SALT LAKE CITY — Arin and Jay Jones didn't set out to adopt five girls, but five more daughters might be what they get.
Last summer the Jones family participated in an international orphan hosting program called "New Horizons for Children." Through this program they brought two sisters, Lyuba and Snezhana, to their home. The girls are orphans living in a Ukrainian orphanage.
Their plans did not include adoption; they just wanted to spend the five weeks of the hosting program loving the girls and hoping to make a difference in their lives.
Instead, Arin said, during the course of their fundraising to bring the girls to America the family developed a feeling of love for them. "That feeling deepened during the the girls' stay,".Arin said.
Each week they saw acts of kindness by the girls, like the time their five-year-old son started to get lost in a crowd on the 4th of July.
"Snezhana saw Sam becoming separated from our family and ran to grab him and bring him back. That same day I saw Lyuba running up to our van to help our daughter, who was carrying a heavy cooler by herself," Arin said. "These two incidents showed our family the kindness these girls had in their heart."
Caring for the girls through some detailed dental work and minor illnesses served to solidify the growing feelings of motherly love in Arin's heart. By the end of the hosting period, Jay, Arin and the rest of the family knew they loved the girls as their own. But it wasn't until the girls went back to the Ukraine that they knew for sure they had to bring them back home.
"I want to adopt Lyuba and Snezhana," Jay told Arin one morning as they were discussing missing the girls.
Adopting the two sisters, they knew, was really adopting three sisters. The girls had told them they had another sister, Diana, back in the Ukraine living in the same orphanage. And there were more.
Lyuba, Snezhana, and Diana have two adult siblings living in the Ukraine. They also told the family of two younger sisters they barely remember. When asked where those two younger sisters were, Lyuba indicated they had passed away.
Later, evidence indicated that the younger sisters were actually alive and living in another orphanage. So the Joneses are now on the hunt to find those girls with the hope of also adopting them. Not only are they rescuing two children, they will be bringing siblings back together again.
So far, their research has not shown much. And the fear is Lyuba, Snezhana, Diana and their two younger siblings won't be able to be adopted together.
"It looks like we probably won't be adopting all five with this adoption." Jones stated in her blog. "We won't even know if they are all attached (meaning available together) until we get notice from Ukraine of our court date. Even then, it sounds like we won't be allowed to adopt all five at once. If the two little sisters are still in an orphanage, we'll complete the adoption of the three older sisters first. We feel strongly that the younger sisters need to be adopted to live with their older sisters if the younger ones are still available. So when we're home with the older girls, we'll turn around and start the adoption of the other two."
They are not giving up. The fundraising to get all five sisters together with the possibility of two separate adoptions, will continue.
Garage sales and a cartwheel fundraiser have raised the money to get their paperwork done and sent to the Ukraine. But there are still many more expenses ahead. They need about $30,000 more for passport and visa fees, court costs in the Ukraine, facilitator, lawyer, and doctor fees for the children, and travel costs for all the children and themselves. And they will need to stay in the Ukraine for weeks, so they will need to pay for an apartment and other living costs.
Brenda Bennion is a stay-at-home mom with five children, two of whom are grown, two are teens and one is in grade school. Brenda and husband Steve currently reside in Santaquin, Utah. Brenda also hosts and advocates for orphans.
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