Following is the letter I'm posting to the Russian Embassy tomorrow:
To whom it may concern:
I was horrified by the story of the woman who sent her seven year old son, adopted from Russia, back to Moscow via a one-way flight and with only a note to alert people what was going on. What gross negligence and cruelty! I hope that she is prosecuted for this to the fullest extent of the law.
But despite (or perhaps because of) my anger at this craven behavior, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my daughter, whom we adopted from Russia in May of 2005. My heart is breaking for all the families who are waiting to bring their children home and for those children who are waiting for a home. It’s important to me that you know our story.
Here’s a family picture.
Our daughter is named Helena Marjorie Westhoff and we call her Laney. We adopted her on May 26, 2005 from Blagoveschensk. She was a little on the small side when we brought her home, but now is very tall and very strong. And, as you can see, very beautiful.
Laney will be 7 this July. She’s in first grade, but can read at a 3rd grade level and is doing math at a 2nd grade level. She is very smart and exceptionally articulate.
She’s also an incredibly kind child. Her teacher tells us that whenever another student is feeling bad, or sad, Laney is the first child to comfort him or her. She’s never mean to other children and has a lot of friends.
She’s honest. When she tells me something, I know she’s telling the truth. This is such a wonderful and unusual quality in a kid.
She’s so strong and healthy! She’s 4’2” tall and 51 pounds. She’s all arms and legs, with boundless energy. She loves to play! She taking tennis lessons and is good at it. My husband is trying to teach her to throw and catch a baseball. It took him months to find a left-handed, pink baseball mitt, but he found one! And now they play catch in the yard. Laney has a big appetite, and eats broccoli without any complaints.
We have a dog and a cat that Laney loves to cuddle and snuggle with. Here’s a picture of her with her pets (and her Mom):
She loves animals of every kind!
Her favorite television show is SpongeBob SquarePants and her favorite books are the Eloise books. She loves to color and draw. She creates incredible worlds with her dolls and toys and makes up the most wonderful stories.
But, most importantly, she’s very happy. She smiles and laughs all the time. She’s such a wonderful child. Here’s a picture of her fresh from the bath, after she lost her first baby tooth. Isn’t that a wonderful smile?
Laney knows her whole story. She can find Blagoveschensk on a globe and has told her classmates the story of her adoption. Every year on May 26th, we tell her a story that begins: “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful Russian lady who was very sad because she was growing a baby in her tummy and knew she could not keep her. In the meantime, there were a man and a woman in Chicago who were very sad because they wanted a baby daughter very badly and couldn’t have one. Then one day a very wonderful person in Russia sent the man and woman a letter and asked if they wanted to adopt this little girl And, of course, we did!”
We are so incredibly grateful to the Russian people and their government for allowing this to happen. Our daughter is the light of our lives. She is the greatest gift we could imagine and we take our responsibility to her very seriously. There are times when misguided people will congratulate us for “rescuing” her. We always make sure that they understand that what Laney has given us (and what you’ve given us by allowing this adoption) is far greater and more important than anything we could give her.
In conclusion, I hope you will reconsider closing adoptions to American families. It is impossible to imagine our lives without her. Thank you for our daughter.