Friday, May 30, 2008

12 Starfish and Counting

Well, I accidently surfed into Jennifer Hambrick's blog and noticed that she mentioned that she was one of 17 children... That caught my attention! Her siblings are 5 bio and 12 adopted kids. And then she says that her parents are leaving for Ukraine today to adopt 5 more. Wow.

This will be a story that you will want to follow. I've added her mom's blog to our In Ukraine to Adopt links, and you can also go here Paul & Jeane - Blessed By a Child.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Easter Bunny

In this famous Dilbert comic strip, the Pointy Haired Boss is telling the employees about this new policy at the company. They will pay the engineers $10 for every bug they find and fix in their software. Now, of course, you can understand the reasoning. They want to encourage and reward the employees for fixing problems. Unfortunately, it is not very well thought out, and as the employees realized, they can just create bugs intentionally, then fix them and earn the bonuses.

This is an example of Unintended Consequences.

A couple of months ago, I posted about UNICEF regarding international adoption and the unintended consequence of dooming children to never being adopted.

Now recently, the Kiev Post brought to our attention a new proposed program of the Ukrainian government that would pay money to families when they have children. I recently posted on the population loss that Ukraine has been experiencing. On the surface, like in that Dilbert cartoon, it seems like bonus money might be a good way to encourage families to have more children, and provide the means to support them. Dig a little deeper, however, and you realize that this is probably not a good idea. Kelly Baehr explains it better than I ever could. This kind of program can actually increase homelessness and the number of social orphans.

Well, a politician can never go wrong with his constituents if he hands out money like the Easter Bunny. But I do hope they can come up with a better solution than encouraging people to "write themselves a minivan".

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mother of Exiles

In the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day today. This is one of my favorite holidays, because it gives me a chance to reflect on who I am, where I live, those who have gone on before me, my responsibilities as an American, and my gratitude and thankfulness to the One and the ones who give us our freedoms.

I also pause to think about those two children in a faraway place that will immigrate to this land of hope and opportunity, greeted by the Mother of Exiles.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem

I mentioned in an earlier post, here, that to better understand the adoption situation in Ukraine right now, it is helpful to get some background on the Ukrainian government. I have also been learning about the social conditions in the country, and the problems that the Ukrainian government is tasked with solving.

For the last 15 years, the population of Ukraine has been steadily falling. For the period 1992-2007, the population dropped by about 6,000,000 people. That is a staggering -12%!

I want to call your attention to the following report. It is very illuminating on the current social situation.

The Demographic Situation in Ukraine: Present State, Tendencies, and Predictions
By Ludmila Shanghina
April 6, 2004

It is against this backdrop that we adoptive parents find ourselves contending with Ukraine. The government realizes that their children are important, and for the most part, wants to do the right thing. But the population as a whole is unable or unwilling to respond to the government's call for domestic adoption. There is an enormous societal stigma against orphans. So, orphans are caught in the middle of this sad struggle. Now enter UNICEF, which comes in waving dollars to develop programs that reinforce the government's own tendency to keep their children "home". Government money is provided to foster families, with apparently, limited success. There are anecdotes of corruption in the system.

Anyway, the report was eye-opening for me. I suspect it will be for you, too.

I am listing highlights that I took from the article. I added my own emphases.

  • The demographic situation in Ukraine is characterized by an accumulation of tendencies that are reaching crisis proportions. The population is decreasing, with an increase in the death rate among working-age people and a negative balance of external migration. Under these conditions, a deterioration in interethnic and interreligious relations in society is possible against a background of a worsening socioeconomic situation for most of the population.

  • After 1993, a reduction in the absolute numbers of Ukraine's population began. Over the course of the years 1993-2000, the population of Ukraine dropped by 2.9 million persons, from 52.2 million persons to 49.3 million. Of that number, four-fifths of the losses have been due to natural population losses (an excess of the death rate over the birth rate) and one-fourth as a consequence of migratory processes (an excess of the level of emigration over the level of immigration).

  • The causes of reductions in population numbers are: a reduction in the birth rate, an increase in the death rate, the unsatisfactory state of the health of the population accompanying the low quality of and insufficient access to the health care system in the country, and an excess of the level of emigration over the level of immigration.

  • The reduction in the birth rate in rural areas of the country is reaching crisis proportions. According to data from the State Statistics Committee of Ukraine, out of Ukraine's 28,794 villages, not a single child was born in 12,673 of them in 1999. There are no children aged between six and fifteen in almost one thousand villages.

  • Against this background of a falling birth rate, the number of abortions remains stable and high. According to data from the Ministry of Health Care of Ukraine, 470,000 abortions were registered in the country in 1999. As a point of comparison, the number of births in 1999 came to 389,200 persons. For 320 of each 100,000 women not giving birth as a result of abortion annually, the procedure ends in death.

  • The birth rate coefficient in Ukraine is one of the lowest among European countries (including the post-Communist countries).

  • In contrast to the birth rate, the death rate in Ukraine is one of the highest in Europe.

  • The high death rate among working-age men is an especially alarming phenomenon, capable of causing significant demographic deformations. This level is estimated to be the highest in the world.

  • Among the reasons for the high death rate among the working-age population since 1990, the most important is that of unnatural causes, including accidents, murders, and suicides. The main unnatural cause reflected in the death rate is suicide.

  • The state of the health care system is also getting worse. The number of medical establishments is decreasing and the level of their financing by the state has fallen to a critical level.

  • The so-called social illnesses - such as tuberculosis, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS - are spreading.

  • About nine thousand people die from tuberculosis annually.

  • Syphilis is encountered in Ukraine almost a hundred times more frequently than in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

  • Ukraine, in the opinion of experts from UNAIDS and the WHO, has the "most dramatic" epidemic situation with regard to HIV/AIDS among the countries of the former USSR.

  • Ukraine is the leader among European countries with about 500 new cases [of HIV/AIDS] being registered monthly.

  • 95 percent of parents of rural children do not ask for medical aid due to the distance to medical establishments or due to an inability to pay.

  • The dynamics of the basic socioeconomic indices for 1990-2000 testify to a sharp decline in the quality of life for the overwhelming majority of the country's population.

  • Having work does not guarantee a good standard of living.

  • 27.8 percent of the population (13.7 million persons) was considered to belong to the category of the impoverished, and 14.2 percent (almost 7 million persons), to the category of the destitute.

  • Under conditions of spreading unemployment and poverty, the number of marriages is going down (the index of the number of marriages per 1,000 persons fell from 9.3 in 1990 to 5.5 in 2000). This leads, if not to a decrease in reproduction of the population, then to the growth of incomplete families and the spread of social orphans.

  • The worsening socioeconomic situation in the country, the spread of unemployment, and the low price of labor compels people to migrate from Ukraine temporarily in search of work or to leave Ukraine to take up permanent residence in countries with more favorable employment conditions.

  • The unfavorable socioeconomic situation and the constant threat of unemployment and destitution are powerful factors in spreading a socially depressed condition in society. This in turn has an extremely unfavorable influence on the demographic situation by reducing the birth rate and growth.

  • The extremely high death rate for working-age men is also bringing about a distortion in the population structure by sex. In Ukraine, the noticeable excess of the number of women over the number of men begins in the age groups after thirty years of age. With each year, this point is dropping lower down the age pyramid, which will lead to a distortion in reproductive activity-a further drop in the birth rate, an increase in the number of births outside of wedlock, and accompanying increases in the number of incomplete families and social orphans.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

DossierDates Spreadsheet v1.2

After a conversation with our facilitator, I was able to clarify how the lifetime of the dossier's Power of Attorney document works. As far as I know, this is the only document whose expiration date depends on what you and your facilitator agree on. For example, we specified in our PoA that it was good for 2 years. You may have chosen 1 or 3 years in yours.

I made an update to the DossierDates spreadsheet to include this document, and it also indicates that you should put in your own PoA lifetime.

I also decided to pull out the FBI Fingerprinting documents from the main section, because, while they are important, they are not actually part of the dossier.

I should have emphasized before that this spreadsheet is specific to the United States, due to some of the documents it refers to. If you are from another country, such as Canada or Italy, and wish to see this modified for your country's requirements, please contact me.

You can find the updated version 1.2 files here.

I Scream, You Scream

An article from early 2003. A Ukrainian publication for Ukrainians. What has changed, anything?

Ice-Cream Leftovers versus Love and Care
By Oleh Polyakov
Welcome to Ukraine

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Their Faith Prevailed

Here's another old article from 2003 that talks about an Avon, South Dakota, family that adopted two girls from Ukraine. Avon isn't too far from our town, Mitchell.

Overseas Adoption Is Dream Come True For South Dakota Family
By DeAnn McClure, P&D Correspondent
Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, SD
July 28, 2003

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

DossierDates Spreadsheet v1.1

Well, I already have an update to the spreadsheet I posted earlier today. It is now at version 1.1. The big thing that I should have had, but didn't, was the FBI Fingerprinting broken out between husband and wife. I also made a few cosmetic changes, including titling, document properties, coloring, version, and contact info. Follow the link in this post to get the updated spreadsheet. Hopefully that is the last update for awhile.

If you downloaded the original one (I note that there were already 15 downloads today), I recommend that you grab this one. There's enough changes that it would be worth your while.

UPDATE: There is a newer follow-up post here.

Keep Track of Your Dossier's Dates

OK, so time continues to march on since we gave our dossier to our facilitator for submission. Since the dossier hasn't been submitted to the SDA yet, we are getting to the point now where we have to start worrying about documents expiring. Most documents, with a few exceptions, have a lifetime of 1 year that Ukraine considers them valid. The kicker, though, is that there must be at least 6 months left on all of them at the time the dossier is submitted. So we families that are stuck in this limbo need to refresh the documents as time drags on. This isn't necessarily simple, however. Every document needs to be notarized and apostilled, then FedEx'd over to Ukraine. This is time consuming and expensive.

For some time now I have been meaning to put together a spreadsheet to help me track the documents in our dossier and when they expire. I am making this available to you if you use Excel.

It allows you to enter your submission date, or any date if you don't have one. Then you enter in the individual dates from your various documents. This is typically the oldest date on the document if there is more than one on it. Please note, I have some dates already entered in, but they are for illustration only. You will need to enter your own dates in.

I have the number of months until expiration for the documents set by default, but you can change them. I have two alert levels, yellow and red, which are configurable but are defaulted to 30 and 14 days.

Now, this is important. You can only use the spreadsheet if you agree to the following disclaimer. If you do not agree to it, then you may not use it.

  • I am merely providing the spreadsheet as a convenience to you.
  • I provide no warranty that it is suitable for any particular purpose.
  • You assume all risks associated with using the spreadsheet.
  • You will not hold me responsible for any loss of adoption opportunity or any other adverse condition due to any direct or indirect failure or misuse of the spreadsheet.
  • The document lifetimes and 6-month SDA policy that I entered by default are believed to be correct to the best of my knowledge, but may in fact be incorrect, or may change in the future.
  • The documents I have listed by default may not apply to your specific adoption situation.
  • Your dossier may contain documents other than the ones I included.
  • Due to the customizable nature of spreadsheets, I cannot be responsible for the accuracy or innaccuracy of any data entered therein.
  • If you find a problem with the spreadsheet, I will be happy to take a look at it. However, I don't guarantee that it will be fixed, or fixed in a timely manner.
Now, if you are still interested in the spreadsheet, you can download it here:

UPDATE: These spreadsheets have been updated to version 1.2.

Excel 97-2003 Format
Excel 2007 Format (Save as .xlsm instead of .zip)

If you have a bug report, enhancement suggestion, need help, or just have a comment, please post it. I get an email when someone posts, so I will be sure to see it.

UPDATE: There is a newer follow-up post here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

1 + 0 = 1

Ran across this old article about a Canadian woman who tried to adopt from Ukraine through an adoption agency. Probably a lot in it doesn't apply any more, but still I found it to be interesting reading.

And Baby Makes One
By Margaret Philp, Social Policy Reporter
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada
Saturday, April 19, 2003 - Page F6

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Where in the World Is Valya Sandiego?

I've been looking for Valya's orphanage. I know that the town is out in the country. It really looks like it is a wide spot in the road, as we'd say around here. Do you see it?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Over the Horizon

I have struggled with this post. It is on a topic that is emotional and controversial.

I'm posting about an old newspaper article concerning hosting. So, if you're familiar with it and don't want to rehash it, you may want to skip this post.

A while back I came across this article in the NY Times, called A Taste Of U.S. Family Life, But Adoption In Limbo (NYT might require a login, try alternate sites here and here). It talks about the pro's and cons of hosting orphans in the United States, without the stated intention of adopting them. I know there are many people (a majority?) that really don't have the intention to adopt the kids, and I believe the kids are told up front that this is just a visit. But really, who could blame the child for getting his hopes up that maybe someone would adopt him?

On the other hand, others are specifically looking at hosting as an opportunity to find a specific child to adopt. But even so, there are no guarantees. The SDA will have the final say. The adoptive parents will have to be very persuasive that they should be allowed to adopt that specific child (without their facilitator with them). The article alludes to favors or donations that might be required to get a favorable referral. And since you can't "reserve" a specific child, there is competition. I have wondered about how much info to post on this blog about Sergei and Valya. Is someone else going to see the information here about them and beat us to the SDA? You cannot blame an orphan for agreeing to go with the first family willing to adopt them. The second chance may never come. There are 1,000 things that can disrupt an adoption, no matter how hard you try. Some time ago I went back to my posts on Sergei and Valya and edited out some information. I have personally corresponded with someone by email who forbade me to say anything about the child they want to adopt.

But what if you go to your SDA appointment with absolutely no idea of a child ahead of time, other than perhaps a desired age range? This is also risky. Recently, the SDA has been telling adoptive parents that there are NO healthy children available for adoption. This is an outright lie and it angers me. I absolutely do not fault any family that decides not to adopt a child with severe medical problems. The family needs to talk about this ahead of time and be in agreement that they are called for these children. Some families are only getting one chance at the SDA, which severely limits the opportunity for a successful adoption.

Overall, I guess, I would have to say I'm neutral toward hosting. I know some of you reading this had a great experience. Others have not. I agree with this post about Dr. Rosini, the director of Frontier Horizon: it is a gamble.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken II

Just a quickie today - In my original Tastes Like Chicken post I talked about the hawk that was having a blackbird for breakfast. By coincidence, I read about this hawk that didn't quite chew his food well enough. Do not click if you're squeamish. Whatever you do, do not click the link. DO NOT click the link.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mama's Day

Just want to take a moment to wish all you mothers out there, Happy Mother's Day or Happy Mama's Day or День Счастливой Матери.

I just have to post my favorite picture of Nancy and Mark, taken on Mother's Day 1998. Mark was 3.

And this is ME and my mom, taken in 1963 or '64, I would suppose, at Avalon, Catalina Island, California. Happy Mother's Day to you, too. I love you.

Babies Don’t Keep
By Ruth Hulbert Hamilton, 1958

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Lullabye, rockaby, lullabye loo.
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo,
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo,
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs;
Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Friday, May 9, 2008


We sent a package to Sergei, which he received recently. We sent him a shirt and some other goodies. Just got some pictures back from our friend in Odessa. Here's one of them. We're thrilled to be able to bless him in this way. We hope that soon this SDA mess will straighten out and we can get over there to adopt him. Until then, we'll stay in touch. If you're wondering, it takes about 2 weeks for a package to get there.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was Nancy's birthday. Happy birthday to the best wife a guy could have! Love 'ya babe.

Good Morning, Class

I am a newcomer to all things Ukraine. I am only now learning about the government, political parties, politicians, and people. Some of you reading this blog are "old timers". I don't mean by age, but as longtime followers of Ukrainian life. If asked, you could give a long dissertation about why the SDA operates the way it does. And why the politicians do the things they do.

In recent months, our family has been the unfortunate recipients of chaos in Ukrainian adoption. From our vantage point in America, things just don't make sense, and we are left scratching our heads in wonder at the seeming heartlessness of a ministry that seems to be doing all it can to keep kids in orphanages.

Recently, I've been hitting the internet looking for articles to help me understand how the SDA got to where it is today. But to understand the SDA, we need to first learn something about Ukrainian government, who the players are, and recent history, especially since the Orange Revolution.

I found an article that I am studying and I want to share it with you. I think it gives a pretty good overview of what is going on with President Yuschenko, Prime Minister Tymoshenko, and the Parliament. I'm going to read this over and over until I can keep everything straight. Class is in session.

UKRAINE: Ungovernable As Always
Zoltán Dujisin
Global News Blog / Inter Press Service
Friday, May 2, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Blooming Idiot

A perfect blossom is a rare thing.
You could spend your life looking for one.
And it would not be a wasted life.

Katsumoto, The Last Samurai

I did not spend my life looking for the perfect blossom, but I did spend a few minutes. A couple of days ago I took a picture of some blossoms on our plum tree in the yard. I note today that the petals are already falling off. The blooms are lasting maybe a week tops.

It reminds me of how fleeting life is. Do I focus on what is important, or do I waste it chasing after vanity?

A hundred years from now
It will not matter
What my bank account was,
The sort of house I lived in
Or the kind of car I drove

But the world may be different
Because I was important
In the life of a child.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Little Caesars

According to President Yushchenko's official website, a couple of weeks ago he held "a gathering dedicated to problems of orphaned, disabled, homeless children and large families."

He also "urged the Government and local authorities to work out a complex and effective system of children protection" (emphasis mine). I would imagine that someday they will be looking at joining the Hague Convention, which requires really good child tracking. Sorry, file folders won't cut it.

The system is so broken right now. All those little empires. But what really needs to happen is that peoples' hearts need to change. Ukraine needs spiritual revival, not religion. I'm talking about a Holy Spirit revival. A one-on-one encounter with the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well I do hope something good comes of this meeting, especially taking care of the street kids. So many times I have been tempted to post a link to street kids' pictures or videos, but it is too much for me to bear. I just can't do it.

If you want to read the article, it is President holds meeting dedicated to сhildren care.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fatherless Days

"...his name is
the Lord,
a Father to
the fatherless
a defender of widows."

Psalm 68:5
There's a family in our neighbor-hood going through a divorce right now. Their son is one of Mark's friends. It was a surprise to us, we never saw any obvious signs of trouble in their marriage. The wife is in the process of moving out right now. This is a new dynamic for Mark to experience. As far as I know, this is the first time Mark has seen one of his friends go through a divorce. We'll have to help him work through his feelings about it.

This brought to mind a song by the Newsboys, a popular Christian band. They have this song called Always. I found a video of it on the internet, which I've included here. It's from their Step Up to the Microphone tour, which I saw in Sioux Falls a few years back with our youth group. On the concert DVD, Peter Furler makes an introduction to the song, which is missing from this clip. He said, "Seems like these days, more than any before, we run into a lot of people that go through this life without a father, and without a father figure. The Bible says that God is the father to the fatherless, and he is the defender of widows."

These are some of the lyrics from the song.

It's always the same
You're always to blame
Is there any way around this
I can't see
You walked out on her
You planned to be free
I'm trying not to point the finger
But it's killing me

Take these pieces
Thrown away
Put them together from
Night 'n' day
Washed by the sun
Dried by the rain
To be my father
In the fatherless days
You'll see the words to Psalm 68:5 on the screen behind them.

Check out this video: Newsboys - Always

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Lost in Translation

I added a language translator all the way down there at the bottom of the blog. Thought I'd take it for a spin by translating those haiku verses into Russian then back into English again. hehe

I suppose it will be a little useful. I'll be posting links to useful Ukrainian sites soon that are only in Russian or Ukrainian.


Холодное серое небо ветра оплакивают алмаз в грубой
Земле не был достоин

Cold grey sky of wind is mourned
a diamond did not deserve
in rough Earth


Дождь падает но нет слезы,
издали которая отец плачет
Все же брат не делает

A rain falls but there is not a tear,
from afar which a father cries
However much a brother does


Земля получает семя розы между
Духами крапивы для небес

Earth gets the seed
of rose between
Perfumes of nettle for skies


Тщетность высмеивает глаз веры напрягает,
чтобы видеть обещание выполняемым

Futility is ridiculed by
the eye of faith strains,
to see a promise executable


Любовь закрывает вуалью ее лицо здесь
Глашатай тех криков вне
Неизвестная любовь сделал известно

Ljubov veils her face here
Herald of those screaming outside
Unknown love did it is known

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Haiku for a Dead Orphan

Haiku for a Dead Orphan


Cold wind gray sky mourn
A diamond in the rough
Earth was not worthy


Rain falls but no tear
A father weeps from afar
Yet brother does not


Earth receives a seed
Of rose amidst the nettle
Perfume for heaven


Futility mocks
The eye of faith strains to see
A promise fulfilled


Love veils her face here
Herald of the one cries out
Unknown love made known

For Sergei Adveev
Sobinka, Russia
Rest in peace, brother
April 29, 2008

© Alan Pretre