Monday, November 23, 2009

Who's "missing" from your table this Thanksgiving?

This post was submitted by Kathy Olsen, former director of AHOPE, and adoptive mom of 4 children, two of whom were adopted as teens from Bulgaria through AAI. Kathy is a passionate advocate for the adoption of older children and sent us this reflection and beautiful collage of family pictures created by her daughter Karen, depicted in the photo's top left corner .

This is the season of gatherings where we give thanks for all our blessings. We are grateful for family, for friends, for the bounty that is ours. But a child who has no family is missing out. Holidays may be celebrated in an orphanage, but it is not the same as the gathering around of people who love each other for better or for worse, for who they are, for ever and ever.

The older children are quite aware that something is missing from their lives. If they have had a family, they miss family. If they have never had a family, they miss what they imagine might have been and, saddest of all, may be resigned to the fact that what they miss will probably never happen for them. They have seen their friends leave for new families. They wonder why no one wants them.

My definition of older child is one who is now a teen. Adoption of these children is relatively rare. But they need families, too. Yes, they come with a history, but they also come with a track record. If a child is well liked and trusted by the other children and the caregivers, you have a winner. If a child is kind to the younger children, you have a winner. Layla House has winners who need a chance, who need a family. AHOPE Ethiopia's older kid’s home has winners too who need a chance, who need a family.

I speak from experience. Two of our children arrived as teens— one at 15 (a so-called last chance kid) and one at 14. Unlike the Layla and AHOPE children, they were not prepared for adoption and spoke not a single word of English. Despite many challenges, our son Stuart is a graduate of the University of Washington now employed by NOAA, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration. Our daughter Karen is working on her Master’s Degree in Education, teaches preschool, and has a true gift for engaging with children challenged by autism. Both are very much part of the family, very attached to their other siblings, their mom and dad, and truly a blessing to all of us, forever and ever.

When you gather for the Thanksgiving feast, look around and see if it seems that someone is missing. Consider adopting an older child. He or she is waiting.
If you start now, maybe by next Thanksgiving, you will have yet another reason to give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!! Kathy Olsen

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