Five years ago today, I was in Kazakhstan, in the middle of the most important event of my life. I was becoming a mother! I met my daughter just a couple of weeks earlier, though I had dreamed of her my entire life.
As 5 years is a milestone, I took this opportunity to read the online journal that I kept during the experience. Perhaps it will help others in their journeys to parenthood….
Part 1: How the Journey Began
Today is my 41st birthday. And I’m finally about to become a mother!
It’s been a long, difficult "pregnancy". When my daughter arrives, she’ll be 18 months old, and will have a lot in her past to overcome. She’s currently living in an orphanage in Karakastek, Kazakhstan and I leave Los Angeles to bring her home on November 18! This is going to be a very long two weeks.
I began this adoption journey almost 18 months ago. It was last June when I realized I was coming up on my 40th birthday, and decided that I was no longer going to wait for the right man to come along to help me have a child. I’ve always known that I’d be a mother, and always believed it would happen well before I turned 40!
So, that night I got on the Internet and began researching international adoption. Something led me in that direction. The idea of a domestic adoption passed through my mind very quickly, as I didn’t think a birth mother would choose a single, 40 year old woman as the new mother for her child when a "full family" was easily available. Plus the problems inherent in the US foster care system and adoption laws quickly made me realize this was not the route I was meant to take.
My heritage is Russian, so I began researching the plight of orphans in the former Soviet Union, and found that there were over 600,000 children living in orphanages there. Though obviously not an easy process, it was one I decided to embark upon.
I began researching agencies and figuring out what paperwork I needed to assemble on the journey to find my daughter. I found two great resources on adopting a child from Eastern Europe the first night I got on the Internet to start reading. FRUA, Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, at www.frua.org and The Eastern European Adoption Coalition at www.eeadopt.org
From reading these sites, I learned the first thing I needed to deal with was the INS, and submit the I600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) to get the all-important I-171H. (I’ve learned the numbers for lots of official forms in the past year!) This process can take 4-6 months, so it’s the logical first step.
The second step is the homestudy. This must be done by a licensed social worker or adoption agency in your state. A homestudy is required for any adoption—domestic or international—and is also a time-consuming process. Mine consisted of four visits with a social worker, including a visit to my home, during which every aspect of my life was scrutinized. The outcome is a six-page report stating that I’m approved for the adoption of a child. This homestudy report becomes part of the dossier that you must compile.
So, I filed the I600A, got fingerprinted by the FBI (part of the INS process), and got started on the homestudy (which includes being fingerprinted by the local police department—no, the FBI and police can’t use the same fingerprints… that would make too much sense!), and tried to decide which adoption agency to use.
I must have sent away for 30 packages from various agencies, and joined a bunch of internet mailing lists consisting of people in various stages of international adoption to get as much information as I could compile.
After about a month, I finally decided to use a small agency based in Cokeville, Wyoming, called Focus on Children. I chose them because they are small, it’s family-run (two sisters who both adopted children from Eastern Europe) by people who are in it for the kids. Their fees are low, and they give a lot of humanitarian aid to the regions that their children come from, something I can’t say about a lot of the bigger agencies out there.
I requested a baby girl less than 12 months old, and was told the wait would be 4-6 months for a referral after submitting my completed dossier. So, the paper chase began!