Kevin Riordan: Voorhees couple build a family through adoption

Jorge and Yolaika Medina (left) joined by Chasity (top), with Antonio in front of her, and (front row from left) Owen, Dennis, and Vera. On Friday, they will make Owen and Vera officially theirs.
Jorge and Yolaika Medina (left) joined by Chasity (top), with Antonio in front of her, and (front row from left) Owen, Dennis, and Vera. On Friday, they will make Owen and Vera officially theirs. (APRIL SAUL / Staff)
Posted: November 13, 2012

Two careers, five kids, an eight-seater van, and an online calendar to keep the whole household running.

Jorge and Yolaika Medina are raising a thoroughly modern family on a woodsy cul-de-sac in Voorhees.

"We had a plan for a boy and a girl," Yolaika, 32, says and laughs. "But Chasity came into our lives before we planned to start having children. And three months after we adopted her, Antonio and Dennis came along."

The couple's three oldest - ages 13, 10, and 9 - are the biological children of Yolaika's younger sister. The Medinas adopted them after she was unable to care for them - Chasity in 2004, and her brothers in 2006.

At Camden County's annual "Adoption Day" on Friday - November is national Adoption Month - they'll make Owen, 5, and Vera, 4, officially theirs, too.

The two youngest, who are siblings, were placed with the Medinas as foster children 20 months ago by the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency.

"We weren't really given details about their situation," Jorge says. "We hadn't been planning to adopt two more children, but we wanted to help them."

Owen and Vera are among 260 children in Camden County and 1,400 statewide being legally adopted this year.

"My name won't be Vera Espinoza, it will be Vera Luisa Medina," says the little girl, who's sufficiently adorable to star in a movie.

"It's a very cool name," Vera continues. "It's my own name."

I meet the Medinas at their bustling, five-bedroom home, where the warm atmosphere reminds me of when I was a kid, the oldest of six.

Adoption isn't simple, and it can be a challenge for parent and child. It can take a year or more and cost from $7,500 to as much as $45,000.

Jorge and Yolaika, committed Christians who married in 2001, have embraced adoption not by necessity, but by choice. And they hope to encourage others to do the same.

"When the opportunity came along, the driving factor was love," says Jorge, 34, a Trenton native who works as a trainer with Verizon Wireless.

"Adoption is a beautiful thing, but five is our limit. Our job now is to get other people to do it," says Yolaika, who grew up in Camden and whose mother also raised children who were not her own. Yolaika works as a confidential aide to Camden County chief financial officer David McPeak.

Adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities as any birth parent, and their children are provided protections equivalent to those afforded biological offspring, says Camden County Surrogate Patricia Egan Jones.

"Adoption is about giving, not taking," Jones says. "We certainly don't expect everyone to bring five adopted children into their homes, but if they take one, they've made a huge difference."

"Adoption makes it a legal, as well as a loving, relationship," she adds.

For the Medinas, the relationship has a spiritual component, as well. They are members of Lion of Judah Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Somerdale, where the Rev. Elizer Agron is pastor.

Owen and Vera will be "dedicated" during a church service after the final adoption proceeding.

"It's not a baptism. It's more like a christening," Agron explains. "They present their child to the Lord."

The Medinas did not want to dedicate the youngest children before the adoption was finalized - another reason, Yolaika says, why "sealing the deal" in court matters.

Says Jorge, "Owen can't wait to get his last name changed."

His parents explained the facts of adoption to all of their children at an early age. The older three occasionally see their biological mother.

"There's no secrets," Jorge says. "Dennis was 5 when we told him, and he had the most questions. He was the most curious.

"And at the end of this long, drawn-out thing, Dennis said, 'I'm glad I'm adopted, because if I wasn't, I wouldn't have you.' "


Contact Kevin Riordan

at 856-779-3845, kriordan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @inqkriordan. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at www.phillynews.com/blinq.

For more information on adoption in Camden County, e-mail Patricia Egan Jones at patjones@camdencounty.com, or call the Surrogate's Office at 856-225-7282.

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