Ever since I was a little girl, the plight of the orphan has tugged on my heartstrings like nothing else. The thought of children without parents to love and take care of them, really bothered me. I was born into a loving family with incredible parents, and my 5 siblings and I were brought up knowing the meaning of belonging, security and unconditional love.
Anytime a book, movie or story had an orphan in it, it would immediately catch my attention. I told myself that someday, when I was old enough, I would do something about it. I would give my love to a child who didn’t have it. My family has heard me talking about adopting since I was a teenager.
Of course, I talked about it to my husband even before we were married. He hadn’t really considered it until that point, but over the years, he has made it part of his dream and become completely supportive and just as passionate about it as I am.
It was important to us to adopt from Russia, since that’s where our heritage is from, but when that didn’t work out, we moved on to providing a loving home for children in our own community.
Why didn’t we pursue adoption in another Soviet country such as Belarus or Ukraine? Why aren’t we pursuing international adoption?
We did do our research in regards to both countries and many others.
Sergi and I were both born in Belarus, so the obvious choice would be to adopt from our country of birth. However, that isn’t even an option.
Belarus does not have any agreement with the US for international adoptions. I am not a Belorussian citizen, since my family and I moved to the States when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Sergi is both a Belorussian and an American citizen, so the only way for us to adopt from Belarus would have been for him to move back to Belarus permanently, adopt a child/children and apply for immigration to the US all over again. Most likely he wouldn’t have been approved for an adoption anyway, since adoptions for men are not very common. He would have had to live in Belarus a few years in the meantime. Being separated for years didn’t interest us in the slightest.
There is a lot of legal work that needs to be done in order to complete an international adoption. You can’t just go to another country, adopt a child and bring it back home to America. We spent more than a year doing all sorts of legal work and getting paperwork done for our Russian adoption. Since Belarus doesn’t have an agreement for adoptions with the US, this would have been difficult to work through. Trust me, this would have been a messy option.
Ukraine does not allow international adoptions for children younger than 5 unless they have special needs. At this point, my husband and I want to adopt very young children, since we are young ourselves. (I am mistaken for a teenager all the time; I want to look like a mother, not a big sister.)
As for adopting from another country, such as China, Ethiopia, Korea,etc., here are a few things that we based our decision on:
1. All international adoptions are very expensive. We lost A LOT of money when we were trying to adopt from Russia, so we would have to wait to save up enough money to cover another international adoption.
2. International adoptions are usually very long processes and people spend years on waiting lists.
The same reasons apply to private adoptions in the US, expensive and a long waiting time, in most cases.
This is a very personal choice. It’s different for every family, but for our family, we decided that there are many children in our own community that need parental care and it was the best option for us at this point in our life. Who knows? We may adopt internationally or privately sometime in the future.
What is Foster Care? Why Foster Care vs. Adoption?
Foster care in our country is when the parents have died or, for many different reasons, can’t take care of their children, either temporarily or permanently. This is when the children are placed in a foster home, to be taken care of by licensed, trained people, who will provide a home and some sense of normalcy for them, while the different situations with their parents are resolved. Usually, the children live with a family, in their home and part of their daily life, unlike institutionalized care in most other countries. There are group homes in the US too, because there aren’t enough foster homes available, but most children are part of a normal home life.
I was very resistant to foster care for a very long time. Yes, these children have always had a special place in my heart, but I was terrified of foster care. The main fear I had was getting attached to the child and then having to say good bye.
Foster care is very risky. After all, the main goal of foster care is reunification with the birth parents or other family members and only after all possibilities are exhausted is the child available for adoption.
Life has taught me many lessons. I found out that anything in life is risky.
Having your own biological child is just as risky. You have no guarantees that everything will end with a happily ever after. My husband and I went through the excruciating pain of burying our daughter and that wound will always be there. I still think about her all the time, I wonder what she would have been like, what her personality would be, who she would look like. I know that she would be in first grade right now and in my mind, I’m always following along the milestones that would have been, if only she had lived.
Adoption is not guaranteed either. Russia had never permanently banned adoptions of their orphans by Americans before, yet it happened. You can adopt privately and the biological parents can change their minds. It also happens.
We can’t avoid pain. As I say many times, we live in an imperfect world. Life is NOT fair.
I’ll never forget going outside for a wheelchair ride for the first time after more than a month in the ICU. As my husband pushed my wheelchair on the sidewalk, I saw a really young teenage girl at the entrance get discharged from the hospital with her newborn baby. The raw pain and anger just ripped through the core of my being. My husband and I had been so excited to welcome our daughter into our family and had been eagerly and enthusiastically preparing and dreaming of the day when she would finally be born and we would bring her home. Yet, there we were, with empty arms, standing outside the hospital entrance, watching this young girl getting into the car with her mother and new baby.
We can’t control the different situations that happen in life. We can choose to become bitter and cynical, or allow God to give us His strength, carry us through the difficult days and move on to make the best of the life that we were given. I’m sure it will hurt when we have to say good bye to a child we have poured out our love to. That is a very real possibility and we know what we are getting ourselves into. Of course, we don’t know exactly what it will be like until we’ve actually experienced it, but we know the realities of foster care.
Do we pull ourselves back and put up guards so that we won’t get attached to prevent heartache? Absolutely not. These innocent, precious children deserve ALL my love, care and dedication. They will be a part of our family in every way, just as if they were born into our family, for isn’t that what they really need? Neither will these children be our “ministry project”. They will have full access to our devotion and affection.
It also hurts not to enjoy the awesome experience of loving a child. As I cuddle the baby, kiss his sweet cheeks and watch him smile, I wouldn’t want to miss this for anything.
Yes, we would love to adopt and have children permanently. We will certainly adopt when the opportunity comes up. Maybe it won’t happen right away, maybe we will have to say good bye to many children, but eventually, some of them will become a permanent part of our family. We are sure that we will have many opportunities to adopt in the coming years.
In the meantime, we will pour out all our love on the children that are with us and they will feel security, unconditional love and affection. They will also be in our thoughts and our prayers for the rest of our lives.
Foster Care is a Great Option:
- Foster care normally costs little or nothing. If the child you are caring for is up for adoption and you become their legal, adoptive parent, the adoption won’t cost you anything. During the years when we were in the process of adoption, we heard many, MANY people tell us that they would love to adopt, but they just couldn’t afford it. Well, there’s no excuse here. Adopting through the foster care system won’t cost you anything.
- No age limitations. As long as you are an adult over the age of 21, you can become a foster parent. Many private adoption agencies have age limitations for the adoptive parents, but you don’t have to worry about it with foster care.
- Foster care is much faster than adoption. Adopting privately or internationally usually means a really long wait, sometimes years. It took us a few months to get certified as foster parents and you will get a child shortly after that.
- No overseas/across the country travel or long time off work needed: The children in foster care will be right from your community, so you don’t have to take time off work or spend lots of money on traveling. Most of the time, the children will be brought right to your home by the state workers.
- Foster care licensure paperwork is much easier than for adoption: Preparing our paperwork for a Russian adoption was a nightmare, even though I consider myself an organized person, who usually breezes right through paperwork. Although we did have to go to classes and some paperwork is still part of the process, it’s much simpler for foster care.
- You can specify exactly what type of children your family will be comfortable taking care of. If you would rather not get a newborn, that’s totally fine, you can specify the age, gender, race, health, etc. of the child. You can be as nonspecific as you want and take care of any child, newborn – 18. However, you can be very specific. For example, there are many people who want to take care of children who are the same age and gender as their biological child, so they can share the same room, go to the same school etc. It’s totally up to you.
- As a foster parent, you are well informed of your child’s case. You will know how the biological parents are doing with their case plan, what the plan is for the future, new happenings, etc. I think this is very helpful in preparing yourself, both physically and emotionally, as the foster parent, and also preparing the child. It’s very unlikely that the child will suddenly be returned to the biological parents with no warning. Depending on the case, the child starts out with short phone calls to the biological parents, then short, supervised visits, eventually working up to longer visits, weekend visits and finally reunification. You will also know if the biological parents are not following their case plan, and when the goal of reunification changes to possibly finding another family member to become a legal guardian or termination of parental rights, at which point the child will be up for adoption.
- Foster care is a phenomenal way to have a positive role in the community that you live in. As a Christian, it’s so important to me to show the love of God to the people around me. It’s so much more convenient to live in our own little world, without noticing the great need around us.
You will have the opportunity to build relationships with the biological parents and other family members and share with them a better way of life, and show them the life that they can have if they make better choices. Many of these families have never been a part of a functional home, so it’s such a wonderful opportunity to share with them the family that we are blessed with.
Is it possible to love a child that isn’t related to you by blood as much as a child that is biologically born to you and your spouse?
How can you measure love? I know that I love the baby that is with us now with every ounce of my being. Do you love your biological child more than I love my baby? Love is love. It’s a commitment. It’s a choice we make every day. I’m not related biologically to my husband, yet I love him more than everyone else in this world combined. He was a stranger, we met, fell in love and got married. Our love is a very strong feeling and it’s a lifelong commitment.
I saw a picture of you with TWO babies. What happened to the other baby?
My husband and I are licensed for two children at this time. (That’s how much room we have in our home.) Last weekend, we were given another baby boy, this one was 2 months old and he stayed with us for a short time, until another family member was found and approved to take care of him. He was a sweet little boy and it certainly felt like we had twin boys for awhile, since they were only one month apart. Parents with twins, isn’t it funny how both of them start crying at the same time, need to be changed and fed at the same time? We loved having two boys and will most likely have another child sometime soon.
“A life without cause is a life without effect.”
The question that I constantly ask myself is, “if I don’t do foster care, who will?” Someone needs to provide loving homes to these children. The need is great, but there aren’t that many people willing to open their homes and families to these children.
There are so many misconceptions about foster care and we want to not only give our love to the children that so desperately need it, but we also want to shed some positive light on adoption and foster care as well. This is why we chose to publicly share our story with all of you, even though it would be so much easier to keep it private and consider it nobody’s business but ours. This was a very difficult post to write, but it’s important for me to share this information with others.
I encourage all of you to look into foster care. Get involved in your community. Be open to the possibility to become a foster parent.
Don’t automatically assume that only childless couples should become foster parents. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for foster children to be part of a home that already had other children? It’s also a great way to teach your biological children to be compassionate and caring.
Of course, not everyone should become foster parents, but you can lend a hand to others who are fostering. How about bringing them a meal or giving them a gift card? We’ve had many people who have already volunteered to babysit, and we really appreciate it.
Ask foster parents if they need anything for the children. Many times, we don’t know the exact age or gender of the child that will be part of our family, so it’s hard to prepare until they are actually with us. Maybe you can bring them some diapers, formula, clothes, toys, car seat, etc? We’ve had so much support from our families and are extremely grateful. The possibilities are endless, as long as you have the desire to help.