Nia Vardalos

Nia Vardalos (Keri Wiginton, Chicago Tribune / April 12, 2013)

A: To get kids adopted. As surprised as I was, I see that look in people's eyes now when I tell them there are children who are legally emancipated. They're freed from any parental rights. I see the look in people's eyes like, "Wait a minute. This might be the way."

Q: Do people think birth parents can come back and take foster children away after they've adopted them?

A: That's what I thought. I was so irrational in my fears. I thought that even after our daughter was placed with us and I was assured over and over again that she was legally emancipated. I want people to know, "I understand why you think this. It's what we thought too."

Q: Is that why it's part narrative, part how-to guide?

A: Yes. My goal is to get kids adopted in this country and Canada and hopefully from orphanages in other countries. I'm not trying to push adoption as the only option. If a woman wants to have 19 biological children that is her God-given right. This is just to say, "There are so many options. So many choices. Here are some."

Q: You write about nature versus nurture. Did you also write the book to dispel some myths about adopted children?

A: I did. It's so fascinating to me. Ilaria wanted to be part of the local production of "Little Shop of Horrors" and I didn't push her, I didn't help her learn her lines. I sat in the lobby with the other moms and chatted and texted. She did the entire show and friends of ours looked at us during the show and said, "What is happening?" She's got an innate gift. Now, is that because she lives with us? In a funny household? You are rewarded if you can squirt your dad in the face with a water bottle. I will high-five you. Or is it just a match made in heaven? I don't know.

Q: What did you learn in the process of telling your story?

A: I just told you in my book what I went through and I'm finding this amazing network of women who are coming forward and telling me what they've been through. I'm, again, in awe of the strength of the human spirit and what we can get through. And yet, who's the bravest person I know? My kid.

Twitter @heidistevens13

Fostering adoptions

Nia Vardalos is spokeswoman for National Adoption Day (this year Nov. 23), which promotes adopting foster children. Go to to learn more.

Adopting foster kids in Illinois

Over the past decade, about 17,000 children in foster care were joined with permanent families in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. About 40,000 foster children nationally found families during that time, according to representatives of National Adoption Day.

Adoption laws vary slightly by state, but here are a few key facts about adopting a child through the Illinois DCFS. (Go to

•Adoptive parents can be single, married, in a civil union, divorced or separated.

•It takes about two months to get licensed as a foster parent so a child or children can be placed with your family. Once a placement is made, it takes about six months for an adoption to be approved by DCFS and the courts.

•There is no income requirement to adopt a foster child, and adoptive parents don't need to own the home in which they live.

•The birth parents' legal rights to the child are terminated before the adoption, so any contact between the child and birth parents is determined by the adoptive parents.

•Adoptive parents participate in a mandatory training program after they've been matched with a child.

•The Illinois DCFS provides post-adoption services that include support groups, counseling and training sessions.

— H.S.