Blacksburg family works to adopt teen from the Ukraine

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— A family in Blacksburg is working tirelessly to adopt a very special girl they’ve hosted twice now, to keep her away from the troubles she could face from her home in Ukraine.

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Anna’s just like any typical teenage girl, but for the Spence family, she has already become one of them.

“She has won our hearts over for sure,” said host mother Chris Spence. “Anna just brings a lot of joy to our family. She seems like a young lady who should always be part of our family, she just blends in really well.”

The Spences were matched up with Anna through a Ukraine hosting program called Open Hearts and Open Homes for Children. It was a gift that came just in time for Christmas. Anna spent four weeks with the family in Blacksburg, then another 10 weeks this past summer.

“As soon as we hosted her at Christmas, she just felt like part of our family,” Spence said. “In fact, after she left and we would go places together as a family and she wasn’t part of it, it just seemed like it was a missing piece. We are just so anxious and excited to get here and make our family more complete.”

The Spences said Anna is excellent with their girls Natalee and Harper, and she has a lot of love to give, but the family faces a challenge as they try to add their missing piece.

It’s hard for orphans like Anna to escape the system in Ukraine. Once they turn 16, they age out of the orphanage and have to make it on their own, something Radford University professor Iuliia Hoban is familiar with, having grown up in her country.

“The Soviet Union Collapsed in 1991. A lot of the legal system and the rules and the principals remain the same; however, the conditions and the economy changed drastically, and those children remain in this limbo,” Hoban said. “When they’re put outside of this institutional care, they don’t have the means to support themselves.”

“Instead of seeing adults homeless, it’s kids, it’s kids just on the street in corners of alleys. It’s just brutal,” said Crystal Bedford.

Bedford has been working with the Spence family since she helped with matching them to host Anna. Now, she works for an adoption agency and is working to bring Anna back to America for good.

“The difference between here and there is here, there are more supports in place,” Bedford said. “We may not have a perfect system, but we do have more systems that are able to address the need.”

Many of the children turn to suicide or prostitution, something the Spences don’t want Anna or any orphans to go through.

“She’s still very young and we just see so much potential in her,” Spence said.

“I think that bringing attention to stories like this also is a source of bringing change,” Hoban said.

Adoption is a very expensive process. The Spence Family is expected to spend over $30,000 to bring Anna home.

They are holding a consignment sale Saturday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Blacksburg United Methodist Church. You can find out more about the sale here: https://www.facebook.com/events/423005815098801/.

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