One Less Orphan
No I am NOT wearing socks with my shoes. My feet were that white. The building was unheated and freezing.
As any international adoptive parent will tell you there are 4 days we live for. In order they are: meeting your child, court day, gotcha day and landing back home.
Well, we are officially half way there. The judge and two person jury “approved” our “request” to adopt our son and around 17:00 our time Sterling Patrick Hinz officially joined the family. Praise God!
We were so very nervous about court today. No one had ever adopted from the town/village that the mental institution is located in. No Reece’s Rainbow family had ever adopted from this region. Because of this, we had no inkling of what to expect and no one to give us any insight. Talk about pioneering!
But, all the worry was for nothing.
Tatyana and Alexei picked us up from our apartment around 13:35 and we headed to the institution. We got there around 14:15. Sterling was taking a nap so we didn’t get to see him. The three of us went into the director’s office and Tatyana and the director got LOTS of paperwork together. Every now and then Tatyana would stop and tell us what they were doing saying, “This paperwork is for his passport” or “This is so we can close out his bank account.” After some discussion the paperwork was done and Tatyana asked the director to make copies of some needed documents. Before the director left the room she “accidentally” left out some files. So hopefully, we should 6 or 7 boys listed from Sterling’s institution soon. And I’ll warn you now, some of them are pretty darn cute.
Once all the paperwork was done, the three of us piled into Alexei’s car and headed off to the courthouse. When we got there we checked in (gave them our passports for recording our numbers) and headed upstairs. The courthouse was nothing like the courthouses back home. No metal detectors and they didn’t even check our bags.
We waited in the hallway upstairs for about 30 minutes while Tatyana, the director of the institution and the Director of Children’s Services typed up our “recommendation” from the DCS and the orphanage. Then we all headed to the courtroom.
Again, nothing like a courtroom at home. We (Tatyana, Brian and I) sat on a bench in front of the judge. A podium was between us though so it was hard to see her the whole time. We stood up when the judge came in and then we sat down. The judge was making jokes and seemed very amiable which helped us to relax a bit. She talked and then she asked Brian to stand up, recite his name, DOB, address and describe his profession. He did so. Then it was my turn to do the same. To respond we just stood up right where we were and responded while Tatyana translated.
Then the judge read some more and asked Brian to stand up and the questions started. Let’s just say my talks last night with Meredith Cornish and Amy Hinz paid off. Luckily, Brian got asked the questions we had “studied” for. These were his questions:
1) Why do you want to adopt a child, why one with special needs and why one from Ukraine? (Brian answered the first part but not the second - we will come back to that.)
a. He explained our infertility issues, the decision to adopt, the research done on Down Syndrome, the decision making process, he explained our teaching backgrounds, how this led us to feel that we could successfully adopt a child with special needs and he explained the resources we would have when we got home to help us with Sterling. (For someone who HATES public speaking he did fairly well…although afterwards he told me he was shaking the whole time.)
2) Do you have health insurance? Will the child be covered? Will he receive therapies?
a. Brian explained that an adoption is considered a birth. That as teachers we have medical insurance and that Sterling would be covered under our policies. He also explained that therapies would be covered not only by medical insurance but also at school.
3) Is raising a child with Down Syndrome harder or different from raising a child without Down Syndrome? Would the government provide any services, money or assistance?
a. Brian said yes it is different but that doesn’t mean “worse.” He explained that you learn to take life at a slower pace, that you are required to be more flexible and have more patience. He again explained all of the resources and services that would be available to Sterling and he explained that while we make too much to qualify for SSI Sterling would get benefits when he got older and he would have access to government assistance if needed.
4) What will Sterling’s life be like when he is over 18?
a. Brian hit the ball out of the park and started by saying that kids with Down Syndrome in US have the ability to go to college (dependent on the child of course) and that immediately got raised eyebrows. LOL. He explained that he would have the ability to get a job, live on his own, and function as a typical member of society in the US. They were blown away by all of this…but it is the truth.
That was it. That was all she asked him. Then it was my turn. I got questions we HADN’T studied for. And honestly it was better that way. I stood up and I was asked:
1) Why are you adopting a child with special needs from Ukraine? (Yea you thought she forgot didn’t you…ha!)
a. I explained that we originally were on the domestic Down Syndrome adoption wait list. I told the court that the wait list was VERY long (probably the wait right now is just at or slightly over a year…) and after 5 months we decided to look into international adoption. I explained that we knew people who had adopted from Ukraine and that we knew people who had adopted multiple times and had positive experiences. I left it at that.
2) You have a sister that has 4 children (so they DO read the dossier!) what does your sister think about your adoption? What do her children think? What do your families think?
a. Ok blindsided. I told her that our families had been very supportive. That everyone was very excited for us because they knew that we were excited to bring him home. I explained that my nieces and nephews were happy to be getting a cousin (finally!) and that we had received nothing but positive responses from our families.
3) The judge told me I was young (in the year I turn 30! Hooray!). She asked what would happen if we ended up having our own biological children.
a. I said “Nothing would change. Sterling would still be our son.” That’s it.
The end. That was the end of the questioning. She read a bunch more from his history and our dossier (boring and incomprehensible to us anyway). Highlights from that reading:
1) Sterling was given up at birth and had been in the orphanage from birth.
2) Sterling had never had any visitors, any communication or any association or interest with his family since being given up.
3) Sterling has Down Syndrome (surprise!?) and “crossed eyes.”
4) Sterling needs therapies (surprise!?)
Then she asked Brian to stand up and make his request, “I am requesting to become the parent of Sterling Patrick Hinz” and then for me to do the same. Then she recessed and she (the judge) left with the jury (2 people) and the prosecutor (who MIGHT have been 21…on a good day.)
After they left we were left in the courtroom with the director of the institution, the director of DCS and Tatyana. We shared our photo book with them and talked a lot. Mainly about opportunities for kids with DS in America. They asked if Sterling would ever talk (seriously) if he would ever function on his own and if we really thought we could help him. They were so amazed at the answers we gave them. We talked about therapies, about schools, I touted Emily DeAngelo’s Gold Medal victory in the Special Olympics (that shocked them), the ogled over our house and the fact that we had two “machinas” in the driveway. (Unheard of!) And then we continued to offer facts and information about DS here in the US and blew them away. That was fun!
About 10-15 minutes later the judge came in. (She was honestly very nice.) Tatyana asked if she wanted to see the photo book, which she did – so we went over it again and again we explained all of the above. The judge had lots of questions for us: Do we travel a lot? (lol lots of cruise pictures in the book) How old is my grandma? (92) How old are the nieces and nephews? Tell me about your house. And so on. Just easy stuff she thought of while looking at pictures. She remarked multiple times that Brian and I are “skinny” (did I mention I liked her?) and that we have a “good looking family.” Before she handed the book back she asked what we thought of Ukraine and Ukrainian people - which we answered honestly but nicely. (S*** is a beautiful city it is convenient to able to walk everywhere. I explained our nearest market was 2 miles from home and she gasped! LOL. I told her the Ukrainian people were very nice (aside from the yeller in the stairwell.)
The thing they found MOST interesting about our photo book is that we have a turtle for a pet. They just could not get over that! LOL. I explained that Tiki used to live in my classroom but the kids were not nice to her so she had to move into the house. Which got lots of giggles. She was also amazed at how much “you people smile a lot.”
Then we sat back down. She read some more. She then declared us the parents of Sterling Patrick Hinz and told us our ten days starts tomorrow and his name would be legally changed and we would be listed as his parents. His date of birth (8/8/06) and place of birth (S***) would remain unchanged.
And that was that! We are now the proud parents of a 5 year old! Lots of pictures tomorrow. We got permission to bring clothes for trying on! <3
ONE LESS ORPHAN IN THE WORLD TODAY! God is Great! <3