For some couples, adoption is a necessity if they want to start a family. Nanette and Vern Garrett, though, were a very different case, as the couple had seven kids of their own. Nonetheless, spurred on by a dream, the pair travelled to a Ukrainian orphanage in 2002 and adopted a little girl – only to learn soon afterwards that she had a big secret.
Residents of Murray, Utah, although Nanette and Vern had a large family, they wanted to add another new face to it. Unfortunately, though, the couple struggled to conceive a new child at the time, which led them to have thoughts about adoption. Indeed, their resolve on the matter was further strengthened by a vision Nanette had one night.
“Well, it all started with a dream,” Nanette said in a video titled “Save A Child Foundation” that was uploaded to YouTube in May 2013. “I had six children at the time, and I had a dream about a little girl, and she was sitting on my lap. I knew that she was mine. She was about two or three years old in my dream, but it was very distinct.”
On the day that the pair decided to look into adoption, though, Nanette became pregnant with their seventh child. She eventually gave birth to a baby boy, but the memory of her vision didn’t go away. Indeed, the dream was so vivid that the Utah native could even recall the name of the little girl.
“Emily was her name, and she was given to me in that dream,” Nanette claimed. “I just knew that I was going to have a little Emily.” With that thought fresh in her mind, the couple were then sent some intriguing information regarding the adoption of children from the nations that once made up the Soviet Union.
Off the back of that, Nanette and Vern decided to travel to Eastern Europe in March 2002, eager to find Nanette’s dream girl. “We flew over to the Ukraine, and went over to the National Adoption Center,” she recalled in the video. “[We] started looking for our child. They gave us several books to look through, and we looked for hours.”
That part of the process started to take its toll on the pair before long, however. “It was grueling. It was very difficult because you’re looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Nanette. “You’re thinking, ‘We’re trying to find this child that we know is ours.’ And so I guess I can say that I’ve never prayed so hard in my life.”
However, after hours of searching, the Garretts were finally drawn to one photograph in particular. “We stopped on this little picture of this little girl with a big bow in her hair,” Nanette continued. “Both of us had a feeling about her, we just thought she was beautiful, and we were just kind of stunned.”
Following that, Nanette and Vern walked into a classroom of children at the adoption center, where they received a warm welcome. But the pair were focused solely on the little girl from the photo. “We looked at her, and our eyes met and her eyes lit up,” recalled the Utah native. “It was magic for me.”
Later that night, the couple decided to adopt the little girl, who was named Emily. Feeling that they had made a connection with her, Nanette and Vern were incredibly excited about the following morning, when the girl would be told of their decision. Despite their positivity, though, they still couldn’t be sure how she would react.
“She came walking out of the cafeteria, and our translator caught her and told her that ‘these folks want to adopt you, this is going to be your mama and papa,’” said Nanette. “But I was surprised to see that she ran right to Vern. I was getting out of the van and happened to have my camera in my hand, so I took a picture. But she ran right to Vern, threw her arms around him and called him ‘Papa.’”
With Emily by their side, the Garretts left the orphanage to make their way home. And Vern noticed something during their journey. “I’ll never forget it, as we drove away from that school [Emily] just kept looking out the side window, and we thought there was no emotion,” he recalled in the video. “Then, as I looked at her little cheek, a little tear was coming down her cheek.”
“She was very somber, not really emotional but a little tear, so I knew there was something going on,” Vern continued. As it turned out, his assumption was correct. Emily in fact had an older sister at the orphanage named Elizabeth who’d looked after her during their years together.
Living at home with a neglectful mother and no father, the sisters had been forced to fend for themselves, with Elizabeth acting as a stand-in mother figure to Emily. Unsurprisingly, the former was devastated to learn that her younger sibling had left with the Garretts. Six months later, though, Elizabeth sent the family a letter.
“It was an amazing letter,” Vern said. “The letter was just full of gratitude and love. There was nothing to speak of that was, ‘Why did you take my sister? Why didn’t you talk to me?’ Nothing. It was all just, ‘I’m so grateful my little sister has a family, I’m grateful she’s being taken care of. I’ve never met you before, but I want you to know that I love you.’”
Touched by Elizabeth’s words, Vern and Nanette subsequently decided that they wanted to adopt her as well, reuniting her with Emily. This wouldn’t be easy, however, as the cost of another adoption was set at around $20,000. Despite that, though, the couple pressed on, looking to add another face to their family.
Upon their return to the Ukrainian orphanage, Vern and Nanette spotted Elizabeth and a group of teenagers walking towards them. And following a warm greeting, the trio left for the airport, exactly two years after Emily’s adoption.
As their plane touched down in Salt Lake City, Utah, Vern recalled the next few precious moments. “We were walking down the terminal, and Elizabeth suddenly identified Emily and just broke into a dead run,” he said in the video. “They came to each other and embraced, and without exaggerating I would say it’s a good minute that they held each other.”
One year later, Vern and Nanette started the Save A Child Foundation in an attempt to encourage their fellow Utah natives to bring orphans from the Ukraine to the U.S. And in 2007 the pair adopted another Ukrainian child, named Andrew, who became the tenth kid in the Garrett family.
In March 2002 Vern and Nanette Garrett traveled to the Ukraine to adopt a child from an orphanage. Fueled by a vivid dream, the pair took in a young girl named Emily, but she had a big secret. Upon learning that Emily had left her older sister Elizabeth behind, the Garretts adopted Elizabeth as well two years later, reuniting the siblings.