Wednesday, September 21, 2011


It was one year ago this week that Aaron became our son forever.  Our paperwork was official on September 20, 2010, but we couldn't take him out of his institution until we had finished some other paperwork.  So on this day, one year ago, we were chasing papers-- traveling across the countryside in a dilapidated tinpot car over roads that looked like they'd been carpet-bombed.

As we entered the capital city of the region where Aaron was born, we asked our facilitator if it would be possible for us to visit the baby house orphanage where Aaron had spent his first years.  We still had a long way to travel that day: We needed to get back to Aaron's region and visit its capital city before the day was over. Even so, our facilitator didn't want to disappoint us; so she called the baby house's director, and soon we were pulling up at the baby house's door.

We didn't know what to expect.

All we knew was Aaron's institution. We only knew suspicious directors, overworked caretakers, hot sheds filled with bored boys, feces-infested sandboxes, and potty chairs. We only knew dismal colors and a loveless world with enough sadness to fill a canyon. We had no way to compare his present world with his past one.

We walked into Aaron's old baby house with great anticipation and a good bit of nervous energy.  I mean, how do you approach a building that housed your son for 5 years??  What in the world are you supposed to think, and how are you supposed to feel?  This was the world he had left behind.  This had been his home for the vast majority of his life.  These were the people who had cared for our son from infancy.  These were the people who had fed him and clothed him and nursed him when he was sick.  These were the people who had watched him take his first steps and speak his first words.  This was his world.  How do you climb those steps?  How?

The director greeted us immediately.  She welcomed us.  She was overjoyed to see us. Somehow, she had been following our story. She knew the difficulties we had faced in winning Aaron.  When the judge said yes, she and her staff had rejoiced.  It was absolutely astounding.  She welcomed us with open arms, and we both felt emotions that we can't put into words even today.  From the moment she greeted us, I just wanted to stop everything and weep hysterically.

The contrast between Aaron's two worlds was breathtaking.

We walked through brightly-colored halls filled with toys.

No one here minded if we took pictures-- although, after my camera episode with the director of Aaron's other institution, I was still a bit gun-shy.

Even the fact that we were allowed to walk the halls without fear of reprimand was pretty stunning. We had been in the dark world of Aaron's institution for so long that we didn't know how to respond to the openness of his old baby house.

When we climbed the stairs and entered the two little rooms where Aaron had spent the first five years of his life, we were overcome.

The first person who greeted us was his Godmother.  She had obviously been weeping even before got there.  She was as overcome with joy and emotion as we were.

Aaron was her babe.  She had held him when he was christened and had witnessed every one of his milestones.  She had deeply and dearly loved him, and we are so grateful for her.

One of the first things she shared with us was that when Aaron was being transferred to his new institution, she had promised him that God would find him a family.

God would find Aaron a family.

He was being transferred to a place from which NO CHILD had ever escaped without either dying or aging out at 18.  Yet she promised our son that God would bring him a Mama and a Papa.  She gave him her word as she kissed him goodbye. 

We didn't know what to say.  We fumbled for words.

They showed us his old toys....

His crib...

His playground...

His caretakers....

We took in everything. We couldn't think what to ask these good people. We were overflowing with emotion and didn't know how to process any of it.

We stood inside the two little rooms where Aaron had spent his entire life before his transfer. Two little rooms where he had slept and played. We shook our heads in grief as we looked upon the many things he had lost when he was transferred. 

We never really understood what Aaron's transfer meant, what it had cost him, until that day at his old baby house-- one year ago today.

Our eyes were opened.

We know that baby house orphanages are not perfect. Some baby house staffs leave babies lying in their cribs untouched all day. At some baby houses, children are barely clinging to life when their new families finally arrive to claim them.  We know that some baby houses directors are more interested in lining their pockets than in feeding the children. We know these things.

But we also know that Aaron's baby house was a good one.  His director was the one who pursued getting Aaron listed on Reece's Rainbow. Aaron was the first Reece's Rainbow child ever listed from that baby house.  After he was transferred, that director worked to list other children on the site, so that by the time we walked those toy-filled halls, quite a number of Reece's Rainbow children from that baby house were already across the ocean and home. Many others have come home since. 

In light of all of that, the reality of transfer from a baby house to a mental institution for older boys is even more troubling. As a five-year-old, Aaron went from a place where two safe, toy-filled rooms were his entire world to a toyless, joyless place filled with large, frightening, moaning older boys. What must he have thought? How must he have cried? be continued....


  1. My heart is also so broken....
    Thank you for sharing.
    I had the opportunity to visit one of the institutions where Dima would have gone if we had not rescued him. The Director of that institution had been working at #18 the Dima day arrived. We both wept....

  2. So poignant. The cost of transfer. I cannot imagine the fear that goes through their little heads.


  3. This is......amazing. I have to agree with anonymous here, what an emotional post. There is no way to ever fully measure the cost of transfer, but you certainly wrapped it up well and gave it gravity. Thank you to your entire family for making the difference ;)

  4. tears are flowing. thank you for sharing your experiences with us who have never been there. thank you for opening everyones eyes to such a sad way of life. i pray that someday this will not be the story. until then I pray.

  5. As someone who spent 4wks in the hallways and play grounds of that baby house, watching the nannies and caregivers, seeing the children, I can attest that it is a great baby house. the Director cares, the nannies care, the place is clean and everyone is fed well and clothed well. Our Alina, while not a favorite, was loved and well cared for. Yes, its an orphanage, and no she didn't have therapies or one on one attention she needed, but the stark contrast from the baby house to an institution, one similar to what I'm sure our sweet girl would have faced... its overwhelming.

  6. Oh this hurts my heart! These poor babies, I can't even imagine what goes through their minds. They must think they've died and gone to hell is all I can figure.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I have only visited two baby houses in Ukraine. The first one we visited was in the second largest city in the nation and it was bad. The other one was this baby house, where we adopted our Alex. We and our facilitator were very impressed with the differences. I thank the Lord for the caregivers and director of this baby house.

    It breaks my heart that Aaron went from this to where he was.

  8. Julia, have you sent a letter to the baby home showing him his life with the family now? The staff would be delighted to see some pictures. You could send captions translated by, or a similar online translator, to convey simple words and phrases. It would absolutely delight everyone there. There are many adoption groups who could direct you to someone to do a formal translation too- you could just email the letter and pics. Think about it!!

  9. hoonew - Yes we have. One of the RR families just adopted from there a few months ago and they were kind enough to bring in a host of pictures of Aaron. They were thrilled to see him! The director's daughter actually speaks English so translation is not an issue which is a huge blessing!

  10. The contrast between the two places takes my breath away. I weep for what Aaron went through, and for the others that have and will go through it as well. :(

  11. This just made me weep. Especially his precious caretaker whispering her words.

    Beautiful redemption.

  12. Great post! It was the same for our children. I often wondered why God allowed our son to be transferred while doing our paper chase. I had guilt for the almost year he was at the institution. But once there God began to do a work in our hearts and the hearts of the orphanage staff and director. Four years later we still support the orphanage and FINALLY their hearts are beginning to change and they are willing to let us advocate for the adoption of these children and are actually helpful.
    Praying God gives you ways to help the institution change for the sake of all the children left behind!


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