‘We’re blessed to have her’
There’s a Facebook photo showing a boy lifting his little sister up off the floor from behind, something loving siblings tend to do.
They are smiling big, enjoying the moment captured on film by a proud parent.
They weren’t born brother and sister. The boy was born in Russia, the girl in Poland. But they’re together now, laughing, and enjoying life in little Mantorville, of all places.
“She likes to copy me,” said the big brother, 10-year-old Spencer Bradford, regarding his sister Sandra, 8. “And sometimes she can be kind of annoying.”
“Every time we talk about it, tears come to my eyes,” said Abby Bradford, who joined her husband, Chuck, in adopting Sandra from an orphanage in Stargard, Poland, in mid-December. “We’re planning a celebration to welcome her to the family, and we’re just really excited and blessed to have our family all together now. And it feels complete. We’re just so blessed to be able to bring all those cultures into our family, too.”
“I think that we had such a positive experience when we adopted our son from Russia,” said Chuck Bradford, who was also adopted, as were his sister and his father – and Abby’s mother. “We realized how much joy it brought into the family, and we were able to share that joy with someone else – a child in need. And we just thought it would be a really cool thing to do again. We had the emotional and financial capacity to do it, and we decided to round out our family, and it would be nice to have one boy and one girl.”
The Bradfords adopted Spencer from an orphanage in Smolensk, Russia, in 2008, when he was 11 months old.
They worked with New Beginnings Adoption and Family Services in Mississippi, and with Lutheran Social Services to start the year-and-a-half long process of finding Sandra. That included lots of paperwork regarding their background and home life, and training to prepare for the adoption process.
Chuck, a health care consultant and the mayor of Mantorville, and Abby, a stay-at-home graphic designer, sought a healthy boy or girl to add to their family.
“And we ended up with a girl,” Chuck said. “And she fit perfectly and it was a good match.”
“We are very blessed to have her in our family,” Abby said, “and anyone who goes through the adoption process understands what families go through to adopt. And it’s much harder than having a child of your own. People can spend anywhere from a year to up to three or four years, sometimes up to five years to adopt a child. And it’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of stress. And financially it’s hard, too. But when you’re finally a family unit, it makes it all worthwhile.”
The couple said the notion of mistreatment in orphanages is not always accurate.
“A lot of the people who work in orphanages really are passionate about caring for these children,” Abby said. “They really deeply love these kids and would do anything to protect them. But they’re working on limited budgets, so they’re doing the best that they can. So we were happy to see that people were crying and happy for them and missing them as we took them home, but also crying and happy that they had found forever homes. Not what we expected.”
Chuck said a care worker in Spencer’s case could not look at Spencer when the Bradfords left the orphanage in Smolensk, because she was crying.
“She was happy,” he said. “And they kept translating, ‘They’re so happy.’ It’s hard. And the same thing with Sandra. Her care workers were trying to be very strong, so that when she did leave it wasn’t quite so emotional for her at that separation. But it’s good to know that they really were that loved when they were there. You just don’t think about when you get into a project like that.”
Spencer and Sandra attend a Montessori school in Rochester. There, the youngsters are interacting with others who were born outside the U.S.
“They have a really great program, and it’s a good way for the children to learn,” Abby said. “Sondra fit really well in that program after we adopted her, because in Poland they only send children to school for half-days. In the U.S., we’re in school all day. And it’s quite a change for her to do that, and to be in a school with all English-speaking children. So she’s able to get some training with English and catch up to her peers. But she also goes to classes with first, second and third graders, even though she’s a second-grader. She might be working with first-graders on things she’s deficient in, and she might be working with older children who are mentoring her as well. So it’s a great fit for them.”
Chuck said he’s pleased that Sandra and Spencer share a strong connection.
“And that extends to her family and her care workers, too,” he said. “When we would go out to eat at dinner in Poland, she was very big on, ‘Mommy, Daddy, try what I have.’ And then ‘Oh, can I try what you have.’ And was already kind of into that sharing mode. Again, if you think about the stereotype that your hear about an orphanage, where ‘I have to fight for what’s mind, and I’m not going to let go of anything,’ it was just the opposite. These children were very sharing, very open, and they watched out for one another as well. We were glad to see that.”
The Facebook photos show a little girl with a beautiful smile, and a happy little boy surrounded by his smiling, caring family.
A little write-up accompanies that photo of the siblings having such fun together.
Here she is!
My little sister!
I was chosen,
I was wanted,
I was cherished,
I grew in their hearts,
I was the missing piece,
I was loved,
I was adopted.
Dec. 18, 2017.
It’s something quite magical!