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When a family is formed by adoption, there is a greater understanding of what “family” really means. Adoptive families recognize that our children do not come to us as blank slates, and we understand that the specter of an unknown birth family will be adopted right along with the child coming home. What we often fail to acknowledge, is the third family …the orphanage family.
Our son Kenny joined our family 3 ½ years ago from an orphanage in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. He was 8 years old and although had the stature of a 5 year old,he had the confidence of a 30 year old. While there, we were able to visit with 2 of his best friends and as we were leaving the building I will never forget him shouting up to his friends who were leaning out a window to wave good bye, “Tell Emir good bye!”. I inquired through our interpreter who Emir was, and discovered that Emir was part of a foursome that consisted of the two boys we had just left and Kenny. All had cleft lip or facial deformities, and they had formed a union of sorts, which created a bond of brotherhood. It was this bond that provided a sense of family in an institutional setting that certainly did nothing to provide that sort of connection. We quickly came to realize, this was Kenny’s first true family.
We later learned that Emir had recently been moved to another orphanage, thus preventing Kenny from saying good bye in person. On our adoption trip we had the incredible good fortune to cross paths with an Australian couple living in Bishkek whom we met at a church service. They were looking to adopt a child themselves. We got the wonderful news (months down the road) that after our conversation they met Kenny’s two buddies and indeed proceeded to adopt them. We continue to remain connected with this family. The joy in Kenny’s voice as he spoke with them (just this past week) on the phone was obvious. The boys shared about their life experiences in their new families, they spoke about school and activities, and they talked about their missing “brother”, Emir, who unfortunately, was still left behind.
Sadly, Emir has a family waiting for him, a wonderful, lively, perfectly suited family who has waited for years to bring him home. Political upheaval and constantly changing officials have left Emir in limbo. This child is growing older by the day, his cleft needs are not being met, and more importantly, his soul remains filled with sorrow. Not only is Emir being kept from the family who longs to bring him home, but he has had his first “family” seperated from him through adoption…his “brothers” are happily settled in families of their own and are able to remain connected while Emir has no one to tuck him in at night, no one to teach him how to ride a bike, no one to provide the kind of total commitment and love that every child deserves.
Our son Kenny came to us with an open heart, ready to receive love. He has flourished despite developmental and academic delays. He is treasured as a member of his family which consists of 4 other brothers and sisters adopted from Kazakhstan. His cleft needs are being met, but more importantly, his soul needs are being met. As we think back to the Kenny we first met…the one who at 8 years old had never turned on a light switch before and had never touched a man’s face before and felt a rough, whiskered cheek…we wish these same kind of firsts for Emir.
Family…it is a complex series of ties and connections. We have come to realize through adoption that our family resides not just under our roof, but in our hearts as well. One piece of our extended family is still not yet safe. We will only know true peace when the last of the brothers is united with his forever family. Until that day comes, we continue to pray that one day another phone call will come, and Emir’s cheery voice greets us on the other end. We remain ever hopeful that eventually all 4 brothers can know that no one is left behind.
Kenny has An Answer and while he flourishes in a family-Emir is still waiting. Be The Answer in style by purchasing one of the many great t-shirts on our “Be The Answer” apparel site. 100% of the profit from these shirts goes to help more children, like Emir to have a home and family to call their own. To check out all of Joint Council’s shirts, click here.