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Meet the Koehler Family

 

"They've taught us to be better people." 

When medical issues blocked the usual pathway to parenthood, Jennifer O'Connor and Stephen Koehler quickly realized, “How we became parents wasn't important. Sharing our lives and love with our children was.” They approached Adoption RI to begin the adoption process. 

By adopting twice, Jennifer and Stephen have created a close-knit family consisting of four beautiful daughters, now ages 12 to 18.  First they reached out to a sibling trio of sisters, Alex, Jessica (“Jess”), and Lilly. The girls were ages 9, 8, and 7 when they arrived to the Koehler’s home. Their adoption occurred the following year. 

The three sisters had each been in and out of foster care for her entire life, starting from birth. When they arrived, none knew how to read, all had multiple psychiatric diagnoses, and one had multiple learning disabilities. The Koehler’s utilized many post adoption services to address their daughters’ needs. These included counseling and inpatient psychiatric services. 

For their second adoption, the Koehler’s chose a single child, Mia, who arrived at age 10 and was adopted just last year at age 11. Mia had also been in and out of foster care her entire life. She too has faced mental health and learning challenges. 

All four girls have made immense progress since arriving to their new home. Jennifer and Stephen glow with pride when they describe their daughters’ accomplishments. Alex excels at academics and leadership. She is president of the Best Buddies organization at school, and she is taking classes to earn her Associates degree while still in high school. Fun-loving Jess focuses on theater and pageantry.  While initially shy, she shines on stage in pageants and when performing. 

Kind-hearted Lily spent her summer working at a bike camp for underprivileged youth.  During the school year she is deeply engrossed in the world of robotics, computer science, and engineering.  

Mia is shy at first meeting, but becomes entertainingly silly once she is comfortable. Mia is still discovering the niceties of normal childhood. She has just started to participate in a school theater program. 

The Koehler’s had to master new skills as they became an instant family. ”We have learned to be trauma-focused parents.” Before the girls came, Jennifer and Stephen worked with an attachment specialist to prepare for anticipated behaviors and learn how best to react.  “It helped us to know that we weren't alone.” They found DCFY and the Adoption RI community to be a vital support during and after both adoptions. 

Jennifer and Steven have learned the most important lessons from the girls themselves. “They've taught us to be better people. They've taught us patience, trust, understanding, the value of time, and the importance of saying ‘I love you’ every day.” 

Thanking members of Congress for the “very helpful” Federal Adoption Tax Credit, the Koehler’s respectfully request more support for our nation’s “amazing foster and adoptive parents;” more tuition assistance for youth adopted from foster care; and more inclusivity for diverse families who could provide loving, supportive homes.   

Oldest daughter Alex reports one of her favorite early memories with her new family. “We went to ‘build a bear’ on our adoption day. It made my year. No, it made my life!”