Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 17, 2005

Hausladen family set to adopt two Russian girls

By Ryan Gueningsman

Staff Writer

Two orphans from Russia will have a chance at a better life if James and Mary Hausladen of rural Winsted are able to adopt them.

During August, the Hausladen family spent a little more than two weeks with Yana, 15, and Ksenia, 11, two sisters who are living in a Russian orphanage.

The Hausladens have lived on their farm, located between Winsted and New Germany, for about 15 years. James, who farms full-time, is a graduate of Holy Trinity of Winsted, while Mary is a Dassel-Cokato graduate. Mary is also a full-time student at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, studying psychology.

Following the birth of their fifth child, Alex, the two saw an ad in a local newspaper looking for a host family for two sisters that were coming to the United States in June as part of the Journey of Hope program.

“Before Alex was one year old, we had taken adoption classes through McLeod County,” Mary said. “We knew this was something we would eventually consider.”

While adoption was something the couple was considering – that necessarily didn’t mean an international adoption.

“It just sort of fell in our lap,” Mary said. “If they’re in America, they can experience more freedoms and opportunities than those kids do. In Russia, once they turn 18, they’re basically set out on their own.”

After leaving the orphanage, Hausladen said many children have a hard time adjusting to life, and many live on the streets, turning to prostitution and drugs, and the cycle starts all over again.

There are about 700,000 children every year in the Russian orphanage program, she said. Once they turn 16, they are not eligible for adoption. In Yana and Ksenia’s case, the two don’t have many personal possessions, and have to share a room with six to 10 other girls, Mary said.

She said the Russian government does remove children out of inadequate parental situations much sooner than the United States does.

“They get one chance, and if they screw up after that one chance – they’re done,” she said, noting the main reasons for children being removed from a home is neglect, or drug or alcohol abuse. The parents of Yana and Ksenia lost their parental rights about one year ago.

When the opportunity came up to have Yana and Ksenia stay with them in August, the Hausladens discussed the pros and cons of the situation, and decided to “just try it and see what happens.”

If the host family does not wish to adopt the children, they are not forced to, but it is the wishes of the Journey of Hope program that if the host family doesn’t wish to adopt them, they can at least lead the organization to someone who will.

Upon the decision to give the program a try, the Hausladens were met with a whirlwind of background checks, physical examinations, and social worker visits, along with attempting to learn bits of the Russian language.

“That’s not something they require,” she said of learning the language. “But it made our lives easier.”

After the girls’ arrival Aug. 5, Mary said it was not an immediate “yes, let’s do this,” she said. “It was very up and down.”

The girls were tired from traveling, and were a little leery of being abandoned again, she said.

While here with the Hausladen family, Yana and Ksenia took in the Minnesota Zoo, Children’s Museum, played mini golf, went swimming, attended several picnics, and went to the parade in Winsted.

“It was fun to watch them just be kids,” Mary said of Yana and Ksenia, along with her and James’ five other children. “You would watch them all interact and you would never know they haven’t been siblings all the time. They teased and picked on each other and played and interacted like any other sibling group would do – that was probably the most fun about having them here.”

The family made the decision to welcome Yana and Ksenia into their family, and sent the two back to Russia Aug. 20, which is the way the program works.

Now, the Hausladens are facing a challenge and a whole new world of international travel, visas, passports, and dealing with foreign embassies.

The entire adoption process will cost about $40,000, which includes the couple traveling to Russia.

“If all goes smoothly, we’ll be there two to three weeks,” Mary said.

When Yana and Ksenia arrive in the United States with the Hausladens for the second time, they will join Brianna, who is in sixth grade, Austin, who is in third grade, Isabella, who is in second grade, Matthew, who is a preschooler, and Alex, who is almost 3 years old.

“Because we have five of your own, we get a lot of ‘Why are you doing this? You have five already,’” Mary said. “We tell people they’re just kids – they didn’t put themselves in this situation. They’re just kids looking for a home and for somebody to love them.”

She said there tends to be a stigma in society about adoption, which she said she hopes to change by trying to open people to the idea of adoption.

“People say ‘Good for you, because I don’t want someone else’s kids,’” Mary said. “But all these kids want is a mom and a dad. We hope and pray that no matter how many children they have, that they may consider adoption.

“If something would happen to my children and they were in the system, I hope someone would step up to the plate and help out.”

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