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Opening a Russian Adoption

We chose to contact the mother of the Russian infant we adopted in 7-00. I used the name/address from court documents. I first tried getting my letter translated by a Russian friend in this country, then mailing it and some photos via US Registered mail to the address in Russia. She never received it (maybe someone stole it thinking the photos were money?). A few months later I found a translator who lives in Russia. I emailed him my letter and scanned photos, he translated, and printed out text and photos, then mailed via Russian certified/return receipt mail. Although our birth mother had moved, someone at the address signed for the letter and brought it to her. She replied almost immediately. I was SO HAPPY.

I think it is so much healthier for everyone in the adoptive triad to have more openness. Now I truly know what I knew in my heart before: that the birth mom loved the child dearly and that it broke her heart to have to relinquish her. She has two older children and there just wasn't enough to care for a third. Now, we've exchanged several sets of letters and photos, and hope to continue the correspondence and meet someday. Withe her help, it also seems we may be able to correspond with the birth father and his mother.

My "tips", for those considering this:
  1. Make your initial letter brief and discreet. Say that you are interested in genealogy, and that you heard from someone in Russia that possibly your families are related. Include enough info and photos of your family to let her know -- we talked about having lost a child to stillbirth, then "as if by a miracle, a little girl born in January 2000 came to our family."
  2. Don't say "your name was on the documents of the baby we adopted." Suppose the birth mom is in a new relationship with someone who doesn't know, or for whatever reason doesn't want to be contacted.
  3. Have your letter mailed within Russia, certified, with a return receipt. The return receipt will tell you if the letter was delivered, and who signed for it, or if it was undeliverable. Contact me if you want more information on the translator I use. I feel he is very trustworthy.
  4. I was not, but if you are fearful, don't include your full name or address in your correspondence. The translator can act as an intermediary. For that matter, though I consider him very trustworthy, you don't even have to tell the translator your personal details. He does it all via internet, and you pay via Western Union money transfer.
  5. Just my opinion, but I think that the oft heard "I'll support my child's search when he/she's old enough to decide" is a bit of a crock. If you really were committed to supporting a search, you'd consider reaching out NOW, before birth relatives have a chance to move away, die, or forget precious details. How great do you think the chances will be for your Russian adopted child to locate birth relatives using an 18 year old address? For us, I feel much better being able to talk and share real details about our daughter's birth and relatives, right from the start. But even if you have the "I'll support a search if/when the child asks", wouldn't it be better to have the foundation of communication laid? I feel it sure couldn't hurt.

    Aren't we talking about precious information that your child owns, or ought to? You may think you don't care about what a birth parent may communicate, or you may fear it. But, is it your right to obstruct this information from your child? In my opinion, this is what you're doing in an international adoption if you don't try to establish contact as well and as soon as you can.
  6. Which brings me to: Remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If I were the birth mother, I would want connection. Russian, as so many international birth moms, have so few rights. "Making a birth plan" or "choosing parents" for a child would be an inconceivable dream. They don't even have the right to know who adopted their child, or even whether the child is alive or dead. To me, contacting our child's birth mother with love, thanks, and reassurance was the moral, absolutely right thing to do.

    And do it for yourself, too. It may bring a peace you didn't even realize you were missing.
  7. Accept the possibility that the birth mother may not respond to your contact. She has justifiable reasons to be angry or upset, and/or maybe the grief is just too raw to write back. If you get a signed receipt back for the letter you sent, but no response, forgive. Perhaps try again in another 6 months or year.
  8. Lastly, for those who don't have full names or addresses, or are too angry at documented abuse by birth parents, or older child's memories of abusive behavior -- Try to reprogram your mind with positive things you may know or can imagine about the birth parents. These things are there, if you look for them. Children need to feel safer in the world, to believe it is more good than bad. Remember, "Understand everything, forgive everything." There is much you may not be able to know about your child's birth relatives. Yet believe if you could know everything, you could understand. And forgive, if need be. Your children will learn from you.
Jean
with husband, parent to son b 2-97, and daughter b 1-00, a 7-00, Russia

Related Article
Our Daughter's Russian Family, by Jean Z

Help In Russia
Victor Sluczewski, Russian translations
Service Network Flamingo, address verification, translation, mail, and gift delivery
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