Thursday, November 19, 2009

Adopting from Kazakhstan

For those of you interested in adopting in the near future, but not sure about whether to go international or which country, I wanted to share a bit about our son's birthplace.

The following is copied from the Little Miracles website.

The Kazakhs, for whom the country is named, constitute about 46% of the population (compared to 32% in 1970). Russians, who came to live in large numbers during the Soviet period, constitute 35%, Ukrainians, 5%, and ethnic Germans, 3%; the remaining 11% consists of smaller numbers of other European and Asian peoples. The culture and food reflect this and most people are bilingual in Kazakh and Russian or another language.The educational and health-care systems, developed under the USSR, follows Soviet model, although some changes were introduced since independence in 1991. Restrictions on religion, for example, have been relaxed. The traditional Kazakh was nomadic and pastoral, but today their way of life and cultural expressions show strong Russian influences.Kazakhstan, a land of nomadic mystical culture is expressed in oral epics, legends, ritual songs, and from the 19th century, in a written literature strongly influenced by Russian traditions. Today most Kazakhs are rural dwellers, but a few remain shepherds and in former traditional work roles. Racially of Mongolian descent and Muslim tradition, they give the impression of classic Mongol warriors when mounted on horseback and garbed in their native clothing. Their way of life, the least Islamized of any of the Central Asian Turks, is richly infused with customs, painting a tapestry of an ancient Asian culture with Soviet suppression and influence. Kazakhstan's economy is still closely tied to Russia's, but Kazakhstan is promoting investment to improve their social conditions. Infant mortality rate is 64 per 1000 births as compared to Russia's 25/1000. Life is hard in Kazakhstan. Many Russians live in the North part of Kazakhstan, where our program places infants into their forever families!

Little Miracles offered a referral program on a limited basis at the time we adopted, but I'm not sure if they're still doing it. The preferred method of matching children is "travel to select" in which you are referred to a particular region and shown a child that meets your criteria (such as age range and possibly gender or race, although they ask you to be flexible.)

The region we adopted from in Kazakhstan is Semipalatinsk at the far north of the country, almost to the border with Siberia. We were there in December so it was very cold. Kazakhstan is a study in contrasts. On the one hand Kazakhstan is an extremely wealthy country because of its vast oil resources, but on the other hand the people of the middle class we got to know all seemed to work multiple jobs and most of them couldn't afford a car, much less a house. Almaty was beautifully modern like any European city complete with a shopping mall and overly priced real estate. On the other hand, the airport where we landed in Semey didn't even have a ceiling over much of it. On the one hand people there seem excited about their newfound freedom and prosperity and the women dress to the nines to prove it, on the other hand the old Soviet Union hangs thick in the air when you look from dilapidated utilitarian concrete building to building and see how most people still live. I was surprised to learn that tenants do not control their own thermostats, the heat comes on when the powers-that-be decide it will come on. The garbage is burned right outside the apartment buildings, too. Ice hockey is their big sport and its no wonder. Children play outside in the snow and ice constantly and it's a common sight to see mothers pulling their little ones on sleds.

Of course, we were there to meet and bond with our son, but it was such a blessing to also have the opportunity to meet and worship with a small group of Christians while we were there. They didn't have a pastor, so they were happy to have Big D teach. They even wanted to meet an extra time each week to take advantage of Big D's being there. This is the first time I had insight into the blessed life of being missionaries. Although it was a physically and emotionally difficult trip for many reasons, mostly due to leaving our other 3 kids at home for 3 weeks, we experienced such encouragement and joy when we were with the little church in Semey.

Kazakhstan requires a 2 week bonding period during which time you visit your child at appointed times and spend quality time getting to know one another. I thought it was difficult and felt like I was babysitting for someone else. It didn't seem natural to me since I didn't have him all the time, I wasn't bathing him, dressing him, feeding him. Anyway, we did appreciate getting to watch our son blossom before our eyes (we just would have liked watching him blossom round the clock better:). He went from not sitting up or smiling, to crawling, sitting up, smiling, following along as I read him books, and even turning pages. Our son was 8 months old when we met him, 9 months old when we adopted him, and 11 months old when he was escorted home to us. Not every agency provides an escort option, but Little Miracles does and the precious young lady who flew all those hours with him was just a saint. She arrived like she'd been traveling for 2 hrs instead of 20!

Our son is so wonderful and such a blessing to us! For those of you considering adoption I urge you to pray and wait on the Lord. Big D and I had talked about adoption when we first got married, but then started having children one after another so it didn't come up again for 7 years. But when it was right, it was right and we just knew it. We moved forward quickly and had our son home less than 11 months after starting our paperwork. I highly recommend that if you do decide to adopt from Kazakhstan that you use Little Miracles. They are a wonderful agency full of people with a heart to place orphans into forever families.

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.