I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 65 - Kazakhstan Part 3

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid.


Our preliminary conversation with Tree of Life Adoption Center went well. They basically said that the steps are: pay us some money, fill out a bunch of forms, have someone inspect your house, pay them some money, fill out some more forms, get on a plane, bring some money. It was actually kind of reassuring since our contact, Bianca, was able to make the process seem like a long to-do list that ends with success as long as the directions are followed.

We signed up and started on the path of paperwork and more paperwork. We obtained copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, and followed up on every traffic infraction for the last ten years. Noted for the record that this was made more difficult when it became clear that someone spent a year racing across Iowa.

There were physical examinations, HIV tests, and a notarized copy of the medical license of the doctor who performed the medical examinations. After our examinations, we found out that the practitioner was a physician's assistant and did not have a medical license. She talked a doctor in her office into taking her license off the wall and letting us photocopy it.

There were letters to be gotten from employers, the mortgage holder and a group of wonderful friends. Add to that tax records, financial statements, a letter from the county assessor, and a letter giving the adoption agency power of attorney in case something bad happened to us legally while we were overseas. We were a little iffy on what that bad thing could be but it seems that the American Embassy can't always get you out like in the movies.

We prepared for the home study by cleaning the house to a level that it had never seen before or hasn't since. We look at those pictures of the clean house and sigh now. When the social worker didn't even particularly look around the house very closely, I wanted to grab her by the arm and drag her through each room. We had our interviews, filled out our forms and eventually a completed home study was mailed to us.

At the end came the passports, fingerprints to be sent to the FBI and the clearance from the immigration service, officially called the USCIS Form I-171.

The completed dossier included everything previously mentioned and a number of other administrative forms. Remember the number of papers that you signed when you bought a house? Now multiple that by ten. Everything had to be copied, notarized and then apostilled by the Secretary of State. This is a kind of super-notarization that verifies that the notary is licensed and everything is in order. Every single one of these documents had to be reviewed and signed by the then Secretary of State, Mary Kiffmeyer. I find it humorous that I was sitting in her waiting room while she was signing a picture of my clean living room.

<-- Clean living room certified by State of Minnesota

Somewhere in the midst of all this paperwork relay race, we were asked how many children we wanted to be approved for. We were qualified for two based on our resources and Kazakhstan was one of the only places in the world that allowed the adoption of unrelated children at the same time, so this fit into our picture of the family that we would like to form. As expenses were mounting and I wasn't getting any younger, it also seemed like it was unlikely that we would be able to go back in a year or two for an additional child. Since the little boy in the picture was almost three by then, we asked the agency to look for a younger girl.

It is common in adoptions to get a referral when you are matched with a child. The referral is often in the form of pictures or videos of the child along with whatever information about the child's medical condition, background and personality that may be available. The potential parent or parents then decide whether to "accept" the referral, meaning whether they are making a tentative commitment to adopt the child. Accepting a referral is very serious, though nothing is final until the adoption is processed by the court of the foreign country.

When you accept a referral, you've kind of reserved that child until you can get to wherever he or she is in the world. In theory, the orphanage and agencies stop showing the child to other potential adoptive parents. In real life, it doesn't always work that way and there have been parents who have found themselves victims of a particularly cruel bait-and-switch tactic.

When you have a photo of a child, the human tendency is to start the process of incorporating that child into your emotional life. Once you name something, it is. The adoption agencies try to counter this with these four words: "Don't count on it." These words are universally ignored.

Kazakhstan law forbids referrals. It is illegal to give photographs of these children to prospective parents, release medical information or in any way not present any adoptable child for selection by anyone who shows up at the orphanage with the appropriate approvals. The law is a trifling nuisance and is treated with a level of doublethink that would make Orwell proud.

So we had this illegal picture, and eventually a video and records, of a child who may or may not be available, reserved, or actually even exist for all we know. The agency informed us that their contact in Kazakhstan says that he is close to aging out of the "baby house" – the orphanage for babies and toddlers – and will be moved to the preschool for children three to seven years old. This would be a potentially difficult transition for him and they urged us to complete the remainder of the documentation as soon as possible. We asked the agency to talk to the orphanage director and request her to keep him just another month or two since we would be there as soon as possible, but they said didn't have room and would not be flexible on policy. Soviet states are mushy on laws but adhere unflaggingly to minor administrative policies, we would soon realize.

In the meanwhile, the agency sent us pictures of girls but lacking medical information and videos that would help detect medical problems. We sent the boy's information to the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota, a nationally-recognized program under the direction of Dr. Dana Johnson. The boy received a clean bill of health, but Dr. Johnson wasn't so sure about the picture of the baby girl we sent him. He called personally to say that he doesn't have enough information to be able to make a determination. He said, "Go and see the child; trust your instincts. You will know."

The dossier had been translated into Russian and was making its way through the Kazakh Embassy in the US to the Ministry of Education. From there, we would wait for a letter of invitation (LOI) from the Kazakh government allowing us to enter the country. The letter could come at any time and we would need to travel almost immediately. We completed the applications to our employers for leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act and sat back nervously to wait it out.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

Loved reading this. Even tho I was privy to some of the stuff you had to go through--it is a wonder that you were able to persevere and bring my grandkids home. I will ever be in awe of what you had to go through to complete your family. I admire you both so much.

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