Visiting Lalibela

Visiting Lalibela

Monday, July 16, 2012

My thoughts on the Ranch for Kids

Recently, there have been several news organizations covering a Russian delegation's attempt to enter the Ranch for Kids in Eureka, Montana. Joyce Sterkel, the Director of the Ranch, has denied them access. (GO JOYCE!)  Their request for access stems from a treaty the U.S. (under Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State) signed with Russia to help monitor children adopted from Russia who enter the U.S. If you have read some of the articles, you will see that the Russian delegation is calling the Ranch, " a trash can for unwanted children." They complain that the kids are isolated from others and don't receive adequate schooling. (The isolation is breath of fresh air for kids who are completely overstimulated but the American way of life. I've been to the school and it is well run. Our child went there not reading and now reads at a third grade level- pretty impressive)

 As a parent who has adopted from Ethiopia, I have to fill out paperwork every year on the anniversary of their entrance into the U.S. so the Ethiopian Government can follow the outcomes of the children here. I'm ok with that. I'm ok with governments showing concern for their former citizens, in an effort to fix a problems in their system that may affect other children. What I'm not ok with is a foreign government insinuating that people like the Sterkel Family are doing anything wrong.

 We have a child who was at the Ranch for Kids for 8 months. It was the toughest decision we ever had to make but one we thank God for daily. With their help, we were able to go from a place of desperation to a place of hope. Without their help, I'm not sure we would still have 9 children in our home. You see, parenting a child with severe reactive attachment disorder is TOUGH. It's the toughest thing we have ever faced as parents. The more you love the child and the safer the child feels, the more they PUSH you away. We had read every article we could to prepare for parenting a child with RAD. We'd been foster parents and adopted several times before. NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING could have prepared us for the what we experienced. I won't go into the details of that child's spiral but suffice it to say, we fully understood why some families choose to disrupt their adoptions, especially when one child makes it unsafe for other children to be in the home.

 I can guarantee no one goes in to adoption thinking it won't be forever. I don't think there's an adoptive parent anywhere who would go through the hoops, trainings, paperwork, and expense to just "dump" a child when they become a little difficult. When a parent reaches out to Joyce and her family, they are desperate. This is why the Ranch is so vitally important. It's all they do- and they do it so well.

 Before I write more of my feelings, please hear the words of our child. The only thing I have changed is the word child so as to give our child a bit of privacy.

 "Hi. I am a child that used to be at the Ranch for Kids. I learned so many stuff. They talk about Jesus. They tell kids that their families love them and then they let kids go to their families because they have learned to be nice to their families again. And I was not nice. And I am with my family and it is a good place. I was safe there. They teach so many stuff. Kids learn about Jesus and they go to be with their families. The people that work there are nice. They don't hurt kids. When I was there the first time they made me feel safe there. When I was not at the Ranch (before going) I used to hurt my sister and hurt my mom and now I don't do it."

 The problem isn't with the Ranch nor with allowing international adoptions. The problems start the minute a child is orphaned. It compounds as that child grows without attaching to a consistent care-giver, especially if that child is under the age of 5 when orphaned. It compounds when children are left in cribs day and night in an orphanage (this happens all over the world, especially in Eastern European countries), or when they are left to fend for themselves on the streets. It compounds when little girls are raped in orphanages over run by little boys or by men in their villages who know there isn't a parent around to defend them. It compounds when nannies are too busy to make sure each child is getting the correct nutrition they need to grow and develop. It compounds when alcohol is involved in the pregnancy, as is the case with MANY Russian adoptions.

There aren't enough people to step in the minute a child is orphaned, to fill that role and allow a child to develop attachment. There just aren't enough people ADOPTING or countries allowing ADOPTION. There aren't enough people to come alongside adoptive families and offer them respite. The PROBLEM is that there aren't enough Ranches for Kids!

 The idea that a delegation from a foreign country can come to America and tell us how our organizations should be run is ridiculous but moreover, frightening. How did we get to a place where we allow our sovereignty to be dictated by the very country that won't even adopt their own children or fix the institutions that cause the very behaviors to develop in kids that Joyce is trying to help?

 You may think these are the rantings of a crazy adoption Mom, but this is just the tip of the ice berg. What is next? Is someone from France going to come count my guns? Is someone from Germany (where homeschooling is illegal) going to come into my home and tell me that I am going to go to jail for homeschooling my children? (for those of you not in the homeschooling community, this really does happen.  Parents in other countries go to jail if they won't send their children to public school)  Perhaps a gentlemen from China is going to tell me I can only have one child.

 If any of this resonates with you, please go to and educate yourself. What is happening to Joyce Sterkel and her family and the work they do, can happen to any of us. Please also, pray for the Sterkel Family and all that they do, as well as the kids who are at the Ranch for Kids. We will be forever grateful for their help in our time of desperate need.  Please step up  to be a voice for those who have no voice, the millions of children all over the world who are waiting desperately to have a family.

If you know my kids and think they're as cool as we do, get involved!