Words by Peggy Purser Freeman
Photography by Layth Taylor
For a family with two children, the adoption of an infant became a slim possibility for Doctors Jason and Elizabeth Berry. Yet, Elizabeth longed for another child—a girl. Doctor Elizabeth will tell you that adoption embraces all the joys of childbirth and the pain. Even though the labor pains of adoption last longer than a natural birth, the rewards are just as wonderful.
“When our youngest son was about five years old, Jason and I considered adoption,” Elizabeth explained. “I was ready to have more children and I really wanted a girl. However, Jason didn’t want to go through the infant phase. We started researching, looking into adoption and decided to look at fostering as a way to adopt within Hood County. However, as time passed, we hadn’t finished the Foster to Adopt classes or the endless paperwork.
It started with a simple post—a picture of twin girls. A friend from church had adopted a child from Ukraine and while visiting there, she came to love many of the children. My friend pleaded for someone to adopt the twins. When I saw their picture, I fell in love at first glance. I picked up Lawson and Seaton from school and asked them what they thought. By the time dad made it to dinner, we had already taken a family vote to adopt the twin girls. Dad agreed.”
Jason and Elizabeth received information from New Horizons for Children. The Christian organization arranged for the orphan children to visit during holidays so that host families could show love to them and encourage adoption. When you see children in extreme need, heading toward danger, everything else seems small and irrelevant.
“Having girls in the house is a huge blessing for me. It’s just amazing how God fashioned girls and boys so differently. I pride myself on being the sporty-boys’ mom. The mom who is always up for anything, but I can’t tell you the joy of being be doted on by my girls. They love me like girls love. They hug a ton and laugh more. They paint so many pictures that say, ‘I love you.’ God is so good!
The Berry Family (left to right): Lawson, Seaton, Jason, Elizabeth, Karolina , Josefina
The integration of new family members can be very difficult, and especially so when your siblings are older and there’s a language barrier. At twelve and fifteen when we started the process, both boys seemed eager to have sisters and spent about eleven weeks with the girls during their host visits to the U.S. Two years later the children love each other. And yes, there are normal fights and fusses.”
Of course life changed for the twins and the Berry boys, however, it changed for Jason and Elizabeth too. As a founder of the dental clinic at Ruth’s Place and president of its board, Doctor Elizabeth quickly had to pass the responsibilities on to someone else. She flew to Ukraine three times within four months. The cost of adoption is high and the difficult process is a full-time job. If you know the Berrys, you know their love for others and caring support is a driving force in our community.
“With four children, I no longer made it to every event. I work constantly to help the girls settle into a new family, language, church, and school. The most difficult part for our girls has been American food and language. Even though the girls are fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, and now English, at age eight, they basically received a first grade Ukrainian education with the ability to read at a low level in Russian and Ukrainian. Their math level tested around second grade. Once they arrived in the U.S., we were busy learning English, which meant quickly forgetting Ukrainian and Russian. Research shows it takes about a year to lose your native language, and so we worked to keep all the languages. They’re smart and learning quickly. A great Christian school helps.”
When the Berrys adopted their girls, they didn’t live with their biological parents. Both parents were gone before the twins could remember. However, the girls had lived with their brother and maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, the family seemed ridden with alcohol addiction and the twins suffered neglect. A plea to the courts from their brother removed them from the home and they were placed in the orphanage.
“We had the pleasure of meeting their grandmother and brother during the adoption process, and continue to stay in contact with the brother.” Dr. Elizabeth said. “The brother’s so thankful that the twins are well cared for and loved. He knew he couldn’t do it. In his own words, he said, ‘I will have my own family and I want the twins to have their own family, too.’” He now has his own family. “When I reflect on adopting children from a foreign country I have mixed emotions. I know my girls are better off. They will have all the comforts of America. They will be educated. They will be independent. They will be self-supporting and have families of their own who love the Lord and make a difference right here in the U.S. My hope is that they will also be able to visit Ukraine and make a difference there as well.”
Elizabeth reflects on how people living in a country like the United States often view adoption, “We tend to look at it as if we’re saving these children—saving them from abusive parents, addicted parents, terrible living conditions, little food, no education, dangerous drugs, and child trafficking. But we don’t realize this is a family that they love—even through the terrible circumstances. Adoption is an amazing thing. It frees many biological parents from the responsibility they don’t want and never did want. It takes the guilt away from them knowing their children will have a better life. But they suffer to watch their families fall apart. I believe in the restoration of the family if possible. I believe in providing the best resources to make that happen. I believe God calls us to step in and take children into our own families or support others who do. .”
The Berry’s have been blessed with a smooth adoption and healthy children. Although they’ve needed very little support, there’s a plethora of resources available for adoptive parents. Help overflows in every direction from books, videos, friends, the web, support groups, and churches.
“Our girls are happy and greatly loved by our extended family. Our boys have adjusted to girls in the house. It’s been an awesome learning experience. We made this decision as a family and that God wants us to help widows and orphans. I try to remember they’re teenage boys with two little sisters. What teenage boy enjoys their little sisters on a daily basis? I enjoy a special bond with our girls. They make me tea when my head hurts, and they’re always on my side, ‘the girls’ side.’ The balance in our house is just the best—three to three. I love it so much and I’m so thankful for it!”