Hilton Head families part of program to find American homes for Russian orphans

May 8, 2009 

Grey Anne Cummings, 7, holds a picture of Russian orphan Veronika, 6. Grey Anne and her family, from left, mother Wendy, brothers Tristan and Bryson, 11 and 9, and father Scott are preparing to sponsor Veronika for a three week visit to their home through the International Guardian Angels Outreach program and Hilton Head Presbyterian Church. If all goes well, the Cummings may adopt Veronika.

JAY KARR/THE ISLAND PACKET

In two months, 10 Russian orphans will visit Hilton Head Island for what they think is a short exchange program.

Those working to bring the children here, however, have more permanent plans in mind.

They intend to find them families.

The children, accompanied by officials of the Russian government and an orphanage director, are coming to the United States through a program set up by the nonprofit International Guardian Angels Outreach of Dallas. The group is scheduled to arriveon the island July 15.

Gregg and Christine Carr, who created an orphan ministry at Hilton Head Presbyterian Church last year, contacted the outreach group when they learned of its Russian Orphan Exchange Program. The program places orphans with American host families for three weeks.

While here on Hilton Head, the children will visit the beach and the Coastal Discovery Museum. They'll go kayaking and horseback riding and spend time with an American family.

During those three weeks, families can begin the adoption process.

The Russian government usually requires prospective parents to visit the country twice before children can be adopted. The exchange program counts as one visit, Christine Carr said. The would-be parents will still be required to make a trip to Russia.

After the three weeks, the children must return to Russia. It then takes about three to four months to finalize the paperwork.

PLANNING FOR A SISTER

Scott and Wendy Cummings are hosting Veronika, 6, and hope to adopt her. Theirdaughter, Grey Anne, is looking forward to sharing her room.

"I'm going to call her my sister," the 7-year-old said.

Grey Anne also has two brothers, Tristan, 11, and Bryson, 9.

Wendy Cummings said her family already thinks of Veronika as one of them. They are practicing their Russian to be ready when the child arrives.

"We have a picture of her posted on the refrigerator," Wendy Cummings said. "The kids pray for her every day. ... I don't think a minute goes by that I don't think of her in some way. I just can't wait to show her everyday things we take for granted, and I'm really hoping that helps my children to realize what we have."

MORE FAMILIES NEEDED

Of the 10 orphans, five still need adoptive families, including Ivan, Alexey, Ilya and siblings Luba and Andre.

The Carrs know little about the children's personalities based on the information sent by the Russian government.

Ivan, 12, is a sports nut. Alexey, 13, a comedian. Ilya, 12, is intellectual. Luba, 8, and brother Andre, 6, are quiet and studious, Christine Carr said.

The Carrs are also looking for back-up host families and financial contributions. It costs about $32,500 to bring the children to the United States.

"These orphans are poor beyond what we can imagine," Christine Carr said. "A lot are doorstep babies. ... They have nothing of their own, not even clothes."

The Carrs are intimately familiar with Russia's adoption process. They've adopted two daughters, Grace and Hope, from the country's arctic region two years ago.

When they went to Russia to fetch the girls, Grace, 4, was relatively healthy, but Hope, 3, only weighed 16 pounds and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

The biological sisters lived in Murmansk where the orphanage had no hot water. Food was available in small portions but meat and chicken were rarely served and goat's milk offered only once a week.

The limited rations were not a result of poor treatment but poverty, Christine Carr said. The orphanage's director receives a penny a day per child from the Russian government, she said.

OFFERING A CHILD LOVE

When Gina and John Dunn heard about the Carrs' experience and the opportunity to adopt a daughter, they got excited.

The Dunns have two sons, John Patrick, 7, and Nicholas, 5.

They will host Maria, 6, and hope to adopt her. Gina Dunn said the program is a better way of adopting because the family will be able to tell how Maria will mesh with them.

"I love my boys and would only want to present a good situation for them," she said. "We wanted to do this to give this little girl love, nutrition and a home. ... I'm sure it will work out."

Island packet photographer Jay Karr contributed to this report.

HOW TO HELP Russian orphans will visit Hilton Head Island in July. Donations can be made at any branch of Coastal States Bank in the account set up for International Guardian Angels Adoption. For more information, call Christine Carr at 843-363-5100 or e-mail ccarr@lfci.net.

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