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A Vancouver couple wanted to adopt two kids from Ukraine, but the war has made it impossible

Families in the U.S. must wait for courts in Ukraine to reopen before continuing adoption proceedings, as children in Ukrainian orphanages seek safety.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A Vancouver family is facing frustration and heartache as the war in Ukraine postpones their plans to adopt two Ukrainian children.

For months, Julie Yakimchuk and her husband Denis have been dreaming of growing their family. They would like to adopt two brothers, 10-year-old Bhaden and his 6-year-old brother, Max. They already have a 2-year-old daughter.

“In our hearts they're already our children,” said Yakimchuk.

Credit: Julie Yakimchuk
Bahden's little brother, Max, who has not yet been able to visit the Yakimchuks in Vancouver. They want to adopt him along with his older brother.

According to Yakimchuk, the brothers have been lived in separate orphanages in Ukraine for the last two years. Last summer and again over the winter, the Yakimchuks hosted Bhaden at their Vancouver home through an organization called Host Orphans Worldwide

“Bahden was such a joy,” said Yakimchuk. “We fell in love with him, he's so sweet.”

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They family soon realized they wanted to adopt Bahden and Max, too, even though they had never met Max in person. The Yakimchuks began adoption procedures in September. They were closing in on final steps when the war in Ukraine broke out, halting everything. Bhaden had only left the U.S. weeks before that. They still communicate by phone.

“[Bahden] is really hopeful,” said Yakimchuk. “He's asking, ‘When are you going to come see me? When are you going to come get me?' He told me just yesterday he broke down crying and I asked him, why did you cry? He said ‘Well, because I miss you guys.'”

Recently, Yakimchuk learned Bhaden's orphanage had escaped to Poland and Max's orphanage fled to Italy.

“We sighed a big sigh of relief when they left Ukraine,” said Yakimchuk. “So we were very thankful for that but then it's like, you have another set of worries like how are we going to get him here? It's just been an emotional rollercoaster.”

It's a plight many other families are facing as they try to adopt Ukrainian children.

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“I feels like their dreams are being shattered,” said Daniel Nehrbass, president of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, the agency the Yakimchuks are working with. He said to continue adoption proceedings, the courts in Ukraine must first reopen. Right now, it's not safe.

“Their ministry in charge of adoption sent a message saying we haven't given up hope,” said Nehrbass. “We want all of the refugee kids who are moved to other parts of Eastern Europe back in the country when it's safe when the war's over. Then we'll resume the adoption decrees.”

In the meantime, the Yakimchuks would like to host Bahden again until it's safe for him to return to Ukraine and complete adoptions proceedings, but Nehrbass said that could be tricky. He said the state department would likely deny a hosting visa if they had already applied for an adoption visa.

“If the long game is adoption, then we really do need to abide by the rules,” said Nehrbass.

For now, the Yakimchuk's faith eases their pain as they think about Bahden and the future.

“Our God is a miracle worker,” said Yakimchuk. “Nothing is impossible for Him.”

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