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Being lucky
Friday, March 30, 2007
Mommyto5, who obviously is one of those rare human beings who has exceptional patience what with having five kids, wrote a nice comment on my last post. See we should send these types of people to resolve all the world's cantankerous issues like the Middle East, but I digress. Her comment was ..."in the end I can look back and say the timing could not have been better and every road block and heartache happened for a reason, but while I was going thru it it all wasn't that clear to me..."

And that, I do believe, is quite true. Negative things happen, but most often they lead us to better things. In my very first job out of college the company (a retail giant that has a Thanksgiving Day parade) went into bankruptcy and even though I was on a fast track there after 2+ years I, along with like 1600 people, were laid off. But it was one the best things to ever happen to me. First, thankfully, I was out of the very tough world of retail and second within a couple of weeks I had a new job at some little computer company called Apple. And about ten years later I was able to retire at the ripe old age of 39. If I had stayed in retail I probably would still be working (with a salary about half of what my last salary was in the high tech world).

If you're religious it's God's hand or if not it's Karma or if you're a Star Wars fan it's the Force. Whatever your belief system, I do believe that things work themselves out for a reason. I do not, however, believe that we do not have the power to influence them.

Branch Rickey who was perhaps the greatest general manager in the game of baseball (he worked for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and was the great man who brought Jackie Robinson into Major League Baseball thus breaking the color barrier), has a quote that I've firmly believed and followed since I heard it when I was about 13 years old...

"Luck is the residue of design"

We make ourselves lucky or unlucky by our actions. And I firmly believe both Stef and I have made the correct choices during this adoption process to insure that we end up being "Lucky".
posted by Steveg @ 12:10 PM   3 comments
Blah Blah Blah
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I'm still way pissed off by this delay. When you consider the fact that the universe is something like 15 billion years old and our planet is about 5 billion years old while humans get to live, on average, about 85 years you'll see my point. It's a rip. We don't much time to enjoy this whole life thing and the damn Russian government is wasting away a few of my months that I should be able to enjoy with my child. Don't they realize I need to get these kick ass years in before I die?

Oh, my new favorite TV show is Midsomer Murders on BBC America. It's a fabulous murder mystery series (which are my particular fav's). If you have this channel on DirecTV or cable you might want to check it out. I highly recommend it.

But as I say in the class I teach, like each and every session, "but I digress..." Sorry, I just love going off an tangents.

Nothing new on the hotline today. However, our agency continues to view this as a minor delay and not very big deal. Keep in mind we are really only waiting since about October, while our agency and most of the PAPs (Pre-Adoption Parents) with whom they are with have been waiting since May.

And to answer Cristina's question, No, we're not really doing anything special. But we have so many other things in our lives that it's pretty easy for us to just ignore the whole adoption mess. Until, of course, we hear some good news at which point we will be riveted again.

Or at least vaguely interesting.
posted by Steveg @ 4:45 PM   4 comments
So how do you really feel Steve?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I'm not really posting much these days because, well, nothing exciting is going on. We're still waiting for the MOE to get their act together and provide accreditations to the plethora of agencies waiting.

I'm getting so annoyed at this wait, which quite frankly is hurting the approximately 10,000 or so children far more than the prospective parents. That number by the way is just a swag for the numbers that are adopted internationally each year from Russia (not just to the U.S.). I know we'd feel much worse if we already had a referral and thus a connection to a real human being. As it stands now the feelings are more anger than sadness. But then again I'm stunned that normally rational people think that war is a good solution for creating a safe and peaceful planet. So my feelings tend to run shall we say passionately for a host of topics.

And because of this incredibly strong pissed-off feeling I have right now, I'm not really in the mood to either think about or talk about adoptions. Don't worry, it's not a big deal. I often turn away from things that I find are beyond asinine. Better that then absorbing stress over it.

On a more favorable note, I'm working on a small project in the house to close off a den/bedroom on our first floor. It's actually an office/den right now since it has no door but it does have its own bathroom. Hence the remodeling project: putting in doors. This will enable us to make it the guest room and then turn the current guest room (which is next to Lil' G's room) into Stef's office. A much better situation for our guests (not having to be right next to a toddler's room) and for Stef on those days she works from home.

For those who are interested, the doors are now in and I've completed some casework (really just molding) since the rough opening was actually quite large. Much larger than a normal door opening. Next step is the final molding around jamb and then a nice paint job and low and behold we'll have a five bedroom house for the currently residing two occupants. Yea, that makes sense. Well, at least we'll be prepared for housing relatives during the holidays. And yes, we WILL have this holiday season as a complete family. Oops getting testy again, better just sign off.
posted by Steveg @ 4:54 PM   3 comments
Just a little update on the recent news
Friday, March 23, 2007
Jim came out with his analysis which is probably even more logical and more accurate a guess than mine since even if I try to be neutral I am of course going to be a bit bias since we're still in the throws of the adoption process. Whereas Jim can really take more of an outsiders view.

Let me quote a few of his comments here for those who don't read the FRUA forums (that's basically our family members, since I think all the other readers are also adopting parents and I believe they all read FRUA quite a bit).


"The MoE was trying to get accreditations through the process while respecting the three-month time limit. There is someone in the Ministry of Justice who is creating a delay by asking for a superfluous document that wasn't originally specified. The MoE realized that it could not make the deadline with one or more of the agencies who applied, so it published an official letter both to ask for the document and point the finger in a public way at the cause of the delay."


Jim also provided some history about who is now in charge of the MOJ and that they have a long history of being unfriendly towards international adoption. So it makes sense that they are throwing in a few wrenches here at that last minute.

However, Jim goes on to say...

"So what does all this mean for the future of the accreditation process? Notice that nowhere in the letter does it say anything about this document resetting the three month clock. I think many of us have speculated that the clock resets with each new document request, but I have never seen anything official to confirm that. It's possible, sure, but we don't know that. So, let's just assume for the moment that the clock does not reset. That would mean that we are in overtime. And if this document satisfies the delayer(s), and if other officials are put off from asking for more documents, then I think this could signal that we are close to the end of the accreditation process, at least for some of the agencies. I prefer to be optimistic about it, even though I have no proof."


Partly because I want it to be this way and mostly because it makes sense, I too believe this is the likely outcome. And as I've said being that he is already completed his adoption a couple years back, Jim is going to give a more level headed analysis of what is going on. It's not that I typically agree with his viewpoint, it's just that he's always very logical and seems to be right a lot more often than he isn't. And so, like our agency's comments, I tend to believe what Jim says.

Let me also add that our agency updated their hotline with the news yesterday and they seemed pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. And that, in my mind, just reinforces the view that Jim points out that this is just a little bump but not a major delay. As I always point out, our agency has a tendency for painting a very accurate (and sometimes melancholy) view. And if they don't see this as a major negative than I'm like 99.999% sure it won't be.
posted by Steveg @ 10:55 AM   5 comments
Bad news...but is it?
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Jim reported that the MOE has requested that all of the adoption agencies submit an additional document as part of the accreditation review process. On FRUA Jim shows the english translation from the MOE website. Although he has not yet given his opinion (as usual Jim first reports the facts, then shares his opinion), I'm going to give my take on this.

First a summary on what is being requested. The document required needs to explain that adopted children will have the same protection and enjoyment of the same rights as are enjoyed by children who are nationals of the host state (i.e., the country of the adopting parents).

Now to some analysis.

First, the document itself does not seem to be either hard to get (for the agencies I mean) or out of ordinary. In fact, if I were the head of the MOE I would absolutely want this as part of the accreditation agreement. So it's not really some odd or outlandish request.

However....

The timing of the request begs a few questions. Already on FRUA and the various other forums people are up in arms and claiming that the Russians are stalling adoptions, blah blah blah, basically the world is coming to an end.

Taken at the surface it does seem strange that on the very day that marks 90 days from when accreditation documents were allowed to be submitted they are requesting an additional document from everyone. Remember the law implies that MOE has 90 days after document submission to either approve or deny accreditation to an agency. Although it's sort of unclear what that 90 days really means.

The quick reaction is that this is some ploy to delay adoptions. The theory would be that they wait until just before they need to announce accreditations and then request something else to give them another 90 days. And indeed it is possible that this is what is happening.

However, I would like to give an alternative theory.

In doing so, it is necessary to question that this is a delaying tactic. We know from various sources that many (probably all) of the agencies that have submitted their documents are currently under review by the key 4 ministries which must approve the accreditation before the MOE grants it.

Let's assume this new document request is a means to delay the answer for another 90 days. Why would they (the MOE) have the other ministries even review the documents then? I mean, if they really wanted to delay adoptions wouldn't it make more sense to just hang on to the submitted documents rather than have the ball rolling by having the reviews? If this is a conspiracy to delay things, it's a pretty poorly executed one.

Let me further pontificate for a second. There was a comment from one agency that a final committee comprised of members of the four ministries and the MOE do a final yea/ney approval of an agency's accreditation (this is what was done before so I'm pretty sure it's valid). I very easily could see a scenario where this committee sits down and goes over any issues each of the ministries may have with a specific agency or the process in general prior to issuing the approvals.

It may be that this committee have met and determined that there was some information that is absent from the documentation packet. It was suggested by someone on the FRUA forum that this very information the MOE is now requesting is often asked by regional judges at adoption court dates. Isn't it then plausible that before they open the flood gates of adoptions that they make sure everyone from the judges to those four key ministries (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, etc.) are all happy and on the same page?

And that too should be considered in this analysis (being on the same page I mean). The Russian federal government and regional governments are in some ways like the U.S. federal government and the state governments. I mean that they both think they are more important than the other. Thus this request could just be some thing that this committee (which is federal) is trying to standardize across the regions.

I am far from an eternal optimist and am pretty pissed off that this has come up now. However, I actually believe it shows that accreditations are in fact imminent. Prior to my beloved retirement I was at Sun Microsystems and was fortunate to be part of a few of very high level agreements which span the company's divisions. And in every case there was always one or two minor amendments or things that needed clarification or rectification prior to the final agreement being set in stone. That, I'm afraid, is the way of bureaucracy.
posted by Steveg @ 1:42 PM   6 comments
New Purchase of the Week
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
What do you do when you're waiting for the red tape to clear up?

You shop!!!!

Okay, so I broke down and bought a toy the other day.

I know, I know, I said we were not going to buy any toys (or clothes for that matter) until we at least get a referral. But I just couldn't help myself, so I'm making it the current POW (Purchase of the Week, photo is on the left).

I do all of our gardening around the house so I thought this was a cute little thing that will let Lil' G feel he/she is helping. The box actually states it's for 3+ years so I'm probably going to have to only give out the parts that are more appropriate for a smaller child and stash the rest for later. But I thought it was so cool I just had to buy it now.

I was pretty impressed with all the things that came with this set. It has a wheelbarrow, plastic bucket, canvas garden tote, water bucket/spray can, gardening gloves, hand shovel, and hand rake. All for just $37. What a deal!!!

Where did I get it? Do you really have to ask........Costco of course.
posted by Steveg @ 9:17 AM   2 comments
Baby Sign Language
Sunday, March 18, 2007
We had heard about baby sign language before but when we saw that cool video of Elle's pickle both speaking some of the words he knew as well as signing them that really put the hook into us. Well Stef bought this cool little book on teaching sign language (when I say little, it's 4 inches by 4 inches but over 300 pages long). She didn't get it from Amazon just using their webpage to show the book.

Some might be saying, "why would you need to teach a kid that can speak sign language?" Well, the concept is pretty simple. Children learn to communicate rather early on (like the instant they are born), however structured verbal communication (e.g., the English language) is typically not even begun until they are around 12 to 18 months (and yes, some pick it up earlier and some later, that's perfectly normal).

Simple sign language can actually be started when the baby is around 6 to 8 months old. And the advantages are plentiful. Rather than just crying to try to communicate to mommy and daddy that they are hungry, or tired, or need a diaper change, or want their favorite toy, or want to go outside, or want to go inside, or...well you get the point. They can actually be a tad more specific, they are empowered to communicate early on and thus increases their self-esteem.

Not to mention reduces some frustrations for both child and parent alike. It is also theorized that baby sign language enhances your child's language skills and IQ and more importantly can enhance the bonding experience.

With all that good stuff going for it, we've bought a book, going to do some early learning ourselves, and then introduce it to Lil' G (when of course there is a Lil' G, soon...very very soon).
posted by Steveg @ 10:40 AM   10 comments
Hotline news: more details on what's going on
Thursday, March 15, 2007
On the hotline yesterday they mentioned about some recent documentary by Russian TV that did not show foreign adoptions in a positive light. Of course, this is par both for the predominant viewpoint of Russians towards foreign adoption and quite frankly for any peoples toward foreigners (most U.S. TV shows that discuss the whole illegal immigration don't really show the immigrants in a positive light either).

This kind of thing doesn't really bother me much. First, it's just human nature (unfortunately) to hate people who are not like you. And second, and I have to apologize it's a very selfish reason, but we are so far along in our adoption process that anything like this won't really effect us. Like I said, it's a very selfish thought, sorry about that. I believe our agency mentioned it primarily because adoption is their business and they are very concerned with how the landscape of their business will change over time. And negative TV shows could impact public thought and make government officials write up new laws which could adversely effect foreign adoptions. But that would be a long way off and as I said will have zero effect on us (again, sorry for being selfish).

On the more topical side, they reiterated that their Moscow office officials are hearing significant frustrations from the orphanages in the various regions they work in about overcrowding. They added some specific info. Evidentially it is getting so bad that some orphanages are no longer accepting new infants from the maternity hospitals.

They also restated that some of the regional departments of education have called the Ministry of Education in Moscow to air their complaints about overcrowding and asking the MOE to speed up accreditations. As I've said before, it's unknown whether or not this will have any effect. However, it is good that at least the Russians themselves are the ones asking the MOE to get a move on.

The interesting part of this is that this overcrowding is occuring even in spite of that new Russian law that gives significant sums of money to Russians who adopt. So it's pretty obvious that new law is having no impact on adoptions and that this major overcrowding is due to the stoppage of foreign adoptions. If you recall I had a major rant about this new law and that I thought it would have very little impact. Actually my main purpose of the rant was that a supposed "expert" (a Russian lawyer here in the U.S. that works with people doing independent adoptions) had said "...This law has already made an impact on Russian society..." and would have a major negative impact on foreign adoptions and that more children will "...adopted by Russian families."

(sound of the "wrong answer" buzzer going off)

Well, I guess she's wrong on that score. What really ticked me off was that she misrepresented what the law actually said and being she's an adoption lawyer I find that totally inexcusable. Because she is basically in competition with adoption agencies her comments (which she sent to like every Russian adoption forum on the planet) seemed to me to be some marketing ploy to get new clients for herself (since indepent adoptions do not require an accredited agency).

Okay, Steve, okay. We get you're upset. Just breathe, breathe.
posted by Steveg @ 12:19 PM   6 comments
Thank You Secret Blogger Pal
Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Thank you secret blogger pal for the lovely flowers. I have to admit, I have been feeling kind of blue and whiny since the accreditation process seems to be taking forever, but these springy flowers really made me feel better. They also really brighten up the kitchen and alstroemerias are one of my favorite flowers.

Thanks for brightening up our day!
posted by yorkiemom @ 9:09 PM   1 comments
Just touching in
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Haven't really had anything pertinent to the adoption situation lately hence my lack of updates to the blog. But let me pass along some recent information (some of which I've mentioned before) that a few of the agencies which I feel are reliable are saying.

An agency received a specific request from a consulate here in the U.S. It was stated that a request by a consulate comes through the Russian Foreign Ministry which means that indeed the accreditation applications are making their way through the 4 ministries required to give their okay to reaccreditations.

Another agency stated that they have heard that all of the regions they work in will open up immediately after the accreditations are done and they (this agency) expects to see a significant number of new referrals.

This seems to make sense and there have been a number of agencies that have said they are hearing that the orphanages themselves are getting a bit overcrowded. I'm sure it's not like they are overly flooded and kids are sleeping on the ground or anything.

After all, over the past several years there are only about 5,000 adoptions by U.S. parents (closer to 3,000 in 2006). Even if you double that for other countries adopting Russian children (which I doubt it's that high), that still means it's just an additional burden of about 10,000 children a year.

Depending on the stats you believe, Russia has about 750,000 children in orphanages. Not all of them are eligible for adoption but the point I'm making is that the overcrowding is just about an additional 1%.

However, when you're understaffed and underfunded even a 1% increase is not a good thing. So there's probably going to be, like that agency said, a significant number of referrals as soon as the accreditations are sorted out. And hopefully for those parents who already have accepted a referral court dates will also be set quickly.
posted by Steveg @ 12:26 PM   2 comments
Not necessarily HOTline news
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Now first off keep in mind (as I've said...oh...about a million times) that our agency is quite conservative when discussing what is happening, what they know, and are overly honest telling what they don't know. And sorry but I again have to say that I'm just so thankful we went with these guys. If you are new to the adoption process and are looking for a great agency, contact me.

Well, anyway, on the hotline yesterday they discussed a rumor that was going around that two agencies had gotten word that their information had been forwarded to the four ministries which must sign-off before the MOE (Ministry of Education) can grant accreditation.

They felt this rumor was, well a rumor, and could not be confirmed since it was third hand knowledge. In other words none of the agencies who talk together had any info about this (and most of the agencies that have been around awhile often compare information, especially since most belong to the Joint Council on International Children’s Services )

However, on the hotline our agency did say that in the past week they had received "inquiries and requests" from two different entities in Russia. So they felt that it appears as though things are progressing normally and that (although they don't know how many) agencies' information seems to have been sent along for the sign-off from the four ministries.

Now, this is not some major news flash or anything. But it can be viewed as evidence that everything is proceeding as per the new regulations and that accreditations will happen (hopefully within the timelines estimated). Which by the way should be sometime this month.

And as I had posted a few days ago, sometimes it's best not to think about things too much since your mind has a tendency to invent information (or more accurately arrive at conclusions) that are not really true.

Work (and accreditations, referrals, court dates, etc. are all work) gets done at the pace of any bureaucratic organization (actually ANY organization). I worked for some pretty "up to date" companies (Apple and Sun) and often they too did things at a snails pace too.

So, all this means is that the adoption process isn't a 100 yard dash, it's a marathon. At least for us and each person (or adoptive family) is different. For some people speed is a big concern, for us we want the best match we can get (healthy kid, etc.) no matter how long it takes. We've been married for almost 14 years now and waiting a few extra months isn't going to kill us.
posted by Steveg @ 2:03 PM   3 comments
About Us

Contributors:

steveg

yorkiemom


Our Story:

I'm Steve and this is my wife Stefanie. This is our story, mostly seen through my eyes, of the journey to create our family by adopting a child from Russia.

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"The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it."

Edward Dowling