By Fredricka R. Maister

'Forever Families', Inspired by Noelle

  |  Adoption  

Deb Capone tells people that when she adopted her daughter, Noelle, from Hunan Province, China, in 2000, she knowingly joined the legion of “the sleep-deprived” and unknowingly became part of what has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population: the transracial family. Like so many new parents, this single Long Island mom bought all kinds of books, tapes, videos and CDs to amuse and educate her child. But she quickly became frustrated by the lack of any products or characters that her Chinese-American adopted daughter could embrace as role models. “If I was trying to give Noelle an entertainment role model that looked like her, had some of her background, like a Barbie kind of thing, there was really nothing for her,” Capone recalls. Also blatantly missing from the myriad of media offerings were the very values she wanted to instill in Noelle — respect and celebration of all cultures, choices, abilities (and disabilities). So what did this proactive mom with 20 years of publishing, sales and marketing experience in the high-technology field do to meet her daughter’s needs? With Noelle as her "muse”, Capone began to create characters and storylines that would relate to the reality of her own transracial family. An entrepreneurial dynamo, she then founded As Simple As That, a children’s publishing company committed to creating multi-media products that “encourage children to accept, understand, respect and celebrate all cultures, choices and ‘abilities’.” Families Are Forever ($16.95), based on characters by Deb Capone and written by Craig Shemin, a former writer for the Jim Henson Company, is the first offering in what will be an ongoing children’s book series addressing issues of adoption and multi-racial and multi-cultural family life. Targeted to all families with children ages 3-8, Families is told through the eyes and words of 6-year-old Rain, a Chinese-American adoptee obviously inspired by Noelle. We follow Rain as she journeys from an orphanage in China to her blue house by the train in America. We meet her new “forever” Mom and her extended family, not to mention Bo, her “forever" stuffed hippo, who is based on the “worse-for-wear” hippo that Capone has kept since childhood. Entertaining, yet instructive, this heartwarming story embodies Capone’s vision of teaching children to respect their own uniqueness while recognizing the ways in which they are similar to other races and cultures. For example, when Rain sees her new mom, she says, “Our eyes were different, but we could both see. Our lips were different, but we could both smile.” “What we’re trying to do is look at things that are similar against a background of diversity,” Capone explains. “We’re turning diversity on its ear. We all share so much more than we are different. Let’s build on the foundation of what makes us all human because that’s key to your sense of self. When we learn that lesson, we can move on.” Given the surge in adoptions and multi-racial and multi-ethnic families (international adoptions alone are said to be tripling every five years), the message of Families Are Forever could not be timelier. In our melting pot culture, America’s families, schools, neighborhoods and communities are all being affected by these changing demographics. “Our kids no longer live in segregated communities,” says Capone. “Especially if you live in a major metropolitan area like New York, every time you turn around there is someone who is different and parents and educators are fielding questions like ‘Why doesn’t she look like her mother?’ or ‘Why doesn’t she have a baby picture?’ ” Capone, who sits on the International Parents Committee at Spence-Chapin, the New York adoption agency, envisions Families as a springboard from which to answer kids’ tough questions and engage them in talking about adoption, family formation, and differences. In her presentations to schools, she has been using the book to facilitate such conversations and always finds the kids’ responses amazingly “insightful and inspirational”. “In our small way," says Capone, “we’re trying to raise the awareness and make children understand that at the end of the day, no matter how your family is formed, whether it’s adoption or two parents of the same sex, whatever it is, families are forever. It’s a very simple concept and we all deserve to respect and celebrate the way our families are formed.” In upcoming sequels, the themes introduced in Families will be further explored as Rain and her constant companion Bo embark on new learning adventures and interact with extended family members and characters like Carlos, Rain’s Hispanic best friend, and Katarina, her Russian playmate. The second book on the publication roster, Grandparents Are For Loving, will focus on Rain’s relationship with her grandmother, followed by a book about siblings. As Simple As That donates a portion of the proceeds from its products to leading American and international organizations that assist children with their most basic needs like medical care, warm clothes, food and education. At the present time, 50 percent of the retail price for each copy of Families purchased on their website is being earmarked for Wu Rongdan, a 2-year-old Chinese orphan in need of heart surgery before she is allowed to be adopted by a “forever family”. For further information about Deb Capone’s projects, visit And remember to stay tuned for more of Rain and her beloved hippo Bo.