Preparing the dossier for an international adoption is a bit overwhelming. The paperwork seems never ending as new documents are being added as you go, and everything has an expiration date and must be updated. I would recommend that prospective adoptive parents buy a notebook, add pocket pages, and try to keep things as organized as possible. Also, keep extra copies of everything. The Wait
When preparing the dossier for an international adoption, try to keep in mind that a child’s well-being is at stake, and the agency and foreign government just want to make sure that you will be a suitable parent. Every single form that you have to complete has some purpose attached. It’s a little like giving birth; once you hold that child in your arms you completely forget all about the stress and pain you had to go through.
We were extremely lucky in that we didn’t have to wait for a referral. Believe it or not, we actually received the referral prior to submitting our dossier. We submitted the initial application to our agency and shortly thereafter received our referral on January 24th, 2006 for a 12 month old little boy. The region in Russia where our son lived had just reopened to adoption, and our agency was looking for a certain couple. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We definitely got lucky! We hurriedly prepared our dossier and then shortly received our first invitation to travel.
We did have to wait between our first and second trip to Russia. To help survive the wait, I recommend trying to just enjoy the time together as a couple. Go out to dinner, take a long weekend trip together, have fun alone because once that child comes along life will never be the same! Looking back now, I wish that we had been able to find a support group in our area so that we could have talked to other adoptive parents and received some advice while we were waiting, but we were unable to find one.
The entire medical history that we received with our referral was very frightening since the Russian medical terminology is very different from the U.S. We felt much more comfortable after speaking with an International Adoption doctor. We chose one that was not near us, but that posed no problems. She explained everything in depth and told us what to look for once we met our child. She would also be available the entire time we were in Russia if we needed to consult. We also chose a local pediatrician who has adopted two children from Russia
I know that not everyone feels this way, but we were excited about traveling to Russia. We travel quite a bit and didn’t have any major surprises. Prospective parents should do as much travel preparation as possible prior to receiving an invitation to travel. Research the hotels ahead of time, complete the visa documents, and get on a web board for recommendations. We spent ten days in Russia on the first adoption trip and two weeks for the second trip. With our agency, every adoptive couple is assigned a translator and a facilitator who handle all of the details of travel in country, so we didn't have to do anything except be ready when they came to pick us up every day.
Meeting our Child
Although we were not nervous about adoption travel, we were extremely nervous about going to the orphanage to meet our child. We arrived during a Russian holiday so we were unable to go to the orphanage to meet him immediately. Finally on the third day in Russia, we were taken to an office where we were given a little bit of the child's background and then were granted permission to go to the orphanage and meet him.
We were allowed four visits of about one hour each time before we had to make a decision to accept this child. We had no ideas how he would react to us. He was very scared, but warmed up to us after a couple of visits. He was intimidated at first by his dad because he had never seen a man before.
I don’t think that anything can prepare you for the first time that the social worker walks into the room and introduces you to your new child. I did not anticipate the immediate bond and love that I felt once I met him. I had worried that I would have to learn to love him, but discovered that I immediately had the same feelings as if I had given birth to him.
Once we met Alex and saw how healthy and happy he was, there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to become his parents. We knew this the first time that we laid eyes on him. He even looks just like we do (we don't know if that is a coincidence or if we were matched.) On our final visit we readily signed the paperwork to adopt him. I recommend that parents be prepared when they travel with a name for the child because once you accept the child, you need to provide a name for him at that time.
Traveling Home from our Adoption Trip
We had prepared ourselves for the orphanage to be an old, dilapidated building overflowing with children competing for food and attention, but this was not the case at all. The orphanage was a wonderful facility run by a pediatrician, and we felt very comfortable that Alex had been well taken care of. The building was immaculate, the toys and playground equipment were all brand new, and the entire staff was very friendly to us. All of the children that we saw were clean with nice clothing and obviously were well fed. We were told that Alex attended music classes and speech development classes every week. We had expected some developmental delays but have been very pleased that our son is on track with any other toddler his age. There was no need to contact the international doctor, but it was very reassuring to know that she was available for us 24/7 if we had any concerns.
The first couple of weeks home were stressful as all of us were getting to know one another and beginning our journey as a family. After those first weeks of adjustment, we have been amazed at how quickly he has adapted to a new home and new parents. Alex has had no adjustment or attachment problems. Everything is brand new and an adventure for him and for us too. It has been so much fun to see him experience new things such as grass, water from the hose, and a trip to the grocery store.
The entire process took only six months, and our son was 18 months old when we brought him home. I don't believe that our situation was the norm and we know that we were very lucky to have the process completed so quickly. We have been a family for four months now, and I can barely remember a time when our son wasn’t with us. The joy that he has given us is indescribable.