Over the past few days I've gotten a lot of questions about our upcoming adoption. Questions like why are you doing it again? I wrote out this letter a while ago to address such questions. The short answer is because it's the right thing to do. It was put on our hearts to help these orphans and we can. Maybe we don't have all of the money to actually adopt them but that can be raised. What we do have are hearts that are open to raising teenagers. It's not easy. There is nothing easy about this entire process. However it is right. And rewarding. And we feel like we are making a difference to at least a few of the world's orphans.
Our story began in late summer of 2012 when we were asked to finish the summer hosting a teenager from Ukraine. He had come to the U.S. on an orphan hosting program and the family he stayed with had a family emergency. We figured that as parents with 2 teens still at home we could show him a good time. We had 6 children total but 4 were grown and out of the house.
So Vlad came to our home and our eyes were opened to the plight of Ukraine teenage orphans. We found out that they are released, “graduated”, from the orphanage once they turn 16. They have 2 options at that point. One is to just go out and attempt life on their own. The average Ukraine family exists on $450 a month. Orphans who are barely 16 and have no education or skills are at the bottom of the food chain and most can’t find even menial work. They get absolutely no help from any organization or the government. Most will end up in a life of crime, living off the streets or in human trafficking.
The other option is to go to trade school. They can choose from 5 different trades. Let’s say they choose culinary. They are put in dorms – no, not like our college dorms here but rat infested nasty places where no human should ever have to live. They are given 100 Grivna per month – about $13 U.S. – and with that they have to purchase their food, clothing and any food they need for cooking school. Most can’t afford it so instead of actually cooking they spend 8 hours a day reading cookbooks and then the rest of their time fending off predators. Again, most will end up in a life of crime just to eat.
Predators wait for the teens to be released from the orphanages with promises of food, shelter and jobs. Little do they know they are now entering the world of human trafficking? 80% of Ukraine teen orphans don’t live past their 20th birthday.
Once we learned this we couldn’t let it happen to this boy who was staying with us. Without even knowing what it would take we jumped into the international adoption process. What a nightmare. But 7 months and $30,000 later we brought our new son home on March 2, 2013. He turned 16 the next month. Whew – just in time.
I (Kathe) came home from two trips to Ukraine and spending time every day in an orphanage that smelled like sewer, was freezing cold but where the children were all smiles. They don’t realize what’s waiting for them as they approach 16. They have little food and are constantly told that they don’t matter. No one teaches them anything because the adults know that most of them won’t survive anyway so what’s the point. When our son came home he didn’t even know how to read or do basic math. He had no expectations of what he could do or become. He had been told for years that he was stupid when in reality he is very bright.
After coming home and having nightmares every night about the faces in the orphanage we knew this was a new path in our lives. Summer 2013 we hosted 3 more boys and found them families. We found families for several more teens that others had hosted. We put braces on Vlad and started him at Novi High School. What an achievement for him!! His first real school and it was 10th grade. He was on the football team, a dream of his when he thought about coming to America, and going to his first homecoming dance.
Vlad at the orphanage with his friends. One of these boys is in the process of being adopted. The other two have been "graduated" and are on the streets.
Vlad dressed and ready for his first homecoming dance.
He also played JV football - a dream for him.
In October we got word that one of his best friends from the orphanage, Anya, had been “graduated” at the end of August and went to trade school. She was found dead, murdered by strangulation and stabbing. Typical. It tore out Vlad’s heart, and ours. He felt guilty that he wasn’t there to save her even though, in reality, there was nothing he could have done. We felt terrible because she had been hosted during the summer by another family but was not adopted and no family found for her.
Over winter break we hosted two more teens. We found a family for one of them and the other, Yuri, stole our hearts. We just knew we had to adopt him. But the prospect seemed overwhelming. How would we come up with another $30K? We were still recuperating from the last adoption that wiped out our savings. We still had 3 teens at home, all in braces, sports and with other expenses. The mountain of paperwork that would need to be done – again. The trips back and forth to Ukraine – again. We took a deep breath and said yes, just trusting that through raising funds we could do it.
Then we got an email from our Ukraine facilitator. Could we possibly take one more? Anya’s sister, Kristina, was 13 and in dire need of a family. After the loss of her sister she was despondent thinking that she would end up with the same fate. Our facilitator said it was urgent because the orphanage she is in would be closed to adoptions starting in the fall due to the decision of the orphanage director. Ugh! That means it has to be a family who is already in process like we were and ready to move really, really fast, like we were.
|Yuri helping to chop wood for winter during hosting|
|Kristina during hosting|
The problem is that now the cost is upwards of $45,000. Two different children, two orphanages, one in the north and one in the south of Ukraine. A lot more travel, more expenses. And the time is so short that no mistakes can be made in the process.
We can earn the money ourselves by working but not in the time frame needed. We are working double to do it but it’s just not going to be fast enough for these teens.
So we’re doing what we never do – ask. We have to. For these teens.
We are asking everyone to help us fund this adoption. We can’t do it alone. We can raise them, teach them and feed them but we can’t do this. Not this fast. We need to be able to travel by summer or it’s too late for Kristina.
We are asking for donations to our adoption fund that we have set up in Paypal. Paypal.com and then our account is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to mark as gift so no fees are assessed.
Or you can send a check to us at: Tom & Kathe Ray, 24870 Portsmouth Avenue, Novi, MI 48374. Please put in the memo – adoption fund.
I can’t tell you what this means. There are no words to explain how these kids live and what happens to them. It has changed our lives.
Hosea 14:3 In you the orphan finds mercy.
With our sincerest thanks,
Tom & Kathe Ray
P.S. I’m sure many of you have seen the news on what is happening in Ukraine. We are still a “GO”. We have been in contact with our facilitator and adoptions are still progressing. Kristina is in SE Ukraine near the problem spot but so far Mariupol seems quiet. Our facilitator visited there last week and gave Kristina a letter and pictures from us. She cried when she heard that our family wants her. She just broke down in happiness that she has a family after all of the trauma of her life.
He did alert me that the director of that orphanage is “going off the wagon” whatever that means. She is becoming increasingly against adoptions and he said please come as soon as you can. I don’t know how much longer we will be able to adopt from there. This is the same orphanage our son Vlad is from.
So please pass our information out to anyone you know that has a heart for these teen orphans. We need the help of a village on this one! It’s a tall order to come up with this much money this quickly and be ready to travel. Our documents are almost all in order and the immigration paperwork has been sent to USCIS. That means we are 8 – 12 weeks from travel so we have to bring in the money now.
Thank you for any support you can give to us.
Ways to help:
OR: Send check to: Kathe Ray, 24870 Portsmouth Avenue, Novi, MI 48374