Dan and Jen Cohen are raising two energetic boys at home.
“It’s nothing we ever dreamed about or expected, you can’t really put it into words,” said Dan, who recently relocated to Saratoga Springs from New York City with his wife. “The joy these two guys have brought to us is unfathomable.”
What You Need To Know
- November is National Adoption Awareness Month
- Based in the Capital Region, Friends In Adoption is an agency that helps facilitate adoptions all across the country
- Though not exclusively, Friends In Adoption specializes in open adoptions where the adoptive parents and their children maintain a relationship with birth families
The couple’s twins, Henry and Holden, are two-and-a-half years old.
“They’re just fun, they’re good, they’re funny,” Jen said. “We just have the best time with them, we’re really, really thankful and we’re really blessed.”
Like most parents, the day they brought the twins home from the hospital is among their most cherished memories.
“Honestly, I remember thinking I can’t believe they’re letting us leave the hospital with these two kids!” Jen said.
Henry and Holden are adopted. The Cohens made the choice after years of struggling to conceive.
“We went through everything you can to start a family,” Dan said. “Anything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
“As hard as those ups and downs were through the process, you realize once you have these guys that it was all worth it,” Jen said.
The Cohens adopted the boys through Friends In Adoption, an agency based in the Capital Region that assists families across the country.
“FIA and our lawyer, they were our therapist, our guide, our rock,” Dan said.
An adoptive mother herself, Patty Smith is a longtime case manager with the agency. She makes routine check-ins with families like the Cohens.
“It’s so gratifying,” Smith said. “I think I probably had tears in my eyes when I walked in today, just to see how happy the family is.”
She says the agency remains a resource to both adoptive and birth families until the children reach adulthood and sometimes beyond.
“Children come to understand adoption at different stages in their lives so there may be questions families may need help answering or filling in the holes they may not know the answers to,” Smith said. “We can, as best as possible, support them through that process.”
Though not exclusively, FIA specializes in open adoptions like the ones the Cohens have.
“It really means a lot to us, we always want these guys to know their story,” Jen said.
The family maintains a close relationship with the boys’ birth parents, Becky Nilsen and Steve Sillner, who live about two hours south in the Hudson Valley.
On the afternoon of Becky’s birthday earlier this month, the family piled into the car for a short drive. By the time they arrived at the park, an excited Becky and her fiancé Steve were already there ready to celebrate.
“They’re so sweet, they’re such good boys,” Nilsen said. “I’m just so happy to be part of their life.”
The couple admits putting the boys up for adoption wasn’t easy.
“Honestly it was a very hard choice,” Nilsen said. “I’m going to cry but it was the best decision. I just didn’t have the means to take care of more kids.”
They say help from FIA and getting to remain part of Henry and Holden’s lives has made all the difference.
“It feels good, it’s a different kind of happiness, it’s rare,” said Sillner.
“I am completely satisfied,” Nilsen said. “I know they’re going to grow up and have a great life, more than I could ever give them.”
The Cohens say the true winners are Henry and Holden.
“It’s just nice,” Jen said. “It’s nice that they’re having a relationship and they’re getting to know Steve and Becky.”
“Instead of just having two people who love them they have four people who love them,” Dan said.
Back at home, Jen and Dan are enjoying every moment with their sons. They may have grown their family differently than they once expected, but it’s something neither would trade for anything in the world.
“Not that I’m a religious person but I do believe things happen for a reason,” Dan said. "These guys were meant to be in our family.”