From Central America to Charleston: adopted teen shares his story
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be adopted? Horace Mann eighth grader Matthew Ditchen knows.
He was adopted by his parents from Guatemala City, Guatemala. They adopted him on Oct. 25, 1998.
"Ever since I could speak, they told me [about my adoption] straight up," he said. "I don't feel different because I was adopted."
Ditchen was adopted from a foster home in Guatemala. He was only there for four months when he was very little, so he doesn't remember or know anything about his foster parents.
"I was like 4 months [old]," he said. "It would have been different if I was 7 or 8 or something like that."
He is grateful that he was adopted. He said he wouldn't want to go back and change things so that he was with his birth parents.
"I probably wouldn't be alive today [if I weren't adopted], to be honest," he said. "My mom had asthma and was pretty poor, and we don't have any records of my dad."
Ditchen has been back to Guatemala once since his adoption. It was to pick up his younger sister, who was also adopted there. They aren't related by birth.
"I really don't remember it. I was like 3 or 4 when I went to go pick up my sister," he said, adding that he would like to go back and visit someday to see where he is from.
In the meantime, he does sometimes connect with other people who have been adopted from Guatemala. In the past, his family and other families around Charleston have had adoption parties.
"We've had parties with other people that have been adopted from Guatemala, but not much anymore," he said.
Ditchen said as he's gotten older, he doesn't mind telling people he's adopted.
"When I was younger, it was something I did not necessarily want to share, but now more people know it, so it's not that awkward," he said, noting that the subject usually comes up when he has to fill out forms or people ask what race he is.
"[My friends and I] don't talk about it a lot, but I'm open about it," he added.
His family celebrates the adoption dates for him and his sister. For his, they normally go out for a family dinner. For his sister's, they go on vacation since it's in the summer and do something special that night.
"It's cool to celebrate birthdays and adoption days!" he said.