Eight Russian orphans will arrive in central Iowa today for a weeklong stay that might conclude with them finding families here to adopt them. The children range in age from seven to 13 and they’ll be staying with host families in the region.
Anne Nieland is the volunteer coordinator for Camp Hope, a non-profit Des Moines-based group that’s arranged these annual encounters since 2000. Nieland and her husband have adopted two Russian children and she says a total of 135 Russian orphans have found families in Iowa through the program.
Nieland says: "A lot of these kids come from the same children’s homes each year. Word kinda’ gets around that somebody went to America, came back to Russia and then went to America for good. Some of the older kids do know that they’re here to potentially find ‘forever families’ but a lot of the younger kids are here just for a nice summer vacation."
All sorts of events are planned, including trips to Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Adventureland in Altoona, shopping malls, a baseball game and picnics in the park. The groups will be accompanied by translators, most of whom were adopted from Russia themselves in recent years. Nieland says all of the children are healthy, educated and loved in their orphanages, "but sadly, at the age of 16 they are put onto the streets where their future is bleak." She says the Iowa host families will be able to start the ball rolling toward adoption, if that’s what they choose.
"The potential adoptive families, the people who are thinking about adopting, have several days to meet the children, get to know them, find out of the kids get along with them, if they get along with the kids, and then by Friday at 12:30, we ask the families to make a decision," she says. Children who are not spoken for will be the subject of an event Friday night during which other potentially-adoptive families will be brought in for a possible connection.
"It’s a very emotional time but a lot of times, these people have been thinking about adoption and they’ve tried several routes either to have children or they’ve tried to adopt domestically and it didn’t work out," she says. "Now, they have a chance to meet a child and a lot of times, it just clicks immediately." For more information about the program, call 866-STORKADOPT or visit the Camp Hope website .