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Read a forthright account of the ups and downs of one family’s Kazakhstan adoption.

Adopting from Kazakhstan

Why Adopt
My husband and I were late bloomers when it came to international adoption. We began our journey as parents with the birth of three sons and a daughter, ranging now from the age of nineteen to twelve. We were busy raising our four children when our marriage hit a wall, and we seriously considered divorcing one another and going our separate ways. Working through our issues took several years, but with our healing came the desire for another daughter.
Due to a miscarriage and difficult pregnancy with our youngest child, we had made a permanent medical decision years earlier. My husband had an adopted sister and I had always wanted to adopt internationally, so adoption seemed like the natural way to expand our family with another daughter.

Choosing a Country
We wanted a Caucasian child thinking she might fit in easier with our family. We selected an adoption agency and considered adopting from the Ukraine. However, we decided to adopt from Kazakhstan since it would be possible to adopt a child under one year old, even though we knew that a child adopted from Kazakhstan may be Asian. It was almost one year to the day from our initial call to our agency until we received news on our daughter.
About two months prior to our phone call about our daughter, I had a dream of a little Eurasian girl about the age of four that had a contagious smile. I pondered this dream in my heart believing it would be used to confirm the Lord’s choice for our family. We started to research transracial adoption. We also studied the Kazakhstan culture and began looking into common girl names. We fell in love with the name Aida.

The Dossier
The road to bringing our daughter home did not come without struggles. Most of those struggles were due to changes in paperwork requirements, personnel changes in our adoption agency as well as in-country adoption staff, and slow downs in the adoption process due to policy changes in Kazakhstan. It took us seven months to prepare our dossier and our first paperwork glitch came on April 12, 2005, when we discovered that our state would not allow us to bundle all our documents together, but each document needed to be individually authenticated. Months later Kazakhstan changed their laws to the same as our state requirements and so while others were redoing their paperwork, ours did continue forward in the process. We later discovered that our daughter was born on April 11, 2005, and so what seemed like a delay at the time was really part of a greater plan in bringing us the child that was best for our family!
Our second paper glitch came just prior to traveling when new documents were required for the dossier package, and though our dossier had been approved in Kazakhstan, we still had to collect these additional documents to bring with us for our court appearance. The month our dossier had been completed and handed in, the Kazakhstan program came almost to a dead halt due to upheaval in the country and the additional documents now being required of adoptive families. We began to wonder whether the Kazakhstan adoption program was going to close completely and we would have to select a new country and begin again.

The Referral from Kazakhstan
After six long months of waiting for any kind of news about a little girl to be adopted in Kazakhstan we finally got the call. We were told there was a seven month old girl who was a bit shy, but smiled a lot and was available for us to select from when we traveled, and low and behold, her name was Aida! Because Kazakhstan is a travel to select country (also known as blind travel or a blind referral), we were told to not become attached to this particular child as nothing was guaranteed. She was just a child we would possibly be able to see when we got there. Information about a child prior to traveling to Kazakhstan for the adoption is more like an invitation to see a child that might be available for adoption in a particular gender or age group that you desire.

The Adoption Trip
In early November we got news of our daughter’s availability and were told to arrive in Kazakhstan on December 21st. The actual trip to Kazakhstan was filled with many wonderful experiences but not without its problems as well. Due to the length of stay and the cost to bring four additional family members, it just was not feasible for us to bring our older children. So, only days short of our oldest son’s birthday and Christmas, we got on a plane and headed halfway across the world. We celebrated an early Christmas with the children, but it was emotionally difficult to leave our children at this time of year.
Adoption travel is full of the unexpected. We got caught in the New Year holiday celebration in Kazakhstan, which meant that in addition to the required 14 day bonding period, we had to wait another two weeks before we could go to court and petition for the adoption of our daughter. The four weeks of bonding helped Lana-Aida adjust to us, but dealing with our homesickness was difficult at times.
We ended up in Kazakhstan during one of their coldest winters in fifty years with temperatures dropping as low as 45 below zero Celsius, and so this just added to our aching for home at times. Moreover, the food in Kazakhstan was so different then what we were use to eating that our bodies sometimes did not react well to our diet. Not feeling well added to the emotional stress of being away from our other children for such a long time.
Fortunately, we were blessed with a wonderful group of in-country adoption staff members who showed us hospitality and generosity that spoke volumes of their deep commitment to love, compassion, and kindness toward others. The staff invited us to celebrate New Year’s Eve with them and since this is their biggest holiday of the year, we were able to celebrate this holiday learning all about the traditions of our daughter‘s country. Our driver and translator were wonderful about taking us all around the region, teaching us about their culture and traditions when we were not visiting our daughter.
During our adoption trip, we also had the opportunity to attend a house church that gave us the opportunity to know some of the local people in this region. What a joy it was to sing beside those praising the same Lord in Russian as we praised in English. Finally, what we read was true, and we were extremely impressed with the cleanliness of the orphanage and the way in which the caretakers loved and cared not only for our daughter, but all the children that were there. We were always treated with respect from all that we met at the orphanage and our coordinator more than adequately prepared us for our day in court. We spent a total of forty days in Kazakhstan learning about our daughter’s home country.

Unexpected Health Issues
We made a decision prior to traveling to adopt our daughter that might not be a good idea for most couples to make. We decided to only consult our local pediatrician rather than an international adoption doctor with our daughter’s medical information. Therefore, we did come home with some unexpected health issues. We believed we were only dealing with some minor delays in development and a minor issue with a birthmark on her left eyelid and temple. We had not done any prior research on birthmarks and went with our own assumptions that it was no big deal. We still believe this was the correct decision for us, because prior knowledge may have caused us to choose a different child and that would not have been the right decision for Lana-Aida or our family. Nevertheless, we faced some unexpected health issues that have all been treatable, but have certainly caused us concern for her well-being.
We are still struggling to get her iron and blood count to normal levels. She needs to see a pediatric ophthalmologist every three to four months to test her eye pressure because of her chances of developing glaucoma due to the port wine stain birthmark on her eyelid and temple. Also a week after her first birthday, she had a mild stare seizure and had to receive an EEG to check for seizure activity since her port wine stain might have been an indication of a more serious medical condition called Sturge-Weber Syndrome. Thankfully her EEG came back normal and at this point in time the pediatrician believes her seizure was a reaction to receiving five vaccines the day before.
She has caught up developmentally for the most part, but is still a little slow to speak. We anticipate that she’ll talk more when she is ready. So despite the health issues we have faced, we have discovered that her birthmark in the shape of a butterfly like the theme of her bedroom is a symbol that she had indeed been hand-selected for our family.

Transitioning Home
Our adjustment once home has been a little bumpy. We assumed that since we had four children already, adjusting to a new one would be simple. But after a break of twelve years it took us a little longer then we expected to adjust to a baby in the house again. Lana-Aida came home not only with some health issues, but with some eating issues as well. She was strongly attached to several caretakers, and it took her several months for her to feel secure with her new surroundings and family. With time she had bonded quite well to us.
Despite the stress we encountered on our international adoption journey and the adjustment period back home, it was worth it. She has added a dimension of joy to our family and home that did not exist before she came. We enjoy teaching her new things and taking claim to being the one that she learned it from. Lana-Aida is an extremely affectionate child wanting to hug and kiss those she loves and to give “high fives” to those she is more timid around. There is nothing like laughter to cheer ones’ soul, and when you add to that laughter a little snort from your one year old, all the struggles has been worth it!

--Beckie and Joe
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