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Latest Stamp Adopts a New Attitude

Design strives to raise awareness about 110,000 kids who need homes.

May 04, 2000|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Artist Gregory A. Berger celebrates adoption in his new design for the U.S. Postal Service. Recalling memories of his own happy childhood as an adopted child of a Minnesota couple, Berger designed a new 33-cent stamp that incorporates fundamental shapes, simple forms and bright colors to create a happy, hopeful image of giving kids a home.

"These people asked me to do a picture of a complex subject. So all I could do is go back to my childhood and draw it like a child with vibrant fresh colors and stick figures," said the 31-year-old freelance artist, who now lives in Bethesda, Md. "I was trying to capture that little moment when they go off to their parents."

Berger's "Adoption Awareness" stamp will be issued by the U.S. Postal Service on Wednesday in Beverly Hills. The stamp is the first to be solely designed by Berger, who had assisted in other stamp designs with the Kessler Design Group of Bethesda.

The commemorative stamp is part of the Postal Service's ongoing program to highlight social issues, according to spokesman Don Smeraldi. Stamps were issued for Prostate Cancer Awareness in 1999 and for Organ & Tissue Donation and Breast Cancer Research in 1998.

"We need to use all the tools at our disposal to let the country know that 110,000 children [nationwide] need homes," explained Jennifer Perry, executive director of L.A.-based Children's Action Network, one of the groups that joined together to campaign for the adoption stamp. "Everyone looks at stamps and uses the mail, so it is a tremendous tool. Every time you look at this stamp, you see a child who needs a home."

The stamp is the latest educational program to raise awareness about adoption, a subject long shrouded in secrecy and shame until the 1970s when consumer groups began advocating for rights of adoptees and birth parents.

"I can remember when we had separate waiting rooms for the two sets of parents. We didn't want anybody to meet anybody," recalls Sharon Kaplan Roszia, who has been in the adoption field since 1963 and is now the Southern California director for Kinship Center, the statewide adoption agency. "To watch it come from that level of secrecy to ongoing open relationships with children is an amazing thing to behold."

Many adoptees such as Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's International Inc., recall a time when they didn't want to talk about their adoption. The 67-year-old Thomas said he started talking about his adoption 15 years ago, and he created the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992. He has been lobbying for the postal stamp for the last year and a half.

"They said, 'Come back in the year 2005 and submit your request.' I said, 'Wait--there's 110,000 kids in foster care who are ready to be adopted, and if we can get the stamp out, we can remind people about kids who don't have homes.' "

The adoption division of the Los Angeles County Children and Family Services has 400 to 500 children waiting for a permanent home; Orange County's Children and Family Services adoption division has about 50 to 100 children. Statewide, 8,033 children await adoption.

To give the adoption awareness stamp a high-profile launch, U.S. Postmaster General William Henderson, actor Henry Winkler, also one of the founders of the Children's Action Network, actress Anne Archer, comedian Paula Poundstone (an adoptive mom) and Wendy's Thomas will dispense the first of the 200 million commemorative stamps for a couple of hours starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the former Beverly Hills post office building.

Berger also will be there to sign stamps.

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Candace A. Wedlan can be reached at candace.wedlan@latimes.com.

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