Newborn Jack was found, laid on a bed of flowers. Nate was found in a desolate area. Both abandoned by their birth parents, they would spend more than a decade of their life in an orphanage.
Jack’s vision problems were so severely neglected, he was unable to see to complete his homework. Scoliosis plagues Nate’s body and he has never been able to dress and shower himself. The boys, living together in close quarters in the orphanage, found solace in one another. Nate would help Jack with his homework and Jack would shower and dress Nate. They were like brothers the way they’d bicker, play games together and look out for each other.
Suzy and Joe Kuhner were familiar with adoption when they welcomed Nate and Jack into their family at the ages of 12 and 13. Their family includes one biological child, two children from a previous marriage, and five adopted children from China, including Nate and Jack.
Suzy was moved by the connection Jack and Nate had formed. Suzy explained, “Typically at an orphanage, kids interact in a competitive way. They look for dirt on each other and use it against each other. To see these boys forge such a love for each other in that environment really touched our hearts.”
On the way home from China, Jack wore Joe’s reading glasses, and sang “Hallelujah” because he could actually see something. Nate’s physical needs were finally being cared for by someone other than Jack.
Suzy believes that these two had a relatively easy transition into their new home because of the fact that they had each other throughout their lives. They were quick to show love for their new family, which was something different than some of the Kuhners’ past experiences of adopting older children.
Adopting older orphans can come with challenges like depression and anxiety. The kids have experienced trauma and haven’t always been shown kindness. Suzy and her husband work hard to teach their children a new storyline for their lives. She says, “We handle it with a sense of humor.” They prepare them for the future while catching up on the kids’ education, plus other medical and mental health needs.
“When you’re adopting older children, you’re taking on a tremendous responsibility. It’s hard on your marriage, on your kids, on your finances. It can be overwhelming.”
Suzy expresses the importance with older adoptees to know your role. In some cases, she says, you may be a mentor or a sponsor. “We looked at it this way. We’re going to help you, we’re going to get you medical care, we’re going to teach you about life, we’re going to try to help you understand your feelings and work through them, and we’re going to push you in school.”
Suzy continues, “You can really come along side these older kids, and they really appreciate the help. That’s so fulfilling. I know I’ve made a big impact on their life. They’ve been given something worthwhile. That’s very affirming.”