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Family from far away

February 15, 2009, 10:00 3711 Author: Magdalena Wegrzyn timescall.com Two Longmont couples adopt children from Ukraine

Ashley Volf, right, celebrates her win while racing against her new siblings, Austin, left, Joshua, front, and Tatum, back, in Mario Kart Wii at her new home in Longmont on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009. Ashley and Joshua, having been adopted from Ukraine less than a week ago, are settling quickly into the family

LONGMONT — As Heidi Roge encased Kari Volf in a hug in front of the international arrivals gate at Denver International Airport on Jan. 29, she whispered sage words into her friend’s ear.

“Your life will never be the same again,” Heidi said.

Both the Roges and the Volfs recently brought home children from Ukraine, joining the growing number of families in the Front Range who have adopted from the country.

The two Longmont families said they made the decision to adopt after deep prayer and continuous support from Ukrainian Orphan Outreach, www.ukraineorphans.org, a nonprofit faith-based organization in Berthoud that has helped seven families over the past three years bring home children from Ukraine.

Heidi and Felix Roge returned with their three children on Dec. 24. The couple celebrated Christmas with their new family, which now includes Nadia, 12, Julia, 11, and Kolya, 9.

Jim and Kari Volf were close on their heels when they welcomed 12-year-old Ashley and 11-year-old Joshua into their homes in late January.

“We’ve been waiting for this for what seems like forever,” Kari said, as she squeezed Ashley’s shoulder at the airport. “It’s just been so long. I still can’t believe they’re finally here.”

But the road to adoption is far from simple.

Heidi keeps all the documents from the Roge’s adoption filed in a plastic tub. The colorful file folders literally hold the Roge’s lives on paper — home studies, tax returns, letters of recommendation, proof of employment and medical records.

The process of compiling the paperwork is so daunting at times, Heidi said, that there were moments when she needed to step away from the documents and re-focus.

The Roges became interested in international adoption two years ago.

“It’s all about falling in love with the idea,” said Heidi, 40.

After a fortuitous Internet search, Heidi learned about the Ukrainian Orphan Outreach, and in 2007, she and Felix joined the organization’s board of directors.

The couple, who do not have biological children, hosted Ukrainian children in their home twice — in winter of 2007 and summer 2008. Although Heidi and Felix said they could have taken in any of the children who stayed with them, something always blocked a complete adoption — botched paperwork by the orphanage, a family that unexpectedly came out of the woodwork or unfortunate timing.

Spending the better part of 2007 compiling paperwork, the couple submitted their dossier of documents in January 2008.

And then they waited.

Their appointment with the State Department on Adoption and Children’s Rights, Ukraine’s adoption authority, was scheduled for Nov. 10. Knowing full-well the heartache they have already suffered, the Roges opted for a blind adoption, meaning they chose their children without ever meeting them face-to-face.

The couple had one hour to choose from nine sets of siblings. For Felix, there was no question. It was always going to be Nadia, Julia and Kolya.

“I just kept going back to their file,” said Felix, 43. “It was like God was telling me, ‘These are your kids.’”

Heidi and Felix legally took custody of the three siblings on Dec. 9 and brought them home about two weeks later.

“Their opportunities are limitless now compared to the kids over there,” Felix said.

The Volfs echoed those sentiments, but their story is a little different.

After consulting their biological children — Tatum, 14, and Austin, 15 — Kari and Jim spent last year perfecting their dossier.

In the meantime, they housed several children from Ukraine at their home during the summer.

The couple inquired about two boys they thought were available for adoption: Joshua and Vasya.

“We really felt God calling us to reach out to these orphans,” said Jim, 45.

But at the Volf’s Dec. 10 appointment with the State Department, the Volfs learned that only Joshua was available for adoption. Documents revealed Vasya had a brother he never knew about, which delayed an immediate adoption.

Heartbroken, but still determined to adopt at least two children, the Volfs went through a blind adoption to choose Ashley.

Jim said the couple zeroed in on Ashley based on the limited information in her file, which included a grainy postage-sized photo.

“I went and sat next to her that first day, and I’d hug her,” said Kari, 40.

After seven weeks in Ukraine, the new family — now with four children — reunited on American soil on Jan. 29.

Despite not being biological siblings, Jim said Ashley already has developed an older sister mentality with Joshua: She helps with homework, chastises and comforts her new brother.

“You can see they’re going to be siblings,” Jim said.

Both the Roges and the Volfs said the network of support from other families who have adopted children from Ukraine has made the transition smoother.

Ashley Volf and Nadia Roge have bonded into fast-friends, chattering to each other in Ukrainian and Russian. The girls are in Heritage Middle School’s Newcomers program, an intensive yearlong program intended to teach English to students at an accelerated level. Julia and Kolya Roge attend Rocky Mountain Elementary School, and Joshua Volf is at Burlington Elementary School.

While the children immerse themselves in learning English, pantomiming and a Russian-to-English dictionary have become essential to survival.

“We are not a perfect family,” Jim said. “We’re far from it. We’re still scared, but we’re still moving forward.”

Ukrainian Orphan Outreach summer camp

Ukraine Orphan Outreach (UOO) is a non-profit organization in Northern Colorado formed by adoptive parents and others with concern for the future of orphaned Ukrainian children.

Ukrainian Orphan Outreach will house eight Ukrainian children this summer during its annual camp. Dates have not been finalized, but volunteers are needed to help with activities.

To raise money for the camp, UOO is selling tickets to Elitch Gardens for April 19. Tickets are $19.99, and those who purchase the tickets will also recieve a bonus ticket to use during the fall. All of the money raised will go toward funding this year’s summer camp. Call 970-535-4399 to request tickets

For more information, visit www.ukraineorphans.org or call 970-535-4399.

Magdalena Wegrzyn can be reached at 303-684-5274 or mwegrzyn@times-call.com.

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