November 15 is World Adoption Day, a day to celebrate family and raise awareness about adoption worldwide. Here, our own Jennifer Asay shares her story about adopting Elise LiSong and Drew Zhian and how they have enriched her family.
It all began when I was an MBA student at the University of Chicago. Many of my classmates were Chinese, and that’s how I became more aware of China’s one-child policy and its impact on that country’s demographics, economics and family life. Their stories inspired me to consider adopting a child from China. Trust me, with dual careers and two biological children, it was not a decision my husband and I took lightly – or for the usual reasons.
For me, the drive to adopt rather than have another biological child came from a strong desire to bring diversity into our family by offering a loving home to a child in need. My husband and I are both Caucasian, and we strongly believe in the power of diversity of thought and experience. I’m always seeking out opportunities to explore other cultures, learn from others, and broaden my perspective. What better way to do that – not only for myself but for my whole family – than through an international adoption?
Our adoption journey began in 2006 when we made the decision to adopt a baby girl from China. We expected that in the average nine-12 month wait time, a new child would join our family. What we didn’t know at the time was that China slowed the rate of non-special needs adoptions significantly beginning that year. As it turned out, our daughter Regan was 15 years old and our son Brett was 12 years old when we adopted seven-month-old Elise LiSong in 2012.
Just over three years later, we learned that there were many young boys in China with minor correctable special needs hoping for a home. With a young daughter excited to have a playmate and an excellent nanny already in place, this past January we welcomed 16-month-old Drew Zhian into our family. Drew has had successful procedures at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to address his congenital cleft lip and cleft palate.
The experience has been a valuable one for our entire family. Having Elise and Drew has made Regan and Brett more aware of the struggles of people who are new to the US. Regan was inspired to start an English as a Second Language (ESL) club at her high school. Now that she’s in college, our son, Brett, is leading the effort.
We’ve also broadened our family’s perspectives and enriched our lives by learning about the culture and heritage of our adopted children’s home country. We enjoy Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditions. And in addition to celebrating milestones like their birthdays, we also commemorate ‘Gotcha’ day – the anniversary of the day when Elise and Drew joined our family.
My husband and I are so grateful for the adoption benefits Sanofi US provides. The financial help the company offers to adoptive parents has defrayed some of the many expenses of adopting. And the company’s parental leave helped us in adjusting to the reality of providing a loving home for two children. And as each day passes, we’re more and more thankful for the joy and diversity Elise and Drew have brought to our family.