Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Orphanage Visit, Day 1

Here’s a photo story of our first day visiting the orphanage, January 16, 2012. 

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Matt sitting in the car, just as we pulled in to the orphanage driveway, which was secured with a green iron fence/gate.


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The orphanage fence, as viewed from our seats in the car.


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Lorraine sitting in the car, waiting for permission to enter the orphanage for the very first time.

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The walk-thru gate of the fence for pedestrians.


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The other end of the fence.


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Looking through the gate at one of the buildings.


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Matt eagerly anticipating meeting his newest sons.


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Matt wishing I’d stop asking him to pose for photos! Smile


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This is the playground that we walked past as we walked through the gate, along the sidewalk to the main entrance of the orphanage.


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A mural on the side of one of the orphanage buildings.


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Matt and Lorraine at the main entrance to the orphanage, before entering for the very first time.  We were led to the main director’s office, where we were interrogated by the director regarding our motivation for adopting these boys.


We felt a little tense as we were not exactly prepared to have to convince the director of our motivations for choosing Conner and Cooper.  We showed her a photo album of our family (that we had brought for the boys), and the director  was very intrigued by our family, asking where our black children are from.


I was getting a little bit concerned that the director might not approve.  She wanted to know why Matt was adopting as a married individual, yet I was present.  We had to explain that I was supposed to stay home with our baby, Selah, due to her expected skull surgery in November/December, but that was postponed.  All of our paperwork was filed with Matt adopting a married individual (so I could stay home to take care of Selah), but now that I was available to travel, we felt it was best for me to travel to Ukraine to meet the boys in person.  We requested for the SDA to change our dossier to adopting as a married couple, but they said we’d have to start all over and reapply, so we stayed with the current arrangement of Matt adopting as a married individual.  Whew.


Then the director wanted to know why we would choose children with Down syndrome.  She didn’t see any children in our family photos (from the album I showed her) who have Down syndrome, so why would we choose to adopt these two boys?  We explained how much we love children, ALL children, and how we believe every child should have a family, regardless of ability.  We explained that these boys will have many opportunities for learning and development in our family, and they will be loved deeply.  Whew.


Then the director tried to offer us different children, healthier ones, whose minds work “better”.  She gave us many opportunities to select different children.  We told her our decision was final, no matter what.


Then the director asked the orphanage doctor to review both boys’ medical files with us.  We were told that Cooper has club feet and will need surgery to fix this.  We agreed to this.  We were then told that Conner has a heart condition where there’s an extra “wall” in the lower left ventricle of his heart.  He may or may not need surgery.  We agreed to this.  Whew.


We were told that Cooper is higher functioning than Conner.  Perhaps we would just want to take Cooper.  Nope.  We want both, regardless.  We were told that Cooper is able to sit, crawl a little bit, and pull up on his crib, but due to his club feet, he cannot walk.  He cannot talk or communicate.  Fine with us.  Do we still want him?  Yes.  Whew.


We were told that Conner is very low functioning, lowest of the low in their orphanage.  He cannot talk.  He cannot crawl.  He cannot eat well.  He will not drink a bottle.  He cannot stand.  He sits with support.  Fine with us.  Do we still want him?  Of course.  Whew.


They brought the boys into the meeting with the orphanage director.  Matt and I immediately dismissed ourselves from the table where we were meeting.  We each held a boy.  I took Cooper (he came in first), Matt took Conner.  Both boys hung onto us as we held them.  We sang songs, patty-cake games, and rocked back and forth on the couch.  When I stopped singing and rocking, Cooper began to rock me!  So I started up again.  While we played and sang, the director looked through our photo album again and asked our translator many questions.


Then the director asked our translator to show us the playroom (which is a FABULOUS playroom, BTW), where the played with the boys for an hour or so.  The boys were drugged.  It is common in orphanages to give the severely “handicapped” children heavy drugs to keep them quiet.  The children in our boys’ groupa are all special needs, most have Down syndrome.  There are probably 7-8 kids in that groupa.  Most remain in cribs 24/7.  That’s why drugs come in handy.  Drugged children are much quieter and easier to pacify than alert, eager to play kiddos.  Conner and Cooper were very sleepy.  Their eyelids were closing with heavy blinks throughout our visit.  They were not very alert, but they were very sweet boys.  They both enjoyed physical contact.  They were content to sit in our laps, facing us (or not).  We were able to sing to them, hug them, hold them, rock them, and simply love on them.  Precious lovies.


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Mommy with Cooper in the ball pit.


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Daddy and Conner.

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This was so cute.  Cooper was curious about Matt’s goatee.

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He slowly and cautiously touched his face to Matt’s goatee.


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Apparently it didn’t feel the way he thought it might!


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So then he stopped and studied it.  LOVE it!  Such a sweet picture of Cooper studying Matt’s face.  Oh how I love this boy!


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Conner played patty-cake and was interactive in the ball pit.


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Then the visit was over, and they allowed us to take the boys back to their room to eat lunch with their groupa.


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There are beautiful stained glass windows in the orphanage.


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And beautifully painted murals.  This stairwell leads to the boys’ room.

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And this stained glass window is just outside their room.  We dropped the boys off in their room.  We sat them in little plastic chairs at a small round table so they could be fed their meal.  We gave hugs, kisses, waved goodbye, then walked back to the playroom to meet our translator.


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This is the hallway that connects the boys’ room to the playroom.


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Another beautiful mural along the route.


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Another stairwell that we take to get from the boys’ room to the playroom.


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And back to the playroom where our translator was waiting.


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See, it’s a great room isn’t it?


Our translator told us that the orphanage director told us that if we’d like to change our minds, she has many other children we can select from.  We expressed, again, that our decision is final.  He said that the director wanted to meet with us.


We went into the director’s office, again, and she thanked us for choosing the boys.  She was SOOOOOOOOOO sweet.  She explained that she wishes she could have had Cooper’s club feet repaired, but in Ukraine, he was not eligible for surgery because of his Down syndrome diagnosis. Sad smile  She was sad that she couldn’t do more to help both boys.  She held them at her orphanage for as long as possible, two years past the date they should have been transferred to the adult mental institution!  (They should have been transferred at age 4.)  She was so excited that a family was coming for them.  They were supposed to transfer by Jan. 1, 2012, but when she heard we were coming, she held them at the orphanage so they wouldn’t have to endure one single day at the adult mental institution.  She said she was thankful that there are people in the world like us.  We told her that we are thankful there are people in the world like her!!!  She truly loves the children, and she is trying to do the best for them with the little she has.  It is a very good orphanage that is clean and well-run.  The caregivers we saw were very kind and loving.


We gave the director our orphanage donation of $1,500, customary for two children at this orphanage.  The director hugged us and told us that the money will help her to buy many things for the remaining children that she otherwise would not be able to afford for them.  We saw much proof that this director DOES spend the money on the children.  The orphans are well-cared for, fed nutritious meals, and there are many toys and happy caregivers.  It is a happy place, and we are so grateful God has provided for our boys so abundantly.



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We said our goodbyes, then exited the building through this stairway.


We rode with our translator and taxi driver to find our apartment.  We were so blessed with what God provided.  Amazing.


We ate some of the feast provided by this precious, sweet Ukrainian woman, then headed back to the orphanage to visit the boys.


We walked directly to the boys’ room to pick them up to tote them to the playroom for the afternoon.  (We are allowed to visit twice/day, from 10AM-12Noon, then again from 4-6PM).  When we entered the boys’ room, another little boy (who is being adopted right now) reached up for us and climbed into our arms!  His mommy and daddy already  had court, and are returning tomorrow to pick him up.  Then all of the other children wanted us to hold them, too.  We sat on the couch in the room and held as many children as the caregivers would allow.  We gave them toys and played with them.  It broke our hearts to see so many children longing for a mommy and daddy to come visit them.


The caregivers asked us to take our boys to the playroom, as it was time to vacuum the room.  We had to return the other children to the floor or crib, and many started to cry.  It completely broke our hearts.  So sad.  So very sad.  There are several children in this groupa who appear to have nothing wrong with them, but they lay in their cribs day in, day out.  Then there was a little boy who interacted with us, begging for us to take him, too. So sad.  So very sad.  We asked if we could take more children with us to the playroom, but they said it’s not allowed because we are only adopting Cooper and Conner.


So, we left behind many crying children and headed to the playroom with Cooper and Conner.  Cooper was squealing with delight, as he remembered that pathway.   He knew where we were headed.  Conner hung onto me and quietly cuddled on the walk.  So sweet.


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The boys were a little more alert for their first afternoon visit.  Perhaps the drugs had worn off and more were not given with the anticipation of our visit?!?   Cooper and Conner were a little more inquisitive and interactive.  They both enjoyed playing with a variety of toys we brought.  They especially like this light up, spinning, vibrating wand.  MUCH sensory input!


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Conner likes to throw the light-up, spinning toy, then he laughs with this deep, grunting laugh.  It’s precious.


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Cooper likes to study things.  He watches us, his environment, and the other American family who takes their boy to play in the same playroom at the same time.


We took MANY videos of the boys.  Click HERE to view those.  I have uploaded all of our videos (from Day 1 and Day 2), and I’ll continue to upload videos to our YouTube channel as time/Internet allows.


I will try to update about Day 2’s visit and happenings later.  Thank you for praying!  We are in love with our two new treasures, and we can’t wait to get them HOME!!!

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