A Guest Post by Tesney Davis~
Two and a half years ago, my husband, Greg, and I began praying for God to do whatever he wanted with our lives. Adoption became something that he was showing us he wanted for our family. We began to pray about adopting a child with special needs. Greg and I have a lot of experience with children who have special needs. It seemed like a natural fit for our family. As we prayed, God opened our eyes to children with disabilities in orphanages across the ocean in Russia. We started our adoption journey of a child with Down syndrome. We were given a referral for a child in Russia and awaited our invitation to go meet him.
Eight months later, as we neared the finish line of our adoption, one of the family members in Russia stepped forward to adopt the child for which we had been given a referral. We were devastated when we received the news that the child we had planned to bring into our family was no longer available for adoption. We grieved hard. Although heartbroken for our own loss, but God showed us that we were following him, and his ways are perfect. We knew we still wanted to adopt.
Shortly after losing our original referral, we received a new referral for a four-year-old boy with Down syndrome named Kirill. We were more guarded with our emotions this time, but we had no doubts that we should commit to this child. We had to re-file a lot of our paperwork because of the change in referrals and regions of Russia, but our commitment to this child was not something we took lightly and we gladly did whatever it took to bring him into our family.
Then another piece of devastating news arrived from our adoption agency: a tragic story of an adoptive mother sending her child back to his country alone on a plane with a note pinned to his shirt had hit the media…and the child was from Russia. We were told this was not good and that our adoption could be delayed indefinitely. Adoptions in Russia came to a screeching halt. Kirill’s region stopped processing adoptions for eight long months. The judge refused to accept any Amercian adoption cases until an official treaty was signed between the United States and Russia.
Even though we wouldn’t be able to finalize the adoption in court until the treaty was signed, we were allowed to go visit Kirill and sign our official petition to adopt him in August 2010. We fell in love with him during our visits. This was our son.
During that time, we were told by our in-country facilitator that Kirill would be the first child from his region EVER to be adopted with Down syndrome. A birth mother keeping her child with Down syndrome is unheard of in this area of the world. Adoptions of children with Down syndrome just don’t happen there, these children are literally hidden away from society in orphanages and mental institutions. As our process continued, it became apparent that Kirill would be a pioneer. If our adoption was approved, it would pave the way for other children with special needs to be adopted from this region.
Then, a miracle happened around Christmas and the judge in this region suddenly changed her mind and began processing American adoptions again. We were elated. Could this be the light at the end of a very long tunnel? We were finally granted a court date-March 17, 2011. St. Patrick’s Day…a lucky day! Our son was coming home!
March 17th arrived, and as we sat in the courtroom and suffered through five agonizing hours of difficult questioning, we were not prepared for anything but an approval of our case by the judge. Two doctors, two social workers, and the Minister of Children’s Services all made very strong statements on our behalf. They fought for us and for our son, Kirill.
But when the ruling was read, the judge said, “Your application to adopt is rejected.” The basis given was that Kirill was “not socially adaptable” due to his “medical condition” and he was better off in an institution than in a home with a family. As the judge read her ruling, she stated several times that we were a good family, that we met all the criteria to adopt a child, but that she would not approve our adoption because Kirill had Down syndrome and his “level of backwardness” made him unfit for any family. She told us that we could adopt another child, because legally our application had no problems according to Russian adoption law. She said she would approve our adoption for a “typical” child, but not this child. Why? The only reason? Because he has Down syndrome. Even though we were approved by our home study agency and by the USCIS to adopt a child with special needs. It made no sense whatsoever. Denying a child a family because he has Down syndrome is a violation of human rights at its most basic level!
We appealed to the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow. Within two months, we received our Supreme Court date to appeal our regional judge’s decision. May 24, 2011, we stood before a panel of three Supreme Court judges and argued our case. We were told by our lawyer prior to our hearing to expect the worst. The best case scenario was that they would allow us another hearing with a different judge in our region, but that they would not overturn our original judge’s ruling. That meant we would have to wait for yet another court date.
But God is still a God of miracles. As the prosecutor in our hearing stood and read his opinion, that we should not be allowed to adopt Kirill, my heart sank. I just knew it was the end for our hopes of Kirill becoming a part of our family. Then a miracle happened: the head judge stood up and read his ruling. “the decision of the regional judge is OVERTURNED by the Supreme Court of Russia”. I didn’t hear much after that except that Kirill’s name was legally changed to “Gregory Kirill Davis”. I was too overwhelmed with emotions as I thanked God and started hugging everyone in the courtroom. We had been told to keep our composure because the Russian Supreme Court was very formal and serious; emotional outbursts would be perceived as weakness and we couldn’t show our feelings. That went out the window when the ruling was read and we celebrated in a flurry of tears and thanks to God for the miracle he had just performed.
We have been home almost 19 months with our son. I still get overwhelmed with emotions when I think about the miracle God performed. Kirill is thriving. He weighed only 19 pounds at five years old when we arrived home in June 2011. Now, he weighs 45 pounds and has grown 19 inches. He had severe problems with his sight and hearing; both have been corrected. He had numerous infections and gastrointestinal parasites. Those have all been treated and he’s healthy and happy. He goes to school, has friends, and we love him with all of our hearts. We cannot imagine our family without him. He brings us great joy and we are so proud to call him our son!
We love the people of Russia and it breaks our hearts to hear of the recent move to ban adoptions of Russian orphans by U.S. citizens. I am a member of several adoption groups and have a large network of fellow adoptive parents who have adopted children from Russia. Every single family I know LOVE and CHERISH their children from Russia.
Although there have been cases of abuse and neglect of children adopted from Russia, this is an exceptionally rare occurrence. These people are not the norm and they should be punished for their crimes.
To deny children the opportunity to have a loving family is a violation of human rights and a horrible crime against humanity. Thousands of children will face a lifetime in an institution instead of loving families if this law is passed. Please stand with us and contact your government officials to voice your opposition to the ban on Russian adoptions by Americans.