Foreign orphans calling Miss. home
Author: Riva BrownStaff
Program facilitates international adoption by hopeful parents
By Riva Brown
After Nancy Field adopted 7-year-old Rachel from China in 1996, she decided it was just as easy to take a car full of children swimming as it was to take one child.
Seven years and a 15-passenger van later, Field, a 50-year-old single mother living in Jackson, has adopted eight former orphans, two from China and six from the Ukraine.
Field this month started !Project Great Expectations!, an international adoption program through Mississippi Families for Kids in Jackson. The program helps unite foreign orphans with potential adoptive parents who've grown weary waiting to add to their families.
"I can't adopt them all," said Field, coordinator for babies and international adoptions. "I'm losing sleep over what I saw over there, so I decided that the best thing I can do is find other families to go get them."
International adoption services also are offered through agencies that include Catholic Charities, Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth, Southern Adoption, World Child and Heart to Heart Adoption Services.
Linda West, executive director of Mississippi Families for Kids, said the agency helps with both international and domestic adoptions, with a focus on adopting older children and sibling groups in this country.
Some parents chose to adopt internationally rather than domestically because they don't have to wait so long for young children, Field said. The wait can be up to seven years for a white infant and three years for a black infant. International adoptions take about a year, she said.
!Project Great Expectations! is working with facilitators in China, Ukraine and Guatemala, countries in the top five for children adopted by American parents, according to the U.S. Department of State. The program plans to add Cambodia to the list by the end of the year.
Adoption costs can range from $16,500 to $25,000, depending on the country, Field said. The costs include a $250 application fee to Mississippi Families for Kids and travel. A $10,000 tax credit per child is available to all adoptive parents in the year they adopt.
Any unused portion can be carried over and applied to the next year's tax liability.
Potential adoptive parents must have three things: a home study, approval from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and documents the foreign country requires, Field said.
Those eligible - generally single or married people between ages 25 and 55 - must be fingerprinted and submit to FBI and state and local police checks. Tax returns and a letter from an employer are required, Field said.
"They check you over from head to toe," Field said. "We're looking for families who want to be invested in parenting who are serious about becoming very involved in raising a child."
"We have so many families that want to adopt young children and babies, and we don't have them here," West said. "This gives us an opportunity to serve more families and place more children."
Wanda Gillom, director of the Division of Family and Children's Services for the state Department of Human Services, said private agencies need to work on getting Mississippi children adopted first. Of more than 3,000 children in state custody, 328 were free for adoption as of Friday, DHS officials said. Eighty are under age 6 and none are infants.
"These are our children, and we need to take care of home first," Gillom said.
Kim Burke of Jackson, who adopted 14-month-old Kelsey from Russia five months ago, said she and her husband had been trying to adopt an infant in this country for about seven years.
One agency told the Burkes they'd have to wait four or five years. They brought Kelsey home within six months, Burke said. They spent about $22,000 in fees, plus $10,000 to $12,000 in travel costs, money borrowed from savings.
"I would argue it's absolutely well worth it," said Burke, a professor at Millsaps College. "We got the most beautiful, wonderful child, and it's hard for me to believe that a year ago we thought we were out of options."
Pavel Fyodor, a Mississippi Families for Kids adoption facilitator in the Ukraine, said via e-mail the country is too poor to help its orphans.
"American families very often adopt children with the very bad conditions of the health (without parts of body, with the heart's defects and other) and after surgery and good treatment they help these children to become the equal members of the society," he said in the e-mail.
Field's 11-year-old son, Nickolas, from the western Ukraine, said he likes America. "School is good and my house is good. I'm going swimming," Nickolas said. "I have very good clothes. I like my shoes."
Worldwide, international adoptions have steadily increased over the years, from 15,774 in 1998 to 17,718 in 2000 and 20,099 in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of State.
During fiscal 2002, 5,053 immigrant visas were issued for orphans from China coming to the United States. In Guatemala, it was 2,219 in the Ukraine, 1,106 in Cambodia, 254.
U.S. Department of State
*Participate in a home study: Potential adoptive parents must complete an eight-page application and be interviewed by a social worker. The paperwork is notarized and sent to the state Department of Human Services.
*Get approval from the Immigration and Naturalization Service: Once the INS receives paperwork from DHS, it takes three to six months for potential adoptive parents to get an approval form.
*Complete a dossier the foreign country requires: The dossier includes the home study, INS form and other documents, such as birth certificate, marriage licenses or divorce decree letters from physician, employer(s) and bank police records child-abuse clearance psychological evaluation and letters of recommendation from friends and associates.
*Travel to the foreign country: Potential adoptive parents must spend between three days to three weeks there, depending on the country.
*Get post-adoption information: Mississippi Families for Kids must visit the home within two weeks after the child arrives and conduct follow-up visits. Information on how to get your child/children Mississippi birth certificates, a U.S. passport and a Social Security number will be provided. Suggestions for medical tests and school also will be provided.
Mississippi Families for Kids can be reached at (601) 360-0591.
Mississippi Families for Kids and InternationalAdoption.org
"We have so many families that want to adopt young children and babies, and we don't have them here. This gives us an opportunity to serve more families and place more children."
- Linda West, executive director of Mississippi Families for Kids
Shown with the eight children she adopted, (front, from left) Angela, 8, Nicholas, 11, Bella, 12, (second row) Percy, 9, Rachel, 7, Graham, 7, (standing) Mia, 7, and Georgiy, 10, Nancy Field now helps with international adoptions at Mississippi Families for Kids.
Brian Albert Broom/The Clarion-Ledger