He met his beautiful wife, Maria, who just moved to the States from Ukraine over this last year. They are an amazing couple. We spent the evening talking about Eastern European culture and they were able to give us so much insight into our son and future daughter. Their visit was just 1 week before the adoption ban was signed into law.
Dima and "big Dima"
Over the course of our many conversations, the subject of orphan care in Russia came up. Dima and Maria were able to share very interesting perspectives. We have heard the staggering statistics about children who grow up in the orphanage system and how so few of them can really make it in the "real world". So many of them are forced into human trafficking, prostitution, drug abuse or gang life. Many don't even make it to age 30 or ever form a family. I've always been so disturbed by these statistics, and these numbers have been a huge part of what stirred our hearts to adopt from Russia. But, I never fully connected the dots as to why there is such little success for these orphans?
Dima and Maria explained to us that there is one major difference between culture in the U.S. and the Russian culture. For the typical American, there is a process of going to school, going to college and then applying for jobs. To get a job, you compose a resume, then interview with prospective employees. If all goes well and your references check out, you usually get the job.
In Russia, they told us, the thought of resumes and blindly approaching a job is very atypical. It is mostly about who you know, or who your family members are. It is all about connection. In many ways, it is a beautiful system. It is based on relationships and trust. For the typical Russian child, there is comfort knowing that they will be able to get their foot in the door with a family member's business or trade.
But, what about the orphan?
The orphan leaves the institution usually around the age of 16, with a less than ideal education. But even more than that, they have no connections. They don't have parents and siblings and uncles and brothers who could get them in to their trade. If they did, they would probably not have ended up in the orphanage in the first place.
The orphanage system runs counter cultural to the way Russian society is set up. The orphan is sent out into the world, nameless, jobless, with few resources and even fewer connections. They are often sought out by those who prey on the vulnerable - the pimp who will give them a name or the drug lord who will give them a job; money in their pocket, at the cost of their soul.
So as the news began to go public regarding the adoption ban against American families, then ultimately being signed into law by President Putin on Friday, the image of the orphan with no connections is where my heart landed. And what brings me to tears, what stops me in my tracks, is the image I have of my son. He was an orphan, headed down the path towards being one of the "statistics".
Part of the way international adoption is set up in Russia is that in order for a child to be available to U.S. families, the child must first be available for domestic adoption (within Russia) for 9 months. Russian families are given the first chance to adopt.
But if the child goes 9 months without being adopted by Russian families, THEN they are available to American families. So we cannot simply say "someone else will adopt them". (This is true for some but not for most). The children Americans were allowed to adopt were the "unwanted orphans". Even saying these words leaves a lump in my throat and tears stop me from typing....because I look at my child - my sweet, hilarious, smart, kind, full-of-life little boy and wonder, "how could anyone have passed him over?"
Then I think about a little girl. This little girl who may be passed over by Russian families now has no chance of ever being adopted by us. She will sit in the orphanage and her chances of having a thriving life filled with joy and freedom will be decimated. All because of politics.
So, where do we go from here?
On Thursday night, we will have a webinar with our agency to discuss our next steps. There are many other countries our agency works with and we will have to look at our financial loss and determine how to best proceed. We are still considered "in process" and there is a small shred of hope that there may be some sort of grandfather clause for those families who are already in the process of adoption. But, that seems highly unlikely at this point.
This has been a painful season for our family. Our hearts are sad. It feels, in many ways, like another loss in our journey towards parenthood. My mind and heart are battling lies of "maybe you just aren't meant to be a mom. You can't get pregnant. And now you can't even adopt." I know these are lies, but they speak loudly, especially to my weary heart.
We appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement. It's been great seeing our high school students wearing their "team garcia" t-shirts and offering up prayers on our behalf. This has deeply ministered to our hearts. Your emails, messages, texts, and phone calls have been a balm to my soul. Your words have sustained us through this season of loss.
Thank you for walking through this with us. We are going to be ok. We will persevere until our daughter comes home.We are picking up the pieces of our crumbled adoption and asking God to take what we have and lead us to our daughter. And we believe He will.
So now we wait until He shows us where she is.
Until next Monday,
love: Kate, Steve & Dima.