The ones left behind

This past week, a couple who have become close friends of ours during this long up-and-down adoption process finally arrived in Shanti’s birth city and met their beautiful daughter, a precious girl who also happens to be Shanti’s best friend. Every day this week, Shanti has counted down the minutes until we get an email update from the mother, an update that includes news of how her friend is faring after their two long months apart.

The family’s first day in her birth city, Shanti asked every five minutes all morning whether it was time to Skype yet. Her friend’s adoption is all Shanti can talk about, all she can think about. We Skyped with Shanti’s friend twice over the weekend. (Hooray for modern technology!) We’ve also spent hours this week making videos to be shown to her friend, including a 15-minute tour of every detail of our house (which had to be completely done three times because the first two times “weren’t quite right”! lol). Making the videos has been an absolute riot. Shanti has an awesome sense of humor and is such a firecracker! I can tell you right now that some of these outtakes are definitely going to be excerpted for her wedding slideshow, when that time comes. ;)

Shanti’s joy for her friend is complete and pure, and her jubilation is made only better by the fact that the upcoming adoption means Shanti will be able to see her friend in just a few short months. But that is far from the only emotion running strong in our family this week. Every tidbit of news we receive about Shanti’s precious friend, who will soon no longer bear the title of “orphan,” reminds us of the ones left behind, the ones who don’t have a loving mama and papa tearing down every wall and shredding every bit of red tape to bring them home. My heart is aching for the ones who will, yet again, be left behind.

Shanti’s orphanage cares for approximately 40-60 children. Shanti’s group included 14 children (not counting Shanti). Not all of the children at this orphanage are available for adoption, let alone eligible for international adoption. Some of the ones who are available don’t want to be adopted. While this choice is sad from our perspective, for we know how much a family can help and support a child, it is their right to choose not to be adopted.

But for every child who doesn’t want to be adopted, there are many other children desperate for the love and security of a forever home, longing for someone to call mama and papa. Some of these children have already been chosen by families and have parents tirelessly working to bring them home, but statistically, most of these children will not be adopted. They will instead age out of the orphanage at age 16, never knowing the love of a mom and dad. (Age 16 is when children must leave Shanti’s orphanage, but the exact age is slightly different for every orphanage in her country. Some kick children out as young as 14, others allow them to stay until age 18. For articles that explain in more detail what faces children who age out of the orphanage in Shanti’s birth country, see here and here.)

The children from Shanti’s orphanage have it better than most, for they come from an institution that truly cares for its children, unlike many orphanages in this country. They have the added benefit of support from several missionary organizations that are active in the orphanage. While we were in Shanti’s birth city, we met several kids (for they were all still kids) who “graduated” from her orphanage, and it was clear that the church had become their family, as is right and fitting. These kids were doing well, and for them, the church fulfilled the role to which it has been called: becoming father to the fatherless. But there aren’t enough missionaries in this city, not even in all of Shanti’s birth country, to fulfill this role for every orphan who ages out. Without the support of a mother and father — a family – focused specifically on each child, children inevitably fall through the cracks.

The thought that any one of the 14 children remaining in Shanti’s group might be one of those kids, one of the ones who falls through the cracks, is almost too much to bear. It haunts me. These kids are too precious, too special. I can’t bear the thought that they might become a sad statistic. They have so much potential.

While we were at her orphanage, we were given almost unprecedented access to Shanti’s groupmates. We met Shanti each day in her group room, meaning every day we met not just Shanti but all of the children in her group. You can’t spend 3 hours a day (sometimes more) every day for six weeks with a group of 15 children without getting to know each of those children pretty well. I can honestly say know these kids. I know what they look like when they’re happy and how they react when they’re sad. I know what homework subjects they like and don’t like, who’s good and math and who loves reading. I know their favorite games, their favorite TV shows and cartoon characters, who likes whom, and what their favorite activities are. When we took custody of Shanti, I knew each of the children in her group just as well as I knew her, for we had spent the same amount of time with every child in her group as we did with her.


Some of Shanti’s friends are also among the blessed group of “chosen” children who have families coming for them. One little boy begged us every day for six weeks to find him an American family. Every time Shanti has spoken to him or received a message from him since we left the orphanage, he has begged her yet again to find him a family. He even wrote her a note before she left pleading with her to not forget him once she came to America, to not forget how much he wants a mama and a papa.

He doesn’t know the good news yet, but he will soon. He’s got an America mama and papa jumping the adoption hurdles for him right now, and he’s got three siblings who can’t wait for him to come home.

Jude-2-249x300Visit the Jupin Family’s adoption page here.

Several other children from Shanti’s group have a family coming for them next week. This family is hoping to adopt 4 children: 2 from Shanti’s group, 1 from an older group, and 1 from another orphanage.

Another darling, special little boy, whom we first saw in early March of last year (before even committing to adopt Shanti) when we watched a video of Shanti playing with him, has a family coming for him in just a few short months. This little bundle of energy is an excellent dancer, and he has a smile that lights up the room. He loved to play hide and seek with my camera, pretending to pose for a photo only to dash out of sight just as I took the shot. :)  His mama and papa are fighting to bring him home ASAP.

Zach-2-280x300Visit the Haydon Family’s adoption page here.

 But so many, many more children have not been chosen, have not been noticed. Their pleas for a family haunt me. I hugged them. I played with them. I helped them with their homework. I loved them, and I still do love them. They asked me to tell them of their family, of their mama and papa fighting to come get them, but I couldn’t, because no one is fighting for them. Why do they wait while others are selected and pursued? What makes the children I mentioned above worthy of a family, while others are left to wait, hope, and pray?


One of our first days at the orphanage, one of the little boys slipped off with Arturo’s tablet without us even noticing. (He asked if he could use the tablet before taking it, so he wasn’t stealing and he had our permission to use it. But we thought he wanted to play a game. We had no idea what his real intentions were.) He took the tablet to a quiet room, found the camera app, and recorded a 10 second video of himself that reduced me to tears the first time I saw it. He said (in Russian), “I want a family. I want to go to America. Please take me with you. Please take me to America. I want a family. Please.”

Another girl pulled me aside our last day at the orphanage and asked me to find her a family. She has two older brothers, and she does not know if they want to be adopted. But her longing for a family is stronger than her reluctance to leave her brothers. She was visibly sad as she talked to me. She doesn’t like the idea of leaving her brothers behind, but she told me she wants a family, even if her brothers choose not to come.

Please go to this page, the Orphanage 60 page on Reece’s Rainbow. Orphanage 60 (not the orphanage’s real name) was Shanti’s home for four years. These children were her siblings. These are the kids Arturo and I fell in love with, the children Shanti grieves for and longs for. None of the children on this page have a committed family.


This little boy, whose online pseudonym is Murray, is Shanti’s best male friend (мой лучший друг, in Russian; this doesn’t mean boyfriend, nor does it simply mean best friend; it literally means “best male friend”). He is funny, SUPER smart, outgoing, enthusiastic, and just all around amazing. I cannot say enough good things about Murray. Yet not a single family has ever seriously inquired about adopting him. Not one.

Visit Murray’s adoption page here.

Shanti communicated with Murray just this morning, and he told her he wants to be adopted. He wants to come to America. He wants a family. Why has no family chosen him? Why does this incredible little boy, who loves to dance and who helps his groupmates with their homework, still wait?


Another boy, a bit older than Shanti, frequently came into Shanti’s group room to play with the younger kids. Ethan, as he’s known online, is kind and gentle with the younger ones, and he would make an AMAZING older brother. He is so nice, so kind, so polite, but he’s also kinda goofy in an endearing way. This kid is ready for a family.

Visit Ethan’s adoption page here.

I can sort of understand why Ethan is still waiting. He’s older, a dreaded ”teen boy,” the kind of kid no family wants to adopt. But despite his age, Ethan holds out hope and prays that a family will find him. He knows that no family has committed to him, but even so, late last year he chose to undergo medical testing that will make it easier for an American family to adopt him. Every year, he writes a letter to Santa Claus asking for a family. Yet still he waits. Still he is left behind.

Ethan is sweet, helpful, and wants to be adopted. He’s got everything going for him but his age. Surely age alone should not disqualify him from receiving a family’s love, a father’s hugs, a mother’s kisses. He needs a family just as much as every other waiting child. He may be a teen, but he’s still a child longing for the security of a family.


These two boys are just two of many. Several other children from Shanti’s orphanage also asked us to find them families. These kids are most amazing children I’ve ever met, so joyful, so sweet. Why are they still waiting? Why are they the ones left behind?

The last two months, since we’ve had custody of Shanti, haven’t always been easy. There have been some really rough days that I would never want to relive, but even with all that, becoming an adoptive mother is far from the hardest thing I’ve done. Hands down, the hardest thing I’ve ever done or had to do is to leave behind the 14 children I grew to love during those six weeks at the orphanage.

The ones left behind haunt me. May God bless the ones left behind, and bring them a family quickly.

How many more times must they be left behind before a family comes for them? When will they be the ones chosen instead of the ones left behind?

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  1. Heather says:

    Jennifer, I discovered your site about 2 months ago, after seeing a photo and description of Ethan on another site. I see he is now 15. I think about him daily and worry about his future. Such a sweet boy with such a bright smile and eyes. Do you know if there are any transition homes in his area, as an alternative to trade school dorms? I have read that in these homes, teens get a family experience, support, help with college applications, etc. They get a better start to adult life than if they are left on their own in the dorms. They learn life skills such as cooking, managing money. I worry, too, how Ethan will get his medicine if he ages out of the orphanage. I am thankful for the missionaries who are helping these kids when they are expected to become adults overnight.

    • Jennifer says:

      Heather, I will send you an email. I am so glad you have a heart for these children!

      • Heather says:

        Thanks again for your email, Jennifer… I did respond back, but know that you are incredibly busy right now. I was beyond excited and relieved to find out yesterday on the RR site that Ethan has a family! My heart is full in thinking about the bright future and love that he will have. Apparently, Murray has a family committed to him as well. Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers during this exciting yet difficult time. It is a hard road, but you will come through it together.

  2. Debbie says:

    I wanted to let you know that I’ve been praying for families for Murry and Ethan for the past few months (since I saw your post). Is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine impacting these guys at all? Thank you so much for the information on them so I can pray more intelligently for them.

    • Jennifer says:

      Debbie, I am so sorry that I never responded to your comment here. The conflict between R & U is not significantly impacting the region Shanti is from, nor is it impacting adoptions from this region. Many families are still traveling to U for adoptions and successfully completing those adoptions. Two regions of U are currently closed to adoptions due to the fighting, but only those two regions (and Crimea) have been affected in terms of the adoption process. Please continue to pray that families will come for these children!

  3. Phyllis Brown says:

    Hi, Jenn,
    The following is from your dad (after we talked about it together).

    From your dad:
    Thanks for sharing the blog with your concerns for the children.

    It is indeed sad that these precious children don’t have a forever family and may not before they age out of the orphanage.

    You raise a very real and genuine concern. The answer to which is complicated. We want to respond today, just shortly after you posted the blog. (We, as parents, always want to fix any hurt/concern our children have as quick as possible.) As new thoughts come concerning the “left behind,” we will offer them to you.

    First, we are so very proud of you and Arturo for what you have accomplished, for following God’s calling, and for bringing one who might otherwise be left behind into your family and into our larger family. (As you have said, you can’t save the world, but you can save one.)

    One of my problems has been, and still is, how to allocate and prioritize my time, talent, and energy. I see myself as having four areas of responsibility: Christian, husband, father, and business professional. I could easily spend 100% of my time, etc., with each one. But, as you know, that would not be wise. So then, how do I deal with all of these responsibilities/concerns? When I am doing one, is/are the other(s) being short changed?

    With the knowledge that I can only do so much, how can I be satisfied with what I am able to do? Counsel with God (through prayer, Bible, Christian literature and Christian friends) provides solutions and, hopefully, peace with what we do.

    With your concern for the “left behind,” you have already found two of them a forever family. And, as I know you, you will find other families to adopt these precious children.

    In the real world, not all will be adopted. This is where the churches and missionaries come in and why we need to support them.

    We do the best we can. But maybe we should never be quite satisfied, otherwise we may not keep trying to do more.

    Love, Dad

    PS – (From me, not your dad: You can always raise money for more of the children, be an advocate for some of them and find advocates for others. You and your Cincinnati family could continue to raise money through sponsorships of your 5k runs, give concerts, hold more yard sales, etc. More importantly, hold prayer time weekly with others for specific children and hold them up to the Lord in that way.)

    Love, Mom

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