Monday, August 1, 2011

Riding the Rainbow Part 4

Ready for some weirdness?

Meeting our boys for the first time was an experience I'll never forget. Zhen clung to my husband like he knew...this was his daddy. The workers in Theo's room were clearly unprepared for any child under their care to receive a visitor, much less a set of prospective adoptive parents. He was a unresponsive stick figure baby in tie up jammies and a huge ball of a diaper. When we arrived for our first official visit the next day, one of the workers asked us, through charades, if we were really going to take him home. She was moved to tears that we came back. She obviously expected us to reject his referral after that first meeting. Perhaps that is more sad than weird.

Like any good Reece's Rainbow mom, I kept my eyes open the other listed children in the facility. I found it difficult to reconcile the photos to the actual faces at first, but soon I had found several of the children I was looking for. Aloysha, for one, was in Zhen's grouppa. I was so happy to learn that he had a newly committed family and one day I was asked by the orphanage attorney and our facilitator to get an updated photo of him. To my surprise, I was directed to take a photo of a completely different boy. Over the next few days I uncovered the fact that Alyosha's family had committed to him on the basis of the photo of a completely different boy! I was in a very difficult and heartbreaking situation. What should I tell the family who asked me to be on the lookout for their prospective son? They ended up prayerfully choosing to pursue the real Aloysha, but what about Oleg, the boy in the photo who almost got a family? I was able to get new photos of him and he got his very own listing on the RR site shortly thereafter. (This story has a happy ending as Oleg was adopted and brought home to the USA just last week.)

On another weird note, I was contacted by a family that hoped to adopt a little 4 year old boy in Theo's grouppa. I blogged about meeting him one day and they emailed me with lots of questions. This part of my trip was so very weird that I'm not even sure I can relate it without totally confusing you. Apparently this family had asked some missionaries to go to the orphanage and make some monetary donations for him. They wanted the missionaries to beg the director to keep him in the baby house and not transfer him to the mental institution. (All the children in this facility are transferred at the ripe old age of 4.) Knowing that the director was bound by law and concerned for the good reputation of the missionaries, whom I consider to be dear friends, I asked them not to do this. Later, on September 28, when I inquired with the adopting family about their timeline, I received this message, " we believe that you are the person that put many of the children at Yolochka at risk. Many of them will be transferred, now, due to your intervention." Crazy! How could I be personally responsible for the transfers? They've been happening for ages. (This family did end up adopting, in the spring of 2011. No one could have kept that child from being transferred for so long. I know I did the right thing.)

A word of caution here for adopting families...keep the safety and good name of your missionary contacts in mind. The adoption world can be ugly. That is all I'm going to say about that for the time being.

I found the passport application process to be quite unnerving. It was like going to see the wizard where you wait at the door forever waiting to be admitted. We waited for a very, VERY long time in the hot, hot sun. My facilitator even asked me to find some shade for the children. When we were finally admitted there was a huge, empty, AIR CONDITIONED waiting room. What was the purpose of making us wait out in the hot sun? I had paid my facilitator in the car prior to ringing the bell. She insisted on $300 in US Dollars for each child. "The families who were here just a couple of weeks ago only paid $200," I protested. I had only budgeted $200 each. I took the extra money out of my food envelope and gave it to her. What was I supposed to do? No real choice here. And why couldn't I just pay the passport lady myself? Weird. (I recently learned that passports only cost 550 Grivna, or $68.75. What happened to the extra $462.25?)

Wow, this is getting long. Are you still with me? Did I tell you about the day we sat at the bank, trying to close our boys' pension accounts? It was a long and tiresome afternoon. The bank wanted one more document...that our facilitator apparently didn't have. There was yelling. There were phone calls. There was a dog wandering in and out of the bank. The security guard yelled at my son, Wesley, when he closed his eyes for a moment. Apparently the guard, who was smoking and constantly rearranging chairs and telling people where to sit, thought he was going to take a nap!

Eventually the teller counted out a HUGE stack of bills. Our facilitator asked me to go out in front of the bank and yell for Dima. What? Who is Dima? (He was the orphanage bookkeeper, how was I to know?) Why is he hanging around out front of the bank? Dima arrived and stuck the HUGE stack of cash into a folded up newspaper and walked out of the bank. We were done. Weird.

Our understanding was always that we would donate the money back to the orphanage. I have since learned that this is not an expectation on the part of the orphanage director. The money belongs to the children and can be used for their therapy or medical bills or whatever the parents decide. I do not believe that it is wise to present cash to the orphanage director. Our boys had many, MANY thousands of US dollars in their accounts. That is an incredible temptation in a land where salaries are low and corruption is prevalent.

My advice to future adopting parents is to find out ahead of time how much money is in the child's account. The director should have the child's bank book. Don't wait until the last minute or you will run out of time. If you wish to donate this back to the orphanage, ask the director what would be most helpful for the children and then plan a shopping trip to purchase the items yourself. Be certain that your facilitator understands your plans well in advance.

OK, is that enough weirdness for one day?

***UPDATE*** Added August 2
The issue of passport prices is a fuzzy one. We received the blue passports and waited almost a week for them to be available. My understanding is that you can request expedited service for an extra fee. How that works is unclear to me. In regions where red (and ready on the same day!) passports can cost quite a bit more. Up to $1000 US.

I'm very interested in YOUR passport experience. How much did you pay? In which region? Who did you give the money to? Post anonymously if you wish, but be honest.


Nance said...

We were right before you and paid 200. We also paid 200 per child in Odessa. I was getting my money out and our facilitator and lawyer who were with us stopped us frantically! They told me to absolutely not pay the worker but to pay them once we were done out in the car. I thought I was doing something wrong!?! Then, 7 weeks ago we were at the same building, same lady in fact and paid less than 20 US dollars to have our newest daughters passport expedited!! We paid the passport women/worker directly!!!!

Anonymous said...

We got the red passport and paid over $1000 US. We got these in 1 day and paid no one until we got back to Kiev. The money was given to Serge. There was no exchange of money for passports in region.

Jess said...

We got the red passport in Kirovograd, same day. It cost $600 USD and we paid our in-region lawyer.

Anonymous said...

We were told we had to pay $150 USD in USD--and that ended up being $160 in USD when we didn't have exact change. We had to pay that in USD and were told it was a bribe. The facilitator took that money in to the passport office without us. We were then taken a few days later to a bank with a slip from the passport office, and we paid another 1,000 grivna to the bank. We did NOT get a recipt for the USD--even though we asked for one--we were laughed at by the facilitator, and that is when we were told it was a bribe and we wouldn't be getting a recipt. We did get a receipt for the offical fee.

Jolene said...

This was a great post with some great advice....

I also learned through this post that the family you mentioned did, indeed, adopt a child after all. I do hope and pray that is something to be happy for them about.

I've been enjoying these posts...

Jill said...

When we were in Simferopol about 6 months after you, we paid $350 USD and 550 grv in a white envelope given to our facilitator in the car. She went in and then came back out to get us a while later. We went into the waiting room that was busy and waited awhile before going to see "Ursula". :-) We got the blue passport, applied on a Tues and picked it up the following Monday.

In Donetsk in July 2011, we got the red one-day passport for $1000. They used to be $350. My (non-RR) facilitator questioned them on the extreme price increase. Evidently, the passport office in Kiev had called the Donetsk office and told them they weren't charging enough for the rare red one-day passports and they had to increase their prices. Bummer. I'm 100% sure my facilitator did not pocket the money on the way into the office. I will be interested to see what other families are paying in Donetsk for one-day passports in the coming weeks and months. Oh, and there was 350 grv for administrative costs.

Jill said...

Sorry, don't want to write a novel in your comment box here. :-)

Anyway, if anyone comes back to read this, I just want to share with your readers that I am "Alyosha's" proud mama. :-) We had very mixed emotions when we found out that the eyes of the baby that had pierced my soul was not the child we were bringing home. But, b/c we had gotten the updated photos of Alyosha about 2-3 weeks before we had found out about the photo mix-up and had fallen in love with the "little boy in the bench", our hearts were ok with it. BUT, oh my, did we pray and pray about bringing both Alyosha and Oleg home. The Lord gave us both unity and told us He had another family for him. And as you said, He did! :-) But the Lord also used the mix-up to get us approved for 2 in our homestudy and thru USCIS. God knew we would need that extra USCIS approval to bring home our sweet baby from the Donetsk region just 6 months after we got home with Elijah "Alyosha". It ended up being a win-win for Pat and I, Elijah, Oleg and baby Jonathan. :-) But, I do know that it doesn't always work out like that. I guess this whole thing leads into another post about photo listings, but we won't go there right now. :-)

Stephanie @ Ralphcrew said...

Thanks for sharing your passport experiences. And thank you, Jill, for clarifying the situation with the two boys.