“If I’m from China, where are they from?”
It was a question that sparked an idea for Jane and John Sardos. Why not write a children’s book about adoption?
Their adopted daughter Jaynie was asking the question about her four older brothers, all born to their parents biologically. Since her new family integrated Chinese culture into their day-to-day lives since she arrived in the United States at 13 months old, she always knew where she came from and her own heritage. What she didn’t know is where the rest of her family came from.
“At that time she really just assumed that we were all born somewhere else,” Jane Sardos said. “When she was little she went through a stage where she thought all the babies she saw came from China.”
Her parents eventually explained that Jaynie’s brothers came from “mommy’s tummy.” The Rotterdam couple traveled all the way to China for her because years after deciding their family was through growing, they changed their minds.
After filling out the proper paperwork for both the Chinese and United States governments, having certified social workers do numerous home studies and getting clearance from the FBI, local police and immigration authorities, they adopted Jaynie in December 2001. Sister Jade would follow in March 2004 and Jasmine in July 2006.
“My wife and I always envisioned a big family,” said John Sardos, who is principal of William C. Keane Elementary School in Schenectady. “We have a lot of love to give and just love children. You would think having 400 of them during the day would be enough, but that’s not always the case,” he joked.
They picked China after Jane read an article about the large number of abandoned girls who are given up for adoption because of the country’s “one-child policy” and the traditional preference for male babies. The government has since become more lax with the policy with the growing economy in China. More families can now afford to pay the fines that come with having multiple children, and fewer girls are being left in the government’s care.
Jaynie was almost 4 years old when she began asking questions about where other children came from. It was in 2005, after the adoption of their second daughter, when the Sardoses began their book.
Jane said she always liked rhyming stories and that the words came easily to the couple. John agreed, adding that the many years of reading books to their children and listening to them at school helped them to learn what children like to hear.
The book is called “What Country Are They From?” and focuses on Jaynie and her many questions. It teaches readers, “Some children may be adopted and have a different face but what matters most is what’s in their heart, not their religion or their race.”
Though the words came easy, the illustrations took much more time. Joan Roche, Jane's sister-in-law and a music teacher and artist from Putnam County, drew the pictures while John colored them in with a program he has on his home computer.
“I didn’t realize how long that would take me,” he said.
The book was eventually self-published.
“We tried to do the traditional publisher thing, but either they weren’t accepting new works, we needed an agent, or we needed to know someone," said John. "We went through an online group who helped us and had it printed ourselves.”
The book is now available at The Open Door Bookstore on Jay Street in Schenectady and through their blog at www.moonbeamsspicydreams.blogspot.com. Each of the libraries in the city school district was given a copy of the book, and the girls gave free copies to all of their classmates in the Mohonasen Central School District.
Jane said the book is good for all children, not just those who come from families with adopted siblings.
“A lot of times kids will say things to [the girls] because they don’t understand about adoption. A little boy in Jaynie’s class kept saying ‘They’re not your real sisters,’ but yes they are,” said Jane. “It will help kids understand who are confused. That boy was one of the first to raise his hand and ask for a copy of the book after they were read it at school.”
John said the older boys, who range from 31 to 19 years old, love their sisters just as any other brothers would. Jane said the girls blended into the family very naturally as if she gave birth to them.
Jaynie is now 10, Jade is 8 and Jasmine is 7.
In March, the Sardoses will travel to China for a fifth time to adopt a 3-year-old boy, whom they will name Jude. All proceeds from their book will go toward his adoption.
Why do they continue to adopt?
Jane Sardos answered: “Why not? We love kids and are able to do it, so why not?”
In the future, the Sardoses hope to write a book about their family and the adoptive process, in hopes their advice can help others looking to expand their families.