Prairie Wife of the Week: Sarah Larsen (Overseas Adoption)

Posted October 16, 2015 by Prairie Wife - 2 comments

This is our third interview with Sarah Larsen! As I went back to look over our first interview from over a year ago I am struck by what an amazing record these will be for Sarah and her family. In the first interview (June 2014) Sarah discussed how she and her husband decided to host a young boy from the Ukraine through Project 143. In talking about her choice to host an orphan for the Summer Sarah said “I feel that there has been a peacefulness in my husband and I after we decided to participate in this program. It feels like the right choice for our family, and an amazing way for us to continue on our journey of helping the adoption community.” When we interviewed Sarah a second time it was in August of 2014 and she was preparing to send Vitaliy back to the Ukraine. “It’s really hard. We’ve already started the process to adopt Vitaliy but, we aren’t supposed to say anything to him about it. They don’t want them talking on the plane about being adopted and making other children feel bad, which I understand but…It’s hard to know that he will be heading back to the Ukraine and away from us. Especially without him knowing that we are trying to make him a part of our family.” Below is the last part (or perhaps the beginning of the next chapter) of this family’s story. Even if you do not plan to adopt yourself, please take a moment to share this interview when you finish reading it. You never know whose heart it might touch…

sarah larson shoe

Prairie Wife (PW): Last time we spoke with you, you were getting ready to send Vitaliy back to the Ukraine. What was this experience like for you and your family…and of course Vitaliy?

Sarah Larsen (SL): Dropping him off at the airport was heart wrenching. He did not completely understand that I didn’t get to go with him. He remained quite stoic in front of his peers, and I was the one bawling! We sent letters every week so he would know we were still coming back for him. Those letters were the only thing from the orphanage that he brought with him.

PW: Your goal was to have Vitaliy back home with you by Christmas, unfortunately you weren’t able to make that a reality. Can you tell us why?

SL: Some of the wording was incorrect in our homestudy and it wasn’t caught until we filed through homeland security. We had to make changes and then we had to re-do much of our dossier paperwork, as it is only considered valid for 6 months. The Ukrainian government will also shut down for 6 weeks over the holidays which means no adoption paperwork is processed at that time.

PW: Once you gathered up the mounds of paperwork was it just a waiting game?

SL: Yes, once we submitted we just waited. Most people are typically given a 4-6 week notice before they travel to the Ukraine. We had 11 days  notice for our first trip!

PW: When you heard it was time to go to the Ukraine to see Vitaliy, and begin the process to adopt him, what did you need to do at home to prepare?

SL: For our first trip my mom was able to stay with our children so it was a very easy transition as she stays at our house frequently. The first trip was to verify who we were adopting. During this trip Vitaliy and his orphanage social worker need to sign paperwork permitting the adoption.

at orphanage in UkrainePW: What was the trip like?

SL: It was long and so surreal. It felt like it had been so long since we had Vitaliy at our house so when we finally got to travel it was almost hard to believe. I am forever changed by my time in Ukraine. I wonder if there will come a moment when I am not haunted by the thought of his orphanage full of children needing love! Ryan and I did everything we could to connect with the people there and learn about the culture of our son. It was so fascinating and it made us really appreciate how much Vitaliy had to adapt to our culture. It was wonderful being reunited again with him but we all desperately wanted to be home and start our life together.

PW: Unfortunately you still needed to go back to the Ukraine yet another time before you could bring Vitality home?

St Michaels MonasterySL: Yes we had to travel 3 times! The 2nd trip was for a court appearance for the judge to grant permission for the adoption to occur. This trip was more challenging, because in the middle of all of this we found out my dad had cancer. My mom had to remain at home in Washington DC to be with him. We are so thankful that Ryan’s parents and siblings were able to come stay with our kids in their absence. There is a mandatory 10 day wait period from court approval to when he could be released to us. We flew home during this time so we could have more time with our other kids and not be so taxing on the people stepping up in our absence!

The 3rd trip is called the paper chase. During this trip you get new birth certificates, passports, medical exams and visas. This entire process taught me so much about letting go of control. I had to hand it over to others and just let go…if I hadn’t, I would have gone mad!

friends in the UkrainePW: Once you were in the Ukraine you met up with many delays. What was causing the delays and what did you do to fill up your time?

SL: Our 3rd trip was timed during 3 national Ukrainian holidays. Holidays are a very big deal there so many times people won’t work during the few days before and the few days after a holiday. We were completely at the mercy of the people that were in charge of processing our paperwork! Ryan ended up having to fly back after 2 weeks and I stayed the remaining 3 (so I was gone for a total of 6 weeks). God placed another adopting mama in my path during those last 3 weeks and we spent every day together with our boys and enjoying the events of Kiev, all the while longing to be back home!!! God knew exactly what I needed and placed the most amazing people in my life during this time. They were truly my lifeline.

PW: When you arrived home and had your family all together again at last, what were some of the things you and your family felt?

SL: My other children were very emotional because we had never spent that much time apart. For our younger ones it was hard for them not to be with me every second once I finally was home. Those first few weeks we just held each other close and started discovering our new normal.

PW: How has Vitaliy’s transition been going?

SL: He has made tremendous progress both in his language acquisition and desire to learn. He loves school and playing sports. He is beginning to let down some walls and I can see bonding happening. We have crazy beautiful moments and we have crazy messy moments– all of which grow us as people and a family.

PW: What advice would you give to other families that have adopted older children from other countries?

SL: Build your village of support. I have a few people in my life, whom I cling to for support.Adoption is a journey that is impossible to do on your own. I cling tight to my faith and that HE always gives us more Grace.

a family is finally whole

PE: What are your hopes for Vitaliy and your family as a whole for the future?

SL: I pray for peace and joy for Vitaliy and that he will grow to be a loving, productive man. I pray that my family knows that there are always people whom are less fortunate that are deserving of love and kindness. I personally have made it my mission to continue to serve the forgotten children of Ukraine as their country faces challenges that are growing in magnitude with the Russian invasion. I am now a part of a hosting group called Host Ukraine, and I also want to be able to get support groups running for other families to be able to know they are not alone in this.

Hopefully this collection of interviews has forced some of our readers to become more aware of the 143 million orphans in the world.

PW: What do you think is important for them to know about Project 143?

SL: Project 143 is re-organizing their Ukraine team (but still continuing to offer hosting opportunities during this transition) and will be serving Latvia with hopes of adding 3 other countries. Hosting is a wonderful way to learn how a child and your family will connect, and all of the children are adoptable. One of the wonderful parts about this program is it allows you to form a relationship with the children, and makes the adoption process easier should you choose to go ahead with it. Even if you choose not to adopt the child you host you can know that you have given them the gift of love and family, something they may never have experienced.

Host Ukraine is a separate group from Project 143 and was formed to have a singular focus on only Ukraine. With the war raging in the country, more and more children are ending up in orphanages and the government is no longer actively assisting aged-out orphans and foster families.

PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?

SL: One of my new mantra’s is HIS Grace is enough. It serves me well right now!

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2 thoughts on "Prairie Wife of the Week: Sarah Larsen (Overseas Adoption)"

  1. Angie Stolz says:

    What a wonderful and touching article.

    Project 143 was honored to be part of the Larsen family’s journey. We wish them the best and many prayers for their beautiful family.

    P143 is very excited about the work we will continue to do in Ukraine, helping orphans through hosting, as well as other countries.

    With the dire situation in Ukraine, it’s stories like these that we need to hear more about. One child at a time – we can make a difference after all.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Erica says:

    Sarah, thank you for sharing your experience. It is truly inspiring. I also feel blessed to be able to get to know you more in community group 🙂

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