Thursday, October 28, 2010

Serbian Adoption Journey (blast from the past)

Our Serbian Adoption

Well, I told the story of the other 4 and thought it was time to tell this one. As last year at this time, we were on a flight from Belgrade, headed home. Home sweet home. Once you've been gone, no matter what's wrong with your house, you'll never trade it for the world. Especially, your own bed!

And now, time for the story. How we found Bojan. 

I had been photolisting surfing while we were waiting for a court date to Russia. I found this boy from EE. Decided to check it out. Found out he was from Belgrade, Serbia. A country that I did not know did adoptions--later to find out just how rare they are. Anyways, inquired but said we were in the midst of going to Russia and was just curious. Once we got Yana and Alex home in May of '04, still couldn't stop looking at him. Gave time for those two to adjust and then got the guts to call back again in August. Still available this 5yo boy. All I had to go on was a small picture of him from waist up. Never got to see his missing limb, clubfoot, missing finger, or syndactylity of hands. Didn't matter. With that smile, I was hooked. Said I was interested but had to contact agency to do an updated home study. I knew our main agency wasn't going to do it b/c we were "just" home. So, you know me, a bit persistent. Went to another local agency and got an update. Signed on in August. Had some confusion with INS but got straightened out. They wanted us to go pick him up in November. We said no way. Then wanted us to go in December. We said maybe but my brother was getting married AND we were still in the midst of a massive remodel. I couldn't have him come home to a nightmare with walls covered in plastic and dust all over. So, we actually were able to delay this adoption until going in January. Still, a relatively fast time frame compared to Russia. And we were on our way. Oh, there are no visas required for this country, no in-country travel, no gift donations, and you get to do your own post-placement reports. Obviously, we were excited for the pleasant change of no red tape as in Russia.

We landed and were greeted by our host family. I won't go over every detail b/c there's just too much. We were able to go to the orphanage everyday and play with Bojan. The first meeting with him was kind of awkward. That's the best word I can use. We had everyone watching us and you know how that can feel. But, the smile was contagious. They took him back upstairs. We continued with the meeting of the minds so to speak. Then, they told us his history. Then, question we were totally unprepared for. "Do you want to meet her?" Referring to the birth mother. We looked at each other and said sure. Needed closure, as I'm sure she did. She truly gave him away out of love. So, they said they would arrange the meeting when we traveled to Bor to collect his birth certificate. Okay we said. Then, we were taken upstairs again play with Bojan and get to know the staff some more and more about the orphanage. Oh, I can't say enough good stuff about how they treated the children there. So much different than our experience in Stavropol. Night and day. Bojan was the healthiest child we ever brought home. Now, Bojan was kept in the home. He wasn't supposed to be there but they used to say he will be someone's president someday b/c he is so smart. That's why they kept him at the baby home. They thought he had more of a chance there. They were right. So we were able to play and interact with the kids all day long, everyday. 8 hours a day. We toured the orphanage, which housed between 300 and 400 kids. Birth to 4 years old stayed there. Incredible kids we met. I fell in love with a little boy there. His picture is still on our mantel. Yes, we are going back for him. Can't leave him behind. It was just fun and joy playing with the kids everyday.

Back to business. On Monday, we had to go meet with the ministry. All of about 20 minutes and later our adoption was approved. No mean judge, no harsh questions, very nice people. In Belgrade, they usually have an adoption ceremony to honor you as becoming parents. No court proceedings by the way. We were not able to have the ceremony due to the snowstorm. And boy, did it ever snow. From the day we arrived until the day we left. Airports were shut down. The reason I mention the snow is b/c it had quite the impact on us. Bojan LOVES snowball fights and that is all he wanted to do while we visited him. 

Our days while there consisted of visiting Bojan daily and eating the best food ever cooked by our host family. We were so well fed. We walked to the orphanage in the snow( cars got buried in this snow folks). What an adventure! But we did it and actually lost weight while there. The orphanage staff and the ministry were incredible. Okay. Then the hiccup. You know there always has to be some kind of hiccup. No birth cert. Well, more like, we couldn't obtain it. See, he was born in a very rural village, a couple of hours away from Belgrade. Trouble was no one could get in or out due to the amount of snow. Literally. It was in the paper. A bus got stranded for 21 hours in the snow in a nearby village. In the paper our host family read to us the article about a guy trapped in a beer truck. He drank all the beer and literally urinated his way out of the snow. I so wanted to clip that article for Bojan's scrap book but didn't. So, as you know, you are supposed to have a birth cert. Even asked the US embassy what we could do. Joke at the embassy and the MOE was that maybe we could get Marine helicopter to land in Bor, on top of all the snow and then get your birth cert---LOL. Not going to happen. No US copter available to us--ha,ha. So, embassy agreed to a very bad fax copy--hardly legible. But, still had to go get passport in the nearby town. About 4 hours away. In the mountainous, snowy terrain. 

Well, none of the orphanage cars were going to make it nor the MOE's cars. So, they located us a driver and a specialized van for the snow. That was given to us at no charge. Like I said, these people are beyond nice and just want to see the kids have homes. We made it and got the passport. Embassy was a little miffed at how we could get his passport before the birth cert but we played "dumb." Then they forgave us b/c they knew that Bor was deemed inaccessible due to the snowstorm. Yeah, one step closer.

I must say, when we first met Bojan we were nervous. We had no children with physical needs. This was new territory for us. I was nervous and scared the first time I saw his missing leg. Didn't know what to think. But, all those feelings go away once you interact with your child. Our family doesn't give his prosthetic a second glance anymore. We forget he has it when we're out in public and go, oh yeah, that's why they're looking. I never thought I could handle a child with a deformity. You know what, I can. We saw a little boy with a mild form of CP. Always had a misconception about CP until I spent time with him. What a doll. So smart too. There are so many disabilities that I don't think people understand until they get to know the person and realize that that disability isn't really who they are. I would adopt a child with CP in a heartbeat now all b/c I met this little boy. I was so taken away by these kids and all that they CAN do. It was a remarkable experience and really shed light on our eyes in regards to the term "special needs." These are totally normal kids with some little disability. And most the time, like our son, is easy to live with. There was just such life in those kids at Bojan's orphanage. They were enjoying life and it was so good to see. I knew then I had to do something and that is when the orphanage doctor and I started planning. A year later, our dream is coming true. We will be able to help find these kids loving homes here in America.

Back to the trip. The night before we were to leave, the orphanage staff took us out to dinner at this beautiful restaurant on the Danu River. So gorgeous a setting with the snow and sparkling water. It was delicious food and a six course meal. The restaurant owners knew Bojan. They would often take him here and he would get on stage with the singers and play piano with them. Or take the mike and walk around the restaurant interviewing people. I got to hear stories about our son, about their culture and their life. So relaxing and enjoyable a dinner. What a beautiful way to say goodbye. They gave him gifts to remember them by. Have to tell about the one gift. One of the caretakers gave him her silver gravy bowl and I asked why. She said Bojan would come stay with her family every holiday. AT the dinner table he would rub the gravy boat b/c it looked like a genie lamp on Aladin. His wish she said was always the same---to have a family like this. He gave it to him and said your wish has come true now. Take this and make more wishes. We still have this . There were so many memorable gifts it was like a dream. We even got a baby book of him. They take pictures of all the kids there and keep baby books on each one. Firsts, accomplishments, personalities, etc. We have albums of him from when he was little. Truly, a priceless gift. The love these women have for these children was miraculous to witness. I was so humbled by it. I just can't tell you the feeling we had that night.

Needless to say, since we didn't make it to his birth city, we did not get to meet his mother. However, we were sitting next to the orphanage doctor when she called. She assured his mother that we were good and would take excellent care of him. see, a week before we got there, she came to tell him goodbye. She knew it would be better for him to be adopted. She gave him a necklace with a charm on it. We have her contact information and pictures of his 5yo sister and 3yo brother. They look just alike. It is understood that if anything happens to her ever, we would be taking his sister and brother to live here. Her dream and ours is to one day get a picture of all of them together. Totally different lives but the love for the children exceeds continents. Bojan's adoption was different in that his mother loved him so much yet knew his life would be better here. This is so hard for me too. When we go back, I know we'll take Bojan too and hopefully, be able to meet his birth mother then. I know it will be hard on all of us, yet peaceful and joyful at the same time.

The trip home was uneventful for the most part--okay, they lost his tickets and it was already an overbooked plane. That was stateside though and I can argue a case in English like no other! --especially when I'm just one flight away from being home. The trouble we had was at every airport he'd set off the alarms with his prosthetic. Well, in Atlanta, they had to test him for gunpowder, have terrorism people come over, the whole nine yards. I said do you people have any common sense. this is a 6yo boy. I don't think he's packin a weapon of mass destruction. I said if you make us late for the connector, I'm coming back down here. I was not happy at this point. See, with Belgrade, there is no direct flight. You have to go through a major international hub to get there. No biggie but 24 hours on the planes gets tiring. So dealing with the US terrorism task force was not the highlight of my trip. It's a kids' prosthetic for pete's sake! But, we made it through. Home at last.

Coming home was bittersweet. We had a nanny that ripped us off & that was really hard to swallow. A year later, we are past that whole ordeal. Now, remember, Bojan was raised in a baby home. So, when he came home at 6yo last year, he could not feed himself, dress himself, use the toilet himself and cried at everything. I looked at him the first night home and said you're on your own now! 4 days later, he did everything himself. He watched and followed the other kids closely. No behavior or mental problems with him. Found some good doctors and everything went relatively smoothly from there. Yeah. He is totally independent a year later and doing phenominally well. He learned English the fastest among all our kids---including how to use sarcasm.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience adopting from Belgrade, Serbia. We have learned a lot and gained so much insight. The five kids have blended so well together. It is amazing how you just know they're yours. It is so hard to believe it has been a year. I know I've missed a ton of details and things that have happened. Just know we thoroughly enjoyed it and more than that, forever grateful to a birth mother who loved her son so much to give him to us to take care of and love. It has been a whirlwind of a year. So many things happening and so many we are trying to straighten out. We are on the right track and love the kids that were chosen for us to raise and love.

Each adoption, we learned something new. I'm sure the next one this year will prove the same. We are still "in talks" as to when to start this all again. Definitely after tax time---LOL. Our lives are kept simple and love is great. Enjoy your adoption journey because you never know where it may lead you. We didn't know that while we were adopting Yana and Alex that there was another little boy waiting for us in Belgrade to come and bring him home. WE wouldn't change a thing about any of the five adoptions. For because of everything that happened, we have become better parents for it. We take each adoption as a chance to learn. We are very fortunate to have each and every child in our lives. Thanks for letting me share our Bojan's adoption story. And thus concludes #5. One day, I'll be able to share #6 with you all.

take care,
2 from Orenburg, Russia (June 1999)
2 from Stavropol, Russia (May 2004)
1 from Belgrade, Serbia (Feb. 2005)
Paperchasing for a little girl from Murmansk, Russia (TBD--2006)


  1. Stephanie,

    Can you e- mail me??

    I have some ??? I NEED TO ASK YOU...


  2. So what happened to the other little boy at the orphanage that you fell in love with? Did he find a family?

  3. Stephanie,
    I remember when Bojan was on Life's waiting child page! We adopted our son Joshua through Life in 2004 (from Vladivostok area in Russian Far East.) Is anyone still doing adoptions from Serbia? Wonder if the process is still going so well...
    Always searching for "just one more",

  4. You're the only family I know who adopted from Serbia who had a host family. Everyone else has been on their own in an apartment. No traveling in the region? Depends where your child is from! We're traveling! LOL Our child is in a foster home 3 1/2 hours away from Belgrade, and I don't know what his city of birth is, which is where we'll need to go for his birth certificate. I'm praying it's the same city the foster home is located. The girl we started the process with is from Southern Serbia, and if that adoption ever goes through that is where we'll need to go.

    Now, you meet with the MO, and go over the child's file, and they ask you, basically "after hearing all this, do you still want this child?" before you ever see the child for the first time." In our case, I've already met the child when I was there in April as a representative from Reece's Rainbow. So what will be new for me is his full history of his birth parents (though I know a lot of it already having already met his social worker and his foster family) and the reports of any evaluations that have been done. And, if they have any thoughts as to why he's not talking. Though really, I just want to get him home so I can come to my own conclusions! LOL

    We toured the entire orphanage. We had no idea they have buildings scattered all over the city. We were shocked, really, to find out how many orphans are in their care. 400 doesn't even begin to touch it.

  5. Hey Leah. 400 kids was the # from that orphanage alone. Not all the orphanages. I should have been more specific but I just copied & pasted what I wrote almost 5 years ago. By traveling in region I meant no air travel. We traveled to region in Russia many times and it sucked royally. LOL. You do indeed have to go to your child's birth city as we did back then. Our plans had gotten off keltered just due to the severity of the weather. It was such an experience though. They really do want to see Bojan again. Hope to take him one day for sure. Can't wait to go back!