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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

The Unknowns of Adoption & Taking the Plunge

Notice to all pre-adoptive parents:  Accept the fact that you will know virtually nothing about your adopted child.  Nothing.

To argue otherwise is to deceive yourself and set yourself up for a rude awakening.

Yes, ask questions, and yes, have all the documents translated.  You will still know nothing.

Whatever you’re told is likely a bunch of baloney (not that baloney comes in bunches).  In this case, make it bushels of baloney.  Agencies and orphanages tell you what you want to hear.  So, smile, nod, and disregard 90% of the info given.

I remember a “sales pitch” (for want of a better term) written about a child from our son’s first orphanage.  The blurb said he liked to play basketball every day.  Realizing this was not a particularly Russian sport, I asked our guys if there was a basketball hoop there, or even a ball.


On trip two, we were told that our son was anxiously awaiting us and had asked about us that very day.

“Oh?” I brightened, and tucked that away for later when I was alone with him.

“Did you know we were coming today or did you ask about us?” I inquired at the courthouse.

“Nyet,” he shook his head, confused.

Many adoptive parents request extensive family histories, or medical records on the child. Whatever you can get, great.  Yet, some of it may be pure fabrication.  Fibs.  Tall tales.  Big whoppers.

You will know virtually nothing about the child—their likes and dislikes, personality, background, education, fears—and will likely be at “Square One” for the first year or so.  This is like an arranged marriage and these things take time.

Do not even consider disrupting or making any sudden moves before the first 12-18 months are up.  If the child will do well with “another family”, then start becoming that other family.  Both sides have to change and adapt, mostly because new revelations will be coming your way for some months to come and you will not fully know the child, positives and negatives, for quite a while.

There are scores of prospective adoptive parents who cannot accept this.  They want to know everything, they want all the facts laid out before them, they want all the pros and cons so that they can make “the right choice”, an educated decision.  Well, take it from this old-timer:  save your balance sheet for the financial side of adoption.  Here, you’re going to have to hear from God, and go with your gut.

Scary stuff.

A few months after Petya came home, he attended a day camp where another mom overheard us speaking Russian.  Turns out her daughter also came from Russia and was having many problems.

“We go to therapy every Monday and Thursday,” she sighed.  “We never thought she’d be so oppositional.  She’s destroying our whole family.”

“Wait a minute,” I interjected, “didn’t you mention that your family had hosted her?”

“One whole month….”

“And you never saw any of the disturbing behaviors?”  I wondered.

“Not one.  The girl was coached.  They told her exactly how to act.  She did, we proceeded with the adoption, and now we have a child who’s the exact opposite of the one we hosted.”

Discussing such a disturbing dilemma, our social worker confirmed that many previously-hosted adoptions do not work out.

“They feel that they know the child, when frequently, their impressions are skewed,” she explained.

“Yeah, we had a couple of days to decide.  We knew we didn’t know anything…” I acknowleged.

I always come across people who just finished several weeks of hosting an EE child usually during summer or winter breaks.  The child goes back and they still don’t know “for sure”.

They probably never will.

Take the plunge, people!

I look at it like this:  if you don’t want to bungee jump, then don’t go out and stand on the edge of the bridge.  If you don’t want to skydive, then don’t put on a parachute and go up in the plane.  If you don’t want to tame a wild horse, or ride a bucking bronco, don’t adopt.

We all know our limits.  Nothing wrong with that.  But this is a LIFE over which you’re standing in judgment:  is he/she cute enough, smart enough, obedient enough, enthusiastic enough?

Oftentimes, no.  But the child might become all of the above under your nurturing and therapeutic care.

These kinds of families irritate me.  (Can you tell?)  By diddling and dawdling, they may have condemned the child to lifelong institutionalization.  Come one, folks, say yea or nay and be done with it (before the fact—disruption is a whole different category—those who adopt and then change their minds without extremely compelling, life-threatening reasons).  The child could have been showcased to others at picnics and parks, but you were too busy lolligagging in slow-mo to John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Well, I’ll tell you, if you need to imagine something:  there is a heaven and there is a hell.  This side of eternity, an orphanage existence is very close to hell, and a loving family very close to heaven-on-earth.

These are orphans, usually adrift and abandoned, uneducated and uncultured.  If you’re going to let them down and measure them by middle-class American standards, and crush their souls, maybe you should just take your marbles and go home.  Stop cluttering the system with your hems and haws, objections and deliberations.  There’s a life hanging in the balance who needs to head home.


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