of you. And this goes to show that youngsters, no matter what age they are, can, if given the right kind of love and support, can do a tremendous job in terms of growing up.

KING: Twelve is old, though, isn't it? You would adopt a 12- year-old?

OSMOND: You know, I believe that you know as a mother. I believe that couple knew that was their child. I believe if that feeling happened to me, I would do it.

KING: So don't rule it out, right?

MILLS: If that was presented to me, yes.

KING: Yes, OK. Miami, hello.

CALLER: Hi. My question for Jann Heffner.

KING: Yes?

CALLER: I am an adoptive mother, and I am very familiar with the world of adoption, and I have noticed, in recent times, a disproportionate number of adoptive children are receiving the diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and similar disorders.

My questions for Jan are -- I've wondered if you've noticed this trend, if adoptive parents are made aware of this, and if you have any theories as to why this is happening?

KING: What would be the connection, Jan?

HEFFNER: Well, a lot of these youngsters, if you'll remember, at least once in the foster care system, many of them have moved around a number of times, and unfortunately, they haven't been able to stay maintained in a school system and to have the kind of consistent -- kind of attention that would be really important for them.

And so ADHD also is a diagnosis that in many cases can be dealt with fairly well, but it's also one that is...

KING: Understandable.

HEFFNER: Yes, it's very understandable.

KING: Now...

CARTER: But you don't have to be adopted to have this.

KING: No, you don't.

HARPER: That's right.

HEFFNER: That's true, very true.

OSMOND: Good grief, look at Donny.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me -- that's funny. We're going to get a break, come back, we'll have a closing comment for everybody. And we're going to have Marie read -- she's going to read the song. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Marie has something special here. What is this?

OSMOND: Well, no, this is a -- this is a song that a very dear friend of mine wrote, Mike McLean (ph). And I felt it was inspired. I actually recorded it and put it with a doll that I did that was for adoption.

KING: Sing it.

OSMOND: Well, I don't know if I'll sing it but...

KING: Sort of sing it.

OSMOND: It's from the adoptive mother's point of view. It says: "So many wrong decisions in my past, I'm not quite sure..."

KING: This is the adoptive mother?

OSMOND: Yes. "... if I could ever hope to trust my judgment anymore. But lately I've been thinking, because it's all I've had to do. And in my heart I feel that I should give this child to you. And maybe you can tell your baby when you love him so that he's been loved before" -- I can't sing -- "by someone who delivered your son from God's arms to my arms to yours."

And it says: "And if you choose to tell him and if he wants to know how the one who gave him life could bear to let him go, just tell him there was sleepless nights. I prayed and paced the floor and knew the only peace I'd find is if this child was yours." And it says...

KING: I don't think Donna can finish it, because she's lost it.

OSMOND: It says...

CARTER: No. "I know that you don't have to do this, but could you kiss him once for me the first time that he ties his shoe or falls or skins his knees?" -- my goodness, "and could you hold him twice as long when he makes his first mistake and try to tell him that he's not alone? Sometimes that's all it takes."

OSMOND: "And he's not alone." And then she says, "I know how much he'll ache." And it says: "This may not be the answer for another girl like me and I'm not on a soap box singing how we all should be. I'm just trusting in my feelings and I'm trusting God above, and I'm trusting that you can give this baby both his mother's love."

HARPER: Oh, that's beautiful.

OSMOND: And it's true.

CARTER: I want a copy.

HARPER: Oh, and Cristina's 13th birthday, we read a note to her from her birth mom. It was -- we sat together, and -- and I blessed the woman who...

(CROSSTALK)

HARPER: ... baby for me.

KING: Donna, do you think of, Donna -- I know this, you know, this is obviously very moving. Do you think of the birth mother?

MILLS: I do, because I get so much love from my child and that woman who gave birth to her isn't getting that love. So I do think of her.

KING: Dave, do you ever...

OSMOND: But you know what? Somehow I truly believe God compensates.

KING: Dave, do you ever think about your real mother?

THOMAS: Well, I do, but I never get the opportunity to meet her or my father. But Larry, I'll tell you what's really important. We really need to take the red tape out of adoption, because these kids...

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: Yes.

HARPER: Here, here.

THOMAS: ... they're losing their childhood really fast. And you know, it's something that this is a the right thing to do, and that's the reason why we're doing the postage stamp. We're going to have a big special on -- I hate to mention the network -- but on CBS, and it's with Steven Spielberg and Action Network. It'll be on December 21st about adoption.

Now, we run one -- I hope someone's seen it -- was December 23rd, and we had all kind of stars on it. And people donated their time, Henry Winkler and Steven Spielberg and Stevie Wonder and...

KING: And you're going to do another one this year?

THOMAS: We're going to do another one this year.

HARPER: Fabulous.

CARTER: Can I say something? There are a lot of people who think that you should not adopt a black child if you're not black or you should not -- you know, for those reasons.

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: I totally disagree. You can hate me if you want to. But my children -- I love them because I love them. And there are so many children being held back...

HARPER: That's right.

CARTER: ... because someone there who can love them. You know, just give it to them.

KING: Ladies, is there any negative about it? HARPER: And we need to get some velocity on this. I really love what Dave said. We've got to move it, because they're only children for so long.

OSMOND: You know what? Our children are losing their childhoods so much anyway to...

HARPER: That's true.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Is there any negative about adoption?

HARPER: None.

MILLS: But you said something, Larry. You said, do you ever think about your real mother? We're their real mothers.

KING: OK, wrong word. I should have said biological mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biological.

MILLS: Yes, yes.

KING: Dave, I salute you for all you do, Dave.

THOMAS: Thank you.

KING: Anything we can do to help you let us know.

THOMAS: Well, thanks Larry. Thanks a million.

KING: Jan, keep up the good work.

(CROSSTALK)

And isn't it nice that maybe years ago four of you couldn't have assembled and talked about this, or wouldn't have been talked about?

HARPER: That's right, it wasn't.

OSMOND: And Larry, thank you for bringing us here.

HARPER: Oh, it's so wonderful you're doing this hour.

KING: Thank you all, thank Hillary Clinton earlier, and Marie Osmond, Donna Mills, Valerie Harper, Nell Carter, Dave Thomas and Jan Heffner. Thanks to all the biological mothers and the adoptive mothers.

A wild show on pro wrestling coming up tomorrow night. Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND." I'm Larry King. For all of us here in Los Angeles, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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