Saturday, July 29, 2017

Waiting for a court date...

We are finishing up our third week in Ukraine and continue to wait to hear when our court date will be.  The paperwork to adopt our specific child was filed with the SDA this last Monday.  So now once again we are in the waiting phase of not knowing when the next part will happen, which hasn't been very easy throughout the entire process, but especially now as we do the waiting in an apartment half way around the world.  We didn't get to see our little one quite as many times as we would have liked to this week due to the group going on an unexpected field trip (though we are glad they get to have some experiences outside of the orphanage) and being told our child was sick so we could not visit yesterday or today.  Because of the language barrier we don't find out about these things until we are already at the orphanage.  Hopefully next week we will get to spend more time there since that is the one thing that definitely reminds us just how much this waiting is worth it!!  

Please pray with us that next week we will hear about when our court date is (and that it will be soon!). 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Week 2

Our second week in Ukraine is nearly complete. We don't have much to report on the status of our adoption right now since we are just in the waiting stage and praying all of our paperwork will move quickly through the SDA review process and anti-corruption committee. Our facilitator told us to expect at least 3 weeks before court so we still have at least 2 more to go. Last Sunday, since we could not visit the orphanage, we used Uber to get into the city center of Odessa and walk around the beautiful buildings and get a glimpse of the Black Sea. (Side note- Driving in Ukraine is CRAZY!! And this is coming from two people who lived in and traveled around Asia!!!) On Monday we moved into a more permanent apartment than the guest room we stayed in our first few nights here. We also started our routine of going to the orphanage to visit our child once or twice a day (depending on the day and the orphanage schedule). We pack a little snack and some toys, take the bus to the orphanage, and spend two hours at a time playing and loving on our little one. When the two hours comes to an end it's never easy saying goodbye and leaving the orphanage without our child, but we are hopeful it won't be this way for long. 

Now that we know we will be in this place for a little while, we have been able to go grocery shopping and start cooking in our apartment. English writing and speaking appears to be basically nonexistent in the area we are in so we rely heavily on google translate in the grocery store and to translate menus when we go out to eat. We are working on getting better at reading Russian, though it doesn't seem to be quite as easy or phonetic as Korean is, so that we can at least try and read things. There is not a whole lot to do in our area either so right now we spend a lot of time in our apartment or at a cafe (preferably one with air conditioning and wifi :) ). Other than taking the bus to the orphanage, we aren't sure how to navigate the bus system since nothing is in English, so when we do want to go into the city center we use Uber, though there aren't a lot of Uber drivers in Odessa so sometimes it's a long wait. It's been a bit of an adventure at times but we learn how to adapt and manage! 

Please continue praying with us that our adoption paperwork will move quickly through the system and we will have a court date for early August, as well as patience in the waiting. Also, that the bonding and attachment process would continue to go well with our little one.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What's Next?

Now that we have accepted the referral for our child what happens next? Well, a lot. If everything were to go flawless this is what the process looks like for us: this week our facilitator will submit everything to the State Department of Adoption in Kiev again, this time for our specific child. We then have to wait for them to approve our dossier again before we can get a court date from the local SDA here in Odessa. We appreciate prayers and good thoughts during these next few weeks as the SDA reviews all of our paperwork again. Many families have run into setbacks and hurdles during this phase of the process this year.  It will likely be at least 3 weeks before we get a court date (we really hope not longer than that). After court there is a mandatory 10 day waiting period before we can officially take our child from the orphanage. Once we have them with us, we can apply for their passport, visa, get medical clearances, birth certificate, etc. Most of those things have to be done one at a time, waiting for each thing to be complete before being able to move on to the next. Eventually we will have everything we need in hand and can fly home with our little one!

Right now please pray that our paperwork will move smoothly and quickly through the SDA review process and that we can have a court date within 3 weeks from now. One step at a time is all we can think about and we are blessed to have two wonderful facilitators working with us and doing ALL of the paperwork and leg work for us so that we can focus on bonding with our child. We are able to visit the orphanage for a total of 4 hours per day in the morning and evening, Monday-Friday, and for 2 hours on Saturday mornings. Since today was Sunday and we weren't able to visit, we went into downtown Odessa instead (where there is much more to do, see, and eat than the area we are in).  All we could think about and talk about though was our little one and how we can't wait for Monday morning to come. We can already tell the wait to have our child with us 24/7 is going to be agonizingly long, but definitely worth the wait!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Finally Finding Our Child!

Wow! What a week it has been! Here's a rather long update on what's happened this week: Tuesday morning we had our appointment to look through children's files and see if there was a child we wanted to meet.  We arrived at the Ministry of Social Policy a few minutes before our 10:00 appointment and proceeded to wait until noon before our appointment actually began.  The day before we had actually learned of a specific child who was available for adoption and sounded like it would meet the age range and special needs of our home study (super important because there is no leniency whatsoever). We requested to see this child's profile right away but as they were searching for the profile in their database we were given another binder of profiles to look through.  Inside the small room we were taken to there was a cabinet full of binders that held the profiles (from the ones we saw, a couple pages of information and a picture or two) of children available for international adoption.  The children who were in the binder we looked through did not appear to meet the special needs we are approved for in our home study.  We have heard of several families recently who were unsuccessful with their first blind referral appointment and we did have some concern of that happening to us as well- especially when they came back and said their database wasn't working so they couldn't look up the profile we had requested.  Somehow, out of all of the binders in that cabinet (they were somewhat organized by date of birth, which we had, but still...) the lady was able to find the profile we had wanted to see! We decided right away that was the child we wanted to go meet, so we put in the request for a referral letter granting us permission to visit the orphanage and our whole appointment (once it started) was only 20 minutes.

It used to be that a family would get a referral letter for a child the very next day but that has changed recently and now it can take anywhere from two days to a week.  The referral letter allows us to meet the child and then decide if we want to pursue adoption or not.  So we weren't expecting the letter to come in on Wednesday- instead we visited a couple other sights within walking distance of our apartment: St. Sophia's Cathedral and St. Michael's Golden-domed Monastery.  We were told there was a possibility of the letter being ready for us on Thursday though so we anxiously awaited to hear something the next day.  In the morning our facilitator called to tell us she had been told the letter would "probably" be ready at 4:00 that afternoon and asked us to meet her at the office then, and also be prepared to leave on an overnight train.  Once there, we again proceeded to wait until 5:00 when they closed.  Then we waited outside the building because there's a history of them issuing referral letters as late as 7:00 in the evening if you are persistent enough. We knew if we didn't get the letter in time to take the 9:15 train Thursday night we would have to wait until Monday to actually go to the orphanage since there is other paperwork and meetings in-region.  But once again our prayers were answered and at 6:15 they unlocked the door and let us back in to give us the referral! Our facilitator was able to get us all the last three tickets on the overnight train to Odessa and we had just enough time to get back to our apartment, grab our things, get to the train station, have some dinner, and board the train.  We were finally on our way to meet our child!!

On Friday we arrived in Odessa around 6:30 in the morning and a driver picked us up to take us to the local State Department of Adoption (SDA) office in downtown Odessa.  We had some time before the office opened so we got some breakfast and walked around, and even saw the Black Sea. (Side note- the weather here is wonderful! Sunny and breezy and not humid like Kiev has been!).  We took care of paperwork at the local SDA office, drove to another office to pick up an SDA official who would be going with us to our first meeting with the child, and then went to the orphanage.  Once we arrived at the orphanage we met with the assistant director who gave us all of the background and medical information that they had about the child.  Then finally it was time to meet the one we have been working so hard to get to for the last 15 months.  When the child first walked in the room we were both instantly overjoyed.  There was no question from the first moment that this was OUR child.  The child was told to introduce themself to us and our facilitator by shaking hands and saying their name. After shaking hands with me (Stephanie) the child didn't let go.  Eventually I moved things off my lap and immediately the child climbed up and sat down.  It all seemed and felt so natural.  Eric and I looked at each other and knew we were both already completely in love.  We were able to spend a little bit of time with the child playing together and our facilitator was able to do some translating for us (Odessa is predominately Russian speaking).  After we had to leave the orphanage our facilitator asked us if we thought we had made up our mind or needed more time to decide if we wanted to pursue the adoption or not.  We let her know she could get started on the paperwork immediately.

We were able to go back to the orphanage again Friday evening.  When we arrived some of the children were playing outside.  Our child spotted us quickly and started waving at us.  When the child was told it was okay to go to us, they ran and immediately hugged me (cue the tears!). As we were playing outside our facilitator told us the child asked "Do I get to go with you?" and "Are you my family?"  We were told that even from a young age the children start asking about when they will get to go with a family.  Having to leave that night wasn't easy except that we were leaving with hearts overflowing with joy, feeling so blessed to have found our little one.  There was no doubt it was the best day of our lives thus far.  It's very true that nothing compares to seeing your child for the very first time.

More on what comes next later...

Monday, July 10, 2017

First Days in Kiev

Our third full day in Kiev is almost complete and we have really enjoyed exploring our area. Our apartment is located in the Maidan area which is a large, popular tourist area. Maidan, also known as Independence Square, is where Ukraine's most recent Euromaidan protests took place in 2013-2014. As we walked along the streets and through the square, looking at the memorials that still remain, it was amazing to think about how less than four years ago it was completely full of Ukrainian people protesting and fighting to keep their freedom.  Other than the pictures and memorials on one side of the square, you wouldn't know what took place just a few winters ago. During the day the area is full of people coming and going (in fact on Sundays they even close the main street so that people can cross from one side to the other instead of crossing underground), restaurants, cafes, and stores line both sides of the street, and a large underground mall is going on underneath the street and square. We have spent the last three days wandering the square, people watching at outdoor cafes (or today, McDonalds because they had a little bit of air conditioning!), and managing to get by with the very little English there is. Very shortly after we moved to Korea we learned their simple alphabet so that we could at least read a menu and signs. However, we know nothing about the Cyrillic alphabet and there is much less English here than anywhere we went in Asia it seems. Fortunately, since Maidan is such a large tourist area, many restaurant workers speak at least some English. For dinner we have come to enjoy the buffet type restaurants they have because we can see the food before we point to ask for it rather than just pointing to something random on a menu. We can also get full meals for both of us at these kinds of restaurants for around $6.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the day we go to the State Department of Adoption for our appointment. We will have one hour to go through children's profiles and see if there is a child we would like to meet. Please be praying that we will find our child at this time who meets the age and special needs requirements of our home study. We are really hoping this first appointment will be successful! 

 On Sunday we got an early start and were able to get pictures with very few other people around

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Our Journey to Kiev

We have officially arrived in Ukraine!! The journey to get here was a little bit longer than we expected but we are so happy to be here! Our 10 hour flight from Portland to Frankfurt was great (never thought we'd say that about a long haul flight!). The food was good, flight was smooth, and we were both even able to get a few hours of sleep on the red eye flight which, along with a couple movies, helped the time pass rather quickly. After our 5 hour layover in Frankfurt we were told our last flight to Kiev was delayed shortly before it was scheduled to leave. The delay got longer and longer and finally the flight was cancelled. So at almost midnight we found out we were spending the night in Germany. Apparently many flights were cancelled because the line for a hotel voucher was nearly 3 hours long.  Fortunately we were told about how we could get reimbursed from the airline later instead of waiting for the voucher that night. We were able to find an info desk at the airport who booked us a hotel and we were at least able to get some sleep in a bed and a shower before continuing our journey, which now consisted of two flights the next day. Our first flight to Munich was boarded and ready to go when we found out it would be 1-2 hours before we could take off... Fortunately it was only an hour and we made the short hop over to Munich for another 5 hour layover before flying to Kiev.  As we went through passport control in Kiev we weren't given a stamp in our passports. We were assured that our passports were registered in the computer and it would be no problem. This seemed odd to us so we mentioned it to our facilitator who picked us up at the airport. He was concerned about this since a copy of the stamp in our passport will be needed for adoption paperwork later on. Fortunately he helped us, for probably close to an hour, going all over the airport, until we finally found the right person who would stamp our passports (which the customs officer was supposed to do all along). Finally around 1:00 in the morning we got to our apartment which will be our home until we are able to travel to the region our child is in (hopefully later next week). Today our facilitator will show us around and hopefully we will learn enough to be able to get by for the next several weeks wherever we are in the country. We are so excited to finally be here!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


In 24 hours we will officially be on our way to Ukraine!  We will arrive very early Friday morning and have a few days to adjust before our appointment with the Department of Families and Children at 10:00 Tuesday morning (that's midnight Tuesday Pacific time for anyone who might be up that late and want to pray for us at that time!)  We will keep our blog updated as we can, but in the meantime here are a few specific things we would love prayer for:
-Smooth travels on Wednesday and Thursday.
-Our appointment on July 11th- that we will find our child(ren) in the profiles they present to us and also for wisdom and discernment.
-Last week's cyber attack caused delays for many families in country.  We are hopeful that will be taken care of by the time we start our process next week.
-Peace and patience through the entire process!

Preparing for this trip has felt strange in many ways.  It's not really a vacation (though we intend to make at least part of it feel that way), we're not moving there (like we did when we left for Korea), we don't know exactly when we're coming home, but the goal is to come home with more people than we're leaving with.  So many unknowns are ahead and it's going to be so important that we take it one day at a time.  Tomorrow another part of the adventure begins!