Posted by: Joye Davis-Kirchner, Consular Officer
As the year ends and we find ourselves between Western and Eastern Christmas, it is only normal to look back at the past twelve months and take stock. In the past year, I had the honor to work with an incredible staff of Americans and Ukrainians as the Immigrant Visa Unit Chief in the Embassy’s Consular Section. In the job, probably the most important single thing I did was to help Ukrainian orphan children to realize their dream of having a family and to help American families in their dream of having children. It was like Christmas all year round.
While people may disagree about many things, it’s clear that the best thing for kids without parents is to become part of a family. It’s best if this is through domestic adoption or foster care — Ukraine has done a great job of this — but that is not always possible. Then international adoption, especially for special needs children who would otherwise remain in orphanages, can play an important role. We Americans highlight this by celebrating adoption as a positive way to build families each November, which is marked every year as Adoption Month in the U.S.
During this year’s Adoption Month, Liliya Khlebnikova (our Ukrainian adoption expert) and I had the rare opportunity to represent the Embassy at the international conference “Ukraine Without Orphans” in Kyiv. This conference brought together over 500 participants from Ukraine, the United States, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Belarus. The theme of the very useful conference was “Touch a Child – Change the Future.” Especially significant for me, besides having the opportunity to explain the Embassy’s role in supporting adoptions in a presentation for the participants, was to learn more about partnerships and networks serving children at risk both on the national and international levels. I was deeply moved by the stories of older children and the children with special needs (Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc.), who had successfully found families through adoption.
I was particularly impressed by Reece’s Rainbow. This organization specializes in finding families for children with special needs. Meredith and Michael Cornish, who are associated with Reece’s Rainbow, are some of the most remarkable people that I have met since arriving in Ukraine. Meredith and Michael have six children, three – biological and three – adopted, with Down syndrome. They are now adopting two more Ukrainian kids with Down syndrome. In a meeting with Consular Section staff, they explained to us why families adopt children with HIV, blindness, arthrogryposis, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, or Down Syndrome. Meredith and Michael also told us how these disabilities influence the adopted children and their new families.
In addition to her duties at home and her work with the Reece’s Rainbow, Meredith Cornish has her own blog at http://www.mcornish.org, where she gives online advice to families who have adopted kids or have their own kids with Down syndrome. If you want a first-hand view of special needs adoption, look no further.
Thanks to Meredith and Michael, and many other wonderful Ukrainians and Americans who work to find families for special needs orphans through international adoption, and the opportunity to facilitate their work, I felt a little bit like Santa Claus all year long.