Amber Colopy always knew she wanted to adopt a child one day, but then life got in the way.
First, there was college for the former Mission Viejo resident at Vanguard University. Then when she met and married Tyler Colopy, a Dana Hills graduate and a project manager at Healthy Building International in Lake Forest, she had two kids pretty close together—Ira, who turned 2 this past March, and Emslie, now 3 months.
However, thanks to Kidsave, a charitable organization that works directly with Colombia to help older children (8-14 years) find permanent families, the Colopys were able to find, spend time as a host family, and now go through the process of adopting Leidy, a 13-year-old girl who lives in an orphanage in Bogotá.
“We just clicked with her. She fit in with the family instantly,” said Amber, 30, who hosted Leidy for six weeks last summer. “So we got her, we totally bonded with her but then I found out I was pregnant two days before she went home so I didn’t think we would qualify. They want you to give the child you are adopting appropriate time to bond. We held off a little bit but we just felt it was the right time. It wasn’t that everything was peachy perfect, but if felt like our family was missing her.”
Every summer, Kidsave brings Colombian orphans to the United States for a five week summer vacation where they spend time going to summer camp, making new friends, and most importantly, meeting families interested in adoption. These are older children, ages 8 through 14, who have little or no chance of finding adoptive parents in their own country because of abuse, neglect, poverty, civil unrest and social practices.
During the summer visit, the Kidsave staff, volunteers and host families work to find adoptive families for these children. Since 1999, more than 1,600 children have traveled to the US as part of Kidsave’s Summer Miracles program, and 85 percent have found families who have adopted them or are pursuing adoption, including those living in San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest and other cities in Orange County.
Kidsave Kid's Day will be held Friday, July 20 at Color Me Mine in the Kaleidoscope Center, 27741 Crown Valley Parkway #323 Mission Viejo. (949) 367-9757
But only those children deemed adaptable to international placement are chosen for this program.
“She is well taken care of,” Amber said of Leidy, who turns 14 in January. “She lives in a good orphanage and her needs are met, but her two siblings were adopted last summer by a family in Italy so she is there by herself. I think she’s eager to be part of a family. It has been very hard for her.”
The international adoption process can be long and grueling; it typically takes nine months to a year. It also is expensive. The Colopys are in the process of fundraising and applying for grants to defer some of the incurred costs of the adoption process. Hopefully this option will encourage people that may not have the means to consider adoption.
But Amber said that Kidsave has made the experience much easier, especially with Kids Day, in which families get to meet the kids, talk about their experiences, and spend time with them in a social setting. Host families are prescreened before they meet the child.
The next Kid's Day with six Colombian children is this Sunday at the Lucky Strike bowling alley in the Block of Orange. On July 20, six Colombian children will be at Color Me Mine in Mission Viejo. There also are events in Hermosa Beach and Newport Beach.
Amber said she’ll be there both days.
“I just love Kids Day and want to stay involved,” she said. “Once we get Leidy I think it’s important to stay involved and for her to see other Colombian children. It’s a great network of people for Leidy to know. I love what they do. I think adopting a teenage is seen as a risky thing, but they have a passion for that.”
In the meantime, the Colopys talk to Leidy on Skype and call her once a week. She doesn’t know English, and Amber says she knows very little Spanish, but she says they communicate very well. Fortunately, Tyler lived 18 months in Spain and minored in Spanish, and they have family and friends who speak Spanish fluently.
The Colopys also are working on preparing Leidy’s bedroom and are looking at options for her education, including private and public schools or home schooling.
And, if all goes well, they could be flying approximately 3,430 miles to Bogotá this November to bring Leidy to her new home in Lake Forest. They have to be in Colombia for five weeks on average until a court date is set and the adoption can be finalized.
It’s a day that Amber says she dreams about often.
“We think about that day a lot. We just know we’re supposed to do this,” Amber said. “I’m really excited for that day. We need some time to get use to life with a newborn. We are so excited but not naïve. We know it’s going to be a challenge. I don’t feel as far removed from high school but at the same time this can be an amazing journey. We are excited to take on all of it. It really feels that our family is not complete without her.”
To learn more about Kidsave go to http://www.kidsave.org
For a calendar of Kidsave events, go to http://www.kidsave.org/summer_miracles_events
To follow Amber on Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/amber.colopy