We had our SDA appointment at noon today. While the agency is called the SDA, Brian and I would like to more aptly name them the SAD agency.
We were driven through the capitol by our driver (always an experience...) and arrived 30 minutes early. We met with Serge (the HEAD of the team here in country), Yulia (our personal facilitator) and Luda (our caretaker...more or less.)
Serge gave us option to ask questions; but, to be honest we didn't have any. We knew the process from reading other's blogs and were fairly certain we knew what would happen in terms of the process. So, I told Serge we didn't have any questions, but that we were nervous. He seemed shocked. I think he forgets that while he deals with the SDA every day, we do not. He told us that, "only God knows tomorrow so you can only worry about right now." Wise words. If you are headed over here, don't tell Serge you're nervous.
Also if you are heading over here, don't bring heels. The "road" near the SDA is...different. The closest thing we have back home would be cobblestone, but it isn't cobblestone. It's just big rocks.They sit where they sit: some close together, some not, some stick up way high, some much lower than others. It is strange. All I could imagine was someone's heel getting caught in a crevice and them going down. I wore ballerina shoes. I could feel EVERYTHING under my feet. Driving on this road (or at least riding in a car on this road) was the pits.
So, we made it to the SDA appointment, sat in a car with Serge for about 10 minutes and then went to the door. Here we stood and talked to Luda and I asked only one question and one follow up. "He is in in the baby house, right?" to which her response was, "Yes." I counter with, "Is that in the City?" Again her response, "Yes, and it is a nice city." We made other small talk but I didn't have tons of questions. (We will come back to this in a moment.)
You'd expect some grandiose building and door from a government agency; that is not so. Behind a black metal gate, lies a non-descript door that is left open. As you walk in the door you immediately turn left and go upstairs. Nothing to show importance. This part of the adoption is definitely more a formality and serves very little purpose other then for them to hear you are interested and give you your referral. Silly how we all get excited over our SDA appointment and then, really, it is nothing.
So, up the stairs we went following Serge like little puppies. We are ushered into someone's office and asked to sit on a couch. (No pictures sorry!) We sit, Serge sees our file on the desk in front of us and pushes it our way showing us our names in Cyrillic.
Then Ivana comes in and sits down. She asked us about ourselves and why we want to adopt, specifically a child with special needs. Brian started and got 3 sentences out when someone else walked in. Ivana and Serge turned their attention on her and a 10 minute conversation ensued in the middle of our meeting. In Russian. About another family that is having trouble. I will not share details, but I will say that it is NOT an RR family. The lady left, Serge told us what was going on and Brian is done. 3 sentences that is all he got. Formality - they don't care about our answers. Not here. Perhaps at the orphanage, but it becomes apparent very quickly that this is all a formality. We were told that going in, but then it made sense. Ivana asks me the same question. I was able to get a little more out. I explained our trouble with infertility, that we were both teachers, that I have experience in working with children with special needs and that after all of our trouble conceiving we decided that we were to save a child that really needed a family. I think I got out 4 sentences. Together we composed 7 sentences. We know the judge will be much harder, but all it took was 7 sentences. Which is somewhat of a relief.
Then Ivana opens his file and starts in on his information:
His name is Alexander (as we thought)
He was born 8/8/06 (which we knew)
He has a heart murmur, Down Syndrome, and psycho-motor and speech delays (no mention of his epilepsy, no mention of his visual impairment)
He was given up at birth by both parents. They both signed away their rights.
He is living outside of the City...in an "Internat"
Here is when I perked up. I looked at Ivana and raised an eyebrow and she said, "It is a boarding school." Hmmmm...I know the word "internat" and it is indeed a boarding school. It is also something else; so I inquired. I asked why he is not in the baby house. And here Ivana falters; if you know me...a grave mistake. And the conversation goes something like this:
"It is a boarding school."
"Why is he not at the baby house?"
"He turned 5 in August."
"Describe this internat."
Silence. And Serge takes out his phone and calls the team. (He is amazing...)
"It is for children with special needs."
(I'm sure you see my line of questioning...I am playing EVER SO STUPID to get her to say it.)
"For people from 5-45 years of age."
And in the 15 or so minutes from when were downstairs overlooking all of K*** when we asked Luda where he was, everything changed.
No one has EVER adopted from this institution. EVER. We knew we were the first to adopt through RR from the region, but this is a game changer.
I have been asked questions all day:
What does this mean for your process?
We don't know. We really wish we could answer you. It might be horrible and they may fight our adoption. It might be great and we can show them that these children have value. We won't know until we are there.
When do you meet him?
Hopefully Wednesday afternoon (morning US time). But that is no guarantee. It all depends on how it plays out.
Will this delay your process?
We don't know.
We are very much in the dark about this and we are going BLIND into our process. We KNEW THAT coming over here. We did it anyway. He is our son. If you have seen him, there is no doubt about that.
This is what I can tell you:
We have the BEST TEAM for this situation. REALLY. They are amazing. They know what they are doing. They have forged new bridges before. This is nothing new to them. It is our chance to open up a whole new region and offer a lot of children a home. We will follow them like puppy dogs. They did not know he had been transferred - if they did we would have been told.
We have a few hold outs.
1) The baby house in the City is a great one! This hopefully means that the "internat" is decent too. However, we were told to expect the worst and allow ourselves to be pleasantly surprised if it is not as bad as we imagined.
2) The Lunnens are here in the same predicament with us. In a different region and a different "internat" but the same story.
3) Yulia is from that City. Just sayin' (channeling my inner Paige...)
4) He has only been there since he turned 5. This is around one month. The less time there, the better.
So, that is the story. If you PRAY, please do so! We strongly believe everything happens for a reason. We don't have to like it. But if it means opening the door to thousands of orphans then we are both "full speed ahead."
One happy note!
At our meeting we were given Sterling's baby picture. (BABY, BABY Picture!) (This is RARE in the world of adoptions!) And boy was he ever so CUTE!!! (Yes, the quality is horrible!)