Journey to Kazakhstan

All about my international adoption from Kazakhstan

Archive for August, 2007

Why Kazakhstan??

So, you might be wondering how I ever chose Kazakhstan.  Well, in a sense Kazakhstan chose me.  To tell this story correctly, I have to begin at the beginning. After I made the decision in May of this year to pursue international adoption, I tried for about a week to figure out what country I would adopt from.  There are two important questions every future international adoptive parent needs to answer for himself or herself and they are A)  What adoption agency? and B)  What country?  I began with the country and proceeded to spend every night for a week for four to six hours scouring the net for information that would help me narrow down the countries and figure out which one was best for me.  I looked at Vietnam, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Ukraine, Guatemala, India, Poland, and several more.  It was exhausting and confusing.  You see, each country has its own requirements and some do not accept single women.  Some countries require a very long wait time until you actually would be able to become a parent - China for instance is taking about 2 years – and for singles it was more like 3 until recently when they stopped accepting single applicants altogether.  Other wait times were shorter but the travel requirements were longer.  Then there were other countries that had short wait times, short travel times with only one trip required but the overall cost of the adoption was on the highest end of the range.  Then of course you had to factor in the risk part of the situation.  Some countries programs are very steady and reliable and then other countries programs can come to a crashing stop and everyone who is in process is left with their dossiers down around their ankles.  So, picking a country where the program seems to be reliable and the country isn’t in an obvious state of flux is important. After about a week of research and making spreadsheets, I came to the conclusion that trying to pick the country first was not a good idea for me.  I decided to try and pick the agency first.  Having a good agency is the difference between having a very successful adoption that goes very smoothly or having the worst experience of your life and coming home without a child.  I wanted to avoid the less happy outcome at all costs and knew that I needed to find an agency that was professional, ethical, and highly competent in whatever country I was going to adopt from.  So, I spent another week at night scouring the net comparing and contrasting different adoption agencies.  Several times I came close to making a decision only to then find some bad information on the agency that made me nervous.  Keep in mind that after coming across an agency that I felt was decent I would try and find everything I could about that agency.  There are several yahoo listserv groups that discuss adoption agencies where members are all only adoptive parents and they speak freely.  There are other independent agencies that also list information about adoption agencies.  Then there are reports about non-profit agencies (which most adoption agencies are) that give you quite a picture of how much money they are paying their top people and this is very eye opening.  I don’t personally think that the director of a non-profit adoption agency should be paying themselves nearly $300,000…. but hey that is my own opinion…. I would have a hard time doing business with an agency like that since I feel that they should be helping the orphanages with some of the money they get from me instead of just overpaying themselves. One thing I learned was do not be fooled by a very nice and thorough website.  There were several agencies with excellent websites but when I checked them out further I came across two and even three people who had been working with them on an adoption only to have the agency just stop calling them.  After paying a decent amount of money they could not get the agency to return their phone calls. Lastly, I think something that is very important to do is when you feel you have found a good adoption agency jot down every single name you can find that seems to be connected with the agency – from director to coordinator – whoever, then google them.  If there is some kind of legal grievance against that person the information will show up online.  I tried that with a few of the other agencies and I found info that scared me.  When I finally found an agency that I liked I did this, using the web page where they listed all their employees.  I could find absolutely not one single negative word about the agency or its employees.  In fact, all I was able to find was positive referrals from other adoptive parents.  When I googled the director up came articles on her or by her about taking care of children who have lived in institutions.  I felt very comfortable with my choice because I spent nearly five hours combing the net for any sign that they were not on the up and up and could find nothing, nada, zip.  That is a very good feeling. 

When I finally decided on the agency it was nearly 12:30 AM on a weekend.  I was bleary eyed from looking at the computer and thought to myself – well this is good – now this will help me narrow down the choices of what country I will adopt from.  International adoption agencies can sometimes work with anywhere from a few to many different countries.  I clicked on the page that listed the countries they work with and realized that they work with a lot of countries – so that wasn’t going to narrow it down any.  Oh well.  I was a few seconds away from calling it a night when I saw a web page they had listed as waiting children.   I clicked on it and then the one that listed girls.  It had about twenty little paragraphs on it.  Each one describing a different little girl.  There were no pictures.  I read down through the whole page and they were all sweet and touching descriptions of children who wanted a family, but one really struck me.  It was written in slightly broken English obviously by someone who was not a native speaker but that didn’t matter because through the mistakes was a description of genuine emotion that was impossible to ignore.  It was only about three sentences long and mentioned a little girl who liked dolls and music that sometimes would go off by herself and cry.  When she was asked why she was upset, she said that she was unhappy because she wanted a Mommy.  I kept coming back to this little paragraph and rereading it.  It reminded me of myself when I would go into a store and see a family or head home on the weekend wondering what I would do with my days off…I didn’t necessarily go off by myself and cry but, well, occasionally I wanted to.  And the light bulb went off in my head – here I am wanting a child and there she is wanting a Mommy.  If that wasn’t meant to be then I don’t know what is.  That night I emailed the contact at the adoption agency and got some information back the next day.  She was in Kazakhstan…so that was where I was going.  So you see Kazakhstan kind of chose me.   

       

So sweet it will give you cavities!!

There is an organization called the Anteres Foundation that does great work in Kazakhstan.  Their website is

http://www.antares-orphans.com

They do things like help the orphanages buy glasses for the kids, get them more than just basic dental care, pay for the costs of sibling reunions where siblings are reunited that are in different orphanages after not seeing each other for years. 

They also do birthday parties.  Their goal is to make sure each child gets a birthday present during the month of their birth.  Previously, the orphanages couldn’t really afford to celebrate the kids birthdays.  Now they have a birthday celebration at the end of the month for the kids who had a birthday that month.  And each child gets a birthday present.  They do this all through the help of sponsor families around the world.

Take a look at the pictures below and look at the little girl in the navy blue dress, first as she looks on as another child gets a present, then the heartbreakingly adorable one when she gets a stuffed animal, then the third one when she is enjoying her new friend.  Click on the links to enlarge the pictures – trust me this will make your day – her expression is priceless.  I know all children like presents, but the expression on the face of a child who rarely or never gets them is one of pure joy.

Birthday presents

birthdaypic2.jpghttp://www.antares-orphans.com/zoomPic.aspx?id=404&pageID=70509

birthdaypic1.jpghttp://www.antares-orphans.com/zoomPic.aspx?id=405&pageID=70509

birthdaypic3.jpghttp://www.antares-orphans.com/zoomPic.aspx?id=406&pageID=70509

All apostilled up and no place to go

Well, last Friday I went downtown to get all of my documents apostilled and it was a lot faster and easier than I thought it would be.  It took all of about 30 minutes for them to apostille 28 documents.  I also found out that Staples is the place to go if you want color copies.  Fedex/Kinko’s costs $1.00 per color copy and Staples is only $.49.  So, note to all other people preparing your dossiers, half off at Staples.  I have to go back there actually and get color copies (5 each) of all 28 individual apostilles.  So, that is 28 X 5 X $.49 for nearly $70.00.  If you went to Kinko’s you would be spending $140.00. 

I spoke to several people on my adoption agency’s listserv group recently and had two tell me stories where they were referred older children only to find out before they left for Kazakhstan that they were unavailable and had already been adopted.  They eventually went to Kazakhstan and adopted other children but did not necessarily get a child of the age or sex as the original referred child.  The whole process of adoption is like trying to hold water in your hands – there is nothing solid you can hang on to. 

On a brighter note, I got my IRS refund check so now I have enough $$$ to cover the next installment that has to go with my finished dossier at the end of September.  I have been crunching the numbers recently and have come to the conclusion that I should be fine up until the point where I have to travel and then I might have to dip into my emergency reserve fund for the final amount that I have to take with me to Kazakhstan. 

Two – two – two posts in one (day)

Clearly, I have begun to lose it.  Anyway, the USCIS update page was finally updated!  As of August 16th they were processing applications that had been received as of May 15th.  Sounds bad, however, I know for a fact that the lady in Oswego that is adopting had a filing date of May 9, 2007 and she received her approval back on June 29, 2007.  So that is two weeks less than the stated dates – which I have been told the USCIS posts to cover their behinds. 

Based on that information I should receive the approval by the end of September. 

I know I should just try and chill out but that is 5 1/2 weeks away.  And then the really big wait begins with a minimum of 8 weeks to an average of 17 weeks.   

I have to tell you that I really hate living like this – waiting for time to pass – it seems like an awfully big waste of life.  I remember when I was seventeen and still in high school.  I wanted to get out of the house so bad and leave for college that during that last year I made myself a calendar on posterboard.  I looked forward to crossing off each day as it went by as it got me closer to the point when I was .. OUT OF THERE.  I remember that some days, when there was more discord than harmony, crossing off the day was the highlight of my day.  At the end, when I was packing for college, I took down the posterboard calendar and cut it up into sqaures, cutting out each of the twelve months.  It was then that I realized how much life and time had gone by where I was just waiting for the next day to come and go so that eventually my life could happen.  I made a conscious choice to never waste my time again waiting for time to pass to be able to get to the point where I could experience life.  But to be honest, it has happened many times since then.  I realize now that the majority of those times were out of my control and someone else or something else controlled the pace of my life…and so I was a pawn in the forward motion of my own life…something that I do not enjoy being.  I am sure I am not alone in this experience – I guess the only thing you can do is learn patience and try and make the best of the situation you are in so that there is some meaning in the waiting…and of course like me I always wait for that opportunity to escape the waiting and when it comes I darn well take it at top speed.

Tuesday Update

Hi all!  Not too much to report.  I am almost at the point where the real hard core waiting begins. 

Yesterday, I received my last certified copy of my birth certificate complete with apostille in the mail.  There is now a small rip in the side of it (thanks US postal system) but I think I can repair it with some scotch tape and it won’t be visible.  When I sent it in, I included two cardboard backers for safety and asked for them to be used when returning it to me in my postage paid envelope but no such luck.  I am amazed all it had was a small rip.

So all that leaves is the approval of my I-600A which is called the 171-H.  I am really in the dark as to how long this should take. 

Even more frustrating is the webpage that the USCIS (former INS) uses to keep people up to date on the progress of their applications.  The problem is their page for keeping people up to date is, well, not up to date.  The last time they posted information on this page was July 16th which was more than a month ago.  So, once again, I am reduced to guessing and trying to find out what other people’s timelines were recently to gauge what my wait will be.  You know it is one thing to have to wait, but to not have any idea how long you will have to wait is well like rubbing salt in the wound.  Complete and total  ….. auhnoo?????

So, because that is the only item that is left I am going to go take all of the rest of my items downtown and get them apostilled.  I am planning on going on Friday, August 31st.  So, if any of you need anything apostilled in Illinois I’m your gal. 

On the bedroom front I did cave in and bought a brass headboard and footboard and a bed frame.  I also came this close to buying a wooden old fashioned dollhouse complete with a whole house full of furniture and a porcelain family.  However, I restrained myself somehow.  If it is still there next week I will see if I can talk them down a bit in price.  Please keep your fingers crossed that my 171-H comes sooner than October. 

The eagle has landed (with my passport)

 My passport arrived today and I am excited, but not by the passport photo.  I really need to lose about 15 pounds+, but I digress.  I will be off to the Kinko’s after work for color copies.  The employees there know me now.  I actually know two of their names if you can believe it.  Tomorrow, I will go to my bank for notorization.  And then back to the Kinko’s for more color copies.  Thank heavens for 24 hour Kinko’s. 

This weekend I did absolutely nothing regarding the adoption.  I cleaned my house, the kitchen, the oven (fun), and hoovered the place.  Now of course I feel guilty for not at least spending a few hours on the last photo album.  Oh well. 

On Sunday, I did make a side trip to IKEA to look at some children’s furniture.  I had no intentions of buying anything but thought I would just make a recon mission to educate myself on the possibilities.   I ended up going up to the restaurant when after five minutes I couldn’t find my way out of the store.  Definately a selling tactic.  Trap people in your store and they will eventually buy a bunch of stuff before they manage to find their way out of your mouse maze of a store.  I escaped after getting a lunch of salmon and veggies (I walked right by the double chocolate cake) and buying $5.00 worth of candles that match my living room. 

I ended the evening by doing two of the 15 minute yoga/pilates (did I spell that correctly?) workouts.  Very relaxing.  And then had a pretty good night’s sleep.  Hope you all had a great weekend.

Have passport will travel

Wooohooo!  My passport is on its way!!!  According to the Department of State my passport has been issued and because I paid for overnight service it should arrive here no later than 8/15/07.  One more step closer!  Once it gets here it knocks two things off of my list.  I will have to make the requisite color photocopies, and have the original color photocopy notorized like everything else. 

That leaves me waiting on only two things!!!  The birth certificate that was supposed to be apostilled and sent back, and the BCIS I-600A USCIS (former INS) approval.  I am worried that the I-600A approval will end up being the long wait.  Everyone keep your fingers crossed for me that it only takes till the end of August for it to arrive!

I am trying to figure out what to do about the bedroom and the playroom.  I want to start getting it ready for a little girl, but then I keep remembering the family I met at the Kazakhstan picnic I went to in July.  They went to Kaz for a little toddler girl and came home with a nine year old boy.  These are the possibilities.  I guess I have to have it ready for whoever returns even if it all has to be repainted and the flowery curtains get tossed in favor of the superhero variety.  So, maybe this weekend I will bite the bullet and go get some paint samples.

A few weeks ago I asked my coordinator if she would tell me the region D* is in.  I was told that it was too soon.  I sort of expected this but was bummed nonetheless.  I am hoping that once they get my dossier they will share this information with me.  I am mainly hoping to find out so that I will be able to read up on the stories from that region of other adoptive parents.  Even though all the stories have some similarities there are differences between regions.  It would make me feel less stressed out about traveling there, if I have done my homework well in advance of an actual trip and really know what to expect.  At this point, I have read so many different blogs from different regions in Kazakhstan that they are all starting to blend together. 

I am also hoping to see (once I have sent my dossier to them) if there are any more pictures or information about her that they can share with me.  

When I was a child, I remember seeing this picture of a man leading a donkey with a carrot on a stick and thinking it was very funny.  Somehow, I have become that donkey.  By the way, this is the first and last time anyone will ever hear me refer to myself as a donkey. 

Lastly,  I am hoping to find out what language she speaks so I can work on learning the fundamentals before I go.   

Another thing I can do while I wait is read up on child rearing….being that I am starting with a child that is six and since I have never parented before there are a few things that I am uncertain about.  Like, what time should a six year old go to bed?  Does seven-thirty sound right?  Beats me.  Nine sounds way too late.  Any opinions on the matter would be appreciated. 

One last note, for any of you that are in the Illinois area the Great American Yard Sale is being held in the Fox Valley Mall parking lot on Saturday August 16th and Sunday August 17th.  Here is the link to their website.

http://www.greatamericanyardsale.com/

This is always a fun time and all the proceeds go to local charities.  Last year I managed to pick up several great items for next to nothing.    The best part is the variety of items they have and the volume.  It is like visiting 300 garage sales in an afternoon without all the getting in and out of the car.  If you go, get there early, wear very comfortable clothes and shoes, and bring an empty car.  Trust me on the last one.

Have a great weekend!

We’ve lost power captain.

Well, today during lunch I looked over what is left to do regarding the adoption paperwork.  After coming in on Saturday and not leaving until nine – I can say that there isn’t much left to do at all.  Which should make me happy right?  Except now all I have to do is wait.  Those that know me well know I am not particularly patient in the waiting department….The “Waiting That I Hate” list includes:  1)Waiting to open up presents – don’t leave an unopened present near me around my birthday or Christmas…it won’t stay unopened for long.  I am particularly good at finding out what it is without even revealing to you that I have opened it.  2)  Waiting for my meal to arrive – once I have ordered I want to eat – period.  I know I ordered the medium well steak but can’t they cook it faster?  3)  Waiting for a movie to begin – why do they insist on showing me ads for candy, soda, popcorn, and other movies?  Turn down the lights and start the darn movie already.  It is a good thing they keep the door to the projector room locked or I’d be up there turning it on myself.  And last but certainly not least….Waiting for the paperwork to show up, waiting for the dossier to go out, waiting for it to arrive, waiting for the LOI, waiting for the plane, waiting to land, waiting to meet her.  In general, having to wait another six months for the thing I want the most in this lifetime. 

So what is left you ask….1) I am waiting for Vital Statistics to return my one birth certificate apostilled.  1-4 weeks 2)  I am waiting for my passport to arrive.  1-3 weeks  3) I am waiting for USCIS fingerprint appt. August 8th.  2 days  4)  I am waiting for USCIS approval.  2 weeks – 4 months 

Then I will take all of my original documents down to the Secretary of State’s office and wait in line to have them all apostilled.  In Illinois the cost for apostilling a document is $25 each but if you are doing it for adoption the cost is only $2.00 per document.  If you are apostilling in another state you might want to inquire if they have a special apostilling rate for adoption since it can get quite costly very quickly otherwise. 

I guess I can work on her room and the playroom while I wait.  ; )

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