03. Kazakhstan here we come!
Another chapter from our upcoming book, KazMainea: Our Foreign Adoption, Declassified.
Each chapter contains an original post from our trip then, followed by our thoughts now.
June 1, 2004
Posted by Heidi & Mike
Welcome to KazMainea!
In the near future we will be flying to the country of Kazakhstan to adopt two children. You can read about our adventure here in this blog. We are excited to have you join us on this journey!
Who are we?
We are a middle-aged couple living in Maine with our three children. Zack is eleven, Jake, seven and our daughter Brynn is six. We are getting ready to complete our family by traveling to Kazakhstan to bring two children home.
Why the name “KazMainea”?
As soon as I (Mike) knew we were going to do a blog, the first priority was crafting a catchy name. I wanted something brilliant. Something edgy. Something that would hint at the anxiety and the faith we are living on. I finally gave up on that. Instead, I combined a part of the country where we are going (Kaz), and the state we live in (Maine), and our state of mind throughout our process (mania. Absolute mania).
“Kazakhstan?! I’ve never heard of that. Is it a country?”
Yes, it is, and no, don’t feel bad. We had no idea either. Yet, look a world map and there it is right in the middle! It’s under Russia and a little to the left of China.
So, this country we’d never heard of before will become part of our lives forever. If all goes according to plan, of course.
Where in this big country are we going? Well, we don’t know yet. This is one of the many mysteries awaiting us.
HEIDI: We were excited about going to Kazakhstan even though we weren’t yet sure of our exact destination within the country. Getting to experience a new country was great for travel lovers like us.
How do you know what country to adopt from? It begins with research. Foreign adoption is tricky because every country has their own laws and regulations. An equitable working relationship is necessary between our country and the adopting country, otherwise adoptions can abruptly cease. Rules concerning who can adopt, how many children you can adopt, the age of parents, and many more, are set by the country you’re adopting from, not your own country.
In a way, Kazakhstan chose us. It was one of the few Asian countries open to parents like us, who already had children by birth and wanted to adopt more than one child. Also, Kazakhstan allowed parents to visit the orphanage.
This was a big deal. I wanted to see firsthand where the children lived, their care and conditions. By visiting their “first home,” Mike and I would see and experience, in part, the first three years of their life. This would give us another area in which to connect and to bond with our adopted children. Being able to share with them where they began through our words and pictures might also generate a deeper sense of connection to their birth country, something they would have no memory of at three years of age.
After deciding on a country, we looked for an adoption agency. Because no agencies in Maine worked with Kazakhstan, we found a Georgia-based agency that worked internationally and we found an agency in-state for the home study. Applications were filled out and our process began.
What is a home study? A home study evaluates and hopefully approves that you are adoption-worthy. We each had a lengthy form to fill out that included over one hundred questions! There were also pre- and post adoption meetings, with reports on those meetings, a walk-through of the home and a weekend workshop.
MIKE: About that form? It was ridiculously intrusive. Blind obedience has never been my strong suit . I fight authority, and authority always wins. I gave as little information as possible on the form.
The caseworker came to meet with us. She was nice enough...very low key and kind. She asked me for further clarification on the questions. I kept answering in the same way that I did on the form; with as little personal information as possible.
She put down her pencil and kindly but firmly confronted me.
“Mike, it feels like you’re not very keen on being open with me. Is that true?”
I sighed. “Look. I’m feeling like this whole process is an endless intrusion. The questions are too personal. I’m just trying to help two orphans, and I’m being interrogated like I’m a criminal. My personal life is none of these people’s business!”
She slowly nodded. “I agree with you.”
“You do?” I was skeptical.
“Yes, I do agree. All I can say is, It’s the nature of the beast. In essence, if you want to adopt, you have to play the game. Either that, or....”
“Or we can’t adopt,” I finished her sentence.
I really appreciated her honesty. I still didn’t agree. But at least I understood now. I needed to swallow my indignation and play by their rules if I wanted to adopt. Like it or not.
I wish I could tell you I got in line and fully accepted the process after that. Instead, I would find myself battling “The Man” throughout the journey. I’m sure that made it harder for me (and Heidi) than it had to. Despite that, I did learn to not be quite so belligerent, and it began that day with that case worker.
HEIDI: There was another time when a light bulb seemed to go off for Mike. We were attending the weekend workshop. The workshop discussed potential difficulties when a child arrives home. It explored our preconceived notions and expectations while providing opportunities to troubleshoot varied scenarios. What if your child was not adjusting? What about negative and inappropriate comments? What if something was wrong with your child that you were not aware of? The workshop was helpful, informative, scary and overwhelming.
MIKE: Ah yes. The workshop. Also mandatory. More annoyance. We were all sitting around in this “sharing circle” and I was, of course, not sharing. The leader was talking about how bringing foreign children into an existing family structure would disrupt everything that you know. And, all of a sudden, I realized: My God, I’m now a minority family!
I got this mental image of my new family walking through the mall and two of my five (not three) children were not white. They would be brown (ish), Asian Kazakhs. It was a shock to the system to realize that. But it was the wake up call I needed. For the first time, I could actually picture how my life was going to change. That was really important for me.
This is another excerpt from our upcoming book, KazMainea: Our Foreign Adoption Story: Declassified. Want to get these posts first? Want to get the book first? Click here!