Some people in Jennifer and Brett Johnson’s situation are looking forward to being empty nesters. But not this Champaign couple, who this month are bringing into their home three siblings from Peru, via international adoption. Brett and Jennifer are also the parents of 25-year-old Blake (soon to become a father himself) and 15-year-old Olivia, a sophomore at Champaign Central. Brett and Jennifer have been married for 20 years, and Brett will soon celebrate his 20th anniversary as a Champaign firefighter. Jennifer also works for the City of Champaign, managing the Administrative Services Division, and handling special projects for the Finance Department. She is also an active volunteer at Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana.
See why we think Jennifer and Brett Johnson are a Chambana Mom and Dad to Know.
Q: How did you decide to add a sibling set of three to your family?
We went on a mission trip to Salaverry, Peru in July 2010. We volunteered at an orphanage (Hogar de Esperanza) for 10 days. This trip changed our lives. We experienced a much bigger world once we left our comfort zone and we couldn’t remain unchanged. We came home from Peru after 10 days and quickly decided that we have the means and the capacity within ourselves to provide a family to some kids in desperate need of one. On the last day at the orphanage, we took many photos of three specific kids (two girls, ages 14 & 10 and boy, age 4). Once we got home, we couldn’t stop thinking of them, so we applied for the adoption, requesting these three kids. We didn’t go on our trip intending to adopt any kids. It was part of a much bigger plan.
Q: How are you preparing for their arrival?
We’ve been waiting two years for these kids, so we’ve had time to prepare! We’ve done a lot of remodeling/home repair so that when they get “home” we can focus on them. We’ve read several books on adopting older children. We’re trying to learn some Spanish since all three kids speak no English. We’ve been working with other families who’ve adopted so that we’ll have a network of support once the kids arrive home.
Q: How excited are you getting as the homecoming gets closer?
Honestly, it’s pretty surreal. We are thrilled that we were finally matched with the three kids we initially pursued. The Peruvian adoption council could have placed us with other children, but fortunately, we persevered and our patience was proof to the Peruvian council that we were committed to these three children. We are most excited that these kids, who have been through tough stuff in their young lives, finally get to be part of a true family. The girls have only two years of schooling. All three kids will have unlimited opportunity for learning once they get to the States.
Q: How have you involved your daughter in this process?
Our daughter has been in the middle of this process from Day 1. She would’ve stayed and worked at the orphanage if she had a choice. As I said, this experience changed our lives – perhaps Olivia’s the most. As a family, we’ve shared moments of excitement and frustration throughout the two-year adoption process. We’ve celebrated at Biaggi’s each time we’ve gotten good news! Olivia is so excited to be an older sister. We realize it will be important to carve out time for her when the kids get here to ensure she can communicate her feelings and continue to spend quality time with both of us.
Q: What kind of support do you have as you go through this journey as adoptive parents?
We have amazing support! We went on the mission trip through our church – Windsor Road Christian Church. Our church family has supported us financially and emotionally all along. The Fire Department and fellow City of Champaign co-workers have been amazing as well. They’ve helped us raise a large portion of the $40,000+ required for this particular adoption. They truly care about us and are excited to meet and get to know our kids once we get them home. Of course, our family is always there for us and looking forward to introducing the kids to family traditions and celebrations.
Q: What tips would you give to families interested in international adoption?
The journey will not be predictable. Relax your tendencies to control and plan. Sure, you can work on paperwork and fulfill other requirements; however, things won’t happen according to a strict schedule. Be teachable and try to learn some lessons while you’re on the journey. We truly believe that things happen in just the right time, so let setbacks grow you, not disappoint you.
Jennifer and Brett Johnson were nominated to be a Chambana Mom and Dad to know. Do you know a fantastic mom, dad or couple? Nominate them today!