Weeks 11 & 12 – The final Stretch

On our way back to Almaty

Just a quick note to tell everyone that we leave for Almaty again early tomorrow (Saturday) morning.  Daniels passport will be ready on Monday I am promised, sadly not in enough time for us to get an entry visa to the UK for him and leave with Mum on Tuesday but the following Saturday 20th flight is looking promising.

So many things to say but perhaps I will leave my musings until my mum has left and I have time to kill in a darkened hotel room in the evenings.

So much look forward to seeing you all and introducing Daniel to you.

Liz – don’t uncross your fingers yet…

Could things get any more complicated?

Don’t have time to post the whole story here (and won’t until I have Daniel’s visa in my sticky hand!) but for those of you who know about the delay in getting his entry visa issued by British Authorities, I can tell you that the impasse with Dfes seems to have been resolved by a breathtaking piece of semantics.

I’m told that if I contact the British Embassy again on Monday morning they should be in a position to issue an entry visa for Daniel.  Dare I say that means we should be on our way on Tuesday?  No, maybe not.

Will post a longer description of the problem later.  In the meantime I will at least have a tolerable weekend thinking that this may really be the final stretch….

Liz, are you still keeping your fingers crossed?

Edited to add the Dfes (as was then) story

So the story with intercountry adoption in the UK is that as we are a signatory to the Hague Convention on the rights of a child, we agree to treat all children the same regardless of where they are being adopted from ie we (as a country) show the same duty of care to children being adopted into the UK from other countries and those domestically adopted here.  The intercountry adoption process is managed by the Department for children and Family Services  (DCFS) but was then called the Dept for Education and Skills.

You have to be approved in the UK under UK rules, get through a home study and be passed by a panel as an adoptive parent all the same as domestic adoption except that you are charged for the proess.  At that point the process diverges and in the UK you’d be put forward for matching with a child whereas in intercountry adoption your papers are sent to the sending country for you to go through whatever their process is and matching happens in the country.  Once matched the match has to be approved by your adoption team and then the DFes sends clearance through to the local Embassy that yu have complied with all necessary rules and your child can be issued with an adoption visa which allows them to be brought back into the UK to be legally readopted here.  This was the process for non-Hague Countries which Kazakhstan was at the time having subsequently ratified the convention.

As I did things absolutely by the book I was not expecting any problems with this part of the process and I knew of a few other people who had managed this stage with no issues.
What actually happened was complete radio silence from Dfes, despite phonecalls, voicemail messages and emails, not one peep out of I heard.  I’d had my interview at the Embassy in Almaty and they were just waiting for the Dfes to confirm that the UK side of the adoption was all in order (it was).
It took intervention from my mum contacting her/our local MP, two very helpful members of OASIS the intercountry adoption charity and the Richmond adoption manager to even get the DFES to answer me.  And instead of admitting what I suspect to be the truth – we forgot/your file fell behind the radiator/the case worker was off sick – they made up the most mind altering piece of garbage I’d heard in a long time.  And believe me I’d heard quite a bit during the three-year process.
“You have not discussed the match with the adoption team so we can’t confirm anything”
“Yes I have, when I first met Daniel in November (three months ago) I emailed the Richmond adoption manager all his details, including medical and photos, I said I had consulted a medic who was an adoption specialist, that i was aware of the risks involved (and listed them all) and was prepared to go ahead being fully aware of the risks.  And I asked if they had any queries or comments.  Dawn, then manager of the Richmond adoption team emailed me back saying she was happy with the information I’d provided and was happy to approve the match.”
I also pointed out that I had sent them copies of both my email to her and her one back to me.
“Discussion is verbal and you didn’t have a verbal conversation with Dawn so we aren’t prepared to count that as a discussion….”
I screamed silently into the back of my hand and swallowed hard –
“Wouldn’t the first week of November, three months ago when you got the emails from me have been the best time to point this out before I was legally the parent of this child in Kazakhstan?”, I didn’t say.
“Yes, but we hadn’t made that excuse up then as we didn’t realise that e were going to lose your file then” they didn’t reply.
I emailed Dawn.
Ten minutes later I took a phone call from the lovely Dawn –
“Hi Sue, how are you?”
“Oh you know, 5 flights up in a walk-up flat with a non-walking baby in minus 5 degree temperatures and on my own in a country thousands of miles from home.  And with a child who appears to be stateless.  Been better.”
Or “Fine” which was what I actually said.
“How’s Daniel?”
“Oh he’s grand, doing really well in the circumstances.”
“Excellent” said “Dawn “Well that’s a verbal conversation about the matched child so I guess we’re done”
It couldn’t possibly be that ridiculous, I thought.  No government department is seriously going to prefer a nonsense verbal conversation like that over a considered documented discussion of the match, I thought.  No-one is really going to have delayed a flight home effectively costing me hundreds of pounds and great angst for that, I thought.
I thought wrong.
Dfes were happy and issued the necessary approval to the Embassy.
I subsequently discovered that there was in fact no legal definition of “discussion”.

We’re flying home tomorrow…

I’m sitting here at 8pm Monday evening on my own, mulling over the past three months.  Amazed even as I type it that it has been three months.  Sandy and Frank Reising with whom I have been sharing an apartment for the past week in Almaty have gone to bed for a few hours as they are leaving at midnight with their sweet little girl Caroline, to catch a 3am flight.

What a day it’s been. The first happy tears of the three months came this morning when the lovely Hadisha at the British Embassy rang to let me know that I could pick Daniel’s visa up at 3.30pm in just enough time to get my ticket reissued and get Daniel one and catch the lunchtime flight tomorrow. Of course nothing goes to plan and the final indignity was having to buy a new one way ticket as I have been here so long that my ticket has expired. Ho hum.

Thanks to everyone for the help and support I have had – I will do an Oscar’s speech later when I am home and have time to think properly. I should now confess that I haven’t shopped and really can’t carry anything more than a suitcase, a carry-on bag and Daniel so not even any duty-free, which was the original plan. So though many of you reading will deserve a great deal more than you will get, unfortunately “it’s the thought that counts” is going to be stretched further than a girl has any right to expect.

I am now one week off having been here 3 months when my visa runs out which is about twice as long as I was prepared for. In any respect – emotionally, financially, underwear-ly. I have lived in two pairs of trousers and about four tops, one pair of shoes and one coat for three months. I no longer look at what I’m going to put on in the morning, I just take the next clean thing (or least dirty thing) from the pile and put it on. I barely bother looking in a mirror (no change there some would say), I don’t carry a handbag anymore (sent it home with my mum) – if it won’t go in my pockets or Daniel’s sling then it obviously isn’t essential. I have a sense of unreality about going home. I have dealt with the last four weeks in particular by disassociating myself from any thoughts of life at home, my family, friends, cats. Walking out of the house and not falling over on the ice and snow, not having to climb 5 stories with two flights of stairs per floor, not having to plan everything in advance and practising the necessary Russian, just walking out of my front door and go for a walk are all things I am only just beginning to think of this evening. And of course feeling very emotional about it (though just about managing to keep a lid on it).

It’s difficult not look back on the trip and be disillusioned by the way it has ended – it really didn’t need to be this hard.

But it’s important to me to try to get a degree of perspective about the overall experience and to think back in particular to the wonderful people I met in Ust-Kamenogorsk, the carers and children and the fellow adopters who have touched my life and Daniel’s and who have changed it in a subtle way that I couldn’t have anticipated. The presents the carers gave me, Daniel’s favorite carer coming in especially to see him on the day he left and crying over him going, the generosity of spirit (and books and DVD’s) of my fellow adopters all touched me incredibly. I have had to rely on other people which I generally hate but I have had to try to learn to be gracious in need – it’s so much easier to be a gracious donor. For every person who has made my life more difficult through pointless bureaucracy, selfishness or carelessness, there have been many more who have shared whatever they had and made this experience not only bearable but in the long-term, life changing. Although neither of us would have planned for the extended stay, it was lovely to see my mum have the time to bond with Daniel in a way that she probably never would have in any other circumstance.

And of course there is Daniel. He has been a joy, a horror, funny and infuriating. For everyone who looked at me aghast at taking on a child as a single woman or told me “well your life is going to change” in a slightly bemused pitying way – you forgot to mention the pleasures… a small boy pulling himself up on the furniture and discovering that he can sit himself down and do it all over again and the first thing he does is to look for you to share his excitement with the biggest smile and expression of joy. The feeling when he falls asleep next to me and just as he’s dozing off, he reaches over and pats me with his hand, just to make sure I’m there, is indescribable. When it became apparent that the Dfes were not going to issue approval to the British Embassy in time for me to get home, I sat on the sofa holding Daniel in my arms and cried and as he watched the tears rolling down my face he picked up his dummy and tried to put it in my mouth, I guess because that’s what soothes him when he’s upset. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry some more.

My one regret – I never did find the young girl and her sister before I left the baby house in Ust to blow more bubbles for them. I wish I had.

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