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THE SUNDAY PROFILE : Adopting a New Outlook : Sharon Kaplan Roszia Has Made a Career of Building Families, but Her Own Experiences Have Changed Her Approach

May 14, 1995|CARROLL LACHNIT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"We struggled with a lot of therapy and very difficult adolescent years, with both children," she said.

Today, Roszia said, she has extremely limited contact with them but doesn't regret the adoption.

"No, our adoption did not turn out the way I wish it could have. And some of it was because we weren't appropriately prepared. The tools available today weren't available then. And some of it was the kids' history. If you put all those things together, we didn't have the best shot at making it work. But I love the kids and I would do it again."

Roszia's adopted daughter has children now. And once again, Roszia said, she is learning about family and kinship from her own life.

She knew two of her adopted daughter's children were living in Idaho with a family that had been friends with their mother. But that's about all she knew.

When she was lecturing in Boise in November, she asked her colleagues if they could tell her anything about her grandchildren. Roszia received word from the children's social worker that they were fine. The family they were living with was planning to adopt the children.

"I said to the social worker, 'I have a commitment to those children. If you need me to be a grandma, if you need me to be a repository of information, if you need me to be therapy support, whatever role, talk to the family and let them know. I'm not in any way wanting to intrude on the parenting of the girls, but I'm interested in doing something.' "

The social worker called back to say the family did want to talk to her; the children had been asking questions about their mother.

Roszia said she has spoken with her grandchildren, exchanged cards and gifts with them and plans on visiting them this summer.

"They call me Gramma Sharon From California--like it's one long word," she said.

*

In spite of all the serious issues in her life and work, Roszia said she's happier than she's ever been. She thinks it has something to do with being in her 50s.

"It's a time when you kind of claim yourself as a woman a little differently," she said.

She claimed a new name as part of the process. Three years ago, when her marriage ended, she didn't want to continue using her ex-husband's name. But she didn't feel she could go back to her maiden name after so many years, either. So she reached up into the Eastern European branches of her mother's family tree and plucked out her new name: Roszia.

"I loved it," she said. "I liked the way Sharon Roszia sounded."

She formalized the change before a judge, had a friend sketch the scene and went out for a celebration with friends.

The party, it seems, continues to this day.

"A friend said to me, 'You seem so happy.' And I said that I've never been more centered, more sure of myself, more loving, open and strong than I am now," Roszia said. "And I've never been less certain about anything. I do worry about things: The future of my field--the polarization and conflicts we have that confuse families so much. I worry about what's happening to families and children in the United States, and how the changes in Washington will affect them.

"But personally, I feel happy all the time. Part of it is coming to grips with what you can control, and what you can't. I know what I've contributed to over the years, in my career and personal life. My life is a demonstration of what kinship is about."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Sharon Kaplan Roszia

Background: Age 53. Born in Louisville, Ky., raised in Cleveland, Ohio. "I consider myself a Midwesterner." Lives in Santa Ana.

Family: Divorced, with three adult children. Is very close to her brother, a cancer researcher; her sister, an artist; her mother, 73, and her stepfather, 79.

Passions: Books on personal growth and spirituality. Friends and family. Sweets.

On how she got into social work: "Actually, I backed into it. I wanted to teach history. I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was a little girl. But I hated (college) education classes. They were boring. So I looked around, and since I was always interested in what makes people think and tick, I gravitated to social work."

On breaking the rules as a young social worker: "I can remember bringing some of my birth mothers home for an afternoon gabfest around the pool, which was considered extremely iconoclastic at that time. But it felt to me they ought to know each other. They were very lonely."

On resistance she encounters as she talks about loss in adoption: "I think people are very focused on the good things that can happen for children. I don't think they understand the trade-offs. The family that loses a child and the family that gains a child are affected for life."

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