Reece’s Rainbow Report #3: Routhier Family

As we are celebrating 15 years of helping families bring their children home, we will be revisiting some of these ordinary families who took this exceptional step and gave a child a family. With this new twice-monthly column, we will share stories and photos of those children who were previously advocated for and are now home. Feel free to share our Rainbow Reports on social media!
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness month. In that spirit, this report highlights the adoption of one of the thousands of children with Down syndrome that Reece's Rainbow has helped bring home. Interested in adopting a child with Down Syndrome? Go here for our photolistings.
“Maybe someday.” Those are two words never uttered by New Hampshire couple AJ and Allison Routhier. More like, “Let’s get this party started!”
“We get people asking me if I’m a nanny, and I’m like,
‘No, they’re all mine.’”
When the Routhiers began their international adoption journey, they were already an established couple, experienced biological parents and veteran foster parents. One thing AJ and Allison didn’t have a lot of, however, was years — they both were in their 20s. Their early 20s. 

That was in 2017. Today, they are not only the adoptive parents of Kalina, an eight-year-old Serbian with Down Syndrome, but four biological Routhiers (ages eight, seven, two and three months) and one five-year-old adopted through foster care. 

“I think people are always surprised by our age,” Allison says. “We get people asking me if I’m a nanny, and I’m like, ‘No, they’re all mine.’”
Before she discovered Reece’s Rainbow in 2016, the Routhiers didn’t have any exposure to international or special needs adoption. Allison, however, had a degree in special education, and she and AJ were both interested in the idea of adopting a child with Down Syndrome. 

They began the process, choosing Armenia. Once their dossier was submitted, however, that nation denied them because they were under 25. So they tried again, asking for a dossier review. 
Then, on April 24, 2017, Kalina’s photolisting showed up on Allison’s newsfeed. She tagged her husband and told him later that she felt this girl was meant to be their daughter. They were torn, however, as they were still hoping to adopt an Armenian child. What should they do? 
By August, the answer became clear: pack their bags for Serbia, a Southeastern European country of seven million. The nation was not only okay with their youth and number of children, but also accepted the fact that they were a foster family adopting out of birth order. 

The Routhiers immediately fell in love with Serbia after their arrival in April 2018, staying in Belgrade for three weeks before moving on to the small town of Topola for a few days. “Such a beautiful country with a lot of history and friendly people!” Allison says. 

The couple could see that Kalina was also beautiful — but what would she be like cognitively? Behaviorally? After all, the orphanage workers told them that Kalina was non-verbal, and as Allison points out, “The unknown is scary.”
Thankfully, “Nothing scares me about her now,” Allison says. “She has far surpassed what we thought having a child with Down syndrome would be like.”

Contrary to what they were told, Kalina began talking — and hasn’t stopped since. She has also learned how to read, write, add, subtract and loves to draw pictures for her family. She has even earned her yellow belt in karate and swims like a “little fish.” 

“We are so proud of Kalina,” her mother says. “She is such a hard worker and always tries her best.” 
Admittedly, the first days were rough. Allison and AJ were suddenly in charge of the medical care of a child who spoke no English, shuttling her from doctor to doctor. They quickly learned that Kalina thrives on routine and clear expectations, so Allison made each a part of daily family life. Much to Allison’s surprise, her other children began improving, too!
“Her siblings all love her so much, and she has made us all
more patient, understanding and routine-oriented,” 
“Her siblings all love her so much, and she has made us all more patient, understanding and routine-oriented,” Allison says. 

These days, Kalina stays busy being the class clown at school, where her principal calls her the “mayor.” She repeats the routine at home, cracking her family up every night. 

“It is hard to believe that we have had Kalina in our lives for only a little over three years,” Allison says. “It feels like she has always been our daughter.” 

And so she shall always be. 

Crystal Kupper
Crystal Kupper is a freelance writer specializing in magazines and special projects. Since earning her journalism degree, she has written for clients such as Zondervan, Focus on the Family and the Salvation Army, among many others.