Georgia Family Shares International Adoption Challenges, Blessings Online
Rhonda McAndrew had always dreamed of helping at least one child that had no family through the miracle of adoption. Through her 25 year long marriage to her husband Don, her dreams of raising children and homeschooling them were fulfilled without adoption. This meant that the desire to adopt was pushed to the side for some time. With three children still living at home and a fourth daughter now on her own, her husband Don was still concerned about taking on the additional responsibility. However, Rhonda’s faith kept her convinced that one day she would be able to help a child with no other hopes. After receiving emails from hosting agencies in the Ukraine and Russia for many years and having to delete them, she began to pray for guidance. Through prayer with her husband the two decided that it was time to finally consider adoption, and the rest of the family was quick to agree.
The family didn’t just rush out and visit a local adoption agency. They kept reading through the emails sent from agencies in countries like the Ukraine where there is less government and private support available for orphans and other abandoned children. When they first saw a picture of Yuliya, a 15 year old girl who had been in the orphanage since the age of five, they realized that they had to help her. Children in other countries are forced to leave orphanages at the age of 16, and Yuliya’s birthday in October of 2011 was quickly approaching. Being pushed out onto the streets with only a basic education and few employable skills would put her at risk for prostitution or turning to other crimes.
Despite the short time limit, the family decided to host Yuliya in June to see if she would be a good fit in their family. Orphanages in the Ukraine allow families host the children for a month at a time. This gives the family and the adoptive child time to meet each other and consider a more permanent placement. The McAndrew family decided to trust their faith and take the entire process one step at a time and to avoid committing to anything before they were all sure they could handle it.
- Related: “Hope for Yuliya” blog
Despite minor difficulties in communication, Yuliya picked up English quickly and spent her time learning about her new family and the choices they were offering her. Friends from church brought over their adopted daughter from the Ukraine to help with translation, and online translation websites lowered the communication barrier further. Yuliya even overcame her fear of the dentist to get a check up and tooth filling from Dr. Tom Weyrich, along with a root canal with Dr. Chris Fleming. In the Ukraine, the dentists who visited the orphanage had only six months of training and used no pain killers like novocaine. Dr. Weyrich took the time to communicate with her through the online translation websites, making her feel safe and comfortable about the procedures. Through swimming trips, learning about the family’s faith in God and a visit to the Georgia Aquarium, Yuliya began to fit into the family like she had always been a part of it. Her departure at the beginning of August was full of tears, both from her and the McAndrew family.
Adopting a child from a local adoption agency is expensive, but the costs involved in adopting from another country provide a large barrier for most families. The McAndrew family spent quite a few days discussing the thousands of dollars that it would cost to bring Yuliya home, and determining if the family was willing to make that kind of sacrifice. But without a successful adoption in the next few months, Yuliya will go to live on the streets of the Ukraine. Due to poor educational standards she barely has a 2nd grade grasp of math, and similar reading skills. By bringing her into their family, the McAndrews are giving her a chance at a safe, healthy and productive life that she won’t receive in the Ukraine. This made the decision worth the cost.
Rhonda and Don are currently working through all of the paperwork, doctor’s appointments, and screenings that can be completed here in the United States. This includes the I 600A form, which alone costs $900. The home study ensures that the adopted child will live in an appropriate environment, and it comes with a fee of $1500. Through car washes, raffles, bake sales, yard sales and donation drives the family has now raised the over $4000 they needed to complete the American side of the adoption, with just $500 to go to finish the payment to the adoption facilitator.
This leaves $20,000 or more to go for the trip to the Ukraine. Although Yuliya’s orphanage allowed her to come to the US for a hosting trip, the family will need to travel to her home country to finalize the adoption. Thousands of dollars in fees for the paperwork and filing of the adoption will be followed by the cost of air fare, hotel stays and food. The process takes weeks and the family will also lose out on their income for that time. Without donations, the McAndrews won’t be able to finish the adoption. If Yuliya isn’t adopted by October, she’ll age out of the orphanage. Even if the family found a way to keep in touch with her, it would take years for her to enter the United States without the adoption process. During those years she could be living on the streets and struggling to survive.
The family is putting their trust in God to help them raise the money to finish the adoption. Donations can be given through their EliProject page. All donations made through the page are tax-deductible. Rhonda has also received five handmade signs that she is selling to raise funds. With hard work and a little luck, the family will bring Yuliya to her new home in just a few months.