Five years ago, I had given up all hope of ever having a child.
Though our hearts were open to having all kinds of children, we just didn't know where to begin. Then I found out about a program called "Bridge of Hope" which brings Russian orphans to the United States during the summer to spend five weeks with an American family. The goal of the program is to find permanent adoptive families for the children. This gives both the children and the prospective adoptive parent/parents the chance to get to know each other. This part really appealed to us!
After months of planning, we finally saw a picture of a little 6-year-old girl named Anya. As soon as I saw her picture, I knew that Anya was the little girl I had been waiting for. June 27, 1998, was the day we met and it was love at first sight; she was a dream come true! She immediately sat on my lap and bravely held our hands and walked out to our car and came home. Anya showed loving care to us and I fell in love within the first few days. Right away, she was calling us mama and papa. She seemed to be a part of our family right from the start and we truly fell deeply in love with her the more we knew her.
One day, toward the end of the summer, we took Anya to a family picnic. On the way home she told us that she wanted to be our daughter. This was truly a special moment for my husband and me. The night before she returned to Russia, Anya wrote a make believe letter: "I'm in the desky dom and I am writing to you. I love you mama and I love you papa, please bring me home soon." August 1st was Anya's last day of summer camp with us and a very sad one. It would be five months of paperwork and waiting before we would finally bring her home.
We traveled to Russia in December 1998. Seeing Anya again was everything we had hoped it would be. She certainly was ready to come home and greeted us with open arms.
When we met Anya, it was a miracle of a lifetime. We were very fortunate to have gotten to know and love Anya for five weeks during the summer when she lived in our home.
Four years later.... Anya speaks perfect English. Anya has matured into a lovely and poised young lady. She has come a long way psychologically from the needy little girl she was at six years of age. Anya is well liked and has many friends. Anya is a very exceptional child. She is kind to the sick and elderly and goes out of her way to help those in need. Anya has not forgotten her past or her roots.
Anya's temperament is sweet and loving. Not a day goes by without her telling us how much she loves us. Anya is very affectionate. She likes to be hugged, and is very close to me. Anya now weighs 105 pounds and is almost 5 feet tall. She is growing into a pre teenager and is enrolled in fifth grade at school. Music and art are her favorite subjects.
Our lives have certainly changed since we adopted Anya four years ago. No one especially me, ever expected that we would be adopting another child through the Bridge of Hope Program. We decided to adopt another child because of our experience with Anya. We love Anya so much that want her to have a companion in this world. We traveled back along the same path to Russia this past winter to complete our family with our second daughter. Our new daughter, Yana, was Anya's best friend in Russia. When we went to Russia in December '98 to adopt Anya, we met Yana. We promised Anya that we would try to find Yana a family in the United States. In the subsequent years since Anya has lived with us, she talked about Yana on a regular basis. She said she misses Yana, she has written letters to Yana, and she has reminded me of my commitment to try to find Yana a home.
In December 2001, I found out that Bridge of Hope was going back to the same region and asked immediately if there was a chance of bringing Yana to the US. It turned out that Yana was available, and we agreed to host her, in hopes of finding her a home in America.
I had an old picture of Yana, and I sent it to everybody that I knew, hoping to try to find a family who would be interested in adopting her. Then, the day arrived, when we went to the Cradle of Hope office to meet Yana, and I must say the reunion was like a movie. The two girls embraced, and told each other in English and Russian, "I love you, I love you." Tears were in everyone's eyes, as Olga the coordinator took a beautiful video of their reunion.
As a teacher of many years, I can say that Yana really turned out to be one of the most well adjusted 11-year-olds I have ever met. She fit in our family just like an old shoe. She was just terrific. Nevertheless, I still was firm the first few days saying, "We'll find her a home here, we'll find her a home here. My very reluctant husband was extremely captivated and impressed with Yana and thought she was a terrific child, and kept saying to me, "We have to adopt her." I kept saying to myself, "Well, let's see how it goes, let's see how the five weeks go." In my heart of hearts, of course, I wanted to adopt her, but I was concerned about how the adjustment would be for Anya. To make a long story short, Yana now Jenna has been home for six months and life has never been better.
P.S. Now if I could just find a home for Anya's younger brother Sergei, I would feel like my mission is complete. Sergei is Anya's half sibling, he is a six year old little boy. I have been advocating for him over four years now. He had three potential adoptions but each one fell through for a different reason. We met him for the second time when we were in Russia this past year adopting Jenna. He is an active, curious and loving little boy with FAS/FAE. I am a Special Ed. Teacher and his FAS/FAE is very mild. He wants to come to America. He asked me, "When am I coming to America?" when I was in Russia. He is very sweet, small, has some mild tremors and respiratory problems. I believe he would do very well here in the states with the right family. He needs lots of love, nutrient, physical therapy and time.... I have a video and photos on Sergei. He deserves a chance, he has none in Russia. Right now he is in a special needs orphanage in Stavropol.
Why it's my favorite season to travel
There is more to that child than the special needs glaring at you from the page
It is important that you find a professional who has specific training, continuing education and experience in the areas of childhood trauma and attachment
In an advocate's words
Lessons learned through a personal journey to grow his family through adoption
Only two US adoption agencies are accredited to provide adoption services in South Africa