Two and a half years ago, my husband, Greg, and I began praying for God to do whatever he wanted with our lives. We handed him a “blank check” so to speak, and told him to cash it. Adoption became something that he was showing us he wanted for our family. We began to pray about adopting a child with special needs. Greg and I have a lot of experience with children who have special needs. It seemed like a natural fit for our family. As we prayed, God opened our eyes to children with disabilities wasting away in orphanages across the ocean in Eastern Europe. We joined God and started our adoption journey of a child with Down syndrome.
We made an inquiry to an international adoption advocacy group for children with special needs. When they sent us a link with profiles of waiting children, we were completely overwhelmed as we waded through the hundreds of faces. We narrowed it down to three little boys but we felt like by choosing one, we were rejecting all of the others. We finally decided to let our biological son, Clayton, who was three at the time, make the choice for us. He kept looking at a picture of a little boy named Sergey from Russia. We committed to adopt Sergey and started our adoption journey.
Eight months later, as we neared the finish line of our adoption, one of Sergey’s family members in Russia stepped forward to adopt him. We were devastated when we received the news that the child we had planned to bring into our family was no longer available for adoption. We grieved hard. Although heartbroken for our own loss, but God showed us that we were following him, and his ways are perfect. We knew we still wanted to adopt. So the way we saw it, two children would find homes because of our journey…Sergey went to a member of his biological family and now we would choose another child to come into our family. We took great comfort in knowing that God could see this when we first committed to Sergey! We were honored to be a part of his plan.
Shortly after losing Sergey, we received a new referral with a grainy photo of a four-year-old blond-haired boy wearing pink glasses named Kirill. We were more guarded with our emotions this time, but we had no doubts that we should commit to this child. We had to re-file a lot of our paperwork because of the change in referrals and regions of Russia, but we were fast and we thought we were looking at three more months at the most until we would have Kirill home.
Then another piece of devastating news arrived from our adoption agency: a tragic story of an adoptive mother sending her child back to his country alone on a plane with a note pinned to his shirt had hit the media…and the child was from Russia. We were told this was not good and that our adoption could be delayed indefinitely. Adoptions in Russia came to a screeching halt. Kirill’s region stopped processing adoptions for eight long months. The judge refused to accept any Amercian adoption cases until an official treaty was signed between the United States and Russia.
Even though we wouldn’t be able to finalize the adoption in court until the treaty was signed, we were allowed to go visit Kirill and sign our official petition to adopt him in August 2010. We fell in love with him during our visits. This was our son.
During that time, we were told by our in-country facilitator that Kirill would be the first child from his region EVER to be adopted with Down Syndrome. A birth mother keeping her child with Down Syndrome is unheard of in this area of the world. Adoptions of children with Down Syndrome just don’t happen there, these children are literally hidden away from society in orphanages and mental institutions. As our process continued, it became apparent that Kirill would be a pioneer. If our adoption was approved, it would pave the way for other children with special needs to be adopted from this region.
Then, a miracle happened around Christmas and the judge in this region suddenly changed her mind and began processing American adoptions again. We were elated. Could this be the light at the end of a very long tunnel? I was somewhat nervous about Kirill being the first child adopted with Down Syndrome from his region, but our agency was very confident that if we got a court date, our adoption would be approved. We were told not to worry, so we didn’t. We were finally granted a court date-March 17, 2011. St. Patrick’s Day…a lucky day! Our son was coming home!
March 17th arrived, and as we sat in the courtroom and suffered through five agonizing hours of difficult questioning, we were not prepared for anything but an approval of our case by the judge. Two doctors, two social workers, and the Minister of Children’s Services all made very strong statements on our behalf. They fought for us. Hard.
But when the ruling was read, the judge said, “Your application to adopt is rejected.” The basis given was that Kirill was “not socially adaptable” due to his “medical condition” and he was better off in an institution than in a home with a family. As the judge read her ruling, she stated several times that we were a good family, that we met all the criteria to adopt a child, but that she would not approve our adoption because Kirill had Down Syndrome and his “level of backwardness” made him unfit for any family. She told us that we could adopt another child, because legally our application had no problems according to Russian adoption law. She said she would approve our adoption for a “typical” child, but not this child. Why? The only reason? Because he has Down Syndrome. Even though we were approved by our home study agency and by the USCIS to adopt a child with special needs. It made no sense whatsoever. Denying a child a family because he has Down Syndrome is a violation of human rights at its most basic level!
The next two months would be the most agonizing of our lives. I had to take a medical leave of absence from work because of my emotional state. I ate very little and slept even less. But God was working and helping me get a lot of the ugly out of my own life. If there’s one universal truth about adoption, it is this: adoption will show you the heart of God. Only through our adoption journey were we shown the meaning of the words “hope” and “trust”. We had to recognize God’s sovereignty over creation; if he was sovereign over the world, wasn’t he sovereign over our adoption? If we claimed this truth, we had to trust him. We could not write Kirill’s story; Kirill’s story was God’s to write and our only job was to follow Christ and continue to pursue his heart. During that time, I wrote these words on our adoption blog:
“I wallow, I cry, I hide under the covers, I beg God to take the pain away, to work a miracle, to bring Kirill home. And I hear his voice saying, “I love Kirill more than you. I know your pain. I see your suffering. Trust me. Seek me. Listen to me. And know that I AM GOD…and you are not.” Then I get up, thank God, and ask him for what I need to make it through the next day, hour, or minute. And you know what? He always gives me just enough. And really, what else can we ask for?”
Finally we got a telegram (I didn’t even know those still existed) with our Supreme Court date to appeal our regional judge’s decision. May 24, 2011, we stood before a panel of three Supreme Court judges and argued our case. We were told prior to our hearing to expect the worst. The best case scenario was that they would allow us another hearing with a different judge in our region, but that they would not overturn our original judge’s ruling. That meant we would have to wait for yet another court date.
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But God is still a God of miracles. As the prosecutor in our hearing stood and read his opinion, that we should not be allowed to adopt Kirill, my heart sank. I just knew it was the end for our hopes of Kirill becoming a part of our family. Then a miracle happened: the head judge stood up and read his ruling. “the decision of the regional judge is OVERTURNED by the Supreme Court of Russia”. I didn’t hear much after that except that Kirill’s name was legally changed to “Gregory Kirill Davis”. I was too overwhelmed with emotions as I thanked God and started hugging everyone in the courtroom. We had been told to keep our composure because the Russian Supreme Court was very formal and serious; emotional outbursts would be perceived as weakness and we couldn’t show our feelings. That went out the window when the ruling was read and we celebrated in a flurry of tears and thanks to God for the miracle he had just performed.
We have been home almost five months with our son. I still get overwhelmed with emotions when I think about the miracle God performed. I’m so thankful we let God write the story. It’s so much better than anything we could have dreamed up on our own!
Note From Susan Michelle Tyrrell, editor of Bound4Life’s blog where this originally appeared: This piece was written by an adoptive mother whose family adopted a boy from Russia and is praying for and grieving with the many parents who are pursuing Russian adoption when Russian president Vladimir Putin recently signed a controversial law that bans adoption of Russian children by Americans. Tesney Davis wrote this piece for a local family magazine in her Tuscaloosa, AL home and shared it with us. We must remember that while news reports of laws and regulations, real families, real children like the Davis’s son Kirill hang in the balance. You may remember this story from March 2011, where we couldn’t use Tesney’s name because Kirill wasn’t yet theirs. Now he is, and we continue to pray for the many children who were in the process of being adopted by Americans, as well as the many who might be. And we must pray fervently for the heart of President Putin to change. Here’s Tesney’s story.