BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) – The nearly 200,000 orphans in Ukraine are especially traumatized by Russia’s invasion that has displaced millions of civilians, according to a Southern Baptist adoption and orphan care minister who has adopted three children from Ukraine.
“The thing that we know most fully is that everyone in Ukraine has now become vulnerable, and that means that orphans who are already vulnerable and marginalized in their society, in most cases their vulnerability has only increased,” Rick Morton, vice president of engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services, told Baptist Press.
“The challenges are great because you have children who have experienced abuse and neglect and all matter of trauma, that are now being uprooted from what they know and from the familiarity and the relative safety of the circumstances that they’re in,” he said. “Even if they’ve not been in good circumstances, they’ve been in consistent circumstances. Now they’re being uprooted, they’re being taken to another part of the country, they’re being taken out of the country. And so their trauma is just being compounded.”
Lifeline, which has worked to help Ukrainian orphans and facilitate adoptions there nearly 20 years, partners with many Southern Baptist churches and Send Relief, as well as ministries and churches in Ukraine and Romania. Lifeline is helping Ukrainian refugees in Romania, providing food, clothing and shelter, and is preparing to provide trauma-care training with the help of various partners, including Heritage Ukraine and missionaries Madison and Yuriy Perekoity. The Perekoitys, currently stateside, will return to Europe in April. Other partners include the Romania Without Orphans Alliance.
RELATED: Ukrainians Seek Bibles in Wake of Russian Invasion, but Shortage Making It Difficult
“Part of the next phase of our work is helping to support Madison Perekoity and others,” Morton said, “in taking those trauma-informed care resources and using them to train people in the surrounding countries how to respond to the unique needs of people … that have been traumatized as a result of the war.
“We’re actively adapting that work now and will in the next couple of weeks begin to be on the ground in teaching that and helping to build capacity for ministry leaders there” in trauma-informed care.
International humanitarian group Save the Children counts 100,000 orphans still in Ukraine, housed in close to 700 children’s homes there, Forbes reported. But Morton’s sources put the number at about 180,000. As Russia bombs Ukraine in various places including civilian targets such as hospitals, schools and residential buildings, Morton said orphans are assured of no safe place to hide.
“The number we hear floated around is about 180,000 kids that are in Ukrainian orphanages. Around 90 percent of those kids are not adoptable; they’re not true orphans. So a lot of them are social orphans that still have family ties and there’s at least the possibility for reunification (with their families.),” Morton said. “And then, frankly, one of the things that’s kind of misunderstood is in the child welfare system in Ukraine, a lot of the children in orphanages have special needs that this is how they receive their schooling.”
Lifeline Services is frequently communicating with partners in Ukraine during Russia’s attacks, particularly in Odessa in southwest Ukraine, and sending resources to refugees served by the Regen Foundation at an orphanage in Fagaras, Romania, that was temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Baptist churches in Romania are helping those efforts, Morton said.
“We’re staying in close contact with quite a few (partners). It’s very chaotic. The number of displaced people within Ukraine is epic. I heard a statistic from one of them that there are as many as 8 million people that are either internally displaced in Ukraine or have fled the country and become refugees.