Today we were visited by Mark and Andrea Hauserman from Ohio; we first met the Hausermans in 2004. They were in Ust-Kamenogorsk adopting a sibling pair at the same time we were adopting Tanya. Their two were also Kidsave kids who they had hosted the summer before so we had a lot in common. While in Ust, we all had bonding visits together each day with our kids in the orphanage gym/playroom. The kids hung out with us, playing and snacking their way through each 2 hour visit...this picture shows our Tanya having a juice box while Andrea plays with her two kids, Ivan and Sveta.
Fast forward 8 years and these kids who were then between age 6-8 are now all teenagers. It was like a mini Children's Home reunion with 6 KZ kids in our house, all from the same orphanage in Ust-Kamenogorsk. While the adults chatted and grilled hot dogs and burgers, the kids spent time looking at pictures and talking about their memories. It was a lovely visit with old friends but the best part of all was seeing how far these kids have come! All suffer from a history of trauma and most of them have special needs of one kind or another...but they're healthy and strong, happy and bonded, safe and loved. They have a home and a family...something none of them had in KZ. I believe that single factor makes all the difference...who could deny that a family trumps an institution as the preferred place to raise a child? Well, it depends on who you talk to.
Kazakhstan is closed for international adoption now for various political reasons. No children are being adopted internationally from KZ currently; only a small percentage of kids in KZ orphanages are adopted domestically...so that means when a child enters the orphanage system, they are probably there to stay. It's not up to me to judge whether the decision to close international adoptions is good or bad...the Kazakh people clearly cherish their children and view them as the future. I know that many government officials feel that international adoption takes their youth away from their homeland, never to return. I get that, I really do...and yet...where would these 6 kids be if they were still in KZ?
Two of them would be aging out of the system as adults at age 16; the other 4 would have 2-3 more years in the boarding school before they hit the streets. Here in the US, our kids all receive special education services that do not exist in KZ; they also by law can remain in the educational system until age 22, giving them more time to fill in some of the gaps in their learning. They have access to social services, therapy, and medical treatment that aren't available to them in Kazakhstan. Most importantly, they have us.
According to the statistics listed on the Kidsave International website (http://www.kidsave.org/need.shtml), staying in the system takes a heavy toll on children:
- The longer children live in institutions or foster homes without a stable, loving adult connection, the bleaker their future becomes.
- 1 in 10 will commit suicide
- Less than half will finish high school
- 1 in 3 will be homeless
- 50% will end up in jail
- 1 in 4 will become parents before the age of 20, and their children will likely end up in orphanages or foster homes
- Many will turn to drug trafficking or prostitution to survive