November 29, 2015

The Cohen Family: Five Years in the Making

Eran Shapiro, '18

October 31 is the most important day of the year for the Cohen family and not because it is Halloween. Five years ago on that day, GOA physical education teacher Robert Cohen and his wife, Debbie, adopted their son Ben Yang Cohen.
Their journey into the adoption process began almost three years prior. Once Mr. Cohen and his wife decided to adopt, a challenge for them was finding the right country to adopt from.
There were many factors that would make a country the right one, especially their desire to adopt from a country that would provide them with reliable information about their future child. The search for the right country soon proved more challenging than previously thought as they encountered and learned about different countries’ regulations surrounding adoption.
Even after finding countries that met their criteria, finding a country where they themselves met that country’s requirements for prospective adoptive parents was just as difficult. Mr. Cohen noted they were interested in South Korea, for example, but the adoption authorities told him that he was too old to adopt there.
After much deliberation, Mr. Cohen and his wife decided to adopt from China. They were originally in China’s regular adoption program in which, as Mr. Cohen explained, “90 percent of the time you adopt a girl.”
When the Chinese adoption authorities asked Mr. Cohen and his wife whether they would be interested in adopting from the special needs program, which featured a much shorter wait time than the regular program, they eagerly agreed. They soon got matched up with their son Ben, at the time named Niu Yang Yu, in May 2010, two months before his first birthday. It took six months until they were finally able to make their long awaited trip to China to meet their little boy.
The Chinese adoption process was further complicated by the American process, specifically Homeland Security.
“Homeland Security made us get our fingerprints done three times,” he said, “which doesn’t make sense because fingerprints don’t change.”
Although similarly tiresome, Mr. Cohen did earn a reprieve from the extensive paperwork.
“My wife did most of the paperwork because she has more patience than I do,” Mr. Cohen added.
Despite the whole process being a difficult one, it seemed as though Mr. Cohen would consider it a priceless moment in his life. Just like any other child, Ben means the world to his parents and brings them pride and happiness, a fact routinely observed by the girls soccer team.
“You see a whole other side to Mr. Cohen when Ben’s around,” sophomore Rachel Berger said. “Ben just brings him so much joy. But one thing: Beware! Ben’s cuteness may blind you!”
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