Features

Hurry up and wait

"Hurry up and wait" Continued...

Issue: "Flame-outs," May 8, 2010

Only about 10 percent of these children are orphaned due to death of one or both parents. Most are social orphans-abandoned or removed from their home because of alcoholism or imprisonment of their parents. Our girls were removed from their home 2½ years ago due to "unfit living conditions."

We soon discovered that the orphanage director was against the adoption for a variety of suspicious reasons, and the social worker in the girls' hometown could not give her consent without a vote from a city board. Both consents were necessary before we could have a court date.

Unpredictable challenges, we learned, are a trademark of many Ukrainian adoptions but also an avenue to see up-close the hand of God. The Rogé's first adoption was a smooth journey. But prior to adopting Kole, Julia, and Nadia in 2008 (now ages 10, 12, and 13), they met Rimma and Zina during a hosting program and thought they too were meant to be their daughters. They were heartbroken when they learned the girls weren't registered, a necessary and potentially difficult requirement.

"We were told, and it was evident, that it would never happen," Felix Rogé said. "A difficult director and a hateful caretaker added insult to injury, but we persevered and will have all our kids under one roof by 2011."

Two years and hundreds of phone calls and emails later, the Rogés returned to Ukraine, finalizing 13-year-old Rimma's adoption. "I knew it would be a long road, but I knew it needed to be done. If I didn't fight for them, who would?" Rogé said. They plan to return for Zina, 14, when she becomes eligible for adoption next year.

Our fight for our daughters was brief in comparison but no less intense. We spent several days meeting with social workers, racing to notary offices, and squeezing in visits with the girls, making many of our journeys on foot. Ukrainians prefer to walk, even in subzero temperatures-a hefty challenge for two warm-blooded people from California.

On Jan. 22, we walked into the most crucial appointment of the week: an emergency committee meeting in the girls' hometown where council members would vote on whether or not to separate the girls from their older siblings. We passed a statue of Lenin as we walked to the old building and into the meeting room where 13 government officials had gathered for the vote, including two older women, an older man with a gold tooth, several disgruntled-looking younger women, and the deputy head administrator of the region, who graciously welcomed us.

Our facilitators translated their questions: Why can't you adopt all four children? What assurances can you give us that you won't grow tired of these kids and send them back? Why do you want to adopt from Ukraine? We did not want to be cruel, but like other adoptive parents, we felt that separation would give the children a greater chance of being adopted. After an hour of brutal questioning, we stepped outside and anxiously awaited the vote.

An hour later, we were called back in. "We had a very difficult time with this decision," the deputy head administrator said. "The vote was very close, but we have decided to grant permission to separate the siblings." We had more hurdles, but our biggest had just been removed.

Three days later, our journey was cut short: Ukraine had just passed a new law requiring all adoptive parents (including those already in the country) to obtain Interpol clearance before booking official court dates. The process could take one week to 40 days, and we decided it would be best to return home and wait for our clearances. We were disappointed about leaving the girls, but we could not add weeks onto an already lengthy journey.

Felix Rogé was one of the few who decided to stay in Ukraine while waiting for clearance. Rogé-a volunteer board member for Ukraine Orphan Outreach, a ministry that sponsors annual cultural exchange camps to the United States for Ukraine's older orphans-made good use of the surprise hiatus by spending time with Rimma and Zina and ministering to the orphans he had developed relationships with over the past few years.

The adventure continues for both of our families. Rogé flew home with Rimma on March 3 after an emotional week full of goodbyes to Zina. She knows they will return for her when she is available for adoption, but the wait will be difficult for all of them.

Our Interpol clearance finally emerged, and on Feb. 26 we rejoiced as a judge pronounced us the parents of Josefin Albina and Ella Zolushka Nelson. After court came a mandatory 10-day wait and more than a week's worth of tracking down birth certificates, passports, medical certificates, and visas.

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