Finding a Family for David
11 year old David smiles for a friend's adoptive parents
Until very recently I had no idea how dire the orphan situation is in Eastern Europe. In the Ukraine alone there are estimated to be over 100,000 orphans living in state care. In almost 90% of cases, the parents are alive but either unable or unwilling to take care of their children. These are the social orphans of Ukraine.
David* is one of those orphans. Born in Eastern Europe, 11 year old David has been a part of the system his whole life. An otherwise healthy, cheerful boy from first hand accounts of parents who have adopted children from his orphanage, David was born with a chronic illness that ensured he would never bear the label most adoptive parents want to see, "Healthy White Infant". Though his illness is something easily managed with medication and not symptomatic, it is a condition that has spooked would-be parents from choosing him as their son.
Like other orphans, David has watched other children he has grown up with leave one by one to new families. As part of saying goodbye, a family had their adoptive daughter's friends make a video she could remember them by. David is the boy in that video.
Tania and Justin Lewis are adopting an 'undesirable' like David. Jack* is 13 years old and lives in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. Though not from the same country, he has the same condition as David. Tania has been chronicling her adoption journey on her blog, 1000LovingJack.com where she hopes to bring awareness and raise money to cover the hefty adoption fees. Tania and Justin made the decision to adopt Jack almost a year ago because they heard his story and wanted to provide a better life for him.
"A year ago, we weren't sure we wanted to have kids at all. We were both focused on our careers. I wasn't saving for an adoption, I was buying shoes. But when we heard about Jack we knew we had to do something or he would spend the rest of his life on the street. We decided we wanted to raise him and give him a better life."
Jack's soon-to-be parents, Tania and Justin on their wedding day. Photo credit: Karin Von Voigtlander
It was Tania's blog that led me to David's story. When David turned 10, institution workers started preparing him mentally that a family would likely never come for him. This is the common practice for children his age. He needs to know that in 5 years he will have to fend for himself. As one commenter noted on Tania's blog, this is the real life "Hunger Games". If you are interested to see what life after the orphanage is like for these kids, there is a great documentary from The Guardian about it here.
Every year, 2,000 infants are surrendered at the maternity ward by their mothers; the remainder are sent to the orphanage later in life due to neglect, poverty, and alcoholism. When they turn 5, they are moved to a larger orphanage for older kids where they will most likely experience sexual and/or physical abuse, malnutrition and neglect. At 16 years old, they will 'graduate' into the real world. With just a small stipend, they are dismissed onto the streets to go it on their own. 10% will commit suicide in the first year, 60% of girls will become prostitutes and 70% of boys will turn to a life of crime.
"Special needs" children, which can mean anything from physical or mental disabilities and even HIV cases, stand a strong chance of being institutionalized in miserable conditions for the rest of their lives. The BBC did a documentary recently that sheds light on these cases and I highly recommend you take some time to watch it.
I don't like to write about something like this without letting you know what can be done to help. If you feel compelled to do something, there are several ways you can help:
* You can share this story and help get the word out.
* You can financially support families like Tania and Justin who are stepping up and adopting these children.
* You can participate in a hosting program through reputable organizations like Frontier Horizon where you host a child from one of these orphanages in your home over the Christmas holidays.* It is a great opportunity to provide a no-strings family environment for one of these children without jumping into an adoption and it is tax deductible.
* You can adopt David or a child like him.
*David and Jack's names have been changed for privacy reasons and the nature of their illness has been withheld also for privacy.
*Hosting programs and adoptions have fees. Visit http://www.frontierhorizon.org/hosting/index.php if you would like more information on hosting. If you are interested in learning more about David, please feel free to contact me and I can point you in the right direction.
Update: Oct 4, 2012
Since I posted this story the family has made the video private for their own reasons. I wanted to share it with you because it is what drew me to David's story. It shows that he is a sweet, gentle boy who desperately wants a family. He had taken to calling the couple who adopted his friend, "Mama" and "Papa".
That couple wishes to remain anonymous so as not to impact their own adoption, but the Mother told me this: "He knew we were not there to adopt him (break my heart). They call most women Mama, but there are not really men in the orphanages, so to hear Papa tugged on my heart."
UPDATE: MARCH 2013
I am so thrilled to report that an American family is currently in the process of adopting "David". I can't say anything further for privacy reasons but we are all enormously happy that he will finally have the love and support of a family.
More by Ali
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@Ali, that's wonderful news!
This little boy is finally getting a family!
nscott84, I think you raise a really valid point and that is the scariest thing about adopting a child from a different culture. I'm sure all of these families go into it with the best of intentions and there are so many positive adoption stories out there. But yes cultural differences can certainly be an issue. I still think those children are better off with a family from another country than living in these institutions their whole lives.
I am Ukrainian and have heard similar stories. Unfortunately enough, when some children from Ukraine or Russia are adopted by Americans though they can be misunderstood and even abused or abamdoned. My heart goes out to this little boy. Ya tebe lyublyu David!
Update: Nov 6 - Alex and I have arranged for this sweet boy to be hosted by a family in the US for Christmas for 3 weeks. The hope is that a family will meet him and decide to adopt him. We are also flying there to meet him! I'm really excited and hope this brings additional awareness to the plight of these sweet kids.
such a sweet story, thanks for sharing!
This story breaks my heart. It's such a shame that the adoption process is so long and painful. I know many people who are patiently waiting for a child to come into their arms, and it's been years.
Wow this is so sad. It makes me so angry that these people have sex and get pregnant because they are selfish and then don't want the kids after (some exceptions apply, course). Most biological parents should be fined when they want to put a child up for adoption. My fiance is a big animal person and he always wants to donate money to save the animals, which is a sweet sentiment, but I think we should take care of the humans first.
@Fredamans - There are kids in every country that need help and we should advocate for all of them.
Now if only we can help those kids in our own country that need homes too.
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