Brave New World: Adopting Foreign Children

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It's a long process, but well worth the wait!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article by William P. Sizer was featured in our January 1998 issue. It’s an inspirational story for those wanting to adopt internationally.


My wife Linda and I are nearing the end (we hope) of the process of adopting a child from Russia. The path has had many ups and downs, but we are sure it will be well worth the wait. Our adventure began in November 1994 when we went to a foreign adoption workshop sponsored by Heaven Sent Children, an adoption agency in Murfreesboro. We were so impressed that we decided to start the process of getting approved to adopt.

The Beginning Process
The first major step was the “home study,” which consisted of a social worker from Heaven Sent visiting our home and asking numerous questions about our personal histories. Our worry that she would give our house the “white glove test” was not well-founded, but she did find out all she could about us. Some time later we went to the Murfreesboro office to further discuss some issues with the head of the agency. The result was a favorable home study, and we were ready to proceed.

The next big hurdle was approval by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. This step seemed to take forever. The department requested more information from the social worker, and the person who processed the approvals was on sick leave for a while. Finally, I got so fed up that I called her myself even though the social worker had advised me not to do so. My call happened to fall on the very day we had been approved. What a relief!

The next step was to find an agency that actually had a program operating in Russia. We had already waited several months for a Siberian program run from Seattle to materialize, but it had never gotten off the ground. Then we heard about a Russian program operating in Santa Barbara, CA. called Adoption Services Associates (ASA). We contacted them and were impressed by the professionalism and enthusiasm of its director, Orson Mozes, and his employees. They promised to do all the legwork, and they had an excellent track record. Their fees were higher than some other agencies, but this seemed worthwhile. The cost was going to be high anyway, so why not get first-class service?

The California agency began sending us videotapes of available Russian children ages 1 to 3. My wife was excited to find these tapes delivered to our doorstep by Federal Express. The first child we saw, named Anton, was her favorite, but he had a crossed eye. We talked to an ophthalmologist friend and several other doctors who agreed that surgical correction of the eye would be simple. Finally, we decided to adopt Anton. A new round of paperwork ensued. After finishing this step and paying our fees, we were to leave for St. Petersburg, Russia on October 1, 1997. On September 21, we received a call from the agency saying that Anton had contracted hepatitis-B at the orphanage and could not be adopted at that time. We were crushed.  We learned that several months would be required to determine whether Anton’s body would develop the necessary antibodies to overcome the disease.

At that point we went into limbo. We were not sure whether to wait and see if Anton would recover or to search for another child, so we decided to do both. It encourages us to know that another couple from this area had a virtually identical experience one year ago, and that their child is now at home and doing well.

Success Stories
Although there have been foreign adoption stories with unhappy endings reported by the media, we do not personally know of any. The parents and adopted children we know are pleased and happy. A good example is Kathy Burke, a single parent of three adopted children — two from Russia and one from Uzbekistan (a former Soviet Republic in Central Asia). Kathy is in her mid-40s; the kids are 5, 4, and 3 years old.  After receiving a substantial early-retirement package, she found a classified advertisement for an attorney who claimed to specialize in adoptions. He turned out to be unlicensed but did refer Kathy to ASA in Santa Barbara. This agency proved perfect for her needs. Within three days, Mozes called to tell her about two brothers who were available from Russia. She accepted them without even seeing pictures of them. Within three months of her original contact with ASA, she was off to Russia to pick up the boys. Everything went so smoothly that fifteen months later she adopted a girl named Kara from Uzbekistan, also through ASA.

Another happy and successful adoptive parent is Mary Turney of Franklin. She is a single 41-year-old woman who has a handsome 2-and-a-half-year-old boy from Russia named Harrison. She signed up with Heaven Sent and obtained her home study. Heaven Sent put her in touch with American for International Aid and Adoption (AIAA) in Michigan. Within four-and-a-half months, she had a referral, and two months later was in Russia.  She is very happy with Harrison and is gearing up to adopt another Russian child in early 1998.

Foreign adoption is not for everyone, but it is a viable and exciting alternative for an increasing number of parents in Middle Tennessee and around the country.  There is a program that fits your age, marital status and other requirements. Don’t be discouraged. You are limited only by your perseverance!



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