Thursday, November 11, 2010

November is National Adoption Awareness Month

“Words, phrases and photos that describe who I am?”

That was the posting of one of our now college-age FRUA teens this morning on FaceBook. Friends began to respond with wonderful words and appreciation for this most wonderful teen. We're “friends” so I can share this with you. She and my daughter, who come from the same orphanage, call each other their oldest, best friends. I'm not sure if she remembers that November is National Adoption Awareness Month, but I do.

I consider this post another sign of the positive attitudes and amazing success of so many of our FRUA teens; many of whom have overcome great physical and emotional challenges to become who they are today. The road, for them and for their parents, has not necessarily been easy. But the rewards are life-long and arise not just from the wonderful moments of the journey, but the painful ones as well.

Over the years, I have often been asked odd questions about our decision to parent a child not biologically ours, but never-the-less completely connected to the heart and the soul of our family. For us it was a decision rooted in mysticism and motivated by a fairly unique situation. No need to go in to that here. But it was also firmly based on our conscious, social choice to value a child already IN this world.

It's as simple as that. I believe, as we in FRUA have so strongly asserted, that all children in this world have a right to grow up in a family that loves and values them and tries to get them the help they need to be the most successful they can be. It is heartening to know that our government and the governments of so many nations believe that too. While barriers remain, we look forward to a time when all involved in adoption focus on what is best for the children. It is not wrong to remind ourselves of the over-used “They are our future.” They are.

Today – hug your kids – and help them find the words, with you, to tell others about what adoption has meant for you, for them, and for your family. This month, in your regional FRUA chapters, do something as simple as get together for an Adoption Appreciation Coffee and just share your thoughts with each other. Together, we can all do these simple thing to raise awareness of the power of adoption to change our world.

Jan Johnson Wondra
Vice Chair
National board of Directors
Familes for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How far we've come

I got to spend Mother's Day with my daughter. That hasn't happened in three years.

Two years ago I flew home on crutches (having just broken my leg in two places and ripped up my shoulder) to spend what turned out to be my Mother's last Mother's Day with her. Last year I spent Mother's Day with my son in Iowa, going to my future daughter-in-law's college graduation and helping move her out of her college apartment.

To spend Mother's Day with my daughter, we drove to Colorado State University, where Katie is finishing her freshman year, helped load much of her dorm room into our Jeep and went to lunch. Just as we finished, my cell phone rang. It was our son and new daughter-in-law, calling from the Republic of Georgia where Nic is doing Fulbright Scholar research.

This day was not a sure thing 15--nearly 16--years ago. I don't know what I expected, but it surely wasn't this wonderful future. In fact, the only thing I did know was that I was supposed to be her Mother.

In hind sight, I didn't know then what I didn't know. I knew how to be a mother; our bio son was seven when we three left for Russia. But I didn't know how to parent a tiny girl who had been relinquished at birth, suffered life-threatening illness, a hospital stay of 16 months, followed by a year and a half in an orphanage and hip casts that were left on for more than a year. Too long, as we later learned. All I knew was that the same dream kept waking me up at night. The one where a little girl in green was running toward me calling “Mama, Mama, Mama....” She always disappeared before she reached my arms and I would wake up. The day we adopted her in 1994, our small son swung open the playground gate in the dirt courtyard of the Baby House, and she ran toward me. And the dream happened. On that day, crying out “Mama, Mama, Mama...” she reached my arms. And yes – she was dressed in green.

I thought about that as I sat next to her eating my Veal Marsala last Sunday. Listening to her talk, she worried about final exams and enthused about her summer swim-coaching job and living in the sorority house next year. I realized that she has become a whole and healthy person. As much as I knew she was meant to be ours, we had all the early trauma issues to work through, the developmental delays, the back-tracking to do every single emotional and developmental hurtle. We had the attachment issues, the comprehension skill gaps. We had the middle school identity crisis, including experimentation with cutting and traumatic friend crises. Then in high school, just when we thought she was flying, doing well in classes and swimming varsity, we learned the awful truth about her hips. So began the past two and a half years of major hip reconstruction surgery and therapy. And she is flying again.

Looking back, we were incredibly na├»ve and untrained. Adoption in Russia had not been open that long – and closed for several months the day after we adopted her, for some much-needed logistical organization. FRUA didn't exist until three weeks after we arrived home. To use Katie's favorite word, which she learned to spell when she was only five, we practiced perseverance. We never gave up on her and she never gave up either; even though her trying sometimes looked like the opposite of the word. We grew as FRUA grew and the support of other adoptive families, who understood this adoptive parent experience, has been priceless.

I love my daughter--completely. Forever. And I am eternally grateful that her 17-year-old birth mother was brave enough in 1991 to give her up to get the medical care she needed, so she could walk, swim – and fly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What does More Hope...More Help...More Community look like?

It looks like you – as a new or renewing member in FRUA! This month marks the launch of the first, official membership drive that FRUA has ever held. We're excited about the special offers we've developed - one for renewing members and another for new/non-members - coordinated with our affiliate partner, Tapestry Books.

This means that in addition to all the benefits you receive as members, now you'll receive a thank you gift just for joining FRUA or renewing/extending your membership another year. There's one special gift for renewing members, and another for folks who are brand new to FRUA. To qualify for these offers, you have to join or renew online. So just click the links below and you'll get right where you need to go to



Membership Means More Hope, More Help, More Community

There are so many benefits of belonging to FRUA, but most of all you'll gain community with families formed through adoption in Eastern European and central Asian countries. Here are two benefits you may not know about:

You'll get discounted prices to both local events and national programs, like the FRUA National Education Conference, held October 15-16 this year in Philadelphia. It can gives you front-line access to internationally known experts working with and developing therapies for our children.

Your membership includes receiving The Family Focus©, our award-winning, quarterly journal that includes profiles of geographic regions, medical and developmental information from professional sources, parenting news, book and movie reviews, news of FRUA’s orphanage support activities, cultural connections: food, holidays, traditions, regional chapter news, and many other resources.

So welcome to FRUA -- or welcome back – this is where hope, help and community can be yours.

Sue Gainor
FRUA National board of Directors

P.S Do join or renew right now. These offers are only good through April 30th and are good only online. We don't want you to miss out!

©2010 Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Extending Hope, Help and Community to Adoptive Families


If you're reading this, you've probably already discovered that FRUA has a lot going on these days! From regional chapter activities to national orphanage support projects, to the FRUA Scholarship and expanding support for our teens, FRUA is on the move.

Having launched our new website at the dawn of 2010, this blog initiates a closer dialog between national leadership and you - our membership! While our organizational structure includes regional chapter leadership, FRUA's new focus on community means that we at the national level will be working harder than ever to understand your needs and to find and develop resources to help FRUA families. Over time, you'll hear from each of us on the national board as we talk about the various committees and projects on which we work.

For those who have simply discovered this blog, or just typed in , the initials “F-R-U-A” stand for Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption and, as we are so careful to add, that includes neighboring countries. We were born as a 501(c)(3) parent support group in 1994, the year that adoptions in the former Soviet bloc countries began to take off. Within two weeks of beginning as a group in the DC area, we added our first regional chapter. Nearly 16 years later, we are members of the Joint Council on International Adoption Services, new chapters continue to form, your all-volunteer, national leadership is geographically dispersed throughout North America, and our website receives traffic from 84 countries around the world.

While our trusty FRUA Chatroom continues to be extremely popular, new avenues of electronic communication are opening. The FRUA FaceBook page, launched this past winter, provides adults a place to discuss their needs and post chapter or local events. Our new FRUA Teen FaceBook (strictly for our FRUA teens) allows them to share experiences as they process their own identities and meet their challenges. As always, our excellent membership journal, The Family Focus, continues to be mailed quarterly to FRUA members.

Many more exciting things are yet to come as the year progresses. We invite you to explore the new website, join in the FaceBook conversations, and send us your thoughts and suggestions on ways we can help your family and your chapters.

Of FRUA members – we ask two things. First, get involved at your chapter level. FRUA works because our volunteers work. You'll make life-long connections that will bring you help and hope and make you a part of community. Second, if you know people who have adopted in Russia, or Moldova, or Kazakhstan or other former Soviet bloc countries -- and they aren't FRUA members -- invite them to JOIN FRUA NOW! Membership is important because without the small membership dues, our family resource work and FRUA's orphanage support work cannot happen!

Jan Johnson Wondra
Vice Chair
FRUA National Board of Directors

©2010 Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption