Couple Overcomes Obstacles to Bring Adopted Girls Home

A United Methodist News Service and feature

By Kathy L. Gilbert

Gough family photo
Alanna, Natalee and twins Lareesa and Julienne Gough pose for a picture at their home. Photo courtesy of the Gough family. 6/4/04
(UMCom) -- The Rev. Mark Gough and his wife, Paula, have learned a lot about adoptions and orphanages in recent years.

The couple, who live in Goshen, Ind., have adopted five children from Eastern Europe and are trying to bring home a sixth. They have seen a wide range of quality in orphanages in Russia and the Ukraine.

Carroline, twins Julienne and Lareesa, and Natalee and Alanna range in ages from 2 to 6. The Goughs are trying to adopt Carroline’s older sister, Valentina.

Each of the girls has had medical problems, Mark explains.

“Because of our age, we weren’t offered the ‘prime children,’” he says. Mark and Paula were in their late 40s when they started adopting about five years ago.

Alanna came from a very poor region of Russia, and at nine months of age weighed only 10 pounds.

“Developmentally, she was at a 3-month-old level,” Paula says.

Experiences in other regions of Russia and the Ukraine have been better, Mark says, but the orphanages just don’t have the money or supplies to care for the children adequately.

That first orphanage in Russia was the worst, both agree.

“Each time we went to see Alanna, we were told to bring a diaper,” Paula says. “I never understood it until I was finally able to see her room. It was horrifying.”

Alanna was kept in a wooden playpen with 15 other babies, none of whom had any diapers, Paula says.

“The big ones were crawling on the little ones,” she says. “There were maybe two caretakers, and it was a heartbreaking sight.”

The doctors in Russia told the Goughs that Alanna probably wouldn’t even survive the flight back to the United States.

“We got her home to our doctors, they gave her a couple of rounds of antibiotics, and she hasn’t been sick since,” Mark says. “She is a beautiful little girl of almost six with blond curly hair.”

Gough family photo
Big sisters Alanna (left) and Natalee (right) play with their baby sister, Carroline. Photo courtesy of the Gough family. 6/4/04
Natalee came from an orphanage in the Ukraine and was born with a heart defect. Mark says they were told she would need open heart surgery.

“When we got home, we took her to a cardiologist who told us she would not need surgery. She is doing fine.”

Next, the Goughs fell in love with a set of twins, Julienne and Lareesa. The girls weighed four pounds at birth and are still suffering from some developmental issues.

Carroline was adopted from Russia. “She had rickets because of the lack of calcium, but developmentally, she was pretty much on target,” Paula says.

While they were adopting Carroline, the Goughs learned she had an older sister living in another orphanage in Gubkin, Russia.

“When we discovered Carroline had an older sister, she was 10, almost 11 at the time,” Mark says. “We were a little apprehensive about trying to adopt her. We heard all the horror stories about adopting older children from Eastern Europe.”

After spending a week with Valentina, Mark says they found her to be a girl who really wanted a family.

“It has been the hardest year of our lives waiting, trying to get the paperwork right and raise the money to go back and bring her home,” Mark says.

They need another $8,000 to get Valentina, he says.

The first two adoptions, done through an agency, cost them around $22,000 each. “That’s cheap,” Mark says. The cost was low because they took children with health problems. He says some agencies charge as much as $50,0000 for a healthy child.

The Goughs found it cheaper and easier to adopt independently, and they did that with their next adoptions. “Doing it independently, we can do it for between $12,000 and $17,000.”

The family has second-mortgaged their houses, borrowed from Mark’s pension program and used any other source available.

Mark says he doesn’t know where the money will come from to adopt Valentina.

“We have just been praying that God will open a door and help us out.”

The Goughs are happy to share their experiences with others wanting to adopt. Their Web site chronicles their lives with the five little girls who, Mark says, “are the joy of my life.”

Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.


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