Kentucky mom travels to Ukraine after war halts adoption
FORT THOMAS, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky mother of six adopted children from Ukraine has been in that country for the past month, trying to bring home a seventh.
Colleen Thompson and her husband David were in the process of adopting a teenager named Maure when Russia attacked Ukraine, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Colleen Thompson felt compelled to travel to Ukraine to try to get Maure out, even though the U.S. State Department has warned Americans to depart the country immediately.
Maure is one of about 300 Ukrainian orphans who were in the process of being adopted by an American family when the attacks began, according to a congressional letter asking the U.S. State Department for help.
The State Department referred The Enquirer to information on its website, which says that children without a final adoption or guardianship order generally aren’t eligible for a visa. Visa eligibility is determined by U.S. immigration law, and officials aren’t able to make exceptions, the website says.
“We understand how difficult this situation is for families pursuing parenthood through adoption in Ukraine,” the State Department’s statement read.
Colleen and David Thompson, of Fort Thomas, are parents to eight children in all. They began the process of adopting Maure more than two years ago, but the adoption was delayed because of COVID-19. They were scheduled to finalize it in March. Now Ukraine has stopped processing adoptions.
Maure turned 18 two days before the Russian attack began on Feb. 24. When Thompson flew to Europe on March 3, she hoped to help Maure and others who had turned 18 to cross the border to Poland. Nearly a month later they are all still in Ukraine.
Maure and the other children have been evacuated from their orphanage in Donetsk to one in Lviv, near the Polish border. Although Thompson is in the same city, she’s still separated from Maure because the orphanage won’t release her.
Children may go to neighboring countries with their legal guardians, but those are usually the orphanage directors, according to the State Department.
Judy Williams, of Maryland-based Global Adoption Services, said there are several reasons Ukrainian adoptions aren’t moving forward right now. Families have been displaced, so it’s hard to prove that a child is an orphan. Also some orphans have been moved to safer locations but not have the necessary paperwork with them to facilitate the adoption.
Thompson said she felt helpless trying to help Maure from 5,000 miles (about 8,047 kilometers) away.
“While it was scary to travel to the country at war, it was much scarier to be an ocean away from our child,” Thompson said.