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?
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.