Monday, May 31, 2010

Heading over for a Mission Trip

Well, if you read my first post to this blog, I will continue now. Once over there, my heart went out to all the precious children who were in the orphanage just wating and needing to be loved. You can't imagine what it could be like until you see with your own eyes the blank looks in the babies eyes and then the smiles as you embrace them! In the ukraine as in most Eastern European countries, chidren with disabilites are not aborted as they are here in the states. We are grateful for that. However, at birth, the parents are given very little options other than to turn their baby over to the government for care. There are NO support services for the families; no early intervention, no special education. It is a disgrace to have a special needs child. Very few families keep their children at home. Remember, it was the same way over here in the USA just 60 years ago!!! Once in the Baby Houses, some fortunate children are signed 'off' by their parents for adoption overseas. Only recently has the Ukraine started a foster care system and started encouraging families to adopt (but not the special needs children!!). If by five, the children are not adopted they are sent to INTERNATS, where the statistics vary but a large percentage of the children don't even make it one year there! They have no medication, are fed once a day, diapered once a day and receive no education. They are asigned a crib, where grown adults are contorted by the restrictions. Here in America, the animal activists would be in arms if animals were found in similar conditions, but these are not animals, they are children, God's SPECIAL children.

While there I learned of a Groupa House where the children were "freaks', victims from Chernobyl and you needed a strong stomach to go in there". Some children even had six fingers and toes! (imagine that!). Well, my little Jillian was born with six fingers on each hand and armed with her picture I entered the Baby House (to use the bathroom). What I saw were perfect, innocent children of God who were 'unique' and each one more precious that the next! It was here where suddenly, it all made sense to me; Why I had Jillian!! Had it not been for her extra digits, I would never have been so assertive and allowed into the Groupa House. (I'm still not sure they even knew what I was doing there.) It was then that they informed me that the DIrector wanted to see me. Once I was escorted to the MAIN Office, my camera was confiscated, and I was able to communicate (via Google translator on the computer), who I was and what I was doing there. After praising them for the care they put into the children, they accepted me and escorted me out (after laughing at some of my pictures of Jo Ann and my site seeing adventures). It was then that they allowed me to walk among the children, and to interact with them!! I knew then that God was telling me that this is what He wants me to do, to minister to the special orphans and to bring Early Intervention training to the staff and families!!
I will be returning June 12-21 to join the Sasha and Oyla Skyrpak from the Almaz Mission in ministering to the orphans. I will be training staff to use sign langauge to enhance communication skills, and I will be assessing and identifying children and providing support for adoptive families. My suitcase is already loaded with materials, rattles,bibs, socks and sun bonnets. I'm hoping to be bringing some donated walkers and therapy equipment as well. I will be meeting with the Orphanage Psychologist to discuss evaluations and to train him in a new assessment tool I have developed! Jo Ann Torres will be joining me. on this mission. She has volunteered to cut and color the hair of the careworkers who work LONG hours, six days per week for the equivalent of $120 a month!! And of course we will be meeting with Ivanna's mother and father whose story I will tell at on a later post.

The Boy from Baby House 10 and one in Groupa House 3

The Boy From Baby House 10
From the Nightmare of a Russian Orpahanage to a New Life in America
by Alan Philps and John Lahutsky
St. Martins Press, New York 2009

There is an amazing story of a young man, John Lahutsy who was in Baby House 10 in Russia, who was adopted by Paula Lahutsky, a school psychologist from Pleasant Valley School District, my home school district!!!! What an amazing coincidence! Paula had evaluated all three of my children at different times in their school career and I remember when she was adopting John from Russia with cerebral palsy!! John was in a Baby House with the most involved children, and had he not spoken up for himself and someone went to 'bat for him' , he would still be there lying in a crib in unthinkable conditions!!! This is a must read book for anyone who is thinking of adopting or knows anyone who is adopting!!! His amazing story will encourage you to fight for these children!!!
His story has been repeated in Vorzel (and I imagine in other orphanages as well) ! I found blond hair, blue eyed Ruslan(pictures above) also with cerebral palsy in the back of Groupa House 3! Ruslan was soon to be trasferred to the internat and NO adoption agency knew of him! Recently Ruslan had surgery, just like John did, and spent weeks in a hospital recuperating alone! Had it not been for his facilitator and Sasha Skyrpak, a missionary from Almaz Church, he would not even have had pain medication and decent food to eat! Imagine a child going through surgery alone!!! But Ruslan won't be alone for long!! He now has a family in Virginia in the process of adopting him!!! Please pray it goes through soon so Ruslan can get the medical attention and therapy he so badly needs here in America with his FOREVER FAMILY!! The picture above is the one I snapped of Ruslan shortly before I was called to the adminstration building for questioning about what I was doing! See John's site for pictures of him as well as his efforts to help the orphans!!

For more information about this amazing young man who is such an inspiration and to order his book go to


You can SPONSOR A BONNET for an orphan in Vorzel for $10.00. Your name will be written on the inside as donated by YOU! Half of the money will be used to pay for the fees for a translator while over there and the other half will go directly for materials for the children! Please pay through your PayPal account on the Chipin Widget! Thank you so much!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Early Intervention Specialist/Consultant

Hi Thanks for visiting my blog!

I'm Sandie Flannery ...and it seems like my entire life I have been involved somehow with Special Needs children. Back in grammer school, I was the 'future teacher of tomorrow' volunteering at lunch time to help with the special education kindergarteners. In high school, I started a Saturday morning Special Recreation Program. I got a Bachelors degree in Special Education from the University of Florida ("Go Gators!") back in 1972. Wow! I'm dating myself! And a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Special Education in 1984! I've been working in Early Intervention for over 30 years now!!!
After giving birth to two healthy sons, Kristopher, age 26, and Lee, age 23 God blessed me with my daughter Jillian Joan, age 18 who has Agenesis of the Corpus Collasum, a midline birth defect and is severely developmentally delayed. It was hard for me to understand WHY God had given me such an involved child especially after having had two stillborn daughters and I worked as an Early Intervention Teacher/Consultant! After I realized that He had been preparing me all along with the skills and support I needed to raise my Special daughter, I stopped questioning and accepted! But I still always thought that there was another reason that my life was the way it was and that God had given me Jillian. I knew He had plans for me!
Those plans were laid out clearly for me this summer when I found myself in an orphanage in Vorzel, Ukraine.
I had gone over there to help a dear friend, Jo Ann Torres and her husband Ruben bring back their three precious little girls with Down Syndrome, whom they adopted......