Berthoud couple opens home to Ukrainian orphans

6:09 PM, Dec 31, 2012   |    comments
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"Our house was a hangout for drunk guys," he writes. "They would get drunk and then they would fight. I began to steal money from them and feed myself and my sister."

Their stories are similar. Drunk, drug-addicted parents either die or eventually lose custody of their kids. In the Ukraine, kids like that end up in orphanages.

Clarke and Kris Stoesz have read too many these stories and have seen too many kids yearning for parents.

"My mother and father drank, and [my] mother was fond of drugs," Ukrainian teen Artem wrote. "My father often beat me. When I was 6 years old my father went to jail and my mother died from drugs."

"We just fell in love with Ukraine," Kris Stoesz said. "We had researched foster, local adoption. [We] really were led to Ukraine."

The Berthoud couple already had two biological children when, in 2003, they adopted Natalie from a Ukrainian orphanage.

"There is such a need in Ukraine," Clarke Stoesz said. "The older children often get left behind. The odds of being adopted as an orphan in Ukraine once you reach age 5 are very slim. I don't have a statistic. It's rare."

In 2005, they decided to go back and adopt siblings Luke, 7, and Rhaya, 9. In 2006, the Stoesz formed the Ukraine Orphan Outreach. That's when 9NEWS Reporter Anastasiya Bolton first met the family.

"We can't adopt them all ourselves," Clarke said.

In November, the non-profit took a big step, buying a small house in eastern Ukraine.

"It's not a typical house, what a typical house Americans would think of. It's very modest," Kris Stoesz said.

The home serves as transitional housing for six Ukrainian teen boys. Vadim and Artem are two of the teens who live there.

At 16, the orphans age out of the orphanages. The Stoeszs say 12,000 kids age out every year.

"The need is for aging out orphans to be able to transition into productive lives; that is such a gap," Clarke said. "In the orphanage they don't get taught life skills. They wait in line to get their food. They wait in line to get their clothes. They wait in line to do what's next. They don't unfortunately develop the necessary skills to think for themselves. We had this dream of having a transition home to transition from orphanage to productive life."

The Stoeszs say the Ukrainian government offers education at a technical school level and dorms for the orphans. But that usually doesn't lead to jobs, and the school offers no support. The couple says many teens resort to drinking and drugs.

"It's hard for them to even go through school just because they don't have the support," Clarke said. "Look at what kind of support it takes for our young kids here in America. You can imagine what it would be like to do that in a rougher scenario without parents."

Ukraine Orphan Outreach partners with Agape Ministries in Ukraine to run the house.

"[The boys] are so grateful for having a roof over their head and someone to love them and care for them. That's what's important to them," Kris said.

"Now I have a family, a father and a mother," Artem writes. "Thank you for this house, for your love and prayers for us."

The Stoesz realize with 12,000 kids being released from orphanages each year, helping six boys is a drop in the bucket. But it's a step to change one story at a time.

"You can't change the whole World, but you can change the whole World for one, or two or six, or ten," Clarke said. "Everybody can do what they can do."


For the next week, until January 6, Ukraine Adoption Outreach is collecting Zip Lock bags with little goodies for the orphanages they visited.

The bags can have small toys, school supplies, stickers-- the only gifts some children may receive.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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