On July 10th, 2001 Evelynn and Dave Bennett officially became parents. That was the day that our Russian adoption became final. It was almost the end of our first journey, that was making the adoption happen, and the beginning of our second journey, that of living with and raising our sons, Peter, Eric and Sam.
Current Pictures of the Boys
It all started back in March of 1999 when we began to seriously consider adoption. We had been trying to have kids ever since we'd been married and were getting no younger. We explored all the various options, domestic babies, foster care/adoption, and foreign adoption. We spent several months studying and making it a matter of prayer and we came to the decision that we would adopt a sibling group, both because we wanted several kids and because sibling have a harder time being adopted. We had originally decided to adopt from Belarus, but then after we hooked up with an agency which worked with Belarus switched to their Russian program.
We officially signed up with our agency, Adoption Pros/International Adoption Association in July of 1999 and we started all the paperwork. We contacted a local agency to do our home study as well. Our agency said they had a possible sibling group of two boys and a girl for us, so we were very interested. Then our first major setback hit. The company I was working for nearly folded, resulting in my losing my employment 2 days before the home visit for the home study. This set us back quite a bit. I wasn't able to find a new job and so in January of 2000 I restarted my consulting business that I had run prior to working for my previous employer.
When I had once again established my business we wanted to get going again on our adoption paperwork. Our agency informed us that the sibling group we had been looking at earlier was now unavailable. At about the same time, our agency announced that they were running a summer hosting program where older children were coming over to the US for the summer and being hosted by families with the hope that they would later adopt them. We decided to get involved in the program and there our paperwork nightmare began. First there were problems with the home study, which we had to get fixed again and again. Then the INS had objections about my employment status. We had agreed to host two brothers who where then 7 and 9yo. We worked and we worked, but in the end, because of the paperwork problems, they could not obtain visas for the boys and we were out of the program after 3 months of trying very hard.
Then the next phase began. Three weeks after having been bounced from the program we got a panic call from our agency. There were a pair of 9yo twins who had come to another family and who in the space of 48 hours driven the family to distraction. Was there any possibility that we would take them on, for the hosting period? We thought it over and agreed, this began our summer of the Russian madness. The two boys Yura and Vova had been institutionalized for quite some time and had seen more than kids that age should. On the other had they had seen nothing of our world. They vacillated between acting like three year olds and 16 year olds and occasionally like the nine yea olds they were. We had some fun times, but most of the time it was just a lot of serious hard work. They spoke no English but by the time they left they understood quite a bit. It was a draining experience both physically and emotionally and made us seriously wonder about why we wanted to do it.
As much as we tried, we decided there was no way we could in good conscience adopt those boys and after a very active 8 weeks they went back to their orphanage in Urai Siberia, hopefully with some good memories of here.
We spent the next couple of months just recovering from that experience, but we weren't going to stop. We started working hard on getting our paperwork ready. We really wanted to see if we could adopt those boys that we were originally going to host. I felt really that we should pursue them and in January we finally had all the many many documents prepared, notarized and apostilled. Then the next wrench was thrown in our plans. The two brothers had an older brother. We knew this but no one knew anything about him and he wasn't living in an orphanage. Then in January, he suddenly appeared. He had been living with his grandmother and for some reason he was now put in the orphanage. This put a kink in our plans since he 12 or 13 years old and we weren't sure we wanted go with a boy that old. But still we pressed ahead. Our agency meanwhile had another sibling group in another part of Russia that we could get more easily and so we suddenly had many decisions to make.
We finally decided to go to Chelyabinsk where the two brothers (now 3) were and then go to the other region called Salekhard as well. We got our tickets, setup our travel and then the night before we were to leave we were informed that because the older brother was new to the orphanage system he wouldn't be available for adoption for six months and because he wasn't available his brothers weren't either and so we would not even be able to meet them at all. So in early March 2001 we flew to Moscow and went to Salekhard, and didn't go to Chelyabinsk at all.
We got to Salekhard, and while we were there met these two brothers and decided to adopt them as well as another boy who was shown to us who was unrelated to them. The whole story of that first trip is in this link:
1st Trip Story
When we got back we went into the second phase of things. We now had to file final paperwork and wait. We had originally been told we could be going back for our court date as soon as the end of April. That seemed really fast to me and my suspicion turned out to be correct. We once again had many hassles and our travel dates changed at least 10 times but finally in early July 2001 we went back to Salekhard and went to court to get our boys. It was not an easy trip, we had several problems, I ended up flying quite a bit to get all the paperwork we needed done but on July 20th we finally came home.
The full story of the 2nd trip
At this point (October 5th 2001) we have been home for 2 and half months. The boys are doing very well. They are all learning English very fast and are all in school. Sam (formerly Sasha) and Eric (Alosha) are in kindergarten and doing well. Peter (Tolya) is in first grade and is having a harder time simply because he has so much more to catch up on. They are all smart fun boys who joke and laugh all the time (sometime too much). Our lives have all be completely changed, and though sometimes we question our sanity in having brought this upon ourselves we are so happy we are now a family. The second phase has just begun, we do our best to make it fun.
1st Trip Pictures 2nd Trip pictures Salekhard Pictures Moscow Pictures
November, 2004: It has been quite a while since I updated this story. We have now been together with our boys nearly three and a half years. This story has gotten more hits on my website than any other part of it, so I think it is time to give anyone who has read this far an update.
Life happens, and it has continued to happen to us. In general, our boys are doing very well. They all took to life here very well, and have become nearly indistinguishable from native born American kids. We still get people who ask about their language, but this is pretty much a non-issue. For the first five months or so we spoke "Russlish" in our house, a mix of English and Russian. The boys only had a pre-school level vocabulary in Russian when they came to us, so as they learned and were exposed to new things they learned their names in English, never knowing them in Russian (my Russian vocabulary being too limited to be of much help). At six months they started to drop Russian, even among themselves. By eight months they didn't speak it at all, and by ten months they had mostly forgotten it. For the last two years they only know the Russian I have taught them, they have completely forgotten what they knew. This is a sad thing for us, it have been great for them to have remained bilingual, but we didn't know enough Russian, and they didn't have much interest keeping it.
Academically they have done exceptionally. They all started school only six weeks after we had got them home. Sam and Eric were in kindergarten, and Peter in first grade. They all picked up English so quickly that their teachers were completely blown away. They had enormous amounts of things to learn quickly, they had had no schooling in the orphanage, so they were blank slates, needing to be filled, and they were. By the end of the school year (less than a year since the adoption) Peter and Eric were operating at grade level in all areas, and Sam was actually above grade level in reading. They have continued their academic achievements and are all straight A students, though Peter is finding fourth grade to be a bit more challenging than the preceding ones. His problem is not nearly so much ability as it is motivation to work.
Life had also changed around our house in that not only do we have our three adopted boys, but after years of trying and giving it up as a lost cause, Evelynn got pregnant six months after we brought home the boys and in September 2002 our family added yet another boy, Luke, to the mix. We now have four boys, and our house is never dull. I wonder what the Russians, who thought we were crazy for adopting three boys would think if they saw that now we have four. All three of our adopted boys love their little brother. They have been very happy to have him from the beginning, and they continue to get along well with him even though he is now well into the "terrible twos."
With the distance we have now to look back at the process, we can firmly say, that, although it was a very long, expensive, emotionally draining process, it was worth it. We have been more lucky than most. None of our boys suffers from FAE/FAS, attachment disorders, or other major emotional scarring from before the adoption. They are all smart and capable boys. Sam was born with a club foot that had been mostly corrected in Russia, but he is still undergoing treatment for it as he grows. We do have problems in our house, but they are mostly the problems that parents of several children experience. The one area where we are different is with the grouping of our boys. There is less than two years separating all three of them in age, because of this they interact more like a group of classmates than brothers much of the time. If there is one thing would liked to have changed in the adoption, it would be to not have them so close together in age, as it leads to non-stop competition fighting for control over their pecking order. Every one of them has at least one area where he can best his brothers, so the competition never ends.
In going from no children to four boys in a space of fourteen months it has been, and continues to be a rollercoaster experience. It is not for the faint hearted, and at times we really question our sanity, but all we have to do is think on where these boys would be now if we had not brought them into our home. Our boys have brought much joy and excitement into our lives, and they continue to try our patience every day. They don't really appreciate how much better for them things are here than back in Russia. We hope that someday we will have the opportunity to take them back, to see again the place they came from. It is hard to know how they will live out their lives in the future and especially what path they will take as they enter their teenage years, but we love them and are happy to have them in our lives.
Current Family Pictures