Home for Christmas

One hot summer day at the beach, Susan and Jon waded in the water hand in hand with two cheerful and excited children as the waves rolled by them. “It feels like we are already a family,” thought Susan.

Only a few weeks earlier Susan and Jon had a chance encounter with a single mom who was to host a Colombian child through Kidsave. After seeing pictures of 9-year-old Melany and 12-year-old Juan, they knew they had to meet them in person.

The day came when Susan and Jon met Melany and Juan at a Kidsave Summer Miracles event. With open minds and hearts, the couple thought at the very least they would develop a good network of people to help them learn more about adopting older children.

With the support and encouragement of Melany’s and Juan’s host family, Susan and Jon fell head over heels for the pair, all while navigating a language barrier. “I was completely nervous because I didn’t know how to speak much Spanish, and I wanted to make sure they felt comfortable,” says Susan. With the help of Kidsave’s staff, the four found ways to connect and were soon creating collages, laughing, and learning all about each other.

What captivated Jon and Susan most about the kids was their exuberant personalities. They picked up on Melany’s outgoing, unique “performer” personality, and Juan’s gracious and analytical charm. Further cementing their connection, Susan and Jon were able to spend the rest of the summer getting to know the children at Kidsave events, as well as outdoor activities, visits to their host family’s home, and having them over for dinner.

“I think having them over really helped get them comfortable with us,” says Susan. “They were always very excited and curious, asking a million and one questions about what their new family might be like in the future.”

Although the sun set on their magical summer together, their story continued as the children returned to Colombia. Jon and Susan began the process of adopting the kids and bringing them back to the U.S. In less than a year, their adoption was finalized and the family of two became a forever family of four.

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As Jon and Susan traveled to Colombia, they both had butterflies in their stomachs. But after their reunion, they all fell immediately back into the bond they had formed during the summer. In no time, Juan and Melany began calling Susan and Jon Mami and Papi, a moment that filled the new parents’ hearts with love.

The family has since shared many beautiful moments. The kids couldn’t wait to see snow for the first time. And their dream became a reality on a family trip when they got to play in the beautiful flurries. Now the kids can’t get enough and look forward to seeing snow whenever they can.

Susan recalls other sweet moments with her children. She often hears Melany and Juan echo phrases she and Jon use. “When Melany says, ‘are you kidding me!’ it’s just really cute,” says Susan. “It’s just fun seeing them grow, learn English, and hear the stories of what they have learned and what they are excited for in the future.”

Melany has an empathetic heart and a great appreciation for animals and might even grow up to be a vet, or as Susan says, “she wants to live in a house with a lot of animals, so she might be a crazy cat lady!” Juan is very energetic and a natural-born athlete. Jon and Susan hope to get him signed up for sports soon. “The kids are both very creative,” says Susan. “They are always making forts in the backyard and letting their imaginations run free.”

Jon and Susan encourage their kids to never forget where they come from and to find strength in their heritage. “We always want them to be their authentic selves and celebrate their culture,” says Susan. This year the family celebrated their first Thanksgiving together and are looking forward to celebrating their first Christmas. Juan and Melany will help cook the holiday meal and incorporate some of their favorite Colombian dishes, like rice and beans, to Jon and Susan’s traditional feast.

Cooking is one way that the family has bonded because it is something the children associate with the Colombian culture. “The kids are very connected to food. We love making meals together, and the kids just light up when they can participate in meal preparation,” says Susan. Celebrating almost a year together, the kids have truly blossomed and now view their home in Southern California as their forever place.

Filled with an appreciation for Kidsave, Susan offers this advice for those wanting to adopt. “I encourage families to be open to opportunities, and to be mindful of the unique backgrounds kids may come from,” says Susan. “Our kids are extremely resilient, and they’ve gone through a lot. It is just an amazing experience to get to see them grow and change.”

As this forever family celebrates their first Holiday season, we wish them happiness and love and look forward to seeing them experience many more firsts together.

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