|photo courtesy of Mellissa|
Russia's ban on adoptions broke my heart. It's like I'm being punched in the stomach every time I go to Reece's Rainbow and realize this child or that child no longer has a family coming for them.
When I see anything remotely related to Russia on the news, I stop whatever I'm doing and give it all my attention. But it's never the news I want to hear. People are saying they may never allow us to adopt those kids. My heart breaks for these precious children, and I long to scoop them all up into my arms.
Now there's nothing for us to do but pray for Russia. So we will pray. And in the meantime, there are many many many other precious babies waiting who are NOT in Russia.
Latvia is another country that has many orphans waiting for their families. Like Russia, children with special needs are institutionalized. And they deserve families just as much as these Russian children do!
Dee Etheridge (from http://faithlovehopeandcourage.blogspot.com) answered some of my questions on her experience adopting her daughter from Latvia, and has graciously allowed me to share them here! I hope the answers encourage you. I found them very insightful, and have to say, they gave me the itch to adopt from Latvia! :) Enjoy, dear ones!
Why did you decide to adopt from Latvia? I found my child first and then luckily she was in a country I was able to adopt from
How did you find your children? Were they listed on Reece's Rainbow? I'm a foster parent and while at a meeting someone mentioned the book The Connected Child. When I googled the book, it linked it to Reece's Rainbow. That was sometime around spring of 2011. I was immediately hooked. But I was looking at it as an advocate and providing financial support for families and children. I saw Darya (listed as Brigita on RR) that summer. I had started doing daily prayers for certain children and families and Darya was one I prayed for daily. I fell in love with her beautiful smile! I honestly did not feel Darya's chances of adoption were good given her description and age. It wasn't until Sept. that I felt/heard God tell me that Darya was my daughter. It was an experience I had never had before and cannot even describe fully. It was like I had instantly fallen in love with Darya. It was a tough decision though. I am single and was very scared about adopting a
child with special needs, esp. being so very low functioning. It was extremely emotional. But I knew in my heart that Darya was my daughter and that I couldn't go one without her.
What were the conditions of the orphanage/institution like? Darya was transferred to her institution in 2009 when she was 4yo. It was very clean, the children were separated into groups and lived in what looked like small apartments, and there was a playground there. When we went on the first trip, it was their summer and so they let the kids go outside twice a day. I'm not sure if they got to go out like that when its cold. The children were clean. The girls had long hair and it was fixed nicely. Darya was very clean. There were about 6-7 kids in each group. They just recently added a school on the campus. Darya had not started yet but was supposed to start that Sept. The caregivers seemed to genuinely care about the kids. However, Darya does have a lot of learned behaviors that are concerning (biting, hitting, pinching) and self-plays being choked, bit, spanked, pinched, pulls her hair, slapping herself in the face, etc. I don't think she was abused
necessarily. I think a lot of this behavior likely came from other kids. While I was there, a much older boy/young man kept pulling her coat to choke her and pulling her hair.
What would you tell someone considering adopting from Latvia/ considering adopting a child with special needs? In regards to special needs, research everything you can and have as little expectation for your child as possible. Even for their future. A family met Darya in 2010 and shared their experience (and pictures) with me. Based on that, I was expecting a very listless, extremely delayed child with other issues aside from Ds. I was pleasantly surprised to find Darya in much better shape and development.
In regards to Latvia, be prepared for many trips and long stays. But, this country allows you the opportunity to bring your child home the first trip! Its a fantastic blessing (with added financial problems though). But I'd do it again. Latvia is beautiful and a wonderful place to visit. But it can be expensive. Bring some food yourself. In addition, multiple unrelated children can be adopted together.
How many trips did you make to Latvia during the adoption process? 3 trips total. The 1st trip is to meet your child. The child(ren) stay with the family in an apartment or home for 10-14 days or so. This is for a bonding period. If you want to adopt multiple children, the children have to spend this bonding time together. Social workers visit you in the home to check on the child and see how bonding is doing. This trip is about 17 days. Both parents travel this trip.
After you come home, you get the paperwork together and apply for the I800a. The 2nd trip comes after this and the article 5 are received (the embassy does that based on the approved I800a). This is the actual adoption hearing. Latvia has a mandatory 20 day appeal period. Only 1 parent needed. If the child is over 12yo and went home after the 1st trip, the child has to return for this trip.
The 3rd trip is after the 20 day appeal period. This is to get the new birth certificate, passport, medical, and Visa. This trip is about a week. I believe only 1 parent for this one as well and the child has to travel this trip.
How are your children doing now that they are home? Darya is doing fantastic! She has transitioned well and is learning so much. She was taught basically nothing and I'm not sure what she understood or didn't understand in her language. But she has caught on to English really well and follows simple commands well. Her self-injurious and self-stemming behaviors are getting better. She hits, bites, and pinches people all the time but its not as fierce and hard as it was in the beginning. She is learning sign language and definitely has potential to learn to speak some. She can quack and makes other noises that mimic syllables/words. She still doesn't really play and the self-play of hurting herself is a bit sad. She is becoming more and more healthy. Her hair and skin glow and her physical abilities are getting better (though she has really good muscle tone anyway). She loves to snuggle, loves to have you sing to her, loves music in general, and loves to
swing! She is so much easier than I was expecting but at the same time is a lot of work. I think she is fantastic (though I may be biased).
If you are interested in adopting, visit reecesrainbow.org for more information. And please remember to keep those precious kiddos in Russia in your prayers. Your Blogger,