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Published May 2015
By Samantha Spengler, Intern

Summer was born in late December 2011 and lived with her birth parents for the first 21 months of her life. When they realized they did not have the support to care for her in the way they had hoped and intended, Summer was placed in foster care until they had the chance to review adoptive parent profiles. Eventually, they selected Liz and Peter Nielsen.

“Summer experienced two devastating losses early in her life. We are always so impressed with how resilient and happy she is,” Liz says.

The Nielsens, meanwhile, had been going through their own personal struggle. After being diagnosed with leukemia, Liz learned she would need a stem cell transplant. Knowing that having a biological child would be impossible, the Nielsens turned to adoption.

After Liz had fully recovered, she and Pete began the adoption process at The Cradle, completing their profile and going on the waiting list in November 2012. One year and seven calls later, they were selected.

Pete and Liz met Summer’s birth parents in downtown Chicago for the first time. They were both nervous and incredibly excited. It was also the first time they saw a picture of their soon-to-be daughter.

“She became more real at that point,” Pete says.

Soon after, the Nielsens went to meet Summer in person. Liz remembers the situation being hard, especially for the foster family, who had grown attached to Summer.

“We were trying to be very respectful of the foster mother’s feelings, but we were also so excited to see Summer,” Liz explains.

When they rang the doorbell, Liz and Pete spied Summer through the glass door.

“It was like, ‘There she is! Our daughter!’ It was incredible. Imagine being introduced to your daughter for the first time and she’s almost two,” Pete says.

The couple talked with Summer’s foster mother while Summer played with her toys. It didn’t take long for her to wander over to Liz and Pete and show them her favorites. They watched as she demonstrated a headstand – a new trick and one of her favorite things to do.

“We were prepared to not have any real interaction with her on the first day,” Liz recalls. “To have that experience where she played with us and bonded with us, we were on cloud nine.”

After a week of visiting Summer at her foster home, and one trip with her to visit what would be her new – and permanent – home, the Nielsens finally brought their daughter home for good in mid-November 2013.

Difficult things they were prepared for, such as nights of crying and confusion, did not happen. “It was just so great to think that even though it had been kind of a challenging week, it was so good for Summer. It enabled her to feel comfortable coming home,” says Liz. “We are grateful to Summer’s foster family for welcoming us so kindly into their home so we could bond with her.”

Today, more than a year later, Summer is a happy three-year-old learning to make independent decisions and testing her limits and boundaries.

Her parents could not be happier with their life as a family of three (plus a big friendly dog!) and are so grateful that everything worked out as it did.

The Nielsens are also very happy with Summer’s relationship with her birth parents, whom she has seen a few times since her placement, and who are deeply caring and responsible about maintaining contact with Summer. They believe it is the best possible situation for their daughter.

Liz and Pete have not run into anything that is out of the ordinary for a toddler. They both feel prepared from their Cradle classes and confident that if anything were to come up in the future, they’d have a place to turn.

“The Cradle’s classes were designed to prepare you for a range of issues that you may or may not encounter. Since nobody’s situation is the same, it’s good to have that kind of training,” Liz observes. “We’ve gotten a sampling of what kinds of things we need to keep in mind and prepare for. It’s nice that even after a child is placed, The Cradle still offers resources.”

Summer has brought a lot of warmth and joy to her parents. “It feels like we hit the jackpot,” Liz says. “We are so lucky that we have this amazing little girl in our lives.”

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