We've gotten alot of questions from family and friends about how this whole process works. When you are pursuing an adoption from Russia, there are a number of things that have to happen before you meet your child. You have to have a homestudy, which is an in-depth look at your family, health, finances, general sanity and fitness to parent a small human being. You need to select an adoption agency, they are your representatives that handle the paperwork and act as a liason between you and the Russian government. These last two sentences add up to about 3-6 months of paperchasing, appointments and startling cash outlays.
Once you have a completed homestudy and an agency, you complete your dossier. Your dossier is an even more comprehensive overview of every single thing anyone could ever want to know about your family. Religious beliefs, parenting style, family history, medical history, financial stability, how tall you are and whether or not you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. They know it all. Once you have compiled your dossier (can take another couple of months) you submit it to your agency for translation and eventual registration in the region in which you hope to adopt. Each agency handles it differently. Some assign you to regions and you get in line and await your referral. Some wait until they have a referral, then register you in the region the child comes from. It varies.
The referral process can go two different ways... sometimes you get a photograph and a very brief medical blurb about the child. Sometimes you travel "blind". Blind travel means you know nothing, absolutely nothing about the child you're going to meet. With Jackson we got a photograph and some measurements from birth to the present. We knew a tiny bit about his birth mother, and that was it. We decided that he was too delicious NOT to meet and sallied forth to Kemerovo and lived happily ever after, the end. Okay, there was a whole lot more to the story, if you want the details, just ask. The following is Jackson's referral photo. Do you see why we rushed halfway around the world to meet him? I thought you might.
This time around we are traveling blind. We know (at least we HOPE we know) that it will be a boy, between the ages of 8 months and 2 years old. That's what we asked for, it remains to be seen if the Russian government agrees! We will not know anything else until Monday, February 8th when we meet with the Ministry of Education (MoE) representative in Moscow. There we will be given a small, blurry, often terrifying looking photo (we think the DMV travels over there specifically to take the bad pictures) of the child along with a brief summary of his medical background. Then we travel to the orphanage to meet him.
Since we are going into this with no information, we have hired Dr. Oleg Togoyev, a Russian pediatrician with Western training to come with us to the orphanage to take a look at our new little guy. After the years I've spent looking at children, I feel comfortable doing the basic developmental screening and plotting growth curves, etc. But there's one thing I can't do... read a Russian medical record. He will be our pediatrician while we are in country. We will be making the decision to adopt based on his recommendation.
The most difficult, painful situation we might encounter would be to have to decline a referral. Generally that happens when the child has significant medical problems, or severe delays. It is every adoptive parents nightmare. If for some reason we have to decline a referral, we risk coming home without a child at all. It all depends on if there is another child available for adoption in the region that fits the parameters set forth in the homestudy. We hope and pray we are not faced with that situation.
Once we accept the referral, we petition the Russian courts for a hearing. That generally happens anywhere from 4-8 weeks after we file. Then we come home and wait... and wait... and wait. When we get our court date, we fly back to Russia and (hopefully) are named the parents of our newest son. Then we fly home without him yet again. In Russia there is a 10 day waiting period before any civil or family court judgement becomes final. It's known as the "10 day wait", for rather obvious reasons, I would think.
Once the 10 day wait is over, we fly back to Russia... are we keeping count? Yes, folks that's THREE trips to Russia!! Now we finally get to bring our little guy home. He has to get poked, prodded, photographed and make a trip to the US Embassy in Moscow to receive a visa to enter the United States. When we land at JFK and his little toes touch the ground he will become an American citizen and we will collapse gratefully into our own beds. That is until he wakes up crying every 45 minutes because he doesn't know where in the heck he is... but that's another story for another day.
One thing we have to tell you, though. We are absolutely NOT allowed to post photos of our son until we take custody of him after the 10 day wait. We can send the odd little photo to desperate Aunts and Grandparents, but the rest of you will have to suffer until he's legally ours. But just so you know... if you email us privately, we might be persuaded to bore you to tears with a thousand or so photos of him doing the exact same thing... just like any other new parent!
Hope this helps clarify things! Any questions? Let us know, we're happy to help!
Kim and Lance
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