Before I even arrived in NE Asia, I knew that Hallie and Jaylenn were two of the kids I was most excited to meet.
They don’t fit the profile of child that you think about when you think about NE Asia adoption. They’re 10 and 8 years old instead of 1 or 2. They live in a group home instead of with a foster family. And both of them have been waiting a very long time for a family. Sadly, they both have had at least one placement fall through in the past.
But each of them so deserves a family of their own.
Before becoming the director of Holt’s NE Asia program, I worked with Holt’s China program. A big part of my job on the China team was advocating for older kids. And on the NE Asia team, we’ve had to advocate a lot for Hallie and Jaylenn – explaining to our NE Asia partner agency that it is possible for us to find them a family! That there are families who are interested in older kids! And I’m determined to keep fighting for these kids who are so deserving of families of their own.
I met Hallie first. She walked into the house I was doing the evaluations in wearing a soft pink puffy coat and stylish wire rimmed glasses that she picked out herself! Both Hallie and Jaylenn wear glasses, and I do too — so that was a fun little connection point. Hallie just got her hair cut the day before, which she styled that day into long curls. She chewed a big piece of gum during our visit.
I noticed how she spoke comfortably with the adults in the room. They told me she is confident and comfortable when she’s around people she knows well, but is quite shy in public.
Hallie is missing fingers on one of her hands, and she also takes growth hormones and iron supplements since she is quite small. But she doesn’t have any other diagnosed medical needs otherwise. Her caregivers say that in the past couple of years they have seen her grow emotionally and she is less stubborn than she was before.
I asked her what type of family she’d like, and she quickly told me she wants younger siblings so that she can play with and take care of them. She would prefer to live in a city, and wants to learn to speak English.
As our time together came to a close, I could see that Hallie would absolutely thrive in a family.
Next, I was supposed to meet Jaylenn. But he was a little bit late because he was coming from his piano lessons. The group home in NE Asia does a great job keeping the kids busy with fun activities!
Jaelynn also came in wearing a puffy coat, a red one. And his glasses — which he picked out himself — are trendy and circular in shape. He’s a little more rambunctious than Hallie, and I could tell he has a funny side.
Jaelynn has ADHD, but he’s been on medication for a year and a half and it’s helped him to concentrate and communicate his emotions better. His caregivers say his behavior is “remarkably better” than it was several years ago.
He does well in school, has lots of friends — “20 friends,” he told me — and loves dinosaurs (especially the tyrannosaurus rex!).
I asked him if he’d rather live in the city or the country.
“City,” he said. But then his caregivers explained to him the difference between the city and the countryside, and he changed his answer. He also said he really wants a little brother to play with.
At just 8 years old, Jaylenn says he understands the meaning of adoption. He said he’s a little scared of flying to the U.S. because he’s heard it’s a very long trip. But otherwise, he said he’s not scared of being adopted. He said if his mom and dad are there, he knows he will be OK.
Hearing those words from Jaylenn touched me deeply. “With a mom and dad, he knows he will be OK.”
A family is what both Hallie and Jaylenn need most of all. They’re living in an institution — a very good one, but still an institution. And I hope more than anything that we’ll soon find the right families for both of them. Because they are older, both of them get significantly fewer families inquiring about them than the younger children who are waiting in NE Asia.
The best parents for these older kids are often parents who have parented past their age. Parents who understand what it’s like to parent an 8 year old or a 10 year old.
In these final days of National Adoption Month, it’s my wish that Hallie and Jaylenn will get the chance to grow up in a family. That they will get the specialized love and care they need to thrive. That they will get to experience what it’s like to “be OK” with the safety and security of a mom and dad.
Amy Kalani | Director of NE Asia Adoption Program
If you’re interested in learning more about Hallie or Jaylenn, please reach out to me at email@example.com or 541-697-2202 ext. 144.