April 28, 2010
In early April opposition supporters in Kyrgyzstan seized control of the government and dissolved its parliament after violent rioting in the streets. Opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva made this proclamation when her group took control of state-run television.
The Kyrgyzstan revolution has thrown some 65 American and Canadian families in limbo as they wait to finalize their adoptions, hoping the process does not take too long. For orphans who reach age 16, the age they must leave the orphanage, the prospects are few.
Mike and Karla Kahler have already waited two years for their son. They first traveled to an orphanage in Belovodsk, Kyrgyzstan, in March 2008 where they met the newborn baby they were set to adopt.
With only one signature still required to bring the young Russian boy to the United States in the fall, however, the Kyrgyz government issued a moratorium on all international adoptions.
In October 2008, reports surfaced of alleged corruption and fraud in the adoption process. After Kyrgyz authorities conducted criminal investigations into these allegations, Elmurza Satybaldiev, Prosecutor General of the Republic, reported that at least 194 criminal proceedings on illegal child adoption have been launched in Kyrgyzstan.
The Kahlers again went to Kyrgyzstan in January 2009 to check on the son they hope to adopt. They also met with dignitaries and administrators pursuing a resolution to the delayed adoption, but had to leave with the adoption process unresolved.
On March 15, 2010, the Midland, Texas, couple found renewed hope. The Kyrgyz legislature passed a bill which would allow international adoptions to continue after 30 days before the public. It could have been signed into law by the now-ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
With Bakiyev in exile, the legislation faces another delay of at least six months while the new government organizes.
"We are very fortunate we get updates and photos every few weeks," said Karla Kahler. "Even though he is on the other side of the world, we are blessed to have good communication and know how he is doing."
The Kahlers aren't alone as they wonder when that final signature might come. Scott and Kami DeBoer of Dayton, Ohio, are also waiting for final approval to adopt a three-year-old boy named Bakyt.
Scott, a United States Air Force pilot leaving on a mission soon, now finds his family fighting a different kind of battle.
They successfully adopted a seven-month-old boy in 2007. Like the Kahlers, they are only one signature away from adopting their second child from Kyrgyzstan. With the recent violence, however, the DeBoers are uncertain if their adoption papers are even safe. That's because a number of buildings were destroyed when Otunbayeva's opposition group overthrew the government.
"We are very close. Our paperwork only needs the president's signature," said Kami DeBoer. "Honestly we don't even know where our papers are or if they still exist."
"It would be a good step for us to know that our documents are safe," Kami continued. "As Christians we trust God is in control. Even if Bakyt never comes home with us, in our hearts we are his parents and we will forever pray for him. I would imagine our refrigerator is the only one in the world with his picture on it."
As each day passes, children like Bakyt remain in orphanages. The children grow out of diapers and formula and require clothing, more substantial food and opportunities to develop motor skills. Yet they wait listlessly in cribs housed in Soviet-era buildings surrounded by concrete walls for adoptive parents to arrive.
Since the coup, reports indicate funding has decreased even more for the already impoverished orphanages.
In the midst of the ousted government, Leaders Activating Ministry International (LAMb), a North American-based mission organization, is actively working with these children. They are twice victims - caught in the current crossfire of violence and struggling to live in a country with no viable organization to support children who age out of its orphanage system.
These older youth face the harsh reality that they are thrust onto the streets of Kyrgyzstan as well as neighboring republics. Less than a third of these homeless teenage orphans survive in ways which lead to physical, emotional and spiritual health.
In collaboration with Christian Broadcasting Network Ukraine, LAMb International recently introduced of a new training program into Kyrgyzstan designed to address the needs of thousands of teens aging out of institutional care. When most teens celebrate their 16th birthday, the day means only one thing for the thousands of young people living in orphanages through the former Soviet Union.
They must now leave their orphanage home to be released into the world without family, resources or life skills.
LAMb says the long-term outlook for orphans is grim. For every 10 orphans who age out of the system, only two might find work or further education. For the other eight, seven will likely be sucked into a life of crime, prostitution or substance abuse. Horrifically, one of the ten orphans will probably take his own life.
Lynn and Ruby Johnston, founders of LAMb, have seen firsthand the devastation to teens that are forced to go it alone too early.
"Working in Eastern Europe, now for 7 years, we have seen the heartbreak for teens as they struggle to survive at a time when they need family and resources," said Ruby Johnston. "The statistics validate what we've seen. Research indicates that only about 1/3 of young people leaving orphanages at 15 or 16 actually make it."
Many adoptive parents pray their hoped-for children will never come close to aging out. But they also realize, with a country on the brink of civil war, that one remaining signature could take some time to receive.
"We have no idea or what the timeline is. The interim government says it will take 6 months to a year to write a constitution and reorganize. We are hoping international adoption will be included in their efforts," said DeBoer.
While there are many children like Bakyt who wait in old cribs, there are an equal number of adoptive families who also wait - glancing at a photo on the refrigerator door - praying that one lone signature doesn't come between a happy homecoming and a life lived on the streets of Kyrgyzstan.
Russ Jones is co-publisher of the award winning Christian Press Newspaper (ChristianPress.com) and CEO of BIG Picture Media Group, Inc. (BigPictureMedia.biz), a boutique media firm located in Newton, Kansas. Jones holds degrees from the University of Missouri and St. Paul School of Theology. As a former NBC TV reporter he enjoys reporting where evangelical Christian faith and news of the day intersect. He is also president of the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers. Jones is also a freelance reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network. He may be reached at [email protected].