Visit To Ukraine Orphanage Soul Changing

WEYBURN, Canada -- Debra Button is waiting for a sign, something that will point her in the right direction and tell her what she is supposed to do.

Mayor Debra Button

Uncertainty is uncomfortable for this accomplished woman.

She’s sat on Weyburn’s city council since 1997 and is in her seventh year as mayor.

She was recently elected the first female president of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and is a representative to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“I always have a plan,” she said.

However, she had none when she walked out of the first orphanage she visited while on federation business in Ukraine in 2010 and left all the children behind.

She has returned to the country’s orphanages twice since then, and each time it hits her hard.

On her last trip in March, she hardly slept the first several nights because of the tears.

“Those children have definitely touched my heart,” she said.

But what to do about it?

“I’ve been put on this path for a reason, but I haven’t figured out what it is yet,” she said.

It took Button and her husband 25 years to put together their own family.

In vitro fertilization treatments didn’t work.

They became foster parents, and have adopted four children who are now four to eighteen years old and include a biological brother and sister. 

The fourth adoption is expected to be final by July, when the four-year-old, who has been with them since he was two days old, officially becomes their own.

Foster homes exist in Ukraine and domestic adoptions are possible.

In 2007, the country launched a national adoption program called Take a Child Into Your Home.

An estimated 2.5 million Ukrainian families were believed to be unable to have children of their own. 

However, it takes three to four years for a child to become officially eligible for adoption.

Button said the most adoptable age is about three years old, which leaves many children in hundreds of orphanages.

International adoption is available, but only after the children are five.

In February, Ukraine’s minister of social policy, Natalia Korolevskaya, said foreigners had adopted 806 children in 2012.

There are widely varying estimates of how many children live in care.

UNICEF estimated that 94,383 children lived in institutions in 2011.

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in Washington, D.C., cited numbers from the Ukrainian president’s annual report in 2006 that about 103,000 children lived in orphanages and baby homes.

Only 9,000 are actually biological orphans.

Most are called social orphans.

The foundation said many of these children have bleak futures once they leave institutional living.

About 80 percent end up in prisons.

Button said it’s difficult to think of the babies and young children she has met ending up on the street.

In March, she visited an orphanage in Vinnytsia where 120 children younger than five lived.

She met with the city’s mayor, who she said understood her concern about the children’s futures.

Two families in Weyburn are working to bring over Ukrainian children, and Button takes donations with her when she travels to Ukraine.

She said the trips to the orphanages have been soul changing.

“That those kids should grow up without the love of a family is wrong to me,” she said. 

“People say, ‘you can’t save the world.’ Who said?”

Source: The Western Producer