This is a post I never imagined writing. In fact, we took all the precautions imaginable to try to prevent a post like this from ever happening, but, here we are.
This past weekend we had to remove our dear Anton from our home.
Anton has struggled off and on with aggressive behaviors basically the whole time he’s lived with us. It kind of surprised us because he was not aggressive at Romaniv. In fact, he was the most meek, quiet, subdued and shy man you could imagine. Almost all of the boys and men at Romaniv are aggressive to some degree. Aggression is the language of institutional life. And since Anton lived there from the age of 4 till we took him home at age 30, that was the language of his childhood, his teen years, and his adulthood. In an institution like that only the strong survive. The pecking order is well-established and the stronger abuse the weaker. It’s what Anton knows, but since he himself was not aggressive, we felt okay bringing him home. Also, we knew God said Anton was our family, so we listened.
Once Anton started to act out aggressively when upset or not feeling well, or when he didn’t get his own way, we were a little surprised (although not completely- we tried to be “prepared for anything”) and sad, but also hoped that once his language abilities grew and he felt safe, his aggression would diminish or maybe even completely go away. We still hope for that!
In the past month or so Anton’s aggression has dramatically increased. When awake he has been in an almost constant state of stress and keeping him from escalating has become a full time job. This past weekend it became obvious that it was not safe for him to be in our home with our children for even one more day.
Let me say right now that we are 100% committed to Anton- legally, and in our hearts. We love him so so much, and we know that this is not who he really is. He desperately wants to do the right thing. The real Anton is fun-loving and tender-hearted. We truly believe he doesn’t want to hurt others, but he is working through something and it’s not safe for him to work it out in close proximity to small children. Maybe this is a stage in his healing and he will come out on the other side even more loving and more like his true self, but while we are committed to helping him heal we also have to consider every person in our family. Boris and the little ones can’t be sacrificed during Anton’s healing process. He’s a full-grown man and his emotions are big. We realized this weekend that we had to find another way.
Right now we have Anton staying in an apartment in town and our team is taking turns staying with him. Today Jed is out with a realtor looking for a more long-term apartment that Anton can live in until the duplex is finished, and then we plan that he will live there. We are hoping to find 2 guys who will live with him in the apartment. He can spend the daytime with our team like always, and then have his evenings and weekends at the apartment.
Our hearts are broken, and in just the last few days our plans and ideas for our family have been turned on their heads.
When we brought Boris, Anton and Ruslan into our home we planned they would live with us, in our home, for life. But it seems God has other plans. Yes, the duplex is literally right outside our back door, but it’s still not what we had planned. At the same time, we have a responsibility to our kids, and we also know we can’t help transition other boys to the duplex and then next home after that if 100% of our attention has to be focused on just keeping the people in this one house safe. We have to have some margin in order to keep our family and Wide Awake, as an organization, healthy and growing.
Our dream of “family style homes” is still the dream. But God is kind of asking us to redefine in our minds what “family” means. Family doesn’t have to mean a mom, dad, and a bunch of kids. That scenario doesn’t work for every person- especially when we’re talking about people who have been so extremely abused and traumatized for so many years. Sometimes family needs to be smaller, quieter, more controlled, with fewer moving parts. We have 6 kids. Our home will never be quiet. In my mind it’s a peaceful chaos, but I think we are learning that it’s just not the best environment for our Anton. “Family” is a place where you are loved and accepted as you are. It’s a place where you are supported and encouraged to grow into your full potential. We can still provide that for Anton.
We’ve cried a river of tears over the last few days. My mind just keeps trying to figure out a way to keep him here, but I’m also in awe of how much more peaceful it is here without feeling like we have to protect everyone from Anton every minute. I didn’t realize how much of our hearts and minds and household routine were consumed with keeping Anton from escalating. It’s just not sustainable if we are committed to these guys for life and if we’re going to be able to bring more boys from the institution.
My heart screams that no one can love him as deeply as I love him. How can I entrust him to another? He must be so confused. He’s one of my babies and I know he loves me just as much. But right now he needs something that I can’t give him, and my heart needs to trust that God’s plans for Anton are good and He is not surprised by this turn of events- even though we are.
That’s where we stand now. We would so appreciate your prayers during this time. We need so much wisdom. Anton needs so much peace. We are visiting every kind of doctor available to make sure we are not missing some physical ailment that is causing him pain or stress. We will not give up on our boy.
We met with our team on Sunday night and were amazed and encouraged when we stood back and realized we were in a room FULL of people who love Anton and want the best for him. Jed and I are not alone in this. I thank God for our wonderful, loving, committed team.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. We have no secrets and always want to be honest about the journey, while also maintaining Anton’s dignity.
Thank you for loving us and believing in this work.
You have addressed this situation so lovingly and sensitively…your deep commitment to Anton is obvious. I will be praying for all of your hearts, I can see that the hurt is real for everyone. I know our precious and merciful Lord will allow all things to work together for good according to His purpose.
Tears in my eyes as I process how hard this is for everyone. It’s so good to keep in focus that God is not surprised by this. Your plans HAVE to be His or they will not succeed. He is shaping and molding what this all must look like in order to align with Him. But that doesn’t mean the hurt is less. I will hold you all in prayer. I will pray that whatever Anton is working through will be made clear to someone on his team so they can help him. Trauma is no joke and how much this poor guy must have to process. I will pray for his dear heart and mind to process at whatever level is necessary for him to find peace. We’ve not met, but I LOVE and deeply respect the work you’re doing. Love, peace and prayers for everyone in your family. Julie
We appreciate your pure honesty. We have experienced some of the same “heartbreak” in our home (Hearts of Hope, Ukraine) also. It can be so hard sometimes. We love you guys (even though we have never met you) and “feel your pain” in ways that no other Moms and Dads can really understand. May God be near to your hearts.
We have walked through similar scenarios in family + community living but nothing quite so heartbreaking as this. We will most certainly be praying for all of you as this story continues to unfold. Thank you for your honesty, compassion, and wisdom. May the Comforter blanket you all with the peace that surpasses all understanding. May the joy of the Lord be your strength in this season.
We will not stop praying for Anton and your family. Love you friend.
My heart aches for you! I’ve been through some very hard things with my kids that only God could get me through. God has a plan and He’s working through it. The IS one Person who loves Anton more than you do, He’s going to get you all through this and do what’s best. I love you all and I’m praying
My heart is breaking as I read this and have even a small understanding of what this must be like for you and your family. My prayers are with you, God is with you. He is with Anton. It is stories like this that, although tragic and sad, help me to get up every morning. I’ve been in Ukraine for nearly 6 months and have not even begun to see the darkest sides of institutional life yet…but I know it is coming. And I believe God is using your family, and others, to prepare me for those days in the future. Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability, open heart and open mind. My heart breaks, but my soul also feels joy in knowing that God is working to set all things right.
Awe Kim. So hard to let go. I am sorry.