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Kansas family escapes Ukraine turmoil with 4 newly-adopted children

1:21 PM, Mar 10, 2014   |    comments
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(CBS News) An American family is reunited Monday after more than a month of uncertainty over an adoption in Ukraine. Parents Don and Lisa Jenkins -- who were in the country to adopt four more kids -- faced one big obstacle on their way home recently -- the Ukrainian revolution.

The Jenkinses arrived in Kiev on February 2, thinking they were just days away from returning home with their four newly-adopted Ukrainian children. Instead, CBS News' Elaine Quijano reported, they found themselves in the midst of political upheaval, unsure of when or if they would return to the U.S. as a family.

The Jenkinses, of Topeka, Kan., were told by their church pastor about Angela, a Ukrainian teenager who would soon "age out" of the orphanage where she'd been living.

"We went home and we talked about it and we prayed about it," Don Jenkins recalled. "In the meantime, he had sent a photograph of Angela. And once you put a picture to the name, we knew, it's like, 'We've got to do this'."

The Jenkinses had already raised two biological sons, but they decided to adopt Angela, in part to give Don the daughter he'd always wanted. During the adoption process, they met Angela's friend, Natalie, and Natalie's siblings, Tatiana and Roman.

Don Jenkins said of Roman, "He ran toward me and he leaped into my arms, and wouldn't let go. I really had to pry him off. I pulled him off and I said, 'I think I got my son -- this young man is coming home with us,' because we knew right then he had a place to go."

The couple filed applications to adopt all four children. On February 2, the Jenkinses arrived in Kiev and four days later, a Ukrainian judge finalized the adoptions.

Lisa Jenkins said. "We were so excited -- nervous excitement because the kids were like, 'Oh we're going to America!' But at the same time, they were leaving their friends and basically, everything they knew."

Now all they needed were the children's passports, but as the days went on, unrest boiled in Kiev and their Ukrainian facilitator gave them bad news. Don Jenkins said, "He said, 'Keep in mind that some of those very people that may be fleeing the country, may be the very people you're waiting on to get your passport.'

"Our thoughts were that we started this as a family and we're going to go home as a family," Don Jenkins continued. "We're not going to leave the kids behind. We wouldn't do it with our two sons (in the U.S.), we wouldn't leave them there, and I'm not going to leave my kids there. There's no way."

The family was staying in a rented apartment a few blocks away from Kiev's Independence Square. At times, they could see the glow from the fires burning nearby, and one night, demonstrators came uncomfortably close.

Don Jenkins recalled, "Lisa and the girls went downstairs, and she opened the door, they were right against the door. There were probably 75 to 100 protestors."

Those demonstrators were peaceful, but the situation was tense. The Jenkinses say they leaned harder on their Christian faith. "We kind of hung our hats on that faith and that's where we went with it," Don Jenkins said.

Last week, the children's' passports finally arrived, and on Friday, the family departed Kiev for Kansas, and 24 hours later, family and friends welcomed home the Jenkinses and their four newly-adopted children.

The next morning, despite -- or maybe because -- of all they'd been through, the Jenkins family attended church services alongside the church members who'd prayed for their safe journey home.

"My loving family was all there," Lisa Jenkins said. "The pastor introduced our family. The church family embraced us. It was beautiful."

This weekend, the family held a belated Christmas celebration, complete with a tree, decorations and presents for the children to open. Don and Lisa Jenkins also introduced the kids to one of their favorite Sunday rituals -- lunch at McDonald's.

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