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Meet The Olsson Family from Illinois

"Home! I feel home for real." - Nathan age, 12

When Heather and Scott Olsson formed a union, their life plan was always to be foster care providers and to adopt. What is more, they wanted to provide permanency, security and love for an older child who typically faces greater challenges to placement. Heather states that adopting their son Nathan at the age of 12 turned out to be “the most rewarding thing we have ever done.”

Through Adoption Center of Illinois, Heather and Scott participated in a home-study to prepare for the adoption process. They then worked with Lutheran Child and Family Services. Nathan remembers the laughter and warmth of that first night he spent with his adoptive parents. It was his 11th birthday. Scott was telling “corny Dad jokes” and they were all having a great time. Then his new parents set a birthday cake on the table that read “Welcome Home.” After spending half his life moving from one foster care residence to another, Nathan remembers that moment as the first time he thought, “Home! I feel home for real.”

The Olsson family continues to build wonderful memories. Heather recalls a night they all went to see Paul McCartney in concert and Nathan “sang along to every song he knew!” She describes her son as "a charming youngster who lights up a room.”  Nathan elicits ear to ear smiles from everyone he meets. Aside from music and people, Nathan enjoys quiet time playing with Legos and Matchbox cars.

In order to address some of the challenges their son faces, the Olssons utilized pre-and-post adoption counseling. “Counseling has been key! We have done individual and family counseling and continue to do so after the adoption to help with past traumas and attachments.”

The family has faced significant obstacles accessing post adoption care and services. Heather writes, “Finding appropriate doctors and specialists who take the Medical card, are accepting new patients, and are in locations that are safe, is beyond difficult.” Currently, the Olssons are paying “out of pocket” to provide Nathan the care he needs and deserves.

The Olssons would respectfully make one request of policymakers: “faster permanent placement.” Once it has been determined that the biological family cannot provide a safe or healthy environment, the process for terminating rights “should be streamlined.” Speaking from their own experience, Heather and Scott affirm that multiple moves and long waits are “so damaging to the child's sense of foundation.”

The Olssons are fortunate to have lots of friends and relatives that have supported them and welcomed Nathan with open arms. Reflecting on what family means to him, Nathan refers to a special word from Lilo and Stitch, a movie beloved by many youngsters: OHANA.  “Ohana means family - and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

At 12 years of age Nathan understands the ease and efficiency of adopting an infant, but he urges those considering adopting to consider an older child who may have made poor choices as a reaction to instability. To those with apprehensions, Mom Heather replies “adding a new family member, whether adopted or biological, is always scary; don't let that hold you back. Adoption is the most rewarding experience.”