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Kyle's Adoption Story

Welcome Home Our "American" Sonrussian adoption at kids to adopt www.kidstoadopt.org
by Jody Sciortino

Memo

To:  Natasha
From:  Vasya

Dear Natasha:
Please find me an American Mommy and Daddy.
Love,
Vasya
 
Being born on the Fourth of July would lend itself to some prophecy of the future, or so one would hope.  Not so for little Vasya, who was born in a small Russian town by the Sea of Azov.  Vasya was relinquished for adoption at birth by a single mother who was unable to care for him financially.  Because there was no orphanage in the area, Vasya spent the majority of his life in a single hospital room.  For the first five months, he had a little roommate, Marina.  Both shared histories of low birth weight and humble, rather sickly beginnings.  Although the hospital staff was very committed and concerned about these children, resources were extremely limited.  There was little food and  nutrition and staffing was too inadequate to afford the babies with the time and attention they so desperately needed for their growth and development.  Little Marina was adopted at seven months by a couple aware of her medical condition but eager to bring her home, give her love and "fatten her up."  Vasya was left behind.

At first it seemed only a matter of time before Vasya, too, would have a family of his own.  Natasha Mishina, the Director of American Adoptions at Frank Foundation/Child Assistance International, is our equivalent of a Russian Earthmother.  She has assisted in the placement of hundreds of children.  A fierce advocate of her "brood", she can recall each child's name and the family with which they were placed.  Whenever a family requested an infant boy, Natasha would remind us, "Don't forget my Vasya."  We would receive periodic phone calls from Natasha with a not-so-subtle reminder:  Vasya sent me a fax today, "Where is my American Mommy and Daddy?"  Every time he was reviewed and rejected by a potential adoptive family, Natasha would cluck in her thick Russian accent, "Aah!!  My Vasya.  He is not a lucky boy."

russian waiting childVasya became dangerously ill and malnourished.  He was removed from the adoptive list and transferred by the Frank Foundation to a specialized hospital for care.  A few days prior to his first birthday, Vasya returned and was again available for adoption.  He was gaunt, frail, and not yet walking.  Where most children can't seem to fill their tummies enough, the news was that Vasya does not eat.  However, the pictures and videos portrayed a child whose huge, blue eyes expressed a determination and desire to live and be loved that captured all of our hearts.  He became "our" Vasya and the commitment to find him a family was intensified.  Due to his health, the need for a family was urgent.  We hoped because it was so close to his birthday, and an American holiday no less, that it was a sign of things to come.  However, by this time, due to his fragile statistics, few families were willing to even review him.  Good, caring people all, the families rejecting him were simply unprepared to manage the risks outlined by the international consultants.  Enter the Roberts.

Dan and Sandy Roberts had encountered some obstacles of their own.  Sandy Roberts was born with OI (Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a brittle bone disease) and uses a wheelchair for mobility.  This is far from an obstacle to Dan and Sandy but as they were soon to discover, was considered to be a significant one in the adoption world.  The Roberts considered adoption as the most viable option to parenthood.  Standing at a mere 4'3", they were not certain how Sandy's body would manage pregnancy.  There was also a 50% chance of passing on the OI condition.  The Roberts were rejected by several agencies who questioned Sandy's ability to parent from a wheelchair.  Their desire to adopt a special needs child was challenged by some agencies and considered to be the only option by others.  Faced with insurmountable obstacles and biases, the Roberts opted for pregnancy.  The pregnancy was very taxing on Sandy's tiny body as baby and internal organs vied for space.  A beautiful Steven Conner Roberts was born on August 4, 1995, weighing in at 6 lbs. despite arriving four and a half weeks early and having OI.

The presence of little Steven in their lives left no doubt as to Sandy's competence as a parent.  Eager to continue building their family, the Roberts searched for a social worker who would be willing to write a favorable homestudy.  After moving to Washington state, the Roberts met a social worker who was more than willing to be an advocate for them.  The challenge was to find an agency that would work with them.  In April of 1997 they experienced a failed adoption.  They were matched with a little 4 1/2 year old boy from Latvia with OI.  Through the OI network, particularly Sandy's mother-in-law, an OI literature coordinator, they accidentally discovered he had also been matched with another family.  The Roberts contacted the family directly to plead their case.  They felt most prepared to deal with this little boy and his needs.  They appealed to their agency to step in quickly.  The other family was somehow able to expedite the adoption within three weeks and the Roberts lost their second child, Steven's big brother-to-be.  Yet another disappointment.

Feeling discouraged and beginning to give up hope, the Roberts were directed to Victoria Adoption Center by friends in June of 1997.  They were assigned to the Director of Social Work, Joan Harlow, whose first step was to investigate the viability of working with the Roberts from the Russian end.  Although the agency had no restrictions or reservations about Sandy's disability, it was essential to investigate the possibilities with the Russian officials to spare the family any disappointment or obstacles mid-adoption.  Joan was given the go-ahead by Natasha Mishina at Frank Foundation and the plan was created to obtain special permission for Dan to travel to Russia alone to pick up their child.

Once the mechanics were ironed out, the Roberts were ready for child referral.  They requested a special needs child, preferably one with brittle bone disease.  Their first referral was of "Oleg", a 5 year old little boy with a "keel chest".  A thorough and tenacious investigator, Sandy researched the diagnosis of Morquio Syndrome.  She learned that in two years, Oleg would begin to develop body deformities and could possibly die in his late teens.  Greatly saddened, but unprepared to adopt only to lose, they declined the referral.  Being a fierce advocate and not willing to stop at "no", Sandy did further research and generated possible options for placements of Oleg in Canada.

Given that they were willing to consider a special needs child and constantly impressed by Dan and Sandy's compassion and goodness, Joan asked if they might be willing to consider Vasya, even though they had requested an older child.  They were.  They approached the referral of Vasya with the same tenacity and thoroughness.  By this time we were all sharing in our excitement for Vasya and in our respect for the Roberts.  There was also an element of relief knowing that these were people who would make a truly informed decision, not expecting any guarantees as to the unforeseen and would truly love, cherish and care for him regardless of the outcome.  The Roberts reviewed the medicals, watched the videos and consulted with an expert in international adoption.  After one lengthy conversation, they held on to her comment, "There is a child in there and I think you can get him back."  They felt prepared to deal with the proposed delays and complications and accepted the referral.

This 14 month old baby boy with his skinny little body and big, blue eyes managed to capture the hearts of everyone he came into contact with.  He was a celebrity.  He became everyone's son.  Natasha called with news from the Russian coordinator two days after Dan's departure from the United States.  She is crying.  Dan and Vasya met today.  The story was that Dan had tears in his eyes when he saw his son for the first time.  They touched cheeks.

As he sees his son for the first time, Dan recalls thinking "he is just so beautiful."  He says it was similar to the first time he held his son, Steven, but without the anxiety and uncertainty of being a first-time parent.  He feels confident in his ability to be this little guy's Dad.  He thinks Vasya looks better physically than he had expected.  Vasya looks at him with a wide, expressionless gaze, but Dan can tell his mind is alert and taking everything in.  Dan dresses him in his new clothes; his "good-bye" outfit.  The chief physician takes him away for a few minutes.  Dan thinks it is to say good-bye to his room and the nurses.  Many of the staff members have pictures of Vasya on their desks.  As she hands him back to Dan, Vasya becomes wiggly and stiff.  He does not want to be carried, he wants to walk.  Vasya is in awe of the world outside the hospital room where he's spent his entire life.  Dan puts his son down.  Vasya grasps his Daddy's hands and together they leave the only home Vasya has ever known - never looking back.

Outside the world is a huge and overwhelming place!  Vasya's eyes are like saucers.  He is quiet and watchful.  Two hours later, after arriving at the host family's apartment, Vasya smiles for the first time.  The ice is broken.  He is relaxing.  Dan is surprised and pleased it has happened so soon.  Vasya discovers bread is something you put into your mouth and can actually eat.  Now this little boy who would not eat, can't seem to get enough.  Natasha calls us with an update the next day.  She received a call from the chief physician at the hospital who can hardly speak for crying.  The Roberts sent donations.  Enough supplies to last her five years!! As the Russian staff observe Dan and Vasya bond, they request, "Send more Daddies like Dan!"

At the Embassy, once Dan is handed his son's passport, he quietly celebrates.  He is officially mine.  I can take him home to Sandy and Steven.  The plane ride home is traumatic for both.  Vasya is terrified and cannot be soothed or sleep.  He has severe diarrhea and turns purple and shakes with distress each time his diaper is changed.  Dan cannot sleep.  He wishes for the trip to end - to get his son home to Sandy and Steven so they can  begin their life together.  He meets the friends who referred him to our adoption agency when connecting flights in Los Angeles.  They provide a respite; they renew his spirit.  Once on the plane to Portland, Vasya passes out from sheer exhaustion.  The stewardesses are enthralled with Vasya's story, they ask for details.  They vie for the opportunity to witness the reunion with Sandy and Steven.  One offers to take pictures.  The other carries Dan's carry-on luggage.  One must remain, according to policy, in the plane, but is promised to be relieved after a few minutes.

Sandy and Steven are there to greet them.  Dan hands Vasya to Sandy and hugs Steven.  As he introduces his oldest son to his new brother, Steven reaches out and spontaneously kisses and hugs Kyle Vasya Roberts.

Once home, Kyle's changes are dramatic.  At first he is anxious every time Dan leaves the room.  He whimpers, searching for his anchor.  He begins to accept Sandy's overtures and bonds quickly.  He develops a voracious appetite.  He smiles constantly.  He is mobile.  He interacts with his brother.  Seven days after his homecoming, Kyle becomes so amused while he plays with a piece of paper, be begins to belly laugh.  The child who before did not smile, has a laugh so infectious, he soon has the whole family laughing, partly from relief and excitement that he has found his way out of his shell so quickly, but mostly from the sheer delight in being a family.  The pediatrician is amazed and pleased with his progress.  She sees no delays.  Kyle is now in the 25th percentile for height and weight.

It is September 30, 1997.  Vasya has been home for 10 days.  The "aunts" at Victoria Adoption Center receive a fax.  "My mommy said I should write and tell you that I took my first steps today.  I was wobbly but I did it!  I love my new home and I learn so many things every day.  I can laugh and be silly...I can crawl really fast.  I love to talk baby talk.  I like to play with all my toys.  I like to explore around the house... I had a bad dream last night and cried.  My mommy and daddy and brother Steven were there to comfort me.  Daddy rocked me until I could go to sleep again...When mommy comes in my room and says, "Good morning Kyle" I reach my arms out to her and smile because I know she is talking to me and I know it will be a GOOD morning!!"
 
Memo

October 3, 1997
To:  Natasha
From:  Vasya

Dear Natasha:
Thank you for helping me find my Mommy and Daddy
(and my brother, Steven)!  I am a VERY lucky boy!

Love,
Kyle Vasya Roberts

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