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ISSUE 116 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/11/2002

Traveling abroad ignites interest to adopt internationally

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 11, 2002

Parents adopt children for many reasons. Some adopt domestically, while others adopt internationally. Certain members of the St. Olaf community have chosen to adopt internationally. John Kilbride 87, principle gifts officer, and wife Kari 88, both St. Olaf alumni, recently chose to adopt internationally because of their abroad experiences while at St. Olaf. Risks are involved in adopting both domestically and internationally, yet the Kilbrides preferred to adopt internationally to avoid some common risks associated with domestic adoption. A larger risk for parents is the fear that the birth mom will try to interfere either early on or later in the childs life. With an international adoption, that fear is generally settled since the mother in located in another country. After studying in Europe during college, the couple fell in love with European children, making it their first choice for the country of adoption. When plans feel through, the Kilbrides turned to Russia to adopt their first child. The couple searched in an eastern area of Russia called Orenburg. In this particular region, they found a judge who was willing to bypass a new requirement stating that a family must remain in Russia for three weeks before returning home. Within only ten days, the Kilbrides had completed their journey. On Sept. 8, 2001, the Kilbrides welcomed John Paul Fyodorov Kilbride, or JP, to the United States. Upon arriving in Detroit, he was granted American citizenship. Had the process of adoption not gone as rapidly, the family would have been in flight on Sept. 11. With just over one year since his arrival in the United States, JP has adapted well to his new life. A common challenge for new parents of international children is language barriers. JP is a bit delayed in his speech, said Kilbride. After having one year in a Russian culture and one year in America, Kilbride said that JP can get somewhat frustrated with speaking. Kari is working to teach him sign language for simple words such as please and thank you. This gives him ways to talk so that he can be less frustrated, said Kilbride. The Kilbrides are anxious to share with JP his adoption experiences as soon as he is old enough to understand, but as Kilbride said being adopted is not all part of who he is. Russian Professor Marc Robinson, shares his love for Russian children with the Kilbrides. After Robinson and his wife served as foster parents, they decided to adopt two Russian children into their family. The contrast between Kilbride and Robinsons experience shows the uniqueness of each adoption situation. Unlike the Kilbride family, the Robinsons hoped to adopt children who were older, specifically between the ages of three and seven. They wished for a child between these ages so that they would be close in age to their first birth son. In 1992, Russian adoptions were new to the United States. The adoption agency the Robinsons chose was also new to Russian policy on adoption, which greatly slowed down their process. After learning that they could adopt twins in the age range they hoped for, they went through the tedious process of adoption. The Robinsons preferred an international adoption because they felt adoption can be a unique cultural experience. With Robinsons background in Russian language and culture and his wifes two years of education in Russian language, they felt that they could provide a smooth transition for their new children. After finding an agency that dealt with Russian adoptions, the couple worked to adopt a set of twins, Sergei and Nadia, age seven at the time, from the region of Novgorod, Russia. Shortly after, the Russian government decided to limit the number of agencies that could adopt from their country, luckily choosing the agency that the Robinsons had hired. The twins did have a cousin that maintained contact with the twins from the private shelter and at first she refused to allow the children to be adopted. But, in January of 1994 Robinson journeyed to Russia to visit the children, not telling them that he was interested in adopting them. Also, while on his trip he made contact with the cousin who became more comfortable with the idea of letting her cousins be adopted. Handwritten letters kept the twins and the Robinsons in contact for the next year until April 1995 when the adoption was finalized. The transition in coming to the U.S was smooth for the twins. The twins landed [in the United States] adjusted, said Robinson. Fortunately, the adoption agency let them be with the twins the day they arrived in Russia. From the first second, they talked our ears off the whole week, said Robinson. They had the entire week to spend together before coming home to the U.S. Robinson admits that the transition ran smoothly. The long process was actually a positive occurrence, giving the Robinsons a chance to prove their devotion to the kids, helping to ease the sense of abandonment that generally plagues adopted children. We wanted to be a constant in their lives, said Robinson. Both Kilbride and Robinson have a passion for continuing their education in adoptions, specifically in Russia. Kilbride and his wife are involved in support networks in Minneapolis, one being the Friends of Russian and Ukrainian Adoptions. Both Nadia and Sergei have both been back to visit their family in Russia during the summer months. Robinson brings them to their family on his way to the orphanage where they grew up. Each summer for about three weeks, he brings a group of St. Olaf students to work in the orphanage doing jobs that need to be done. Prior to the trip, they raise money and collect donations for the orphanage. Each year they try to purchase one big ticket item for the orphanage. This year, Robinson hopes to bring three children to the U.S. to whom he has become very close during his visits at the orphanage. Students on campus also share in the joys of adoption through either being adopted or having adopted siblings. The later is true for Anne Keasling 03. Having two sisters adopted from different parts of South Korea in 1988 and 1989, she feels that sometimes she forgets her sisters have been adopted because they fit so well into her family. Her family is happy to have given a loving home to two young girls who would otherwise have been on their own at age 16 had they not been adopted. Their adjustment was also a smooth transition. Keaslings sisters have also been provided with an opportunity to explore their heritage. They have each attended a heritage camp where they explore issues of adoption and heritage. Adoption is an amazing way of sharing the gifts and resources that we have, not to mention having another sibling or child to love, said Keasling. Fortunately for the Kilbrides, Robinsons and the Keaslings the adoption process and the transition into the home in the United States was a positive experience.

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