Meet Erika & Emily Larson, 11 months old in Guangzhou, China.
At BEB, we are always grateful to share the powerful stories of people who are actively fighting for the child’s basic human right to a family. In this blogpost, we introduce you to Allen Larson, father of two beautiful, adopted daughters.
We asked Allen a few questions. In this post we want to specifically focus on his response when being asked, "What made you choose the path of adoption?" Then later on will share more insight from the rest our conversation with him. We hope you enjoy hearing this part of his story as much as we did.
Thank you, Allen, for joining BEB to transform the process to move children to their best future, a chance to grow and flourish in a loving family.
"As a young adult I did not think I wanted to have children. I did not think I would be a good father.
I grew up in a family where there was not a lot of warmth, affection, or emotion and “I love you” was handed out sparingly. My father had a strong work ethic, was a great provider and our family never went without. But there was not any time in his schedule for movies, fishing, camping, playing catch or shooting baskets. All those things a child wants to do with their father when he gets home from work or on the weekend. I was afraid if I had children, I would instinctively raise them based on my role model, and I just did not want to pass on that legacy.
After I got married, and whenever my wife brought up the subject of starting a family, I would gracefully sidestep the topic and tell her I just did not think I was ready. I needed to accomplish more in my career, and I wanted to be more secure financially. Then one day while I was sitting in the Seattle airport waiting to start a business trip, I noticed a father and his two young children. The three of them were in their own little world and their obvious unconditional love for each other spoke volumes. While watching them from a distance it hit me like a bolt of lightning, “I just needed to combine the positive traits my dad modeled while I was growing up with everything I wanted from him but didn’t get and I would be an awesome father”. My entire attitude about having children and raising a family changed by the time I arrived in Chicago.
A short time later we decided it was time to start a family. However, we hit a roadblock when we found that my wife had a medical condition that would make it impossible for her to have children. We did not let it hold us back and we decided to investigate international adoption. It seemed like a natural option as my wife was adopted from South Korea by a family from Houston, Texas, when she was three-years-old.
One night at dinner we even discussed how great it would be if we were able to adopt twins. After doing a lot of due diligence and soul-searching, China became our country of choice. In addition, we knew firsthand from my wife’s experience what growing up in a forever family could mean to a child who had started their life in an orphanage.
We dove headfirst into the international adoption process. During our first interview with the social worker from our adoption agency we asked if twins were ever available. Her response was, “twins from China are very rarely available for adoption. My recommendation is you request one child now and then return in a few years to adopt a second little girl. If you request twins now you will wait forever”. As a result, on all our paperwork throughout the entire adoption process we requested one child. We set up the nursery with one of everything and started filling the closet with a lot of cute outfits for one little girl.
I was “all in” on becoming a father. I was focused on making sure the entire adoption process ran smoothly, we completed all the paperwork correctly and on time. I Federal Expressed everything so I would have a tracking number if anything got lost. I had heard horror stories about lost documents and the impact it had on the timing of the adoption process. Thanks to my father role modeling a strong work ethic I became a man on a mission. I started carrying two briefcases to work each day one for my job and one with all our adoption paperwork. I wanted to be ready if our adoption agency needed anything. The adoption agency staff got to know me very well. They even recognized the sound of my voice when they answered the phone.
I was excited about bringing our little girl home and starting a life with her. I read books on the adoption process, raising adopted children, raising adopted children from foreign countries and I talked to a lot of people who had gone through the process before. “The Lost Daughters of China” and “When You Were Born in China” became my favorite books.
The only problem was our little girl was not even born yet! It was September 1999, the adoption process from China at that time took 12 to 14 months and children were normally adopted when they were 11 to 12 months old. So, I was a little ahead of myself. However, when the time came, I wanted to be ready.
In mid-October 2000 I was sitting in my office one rainy afternoon when I received a call from the Director of Social Services at our adoption agency. She asked, “are you sitting down? We had a conference call with Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs last night and they informed us they have identical twin girls available for adoption. If you are still open to adopting twins there are identical twin girls waiting for you at the orphanage in Qingyuan, Guangdong Province China”. The social worker who had interviewed us over a year before had remembered we asked about adopting twins, and the rest is history. We had about 45 days to plan our trip to China. On December 3, we were on our way to adopt the two most beautiful little girls in the world. After spending the month of December 2000 in China going through the adoption process there, we arrived home on Christmas night 2000 with two of the most incredible gifts anyone could ever imagine.
The past 19 years have been a fantastic journey, and my daughters have enriched my life beyond measure. I have learned so much from them. I believe there is a common thread that runs through children who start their lives in an orphanage. I think they come with a survivor’s instinct that develops into determination, resolve and the strength of their character. In other words, they have grit. I believe that every child who starts their life in an orphanage and is adopted into a loving, forever family can become a positive, impactful member of our society. They will soak up all the love, guidance, and direction you give them and pay it back many times over. They just need a chance to blossom and they will flourish. I have watched it happen."
We are so encouraged by Allen, his daughters, and their heartwarming journey! Look out for part II of Allen’s story this Fall and learn more about how you can help us fix the child welfare system once and for all.