The Bacaks, a family of six, are hoping to make it seven by the end of the year.
Bart and Heather Bacak of El Campo are currently going through the process to adopt four-year-old Levi from the Ukraine. Steps to adoption, including lots of paperwork and fees, might overwhelm some, but ironically, the Bacaks had considered adoption before marriage.
“Adoption was something we talked about before we got married, because I was told it would be difficult for me to conceive due to some health issues I had,” she said.
Instead, the couple was blessed with not just one child of their own, but four: two girls and two boys. The idea of adoption was never considered until recently.
“We didn’t ever discuss adoption again because we already had a bigger family than either of us ever thought we would have,” she said.
The sequence of events leading up to adoption began when their oldest son, Bentley, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and was also born with several heart defects requiring open heart surgery at the age of six months. It was during this time that Heather came across a Facebook group called Reece’s Rainbow.
“During the months following his birth, I stumbled across a Facebook page called Reece’s Rainbow that helps raise money for international adoptions of children with special needs, and many of those were children with Down Syndrome,” she said.
Updates would appear on her social media page on a regular basis, but ceased until January 2019.
“A post from Reece’s Rainbow popped up with several pictures and a video of a baby boy named ‘Augustus’ who was up for adoption,” she said. “He was in an orphanage and it was painfully obvious that it wasn’t the best of living conditions. I showed it to Bart, he couldn’t even watch the video because it was so heart-wrenching.”
Augustus weighed heavy on her heart, so she reached out to the Reece’s Rainbow to find out more about the little boy.
“I sent an e-mail inquiring about him late that night and learned that he was in the Ukraine, and when I went back to read the comments on the post, I saw that some friends of ours from Idaho had also inquired about him,” she said. “After making a call to them the next day, I knew they were meant to adopt him and I was so happy that he would be getting a family.”
The following day, another post popped up in her feed.
“This time it was of a little boy named ‘Levi.’ I literally looked up and said, ‘God, what are you doing to me?’ I fell in love with him,” she said.
Hoping someone else would adopt the little boy, she shared it on her page, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Levi.
“One night after everyone was in bed, I stared up at the ceiling and kept thinking how ironic it was that I hadn’t seen a single post from Reece’s Rainbow in years, and all of a sudden I see two back-to-back posts of these poor babies who needed families of their own,” she said. “I couldn’t get them out of my mind, especially Levi. All I could do was pray for guidance. One day it just hit me like a ton of bricks that we were being called to adopt him. It was the craziest idea, because we knew nothing about adoption and we already had an extremely busy life with four kids.”
She began to do some research about adoption, as well as inquire about medical needs for Levi based on what little information was offered on Reece’s Rainbow Facebook page.
“All I knew is that he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and esophageal atresia with trachea-esophageal fistula,” she said.
After she gathered information, she approached her husband.
“I sat down with Bart and told him how I was feeling and asked what his thoughts were,” she said. “I stressed to him that it was just a thought, and that we both had to be on board with it because we’re a team; if not, then we would be his biggest advocates. Bart said he needed to think about it and pray on it, and a week later we decided to go for it.”
Now that the decision was made, the couple started thinking about funding the adoption, which costs $38,000 to $40,000. “We literally had no money saved up for an adoption and we weren’t sure how we would be able to handle everything,” she said. “All we could do was take a leap of faith. We both felt an overwhelming calling to do this and that’s the only explanation we can give people when they ask about it. It’s such an intense calling and I told Bart that all we can do is obey it and be obedient servants to God … if it’s meant to be, then it’ll happen, and if not, we did what we were supposed to and that’s all that mattered.”
Also, the process to adopt a child from the Ukraine requires necessary paperwork, money and travel abroad to meet the child. There is no certainty of adoption.
“It requires you committing to a child with the understanding that they aren’t ‘officially’ yours until you make the first trip to meet them,” she said. “This means that they can be adopted out from under you at any time before then. We’ve seen this happen to a few families recently and we’re literally holding our breath until we get there.”
The Bacaks have also been asked why adopt aboard, when it would be easier here in the states.
“It would be a lot easier to adopt domestically, but after starting this journey, we’ve learned a lot about the conditions of orphanages in Eastern European countries and it’s indescribable,” she said. “It’s a desperate situation and many children die from abuse and neglect. It’s totally different than conditions in the U.S.”
Because of COVID, the adoption process was held up and certain documents good for six months had to be resubmitted. They also were unable to have their first meeting with Levi and are fearful the recent rise in COVID cases may put a hold on travel again.
“We had to redo everything, which was extremely time-consuming and costly,” she said. “The amount of paperwork involved is unbelievable and way more than we ever expected, but we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
The typical process in adopting a child from the Ukraine requires “three trips about four to six weeks apart ... first trip is to meet the child, the second trip is for court, and the third trip is to bring your child home,” she said. “The whole process takes roughly nine to 12 months but in some cases it takes longer. We would’ve been home this summer if not for the pandemic.”
They just completed all the proper paperwork again and what took months, took much less this time.
“We were racing against time these past couple of weeks to get everything done and sent over with another family traveling to the Ukraine to submit for us,” she said.
By Thursday, they received word their paperwork was received.
“We were officially submitted to Ukraine yesterday (Thursday), which means we are an approved adoptive family and now we are awaiting a travel date which usually happens within 30 days,” she said. “Looks like December we will be traveling.”
Their children are excited about welcoming Levi into their family, too.
“Our daughters, who are our two oldest kids, are really excited about the adoption,” she said. “They’re extremely helpful with their little brothers and we have no doubt that they’ll dote over Levi the same way. They talk about him a lot and are always asking when he’s coming home. Our boys are three and five, and aren’t quite old enough to truly understand what’s going on.”
As parents, Heather and Bart hope they can show Levi the same love as their own children, for him to know what it is like to be taken care of.
“We want him to have all of his medical needs met and know that he’ll never have to go through another medical procedure or surgery alone ever again. It’s heartbreaking to think that so many orphans have no one to comfort them as they face tons of medical appointments and surgeries in some countries,” she said. “I can’t imagine our Bentley having heart surgery alone with no one there to advocate for him and just hold him. It physically hurts my heart. That’s just another reason we’ll be advocating for other orphans once we get Levi home.”
The Bacaks are also raising funds so they will be able to afford adopting Levi.
“Our facilitation team provided us with a ton of fundraising ideas and encouraged us to apply for grants to help fund our adoption,” she said. “We initially set up a GoFundMe (account), which was suggested by our agency, and we raised about $3,900. We’re currently in the process of setting up a few other fundraisers to help get fully funded.”
Raffle tickets will be available at Executive Stitches and Flowers, Etc. starting Monday, Nov. 16.
“I (have) spent around 80 hours applying for grants and one that we received was a matching grant through Lifesong who partners with different organizations to help families raise money for their adoptions.”
They also have other fundraising projects in the works and will receive a matching grant from the Tim Tebow Foundation.
“Whatever dollar amount we raise up to $5,000, they’ll match it for a grand total of $10,000,” she said. “We’ve raised around $2,300 so far and donations are tax deductible.
To make a donation for this matching grant, visit: https://give.lifesong.org/lifesong/09112-ff.
The Bacaks have this final piece of advice to share.
“If we could tell people one thing about adoption, it would be to just go for it,” she said. “If you feel called to adopt, just know that there’s a beautiful reason behind it and don’t let anything discourage you from it.”