Minnesota family waiting for answers as adoptive children stuck in Ukraine

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As the violence continues in Ukraine, many families in the United States are still waiting on answers as to when they’ll be united with the children they’re process of adopting.

That includes the Heinemann family in Nowthen, Minnesota.

Back in September, the family began the process of adopting two Ukrainian orphans, Vika, 15, and Oksanna, 13. They first fell in love with the girls when they hosted them here in Minnesota for a summer. The Heinemanns had plans to bring the girls back to Minnesota this summer until their adoptions were finalized in the fall, but then the Russian invasion happened and all of those plans were put on pause.

Vika and Oksanna are currently in an orphanage in Lviv, Ukraine. The rare chance Steve and Jennifer Heineman get to talk with them is usually interrupted by the sounds of air raid sirens telling the girls to take shelter. Steve said often they sleep on the cold, concrete floor as they wait out the sirens. Steve and Jennifer, who are parents to four other children adopted from Ukraine, only want to be able to protect Vika and Oksanna, even if they can’t legally adopt them yet.

“There’s approximately 200 families that are in the same situation we are right now, which impacting over 300 kids that know of,” Steve said.

He and dozens of other families helped draft a petition to Congress asking them to contact the Ukrainian government and request a formal invitation to temporarily host these children. According to the petition, there are 300 Ukrainian orphans who were in the process of being adopted by American families before the Russian invasion began. Many of the children have already been to the United States and hosted by the families that intend to adopt them.

“Our focus hasn’t really been on the adoption part of it, we all fully understand that adoptions can’t happen right now,” Steve said. “Our big focus is on wanting the state department to provide visas for these kids that the majority of them have already had visas and had been hosted here previously and have connections to families here.”

Steve said most of the families have already been through extensive background checks, trauma training and are fully prepared to welcome children into their homes.

“We signed up to be their protectors and we’re up against a wall not being able to do it,” Steve said. “They need the love and security that we can offer them and that’s all we’re asking is to give that opportunity to us to be able to protect them.”

The petition already has more than 15,000 signatures.

The Heinemanns say Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office has also been in contact with them. She, along with 75 other members of Congress sent a letter last month to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to take action. But, the Heinemanns say they feel like that effort is losing traction. They’re asking for more urgency from U.S. lawmakers, saying they do not have time to wait when it comes to getting the orphans to Minnesota safely.