I was recently talking with a family who is preparing for their adoption of a 14-year-old girl from Colombia. The mother shared with me that, whenever she tells others that their family is adopting a teen, she gets really strange looks from people.
The only word they utter is, “Really?” but the look yells, “Are you crazy?!?”
I chuckled knowingly as she told me this, but, to be honest, I have (in my head, of course) asked that same question.
Almost 90 percent of the children served by our Colombia program are 9 to 16 years old. When the program first opened two years ago and I began reviewing the profiles of the older children, I struggled to repress the troubling thought, “How will we ever find families to say ‘yes’ to these children?”
They have been neglected, hurt and betrayed over and over again. They have lost their birth parents to drugs, alcohol, prison, prostitution and death. They have been rejected by extended family members. Many are struggling to navigate the twists and turns of the tween and teen years without much, if any, adult guidance.
But then, when I looked more closely, I also saw children and teens who are incredibly courageous and resilient. Despite the circumstances of their past, they survived. They are striving to make a life that is not defined by their physical and emotional scars. They are searching for normalcy.
They go to school, hang out with friends, do their chores or balk at doing their chores. They listen to their favorite music, dance spontaneously and sing at the top of their lungs or hum quietly to themselves. They play soccer and fantasize of being a superstar on the national team. They aspire to attend college and become a veterinarian, teacher, artist, journalist or social worker. They dream of marrying someone who will love them just the way they are. They envision how they will treat their child when they become a mommy or daddy. They are living their lives and dreaming about their futures.
That’s when it occurred to me that it’s never too late.
We all need a family whether we are 4 months old or 14 years old or 44 years old. We all need people surrounding us who care about us, want the best for us, encourage us and believe in us. We don’t stop needing these things just because we go away to college, or get married or become a parent.
In fact, there have been many times I have needed my parents’ support even more during these milestones. How would my life be different if I didn’t have a family to go home to during Spring Break or a father to walk me down the aisle at my wedding or a mother to show me how to care for a baby? We need our families for a lifetime.
Every child deserves those privileges!
I have to believe there are families out there who are well equipped to be a mom and dad to these children and teens. I don’t mean adults who are capable of teaching them life skills until they emancipate from home or who have the financial means to assist with the cost of college. Although life skills and college are huge assets, they don’t replace parents who stand by your side throughout your life.
If you think you might just have what it takes to provide a loving, forever family to an older child or teen, we would love to hear from you.
—by Denise Schoborg, Dillon International’s Colombia Program Director
Editor’s Note: Want to know more about the older children and teens in Colombia, China, Haiti, Hong Kong, India and Oklahoma who are waiting for forever families? Visit our Waiting Child pages for more information and to meet the children.