We are home with Amos, Daisy, Lee and Violet! Meanwhile we have jumped in again for one last very special girl. If you would like to help with that, you can make a non-tax-deductible donation HERE that we can access immediately. You can also make a tax-deductible donation HERE that we can use once we receive travel dates. Or by donating HERE you can help provide her and other children at her orphanage the care and nutrition they desperately need. See all of our current fundraisers HERE. We are thankful for any support you can offer!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Theo, Orion, Barton and Evan - Our 2014 Adoption

Some of you followed our last adoption and know some of our story already. I know there are also a whole bunch of new people meeting us for the first time. Hello there! I'd love to introduce you to our boys from Eastern Europe. Here is the short-ish version of the last few years.

Our boys were listed on Reece's Rainbow as Theo, Orion, Barton and Evan. Our family started our homestudy in the fall of 2013. We fell in love with Theo when a person who had spent time with him posted videos and photos of him. We wanted to know as much about him as we could! We learned about the amazing charity, Maya's Hope, who provided all different kinds of help to children where he lived.

Theo wasn't the only child there. One very exuberant boy showed up in front of the camera at every opportunity. He was listed as Orion. He was a handful! (He still is!) But he was also a lot of fun. We knew right away we would add him to our adoption. Our homestudy approved us for three children. After adding Orion, we weren't sure if we would stop there or adopt a third child as well. We mailed our immigration paperwork in.

Meanwhile there were other things happening. A boy listed as Barton was about to turn 16 and become unadoptable due to aging out. He was very gentle and timid, and the future he was destined for in his region was grim. I shared his photo a few times, but that was it. He was in a different region than our other boys. We were only planning to adopt from one orphanage. There were a lot of people shouting for him, but time was just about up. He turned 16 without a committed family.

There was also another boy, listed as Evan. His file and Theo's file had been mixed up. They were listed as the same child until we committed to Theo. After that they were straightened out. Something about him kept drawing me in. His needs were greater than the other boys we were planning to adopt. He was in the bedridden building at the same location.

Suddenly my husband and I were faced with a choice. It was impossibly hard. We felt that both Barton and Evan were meant to be our sons, but we could only adopt one more child. In the end we chose Barton because we were literally the only family who could adopt him. Our paperwork was in before his birthday and we were approved for both his age and special needs. Evan hadn't aged out, so we decided to work as hard as we could to find a family for him.

Our travel dates were drawing closer. Evan was still on our hearts and minds. We went back to our social worker. We were able to be approved to add Evan as well. We had to rush to get everything updated and sent to immigration. The last paper arrived right before my husband flew to Eastern Europe. We could bring home all four of our boys.

It was the middle of spring in 2014. There was a lot of uneasiness and unrest in the boys' country. The government was changing over. There were constant concerns if adoptions would be halted. One region had been invaded. The children there were trapped. They still are. Other regions were riskier, but things were still moving. It was a tense time. Military checkpoints and barricades were being erected. My husband would be there for months.

Barton was the first boy who my husband met. My husband was awestruck. The boy we expected to be nonverbal could answer questions. He was just as gentle and kind as we were told. It would be the first adoption for his court, so we were prepared for things to be a bit tougher. That turned out to be an understatement. At the time we didn't know that though. My husband was enjoying his time getting to know Barton.

Next my husband met the other boys. Evan was first. It was hard. He was terrified to be grabbed out of his crib and thrust into my husband's arms. He screamed in pain and fear. My husband was told he would never get better and that we should pick a different child. Then he went to see the other two boys.

Orion stood in the doorway of the group home shouting, "Papa!" and then ran to hug Theo when he found out they would be brothers. They were both very excited. The other boys there also enjoyed spending time with my husband, although the whole group could be overwhelming at times! My husband spent more time with the three boys. He signed paperwork saying he would adopt all of them, despite the orphanage recommendation to leave Evan behind.

The next couple months were full of typical little delays. Barton's judge was traveling and unavailable to set a court date. The prosecutor for the other boys was in a neighboring region investigating incidents. I arrived to meet the boys and help bring the first three home. Barton's court date was set much later, so my husband would need to return for him.

I loved my time in their country. It was absolutely beautiful. I loved the boys too! After a few more small delays, we passed court for Theo, Orion and Evan. None of them needed to appear and there were no paperwork issues, so it was done quickly.

Then a couple days later we were on our way with them! It was a little difficult to manage the three boys in a small studio apartment after we left the orphanage, but we survived. Evan had trouble eating. He was very stressed. The other two were very curious about everything! At one point Orion accidentally locked Theo in the bathroom because he kept playing with the doorknobs. Oops! We made it home and the boys started settling in.

Evan needed immediate appointments to be checked for refeeding syndrome and start seeing specialists. He saw a lot of doctors in the beginning, but his biggest issue was his weight. He had just turned 11 and he weighed 33 pounds. That's very small, but not at all unusual. Within a few months he hit 50 pounds. He has gotten taller, but his weight has hovered just over 50 pounds since then. The doctors think that's probably his body's natural size for now, and that he will gain weight and height slowly until he hits puberty.

Theo and Orion started seeing doctors as well. They got the all clear and started seeing specialists, although more slowly than Evan. Evan was able to "jump" the line because of the severity of his condition, but Theo and Orion had to be added to wait lists like everyone else. The process of being referred from one area to another was also slow, but we kept plugging away at it.

My husband went back for court for Barton. Remember, this was the first time this court had done an international adoption. They decided to treat the court date like a preliminary hearing and created a list of things they wanted to require before the second court date to decide on the adoption. Most of these were purely administrative on their end, such as requesting witnesses for court from the office supervising adoptions. We were devastated that he would wait even longer, but we understood that they wanted to be certain things were done correctly. 

In addition, although his parents were deceased, Barton did have relatives. Legally the rest of the family had declined rights to him and never even visited, but the judge requested approval from them for the adoption anyway. Most of his family approved of the adoption. They weren't going to care for him and wanted him to have a family. Another relative who had never visited and did not want to take care of him did not approve of the adoption. We were warned that the judge might give her 90 days to decide if she would like to take responsibility for him instead. We were running out of time to complete his adoption before our paperwork expired. In the end the judge said that if she wanted to oppose the adoption, then she would need to show up and be prepared to take custody of him immediately. We weren't sure what would happen until the actual court date.

Court was long. No relatives came. We needed to request an extra witness for the region. Barton needed to appear and speak, although he didn't understand some of the questions. He was asked if he was afraid of my husband and he smiled and said no, as if that was a foolish question. He was asked if he wanted to live with us, and he said yes and smiled. It was long and nerve-wracking, but we were approved. The prosecutor later asked my husband a lot of questions about our health insurance and life insurance, saying he just didn't understand how a family could care for "these types of children." But Barton was ours.

By this time my husband had exhausted almost all of his available leave time at his job. After that time was used up his employer would not be required to hold onto his job for him. We needed things to go faster, but they didn't. Passports were taking longer to process because of the unrest. There was a misspelling on Barton's first passport. Finally he was able to come home. The timing was very close. My husband had to spend a full day flying across the world, come home with Barton, and go to work the next day. But we pulled it off. It was 5 and a half months from leaving on the first trip to Barton arriving home. That is an eternity in a country where some families complete the process from homestudy to finish in that time frame. Barton was worth it though, 100 times over.

We were so ready and so thrilled to have him home with us. He saw the necessary doctors, but we didn't try to push him. His vision impairment made it hard for him to know what to expect in his new life. One of our daughters immediately included him in activities, even when he didn't respond. His new brothers also from Eastern Europe were quick to tell him that this was a safe place where no one was hit and we were nice. (Which both made my heart hurt and filled it with love at the same time.) He knew swear words, but didn't know that they weren't appropriate speech. He though you shouted those words when your lego castles tumbled over. We took things a bit slower with Barton because he was so easily overwhelmed at first.

All four of our boys began to settle in and find their places in our family. In the last two years they have grown in so many ways. They have grown physically, mentally, emotionally. They have made so much progress. Some of it was easy and some of it was hard but all of it was worth doing. That is why we are heading back to do it again!

1 comment:

  1. This is true love from the heart of God Himself.
    What precious gems you have in your family and with more
    gems coming. Thank you for sharing your heart with so many.
    Mrs. Kathy