FORT THOMAS, Ky. — A Northern Kentucky mother is in Ukraine trying to get the teen she wants to adopt out of a war zone.
Colleen Holt Thompson and her family met Maure through a host program. They began the adoption process more than two years ago, but the pandemic and bureaucratic issues paused their plans. Then, Russia invaded Maure's homeland.
"We got a call from one of the caretakers at my daughter's orphanage saying ‘They're bombing us. We need help,'” Thompson said. "It was terrifying ... really terrifying to be on the other end of of a call like that, and have no way to help.”
Thompson said she left Fort Thomas March 3 to travel to the orphanage in Donetsk, working day and night with a group of parents to help the children evacuate.
“Nobody expects to have to evacuate tens of thousands of children on short notice, so it was kind of an all hands on deck with everybody helping,” Thompson said. “It became really apparent that we would be better help on the ground here. So, about six parent volunteers came together.”
Maure and other children from her orphanage are now safe in Lviv. Now, they are just one of the hundreds of cases facing a challenge trying to get back to America.
“The normal legal process is basically thrown out the window," said Justin Hayslett with Legacy Refuge. "Now it's martial law, and no adoptions can happen now."
Hayslett, the founder of the orphan-care ministry in Ukraine, is facing the same problem as Thompson. He has a daughter who remains stuck in the country. He said they've urging the government to let orphans into the U.S.
“We have over 200 families who are saying, ‘I’ve already hosted this kid, I have a relationship with them. I’m ready to temporarily care for this kid until the war stops.' Yet there just seems to be no legal pathway to make that happen right now," Hayslett said.
Dozens of lawmakers, including five in the Tri-State, have signed a letter asking the state department to let 300 Ukrainian children already in the adoption process stay with U.S. host families “based on the shared belief that every child deserves a safe, stable, and loving place to call home.”
The state department responded with a statement saying in part, "the Ukrainian government informed the Department of State they do not approve Ukrainian children for temporary travel to the United States at this time."
Thompson said that while she's homesick, she is not leaving without her daughter.
"The idea for them to have a safe haven and spend time with their adoptive families seems like it should be paramount," Thompson said. "And it's an easy yes.”
The mother of eight has six children who are originally from Ukraine.
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