About a week and a half ago, we received a call late at night from our agency. “The four kids you were hoping to adopt… they are no longer available for international adoption.” We were then told that their biological grandparents, who had regularly visited them in the orphanage but hadn’t stepped up to parent them, learned from the PSAs that were issued in local newspapers and in government sites (as well as from the orphanage, itself) that those four were going to be adopted internationally. Legally, until court, extended biological family has the right to step up and parent the child or children (which is right and ethical). In the grandparents’ case, they had the choice to either step up to parent these kids or to lose their ties to their grandchildren complete. They chose to step up. And with that, the kids’ case was subsequently removed from international adoption consideration.
Initially, the feeling was like getting stabbed in the chest multiple times. For months, we had seen these kids as our kids. We had kept tabs on any updates, tracked their progress in the orphanage, and worked tirelessly to get them here. Every photo of them scattered across our house was an instant tear trigger. Their room with four beds, the car with four car seats… it all haunted us of a dream and possibility that wouldn’t come to fruition. The initial pain and grief that I (Audrey) had… can’t even fully be described.
But then, we started to think critically about the situation. Had we done this over, would we have known that the four’s case would end like this? Would we have chosen the same exact path again? As both parents were deceased and these four were such a large group that had been in the orphanage for a while, by the numbers, the odds were well in our favor. In reality, there’s no way we could have known that things were going to change once again.
Our initial anger towards the country also subsided. Ukraine doesn’t pre-match, meaning that your referral (the children’s files) aren’t guaranteed until you’re IN country and through court. While pursuing waiting children, like we did, tends to add more certainty and generally works in people’s favors, there’s no guarantee. This process is different compared to other countries that assign you a match (chosen by the government), which adds considerable time to the adoption process (years even). Despite the uncertainties, I have to agree with Ukraine’s motive. Not pre-matching gives the adoptive family choice in the matter as they can select the child or children they wish to pursue, whether it’s prior to travel or at your appointment with the government. Not pre-matching means that kids can find homes faster, as the government doesn’t have to work on selecting a “match” for a family. And, not pre-matching means that birth family has up until the last minute to choose to parent and gives them the opportunity to keep the child in their birth country, culture and family. It’s far from a perfect process, but I can at least understand that the idea is to keep the most important person in the adoption (the adoptee) at the center for how Ukraine’s adoption program is run.
With that, we began to see this change as the best-case scenario for everyone involved. As beautiful as adoption can be, adoption begins with loss and trauma. While we could argue that we could have possibly provided a better home for those four kids, that’s not what this is about. Because their grandparents chose to get custody, those four kids will not experience the loss of biological family completely. They won’t experience the loss of their bio country and they won’t experience the loss of culture and language. This IS the best case scenario for them. And for us, we never entered into adoption hoping to split up families. We wanted, only, to provide a family for a child or children who didn’t have one at all. For everyone involved, this really was the best case scenario.
Finally, we started to have hope again. We have no regrets loving those four kids as much as we did, and we learned a lot about ourselves in the process. They expanded our idea of who we believed we were capable of parenting. They opened us up to greater possibilities and we learned so much more about their country, the adoption process and orphanages in Ukraine. We are also certain that the child or children that will enter our family soon will truly be the best fits for us.
So with that, we are hopeful for the future. We don’t know exactly where this journey will bring us (though we’ll know soon!), but we know we’re on the right path and heading towards something truly great.