Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Adopting the tiny girl - FAQ's

Follow up from my last post... go read it first if you haven't already!

One of the frequently asked questions I'm getting about "Greta" is about how she would do in a family with young children.

This is hard to answer, because I really don't know, but I'm going to try as it makes a difference to many people when considering her.

When another family met Greta over a year ago, she wasn't drugged as she is now. She was nicknamed "Koala Bear" as she would literally climb you for a hug. Constantly seeking affection, even if she was rough with the other kids to get it.

This video is of an adoptive mama playing with Grace, when Greta decides she wants attention too.

She wasn't like that when we met her. She hardly acknowledged us when we came into the room, as she is now drugged.

Someone who met her wrote an update for her (on her profile) from Sept 2012 that said: Greta desperately desires to be loved and shown affection. It broke our hearts to see how desperate she was for attention. She would climb up us before we even knew what was happening and was clinging to us. She probably needs to go to a family that can devote a lot of one on one attention to her, and that she be the youngest child, because she can get aggressive when she is jealous for attention. I hope this helps her find a family.”

It's impossible to know how she would do once she is home with her family, but I'm not sure she has to be the youngest.

Of course, a family where she was the youngest (or a family that had no young kids), would be the best, especially a family with previous experience with adoption and Down syndrome.

But I do think it's possible, even though it won't be easy, for a family with younger children to adopt her.

Yes, she was pretty aggressive when she wasn't being drugged, but the fact that she wasn't tied to a chair tells me that she wasn't like that all the time, and was only seeking affection when it was available. I feel like once she knows she is loved and safe, she will not seek attention as much.

She was very gentle with Grace and another little girl who was in the visiting room that day. As you can see in the video I shared in the first post, she was tickling Grace. She loved to hear her, laugh and would put my hand back on her tummy when I stopped tickling her. (When Greta is on top of Grace in the second clip, she was trying to tickle her, not hurt her.)

There was a little girl with severe hydrocephalus in playing with us and a missionary who was working with the kids. Both Greta and Grace would every so often go over and just rub her head gently, especially when she was crying. It was very sweet to see, and you could tell that Greta and Grace loved her.

Any family, with young children or not, will need to be able to have a lot of time to spend with her and love on her. (Which is not hard to do, by the way!) She needs to know that she is not just being moved to another orphanage, the concept of a family will be hard for her to understand.

At the same time I'm saying it would be possible, I will say it may not work for you. I would encourage you to be very careful when considering her when you have younger children. I'm not going to sugar coat, and am being very real here, even though I want her to have a family badly. Parenting her will not be easy. She is hurt and she is wounded, as anyone would be after living her life. Pray about it a lot, and feel free to ask me any specific questions or to get in contact with the others who have met her.

The other big question is about the process to adopt her. So here goes. :)

The requirements for a family to adopt from Greta's country are:
♥Married couples ONLY. No single parents.
♥No family size restrictions.
♥No upper age limit, but at least one parent must be 15 years older than child.
♥No diagnosed history of mental health conditions.
♥No criminal record.
♥Canadians can adopt from this country!

Her profile does say "Families with adoptive experience and a completed home study would be the best option for Miss Greta", but that is not required. She is running out of time, and a family would be better than no family at this point! You may want to find a homestudy agency and get verbal approval from your social work first before you commit, in case they won't approve you, and there is another family ready to commit.

I do want to say about the adoptive experience though, and I'm not going to sugar coat, that a family needs to understand what 15 years in an institution can do a for a child and be prepared to handle that. Greta has been severely neglected, and she will likely be emotionally scarred the rest of her life. It doesn't end with rainbows and cupcakes as soon as she gets home. It will be hard, and any family, no matter how much experience, will struggle adding her to their family.

The cost to adopt from her country is about $25,000 including travel. Traveling in the summer makes it a little more, in the winter, a little less. It also varies by region and a couple other factors.

Greta is a just a couple hundred dollars short of having a grant of $20,000. This money was raised and donated by many people who love her and want her to have a family. This money will be released to her family when they receive their travel date to go get her. 

A family would have to raise about $5,000 for stateside fees like homestudy, USCIS, paperwork, etc. A little bit might need to be raised to finish it up, but the MAJORITY of the in country process will be covered with her large grant. And there are MANY warriors, myself including, willing to help a family fundraise the rest of what is needed.

The traveling for Greta's country can be done several different ways.

The first day in country, you pick up her referral to say you want to adopt her in the capitol city. (With her country, you can not put a child on "hold" for a family until you pick up the referral.) Then you head down to region, and meet her and agree to adopting her. The paperwork is then started for a court date which will usually be about 3-4 weeks later. (You visit everyday during this time.) After court there is a mandatory 10 day waiting period for anyone to protest the adoption (which never happens). Then you pick up the court decree, get the new birth certificate, and wait for the passport, which will take about 3 days. You get to bust her out of the orphanage, and then back up to the capitol, where you have a medical to get her cleared to leave the country, and visit the US Embassy to get her visa. Then HOME! That is the *general* time frame, but it's international adoption, so nothing is set in stone!

Both parents have to be there to get her referral and for court, but only one parent needs to be there to finish up. One parent can stay the whole time, while the second goes home after court, or both parents can go home after court, and one parent come back after the 10 day wait. Some families are also now going over and getting the referral, come home, both going back for court, one coming home, and the other staying though the 10 day wait.

I would highly recommend if you are adopting Greta to for one parent to not finish up alone, but bring someone with. The extra hands once you get her out of the orphanage and on the way home will be worth it, and it might get ugly if she is going through drug withdrawls.

Starting the Process:
You meet all the requirements, are okay with the long travel, and want to make Greta part of your family. What next?

Email Debbie at debbie@reecesrainbow.org and tell her that you are seriously inquiring about adopting Greta and ask how to get started on the paperwork! She will get you set up with the commitment paperwork (through RR), and a stateside helper to help with the paperwork. If you do not want to use RR's facilitators, contact me first (you will still need to go through RR to get her grant, but can still use different facilitators).

And also, not required, but I would honored if you emailed me with or without questions to let me know where you're at. forhisgloryhandiwork(at)gmail(dot)com. I want to be able to support you all the way! :)

Getting her out in time:
We know Greta ages out in November, but what I do want you to know is that the usually about 8 mo process to adopt from her country does not have to be complete by then.

In order for her not to age out without a family, a family must have their USCIS application into USCIS by her birthday in November.

That gives a family a family a lot more time, but also remember that she should have been adopted years ago, and every day is another she spends in an institution.

Hopefully this post answered most of your questions if you are considering her. Please email me with any other questions at forhisgloryhandiwork(at)gmail(dot)com. And keep SHARING about her!

My post about her has been sharing MANY times, and for that, I thank you! But, she doesn't have a family yet, and we need to keep sharing until she does!

Together, we WILL find her a family!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The tiny girl who needs a family.

I have told several people this post was coming, but I put off writing it. Why? Because I wanted some time to gather my thoughts, and frankly, it was painful to even think about writing it.

But I can't block it out anymore, pretend I don't know, no matter how much it hurts. Because she doesn't have time.

It's been 5 weeks since I said good bye to her.

After getting some good pictures, I slipped out of the room all the nannies were crowded in, watching Grace get dressed on Gotcha Day, and bent down to where she was sitting by the door. I scooped her into my arms, kissed her bald head, squeezed her tight, and told her I love her and I would find her a mama. And I snapped a few pictures of her sweet face.

Of "Greta".

It was only a minute or two and it was over long before I wanted it to be. I watched as one of the nannies brought Grace over to the playpen in the middle of the main room, and had her wave goodbye to the other children I had fallen in love with.

As they started back towards the door, I knew it was time and gave her one more squeeze and kiss and set her back down in her chair.

While walking out and setting Grace free was joyous, those steps out of the building were the same ones that were leaving Greta and the others behind. Walking out without them was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I was fighting everything in me to not turn around, run back in and refuse to leave until they let me leave with her.

I managed to leave with only one little girl, but I made her a promise.

I would find her a mama. So that's what I'm going to do.

We had seen Greta across the room every time we went to pick up Grace for our visit. There wasn't much to observe, but we did quickly realize she was being drugged.

She had been described by people who met her over a year before to little climb you for a hug, and push other kids out of the way for attention. That was not the same girl we met. She didn't even acknowledge us whenever we walked in, and sat in the same spot in a corner all day watching TV. I could tell, even without knowing what she was like in the past, that she was drugged. Drugged. Because the nannies didn't want to take care of her.

A couple days before Gotcha Day, I got brave and used my limited Russian to ask for Greta to come play in the visiting room with us and Grace. (There are German volunteers who use the visiting/therapy room to love on and work with other kids in the grouppa.) After I made clear I didn't want the nanny with the same name, I got my wish, and spent the next several hours loving on her.

She is a tiny girl for 15 years old. She is probably as tall as a 6 year old, but is so much skinnier. Pictures do not do justice to how thin she is. We measured her upper arm, it was only 6" around, and that was over two (skin tight) layers. I would guess she wears size 6T for length, but doesn't weigh more than 35 lbs. Now, to put it in perspective, I am the one with her in all these pictures, and I am only 3 months older than her.

She liked the musical singing puppies we brought for the grouppa. She played with it for quite awhile on my lap. She didn't pay much attention to the bubbles the other kids were shrieking over, but she does like hair. My [waist length] hair was up most of the time, but fell out at one point. I didn't put it back up right away, and Greta found it. She was twirling it in her hands, feeling it, and going to town with it for a few minute before I put it back up. She is a 15 yo girl, she shouldn't have her head shaved, she should have her own hair to play with!

Two other things she loves are hugs and swinging. We spent at least the last hour together on the swing in the therapy/"soft" room. She was content just to relax and snuggle, which I of course did not mind one bit! She was only picky about where my hands where, she wanted to play with them. It was heart breaking how, even though she was drugged up, she still wanted love and attention.

I also want to address the issue of her joining a family with younger children. But for the sake of room here, I added that to another post, which you can read here.

Even though she was drugged, we got a few giggles and smiles out of her. Towards the end, when either she warmed up some or the drugs started wearing off, she started babbling a bit. And now I will melt your heart with this adorable must watch video of her saying mama!

We took lots of pictures, some video, and got enough info on her for an update, but visiting with her was so much more than that. Not only did I fall in love, but she got to feel loved, even if just for a few hours. Language didn't matter because love doesn't speak just one.

Love. Something she is so deprived of, yet needs so desperately. Love will cross an ocean and knock down mountains. It is what a family has to offer.

I am praying my heart out that a family will rise up and love her. That they will say YES with open hearts and open arms, and bring her home, no matter what they will face with her. That they will love her without hesitation.

She has $20,000 in her grant. TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! That means a family would only have to raise/pay about $5000 on the US side of things to get the paperwork done.

BUT, she ages out this NOVEMBER. A family HAS to have their application into USCIS by her birthday or she ages out and is unadoptable.

I can not even think about what this would mean for her, it makes me too sick. We have to find her a family before then, in the next 10 MONTHS! Not finding her a family isn't even optional. She can NOT age out.

I am willing to answer any questions about her or the process to adopt her to the best of my knowledge. Several other people have met her in the past few years and would be willing to talk to you as well. Leave a comment here or email me at forhisgloryhandiwork(at)gmail(dot)com.

So short version. Greta. 15 year old with Down syndrome. She is the size of a skinny 5 yo. She needs a family. Several people who have met her and are willing to answer questions. She has a $20,000 grant. She ages out in November, and needs a family before then. Oh, did I mention, she needs a family?

If you are able to adopt her, PLEASE, PLEASE, do not wait. She ages out in November, but needed out of where she is yesterday. Contact me with any questions, and get the process going. There are many people who will support you and back you all the way.

*I added another post here answering questions for any serious on adopting her.

If you are not able to adopt her, pray for her and her family. And then spread the word, share her picture, share her profile, share this post, do whatever you can to GET HER FACE SEEN!

I know she has a mommy out there, I refuse to believe otherwise. Please help me find that mama!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

One Month.

Today marks one month home for our Ukrainian Princess!

Grace is doing well. We are over the "honeymoon" phase if there was one, there are many things we are still working on (you can't erase 8.5 years in an institution with a couple weeks of love), but over all she is doing pretty well.

She eats well, she sleeps well, and for the most part gets along with her siblings, esp Rachel. She is slowly gaining weight and her hair is slowly growing, but both will take some time yet.

Tonight she let me paint her fingers. She is fine with them being clipped (unlike her brothers!), and I knew she would want them painted if she watched Rachel's being painted. Sure enough, after Rachel's first finger, she had her hand in there wanting hers done too.

(Side note about her tongue here: Grace has very good oral motor control.. her tongue doesn't hang out unless she is stimming or very focused, in this picture, she's focused!)

She wasn't sure about holding her hands still but decided it was okay. (If she decided not too... there was no way we could keep them open!)
 And now our girly girl is rocking PINK nails for the first time in her life!!
Happy 1 Month Home Miss Grace! We love you and can't wait for many more months and years with you!

Friday, January 17, 2014

A special family.

When we were in Kyiv waiting for Grace's visa, we met up with a friend who was also in Ukraine working to complete her adoption.

We've known her for over 3 years, but only online. We live states away from one another and had never met in person.

I was thrilled when we realized we might be traveling at the same time, and have a chance to meet her. To meet Shelly, the amazing mama of the Burman Bunch.

Shelly and her husband, Brian, adopted 3 kids from the institution I visited on my mission trip several months before I was there.

Then, two months after we adopted Elijah, they were back again, adopting Miss Carrington from Elijah's former orphanage, and Miss Reagan from the institution Elijah and Carrington would have been moved too.

Carrington is only 9 days older than Elijah. When Elijah's bio mom found out shortly before he was born that he had Down syndrome, she went to see Carrington in the hospital, who was also born with Ds.

Carrington came home near death (literally, she wouldn't have made it a more than a day longer), weighing only 11 pounds at 3 years old.
She is now a healthy and happy princess loving her life with her amazing family!

But the Burman's decided they had more love to give, and now, after several more adoptions, both domestic and from Serbia, they are back in Ukraine again, on a mission to make FOUR little boys a part of their forever family.

Shelly is still in Ukraine with a friend, and they have a court date, which means time is running out to raise the $7k+ they still need to come home. The boys can't come home if there isn't enough money to buy their plane tickets...

The Burman's have been through SO much. Without going into details, they have faced much opposition in this adoption and past ones. Things have happened that have left them short of thousands of dollars. All they want is to bring their children home, and they can't do it by themselves.

When mom and I were in Kyiv with Grace, we went shopping. Not just for a few souvenirs to bring home for our family, but for authentic Ukrainian items to put up for bid in an auction. An auction that would help bring the Burman's raise the money they needed.

That Ukrainian auction has been going on Facebook for two weeks, and it ends tonight. But there is still time to bid on these things and more!

So I am asking this. Would you head over to the Freedom Auction and place a couple of bids on these authentic Ukrainian items? If you are the highest bidder, every penny you donate will go to help the Shelly come home with her boys.

And if you don't want to bid, you can also make a tax deductible donation to their Grace Haven page!

Also, I want to say this. I know there is some drama surrounding this family, and I know that some may not appreciate me supporting them like this. But listen.

I've met Shelly, I've watched her children grow up in pictures, I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt, that she and Brian want what is best for their children, and they will do whatever it takes to bring their children home. They know children do not belong in orphanages, and they want to give them the LOVE of a FAMILY instead.

London and Carrington, former orphans, now loved and cherished sisters!
They need our help. Can we give them the love and support, both with prayers and donations, that they need? Let's set aside everything else for awhile and focus on what matters. Getting children out of orphanages and home to their family.

Let's do this. Let's bring the the Burman boys HOME!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Our eyes are opened.

Last night while scrolling through Facebook I saw a comment on a link a friend shared to a waiting child. It said something to the effect of: "I am in tears reading about these children! Some of them have heartbreaking stories."

I know it was meant well, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

Being abandoned and left to die at an orphanage or institution because of a special need is heartbreaking in itself.

I know we toss around the words, no mommy, no daddy, no one to tuck them in at night, to give them hugs, to love them, etc. After hearing it so many times the effect wears off. But take a moment and actually think about it. What if that was YOU.

But their stories are really so much more than what we read on their profiles. There is more than what we see in pictures, or even occasional video clips of a child. And that is where they heartbreaking really kicks in.

We don't see what their lives are really like. Sitting here in our warm houses, surrounded by everything we need, and so much we don't, we can't even start to know what their lives are really like. What life would be like for you if you had special needs and lived at an orphanage or institution.

How you are drugged and sit in front of a TV all day doing nothing, because you have a little too much energy for the nannies' liking.

How if you don't get to the potty in time, you get yelled at, get in trouble, and even abused by the nannies. And because of that, become terrified whenever you have an accident or throw up.

How you are given a bottle of steaming hot tea that burns your tongue and goes down too fast, making you choke and make a mess, which results in you being yelled at and getting in trouble.

How you are tied to a chair with a sheet, because you are easier to take care of that way.

How you get mash that has who-knows-what-in-it-as-long-as-it's-cheap (of which the smell makes visitors gag), shoveled down your throat so fast you can't chew, making your tummy hurt later.

How you sit there all day in a playpen with ten other children, having no toys to play with, doing nothing.

How if you can't sit up on a potty chair by yourself, you are laid over the top of it, in any position, as long as your bottom is over the potty, even if it means your face is on the floor.

How the nannies pick you up by one arm, and never carry you chest to chest because that encourages attachment.

How you scratch behind your ears raw, and bang your head to comfort yourself, or because you are bored.

How a large bib sits under your bowl of food, so if you move, your bowl of food goes onto the floor and you are done eating.

How you learn not to cry because no one hears you or comes.

How if you aren't the biggest, strongest, and most able to move around, you get beat up, and food and toys (when they rarely come out) get stolen from you. And even if you are tiny, you become unnaturally strong for your age to hold your own.

How you attack every little bit of food, shoving it in your mouth, because you don't know what a full belly is or when the next bite will come.

How your head gets shaved so no one has to take care of your hair. You don't understand why and cry and rub your head, wanting your hair back.

How you lay in a bed all day because you have a special need which makes it harder for you to move, and end up laying in a very wet diaper, or in your own waste.

This gives us a glimpse, but we still don't know. The emotional pain, in additional the to the physical. Even if children do not understand there is a life they could be living other then the miserable life they have, they still feel in their hearts the sense of abandonment. That's something they may never heal from, nor the years of abuse they are receiving in where they live.

"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts, and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to ACT."

Now that our eyes are opened, let's live that way.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

They chose me.

I don't choose kids to fall in love with.

They choose me.

They grabbed my hands and heart and refused to let go.

They only asked for love and attention.

But took so much more.

Leaving my heart in pieces.

I didn't want to have my heart broken.

Because I didn't want to face that ache again.

But God has broken my heart for what breaks His.

And there's no going back.

It's been two weeks since I had to say goodbye.

To some of the pieces of my heart.

They choose me.

I have not forgotten you little ones.

Your time is coming.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Rolling into 2014.

It's been a bit since I posted on this blog. We are home, we got home on Christmas Day actually!

I've been blogging over at my mom's blog. Be sure to check it out to see pictures of Gotcha Day and updates on Grace!

It's New Years Day, and I got to thinking about this past year.

It's probably been the hardest of my life, but just as many blessings as struggles came out of it. And there is One who is faithful no matter what life throws my way.

And then I look ahead to this next year. And I wonder what it will bring.

I'm not one for New Years resolutions as I never come through with them.

But despite that being said, this year, I want to be more intentional in spending time the things most important. My Jesus, my family, and my friends.

I am also going to take better care of myself so I have more strength to win this battle for health. I have been cheating more and more lately with what I shouldn't be eating, and the fact I'm still in pain from my not so healthy breakfast makes me say no more!

And no matter how emotionally painful and hard it is, I am going to do what Jesus has placed on my heart and find families for several specific children I have fallen in love with.

Hope you have had a great 2013, and roll into 2014 with me setting resolutions that are important and have lasting effect for the Kingdom.

Happy New Year!