Adopting a positive position for life
De Pere couple adds a child who was born in Russia to their family
By Linda DeVries
De Pere resident Lois Velicer recalls the decision she and her husband, Mark, made years ago:
"We said that if we were ever able to adopt, we would pursue it."
They already had a daughter together, and Mark had a daughter from a previous marriage.
Adoption plans were put on hold when Lois gave birth to a son, Alex, but soon they were
discussing it again.
"We weren't concerned about the age or sex of the child," Lois said. "We just wanted to provide a
home for a child without a family. We didn't know where to go, so some friends recommended
Lutheran Social Services in Appleton. We called and asked them, 'Out of all the countries people
could adopt from, where are they most in need?'
Since it stopped placing children for adoption eight years ago, Catholic Social Services in the
Green Bay Diocese frequently recommends that couples use Lutheran Social Services for
The Velicers started the process and later learned that the day they were approved as adoptive
parents - Dec. 15, 1998 - was the day their adopted son, Nathan, was born. Eleven months later,
they flew to Russia to pick him up.
When Mark and Lois first saw Nathan at 11 months, he weighed only 13 pounds.
"His mother was very young and had no prenatal care," Lois said. "He didn't sit or roll over. But
since he's been here - he'll be two years old next month - he's completely caught up to where he
should be. It probably helped to have older kids. Meghan [age 11] and Alex [age 7] are really
involved. We've talked a lot as a family through this whole process, and the older children have
accepted Nathan as their brother. Meghan mothers him, and Alex plays with him. Nathan tries to
copy everything the older ones do."
The trip to Russia was memorable for the Velicers.
"They lead you by the hand," Lois said of the adoption agency. "We had a 10-hour flight to
Moscow, where we stayed a couple days, then a seven-hour flight to Ulan Ude, which is north of
Mongolia but still in Russia. We came home through Moscow, and the whole process took about
two weeks. The actual adoption takes place in Russian courts, then we went through it again back
here. It was a good experience to learn about Nathan's Russian heritage, and we were so well
taken care of while we were there."
Velicers picked up Nathan from the younger children's orphanage in Ulan Ude, but they also spent
time at the older children's orphanage which housed children from two to seven years old. There
they met a little boy, Volodya, whom they couldn't get out of their minds.
"When we got home, we actually found him an adoptive family!" Lois said. "But then it fell through because of the boy's family issues. So they adopted a brother and sister from Russia. In fact, the boy was Volodya's best friend. Later we learned that Volodya was available again, so last July we started the process to adopt him. He's eight now and lives in a boarding school. Many kids are there because their families have financial or alcohol problems, and at least the children are warm and fed. We won't know till next spring if we'll be able to adopt him."
The problems associated with adopting an older child are significant, and Velicers took those into consideration.
"Maybe we should have our heads examined," Lois laughed, "but our kids are OK with it, and the orphanage where Volodya was raised for the first few years was a good one. He bonded there, so they say he'll be able to bond again. He just won our hearts."