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Ukraine Adoption Journal

The Weston Family

Sent Thursday Jan 27th:

So we mentioned in our last email that adopting Masha was not a sure thing......

Today our facilitator went to the adoption center to get the referrals for Leeza and Masha so we could travel on the train tonight to see them and begin preparing the documents for court. Well, all referrals now must be approved by the Director of the adoption center. We received a call this morning from our translator who

said she had bad news. Apparently, the Director denied our referral for Masha on the grounds that we cannot adopt two children who are unrelated. Of course, people do adopt unrelated siblings. And the psychologist put the documents in front of the Director with the intent she would sign them, so this decision is in her hands and she is solely responsible for Masha not being allowed to have a family, and yes, we are a little angry with her for that. So, after a night of picturing 6 kids, we are back to hoping we at least get the referral for Leeza approved. This process is just crazy. Two years ago we were in and out of the adoption center in 20 minutes with a referral for Sonya and Nikitta and on the train the same day to see them. Now, children's futures are tossed around by the whims of a maniacal Director on a power trip over Americans. Who knows what her motivations are, but we are just sick to our stomachs over this ride. My advice to other prospective adoptive parents that are on our email list preparing to adopt: get one dossier approved, get one referral for a child and choose the child in the first sitting with the psychologist. Or, if you are seeking two children, ask for siblings and for age ranges higher than 5 years old. And one last piece of advice and probably the hardest to follow.... don't fall in love with children while you are adopting and vow to return for them at all costs if you are not ready to deal with walking through a mine field of emotions every hour. Trying to return to adopt children that you have met or other scenarios is just a roll of the dice and a very tough rollercoaster to stomach. We knew this was going to be tough and there was a good chance it would not go as planned, and we were prepared for the risks, but it is very hard to deal with the ups and downs while you are away from your kids and having to make split second decisions about your families future. But having been through this once with Sonya and Nikitta, the benefits are worth every ounce of pain now at least ten thousand fold. We do not want our experience to dampen others excitement to adopt. Adoption is worth it. Not just from the perspective of a child's life changing forever, but for what you get in return. Those of you who have adopted or met Sonya and Nikitta know exactly what we mean.

Anyway, we are back to square one. As of right now, Leeza's referral is pending approval and that is even a possible no. But hopefully, Leeza's referral will be approved by the Director and we can go see her. Our original goal was to get Leeza and Katya. If we can get Leeza now and return in a year or less for Katya we will be very happy with that. We still have a long way to go to make that all happen but we are moving forward and as of right now we think we can still make that happen and the final goal has not been shot down as of yet. For that we are very grateful.

We will update again as soon as we know anything. We may be traveling tonight on a train. We have arranged to have an internet cafe close to our apartment rental in Kharkov so we should be able to update again tomorrow with hopefully good news about us being in Kharkov and adopting Leeza.

Thanks to everyone for their encouraging emails and support. We shed lots of tears at these internet cafe's while we read messages from friends and family every day. We could not do this without your support.

Wade and Julia
Posted: Thursday, Jan. 27th, 2005
Thursday update
Our best hope at the beginning of the day was to get the referral for Leeza completed and approved without hitches and get some train tickets for Kharkov. It is now after 9:00 pm and we are not on a train for Kharkov but we are very pleased with the events of the day. We took a taxi to the Adoption Center at around 2:30pm today to meet our facilitator and translator to get the referral for Leeza. When we arrived, we found the familiar scene of many families and facilitators waiting in the lobby. We took a seat and waited. Our expectation was that we would most likely be waiting until close to the end of the day. The thing that made us nervous was that we heard the director was out for the day and that there was only a chance she would show up to approve and sign the referrals.

As we understood it, the normal process to receive the referral is to just sign for it by one family member showing their passport and signing. In the waiting area, we eventually saw the director come up the stairs and go in so we were pleased that we might actually get the referral. We had been told that this signing was to take place with us directly in front of the Director. We asked our translator if this was normal that we had to talk to the director to get the referral and she said that this was a new policy that started today. We asked our translators if we should take this one last opportunity to plead our case for Katya and Masha. We had never actually had face time with the Director. Our facilitator had advised against this as she is a loose cannon and you can take three steps backward by opening your mouth in front of her. We strategies that once we got the referral for Leeza signed and in our hands we would quickly put it into our bag and then tell her we had some questions and ask if she could answer them. We had planned on both Julia and I being there. Our registration number was finally called, once again around closing, and we went inside. There was one family in front of us and we waited our turn. The first family was in there for an hour and that at first got our hopes up that maybe we would actually get to have a conversation that wasn't hurried, but our hopes were a little dashed as the facilitator of this family left with her family and whispered that they had just had the third degree about everything. As we started to take our seats, the director just started screaming something to our facilitator about only one, only one! They had some sharp words and it sounded like she basically told our facilitator to get out of the office. We were left with just us and our translator as our facilitator left and the door was shut.

The directors demeanor changed somewhat for the better and she began by asking us if we knew that we could complete adoptions in Ukraine without the use of a facilitator. I replied that we did not speak Russian well enough to be comfortable with that. She replied that a translator is all that is necessary and we should consider just using a translator. The first question she asked was why are you considering adopting someone so old as 15? She said we looked like a young couple. We replied that we had two 12 year old girls at home. I then took the opportunity and pulled out the photo album and began talking about how we adopted Sonya and Nikitta 22 months ago and had met Leeza and Katya. I showed her the picture of Alexia with Leeza and Katya at her sides. It is the same picture on our website on the main page. The Director brought up Masha and said that we seemed like a very sincere couple and she would like to help us. She said we needed to write a letter saying that we wanted a second referral and that we should bring it back in the morning. We also would need to write a letter to the US Embassy and make them aware of our request for a second referral. And at this time she finally said yes to a referral for Leeza. Once she approved it, she left the desk and went to the other side of the room. We were very happy at this point, however, we knew we had some unfinished work for Katya. We really had to get our courage up because this was it. We knew it was our last chance for Katya. I stood up and asked her if we could ask her another question. She kind of rolled her eyes and slowly walked back to the table. Our eyes were welling up as we opened our photo album and pointed to Katya and told her that we had met Katya at the same time we met Leeza. We told her that Leeza and Katya should be together as sisters and that we had asked the orphanage director if they were both available to adopt two years ago. We told her that the orphanage director had assured us the paperwork was submitted and they were available. We then said that we had hoped to adopt them both and that we had found Leeza's paperwork, but not Katya's. At this point, we were thrilled that she was even engaging us in this conversation and we hoped that maybe this would set the stage for our return trip and possibly speed up our return to get Katya. She replied that she was aware of Katya, she then turned to the psychologists who were both standing there and asked if everything had been done to locate the paperwork. They described their activities and she told them that there was more that could have been done. She said they would call the regional office and the inspector in the morning and request the paperwork they had on file be sent to them and they would verify that it had in fact been done years ago. Suddenly, we realized that Katya was possibly back within reach. We knew already that the paperwork had been done as we had seen a copy of it. And we knew that if they actually did the research they would find what we had already found through our translator. She then asked us for a letter that would have to be written in the next 30 minutes and translated and then registered asking for permission to adopt Katya. We were floored. Suddenly, we realized that the faith and prayers of all those back home were making a difference for our Katya. This is in no way a done deal, but we have new hope. We know that this is not our doing.

This may result in our bringing Katya home this trip and it may not, we just don't know yet. However, even if we can't bring her home now, this gets the ball rolling for her like never before. Everyone there is aware of her. They are looking as the director mandated it. We are not sure what will happen even if they find the regional file, but we know that this could aid us in getting her home quickly.

We have Leeza's approved referral and nobody could pry that loose from our hands. We are going to return in the morning to the Adoption Center to find out about Katya's status. So we are still here in Kiev and not on a train. We will let you know how things turn out tomorrow.

Thank you all for everything. Your prayers and support are obviously working.
Love,
Wade and Julia
Sent Friday January 28th, 2005

Ok, we are dead tired. It is almost 11:00pm here and we just got to the internet cafe to check email and write an update.

We are satisfied right now with how things have turned out. We are taking an overnight train tomorrow (Saturday) night to Kharkov. We won't be able to get to the orphanage until Monday morning because the administrators are gone for the weekend, but we need Sunday to unwind and relax anyway.

We took a taxi to the Adoption Center this morning at 9:00am. It is bitter cold here today with a good six inches of heavy snow on the ground. We had an appointment to register a letter to the Director officially asking to allow us to adopt two unrelated children. This is required in case they find Katya's paperwork. Our translator was caught in traffic and did not get there until after 10:00. We had written the letter and emailed it to her the night before so we couldn't do anything until she arrived. This stressed us out a little. She arrived and we took them the letter. We also had been requested to send a letter to the US Embassy to ask them to write a permission letter that it was ok from the US perspective to adopt two unrelated siblings. We called the embassy after delivering the letter and they told us that they had received our letter and would quickly write a letter on our behalf. They commented that this was a first for them as they don't normally intercede in adoption situations. But they were definitely willing to confirm what has always been US policy to accept any child adopted according to Ukrainian law. We took a taxi and picked up the letter and then returned it to the adoption center at the appointed time of 3:00pm. This whole paper chase was bizarre. The current talk among the translators and facilitators in the waiting room of the adoption center is that this is the worst time in the history of the NAC. Never has it been more unpredictable and difficult to process adoptions. The speculation about some of the recent changes in the past week deal with the Director being a Yanukovich supporter and that since the election went the other way here, she is going to be ousted as would be a normal change of ministerial positions in a new administration. People think she is afraid of prosecution for political reasons. It was interesting to note that she is now subtly wearing orange in a few of her accessories. Orange is the color of the Yushenko political party that just won the election. Her orange earrings and orange stripes in her shirt seemed to contradict the portrait of Yanukovich that hangs on her wall, according to our translator. Her inflexibility and decisions that seem to contradict the normal processes seem to be centered around the letter of the laws. We somewhat sympathized with her plight for about ten minutes once she agreed to look into Katya's paperwork yesterday. We felt bad about using such harsh words in our last email.
Anyway, we delivered the papers and then waited in the lobby again to find out the decision. We were let in to see the director around 5:00pm. We had a little hope with Katya that they could figure out what happened to her paperwork, but we also realized that their fax machine was not working there and that it would be difficult to get information from the regional offices to look at on the same day as the request.
When we went in her demeanor seemed very distant and cold. She was very terse and stated that she received the information she had requested. She then said that there was insufficient time for them to determine if Katya was in fact available and so the answer would be that she is not available right now and all information pertaining to her could no longer be discussed and that our time was finished with her.
We think that they didn't have the time to take care of looking into Katya's paperwork. There is nothing more we can do to reverse this so we will travel to Kharkov. Leeza is the only certain thing right now. We need to get to Kharkov and understand how long it would take to get Katya's paperwork registered with the Adoption Center. We are going to return for her, we just don't know when we can. It may be quick or as long as a year. The longest we should have to wait would be one year as that is the waiting period by law once a child is on the books at the Adoption Center and we plan to talk to the local inspector to hopefully get her paperwork registered quickly.

This week has been an amazing learning experience. After having been through it, we have realized that everything that transpired required us to come here and experience it first hand. Had we tried to do more to know their current status before we came, we could never have been absolutely sure without actually looking through the records ourselves. Leeza is coming home and we know what it would most likely take to eventually bring Katya home and we are very comfortable with the options. We are going to see what we can do about Katya once we are in Kharkov and can talk to the orphanage and the local inspector. Our channels with the Adoption Center are closed until she is officially registered and available for adoption. So we can only work the local level right now.

We appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers. We are excited to see the girls. Leeza has no idea that we are here and to see her face when we ask her if she wants to be part of our family will be an amazing experience.

Wade and Julia Weston
Subject: In Kharkov
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 20:15:08 +0000
We are in Kharkov. We arrived on Sunday morning. We went to our apartment and relaxed. I had it all set up to have internet at our apartment as I wanted a place that we could keep in touch with people from. However, the internet has not been working and it took us several days to get time and find an internet cafe. I don't have a lot of time right now so we may have to provide more details later. In short.... We went to the orphanage this morning. We met with the Director and were told that Leeza was in the hospital for a stomach ache? She had been there for two weeks. She said she was to be released today and so we could just go pick her up. We had our driver take us to the hospital. We were very nervous as we went into the hospital. It was very old and cold. Our translator went in and gathered her things with her and we hid out in the hallway. I had the video rolling as she came out of the room. She was very surprised to see us. I'll have to send that in a short clip video. It was amazing. We didn't tell her why we were there. We just said that we knew she was sick and came to see her. We then went to the orphanage and Katya had come home from school and we found her in the hallway and had a some big hugs and tears. We were able to take them into a room alone and let them know why we were there. I can't describe this moment. It was beautiful. It was bittersweet because we can't take Katya. Katya has had 14 years to learn to deal with disappointment in her life. We told her that we couldn't bring her home now, but that we would do everything we could to bring her home as soon as possible. We prepared her for a year or longer and also let her know that laws could change and it may not happen. We told her that no matter what governments and other people say, she was adopted in our hearts two years ago and no matter what may happen that she would always have a mama and papa. She cried, but her tears turned to smiles as she knows now that she has a mom and dad. She will wait. And we will do whatever is possible to get her home as soon as possible. We will never give up. We had a fun afternoon with the girls. They are so excited. Words cannot describe ours and the girls happiness that was shared in that orphanage today. We will send pictures tomorrow. These girls are very special. I think as our family and friends get to know them they will understand more about what we are doing trying to bring these girls home.

More to come tomorrow.... Today was great!

Wade and Julia

Subject: Wade and Julia here...
Date: Tue, 01 Feb 2005 18:29:55 +0000
Today was a fun day. We spent the morning relaxing and then we headed to the orphanage to be with the girls. We were able to see Katya first as she comes home early on Tuesday. We watched some additional home videos that we had brought. More and more kids started arriving from school and soon they were hustling around getting their room ready for a party. It was one of the girls birthday. When Leeza got home we had them pick out some presents from ones we brought so they could give their friend a birthday present. Julia and I were witnesses to an amazing birthday party. We learned a lot about our kids upbringing and traditions today. We were impressed with the attention the birthday girl was given. These kids are very well taken care of and make their own happiness. There were only a few simple presents, but it was the little things that made the party. Around the table of about 25 kids, many of the kids stood up and gave a toast to the birthday girl and everyone drank juice. It was really funny to watch. The youngest girls in the groupa had prepared several shows that they performed. They also played some games. Julia won one of the games and her prize was she got to sing a Britney Spears song. No worries, I have it all on video. The family atmosphere there was amazing. All of those kids with no families have created one of their own. We have video of the party and when we get home we will gladly show any of you and encourage anyone who wants to, to watch the video for a whole new perspective on life. These kids with so little, having more fun toasting each other than you could ever buy at Chucky Cheese. It was surreal. We have no idea how the rest of the world lives. We have too much.

We have to return to Kiev tomorrow to sign some papers at the adoption center. We will return again tomorrow night on the overnight train so there will be no update on Wednesday.

We are really enjoying the time we spend with the girls. We are bonding so quickly. The two years of writing letters and the time we spent with them last trip has brought us very far along in our relationships. They are so excited to come to America. Katya's friends keep asking her when she is leaving. It is really hard for her because she has no answer. She had a few tough hours today. This is going to kill us to leave Katya. We are trying to spend as much time with her as we can.

I'll send some pictures in an email to follow.

Wade and Julia

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