Justin and Shaney Barnthouse spent nearly seven years in their quest to adopt a child.
But since November — when they brought siblings Sasha, Vika, Dima and Roslana back from the Ukraine — the couple has jumped off the deep end into parenting not just one child, but four.
The Barnthouses first began considering adoption in 2005 after they discovered they could not have a child on their own.
At first, Shaney and Justin wanted to adopt an infant, then began considering an older child. But after suffering several heartbreaking setbacks, they honed in on a group of four orphaned siblings — Alexander (Sasha), 9; Victoria (Vika), 7; Dimitri (Dima), 5; and Roslana, 3.
The Barnthouses left for the Ukraine at the end of August, hoping to visit a number of orphanages in an arduous process by which they had to secure referrals.
When a prospective adoptive couple gets accepted for a referral for a specific child, it pulls that child’s name out of the pool, so he cannot be selected by someone else, Shaney explained.
“It’s almost like a reservation,” she said. “There’s no guarantee that everything is going to work out.”
The referral is a critical point in the adoption process, Shaney said, adding that you then get three attempts with that paperwork.
“We were very stressed out,” she said. “They really test your faith, that’s for sure.”
The Barnthouses finally met the quartet in mid-September, then came back to the United States until the adoptions were approved by the court there.
Justin and Shaney returned to the Ukraine in October.
“Though we were nervous, everything went without a hitch and the judge ruled in our favor,” Shaney wrote on her blog.
Justin returned to work at the California Highway Patrol office in Grass Valley, and Shaney stayed to finish up the remaining paperwork and get the kids’ passports.
In early November, the older kids, who had been separated from Roslana for more than two years, were reunited with her.
“When (they) walked in the room, they asked me, ‘Is this really her?’” Shaney said. “She was crying. She didn’t know who they were.”
Shaney got back to California Nov. 14 with the children; her mother met her over there to help with the transition.
“The minute we landed in San Francisco, I’ve never been so relieved,” Shaney said. “Even getting on the plane, (thinking about) everything that had to happen … I’m choking up just thinking about it. All the people who helped to make this work — it was incredible.”
On a recent visit to Justin’s Grass Valley office, the grown-ups paused to reflect on the tumultuous adjustment process.
That period of time has been marked with “all these emotions,” Shaney said. “It’s been overwhelming for everybody … it’s run the (gamut). We’ve just been keeping the bigger perspective. We have to be flexible and patient.”
While the younger kids are not as set in their ways, it has been a more difficult adjustment for 9-year-old Sasha.
“They don’t have much to compare (this) to,” Shaney said. “We want them to remember their history and their culture, we want to be respectful, but (we want them to know) this is how we do it in America.”
When they got to the U.S., only Sasha knew a lot of English; the family has been using Google’s translation program to facilitate communication.
“We can use simple English with Roslana,” Justin said. “We struggle with language (when it comes to) feelings or explanations … We have a hard time when they want to tell us something — it can be frustrating, but we find ways to work it out.”
“Roslana will smash Russian and English words together, but they’re all doing really well,” Shaney said.
The older kids seem to have adjusted to school quickly and enjoy it. The school — Alta Vista Charter School in Auburn — had all the students sing a song in Russian to greet them on their first day.
Like new parents everywhere, the Barnthouses have discovered — times four — that their time is no longer their own.
“Definitely, our lives are turned upside-down, but in a good way,” Shaney said. “You have to rely on one another … Your hats go off to all the single parents — how on earth do they manage?
“I haven’t eaten today,” she laughed. “I think the only time I get to myself is in the bathroom, or in the shower.”
According to Shaney, the kids had a very big Christmas thanks to a massive outpouring of gifts from “family members, friends, people we don’t even know — some even left gifts at the door.”
And the outreach hasn’t stopped, the Barnthouses said. “Since we’ve been back, it’s been nonstop, which has been fantastic,” Shaney said. “The outpouring of time and gifts and food has been amazing. The first couple of weeks, Justin was back at work, but somebody was there from our church every single day to help. I don’t think we would have made it through without that help.”
One unanticipated bonus to adopting the four children?
Becoming “knitted” into the community.
“I feel differently about this place now,” Shaney said. “How powerful is it that people would take the time to reach out to our family and help us? We feel really blessed.”
For information, go to www.orphanjustice.org/category/adoption-2/barnthouse-blog/.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4229.
“Definitely, our lives are turned upside-down, but in a good way. You have to rely on one another … Your hats go off to all the single parents — how on earth do they manage?”