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Four-year-old Kaleb speaks English and likes to draw. He shows talent as a pianist and is learning how to read. He has even visited the Kyrgyzstan Embassy in Washington to meet officials from his native country.

Until he was eight months old, Kaleb was Kalychbek Baymyrzaev, an orphan in Kyrgyzstan. Scott and Kami DeBoer of Dayton, Ohio, adopted him in October 2007, just before Kyrgyzstan placed a moratorium on international adoptions. “Kaleb knows that he is adopted and that he was born in Kyrgyzstan,” Scott told EurasiaNet.org.

The first six months in America were difficult. “When we first met Kaleb, he was only 11 pounds. That is very tiny for an eight-month-old. He was not getting enough to eat. He was not sitting up or rolling. He had a lot of trouble sleeping and had night terrors. We kept reassuring him that we were there and after six months he was sleeping through the night. Later he began to smile,” said Kami.

Scott and Kami are waiting to adopt another Kyrgyz boy, Bakyt. When they met in February 2008, he was two months old; now he is over three. “We did not think it would take very long to bring him home. We will keep waiting for Bakyt,” Scott said. “He is a part of our family.”

In 2008, responding to local rumors that foreigners were adopting babies to harvest their organs, the Kyrgyz government imposed a moratorium on international adoptions. Since then, American families, including the DeBoers, have been waiting to bring home 65 children whose adoptions were in progress when the freeze was announced. According to the Ministry of Social Protection, 30 of the 65 orphans have special health conditions and need regular treatment that is difficult to find in Kyrgyzstan. Two have died. Families in Kyrgyzstan have adopted only four.

Since the collapse of Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s administration last spring, new officials have promised to lift the moratorium and allow the adoptions to proceed. But Minister of Social Protection Aygul Ryskulova, who served as Minister of Labor, Employment and Migration under the old regime, says the government is just too busy to deal with the adoptions. What’s more, concerns linger about the process and the Americans’ motivations. “The facts are still being investigated,” Ryskulova said of the motivations behind the original freeze. “During the last three years the Kyrgyz government found out the whereabouts of most of the children [who had been adopted prior to the ban]. Some of them were adopted by Israeli families, some by Germans, some of them by US parents. But we still don’t know where some children are. We don’t have an exact number of internationally adopted children, where they were sent, how they live now. We have to find out this information.”

The United States has urged the new government to speed the investigation and lift the ban. In February, Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor to the Office of Children's Issues in the State Department, traveled to Bishkek to assure local officials that Washington will regularly inform them about the adopted children's lives in the United States until they turn 18, according to local media reports.

MP Shirin Aitmatova, who has pushed for the adoption process to be reformed, says her colleagues in parliament have difficulties understanding the urgency of the issue, given the wide array of social and economic challenges facing Kyrgyzstan.

Moreover, she says, anyone wishing to help with reforms must combat the persistent rumors that foreigners are using the Kyrgyz children for profit. “There was fear that children could potentially be used as organ donors. Some people also assume that since American families that adopt receive certain financial benefits and tax breaks, they must be doing it less out of the goodness of their hearts and rather to supplement their income. Many unfounded ideas circulate in the local population regarding foreigners who express the wish to adopt local children,” Aitmatova explained.

In 2007, Mala Tyler adopted a Kyrgyz boy, Beck, and brought him home to Concord, New Hampshire. She urges Bishkek to lift the moratorium, arguing that the delay only hurts the children. “If the Kyrgyz government has concerns about the welfare of the adopted children, then they need not look any further than the children who are already home. They are loved, they are cherished, they are happy. Relinquishing a child, whether by a parent or by a country, is surely not an easy decision -- certainly not to be taken lightly -- but these children have homes and parents and siblings waiting for them. They have a life full of love waiting for them,” Tyler said.

Yet it seems a knee-jerk fear remains a persistent challenge to any hopes for reform. A parliamentary deputy and former human rights ombudsman, MP Tursunbai Bakir uulu, says that Kyrgyz society is right to be concerned about how these children, often living in underfunded institutions in Kyrgyzstan, will be treated abroad. Without providing evidence, he told EurasiaNet.org: “There are so many stories in the world when adopted children were abused, humiliated, even killed. I don’t support international adoption."


Editor's note:
Beishe Bulan is the pseudonym for a Kyrgyz journalist.
Originally published by EurasiaNet.org
Adoption Announcement: Teleconference Invitation

March 24, 2011

TO: Prospective Adoptive Parents, Adoption Service Providers, and Adoption Stakeholders

FROM: U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues

U.S. Department of Homeland Security,USCIS

SUBJECT: Teleconference on Guatemala Adoptions

Thursday March 31, 2011 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am (EDT)

The U.S. Department of State Office of Children’s Issues Adoptions Division would like to invite prospective adoptive parents, adoption service providers, and adoption stakeholders with an interest in Guatemala adoptions to a teleconference with the Office of Children’s issues and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to discuss the status of intercountry adoption processing in Guatemala. The focus of the call will be primarily to provide an updated outlook for resolution of the remaining “grandfathered” adoption cases involving U.S. citizens. This update will include information from a recent trip to Guatemala during which USCIS and the Office of Children’s Issues met with Guatemalan government officials for updates on the status of “grandfathered” adoption cases still pending in Guatemala.

Please join us for this call to learn more about adoption processing in Guatemala.

To join the call –

If you are calling from within the United States, please dial: 1-888-363-4749

If you are calling from outside the United States, please dial: 1-215-446-3662

The passcode for all callers is: 6276702

Ethiopia Adoption Alert

LMI Admin | Wednesday, March 09, 2011 | Links to this post | 1 Comment
Ethiopia Adoption Alert

Adoption Alert

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues
__________________________________

Government of Ethiopia Plans Major Slow-Down in Adoption Processing

March 9, 2011

Citing the need to work on quality and focus on more important strategic issues, the Government of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) will reduce to a maximum of five the number of adoption cases it processes per day, effective March 10, 2011. Under Ethiopian adoption procedures, MOWCYA approves every match between prospective adoptive parents and an Ethiopian child before that case can be forwarded for a court hearing. The U.S. Embassy is working with Ethiopian government officials and adoption agencies to learn more about this change in procedures. We will continue to share information as it becomes available.

Given MOWCYA's current caseload, the U.S. Embassy anticipates that this change could result in an overall decline in case processing of some 90 percent. If this change is implemented as proposed, we expect, that parents who have begun the process of adopting from Ethiopia but have not yet been matched with a child could experience significant delays. It is not clear if this change in procedures would have any significant impact on cases in which MOWCYA has already approved matches.

Prospective adoptive parents should remain in close contact with their adoption service provider to obtain updates on individual cases.

The Embassy's Adoptions Unit can be reached at consadoptionaddis@state.gov.

A Day Makes A Difference

Anne Bentley | Wednesday, March 02, 2011 | Links to this post | 0 Comments
Two adoptions have delivered two very different experiences. Although both resulted in something wonderful, there’s no doubt one experience greatly influenced the other. Despite being pragmatic through and through, I dove into our adoptions with an open heart. I believe that openness got me through my first day in Aktobe and home with our oldest daughter 3 years ago.

I dreamt about it and thought about it constantly, wondering what those magical moments would be like meeting my child for the first time. Then it happened and it wasn’t anything like I’d expected, even after reading about others’ experiences and being coached on all the plausible scenarios. Looking back, I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for that day or moment, really.

A few years later, and I can recall every precious moment of that first encounter with incredible fondness. But the first 24 hours afterward, I was hardly focused on the good stuff. I was devastated by what I couldn’t control and what wasn’t going to be based on the ill-conceived picture I’d painted in my head. Even then, I realized I should have known better because many things in life don’t go as planned.

Rewind to July 2007. Two near-missed flights, a couple of intense pat downs and 36 hours behind on sleep, we hit the proverbial ground running until we finally arrived in Aktobe, Kazakhstan. It seems like we slept for only an hour before we were on our way to the baby house to meet our daughter. The whole experience was surreal from the dusty, bumpy ride there to the eerie pre-Soviet-era building that housed our child. All this was hardly as intimidating as the raw emotions we encountered on the front steps of the door from a couple who had just learned that the child they'd met the day before was being adopted by another family. Because they hadn’t agreed to adopt the baby the day they'd met her, she was open to other families. They offered a warning about what we could expect inside, but I didn’t need it. The pain in their expressions scared me more.

Finally inside, we listened unintelligently as our team spoke in a ping pong of rapid Russian. Already a little disoriented by the language barrier, I remember the place smelling of heavy paint fumes and several very intense women walking by us with stern expressions and odd looking hats. Then there was a parade of at least ten babies for the Chinese couple in search of a son with long fingers – a sign of intelligence we were told. I think my excitement peeked here as I watched each of these beautiful little bundles cross my path. I assumed our experience would be much the same. I was wrong.

We quickly filed into a dark 8x8 ft. room, no bigger than my cubicle at work, with our coordinator, two translators, a nurse and a doctor. I remember feeling like an animal on display at the zoo. All eyes were on me and my reaction. I was nervous and my adrenaline was on overdrive. In comes a nanny with the first child. They place her tininess in my arms and I melt a little, until they tell me she's 16 months (9 months older than she looks) and suffers from infantile syphilis. Our coordinator, likely noting my sadness, tells our translator to say, "this child is not for you." With that, the nanny removes her from my arms and carries her out of the room. It all happens so fast that I barely manage the two words - she's beautiful - in the mix.

Still slightly in shock after meeting the first child, the second child enters the room. We never even had a chance to hold her. She was easily two years old, scared out of her mind, and rocking back and forth so violently in her caregiver’s arms that I thought she might fall to the ground. Like the first child, she also has an incurable illness; one I can no longer recall. Again, our coordinator announces "this child is not for you" and with that she’s gone. But the visual of her hadn't left me yet. It was probably at this point in the process (emotions and sleeplessness running high) that I wanted to call it off. Mentally, I was drained and didn’t think I could put on a strong front any longer. Our request for a child under 12 months with mild medical conditions we could support at home didn’t seem to be here. And this experience in no way matched up with the one I'd imagined, making everything more difficult to process.

All bad news for the next child we met. Toddling into the room, no sooner did we glance her way than she hid behind her nanny’s pant leg and cried. A couple minutes later she let me pick her up and quickly buried her head in my shoulder. She was terrified of my husband, but curious too. She'd peek, cry and hide. I don't think either one of us got to see her face for more than a few seconds at a time. In the midst of the baby's sobs, the doctor told us about her health, which was better than the previous children we'd seen. Assuming we'd see more children because her age range of 16 months fell outside of our paperwork, we didn't ask a lot of questions. No sooner did I mentally dismiss her than our translator said, "this child is for you." I think it was intended to be a question, but it sounded more like a statement. Not knowing how to politely ask if more children were on their way, the door closed and we were left alone to discuss our interest in this child - the last child we would meet. Our conversation was probably one of the most heartfelt and tearful we'd ever had. I wanted to run, but fortunately my husband wasn't ready to give up. Our team quickly reappeared sensing our anxiety and, stunned, my husband agreed that we would begin the bonding process with the baby the next day. We left the baby house in a state of shock and I cried more than I've ever cried in my life, trying to decide if I was willing to miss out on the baby time I so desperately wanted and bring home a toddler instead. Still undecided, I agreed to spend time bonding with the child the next day.

Thank God because within seconds of seeing our daughter walk into the room, I was absolutely in love. It’s hard for me to admit, even to myself, that I had this type of reaction. And I’ll never tell our daughter this. But what I do know from my experience is that sometimes a day makes a difference.

Here's what I would have missed out on had I said no that day. A kind-hearted, eternally happy, polite little girl with a passion for learning new things and an inquisitiveness that has helped her test out of her grade level on more than one occasion. She's a beautiful dancer, incredible soccer player and an aspiring little artist. Almost five, she dreams of growing up to become an ice-skating princess with magical powers. And I believe she’ll do it. And although the experience of meeting our younger child played out nothing like the first - we saw healthier infants and I knew my child the instant I saw her - we probably would have missed out on this child altogether because we wouldn't have pursued the adoption in the first place. To think my children wouldn't be mine had I never had this experience makes every part of it worthwhile.


--Melanie Hill