Sunday, December 4, 2011

'Tis the Receive a Free Subscription to Russian Life Magazine for Giving to FRUA's Work Providing Hope, Help and Community.

Your mailbox is overflowing with catalogues, you hear the song “Jingle Bells” everywhere, and the lights on your neighbor’s house are accelerating global warming…yup, the holiday season is here!
Regardless of our individual faith traditions, most Americans celebrate the holiday season with visits to or from families and friends, gifts, food, and parties. Such festivities are often joyous, rewarding, and wonderful! I so enjoy the season’s wonders – I’m no fan of eggnog but I do revel in holiday merriment with family, friends, and colleagues!
It’s also true that the holidays can often be a particularly stressful time of year. The demands on our time, energy, and especially our wallets are sometimes stretched to the brink during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year ’s Day. If your house is anything like mine, you are receiving donation appeals from every imaginable charity and wondering what to do with all those free mailing labels??
We on the FRUA national board know there are many charitable organizations vying for your attention and donations during this season. So we have partnered with Russian Life magazine, (whose publisher, Paul Richardson, is a long-time member of FRUA’s advisory board) to offer you a bonus for donating to FRUA. Anyone who donates $35 or more to FRUA between November 8 and December 31 will receive a one-year free subscription to Russian Life magazine*. That’s right – one free year of excellent articles, Russian news, and gorgeous photography for donating to FRUA! Please visit our web site at and click on the Donate Now button to take advantage of this great offer!
While you are on the FRUA website, please also visit the new offerings in our recently updated web store. We are now selling gorgeous cards depicting pictures drawn by Russian orphans as part of an art rehabilitation program. During the holiday season, we are offering these cards at deep discounts for purchases of 100 or more. These unique cards make terrific gifts for family, friends, teachers, grandparents – and are also great for your own holiday card mailing list! Plus, proceeds from card sales will help fund FRUA programs, events, and orphan support projects.
We hope you will take some time during this holiday season to recognize how FRUA has enriched your life and then donate to FRUA. Remember, your donation will help us meet our promise to provide hope, help, and community to adoptive families.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and merry holiday season!

Sue Gainor
National Board of Directors
Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption

* Current Russian Life subscribers will receive a $5 discount off any book purchase. New subscribers will also get a free copy of “100 Things Everyone Should Know About Russia.” First issue will be the Jan/Feb 2012 issue.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FRUA National Board Meeting Yields Progress Toward Delievering Hope, Help and Community to Adoptive Families

"Each year, the FRUA National Board of Directors holds an annual meeting at the end of FRUA's fiscal year (July 1 - June 30). This is the only time during the year this all-volunteer Board holds an in-person meeting, although we 'meet' via conference call approximately every 6 weeks. In an effort to reach out to as many regional chapters and members as possible, the Board holds this meeting in different locations across the country. This year, we met July 22-23, 2011, in Colorado. Previous recent meeting locations include Columbus, OH, Minneapolis, MN, Arlington, VA, New York City, NY, and San Francisco, CA.

The Board meeting's purpose is to discuss organizational goals and strategies, financial health, membership trends, outreach efforts, and orphan support programs, among other topics. For many years, the Board met for a single day; in 2008, we expanded the meeting to a day and a half to accommodate all the business we had to cover. Starting in 2010, we expanded the meeting to two full days. These are hugely busy, productive, rewarding, and somewhat exhausting meetings! For 9 hours straight each day, we go over every detail of the organization to discuss what works and what doesn't, look for improvements and efficiencies, propose new initiatives and perhaps delay or reshape others. Ideas fly around the room like lightning bolts and the energy among board members is intense! Keep in mind that everyone there has taken time off work, and time away from families, to focus on the mission of FRUA to meet hte needs of our member families.

Along with our meeting time, we schedule social events to meet and greet FRUA members and representatives from the local adoption community. Because FRUA has two Colorado chapters, we held the first day of our meeting in Colorado Springs and then met members for dinner in a lovely historic restaurant nearby. For our second day, we met in Denver's Technology Center and hosted a dinner in downtown Denver for FRUA members and a few special guests from a non-profit orphan support organization. Both events were delightful - it's so great to connect with members each year in a social setting!

Over the next couple of months, you'll read more about the outcome of our Board meeting and the status of the organization. Details about the meeting and new initiatives will be presented in upcoming issues of The Family Focus, our wonderful membership journal. A thorough review of FRUA activities, as well as summaries of our membership and financial data, will be published in our Annual Report, due out in mid-Oct. Until these summaries arrive in your mailbox, know that FRUA's National Board is working hard to ensure the organization's success now and for the future!"

Sue Gainor
National Board of Directors
Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption
Hope, Help and Community for Adoptive Families

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Have Their Own Ways of Loving and Helping Our Children

As Father’s Day approaches each year, I generally find myself debating whether to take my husband out for brunch or buy him another electronic device to add to his gadget inventory – or both! This Father’s Day, however, I found myself contemplating how differently mothers and fathers parent their children, and how I see those different parenting styles play out among the adoptive families I know through FRUA.

My husband and I became parents with the birth of our older son. Like many husbands, mine struggled to carve out his parenting role with an infant who was almost completely dependent on me. As our son grew and weaned from nursing, he and my husband slowly began developing his relationship. In short order, my husband and son developed a wonderful relationship - they adored each other!

When we adopted our son Connor, both my husband and I had reevaluate our parenting styles to connect with our new baby. In the early days, it was all about affection and food, so we could both interact with Connor in these arenas. Having seen few if any men, however, Connor was initially afraid of my husband and routinely covered his eyes when my husband entered the room. I can’t imagine how emotionally difficult this initial rejection must have been for my husband. But he and Connor worked through it and eventually they developed a loving relationship.

Over the years, Connor struggled with childhood apraxia of speech – leaving him largely unable to speak until around age 6 – and was eventually diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. A child with these diagnoses is necessarily more challenging to parent that a neuro-typical child. More importantly, they demanded that my husband and I develop new and different parenting skills.

Like many adoptive mothers I know, I’d spent years reading everything I could get my hands on about raising internationally adopted, post-institutionalized children. So when presented with Connor’s challenges, I immediately began reading all kinds of books and studies on apraxia, FASD, and PDD-NOS. I spoke with doctors, professionals, and practitioners. I attended conferences and seminars. Most importantly, I consulted with mothers, lots of mothers.

My husband, on the other hand, did none of those things. Lacking a community of adoptive fathers to tap into, my husband’s ability to parent Connor’s many challenges did not develop apace and, in fact, fell behind as my competence and confidence grew. Over time, I became expert in understanding and dealing with my son’s challenges while my husband struggled. Over time, I became increasingly angry at my husband, feeling that he’d punted his responsibility to raise a neurologically atypical child.

Recently, I had an epiphany. I realized that my husband hadn’t punted his responsibility as a parent to Connor. No, he didn’t read all the stuff I read. And no, he didn’t spend hours on line with other fathers dissecting his son’s behaviors and therapies. But, as different from mine as they were, I couldn’t overlook his contributions to our son. My husband takes our son on subway rides to the airport on weekend mornings to watch planes take off and land. Much to my utter horror, he takes Connor on the roof to help hang holiday lights. He pushes Connor to test his limits in situations where I would jump in to “rescue” him. In many ways, my husband teaches Connor self-confidence by not treating him as if he were impaired.

I suspect other over-achieving mothers harbor secret (or not so secret) resentment toward their husbands, who may parent very differently than they, themselves, do. So this Father’s Day, I realize it’s long overdue that I acknowledge the gifts of love and time my husband gives to both our sons. My gift to my husband, this and every future Father’s Day, is to appreciate that he’s a wonderful father.

Sue Gainor
National Board of Directors
Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption
Hope, Help and Community for Adoptive Families

Monday, June 6, 2011

Approaching Summer, Keeping the IEP in Mind.

FRUA National Education Chair, Pat Gerke has a Masters in Counseling and has worked in the field of Developmental Disabilities for over 25 years in a wide range of specialty areas including adult services (vocational and residential), healthcare, advocacy and spirituality/inclusion. She teaches two courses each spring related to Disabilities, at Rutgers University and she and her husband Jay adopted their two children, Matthew and Iryna, in Ukraine. This is her summer message to FRUA members:

Summer is upon us. While we all prepare for a much-deserved break, this is a good time, when the pressure is off, to consider the IEP. Have you, like so many of us, had to prepare for your child's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting or is it still ahead? How DO you prepare? Do you go into it loaded with ammunition like you are armed and dangerous? Do you look forward to discussing your child's present level of performance -  or do you dread it?!

if you are like many FRUA members, the end of the school year and the spring IEP meeting can be filled with anxiety and worry. Self-doubt about what to expect or ask for can cloud judgment about what a child needs or is capable of achieving. Its is not too late to think through how things went and to plan for how you and your child will approach the fall semester. Summer is the time to ask questions, talk with other FRUA parent members and consult with experts to learn more. And it can also mean more time for you to be with and observe your child away from formal learning environments.

Remember, YOU are an equal member of an IEP team. Without you there really isn't a team! Get to know your child's PLEP, rights, strengths AND needs! Be ready to collaborate and compromise. But know what is non-negotiable as well! Always remember, YOU ARE the expert on your child, no one else!

Pat Gerke
FRUA National Education Chair

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Announcing the Expanded 2011 FRUA Scholarship Program

Four Scholarships only for internationally adopted children,
from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia

Since FRUA’s inception, our organization has focused on education: educating parents about international adoption, about the importance of support and community, about some of the challenges our children may face, about resources available to help our children succeed. Much of this education occurred informally from parent-to-parent in FRUA chapters across the country. Some of this education has been provided more formally through our annual “Focus on Education” conferences. Regardless of the delivery “mechanism,” we have always put a premium on ensuring our members have the information, support, and resources they need.

As part of our education agenda, FRUA’s national board of directors launched its first-ever scholarship program in 2009. To our knowledge, this is the only national scholarship designed specifically for children adopted from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Our goal in establishing this scholarship was to offer an award based neither on grades, grade point averages, test scores, and class ranking nor on family financial need.

In developing our scholarship program, we recognized that academic success for internationally adopted children comes in many forms. For example, our first scholarship recipient was adopted at age 16 and had only been in the U.S. education system for a few short years. While learning English rapidly, he found his niche playing sports. Despite significant obstacles, he graduated with a B average and with is school’s ringing endorsement of his accomplishments.

Our second scholarship recipient followed a completely different path. Adopted as a baby, he had no language or cultural barriers to overcome. Throughout his school years, however, he struggled to succeed despite challenges posed by his attention deficit disorder. His perseverance, and the supports he and his family established put in place, ensured his high school success and serve him well as he pursues his collegiate studies.

As we launch our 2011 scholarship campaign, we can now realize our dream of offering more scholarships than our previous budget allowed. Thanks to a generous donation from a group of FRUA supporters – none of whom have internationally adopted children – we are offering four scholarships this year! Two scholarships will be awarded to high school seniors pursuing post-secondary education in the fall. One scholarship will be awarded to a student who is currently enrolled in post-secondary education. And one scholarship will be awarded to a student whose parent is a regional/chapter board member. Click here for more information and the application forms.

We are delighted to offer these scholarships to our members’ children! And we are doubly delighted to be the sole organization that acknowledges internationally adopted children as a group of students worthy of their own scholarship program! Please join us in sharing the word about this scholarship program – with your friends, neighbors, school districts, and teachers. The more families that know about this special scholarship program, the more wonderful students we can recognize. That’s what hope, help and community are all about!
Sue Gainor
FRUA National Board of Directors

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hope, Help and Community in 2011

“If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.”
Marian Wright Edelman

Somehow we've reached the year 2011.
Some of us in FRUA recall that it was in 1991, twenty years ago, that the doors to international adoption began to swing open in Russia as the former Soviet Union ceased to exist. Can it be that long ago? Many of us now have children in college, approaching the age of twenty or even older, who we adopted in those early years. We didn't know what we didn't know.

While international adoption worldwide has slowed in recent years due both to economic and political factors, it is good to pause and consider these questions; have conditions for the children who remain in orphanage limbo improved? What of our children here? What lies ahead?

For those of us who were in the orphanages very early on, you've told us that conditions are, by and large, much better. But material things, while they improve conditions, do not replace a home and family. FRUA has always supported the tenet that the love of a family is life's greatest blessing and the first fundamental right of every child. Much of our early advocacy was focused on keeping the doors of adoption open. It still is.

For many of us, the road to become parents became the road to parenting a child with challenges. For those children given a chance at a home, a family and a future, the outcomes have been, by and large successful. But not, as many FRUA parents know, without trials and tribulations. Our second advocacy role as parents has been and continues to be, to get our children the help they need to be successful.

The extension of FRUA's role in helping parents help our children has always been to support the whole family,
offering much needed hope and a supportive community for adoptive families. The role of the FRUA community, has been a major factor in our daughter's success in overcoming early challenges; and I believe our continued involvement into and through her teen years has helped make her the confident, successful college student she is today.

FRUA has not forgotten the children left behind. Just in the past year, FRUA's active Orphanage Support program have put your donations and bequests to work in orphanage projects in Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, and Kazakhstan. Help us do more in 2011 – both with orphanages and in programs for FRUA kids here. We are now set up to take stock gifts and the more funds we receive, the more we can do together. That donation envelope you got with our annual report? Don't throw it away. This year, resolve to give more – of your time and in donations -- so that FRUA can continue to provide more hope, more help and more community to those it is here to serve.

Jan Wondra
Vice Chair
FRUA National Board of Directors