Welcome to No Place Like Home.

This blog is a place for information, answers and support for families who are considering international adoption, waiting or are home with their children. My name is Kimberley and I am the coordinator of this site. This blog is truly a network of families who are willing to support others along their journey to their child. The blogs listed on my sidebar are arranged by country and these families have volunteered to act as a resource to anyone who needs one. These are amazing people who are dedicated to helping families who are on the journey to their children in another country. If you are looking for someone to talk with or if you have a blog and would like to be available to help others, please feel free to e-mail me at timnkim@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wonderful NY Times Story About A Little Girl Adopted From Russia

Beauty in a Parent’s Eyes, and in the Face of a Child

Published: June 15, 2008
Wendy Carlson for The New York Times

Milana Jaffin, 5, of Russia, with her adoptive mother, Liz, in Woodbury. Milana’s birthmark is called a hemangioma.

MILANA Jaffin has staked out her territory in her adopted land.

A year ago, this 5-year-old with dark eyes and an ebony pageboy was living in a Russian orphanage, destined to spend her childhood in such institutions because of a disfiguring facial birthmark. Now she lives with Liz and David Jaffin in an antiques-filled 1850s Cape in this vintage New England town and has her run of the place.
“You want to see my room?” Milana asked a visitor. She clambered up the stairs, visitor and mother in tow, and announced, “That’s my room and that’s our kitty.”
Her kitty, a brindle named Gypsy, lay napping on the bed. “Scratch her head!” Milana urged. She clicked on her pink CD player, declaring, “That’s my music,” and strummed along with a toy guitar she got from Santa.
Milana is a frisky child who quickly charms people who meet her, even as they cannot help but notice her striking blemish. Milana was born with what is medically called a hemangioma on the right side of her face. It has grown to fist size and virtually blinded her right eye. She has had two operations so far to reconstruct her face, with another to follow in July to build up her eye socket so that she can simply blink.
Yet, with the hurdles they knew lay ahead, Liz and David Jaffin sought Milana out as the child they wanted to adopt. “Her picture immediately touched our hearts, and since then we have been waiting eagerly for the day that she becomes our daughter,” Ms. Jaffin, 47, a British-born occupational therapist, wrote the Russian judge who eventually approved the adoption.
Most families who undertake adoption make inquiries to assure themselves that the child is, as the song goes, as normal as blueberry pie. But there are couples like the Jaffins who cannot resist a particular child and take on the handicaps as well.
Happy Families International, an adoption agency in Cold Spring, N.Y., that handles 60 adoptions a year, not only handled Milana’s adoption, but also arranged last year for a Dallas couple to adopt Sasha D’Jamoos, a 15-year-old without legs, from a Russian orphanage. The couple paid to have Sasha fitted with prosthetic legs and trained in their use. He is now skiing.
“I always believe that there is a personal aspect,” said Dr. Natasha Shaginian-Needham, the agency’s executive director. “When you see a child like Milana in the orphanage, your heart is broken. This child definitely does not have a chance to have a normal life. The potential parents open their hearts and soul.”
The Jaffins, who married in 2005 when Ms. Jaffin was in her mid-40s and her husband was past 50, were too old to qualify for adoption through most agencies that handle American children, so they searched overseas. Along the way — through friends who attend a local Catholic church whose priest had a parishioner working for an organization that brings disabled children to the United States for medical care — the Jaffins heard Milana’s story and eventually saw her photograph.
“My husband looked at a picture of her and said, ‘She looks just like you.’ ” Ms. Jaffin recalled. “We both have short dark hair.”
At that point, Milana’s hemangioma obscured much of her face, but the Jaffins concentrated on what she could look like with surgery by world-class experts like Dr. Milton Waner in Manhattan.
“We wanted to adopt a child because we wanted to be parents,” said Ms. Jaffin. “You can’t separate the fact that we would be helping her, but we didn’t adopt her because we wanted to help some child.”
In December 2006, Liz Jaffin, armed with Russian lessons and a thick coat, flew to Moscow and drove six hours to the city of Kostroma. Milana, who had been abandoned by her mother shortly after birth, was brought out dressed in a velvet dress that the orphanage issued to any child meeting prospective parents.
After one tight hug, Ms. Jaffin fell in love. Ms. Jaffin showed Milana photographs of the bedroom she would live in and of the family’s black Labrador, Hugger. A half year later, in May 2007, she returned with Mr. Jaffin, 54, the chief operating officer of a Manhattan financial company, and they claimed Milana.
“All of a sudden, we had this wham-bam 4-year-old full of personality living in our house,” said Ms. Jaffin.
At first there were more than a few temper tantrums, partly because Milana had to deal with parents whose Russian was good enough to say, “How do I find my way to Red Square,” but was not always good enough to decipher a child’s desires.
Before she put Milana in preschool, Ms. Jaffin made sure to show the children there a photograph and tell them that Milana’s deformity did not hurt her and that they could not catch it. Now, Ms. Jaffin said, Milana has play dates and goes to birthday parties and has two favorite boyfriends, Quinn and Christopher.
Milana calls the growth on her face a bump. It is smaller and flatter after surgery, but Milana can still be a startling sight on the street, and small children are not always tactful.
“What’s wrong with her face, Ma?” Ms. Jaffin has heard a girl say, or convey the same feeling obliquely by hiding behind a mother’s legs.
But when friends and relatives have gotten to know her, they, too, have fallen in love. “She’s got such a personality you forget about the hemangioma,” Ms. Jaffin said.


The Byrd Family said...

What a moving adoption story. I loved it when the Father said she looked just like his wife.

Just makes my heart swell.

Christine said...

What a story! Is there any way to get in touch with this family. Our son that we are about to adopt has lacerations on the right side of his face and he is blind in his that eye too.

Paula said...

Thats an incredible story.

Gail said...

Well this made me cry...amazing story.