Long overdue I know.
As much as it’s adjustment to go to a foreign country for a week, it’s a big adjustment to come back home too. We have family visits to try to get in, two girls who missed Mama and Papa, laundry, more laundry, housework, chores, jobs to catch up on, etc.
Add into the “funk” that we keep finding ourselves in once we’re home and it’s a disaster around here. Add to it, the girls are both cutting teeth and got flu shots on Thursday. And then, I managed to catch a cold Sunday too. Anyway, I want to document all the emotions that encircled the COURT experience before I forget.
The night before court we went to bed a little late. Once we recover from the jetlagged induced coma’s of the first 24 hours, our bedtime in region falls at about 7am EST so it’s hard to make yourself sleep. We woke up in the morning and our nerves were a wreck. I checked the weather and saw that it was about 45* out. Not great news for my summer dress/sweater and bare legs. I at least was rational enough to know our adoption wouldn’t be denied based on non-weather appropriate clothing. I couldn’t force myself to eat, but I did manage a glass of coke. I threw a honey bun and OJ in my bag as well in case I had a minute of calm. Court was at 9:30am and Vita was picking us up at 9am. We walked downstairs early and were surprised to see Vita waiting for us. She’s very punctual but usually waits outside in the car. She was dressier than she’s been. You could feel the tension in the air from Vita as well. We hopped in the car and jetted off to the adoption center. We were picking up the lawyer from the adoption center on our way.
At the adoption center, Vita hopped out and about 10 minutes later came out with a piece of paper we had to sign. So at 9:15am on the morning of court, we were still signing important court documents. Then Vita tells me I need to basically memorize what’s on this sheet (in a different language!) as the judge will expect me to know it! Um.. no one told me I had to memorize!
Finally at 9:22 or so, the lawyer comes out. She was very young and dressed fashionably. Definitely a shock. I’m too worried about being late to absorb much.
We cram into the car and head over to the court house. We had seen this building before since Thursday Vita had to file some more paperwork with the court secretary. We went through “security”. Someone let me know if you can explain this. You put your bags on a table, walk through a metal detector and then get your bags. But you don’t have to take anything out of your pockets for the metal detector so it keeps going off and the guards don’t seem to care. And your bags don’t have to go through the metal detector at all? So what’s the point of the metal detector?
Anyway, after some more “come here”, “sit here” and “wait here” from Vita we went into the court room. They had the window open. It was no more than 60* degrees in the room. It was probably a 15’x25’ room. There was a raised portion at the front with 3 nice chairs and there were tables lined up perpendicular to this. Then in between the perpendicular tables there were probably 8 rows of benches – very uncomfortable wooden benches.
Vita gave me some more last minute pointers and all the other people chatted like they all knew each other. Eventually at what I’d estimate to be 9:45, the judge came in. He was 50-ish, smaller stature, gray hair, and blue eyes. He was serious, professional with a slight hint of don’t mess with me.
Everyone in the court room was introduced. Some of these translations missed us because we thought the guy sitting off to the side in the odd uniform that doodled the whole time was the security guard. Nope, he was the prosecutor! So we had him, Vita and I on the front row. The orphanage director and the adoption center attorney on the 2nd row and the child advocate on the 3rd row. To the right of us was the court secretary at a table and to our left was the security guard turned prosecutor. Basically, everyone was positioned to stare at me. He and I elected me to be our family spokesperson which meant that Vita and I had to stand the entire time we were questioned. My feet started to hurt even though my heels weren’t that high. He complained that sitting in the bench for that 2 hours was harder. Who knows. Anyway, for two hours, I was questioned about EVERYTHING.
If you are adopting from this region email me and I will give you details of some questions I skipped here. Without further ado, here’s the list of things I had to answer:
1 . Tell me about yourself.
2. Why did you decide to adopt?
3. Why this country?
4. Why Sweet Girl?
5. Family history of adoption.
6. What was the date of your marriage?
7. He noted that I had a divorce while I was in college and then I was grilled on that. What was the date of marriage and divorce of your first marriage? Why did this marriage fail? Are you sure you won’t get divorced again?
8. Tell me about your financial situation, your jobs and how much do you make?
9. How much is left over at the end of the month?
10. Can you afford another child?
11. Did you have medical exams in the US and in this country?
12. Are you healthy?
13. Tell me about your biological children.
14. How long are they in daycare?
15. Why do you want one more child? But your children are so young?
16. Wouldn’t you like to wait to have another child?
17. Tell me about your living conditions.
18. Do you own your house?
19. Tell me about the neighborhood.
20. Tell me about your religion.
21. Did you know Sweet Girl was baptized?
22. Was your homestudy authorized? What was the outcome?
23. Do you have experience with older children?
24. What training did you do?
25. Your homestudy says you attended school at a Baptist Day School. Are you Baptist? Is this prodestant? Please explain this.
26. Do you know about the legal consequences of adopting?
27. Do you know what makes international adoption different?
28. Do you know you have to register Sweet Girl at the consulate?
29. Do you know you have to do post placement reports?
So at this point, I’m clipping along. These are all questions we’d discussed except the Baptist one since I forgot that was in my home study. I’m thinking he’s wrapping up. Nope.
30. Will you be able to support your family if one of you loses your job?
31. Do you know about the Russia/US Treaty that was just signed?
32. You know that after September 1st you would have been required to have more training?
33. Are you aware that if the laws change again, you could be required to comply?
34. Do you know why the treaty was signed? (Trick question! Got this one right though!)
35. Have you heard about the news stories of mistreatment of Russian children?
36. Would that happen to Sweet Girl?
37. Tell me about meeting Sweet Girl.
38. Tell me about this trip.
39. How do you plan to communicate with her?
40. Do you know about her character?
41. What do you know about her medical conditions? (this was the sheet I memorized in the car!)
42. In spite of what the reports say about her, you still want to adopt her?
43. Are you prepared to treat her current and any future medical needs?
44. Did you have meetings with Sweet Girl in the presence of the orphanage staff?
45. Did you get all necessary info from them?
46. Did they mistreat you?
47. Did they demand anything from you?
48. Do you know about Sweet Girls biological family?
49. (Detailed questions here about her bio family)
50. Is your home ready for her?
51. Will you put her in daycare?
At this point, I could care less what my extended/emotional answers should be. I’m just answering as succinctly as possible.
52. How long will she be in daycare?
53. Will you parent her or will someone else? (?? Huh?)
54. Will you keep the adoption a secret from her or anyone else? (she’s 4???)
55. Does NC allow you to adopt a child?
56. What do you plan for her activities? ( I said ballet, gymnastics and soccer – excellent Eastern European passtimes)
57. Do you receive any financial assistance for her?
Finally, he was done with me. Whew. Remember that he asks in his language, Vita translates to me, I answer in English and she translates back to him.
He asked Him to stand and asked if He had anything to add. He said no. Vita told him he must say something so he said a couple sentences about caring greatly for Sweet Girl and wanting her to be a part of our family. He then asked the court for permission to adopt her.
Then, the security guard stood up and we realized he wasn’t the security guard. Oops. The prosecutor asked:
1. Do you have any bad habits?
2. How do you plan to maintain her heritage and culture?
3. Are there resources available to you?
4. (some specific questions on her history)
Then the orphanage director was introduced and she said her bit. She stated she was in support of the adoption.
Then the child advocate spoke and said her bit. She stated she was in support of the adoption. We didn’t think anything of it as we had no reason to believe someone might disagree, but then the judge said, “This is the first time the administration of the Vladimir region has ever supported an adoption to an international family. Are you aware of that?” She stated that she was, but in this case, the region felt as if we were truly the best family for her. It was a great sign.
Then the adoption center lawyer said her bit. She stated she was in support of the adoption.
The judge then started at the top of our pile of documents and read what each one was and summarized it. Then he got to our document that we had to do at the last minute back in the US that we thought would hold up court. He read it, set it down and moved on. Vita, Heand I audibly exhaled and relaxed on the bench.
Then everyone in order had to again go through their permissions/declarations. He and I had to ask permission to adopt and the others had to confirm that the adoption was in the best interests of the child.
The judge left and then we waited for about 15 minutes. The others sat and chatted. They attempted to make conversation and asked us how much plane tickets to Russia cost and how many times we had to come. We explained we had to come 4 times and that plane tickets were $1500-$2000 per person each time. Vita said that was about 50,000 rubles per ticket or 400,000 in rubles just for plane tickets and they all seemed shocked. I think they are confused why we do this. I’m not confused. I do it for her. From the moment I saw her picture with her little red curls I knew she was mine.
After 15 minutes, the judge came back in and said she was ours too. Sweet relief it was over!
Here’s everyone but the prosecutor and judge. Vita is taking the picture.
Court secretary, orphanage director, attorney and us.
Friday afternoon we were asked not to see Sweet Girl. The Director has an inspection happenning and she thought it would be confusing and crazy. We were sad, but we respected her wishes.
So instead of a visit, we walked around her town some and took some pictures for her to see later. Here are a couple.
On Saturday we got up at 5am to drive to the airport. We got there in more than enough time and while in line to check in, met another family who was on their gotcha trip with their two new daughters. It was nice to meet then and talk to people who understood English. We bumped into them again before boarding our flight and then learned they were sitting 3 rows behind us and then we saw them again at customs in JFK. Watching them navigate the airport with the little ones helped us greatly as we are planning our own gotcha trip.
You better know what gate you are supposed to be at because unless you speak this language, there is no way to confirm the city is right!
The flight home was uneventful. The flight from JFK to CLT had issues, but we ended up in Charlotte about 11:30pm on Saturday – about 24 hours straight of travel.
So now we wait for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, the adoption is final and she’s ours. But, in our region, the passport takes 3 weeks, so we will have to go back and apply for the passport and then go back again 3 weeks after that to pick her up.
“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come for you!” John 14:18