Hiawatha family completes adoption of 3 Ukrainian children – The Gazette | Wonder Mind Kids

Jenna Breckenridge smiles with her son Mkolya Breckenridge during an adoption hearing Friday at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Mkolya Breckenridge, 12, adjusts his tie while Aeson Breckenridge, 14, and Rowan Breckenridge, 9, watch their brother Bogdan Breckenridge, 17, play a video game before an adoption hearing Friday at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids . (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Jenna Breckenridge holds her foster son King, 3, as she fills out paperwork with her husband Scott Breckenridge (left) and attorney Justin Riem before an adoption hearing Friday at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Jenna Breckenridge smiles as her son Bogdan Breckenridge, 17, speaks with Judge Nicholas Scott during an adoption hearing Friday at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids. The family had been trying to adopt the three boys from Ukraine for more than three years. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Jenna Breckenridge gets emotional as her son Mkolya Breckenridge hugs her after the end of an adoption ceremony Friday at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Jenna Breckenridge takes a picture of her three sons after completing their adoption at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

The Breckenridge family poses for a photo with Judge Nicholas Scott after completing the adoption of Bogdan, Ilya and Mkolya at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center in Cedar Rapids on Friday. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — After more than three tumultuous years of telling their truth, Jenna and Scott Breckenridge finally heard it echo at the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center.

“It is my honor to officially announce to you this year in the state of Iowa that you are the parents of these three boys,” said Justice Nicholas Scott, who will have final hearing on the matter.

Friday’s hearing to finalize her adoption went perhaps faster than usual. Twins Ilya and Bogdan, 17, were required to sign consent forms confirming their adoption was without coercion or undue influence. They signed the papers before the judge could even give the brief instructions for their final decisions.

After waiting 39 months through absurd hurdles, they refused to waste another minute.

“I know you’re going to have a great life and do great things here,” he told the three Ukrainian-born twins and their brother Mkolya, 12.

Now Americans, their new birth certificates will reflect what they’ve known in their hearts since they saw Jenna and Scott: the Breckenridge surname. And with that burden off their shoulders, for the first time, the parents were able to say something else.

“It’s finally done,” Scott said to the assembled family after the hearing.

The court hearing was, in a way, a formality that could never alter the family bond. But the recognition granted by the finalization has given Ilya, Bogdan and Mkolya the legitimacy of their family name. Now they can say and use their first name on forms, at school, and everywhere they go.

“I feel like just because it’s done now, done, things are different,” Jenna said. “It’s such a long process — I swear I’ve aged 10 years in two years.”

The boys’ new last name on fresh American birth certificates is also accompanied by new middle names.

Bogdan Tripp is named after the social worker who conducted the family’s home study and touched their lives. Ilya Becker Mills’ middle name honors two family friends who have supported the family through thick and thin in the adoption world, one of whom stood up for Mkolya. Mkolya Ranson is named after another close friend of the family in the adoption world who, at the same time, was hosting a Ukrainian boy from the twins’ orphanage.

The journey to this point

Before hosting the twins, Jenna and Scott had never really discussed adoption. But when Ilya and Bogdan walked through the airport terminal doors, it was a done deal for them.

The boys had been passed over several times for guest tours to the United States during their time at the Ukrainian orphanage. On the second day of their visit to Iowa, the twins called the Breckenridges “Mom” and “Dad.”

Every quality about Jenna and Scott makes them parents, Bogdan said.

“When I came here, I knew they were going to be my parents,” he said.

Through corruption-riddled Ukraine bureaucracy, following paper trails, and nearly missing critical deadlines after rejected applications, Scott and Jenna resorted to hope, prayer, and a dogged perseverance through seemingly insurmountable hurdles to adopt the boys.

Last year, Jenna lived in Ukraine for several months to go through the country’s legal processes. During this time, she met Mkolya and also completed the procedure for his adoption. She battled suspicions from a judge who thought she intended to adopt Mkolya to harvest his organs for her other children, but the authenticity of their bond was undeniable.

“She couldn’t believe that we wanted to adopt him because of his special needs,” Jenna previously told The Gazette. “They avoid these children in this country.”

Those special needs were a simple cleft palate and a developmental delay. Mkolya, then 11, had spent most of his life in an orphanage after his birth mother abandoned him in the hospital as a baby.

A new direction

If they hadn’t been adopted by parents who were fighting to bring them home, Bogdan and Ilya said they would be on the front lines of Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion — and might already be dead.

After aging out of their orphanage system in Mariupol, they lived in a hostel for months while awaiting the legal adoption process. With little career prospects to bid their time, they nearly joined the military.

Mariupol fell under Russian control in May.

When asked about his future plans, of which he has many, Bogdan chose to focus on the seriousness of the moment in court on Friday.

“I don’t care what happens tomorrow,” he said. “What happens today interests me.”

Poster children for the process

The Breckenridges are a prime example of how difficult international adoption can be. After sacrificing time, finances, mental and emotional energy, they hope others can learn from their experiences.

Of all the stressful experiences, her worst pain was being separated from the twins for nearly two years — perhaps the true mark of a parent.

“Don’t be afraid – dive in,” Scott said. “You will always have excuses, a reason to say no. We had a million reasons why we could have said no.”

“I’m not saying it’s easy,” said Jenna, who is now a de facto adoption advocate. “But it’s worth it.”

The parents continue to fight to adopt Artem, a fourth Ukrainian teenager. After Russia took control of his city, the 15-year-old fled to Italy, where he lives with other orphans. His adoption remains in limbo as most adoptions are not processed by Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy while the country remains under martial law.

But for three Ukrainian-American boys, Friday was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

Comments: (319) 398-8340; elijah.decious@thegazette.com

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