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Chris Olson: My Family
I left Allegheny with degree in hand and sailed to the Netherlands to begin work with a student travel organization. Four months later I was state-side and found a high school teaching job teaching English to 10th graders. After two years of that I moved to Boston to work in publishing for a year. That was fun but the pay was awful. Off to graduate school in Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin for a year and a half. Then I was offered the state Director of Treatment Services for a new Substance Abuse Division in Delaware. What a learning curve that provided. I think the most fundamental change in my life came with my move to Boulder, Colorado in 1973. After 43 years I consider myself a native. I found my place in Colorado. A state job with Health Care Planning was my entry to government work out here. I worked with Managed Health Care and Medicaid but ended up for the bulk of my state career working in the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Division where I had the opportunity to develop and manage statewide treatment programs for pregnant women and women with children. I helped change our state law to enable those two populations to get addiction treatment tailored to their needs. The other significant change in my life was parenthood when I adopted my daughters from China when I was 50 and 51 years old. That has been and is the best thing that ever happened to me. I have been blessed beyond words with Cassidy and Carly.
I was 48, single, living in the most beautiful state of Colorado, busy with a management job in state government, changing lives for addicted women, especially pregnant ones. Then the phone call from a dear friend, "Did you know there are baby girls available for adoption in China to single women?” That was the beginning of a journey that changed my life forever. In May of 1994 I, along with six other single women and two couples, flew to Hong Kong, then Shanghai, China, where I first saw a picture of my daughter. She had been a set of statistics until that moment. I met Cassidy Hui Mariel Olson on May l8th in the lobby of a hotel in Heifei, the capitol of Anhui Province, at 10:00 a.m. She stole my heart forever. She was 13 months old and intrigued with everything. Her Chinese name meant curious and she is to this day. Cass is now 22 years old and a graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Within seven months of being home with Cass, I was talking to a friend who also had an adopted Chinese daughter who told me of another friend who had just returned with a second daughter. I was shocked because I had believed China would impose the same one child per family on adoptive families. I was wrong. Within several months I applied again for a baby sister for Cass. In September of 1995 I received a referral for a baby girl, five months old from the same province as her sister. This was Carly Haifu Mariel Olson waiting to join our family. I left within 2 weeks to get Carly and on September 21st she was put into my arms, a happy Buddha baby with huge cheeks and an infectious smile. When I arrived back in Colorado the first thing I did was place baby Carly in her sister’s lap and tell her she had a sister. Carly is a junior at Eckerd College, a small private liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is very similar to Allegheny and I am terribly proud of her achievements there.
Raising two children was a challenge but I found my village. There were many families adopting from China in the 1990’s, including an equal number of single women as married couples. We formed a group, Families with Children from China, and became our own support group. By the time Cass was four, I worked with a woman to develop Chinese Heritage Camp for adoptive families with children from China. It will celebrate its 20th year soon. In 2003 I took my children, then 9 and 11 years old, back to China for a Heritage tour. We visited their orphanages and saw many of the wondrous places that China has such as The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta Soldiers in Xiamen, the Li River in the South, and the gorgeous Huangshang (Yellow) Mountains where many an emperor came to meditate and rest. Carly even celebrated her 9th birthday in her birth city. It was a memorable trip and only wants for a return to such a fascinating country.
Many people comment to me that my daughters “are so lucky”. They are wrong. I am the “lucky one”. I have been given the opportunity to have a family and raise the children of my dreams and my heart. They are my ultimate blessing in life.