Ukrainian orphans stranded as American families struggle to save them from war

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Hundreds of Ukrainian orphans who were set for U.S. adoptions are stuck in limbo as their prospective adoptive parents try to lobby authorities to give them a loving home.Americans Jenny Bradshaw and husband Holt, who hosted an eight-year-old orphan from Ukraine for one month earlier in the year, are part of a group of some 200 “prospective adoptive parents” looking to adopt from Ukraine.These international hosting programs are designed to give children a break from institutional life and give them a small window into what stable family life is like. Bradshaw and her family felt an immediate bond of love with the girl they were hosting and said that Katya would complete their family. When Katya returned home to Ukraine, the Bradshaws immediately began the international adoption process.
Kayta, left, refers to the Bradshaws’ two older daughters, twins Lauren and Elizabeth, as her American sisters.
(Courtesy the Bradshaw Family)VOLUNTEERS WORK TO EVACUATE ORPHANED CHILDREN IN EASTERN UKRAINEThen, as the process got underway to bring Katya to the U.S., everything stopped as Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine.All international adoptions were quickly put on hold. Bradshaw and other families who can no longer complete the adoption process merely want to bring the children to the U.S. to provide temporary shelter while the war in Ukraine continues.Katya is from the Odesa region, which has experienced intense shelling from Russian forces since the war began Feb. 24. Thankfully for Bradshaw, the international adoption coordinator in Ukraine was able to provide Katya with a phone. The Bradshaws were able to keep in touch with her and know she was safe. Bradshaw was taking Russian language lessons, and Katya was able to speak some words in English.”The lessons are usually enough to say, you know, ‘I love you. How are you?’ I’ll ask her how her day is. I ask in Russian and she answers in English. But right there, after the invasion, she said this funny word ‘voyna’ a couple of times. And I put it to the translator, and it was the Russian word for war,” Bradshaw said.They had contact virtually every day, and Bradshaw reminded Katya that the family had not forgotten about her.
First responders try to extinguish flames at a residential building in Odesa, Ukraine, July 1, 2022, following Russian missile attacks. 
(Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP)RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKE NEAR ODESA KILLS 18 UKRAINIANS, INCLUDING CHILDREN, GOVERNMENT SAYSOdesa, which sits along the Black Sea in southwestern Ukraine, is a major port city and integral to the world economy. It’s also become a primary target for Russian forces trying to take control of Ukraine’s port cities.Shortly before Russia’s massive shelling of Odesa, Katya was evacuated to Romania in early March, briefly losing her phone along the way. Bradshaw made the journey to Romania in April to finally visit with Katya for a few days.And what she saw was disheartening.”I watched Katya and other orphans playing on piles of construction debris with stray dogs roaming around,” Bradshaw said. After meeting with her for a few hours over the course of four days, she found out from Romanian officials that she was to have no more contact with Katya.”They will not give her letters. They will not give her packages,” Bradshaw explained. She couldn’t even send basic essentials like underwear, socks and pajamas, and she was subject to a zero-tolerance policy from the authorities. Romanian officials won’t answer emails texts or relay any messages to Katya, she said.Bradshaw and her husband haven’t spoken to Katya in over two months.
The Bradshaw family has not spoken to Katya in over two months. 
(Courtesy the Bradshaw family )POPE FRANCIS CALLS RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE A ‘CRUEL AND SENSELESS WAR OF AGGRESSION’ The family lives just outside Washington, D.C., in northern Virginia and has reached out to both of their U.S. senators — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. But the senators’ offices have told her that the problem was one of “case work.””Sen. Warner’s office is aware of ongoing issues surrounding adoptions from Ukraine,” a spokesperson for Sen. Warner, D-Va., told Fox News Digital in a statement. “The office is working (on) continuing to engage the State Department regarding the challenges families are facing in this process and working to facilitate lines of communication during this difficult time.”Bradshaw has also met with a member of Kaine’s office, but there hasn’t been any progress.”A member of Sen. Kaine’s team met with a group of parents facing issues in the adoption process in the wake of the war in Ukraine,” a spokesperson for Sen Kaine, D-Va., told Fox News Digital. “We are seeking additional information from the Biden administration on this matter and looking into steps we can take to help address these issues.”Early on, the State Department was having regular calls with prospective adoptive parents but was unable to provide much information. “It’s kind of gotten lost in the halls of the State Department,” Bradshaw lamented.Katya and other children who come to the U.S. for short-term hosting programs do so on non-immigrant visas. According to the U.S. State Department, children who entered the United States with a non-immigrant visa don’t qualify as orphans under U.S. immigration law, while Ukrainian law prohibits the adoption of Ukrainian children outside of Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has expressed concern to the U.S. about moving children out of Europe and traveling to the U.S.
People cross the Ukrainian border to Siret, Romania, March 2, 2022, as they evacuate amid Russia´s invasion of Ukraine.
(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)The problem is that prospective adoptive parents must work directly with Ukraine’s Adoption Authority for individual cases. So it’s basically out of the control of the U.S. government. Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy announced June 11 that hosting programs may resume in some cases but will not apply to children who are considered orphans. “Adoptions are not possible at this time, and it can be extremely difficult in circumstances like the current conflict in Ukraine to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for intercountry adoption and immigration under U.S. laws,” a State Department spokesperson said.US NONPROFIT DRIVING ESSENTIALS TO UKRAINE REFUGEES AT ROMANIA BORDERBradshaw continuously reminds public officials she understands adoptions are not possible now. She just wants to bring Katya to the U.S. for temporary shelter while Ukraine is still ravaged by Russia’s war.Children like Katya who travel to the United States for hosting programs do so with the Ukrainian government’s authorization and on a U.S. non-immigrant visa that is valid for only one entry to the United States and only during the narrow date range of the program, according to the State Department. A child needs a new non-immigrant visa to travel to the U.S. again.The Bradshaws and other families want to provide temporary respite and remove children from harsh living conditions across Europe.”We all say we want to be able to shelter these children in our homes, have them shelter with loving families instead of sheltering in dismal conditions across Europe,” Bradshaw said.Kelly Dempsey, an attorney who represents some families, told Fox News Digital, “The answers we get are adoption is not possible at this time.” “We believe that these families represent the single best tool of child protection available to these children and are advocating for the U.S. government to engage with Ukraine authorities to authorize the children to come to the U.S. temporarily while Ukraine is defending itself from Russia’s invasion and under martial law,” Dempsey added.
The Bradshaw family meet Katya for the first time at Dulles Airport last December. (Courtesy: The Bradshaw Family.)
Dempsey has two specific requests for the U.S. government.”Formally and specifically invite the children to the United States for respite care in the homes of U.S. families who know and love these children through the issuance of tourist visas,” she said. “And advocate and encourage Ukraine to authorize the children to be released to travel to the U.S. on tourist visas.”CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPDespite the pressure campaign in Congress, trepidation also remains among various international organizations. Save the Children, an organization that provides humanitarian aid to children in crisis and conflict zones and has a team on the ground in Ukraine, has also expressed concern over the risks of international adoptions during mass waves of refugees even though many of those looking to adopt children impacted by the crisis are well-meaning, the organization told Fox News Digital.Significant roadblocks remain ahead, but Bradshaw and other families are steadfast in their efforts to provide a loving home for Ukrainian children displaced by Putin’s war of aggression.

Mojtaba Sadira

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