Monday, August 15, 2011
Altynai's Legacy Adoption Fund
My blog has been silent for 17 months. My silence was because of sadness, frustration and guilt. Silence because I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening to the precious child that I had fallen in love with. Silence because I couldn’t get her home. Silence because I couldn’t make her well. Silence because of my heartbreak. Now I need to share my story and Altynai’s story. I also want to share the story of the other orphans that are currently waiting in Kyrgyzstan to have their adoptions finalized and the stories of the families that have remained committed to these children over the last three years. Lastly, I am asking for your support, in the form of prayers and if you are so led, a donation to Altynai’s Legacy Adoption Fund and I will tell you more about that later.
The following is the letter that I wrote the day that I learned that Altynai has passed away.
What happens when an orphan dies? Who comforts them in their last minutes? Who holds them when they take their last breath? Who pays respects to them after they are gone? How are you supposed to feel if you had hopes and dreams for that orphan?
We traveled to Kyrgyzstan, met and fell in love with Addison ( Altynai ) when she was 3 months old. She was tiny, quiet and absolutely precious. She had dark brown eyes and the sweetest little pink lips. We were awestruck! When we left her at the orphanage at the end of our bonding visit, we were told to expect her home within 2-3 months. Unfortunately, that was the last time that we would be with her. With in a month of leaving her, she had her first significant illness and a month after that they canceled the court date that would have finalized her adoption. Almost two years to the day of that dreadful news, we were notified that she had died and still the Kyrgyz government is not processing adoptions.
At 8 months of age, Addison finally looked like she had recovered from her illness. She was growing, alert, interactive and smiling. Oddly though, her head circumference was increasing rapidly but so was her weight and height so we assumed that her little body was making up for lost time. Unfortunately, months went by without updates and with the next set of measurements, it was obvious that she had hydrocephalus. I panicked because without emergent surgical care, the pressure on her brain would continue to rise and she would develop permanent brain injury and ultimately die. And still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
Over the next 2 months and with the help of some amazing missionaries, we were able to get Addison her first surgery to remove the extra fluid from around her brain. She was 13 months old. Again, months went by without updates, only to learn that she had yet, another severe illness. We were told that her vision and hearing had been affected and at 16 months of age, she was now only able to lift her head. Her development had ceased and still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
At that time, due to Addison’s worsening severe disabilities and the complex needs of our current family, my husband and I came to the gut wrenching decision that we would not be able to complete her adoption. That was not a decision that was taken lightly; in fact, it was the hardest decision of our marriage and one that still plagues me. I vowed that I would continue to advocate for her and that if her country re-opened adoptions, that I would work tirelessly to try to find an adoptive family that would be able to accommodate her special needs. Yet, months went by and still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
When Addison was 22 months old, some prospective parents went on an advocacy trip on behalf of the sixty-five pending adoptions. Addison’s story was told at many governmental meetings. Their delays had cost her dearly. She had lost so much! They were reminded that if her adoption had been completed, as promised, that she would have had the best medical care available. Addison would not be alone; she would have a loving family that would have been forever at her side. She would have been someone’s daughter and we would have done anything for her! And still the Kyrgyz government was not processing adoptions.
Time continued to pass and her initial surgery failed and the pressure, once again, was building on her brain. The missionaries provided another surgery but within a month of returning to her orphanage, she died. August 9, 2010 was the day she breathed her last breath. She was just one day shy of being 29 months old. I have been told that she did not die alone. She was in the arms of her massage mother and has been laid to rest at a cemetery near her orphanage; the only home she ever knew. And still the Kyrgyzstan government is not processing adoptions.
I know how I feel today. I feel incredibly angry with her government, guilty that I couldn’t have done more for her and sad beyond belief. I know that she is no longer suffering and I find peace knowing that she is in our Lord’s loving arms. Sadly, her tragedy could have been avoided if her adoption had been finalized. Addison will forever have a special place in my heart and I will never be the same having walked this road with her. She suffered the ultimate loss and I pray that her story, and many others like hers will motivate governments and individuals to help the orphans of our world.
I love you Addison.
Suzanne Bilyeu, MD
It was a year ago on August 9th that Altynai died and I am marking this anniversary with the announcement of Altynai’s Legacy Adoption Fund. The fund is named in her honor but created to provide financial assistance to those families that are still waiting to bring home orphans from Kyrgyzstan. Over the years, I have continued to follow along with the amazing families that have been fighting tirelessly with our government and the Kyrgyz government to complete the adoptions that were started over three years ago. These children live in Altynai’s orphanage and other orphanages throughout Kyrgyzstan. Some have serious medical conditions and now they all have special emotional and developmental needs due the fact that they have not been raised in loving families. All of them have been deprived of the love, attention and security that only a family can provide and they ALL have the most amazing families waiting for them. Families who due to their unwavering love have never walked away, families who have planned birthday parties from afar and families who have done everything in their power to motivate the authorities to do the right thing and give these children loving homes. Although, I can no longer fight for Altynai my desire to help her fellow orphans has not diminished. In April, when President Otunbayeva lifted the moratorium, and several families indicated concerns that they would not have the funds to complete their adoption, my heart ached. The thought that even one of them would not be able to complete their adoptions due to financial constraints was simply unacceptable to me. That is were my fund raising dreams started. My wish was two fold. First, I needed to establish a way that friends and families of a specific waiting child could make tax deductible, targeted donations. Second, I wanted to start a general fund where money could be raised and then distributed to those families with the most financial need.
So after much research, prayer and a serendipitous phone call, I have partnered with Lifesong for Orphans and Altynai’s Legacy Adoption Fund was created. Although they typically set up and manage adoption funds for churches, they were so moved by my request and the perseverance of the waiting families that they agreed to help me create a private fund to help bring these little ones home. 100% of the money that is raised for Altynai’s fund will be distributed in the form of matching grants or interest free loans to those waiting families who qualify. Any money that goes unused, because of either excess funds or because the worst happens, and these children’s adoption are never completed, will go to fund other adoptions via Lifesong. My family and I have been blessed a son, Drew, through a successful domestic adoption so adoptions of any type are near and dear to my heart.
All donations received will be tax deductible and can be designated to go to a specific waiting family/orphan (once their applications are submitted to Lifesong) or to Altynai’s general fund. Donations to the general fund will be given out in the form of interest free loans or matching grants, depending on the waiting family’s need. Donations can be sent directly to Lifesong for Orphans (www.Lifesongfororphans.org ) or through the PayPal link on this blog. If you use PayPal please know that there will be a 2-3% convenience fee assessed. If you have any specific questions for me I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, my life has forever been changed by my own adoption journey. One journey filled with shear heartbreak and one filled with shear joy. I truly believe that I have been placed on this path for a specific reason and that God still needs me to be involved with the families and orphans that I have come to love. I have always known that Altynai’s short life would touch many people’s hearts and now I hope that her lasting legacy will be to help other children have the loving, caring forever family that she was denied. Whether it is the Kyrgyz children we have been waiting for years to come home or children who will blessed with a forever family through adoption in the future, I find tremendous joy in knowing that there will be children thriving in families that they would not have had otherwise.
Lastly, please pray for the health of these children, pray for the government officials that need the courage to do the right thing and pray that the waiting parents may find peace and perseverance during the remaining battle. Lastly please help me share Altynai’s story, the stories of the waiting families and the goal of Altynai’s Legacy Adoption Fund.
Over the next several posts, I hope to share the stories of some of the waiting families and will update everyone on how the fund raising is going. Hopefully, in the near future I will also have the website that I have been working on completed.