International adoptions pose issues for children trying to cross borders

By Anna Schmader
April 29, 2021

Children from all over the world struggle to make ends meet under the circumstances they’re placed in. Most kids are stuck across borders waiting to be placed in orphanages and adoption programs while paperwork is being managed.

“I hopped between locations as my mother switched between many men,” Vadim Campbell, 21-year-old, said.

Campbell at age 21. Photo by Vadim Campbell

Campbell has been through an immense amount of rough life experiences that have shaped his positive outlook on life. In terms of family, his mother, Tanya, was between different men after he and his mother left his biological father due to physical abuse. At the age of four, he was placed into his first home with his mom and had trouble with her over time due to men popping in and out of her life. During that time, his biological brother, Kostya, was leaving the picture. 

According to New York Times, in 2005, nearly 46,000 children were adopted across borders, and approximately half of them got a new life in the United States. Although, from 2005 to 2015, statistics began to drop and international adoptions dropped 72 percent. The hope that Campbell would be adopted has always been slim, so he continued to live out his life the best way he could. In China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea and Ethiopia, international adoptions to the U.S. were restricted and have been included in the decline of adoptions. 

After bouncing between different residences, Campbell and his mother walked to a village to work where he could also be with kids his own age. “There are many kids your age there and we can work with them,” Tanya said. At the village, he and his mother worked in sunflower fields with the community, but then the drinking became heavier with his mother and her partner. Once this happened, his mother’s partner began to beat her so they left the village with no money. “We walked around 200 kilometers to find work,” Campbell said. At the next location, Tanya left with another man and asked Campbell if he wanted to stay or go. He chose to stay. 

One week, two, three weeks. One month and Campbell continued to wait for her to come back but she never did. During this waiting time, he was being abused by someone else.

It wasn’t until one night, he stepped on a needle in the village and it became infected. “Later that night I saw some people standing outside my sleeping ground when I was told to pack my belongings and follow them,” Campbell said. They took him to a hospital where he received medical attention, surgery and medication for the cut. Once he was released, he was sent to an orphanage to discuss where Campbell would reside next. 

Little did he know, at the orphanage, he would be reunited with Kostya. As a six-year-old, his brother would bring him presents and spend time with him when he could. Eventually, he was processed as a government kid and placed on a list to travel to America even though it was a slim chance he’d make it through. Not to mention, learning English was a difficult process.

Time goes by. Campbell was told someone wanted to talk to him. It was a family. They listened to his story and told him to videotape anything he wanted to say and they can send it to his mother. When she watched it, “she was so emotional and cried,” Campbell said. “Then paperwork was processed because she wanted to bring me back into her life.” 

*Details are not being disclosed whether he got to see his mother or not*

Campbell at age 12. Photo by Vadim Campbell

Around the age of 12, he found out his biological father was shot and killed. The only memory that resides with Campbell of this person was “big trouble.”

Even though there were some minor issues with his passport, Campbell worked his way through it. He eventually lived with a good family but wasn’t sure if he was definitely getting adopted. After being around the new family, he really wanted to be adopted, he felt for the first time in forever he belonged here, in America.

He was one of the more fortunate kids to have this opportunity. Back in 2018, the majority of children adopted internationally come from China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ukraine. 

Later that night, the mother told Campbell they wanted to adopt him and make him part of their family. In utter shock, he froze with happiness. “Yes, yes, my gosh, yes,” Campbell said.

His happiness and joy took off. At the age of 16, he finally got to be a part of someone’s family. He went back to Ukraine to collect his belongings and say bye to everyone. As he did that, he also attended his mother’s funeral. There, he saw his mother’s boyfriend who abused both of them but approached him, shook his hand and forgave him. 

“This all felt like a dream,” Campbell said. “I was so happy.”

When he arrived in America, the family threw a huge party celebrating his arrival and welcoming him into their lives. He was provided a room for himself freshly painted and an education. The feeling of belonging somewhere felt so incredible he thought nothing could beat this feeling.

“There are more people who are more unlucky,” Campbell said. “I got the golden ticket.”

With kids in third-world countries suffering from bad poverty, he found and continues to find the silver lining and hope in everything. By using a metaphor, “the sky is my life and the clouds are my life experiences,” Campbell said. He couldn’t control what would happen to him so he rolled with everything that came his way, making it work and shaping it into who he is today. 

“Be grateful and thankful for what you have,” Campbell said.

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Anna Schmader

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