Friday, October 24, 2008

Getting Ready – Or Not!

We are getting really excited (and a bit nervous!) Before our first trip we ended up packing the day we left. That was stressful and we promised ourselves we would plan ahead for the second trip. So here we are the day before we are to leave and we are both at work and have not packed!! We also have not yet figured out how to install a gate across the top of the stairs since our banister is metal. I think if necessary we could do that when we get home? The most important thing outstanding is the car seat. We MUST at least get that task done in order to get home from the airport.

I think if we can survive the first day in Kazakhstan we will be ok. We land at 6 am, go to the baby house some time in the morning, and then fly to Almaty. I really wish we had one day to reintroduce ourselves to Nikolai before we take him on a plane, but it is not to be. I hope we will at least have time to make a bottle for the flight. Do domestic flights in Kaz have the same liquid restrictions?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Waiting Period is Over

So it has officially been 15 days since the judge named us Nikolai’s parents. As far as we know we are now legally his parents! It seems a bit anticlimactic since he is so far away right now. Every step counts, though.

As an update to China adoptions - the petition worked! More than 17,000 people signed the petition, and with congressional support USCIS has agreed to allow families to continue to file the I600A for up to 6 years as long as parents do not let their 171H/797 expire and the original was filed before Hague went into effect in April of 2008. This allows for the original filing and three renewals, with every other renewal being free. This is great news for those concerned about meeting China’s new guidelines and especially for people whose agencies are not Hague accredited.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Business as Usual

We are home for about three weeks before we get to go back and get our son. After that I plan to take some time off. So I have three weeks to try to wrap up all of my outstanding projects. I found out Friday I need to go back down to Mississippi tomorrow! It seems so funny to take a business trip during this brief period home, but it works I guess. But I hate flying and I seem to be on airplanes a lot lately. Oh well - maybe work will give me a little leeway on the deadlines for the other projects. I wonder if I will be able to do a little work during the two months I am home with our son - maybe while he sleeps? At least to my knowledge no hurricanes are headed to MS right now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

China Adoptions

In general we feel sort of removed from the China wait since we are so close to getting our little boy. But a recent post on Rumor Queen is so disturbing, I keep thinking about it. Based on information she has gathered from the thousands of members, it appears that nearly 40 to 50 percent of the people who originally submitted dossiers in 2006 have or plan to withdraw. That means as many as 10,000 or more people who wanted to adopt NSN from China have been unable to complete their adoptions. Luckily that number includes many people who switched to special needs adoption from China – great for China’s SN orphans and for the people who have been able to build their families. Other people have switched countries or given birth, but still many others have had to withdraw without a child.

It is heartbreaking reading about people who are forced to withdraw because after waiting several years with years to go in the wait they will be too old to legally add a child to their family. I cannot imagine living somewhere that could dictate the maximum age to be a parent or the maximum number of years between your and your child’s age. The economy is forcing some people to make difficult choices as they face another home study update. And USCIS may end up forcing some people to withdraw by only renewing their 171H if their applications are Hague compliant, their agencies are Hague accredited, and they meet China’s new guidelines. None of these requirements are applied by China to families who submitted their dossiers before the new rules, but USCIS thinks it is too hard to keep track of the date the dossier was submitted and they are trying to hold everyone to the same standards. In theory people could receive a referral from China without any problems, but be unable to complete the adoptions because the US is too lazy to distinguish between pre- and post- Hague China adoptions.

We definitely have to submit the I-800A since we let our I-600A expire, so we will have to ensure that our application is Hague-compliant. Our agency is accredited, we have not lived in too many states (for getting clearances), and we are willing to take the required classes. It is unclear if USCIS will try to hold us to China’s new rules or not, but I think we do meet them. You can help many people whose agencies are not Hague accredited, who do not meet the new rules, or for whom making their applications Hague compliant is too much of a burden by signing this petition, or following the other suggestions of the JCICS.

The most disturbing part of all of this is that despite only half the number of dossiers still remaining in line, China continues to reduce the number of LIDs they cover every month. What does this mean? It almost seems like China is reducing referrals to nothing – but then why are they still accepting dossiers?

One good and virtually unheard of bit of info – apparently a second “add-on” batch of referrals has been sent out for some (if not all) people with 2/16/06 LIDs, despite the official cut-off being 2/15/06!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Chris

Please join me in wishing Chris a very Happy Birthday!!

It looks like we will not be going back to Kazakhstan until October 25. I do not know why we have to wait so long, but I guess we can survive. We come home for good on Halloween!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

We're Home

We definitely miss our little guy, but there are some nice things about being home:
Being able to watch the Redskins game (especially a division game that they won!!)
Warm, humid weather
Trees and singing insects
A dishwasher
Brushing our teeth with tap water
Chinese and Indian food
Comfy bed
People to talk to in English

Both of our flights home were sold out. I cannot imagine surviving the flights with a very active baby on our laps. We hope we will be able to afford a seat for him – not that he will sit there, but the extra space would be nice and perhaps we could lay him on the seat to sleep. We were dreading all the work we would have to do when we got home, but came home to find that my parents had kept up the yard, mowed the grass, and even removed the stump of a dead holly I had been unable physically to dig out. They also left us a freezer full of food and fruit and milk in the fridge. Best of all they humored us with looking at all of our pictures and video the day they picked us up from the airport. My parents are awesome.

We do not know yet when we can go back, but we hope it is soon.

Friday, October 3, 2008

But I Don't Want to Leave!

Today was our last visit with Nikolai. I am going to miss him SO much. I have no idea why our agency says it is easier to make two trips and encourages people to do so. Leaving is hard! Living in Astana is easy.

Nik played for a long time on the swing again today. He was playing games with us – saying ah! and we would repeat it and he would laugh and say it again. He also was playing with me in the mirror; as soon as I would make eye contact in the mirror, he would look right at me, so I would look at him and then he would go back to the mirror. This went on for a while, accompanied by many giggles. The toys he liked weeks ago are now boring. He tried to use us as jungle gyms, but does not quite have the coordination to do so yet. He also tried to climb into the swing by himself. I think he gets frustrated that we try to help, but otherwise he would have fallen and the swing would have hit him in the head. At one point today he was heading for the pile of things he is not allowed to play with (my purse, plastic bag, camera) and we picked him up and turned a different direction. He basically spun on his belly all the way around and then started crying as he quickly pushed himself up into a crawl position! How can that not make him happy? He seems so unimpressed with his accomplishments.

When we left, they gave us the bottle we have been using during our visits. It is the one we bought and it has his name written in Kazakh on it. We left a blanket in his crib, so that when we come back to get him we can take something to remind him of the baby house. We left the crinkly book – which is one of his favorite toys, especially because it has a mirror in it. We also left the picture album my sister made for him – can you tell he likes it in the photo?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Court Day

Saule, doctor, judge, us, secretary
Saule, us, Zhana, Irina, Murat

We’re parents! Or at least will be after the 15 day waiting period. Since we are so close to officially being approved and this is a private blog, we have decided to share a picture!

I am going to include a lot of detail, because I know it helped us prepare to read the process others went through – so if you are not interested in the details the important part is above. Court was not fun, but it was not that bad either. The day leading up to it was not fun, as we prepared our speeches and rehearsed our answers to questions that may be asked. We were the first family with our agency to go through the new court system (juvenile court) with the new judge in Astana. It is possible that we were only the third international family in general to go through court. The last woman (from Spain) was initially denied and her court date postponed for three weeks, and then at the last minute, postponed another couple days. So our facilitator was very stressed.

The day of court we were picked up at 11:10 and taken to a generic building with a lot of people standing around. We went upstairs to a dark hallway lined with chairs. We stood there for a while, and then had to present our passports. Since Chris had to say the first paragraph of his speech in Russian he wanted Irina (our translator for court) to review the Russian. She told him to practice it out loud, and then continue with the English. This was great as it made us more relaxed and gave her a chance to practice translating. Eventually we went into the court room. We sat in the front row of several chairs, with Irina between us. The baby house doctor and social worker sat at a desk to the left of the room. It was nice to see people we recognized, and I think they are generally there to bolster the case of the adoptive parents. The secretary sat at the far end next to the judge’s desk, and the prosecutor (who we think represents the state) sat on the right side of the room. I was surprised that after we sat, Irina told me to practice my speech and she practiced translating. When we heard someone coming down the hall, everyone got quiet, we stood and the judge walked in.

Court Process

The judge began by listing everyone present, explaining our rights, and asking if we trusted everyone and understood our rights. We said yes. She then asked whoever was going first to begin. Chris stepped up to the podium with Irina beside him and gave his speech. Afterward the prosecutor and judge asked him many questions (details below). Eventually the judge told him to sit down, and then it was my turn. I gave my speech and was asked questions by the prosecutor and judge. The judge then asked Chris to stand up again and answer more questions. Finally when we were done with our part, we sat down. Next Saule was asked to stand and explain her role in our adoption. Then the baby house doctor gave a speech about Nikolai’s health and past diagnoses. The social worker went next, and basically outlined the process that was followed – that we had a dossier that presented us as good people with good references and family, that we had visited the baby every day for 14 days, etc. She read her speech and read it very quickly, so Irina had a hard time keeping up. She was funny – at one point as she was whispering the translation, without a break, she says “she is saying other things; she is talking too fast; my feet are cold.” It was very nice to break the tension for us.

Eventually after everyone was done with their speeches and being questioned, the doctor, social worker, and prosecutor all went around and gave their recommendation. All recommended in our favor! The judge announced that she would come back with her decision at 1 pm. At the time it was 12:50 so that seemed like really good news. The prosecutor rushed out the door so that we did not have time to give her her gift. She eventually walked back by once – so we were able to give her a gift. We started to walk up to the social worker and doctor to give them their gifts, but then an unknown woman came in and started talking to them, so Saule told us to wait. When the woman left, we started for the table again and then the woman came back in, so we stopped again. I am sure that the doctor and social worker were both amused at watching this as they are used to the giving of gifts after court. The social worker then left. Saule told us that she assumes the decision will be good, since everyone has already left.

The judge came back in at about 1:20 and read a very long decision very very quickly – too quick for it all to be translated. The gist was that she approved the adoption and after 15 days it would become final. She then outlined her reasons for granting the adoption.


In Chris’s speech, he thanked the court for hearing our petition, introduced us – including our names, where we are from, where we work and what we do, and how long we have been with our companies. He then explained why we chose to adopt, and why we chose Kazakhstan. He talked about when we arrived in Astana, how we chose Adilet (Nikolai), and how we have watched him develop since we have visiting him. Chris discussed how much we have enjoyed Astana and how we plan to ensure that Adilet will have knowledge of the country and be proud of his country of birth, and that we plan to bring Adilet back to visit at some point. Next he stated that we understood the medical history and diagnoses of Adilet, and that we had good medical insurance and would immediately bring him to a doctor and undertake any treatment recommended. Chris discussed our ability to financially support a child. He described our neighborhood and the fact that we have Kazakh neighbors, really good local schools, and that we would ensure Adilet had a good education and was allowed to make his own choices in life. Chris explained that he hoped to share his interests in music, theater, and travel with Adilet. Finally, Chris asked in Russian for the court to decide in favor of the adoption, and that we love him very much and want him to be our son.

My speech was much shorter. I described the moment we first met Adilet, and that we have bonded with him and love him very much. I described the room we had prepared for him at home, and my interests I want to share with Adilet. I then promised we would send post-placement reports until Adilet is 18 so that they can see how he is developing and what he is learning. I then stated that we knew that bringing a baby into our lives would be a big adjustment, but that we wanted that more than anything and that we have a great support network of family and friends. I then explained our plan for taking time off when we get home and then our plan once I return to work. Finally I asked the court to grant the adoption.


Most of the hard questions came from the prosecutor; she would ask a question and then use our answer to trap us in the follow-on question (e.g., asking if we could afford to travel every year with the implication that it would be good for Adilet’s education and when we said yes, she followed up with Do you realize you will not be able to have a care-free life travelling whenever you want once you have a child). The judge asked questions, but was actually personable. At one point she asked Chris if I knew how to make beshbarmak, and then told us to be sure we learned how before we left Kazakhstan because Kazakh children like dough with meat. They all laughed when Chris explained that he is the one who cooks food from this region.

The first question that Chris got asked was actually the hardest. The question itself was not hard, but our facilitator had told us not to mention any interest in adopting from other countries, and to focus on how excited we are to adopt from Kazakhstan. So of course the prosecutor’s first line of questions was about China. We have one line in our home study explaining that we started with the intention of adopting from China and then switched to Kazakhstan (it was required to get through USCIS in VA). Luckily we did not have to get into a discussion of the ongoing China adoption. Even Irina and Saule did not believe us when we told them it takes 4 to 5 years to adopt from China and we did not want to get into that in court.
Other questions:
Why not adopt from the US
How did the process of choosing a child at the baby house work
Why did we choose Adilet
What medical treatment do we plan to undertake – will we have Adilet get surgery
How much money do we make
What assets do we own/ what is our value
How long did the process to adopt from Kazakhstan take
What was the process in the US to adopt form Kaz
Do we have enough money to take a yearly trip
Do we realize that once we have a baby we will not be able to live like before and travel
Are we worried about unknown medical conditions with Adilet
Have we had any problems communicating with Adilet (we assume they meant bonding)
Are we planning to have more children; when we answered that we wanted to adopt this child and then would decide later, the judge said we could come back to Kazakhstan to adopt again (always a good sign)

I was asked the following questions:
When I take time off, will I get paid. When I said no, they followed up asking whether or not I got maternity leave and when I said no again, they explained that their country was much more supportive of mothers. I agreed – really all other countries are more supportive of mothers.
What did the social worker in the US do
Is the social worker licensed
Is there a financial or tax benefit to adopting internationally
Who will watch the child after I go back to work and if that would be true until Adilet was school aged
Will we enroll him in preschool
There may have been other questions.

After court we went home for lunch. We were picked up at 3 to go to a notary to take care of a bunch of the paperwork. We then went out to dinner to Samibar to celebrate. Zhana, our normal translator, met us there. Chris and I walked home since the weather is beautiful right now. This allowed the translators to get a ride, which is good because otherwise they often have to ride a bus home.