ADOPTION IS DREAM COME TRUE FOR SOUTH DAKOTA FAMILY
Larry and Dwan Tjeerdsma recently adopted two Ukrainian sisters
By DeAnn McClure, P&D Correspondent
Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, SD, July 28, 2003
Larry and Dwan Tjeerdsma recently adopted two Ukrainian sisters - Grace
(left), 8, and Clare, 6. The couple picked up the girls from a Ukraine
orphanage this spring, and the family has had a good transition.
AVON, South Dakota -- When Larry and Dwan Tjeerdsma were wedded nearly
four years ago, they had the same visions for their future as many newlyweds
-- to start a family.
But for the Avon couple, infertility problems almost kept that dream
from becoming a reality.
Today, as they look at their daughters, 6-year-old Clare and 8-year-old
Grace, their family has taken on a powerful meaning in their lives.
"We went through 2 1/2 years of infertility treatments and finally
decided to toss in the towel, quit doctoring and looked at the option
Dwan said. "But the laws in the United States are very different
and we found out that we couldn't adopt here because Larry was too old.
The law says that if you are over 40, you can't adopt."
The Tjeerdsma's said every time they hit a dead end everytime they talked
to an U.S. adoption agency.
That's when they decided to go overseas.
Dwan said she was on the Internet every night for three consecutive months
researching adoption companies.
She said she found educating herself on every avenue was the key to a
"We were thinking about Russia but our social worker suggested the
Ukraine, so we went with that," she said. "We picked a small
company in Virginia that was a non-profit organization, so we knew all
of the money would go to the adoption. And it was Christian-based, which
we wanted as well."
The paperwork finally got started for the couple, but setbacks kept coming,
leaving them on an emotional roller coaster ride for a year and a half.
"It seemed as though we would be gaining some ground and then something
would put us two steps back," Larry said.
But they never gave up hope of their dream to raise a family. They relied
solely on the support of friends, family and God.
"We had so many people from the Midwest praying for us to make this
all possible," Larry said.
"As an adoptive couple you do have to rely 100 percent on God, otherwise
you won't get through it," Dwan said.
By January of this year, Dwan didn't think they would be leaving for
the Ukraine until August.
But their faith prevailed, and the telephone call came in early March.
"I answered the phone and the first thing they said was are you
sitting down?'" she said. "They told me we had an appointment
to pick out our kids on April 9."
It was wonderful news for the Tjeerdsma's, and they believed their family
was finally going to happen. They packed up for a three-week stay in Kiev,
Once at their appointment, they were given profiles of the children up
for adoption with pictures, backgrounds and whether they had any siblings.
Dwan said she was overwhelmed while looking through the packets and trying
to figure out which one to pick.
"We had already made up our minds that we were not gong to separate
siblings, so when we were initially filling out the paperwork, people
would ask us how many we were going to get and said we really didn't know.
It all depended on how many siblings there were," she said.
Larry said he knew many people back home were praying for them, and the
realization set in after picking the two Ukrainian sisters.
"We suddenly realized why it took us a year and a half to get here,"
he said. "These girls came up for adoption on April 8, the day before
our appointment. It was sign of it being meant to be," he said.
The couple got to meet their girls and see them for a couple of hours
everyday on their three-week stay.
They had to return home without them, but this time, they had a different
"The Ukrainian law requires a 30-day waiting period for any Ukrainian
citizen or relative to come and contest the adoption. Of course every
country is different, but after May 21, we could get them anytime,"
"We left home without them, but by then we knew we were going to
come home with some kids," Larry said. "We finally got to e-mail
everybody and tell them we were getting some girls."
They spent the next four weeks preparing and planning for the new addition
to their family by building a swing set and a playhouse.
They packed again a month later to pick up the girls and bring them home,
and Dwan said she couldn't wait to see them again.
"When I got to the orphanage, the director told me that Grace would
not go to school that day, because she didn't want to miss her mom and
dad coming to get her," she said. "I thought that was just the
The Tjeerdsma's credit the orphanage for how easy the transition has
been and for making it such a positive experience.
"I take my hat off to that orphanage. They raised the kids with
love. Our kids knew what hugs and kisses were," Larry said.
"Every orphanage has a different story, and we hear so many negatives,
but we want to stress that we had the most positive experience,"
Dwan added. "A lot of the orphanages are segregated and grouped by
ages but this one was raised as one extended family."
Larry and Dwan see their chance to become parents as one to never take
Dwan said a lot of people told them how much their lives would change
with kids, but they view it as just having extra people in the house to
"I guess we were an older couple that got married to begin with,
went through fertility problems and we never looked at children as a burden.
This is just normal for us," she said.
Clare Nina will start kindergarten this fall and her sister, Grace Yulia,
will be in second grade.
They are finishing summer school now, and their English is becoming more
and more fluent.
As a way to keep their heritage, the Tjeerdsma's gave the girls American
names, but kept their Ukrainian first names as their middle names.
The family has been busy with visitors, and they are enjoying every minute
of each discovery.
"Everyone is just in awe at how Clare looks like me, and Grace looks
like Larry's side of the family," Dwan said. "We were told that
would happen that the kids would fit in just as though they were ours
biologically. So it's kind of neat to see that happen."
"We've had a lot of people tell us how lucky we are and we know
we are, but those people that have natural children are lucky too,"
she added. "This is just another door that opened for us, and we
wouldn't change it for the world."
The Tjeerdsma's achieved their dream of having a family and are now considering
the possibility of one day adopting more children.
But for now, they are enjoying life to the fullest with Clare and Grace.
"If I knew parenting would be this gratifying, I would have done
it 20 years ago," Larry said.
Reprinted with permission of Yankton Daily Press.