South Jordan couple reflects on first year with daughter adopted from Russia

Published: Sunday, May 4 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

Sisters Bryn and Jaymi Bonner draw pictures on the floor at their South Jordan home Saturday, May 3, 2014. It's been one year since Jaymi joined the family after being adopted from a Russian orphanage.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SOUTH JORDAN — Before Jaymi arrived at her new home to join the family she now calls her own, Wayne and Jeana Bonner saw something comforting in a small act from the little girl living in a Russian orphanage.

The Bonners had taken and donated a number of toys to the children in the orphanage. Jaymi immediately took them in to share them with the other children, holding them triumphantly above her head.

"They all started celebrating and cheering, and we were like, 'She likes to share. She likes the other kids in her class,'" Wayne Bonner recalled. "I just thought that was so cool that she was so proud of her toys and wanted to celebrate with her friends and share them."

It has been more than a year since Jaymi, now 7 years old, came from Russia to her new home in Utah. On Saturday, she played with her sisters and parents, clearly happy, confident and comfortable in her family.

"I think she just wanted someone to love her," Jeana Bonner said. "She wanted a mom and dad, wanted a family, wanted somebody. That was really touching to watch and still is."

After the Bonners' first child, Kaelyn, 4, was born with Down syndrome, they decided they wanted to adopt another child with the genetic disorder. Knowing children with special needs are rarely adopted in other countries, they decided to do so internationally.

Jaymi was in an orphanage in Russia, and after more than a yearlong process, the Bonners' adoption was given court approval in late 2012. But then a law was passed in Russia banning American adoptions, and despite officials' reassurances that adoptions that had been approved would be completed, a judge told the Bonners the adoption could not be completed under the new law.

"I would have lived my whole life wondering what happened to her, and I think I would have always felt a sadness not having her here because we made a place for her in our family and in our hearts and in our home," Jeana Bonner said.

So Jeana Bonner went to Moscow in January 2013 and spent five weeks fighting to bring her daughter home. Finally, Russia's highest court ordered the lower court to issue the adoption decree and Jaymi met her father, two sisters and new family on Valentine's Day.

"She stepped in and it was like she had always been here," Jeana Bonner said.

The eldest sibling, Jaymi became a fast friend and example to her younger sisters, Kaelyn, 4, and Bryn, 2. Independent and adventurous, she now feeds herself, dresses herself and is unafraid to try new things.

"We took her to Disneyland. We took her to Lake Powell. She's done soccer and horses and gymnastics and ballet," Jeana Bonner said. "She just loves everything. She was soaking it up."

But it wasn't always easy. Jeana Bonner said she felt like she loved Jaymi and was committed to making sure the girl always felt loved, but she still went through a "post-adoption depression."

"After getting her home, kind of getting settled in, I realized how difficult it was going to be, because I wanted it to be easy so I thought it was going to be easy," she explained. "I think the language barrier was hard, just knowing the difference between the language barrier and her developmental delay, like, why she wasn't getting certain things."

Jeana Bonner said she sometimes had feelings of regret or longing for their former, simpler life while also feeling guilty for having a hard time adjusting. Jaymi was a happy and affectionate child, but it was still an adjustment to a new child, with some added complications, Jeana Bonner said.

In July, she went to the National Down Syndrome Congress Annual Convention in Denver with friends who had also adopted children with Down syndrome. The trip made all the difference, she said.

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