Tuesday, November 4, 1997
Children are waiting
for someone special

The Cincinnati Enquirer

They live on one of those heavily Tudoresque Roselawn streets with good trees and good intentions. Ethnic, religious, economic diversity.

Birkenstocks. Hyphenated women. Doc Martens. Dreadlocks. It's a neighborhood with a lot of complexity, sometimes a little challenging. A neighborhood with character.

The Millers chose it on purpose.

Maryjo Flamm-Miller laughs early and often, completely likable, with an open face and elaborate gestures. She said she'd tell me about adopting a child with special needs. Without the sugar coating.

Blond munchkins

She shows me a photo of her sons, taken about the time the boys came to live with her and her husband, Dave Miller. Blond, impish smiles. ''Beautiful little munchkins,'' Maryjo says. ''It was love at first sight.''

Who wouldn't love two really cute little boys on their best behavior? Healthy, vivacious. The real test came later, when Danny, 5, had night terrors. Screaming, raging. Every night for a year. Randy, 7, got into trouble at school. Some vulgar language. A lot of destruction.

''It was horrible,'' Maryjo says. ''I just felt as if we didn't have enough to give. Every awful thing you've heard, everything you've read about that can happen to kids happened to these two.'' Randy had lived 11 places, Danny in nine before they came to the Millers. ''We were so naive,'' she says. ''We had no idea what we were in for.'' Most of us don't, really, no matter how we get our children. But kids like Randy and Danny come with lots of baggage, fully packed.

And kids like Robert, 11, and Camilla, 10. Robert is involved in counseling to deal with his anger toward his birth parents. Camilla receives medication twice a day to help with hyperactivity and attention levels.

These kids - brother and sister - can be found on the Internet at http://www.aask.org - a Midwest home page featuring children with special needs. There's also a new Web site with pictures and information about Hamilton County children, some who have been waiting a decade for a home.

''You will not find a listing of healthy, Caucasian infants here,'' the Web site says. At the site - http://www.hcadopt.org - you will find kids who have been cuffed around, abused, starved. And who still are smiling for the camera.

Scrolling through their pictures and biographies is very hard going. Chris has brain damage from abuse at 3 months. Jason is ''working on feelings of abandonment.'' Zachariah stutters. Eugene is ''defiant at times.'' Who would blame them if they were defiant all the time? And trusting none of the time?

'I will never go away'

No wonder Maryjo so admires her boys. No wonder she's proud of where her family is today.

''I remember so clearly a moment nearly two years after the adoption was final,'' Maryjo says.

''I just lost it. I screamed at them. 'No matter what you do, I will never go away.' ''

Her sons looked at each other and burst into tears. ''That is exactly what they needed to hear.''

Love? Or maybe character.

''Love isn't enough,'' Maryjo says. ''You need help.'' Active in the Adoption Awareness Alliance, she helped start a support group for adoptive parents. Nov. 15, the alliance plans a workshop for parents, adoptees, birth parents and professionals. (Reservations: 771-3515.) Gregory Keck, author of Adopting the Hurt Child, will be featured.

Hurt children. So many of them. But not as many Millers. In this case, the match was nearly perfect. Two special-needs children. Two special adults. I don't know what it takes to fill a child's ''special needs.'' But I'll bet it doesn't hurt to be the kind of person who laughs a lot.

And who chooses to live in a place where the streets have character. And the neighbors don't all look alike.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.