Friday, April 9, 2010

Russian Adoptions at Risk of Shut Down

Okay, I'm not posting the link here as by now you all have read the tragedy of what has happened in the adoption world.  For those new to adoptions, I assure you this is not the first news story to cause a stir to shut down adoptions and can almost guarantee this won't be the last.  We've been in the adoption world for 11 years now.  We have seen countries shut down and reopen, countries shut down altogether, even had a delegation come to our home a few years back from Tajikistahn to see if they wanted to do adoptions.  (I promise we didn't scare them away--LOL).  What I'm getting at is we've seen it all.  Through it all though, you have to have faith and hope.  Adoption is totally a leap of faith.  No doubt about it.  But news stories like this make it all that much worse.  Adopting older children too gets an even more horrible reputation.  I hate that, I really do. 

For those that do not know, a Russian child was adopted back in September from the Vladiovostock region(far east).  He was adopted by a single mother from TN.  The child was "returned" last Friday to Russia!  That is right.  Returned.  Can you do that?  No.  This is NOT Target.  You can not return a child once you adopt them and are their parents.  YOu can disrupt an adoption but this procedure was not done.  The mother put the 7yo child on a plane to MOscow on a one-way ticket.  Can not believe it.  I really can't.   What ticks me off even more, is why on earth did no one catch this?!  Seriously, why?  See, when you adopt from Russia, you have to give post placement reports.  You have to tell social workers how your adjustments are going.  You have to do this a month after being home & 6 months after being home and then at the year mark until 3 years.  I have 6 Russian adoptees.  I know how this works.  So why on earth did no one catch this or the mother not say anything w/ those 2 post placement reports that took place?  I know it would be easy to point out blame when I am not directly involved in this scenario.  That is not what I am trying to do.  I'm trying to make others well aware that adoption is NOT easy.  It is not a cake walk.  There are adjustments.  This child clearly had RAD and FAS even though I am NOT an expert.  I have 6 w/ FAS/FAE and 2 of those have RAD.  It said the child's brithmother was an alcoholic.  These children are very complex.  I feel very sorry for the mother who was that distraught to send her child back.  However, I can honestly say I know exactly how she feels.  I was that parent who thought to myself "what in the world have I done?"  It is a horrible, sinking, dark place that no one ever wants to be in.  But parents do feel this when adoption first happens at times.  They need to know the feeling is normal and there is help out there.  There are many support forums.  I know, I'm a member of a few.  It is very reassuring to know that you are not the only one going through this.  But more importantly, it is important to know you CAN get through it and you CAN get your child help.  Is it always a happy ending?  No.  Sometimes there are disruptions.  However, the success on disruptions does seem to be very good. 

Let me explain a little about adopting an older child.  I think I have earned that right.  I have adopted ages 3, 4, 4, 6, 6.5, 7 and 8.5.  Hopefully, later this year bring home ages 3, 8, and 9.  These are children that have been raised in an institutionalized setting.  They have no idea what a family is.  The way it works in Russia is there is a baby home, a children's home (usually 4 to 7 or similar), and an older childrens' home.  Typically, 8 to 16 or 17 depending upon region).  Now, once in the older kids' home, the rules tend to lax up a bit.  When they get home to America to start their new life w/ their new family, they are beyond terrified.  Everything is new.  Everything.  New smells, new language, new people and new rules.  You have to get them in control as soon as they get home or things will spiral out of control for the whole family.  Here is what I mean by that.  You have to first and foremost make them realize you are their family and you will never leave them.  Never.  I think people make a lot of mistakes when first home w/ their kids.  I really do.  I did the same thing w/ my first two home.  I've learned over the years.  Hence, why my first two kids home took around 6 monhts to adjust and the last two took about two weeks.  Seriously.  2 weeks.  HOwever, I took everything I had learned on previous adoptions and applied it.  I am determined to write a book.  Maybe it will help someone else.  I know, I would have read something years ago.  Kind of a post adoption go to guide.  Complete w/ resources. 

Adoption of an older child is tough.  I'm not going to lie to you all.  I remember when I was first adopting.  All I ever heard was the rosy stories and the happy ever after.  I never heard of the hoarding, the screaming, the raging, the lack of eye contact, the lack of communication, and everything else you can throw at it.  No one told me any of that.  No one.  I thought I was horrible for not knowing what to do with Irina and Max when first home.  Thought maybe I was not cut out to parent.  It is a real eye opener adopting an older child.  Prospective adoptive parents need to beware of this fact.  It is hard.  But it IS worth it.  My quote on my plane ride home to someone was "I'm NEVER going to do this again!  I don't know what I'm going to do with these kids."  A kind lady talked me through it and I have never forgotten that conversation.  It was the ride home w/ IRina and Max..our first two.  I never did get her name.  I have however paid it forward.  Many plane rides later, I have been the one going around speaking to new parents telling them what to expect and how to handle the hard times.  The lady who sent her son home was at wits end I'm sure.  I do think it should have been handled differently.  Reason I'm so passionate about this is I have 6 Russian Adoptees.  All older children.  I have been spit at, kicked at, called nasty names in English and Russian, had my glasses broken, kids threatening to kill us, etc.  Yet, I came through it all.  My kids came through it all.  I did have to quit my job.  The first few months home were pure he**.  I will not lie to anyone on here.  Adjustment process is not easy.  It is easier now for us than before but that is due to pure hands on experience.  I think the best thing an agency can do, is to have a new couple preparing to adopt, go to the house of a family that recently adopted.  You know, still jetlagged, emotionally unstable, house a mess b/c you're concentrating on the kids, trying to get back into routine, finding out new dx's that weren't on the medical, exhausted, learning Russian, and learning as you go.  That is the time a family NEEDS to visit.  I would be willing for someone to come to Chaos Manor after our adoptions to see exactly what it is like.  Actually, we decided we "may" do a documentary of sorts of the process once home.  I might be afraid that people would think we are nuts but hey, it may help someone else.  10 kids, 3 newly adjusting, 7 having to adjust, two tired parents..oh yeh, that should make for a good movie--LOL. 

I hope Russian adoptions do not shut down.  What I would love to do is go to Russia and have an honest conversation w/ the MOE.  Tell them really what happens, what agencies can do and how being honest to us on their medicals would help potential parents.  Harder to place kids really should go to those with experience in my opinion.  Some may disagree and I understand their point.  Something needs to happen though.  A complete Russian shut down I think would be detrimental to too many children.  There has been alot of great families formed via Russian adoption.  We are one of those families.  I can not imagine my life without my kids.  Despite the rough beginnings, there is so much potential in these kids.  I will write more later this weekend on older child adoption.  There is a lot to it.  The kids in teh beginning are trying to figure it all out. They are confused, scared, angry, etc.  They have to grieve.  They have lost everything in their eyes and some more than others will blame you for it.  I hope I did not offend anyone.  Russian adoption means alot to me.  It is where we really wanted to go adopt from again.  However, it has gotten extremely hard and very costly to adopt from Russia now.  Doesn't mean we still can't help other families find their Russian kids and bring them home.  But the home has to be safe and very well prepared for a child that will need ever ounce of love they can muster even during those first dark hours some days.  I will say, some kids do adjust better than others.  But since you can never know, you have to prepare.  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Get a support group in place.  Talk about your feelings.  What some parents also don't talk about is the post adoption depression.  I personally have not experienced it so can not elaborate but do know it exists and do know many families have been effected by it.  Sometimes that too can make adjustments hard.  So much to say and not enough time.  Just had to say something tonight on all this.  I love my Russian kids.  I am so glad Russia gave us the opportunity to bring them home.  I am saddneed at the thought of a shut down.  I do hope it does not happen.  Do think about all the kids tonight. If you are an adoptive parent and been through this all before, offer to help a "newbie."  Share your story.  Share your solutions.  People need to know what works and what hte options are for them.  Have a great weekend.  Lots going on as usual here this weekend.  Tell more tomorrow.  Bulgaria is asking us for an update on where we are on the process.  Again, more tomorrow.  Just couldn't let this story go.  It hits home all to close. 


  1. Stephanie!... I read this post on saturday but I could not write you back!... As you always do, you touched me so much w/ your post and made me cry!. It´s terrible what has happened with this kid!... I really had no idea!... But your post it so much hopefull and you bring us calm and support from your experiences!... So I have to thank you once again!... And I guess that all of us who are thinking in adopt a kid a bit older than a baby, thanks you too!... I think it would be GREAT if you could write a book about your experiences!... I´ve read one of a woman here in Argentina whom adopt 4 kids, and it´s fantastic!!!...
    Kind regards to your beautiful family!!!...