The Lesniak Institute joined Ukrainecare300 at the Summit on Solutions for Ukrainian Orphans with American Families. Ukrainecare300 is a coalition of parents, volunteers, and advocates whose mission is to engage lawmakers and the media, ultimately to create a discussion that is not being had in the legislature or in the Biden Administration. When Putin invaded, Ukraine suspended adoption proceedings separating 300 American  families from the 200 orphans they were in the process of adopting.

The American families are terrified due to the fact that their kids have been taken to Poland, Italy, Lithuania and Romania and in many cases are being mistreated. Many of the children have special needs. There are reports that their conditions are unlivable, the food inedible, and even cases of sex trafficking. The mission of the Summit was to raise awareness of this issue and to ask for a call to action from our leaders in government to demand that the Biden Administration seek an agreement from Ukraine to allow these 300 orphans to be reunited with their 200 American adoptive families until Ukraine resumes adoption proceedings and the orphans returned to Ukraine to complete their adoption.


Testimonies from the Families and Children

Karolina Dehnhard, international family law attorney from New Jersey said “Ukraine quite frankly is in a middle of a war, the last thing they are thinking about is to finalize adoptions, we can’t let it linger anymore as we heard here today the children are being sold, abused, starved and they are going to go missing.” She also mentioned how she feared for the children and the conditions they are in. The Summit made it clear that something has to be done and it needs to be done sooner rather than later. 

There were families from all over the country sharing their stories and their children’s stories of the conditions they are living in now. There were families from Washington State, Wisconsin, California, Virginia, New Jersey, etc and even a representative from Ukraine, Leonid Lebediev, the founder of ChangeOneLife was in attendance to shine light on this humanitarian issue. 

Many of the families shared stories on how the adults would try to have inappropriate relationships with their children. One family said “They would try to coerce the kids into cars with candy.”

Most of the families all mentioned something in regards to the food quality that their children have been receiving.  According to the families and children, they said that the food had a strange odor and it tasted expired.  One of the families stated that “The food lacked refrigeration, and the food conditions have seriously changed. Kids complained about the smell and taste of the food. We knew at that point, we were going to have to start coming in with our own food for the kids. The staff was telling us that the kids were on several medications, they were getting sick because of the food they were eating.”

The children were already facing trauma due to the war, but now they are facing another type of trauma with what they are going through being away from their families. One of the families stated “The trauma they experienced has changed them, we have kids who picked up smoking and other habits that they have never done in the past.”

Call to Action: What is next for the Ukrainian Orphans

The Summit started a discussion in Washington D.C, that was not there previously. The families left the Summit with more optimism than what they came in with. One of the families stated “If we can get our government on board, we will finally bring together the governments of the United States and Ukraine and that’s what we need. This could be the beginning of something really good.”

Former NJ Senator Raymond Lesniak stated this after a meeting in Washington, D.C “We met with State Department officials. I believe they finally recognize what needs to be done, and I believe it will get done so that we will soon see these families united.”

“I have prepared a Sense of Congress Resolution which urges President Biden to reach out to Ukrainian authorities to allow these 300 children to be reunited with their 200 families until their adoption proceedings can be completed in Ukraine.  We need Congress to take action on this Resolution as soon as it returns from its summer break in six weeks.”

Karolina Dehnhard has a message for those families that we hope this reaches. She says “Get involved, send messages from your children, let us know what information you have. We have strength in numbers, the more information we have about our children being sold to sex trafficking, tasered or hungered as punishment, the better. 1000 voices are better than 100. Ask your Congressional Representatives to sponsor the Sense of Congress Resolution.”

The message was clear, it has been almost 2 years since these parents have seen their kids, with many of the kids now being sent back to the warzone in Ukraine due to their age. The other kids are being held in refugee camps in foreign countries where no one speaks their language. They are in terrible conditions with food that is expired, away from their families, and some even being sexually assaulted. President Biden must take action to reunite these children with their adoptive families in America.


About The Author: Felipe Peralta is the Executive Director of the Lesniak Institute.