Saturday, October 31, 2009

I haven't shared this with many people, since it was so painful that I honestly didn't want to remember it. It wasn't any one's fault, nor do I blame anyone, well, I do but more on that later...

In order to understand this story, you will have to go back several years. It was very soon after I decided to adopt a second time, and I had whizzed through my paperwork and although I had started my second adoption in January, I was quickly paper-ready to review or receive a referral...I went to the offices of COH and was able to review the files of 5 different children. Girls. Babies. My social worker and document specialist told me that I would only be able to get the information packet for one child. So we spread the pictures out on the table and I sat and stared at the faces of these darling little ones. One was quickly eliminated due to her age. If I remember correctly, she was around 18 months old. Another child was eliminated because she was Tartar or Roma, and would look very different than Anna and myself, and I wanted this new little one to blend in with us without looking like the child that was "adopted." Then I was left with three little girls. Two of the little girls were in Komsomolsk Na Amur and the other was in Khabarovsk.

I really wanted to go back to Komsomolsk, but one of the children had a minor disorder that I was unsure of, and the other two little girls were equally precious. My choice came down to choosing the youngest child. So, as a group we agreed that I would take the video, medical records, and other relevant information. Being a second timer, I knew that I had a few days to think about this and contemplate what I would do.

I took the video home and watched it over and over, I emailed the video to a few friends for help and sent it off to an international doctor for his review. This little gal was born premature at 32 weeks, and weighed just over 5 pounds. That was a concern, but I knew I was willing to listen to the doctor's advice and then rethink everything! His report was positive and I accepted this little gal. This was at the beginning of April.

That year, was the dreaded year that all agencies licenses expired. The Russian Ministry of Education had not yet written the new requirements for reapplying for their licenses to perform adoption work, so everyone knew that year was going to be very tough...Looking back, I don't think anyone thought it would be as long as it was.

My agency agency's license expired in May.

My documents were sent to Russia in the first part of April and at the middle to end of April I began to worry and push my agency for answers. By then I was in love, that sweet little face was burned into my memory and I could imagine all the fun that she would have with Anna. I got frustrated and did some undercover spy work, and contacted my friend in Russia about my little one. She let me know that she was still on the database and would not come off of the registry until the end of May. Meaning, I could not travel to meet her until then, meaning my agency would have no license, meaning, I couldn't go meet her. I couldn't tell my agency that I knew when this child was scheduled to come off of the registry, since they hate it when we go around them, so I was stuck to ask pointed questions and push them to ask more questions to the coordinator.

The day before my agency's license expired(along with countless others) I called my agency's director and blew up. I told them what I knew and refused to share how I knew it..I cried and screamed and let them know that I couldn't wait for an unknown amount of time for the Russian government to decide how to re-accredit agencies with this little gals face in my head. I couldn't walk around living my normal life knowing that there was a precious little gal who I had fallen in love with, languishing in an orphanage.

At the time, there was a middle man/company associated with COH and this mm/company tended to lie to COH and so although the COH staff may have wondered if this middleman was a dishonest man, they couldn't prove it, so they had to tell us wild stories to explain events that were out of the norm. COH's hands were tied to this mm/company and as much as they wanted to work directly with the regions, this mm/company wanted ultimate control of information. It was a very terrible time. For a while I didn't know if I could still travel to meet the child since my documents were submitted prior to the expiration of COH's license. For a while everyone was in limbo as to what the regions would do. Ultimately, Khabarovsk decided to stop everything. No first trips, no court trips. Yes, there were those who had already traveled to meet their children who had to wait for their agency to get their license reinstated. At the time, many families waited hoping that "any day" the Ministry of Education in Moscow would outline the plan for agencies to apply for their license. After many months, most agencies steered their families to the agencies whose licenses had not yet expired. After even more months No agencies were technically able to work.

This left me completely out of luck. As far as Russia knew, the little girl that I had fallen in love with was never promised to me. I had no legal right to meet her, visit her, love her. So as with many families, I lost her.

I was okay for a while, but then she disappeared from the Russian database. Then I knew that she was with another family..Maybe Russian, maybe a family from another country. I was happy that she had found her family, but sad for myself.

Then while looking at Khabarovsk's list of available children recently, I saw the face of a little girl that I knew. It was her and I was devastated. She had much more hair, and was lots bigger, but her eyes were just the same. It was her. The happiness of knowing she was with a family had long since conquered my sadness about losing her. And now seeing her back on the registry meant that what seemed like a permanent home for her turned out to be only

temporary. If there is one thing I have learned through adoption, its that the heart can be broken on many different levels. Curious levels. Knowing there is nothing I can do, knowing that she is waiting, wondering what happened, all break my heart on many of those curious levels.
So what do I do now? Where is this going?
I can only pray for this child who slipped through my hands. Please pray that someone will love this child. Pray that my heart won't break for her anymore.
So much has changed in the years since all of this. No longer do agencies get packets of information with videos, medical reports, and photographs. Pretty much everything about adoption has changed.
I understand that this loss brought me to AugustRose, and that makes me happy. Not choosing one of the others saved me from a year of devastating waiting for the system to catch up..And after being home a few months, I went to an Easter party at the Russian Embassy. While there, I met a family who had adopted a little girl from Komsomolsk. It was the little girl who was just a few months older than the gal I lost. It brings me such happiness to know that my choice to go with the younger child meant that family could find their perfect child!


Tina in CT said...

What a story and you, and the little girl, have been through a lot.

Annie said...

That is heartbreaking...and I know how you feel. I may write about the little boy that haunts me.

Annie said...

I will say, too, that I am SO glad I worked with a small, nearly one-person agency. No "fluff" no required classes on "The Geography of Russia" to keep us quiet during a three-year wait (as a family I know experienced with a "big" agency), but paperwork done in an exemplary manner, and transparency. I don't know if I've talked to anyone working with a big agency who felt that sense of transparency.

Far from being cross if I "went around them" Dana is thrilled if some Russian "contact" of mine can find out something she can't find out. She is sincerely trying to do her best for each child and family.

Plus, the costs were sooooo much less than with the big agencies.

Some other families I know were adopting from the same region (same orphanages) at the same time I was adopting Sergei. In fact, they worked with precisely the same contact people in Russia, stayed at the same hotel - everything was the same - except they paid TWENTY THOUSAND dollars more more. AND, it took them over a year to get their children due to messed up paperwork. Sergei who we hosted in the summer (they'd hosted in December) came home well before any of their children. And, worst of all, because the coordinator in Ivanovo is a friend of mine she told me how many errors their agency made which held things up, and I meanwhile heard from the families the lies they told to cover up.

Errors are sometimes made, but it is wonderful when you can trust your agency to admit it and be forthright with you.

The Expatresse said...

Oh. How awful. What a painful process.

kate said...

She's beautiful, J. Just stunning. I'll pray for her.

Anonymous said...

Yes, me too, I once saw a newspaper article about the orphanage where the child I lost was living. It mentioned her by name and told of how they were low on fuel for heat. Broke my heart. She will never likely be available due to birth mother back and forth. So she will be raised with no family. Of course, like you, I'm so thankful for the child I did bring home. But can't help but be pained by the ones behind.