Thursday, January 9, 2014

Malcolm: A final update

Almost two years ago, we all began to rally for a little special needs Russian orphan named "Malcolm", whose real name is Marat. We raised money for his adoption and supported the couple who came forward to make him their son, my dear friends Charles and Elisabeth Smith. I was to be his godmother. Just weeks before the Smiths were to make their second trip to Russia to be declared his parents, the door was slammed shut forever. 

Finally, Elisabeth is telling the heartbreaking story of how they lost the little boy who, in their hearts, will always be their son.


We entered into the process of international adoption expecting heartbreak. We approached each milestone steeling ourselves for disappointment. Could we raise the money? Could we pass a home study? Would he like us? Would his disabilities be more than we could handle? Because of this expectation I reinforced my spine with steel and staunchly protected my heart.

We had first considered adopting Marat [aka "Malcolm"] back in March of 2012. He is a beautiful little boy with chocolate brown eyes and a spirit that shows through in every picture. We eagerly watched and re-watched a short video showing his early attempts at walking, begging every Russian speaker we knew to help decipher the garbled voices and tell us what was being said. Our community, both those we knew and those we had yet to meet, reached out and embraced him, helping us raise money for the adoption process, sending him gifts, and helping us through the perplexing and frustrating process of international adoption.

In March 2012, he was not yet 5 years old and in a baby house near Moscow. We were told that when he turned 5 in April he would be moved to a home for older children. There were fears that between his cerebral palsy and his Muslim heritage he would not be treated well in a new facility. The caretakers at his baby house kept him from being transferred for a long time but they could not prevent the inevitable. By the time we got to Russia that October, he had been in the new place for several months. It was not ideal. The man in charge viewed us with great suspicion. On the first day he fought hard to keep us from meeting Marat and we were only able to spend a short time with him – in the Director's office, at a conference table surrounded by adults. His world had been ripped from him just months before and now there were these strangers who couldn’t speak Russian trying to get him to relax enough to use the crayons they had brought. The translator told him we were his mama and papa, come to get him and take him home. I can only imagine what he was thinking.

Those first visits were not conducive to relationship building. They took place in a classroom with tables and chairs far bigger than he. I am sure he thought we were crazy when we got down on the floor to play with him – I know the staff watching us thought we were. He was hyper, excited to play with the forbidden classroom toys and pumped by the candies the translator kept giving him. Like all survivors in difficult circumstances he knew an opportunity when he saw it, and he played our visits for all they were worth. I wasn’t sure he was even capable of seeing us as anything more than a temporary means to an end, until Thursday. That was when he first made real eye contact, when he reached out to me, snuggled in my arms, buried his face in my neck and held on for dear life. That was when I let my guard down and allowed myself to believe.

When we left on Friday he helped me pack up the bag of toys we had brought and informed everyone he was leaving with his new mama and papa. It hurt to have to tell him that he couldn’t leave with us, he had to wait for what would seem like a long time. I promised him we would be back after Christmas. I hugged him, blessed him, asked Mary to protect him, and we left. The assistant director walked us out and told us we were kind people and he would help prepare Marat for our return in January. It was snowing, and I cried, hoping that the snowflakes would hide my tears. I didn’t want the staff or even our translator and driver to know I was crying.

Leaving him behind was so very hard.

I had always assumed that heart break happened all at once, like one of those videos where the DIYer accidentally hammers a nail into the glass when replacing a window and the whole thing shatters into a million pieces. But it turns out that it can happen painfully slowly, each crack resonating loudly and painfully throughout your soul. In early December, President Obama signed the Magnitsky act, an ineffective piece of legislation critical of a human rights situation in Russia. Within days the Duma had responded, ultimately crafting the Dima Yakovlev bill that banned Americans from adopting. The bill moved through the legislative process with deafening speed and was signed into law on December 28th. No Americans could adopt Russian orphans.

Then there were days of questioning. How would they deal with those of us who had met our children? Would they grandfather us in? There was talk of 39 in-process families who would be allowed to adopt. Did that include us? My days were spent scanning Russian media with Google Translate and talking with other families through social media. Our hopes were raised and dashed, often hourly. For a while looked like we would be able to complete the adoption, we received a court date, bought visas and booked flights. Hours before our departure were we told that the court had met early and we were denied.

All this time the families were beginning to band together and working the political angle hoping for resolution. Many of us met in Washington DC in March hoping to get President Obama to appeal on our behalf. That meeting imploded under the weight of too many expectations and a manipulative “leader” who was out for his own gain. The families were fractured and often secretive with one another – each group fearing the tactics of another might jeopardize any potential resolution. Some families wanted to work back channels, some sued it in the European courts, others wanted President Obama to make an open and public appeal; each choice seemed irrevocable and fraught with risk. Parents who started out with only love and a desire to share it were now bound by the fear of what fate would befall their children.

We continued to talk to families, listen to media, and pray. I had been blessed to meet those who had contacts in the Russian orphan community and I was able the glean information that way. While attending a women’s conference here in town a week or so after the DC trip, I received word that things were not going well with Marat and he was deteriorating quickly. I was helpless; standing alone outside in the wind, again hoping no one would see my tears. Another crack in my heart resounded.

In May I heard that a Russian family was interested in Marat. There were those that advocated we do whatever we could (however little that was) to prevent them from taking our boy home. That was never an option for us. From the very beginning of this journey the most important thing was that he found a home, a family. My friends let me know what was happening in the process: when the family met Marat, their struggles with the orphanage staff, etc. The hardest thing was learning that he was still waiting for us and resistant to the new family because of it. We sent word to the family that we were very supportive of their relationship with Marat and a letter to Marat telling him we loved him and always would, but that his new parents also loved him and would be there forever. I don’t know if they received our words of encouragement but I hope they know Marat’s happiness and safety is more important to us than anything.

By the end of June we received a photo by email of Marat leaving the institution.

I hope someday he is able to know that our love for him is genuine and deep and that we did not walk away voluntarily or without a fight.

We love you, Marat.

I also hope all of those who have supported us know how important that support was and how grateful we are. There were early encouragers, financial supporters (large and small) and a surprising group of reporters and former politicians we met through the internet who tried to assist through back channels and who helped us understand Russia and the political process there and, ultimately, to come to terms with the inevitability of the situation.

Now we pray and we ask for your prayers. When a child has been institutionalized for his whole life it can be very difficult to adjust to family life. Such children don’t know how to trust, and things they did for survival in that environment don’t work in a loving family. I haven’t heard much about how he is doing, but I am sure the road will have some bumps in it. He and his new family need all of our prayers if they are to help him be as healthy and happy as possible. I also humbly ask prayers for our family. In many ways Charles and I have isolated ourselves in the last year, not wanting to burden others with our pain. Our hearts are harder than they once were and we hold ourselves too stiffly. We need our community more as we heal from this loss than we did in the process of adoption.


We love you, Charles and Eli!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tatiana needs redemption


Tatiana is a beautiful little girl, and she has a $200 matching grant running until November 16. Anything you donate to her fund up to that amount will be matched, dollar for dollar. From a woman who met her one year ago:

Tatiana is a darling, sweet little girl that I had the pleasure of meeting exactly one year ago today.  She is living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe without a family to call her own.  She desperately wants and needs a family.  This is an account from another adoptive family who also met Tatiana in 2011.
Tatiana is a sweetheart, and she wants a mama so badly. When we’d go to get our kids, she kept asking “And Tania? And Tania?” She would sob when we would leave her with the groupa. Out of all the kids there, she was the only that I saw playing pretend – eating pretend food, taking care of baby dolls. She is very emotionally fragile, and she seems to get overwhelmed. She is very small and thin. She has big blue eyes, and she desperately wants to be held and cuddled.
Along with growing up from birth without the love of a family, she is also living with HIV.  In the United States, living with HIV means taking daily medication, and living a full life.  That is not what it means in Eastern Europe.

If she makes it to 16, she will be put on the streets with a modest amount of money.  She will be given an ID card that states she is an orphan, and that she is HIV positive.  Even if she had skills, no one will hire her because of her orphan and HIV status.  She will not have access to her necessary medication. She will likely turn to a life of crime (prostitution, stealing), and drug and alcohol abuse.  Some orphanages have informants telling people in the sex trade when the children are going to be released.  They are easy marks.  They have no family or friends.  No one will even notice they are missing.

Click my photo for more information.

Tatiana needs our help.  By donating to her grant, it could encourage a family to step forward and bring her into their home. To give her a family.  International adoption is very costly, and is a major hurdle for some.  

No child should have to face this future.  Please consider donating to Tatiana by clicking here.

God bless you for caring, and please remember that the $200 matching grant for Tatiana ends on November 16.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Heartbreak: Andrew and Oliver reslisted

It is with a broken heart that I tell you that Andrew and Oliver have been relisted on Reece's Rainbow as being available again for adoption. The family who had previously committed is unable to complete their adoptions.

Please, please, their time is very short. Soon, they will be headed for institutions and the outcomes there are dire.

They have large grants and I can direct you to folks who have met them. Andrew is blind, and Oliver has a type of dwarfism. They don't deserve what is about to be their fate.

I am too sad to say more. Just please, pray. And find families.

Andrew and Oliver

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This older girl just breaks my heart. Time is running out.

Here is Karen, a beautiful young teen who has NO future in her own country:

From the site:

Karen is the older, biological sister of Chrystyna. She is a beautiful Roma girl with dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. She is 17 years old. She is healthy and smart and has no diagnosed special needs. She goes to school and has no negative behavioral issues. She is just a teen in need of a loving family!

Karen and Chrystyna are living in different orphanages, but in the same region. It would only be possible for Karen to be adopted WITH her younger sister. Due to her age, she can not be adopted on her own.

If you might be seeking a sibling set, please inquire!  Both girls need a loving family!

Sigh. Please pray. Please spread the word. Surely this child and her sister will not face all of life without a family?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Carol, a little doll!

This sweet little angel, Carol, has Down Syndrome and is on the verge of turning three years old! What a precious little girl sitting on her great big toy! 

Click my photo for more details!

She is a lively one, as her profile shows:

Carol loves sitting and rocking on her hobby horse!  She is enjoys listening to music and rocking on her horse.  She can sit on the bed steadily and can stand with hands holding onto the bed rails.  Sometimes when she sees other children take her favorite toy she will try and take it back.

Sounds like a fighting spirit to me! Life in an institution has not squashed her yet. ;) Wouldn't it be a dream to see this small, hopeful child in the arms of loving parents? With a warm bed and a cozy room, maybe a pet and some siblings to call her own? Please pray for Carol, and spread the word. She is deserving of a home and a family, like every little girl should have. Her potential is so great, and she just needs the chance.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Be still my heart!

Oh, look at this angel!

Noah is a six-year-old by with cerebral palsy, who would no doubt be helped immensely by the care of American doctors and therapists.

Click my photo for more info!
His profile info gives so much hope…
Noah is a sweet boy with light brown hair and big blue eyes. He was born with CP and is significantly cognitively delayed. He is not able to walk at this time, but loves to be held and loves attention and affection. His possibilities are endless!
...and he has $1,000 in his adoption fund already!

C'mon guys, let's find Noah his forever family! You can see he's ready to go home and be loved by his mommy and daddy! Something tells me he is going to be an amazing son. :)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Marshall!! How can this be?

This little sprite was two years old when I first spotted him last year:

Click my photo for more info!

I never in a million years thought he'd still be waiting at the age of three, but he is still in the orphanage, a little, perfect boy needing a family:

Marshall, when oh when will it be your turn? I will not stop shouting for you till you have found your family

God bless you, sweet boy! Stay strong!