Lighting the Path from Chaos to Forever Family
"It was like suddenly going from zero to sixty," Luke Ogden remembers. Most parents grow into their role, but for adoptive parents of older kids, there's a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
“It felt like chaos at the start," Carollyn Ogden agrees. "All of a sudden, I was a new mom. The other parents at the girls’ school were great about showing us things, sharing tips . . . a survival course in parenting for the elementary school set."
Less than two years ago, Mya and Cassidy Ogden were just two of the more than 100,000 American children every year waiting to find their forever family.* And while every adoption has challenges, when you adopt two sisters (ages seven and eight) from another state who are a different ethnicity than you and who have lived apart from each other, "challenge" hardly describes it.
But for Cassidy and Mya, “challenge” and “chaos” was just everyday life. Before they became a family with Carollyn and Luke, Cassidy and Mya lived at times with fast food at Thanksgiving and Christmas; uncertain futures; and fewer of the hugs, kisses, and “I love yous” most children take for granted.
Today, the Ogden girls politely wait for a break in the conversation. Then they bubble over talking about the things they do as a family, their house and neighborhood, what they like about their new school, and plans they’ve made with new friends. “Like any parent, now I worry when it's too quiet," Luke laughs. He has a remedy for that. Luke, who owns a dog walking business, takes his daughters along. "The girls love animals.” That includes their guinea pig Newman, their dog Lilly, and their cats, Ivan and Chatsworth. Plus, they have their favorite stuffed animals—Cassidy’s “Fatty the Elephant” and Mya’s “Marshmallow the Seal.”
A year and a half after they came together as a family there are still some challenges, but increasingly they’re the same as anyone else’s, like getting homework done. Now, Carollyn and Luke's extended family babysits, and the girls enjoy their new cousins. In fact, Carollyn’s family was the start of their journey to adoption. "I grew up Lutheran," she says. "Mom is treasurer of the NJ WELCA group (Women of the ELCA). I used to see the LSMNJ newsletters. That's how I knew that they could help us create our family."
Even with help, finding the right match wasn't easy. "We almost gave up on adoption,” Carollyn remembers. “But everyone deserves a home. We’re going to change what would have been a sad future for our two girls, into what will be a positive future, for them and their children.” No doubt: adoption changes everyone, children and parents, today and forever. "When our daughters first called us 'Mommy and Daddy,' they said it like a job title. Now they say it like they mean it, and it feels right."
*Source: NJ, Children’s Defense Fund, Center for Law and Social Policy, Inc., “Child Welfare in New Jersey” http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/data/state-data-repository/cwf/2010/child-welfare-financing-new-jersey; Source, National: National Adoption Center, http://www.adopt.org/faq