Advocate & Pray: Valera

Valera

At sixteen years old, Valera is at a pivotal point in his life.  According to his profile, he plans to attend college over the summer!  Pray for a loving family who will be willing to adopt an older child and support him as he enters the next stage in his life’s journey.

Valera is listed with A Family for Every Orphan
Ukraine

Valera is a very quiet boy. He likes to be outside playing soccer and other sports. He is open with his emotions and is very concerned about his future. He will attend college this summer and would love a forever family to be there and support him through this journey. Please pray that a family will adopt him and be that loving support!

Visit Valera’s profile

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Join me in praying for Valera as he takes the next step in his journey.  Click to tweet

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Update on Greta

GretaRemember praying for little Greta? Well I have some good news. Her status on Reece’s Rainbow now says “My Family Found Me“! I spent some time trying to find out if her family has a blog, but so far no luck. Keep praying for this little girl. From what I understand, adopting from Ukraine works a bit differently than it does in other countries. While you can plan to adopt a specific child, until you go to Ukraine and are matched with that child in-person, there is no guarantee you’ll get him or her. You can read how the process works on the International Adoption Bureau of Consular Affairs website. The bottom line is, it’s awesome that a family has decided to make Greta their daughter, but both Greta and her family still need plenty of prayer!

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to keep praying for Olexander, the current A&P child. We’ve now prayed for eleven children! I admit it’s getting hard for me to remember all their names and needs. They all deserve to be remembered, though. When you have a few extra minutes, try scrolling through the list and praying for each of them.

Many thanks to Corina Lucas for posting on the TIO Facebook page to let us know the good news about Greta.

Cause to Celebrate, Cause to Fight

Romeike

The Romeike’s Can Stay!

There’s a lot of disagreement in the world of orphan care and adoption, but almost everyone agrees on one thing. When possible, it is in the best interests of a child to remain with their biological family. Prevention is the best way to keep a child from being an orphan. The American foster system tries to reunify families when possible, and organizations work in other countries to allow poverty stricken families to keep their little ones. People understand that the government makes a poor parent. Or do they?

Homeschooling is not allowed in Germany. This law essentially puts government control of children above parental rights. To make matters worse Germany puts their anti-homeschooling sentiments over the well understood importance of keeping children with their families. If families try to protect their children from the enormously secular German public school system, the German government will remove the children from their parents. These children are not in abusive, neglected, impoverished, or harmful situations. They have loving, happy families.

If governments know how to raise children better than loving parents, why do so many studies reveal a decrease in brain development among institutionalized children? Why do high percentages of graduates from government care programs end up in crime, prostitution, and poverty? The statistics and studies are clear. Raising children isn’t a job for the government.

Romeike2The Romeike family fled to the US after suffering persecution for homeschooling their children in Germany. They were granted asylum by US courts and settled quietly into their new lives: until members of the American government appealed the already settled case, and began attempting to throw the Romeikes out of the country. These officials almost became responsible for adding six more children to the millions of orphans in the world. Thankfully, last night we learned that the Department of Homeland security has announced that the Romeike’s can stay! This family will remain together, the way a family should.

However, there are still children being orphaned because of this issue. Children being snatched from their stable families by overbearing governments. Children being subjected to the documented trauma of being removed from their parents for no good reason. Families like the Johansson’s whose son has been in foster care for years simply because his parents homeschooled him .

These situations have been recognized as human rights cases. They’ve been recognized as parental rights cases. But they also deserve attention by people in orphan care. Across the board, people who care for orphans seek to prevent children becoming orphaned in the first place. From efforts to reunify families with children in the US foster care system to sponsoring poverty stricken families around the word to keep them unified, making sure children remain with their parents whenever it’s safe is a priority in this field.

Families whose children are being removed for no good reason need people to fight for them. Learn how you can help the Johansson’s  by visiting the Johansson Resource Page and How to Help the Johansson Family.

Updates On Two Of “Our” Kids

ArisAris
Aris was the very first Advocate & Pray child posted on this blog. If you’ve looked at all the things on the sidebar, you’ve seen her silhouette and read the snippet of her bio posted beneath. You may also have read the update saying that a family was interested in adopting her. I contacted her agency this week to ask about her status and they told me that the family did not move forward with adopting Aris. They also said that is a lot of uncertainty surrounding adoptions in Ethiopia at this time. PLEASE, keep praying for Aris specifically and for the orphans of Ethiopia and the issues surrounding them. Aris has continued to be heavy on my heart. Usually when people (myself included) look through the lists of waiting children, it’s a face that stands out. With Aris, something about her short bio just jumped out to me. This is a precious little girl who needs to be loved, and she’s very close to aging out of the system and losing her chance to be part of a family. Unless someone steps in after she ages out, this will leave her vulnerable to those who might exploit her. Again, please continue to pray for Aris.

VitalikVitalik
Praise the Lord for more encouraging news concerning Vitalik. God answered our prayers for him before we even knew to pray them. My missionary friend, Karen Springs, recently left a comment to let us know that friends of hers from Utah adopted Vitalik a year ago. How exciting to hear that!

The Others
So far we’ve prayed for nine children here on TIO. We probably won’t know what happens to most of them this side of heaven. Please don’t stop praying for them just because their two week segment is over. As I mentioned above, for some reason Aris grabbed a special place in my heart so I’ve continued praying for her and thinking of her. Maybe one of the kids has stood out to you to. We teens might not be able to adopt kids into our families, but we can adopted them into our prayer life for sure. And if you ever learn how one of these kids is doing down the road, please share with us! It’s always a special blessing to see how our prayers or answered or know how to pray more specifically.

Have any of the nine kids prayed for here on TIO particularly touched you? Which one? Is there a waiting child who hasn’t been featured here that you’re praying for on your own? Let us know and maybe we can feature him or her on a future A&P post.

Russia, Politics, and Adoption

russia-grunge-flag--blueThe Olympic games draw a lot of attention and interest from people around the world. If you mention Russia right now, everyone’s first thought will probably be the games in Sochi. However, the Olympic games only last a short time, and they don’t eradicate problems within a country.

Russia has held a special place in my heart for a long time. It started when I read a story about a street boy in Russia, trying to survive in the aftermath of WWII. Something about the story touched my heart, and I started dreaming about someday adopting from Russia.  Unfortunately, unless something changes, that door is now closed to me and hundreds of others. A little over a year ago, Russia closed it’s doors to would-be adopters from the US.

Lots of people know about the scandals surrounding several Russian adoptions, including the story of a mother who put her adopted son on a plane by himself and sent him back to Russia. It’s easy to assume that stories like these caused Russia to close it’s doors to adoption. But that’s not the case.

I’d heard many times that the closing of Russian/US adoptions was political posturing, but never knew the full story until yesterday when someone mentioned a story featured recently on 60 Minutes. The video is embedded below.

Basically, an American business man working to fight corruption in Russia stepped on a few too many toes and ended up getting thrown out of the country. When Russian police raided his Russian office, seized ownership papers, and gave away control of his three companies, he hired a Russian man to investigate. The hired man uncovered more corruption and took it to court. A short time later, he was also arrested for tax evasion. He died after being held in prison for a year without a trial. The original American business man then flew his investigator’s family to DC and told American officials what happened. America responded by banning a bunch of Russians from the country. Russia responded by prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.

Now, I haven’t done a lot of research about the corruption in Russia or the validity of the American business man’s story. I assume he must have some pretty good evidence if the American government took action on his story. But the bottom line is that children are being kept from families who want them because of politics that have nothing to do with adoption. It is estimated that only 10% of children who grow up in Russian orphanages go on to live productive lives. A large majority turn to crime and prostitution.

I’m not sure what we can do about this. Like I said, I just learned the full story yesterday. But being educated about what’s going on and praying about it is a great first step. I encourage you to watch the video and follow the links throughout this post to learn more.

Advocate & Pray: Angela

Angela Angela is currently living in an orphanage in the Ukraine. According to doorwaystohope.org, where Angela is listed, only about 10% of orphans in the Ukraine go on to live a successful life, free from drugs, alcoholism, crime, or suicide.  However, no matter how bad the statistics seem, there is always hope:

As Christians we know that we are called to care for orphans, and it is now agreed that these children thrive best when placed in loving families. In Russia and Ukraine, this was not always the prominent belief. In fact, it has only been in the last several years that the concept of family as the best environment to raise children has been embraced in these countries. Finally, the orphan crisis is being addressed as people band together to find a home for every orphan!

Angela is listed with Doorways to Hope
Ukraine

Angela needs special treatment for a medical condition—her body does not grow properly. Angela is an artist and actor. She loves animals and nature, playing outside and roller skating. Let’s pray that a loving family will adopt Angela soon.

Visit Angela’s profile

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Angela is in the Ukraine, waiting for a family.  Click to tweet

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Advocate & Pray: Greta

Greta
Usually every other week I post a poem dedicated to the current Advocate & Pray child (who would be Vitalik right now), but there are two reasons for posting Greta this week instead. 1) I’m a writer and I’m currently trying to focus on editing a book. Writing a poem takes work and concentration that I need to invest in editing right now. 2) Jennifer Worch, who is a mom working on adopting a child from Ukraine (one of the boys McKennaugh advocated for along with Katia), advocated for Greta on her blog so I thought I’d share here too.

Here’s what Mrs. Worch had to say.

Greta is in need of a home right away. She will “age out” of the adoption program when she turns 16 this November. In Ukraine, at least one parent must be 15 years older than the child, but there is no upper age limit for adoption here. There is no limit on the number of children in the family, either, so large families are welcome.

Greta’s grant fund currently has $20,000 in it. This will pay for almost all of her adoption costs. Please consider opening your heart and home to this little girl who desperately needs a home.

Greta is listed with Reece’s Rainbow

Greta is very petite; more the size of a 5 year old than the 13 year old she actually is. Developmentally, she is quite delayed, probably closer to a 3-4 year old. In many ways, she is toddler like. Greta is missing out on the essential things in life- a mama and daddy to teach her the things she needs to know, school lessons to maximize her potential for learning, and hope for a future.

From a family who visited with her in September 2012: “Greta desperately desires to be loved and shown affection. It broke our hearts to see how desperate she was for attention. She would climb up us before we even knew what was happening and was clinging to us. She probably needs to go to a family that can devote a lot of one on one attention to her, and that she be the youngest child, because she can get aggressive when she is jealous for attention. I hope this helps her find a family.”

Read more on Greta’s profile

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$20,000 raised for Greta, now she needs a family. Click to Tweet

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Orphanage Graduates

This is a video Karen Springs (yes, I know I mention her a lot) sent me when I asked for more information about older orphans and orphan graduates in Ukraine. Enjoy!

Advocate & Pray: Vitalik

Vitalik Two things made me decide to feature this particular orphan this week. For one, we haven’t prayed for a boy yet. Can’t be all girls, right? (Though there’s often a disproportionate number of girls because parents prefer boys in many cultures. But that’s a different subject for a different time.) The second reason is his name. One of my favorite posts on Karen Spring’s blog was about a young man named Vitalik.

Vitalik is listed with Doorways to Hope
Ukraine

Vitalik is a friendly, easygoing, funny and active 12-year-old boy. He loves to play chess, board games and soccer. He is considered a leader. Every day, he prays to God for a momma and papa. Will you join in praying for a forever family for Vitalik?

Visit Vitalik’s Profile

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For newcomers to TIO, check out Prayer Chains/Vigils on the Ways to Help page to learn how it works.

Advocate
Share about Vitalik.
Pray for Ukrainian orphan Vitalik. Click to Tweet

Ukrainian orphan Vitalik prays daily for a mama and papa. Click to Tweet

Ideas for Teens

If you’ve never visited Beauty from the Ashes, go take a peek. Or, even better, stay a while once you’re there. I don’t remember how I found Karen’s blog, but it’s a gem. The stories in the blog archives are pure gold. I couldn’t stop reading. What an excitement to have her write a blog post for TIO!

~*~

Karen and little girFor the past 9 years I’ve made Kiev, Ukraine my home. What started out as an 8-month adventure turned into vision and a calling surrounding the orphans of Ukraine.

While in Ukraine I’ve traveled to dozens of orphanages, participated in humanitarian aid distributions, been an advocate for adoption, assisted with the adoption process and have organized summer camps and hosting trips for orphans and at risk kids. Through these experiences God has opened my eyes to deep need throughout Ukraine and burdened my heart for specific children.

Due to my location in Ukraine and my presence in the ‘blogging world’ I often get emails asking for practical ways people can get involved. Sometimes people have a heart for helping and loving orphans, but lack ideas for how to put their desires into action. This is especially true if you are young and perhaps lack the resources to travel and are not at a place in life where you can adopt.

So the question remains: what can we do from home to make a difference?

In order to make this as practical as possible I’ve generated a list of ideas for you to prayerfully consider as you ask the question, what can I do for orphans?

Educate Yourself
Sounds pretty straightforward right? There is an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet today surrounding the number of orphans, the plight of orphans, statistics on orphans, ministries that are helping, and even ministries that are hurting. Honestly, it can be overwhelming! But it is hard to speak with authority and conviction on a topic if we don’t know much about it. So spend time getting to know the reasons behind the number of orphans in various countries, and learn more about ministries that are working around the world. Talk to missionaries and those that work with orphans or who have adopted. Ask lots of questions so you can get a sense of the greatest needs.

Advocate
After you know what you are talking about (see above :)) and you have a better understanding of the needs of children around the world you will be able to share with your friends and help them develop a heart for orphans as well. Find an orphan ministry whose cause you believe in and promote what they are doing. Share their links on Facebook, re-post videos advocating for kids, sometimes it is amazing what we can do with the click of a mouse!

Give Creatively
Think of ways to raise money for a ministry you see making a difference. But don’t just ask for money, think of ways to get other people involved too. Think of giving campaigns you can do as a youth group or in your school. Make things and sell them, bake things and sell them, hold a party or a dinner as a fundraiser, put together Christmas shoeboxes for orphans overseas, adopt a local foster family that needs extra help. Really the ideas are endless! It’s time to get creative!

Pray
Such a simple word, but easier said than done! Prayer is mysterious at times, and yet we know we are instructed to come to the Lord in prayer, and he hears us! I have seen God move mountains countless times for orphans in Ukraine. The first time I went to an orphanage was in 2004, and there I met a little girl named Ira. I committed to praying for her and that she would have a family. 2 years later that prayer was answered and Ira was adopted! It is amazing to see how God hears our hearts when we intercede for his children. There are several websites that feature pictures of children living in orphanages that you can be praying for:

http://doorwaystohope.org/pray
http://reecesrainbow.org/

Remember the needs are closer than you think
You don’t have to travel across the globe to help orphans. Currently the US foster system has about 400,000 children in its registry. This number represents kids in your own community. Find out if there are ways to serve as a lunch buddy or mentor to a foster child in your community.

Do you know any foster or adoptive families in your church or neighborhood? Sometimes people forget that the hardest part of adoption is AFTER the kids come home. Think of ways you can support and serve these families. Offer to make a meal, help with house or yard work or childcare.

As you can see, there are LOTS of ways to get involved in answering the Biblical call to love and care for orphans. Some of them take creativity and others perhaps just leaving your comfort zone! Find a friend and get started!!

~Karen

Do you know any post-adoptive families? Have you educated yourself about any specific countries or orphan care topics?