Despite the very difficult and unstable socio-economic situation, Ukrainians are showing quite high readiness to adopt a child to their families. Often they take a kid of higher age, and sometimes it’s more than one. The tendency to preserve the secrecy of adoption is decreasing; by the way, it has not been officially abolished in Ukraine. From TV screens and social networks, horrible stories are spreading. However, as a rule, the reasons for what has happened is not examined or analyzed. Meanwhile, even one case like that can “destroy” stories of tens of successful foster families, where children are growing up as independent, socialized and self-sufficient individuals
On the Day of Adoption, which Ukraine celebrates this year the tenth time, Opinion will present you a few authentic, tough, but still very good stories.
A 21-year-old son of Natalia Zayets got cancer. When he had begun his treatment and undergo chemotherapy, doctors warned that he might never have children. “Then my son said: ’Mom, if I stay alive, then I definitely adopt a girl,’” Natalia recalls, and in her voice, you can hear tears. “When my child died, it was a great grief and shock to me.
Adoption is like a memory of what my son wanted to do. The defining moment was in April of this year, when I got to an orphanage in Novograd-Volynsky. When I saw children in need of parental care, I thought that I had to save from this system at least one child and give him or her love and warmth.
After that time I was constantly thinking about this decision – do I want it? Will I be able to do it? I got to the point that – Yes. So I had started gathering all the necessary documents, and looking for a child. I had a few wishes – I wanted this baby to be a girl from 6 to 12 years old. I was advised to consult Darya Kasyanova ( chairman of the board “Ukrainian Network for the Rights of the Child” – author’s note), she gave me a phone number of the Center for Social and Psychological Rehabilitation in Kramatorsk. I called there, and the director told me about 9-year-old Larysa, she invited me to visit her and get acquainted. In a week I was going to Kramatorsk.
As soon as I had arrived, the deputy director looked at me and smiled. I asked: “Why are you smiling?” He replied: ”Wait, you will see.” Larysa came and it turned out that she was just like me. I understood – this is my child. When in the evening I was already going home, I called the director and said that I will adopt this girl. She told me what to do next.
From the moment of getting acquainted with Larysa to the adoption itself, it took three months. My friends say that it’s very fast. My little girl’s been with me for three weeks already. She goes to school. I am very glad and I hope that we will have good relations between us – she will accept me, and I will accept her.
When I was taking Larysa, there were many interesting diagnoses in her documents. We’ve started dealing with this, and two of them – quite serious ones have already been treated. She has a light form of strabismus. The doctor has prescribed her to wear glasses, but there are still a lot of visits ahead.
Of course, there’s a problem with education. I enrolled Larysa at the third grade of one good school with an in-depth study of English. Now she has to catch up. The girl has easily joined the class, she is active. I signed her up for acrobatics, and additional English classes.
Larysa spent a year and a half in the orphanage. Now, she’s missing her friends. I understand that she needs to adapt, we have to get used to each other.
Her mother is deprived of parental rights. I don’t know how life will go on. Now, my task is to give the child love and care she needs. Let her grow under normal conditions, to know that she has a mother who loves her – a person who can be her friend, and will give her something in this life. When Larysa grows up and she wants to talk to her biological mother, that will be her own choice.”
The artist Olha Bartysh had thought to adopt a child 10 years ago, after the birth of her first son Matviy. Back then she was a journalist, and many times she had to write about children deprived of parental care: “When you have a little child, and you see other children deprived of parental warmth, it seems to you that you could save them all.” But then, her husband was against it.
The spouses came back to the question of adoption two years ago when their younger son Ivan was born. “We have friends who have four biological and two adopted kids. Now they live in Turkey,” says Olha. “We went to visit them and saw how it was. Then a decision to adopt a girl had appeared.”
In August last year, the spouses began to gather the documents, and in March they adopted a child. “There are many children in orphanages,” says Olga, “but only a few of them have the status of deprived of parental care. In addition, we wanted a healthy girl up to four years old, no brothers or sisters. Those are the kids whom most of the parents are looking for.
We hadn’t found a child in the Lviv region, so we had started to look in the other regions. I remember that in Odesa, they told me that there are 140 couples in their queue. I talked to other moms. One of them was calling to orphanages all over the country every day for the last few months. I was not ready for such a quest – I had a small baby, and my eldest son shifted to a homeschooling. So we decided: if in one year we don’t find a child, then it wasn’t meant to be.
In a while, I called the Transcarpathian region. I was told that there is one girl, less than three years old, but she is from the Roma people. We went to meet her…
Uma’s been with us for half a year already. Beautiful girl, during this time she has grown up a little and now, blossoms like a Transcarpathian flower. When I post photos in social media, it’s only “what a cutie” comments. However, I didn’t even think how incredibly difficult it would be. Unfortunately, my husband and I didn’t take any courses, we did not have any psychological training. I thought I could rely on my maternal love. But this wasn’t enough. It is necessary to learn from the experts, to know all the nuances, and then it will be better.
It seems there’s nothing terrible. Uma is a very cool, tender and kind girl. I have seen other, aggressive children. What happened in our family was not even an adaptation for Uma, but an adaptation for us, adults. As if an implant was inserted in your body, and it still can’t assimilate. It seems to fit, but you can’t deceive a body, the implant is not natural to it, and organism pushes it away. It happens at some very deep level. Psychological trap. The feelings when I embrace Ivan and when I do it to Uma, are fundamentally different. It can’t be put into words.
I was talking to psychologists, and I was told that up to two years this feeling is normal. You can’t make yourself to love a child. At first, you just have to take care of her. At first, an attachment is formed through physical care, and only then you can talk about some deeper layers.
It’s easy to say, but it’s very difficult in everyday life. In addition, younger children are actually of the same age. Two small kids and 11-year-old son who has his own crises. Uma seemed to test our durability, the seriousness of our intentions. She provoked us, transferring a war from the orphanage to a new home, tried to create a habitual environment for her.
We have very calm boys, and then of a sudden in the house there was constant screaming and crying. Uma began to beat Ivan. It was very painful for the elder son. But you just need to get over it, we just needed some time. And if I was prepared, if I knew about the difficulties, then it would have been easier to deal with all of it. It would have saved my nerves and Uma’s tears a lot.
But six months have passed; the most acute adaptation is over. Uma is calmer now, she got along with Ivan, and they are playing together now. Every two days they go to a private kindergarten holding hands. There’s a lot of fun now. There are some nuances, but there’s more of the fun stuff.
Despite all the difficulties, Uma became for us a talisman of luck. With her appearance, we’ve discovered a lot of new things in our family. I have a major in journalism, but I’ve changed it to painting. When Uma appeared, I’ve started to work a lot. Perhaps, I was even hiding from everything in my workshop. As a result, a lot of interesting ideas were born, new techniques, very cool exhibitions were planned. I dared to start a project that I craved for a long time but was constantly postponing it.
In the first, most difficult, two months, my husband and I decided that he resigns from his work; we divide everything for two of us and try to develop our own brand, our art business. I paint more, and he made an online store. Because it was very hard for us, we’ve started our own business. And it went well. So Uma is our talisman.
For those who want to adopt a child, I would say: if you want, then, of course, you need to do it. It hurts a lot when children suffer in orphanages. On the other hand, not everyone can do it, and not everyone needs it. This is a very responsible move. You need to forget all the romanticism of such a noble act, with which this whole story is painted. There is a very high percentage of children’s returns. You need to tell people about difficulties in order to avoid the situation when they can’t cope with all of this because they did not know that this could happen; they did not know that they can get over it and it would be easier. This is a big struggle.”
Among those who give birth by their own heart, there are men. This father, who doesn’t want to be named, has five children born by his heart. “The process of adoption was very simple. It was only necessary to collect all the papers and documents. It took no more than two weeks,” he says. “Now, with a new judicial reform, the whole process will last for at least two months.
I do not know what pushed me to the adoption of the children. The desire to be needed, have a big family, or give children a chance for a new life – I can’t give you a straight answer to this question. I met with the children in the orphanage before I decided to adopt them.
I had no difficulty either before or after adoption. In general, adaptation is a very serious problem. Unfortunately, we don’t have special training for parents, so there are difficulties in communicating and upbringing. It wouldn’t hurt to provide such new families with psychological assistance. Indeed, in the period of adaptation, children test the boundaries permitted by their parents. If with biological parents it happens naturally and constantly, in this case, it just has to happen in a short period of time.
In our case, this process has lasted a year. The most important thing was to win the trust of a child, and on my part, it was to understand the kid. This is especially true when you are adopting a child older than 10 years. The main thing was to realize that it’s not you who take a child to your family, but it’s a kid who lets you in his or her life. You can’t blame orphanages for the fact that the child is not the kind you’ve wanted, and it is not necessary to look for reasons in some actions of a teenager. It’s just a child that goes through a difficult teenage period, like everyone else. The only difference is that children “from a family“ go through this period earlier. Therefore, it is impossible to change or break them – you can only direct and support the child. It will be difficult for any guardian both in the domestic and in the moral sense. This must be understood before you’re taking a child to your life.”
“My son is 26 years old. I have a granddaughter, she’s five. He knows that he is adopted, but his attitude towards us – his parents, hasn’t changed. I’m proud of my son,” writes on her Facebook page, the mother-teacher of the family-type children’s home Olena Ivanova from the Tsarychansk district of Dnipropetrovsk region.
26 years ago (in 1992), doctors told Ms. Olena that she would never have children. And she’d started to think about adoption. The time had passed and in 1994, Olena gave a birth to her own daughter.
“Back then, in 1992, I was registered as a pregnant woman, although I wasn’t pregnant,” the woman recalls. They helped me to adopt my Serhiy, who was only two weeks old from birth. Then I was on maternity leave. All of it was for free.”
There were no particular difficulties with the child. Yes, there were diseases. He was an ordinary child – sometimes he listened, sometimes he not; sometimes he studied and sometimes – not. I raised him as my own child. No living soul knew that I had adopted Serhiy. Everyone in the village was sure that I was “pregnant”. Even to my mom, I told it in 10 years.
I told it to Serhiy when he was 18 years old. We already had a foster son. And once they both began to fight. So it happened that I told the truth to Serhiy. He was shocked. I regret that I hadn’t done this when he was smaller. However, the son perceived it normally. He asked me about his biological parents. We were trying to find them, but it did not work out.
I can’t remember exactly, perhaps in 2006, I read in the district’s newspaper that there is a baby, who has no place to go. Somehow spontaneously I’ve decided to create a foster family and take the 14-year-old Yuriy. In a while, I adopted 4-year-old Daryna. And then we’ve created a family-type children’s home. In total, we had 16 adopted children in our house. Now there are only nine of them left. The others had left our nest, but they are still my children.
For those who are thinking about adoption or about creating a foster family, I say: there’s no need to fear, there is no difference whether it’s a child you gave birth to or it is the one you’ve adopted. I love them equally. However, I punish them equally if they don’t listen. I take pity on them equally.
Of course, a lot depends on the person. I know one family, which while choosing a kid, even looked at lines on hands. My life position is that I’m not buying a cow in the market. I want to give the children a family and teach them how to treat people.”
In 2008 Viktoria Strilchyk took a custody of a girl, and after six months she adopted her. “For a long time I was a volunteer, helped in orphanages,” Viktoria says. In my group there were children who were attached to me, I was attached too. I wanted to adopt them. I was gathering the documents. I faced the fact that the Children and Family Services did not want to issue documents to me because I had a rented apartment. So I had to print out the law and ask where it says that in this case, I can’t adopt a child.
While I was gathering the documents, children had been adopted by one Italian family. So I had a package of documents, but there were no children. In a while, I’ve found such a baby. The volunteers informed me that in the hospital there was a dark-skinned girl, from whom her mother had refused. And soon she had to go to the orphanage. So I went to the hospital and started the process. By that time my younger “self-made” son was a year and four months. Two more kids were already adults.
It was difficult. The first three days the child was like an angel. She was shocked by the fact that she had so much attention, she wasn’t accustomed to it. And then, apparently, compensation had begun, although the girl was two and a half months only. In the hospital she was constantly alone – now she constantly wanted us to hold her. Not only she was shouting all the time, but she also didn’t eat normally. We couldn’t handle this – the child couldn’t gain weight. In about six months, everything got normal. Closer to one year it was all right. Now Danylo is 12 years old, Alina – the dancers and model is 11. They are always together and don’t imagine their life without each other.
There were no schools for foster parents in 2008 yet. I was looking for all the information on my own. Most of the pieces of advice I got from the Internet articles. There I met a well-known Russian child psychologist Lyudmila Petanovskaya. At my own initiative, I’ve started to organize her workshops in Kyiv. I helped Lyudmila to distribute her book “Adopted child has come to you” among foster parents. Then, at our training sessions, I saw the social service officials and transferred everything to them.
For adoptive parents, I highly recommend going to foster parenting schools, because, unfortunately, I often faced the people either in some rose-colored glasses or under some hormonal influence, when they wanted to adopt the whole world. And then they have a problem, and face “the great horror”. The adoption decision should be sober with no returns.”
“I know a lot about adoption,” said Maria Perepyatenko. I know it from all angles. I was the one who adopts. The one who was adopted. And I am the one who is preparing for adoption. Our way we’d begun with the fact that we just wanted to adopt a girl up to two years old. I and my husband are religious people, so we were talking about adoption even before marriage. Our pastor was engaged in children’s adoptions – now she has her own family-type children’s home. She said: if every believer takes a child, it will help a lot. In addition, after I gave birth to my daughter doctors said that I can’t have more children. So we were looking for a girl – and we’ve found her: three months old baby, whom nobody wanted to take. She had a load of diagnoses: hepatitis, congenital kidney problem, and many others. Because of this, we were advised first to become her caretakers. We’ve adopted Masha three years ago when she was already six. All those diagnoses were not confirmed. Five years ago, while we were fighting our fears of diagnoses, we had decided that we can do more. When we had already had six children under our care, we decided to create a family-type children’s home.
Now we have five adopted children: one ” homemade” and one adopted daughter. It wasn’t easy. This work educates, disciplines, sometimes leads to a dead end, sometimes it’s emotionally depleting, but it never gives you the opportunity to surrender. You’re not entitled to that. The same as it’s difficult the same it’s wonderful to be able to change someone’s life for the better. You know exactly why do you live. And this is the happiness. Nowadays a sore subject for me is an adoption from foster families and family-type children’s home. I do not say that people shouldn’t adopt these children. It is difficult to perceive that future caretakers don’t understand what a family-type children’s home is. They perceive us as an orphanage, not as a family. When they send them to us, nobody explains to them what’s going on here. They come and they hear a child calling me “mother”, then they ask: “Why does she call you a mom? You’re not her mother, you are an orphanage.” I stand and do not know what to tell them. And how should a child call me if she lives in my family for five years? These things are very sensitive and painful. Both for us and for children. A special mechanism must be developed. And, of course, training is absolutely necessary, especially when they’re taking older children. Otherwise, even when problems and difficulties arise with children (and they arise necessarily, it can’t be the other way), parents are afraid of turning to someone, because it looks like a recognition of their own failure for them.”
One more story of adoption was shared by a successful woman who decided to stay incognito. She has two children: a daughter and a son.
“We weren’t even thinking about adoptions,” the woman says. We have an older daughter – a biological one. By that time, she was quite grown up – 13 years old. There was a clear desire to become parents for the second time. Also, there was an understanding that we don’t care about the way this child appears in our family. We were visiting the institution, where our son was, for another purpose, and we saw this child. He was quite small – 10 months. But he had been already ours. It’s probably on a subconscious level for men because I didn’t feel the same my husband felt immediately. A smell and a touch were important for me… I did not feel at first meetings that it was my child. When we had taken our son home he was ill (bronchitis). And for me, this first night was the birth day of my son. In the morning I felt him with all my heart. Now, it’s like with my daughter, I know a day or two in advance when it’s necessary to check the temperature because something is wrong. Let’s get back to the process…
People say that the adoption process is hard. And I always compare it with a childbirth, and I don’t see any difference. It’s not so easy, but it’s right – to go through all of this in order for a child to appear in your family. The city service made me all the necessary documents rather quickly: they took all the necessary analyzes, received certificates, did everything they should have done. What had happened when I found my son?.. This is not a very fun story. So it happened that boy is from the rural area. The documents should have been received from the regional offices. There was everything. Lying, insults attempts to persuade: “Why do you need this?! You have a daughter! Think about people who don’t have children.” I still can’t let it go and forgive them, because I believe that such people shouldn’t work with children. Those are businessmen since their childhood. We’ve survived – we were persistent and calm, at least in the offices.
I strongly advise people not to keep silent in such situation, to get any kind of support: deputies, officials, representatives of the public and journalists. Because there is a chance that the process may last for months. It took us three months to take our son home.
The trial was held in one sitting. What then … difficulties? Like all other parents. We have extremely smart, sporty and interesting child. I can’t say that I had an adaptation period with him – there was only one interesting observation. The head of the orphanage advised me: don’t hold him too much, the boy got used to the regime! From the regime we “weaned off” in one day – he has grown in our hands like the daughter. He requested attention constantly! He doesn’t stay on his own.
By Hanna Drozd