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Older Child Adoption: Becoming a Family (Russia)

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The Decision

The process went quickly. Called my local agency in May, left for Russia in November. Of course it had taken me six years to move from "I like kids…" to, "Me a mother. . . ?" to "Yes, I can do it!"

I started with China. The abandoned baby girls. . . a trip I took in 1990 to China with my Dad. . . I was convinced that the "reason" for the trip was connected to adopting a girl from there. When my social worker came, she said, "China is inactive right now. Unless you're committed to China or are not in a hurry, I'd suggest you consider another country."

Over the next couple months, I explored Vietnam (maybe), Russia (possible), Guatemala (only babies available), and Liberia (could I mother an African child?) In the end, Russia just seemed right. As to selecting an international agency, I did not do a huge amount of research. (I'm embarrassed to admit that but the end result was good.) My local agency recommended a placement agency in another state--they had good experience with them in regards to Russia. Since I had developed a respect for my local agency (their role = homestudy, post placement, general support), basically I said, "ok."

Next question. . . what age? In the end, I felt, as a single mom and active person, I needed someone that would fit with my life style. Somewhat self-sufficient with dressing and eating, and able to ski, bike, and roller-blade with me! Four - five years old sounded right.

The paperwork for international adoption was unending. My "trouble" was over fingerprints. (Everyone has something!) First time, the finger print agency I used (in Tennessee you must use 'certified' finger-printers) argued with me as to which forms to use, how to fill them out, where to send them, etc. Of course, I was right and she was wrong. They were rejected. I went back, got them re-done. Unreadable. Used someone else. . . third try worked.

My agency helped me preliminarily consider five girls. We narrowed it to three, then to two. . . Then I gave them "my list." (Is anyone else as amazed as me that in adoption, we can ask for what we'd like?! We all know there are no guarantees about anything in life. . . but still . . . ) My list was 1) healthy, 2) smart, 3) coordinated/active, 4) sweet. (Asking for the moon. . . I know!) My case worker talked to me about my top two possibilities, she re-reviewed their videos, then she recommended the 6-year-old girl named Olga. I asked a few more questions and said "send the packet."

Despite getting a very good 12-minute video, 10 pictures taken at 2 different times, and the equivalent of 6 pages of medical info (I say equivalent because although I had 12 pages, much of it was repeated) it took me over 6 weeks to make my decision. Four doctors and a pediatric development nurse (I can't remember her exact title) looked at the info.

In my talks with the doctors, we discussed the usual, Apgar, FAS/FAE, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language ability, affection, interests, inter-personal skills, BCG, rickets, birth family traumas, etc. Based on their input and my continued reading, I had various questions and requests for Russia--new measurements, head circumference size, info about the 'discovered' siblings,' birth date confirmation (we had two dates), etc. In the end, I held my breath for two days and finally said, "Yes!"

Yikes, I was really doing this...!

Credits: Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan's training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She's also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is www.OlderChildAdoptionSupport.com.

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