By Karen Billing
A Carmel Valley couple is hoping to give an orphaned Colombian child a chance to find an adoptive family this summer. Suzanne Bacon and Jared Jacobsen are participating as a host family in the Summer Miracles program of Kidsave, an organization that brings older orphanage and foster kids to the United States to give them an opportunity to become a part of a loving family.
Bacon and Jacobsen will host 12-year-old Sebastian for a month starting Aug. 1.
Sebastian is just one of 31 Columbian children who are coming to the country with Kidsave this summer. The number of children who come are determined by the families who volunteer to host them so every spot truly counts.
“I do feel like we’re making a difference,” Jacobsen said. “We’re looking forward to giving someone that opportunity. It was especially attractive to me because they’re older kids who are getting to the end of their childhood; it’s a last chance to have a family.”
There are just seven children coming to California and only three to Southern California — Jacobsen and Bacon are the only San Diego family participating as a host this summer. The biggest group of children (16) will be in the Washington DC metro area and the rest dispersed throughout the country, according to Delta Kirkland, the Summer Miracles program assistant manager.
While the children are in the U.S. they will be attending weekend advocacy events and families interested in meeting the kids are invited to attend and get to know them.
Kidsave, with offices in DC and Los Angeles, was officially founded in 1997 and the first program year was 1999. This is Kidsave’s 16th summer presenting the Summer Miracles program. The program has brought children from Russia and Kazakhstan in the past, but now focuses its efforts on Colombia.
Many children live in orphanages in Colombia, as they have lost parents due to civil conflict and HIV/AIDS. Others are abandoned due to extreme poverty, parental drug abuse or arrest, or are left without homes after serving time as child combatants.
“We saw a need in Colombia, especially for ‘older’ children,” Kirkland said. “It’s challenging in any country to find adoptable families for older children…The kids in our program go up to age 14, so this is really the last opportunity they have to find a family.”
In Colombia, orphans are emancipated from the child welfare system at age 18 and many leave orphanages without an education, unable to support themselves and with no caring adult to guide them.
Kidsave is not an adoption agency, but it coordinates with highly accredited agencies as well as the Colombian government to work as advocates for people who are looking to complete the adoption journey, Kirkland said.
Kirkland said there have been many happy success stories over the years.
“Seventy-five to 80 percent [of the kids in the program] have found families so it’s a very effective family visit model,” Kirkland said.
One host participant last year, Adam in New York, adopted 13-year-old Cristian in November 2013 after his one-month stay in the summer. He said Kidsave was an extremely powerful volunteer opportunity, the process was amazing and there was no doubt that Cristian was the son he was meant to have.