An International Adoption Story: Hannah, from Russia

By Marjorie Kehe; Melanie Stetson Freeman | The Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 2010 | Go to article overview

An International Adoption Story: Hannah, from Russia


Marjorie Kehe; Melanie Stetson Freeman, The Christian Science Monitor


Hannah Rocklein's saga - an international adoption 11 years later

In 1999, Monitor readers met Hannah, a 3-year-old Russian girl adopted by American parents. A Monitor team - Marjorie Kehe and Melanie Stetson Freeman - chronicled Hannah's journey from a stark orphanage near Moscow to a new life in Massachusetts. In 2003, they updated her story, finding the 6-year-old negotiating the traumas of adjustment as a "giver" and "a ray of sunshine." They return now to see the 13-year-old Hannah.

Right from the start, her caretakers called Hannah a "miracle child." The little girl who once had so many odds stacked against her has come so far. So it should surprise no one that she has weathered the latest changes in her life - economic struggles, divorce, major family changes - with gentle poise.

Hannah Rocklein today, at 13, is surrounded by a caring family: her parents, brother, sister, three half siblings, and - recently - a stepfather and two stepbrothers. It's hard to imagine a child more closely ringed by love.

IN PICTURES: Hannah's journey: A Russian adoption

But that's not the way that Hannah began her life. She was once Anna Sinyaeva, a Russian born to an unknown father and a mother incapacitated by alcoholism. After visiting her daughter twice - drunk both times - Anna's mother never returned. Anna settled into life as the occupant of bed No. 15 in a state-run orphanage outside Moscow.

A doctor, fearing fetal alcohol syndrome, labeled Anna developmentally impaired - a diagnosis that might have made her unadoptable.

And yet, far off in America, Mary and Bob Rocklein saw Anna's picture in an adoption brochure and felt that this little girl was meant to be theirs. Mary - herself adopted - had a particularly fierce drive to give Anna a second chance. Against the advice of doctors in Russia and the United States, the Rockleins decided to adopt her.

In the summer of 1999, Anna - then 3 and renamed Hannah - stepped into a new life in affluent Groveland, Mass. She moved into the perfectly appointed pink bedroom of her adoptive sister, Abby, 18 months her senior. The two fought fiercely at first, but quickly developed a tight bond and learned to share a mountain of toys and pretty dresses.

There were challenges. Although the diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome was reversed, Hannah had difficulties with language and school. But home was her bedrock. Mary became pregnant again and Hannah doted on Noah, her new little brother. Backed by Bob's comfortable income as a mortgage broker; a rich school system; and a solid, loving family; Hannah seemed well equipped to weather whatever storms would come her way.

Then, suddenly, Hannah's life destabilized: Bob and Mary separated and divorced. Bob's business collapsed when the subprime mortgage crisis hit the US, and the family's home was lost to foreclosure. …

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