Miles no barrier to adoption

Date: 2003-02-05

Fresno Bee, The (CA)

Ribeiros of Tipton will travel to Kazakhstan orphange to get new son.

Author: Bethany Clough

Joseph and Susan Ribeiro wait for the day their son comes home.

Four-year-old Josiah's bedroom is ready. The shelves are stocked with toy tractors and the ceiling speckled with glow-in-the-dark stars.

But Josiah has never been to this Tipton home.

In fact, he's never met the Ribeiros.

Josiah lives in an orphanage in Kazakhstan, a remnant of the former Soviet Union.

The Ribeiros await a phone call that will cue their travel there to begin transforming Josiah from an orphan in a country that can barely afford to feed its children into a son growing up in rural Tulare County.

He will be the first child of Joseph Ribeiro, 33, a partner in Ribeiro Dairy Farms in Tulare, and Susan Ribeiro, 32, a future stay-at-home mom.

For the Ribeiros, family planning meant sifting through photos and bios on the adoption agency's Web site. They landed on a little boy with big eyes and dark blond hair.

"He just grabbed our hearts," Susan Ribeiro said.

The adoption agency sent videos of the boy flipping through coloring books and staring at orphanage staffers coaxing him to smile and speak for the camera.

The orphanage workers call him Sasha, a Russian nickname for Aleksander. The Ribeiros will call him Josiah Aleksander Ribeiro.

Married for five years, the Ribeiros had difficulty conceiving, although doctors could find no medical reason. They took fertility drugs but decided their money would be better spent elsewhere.

Instead of adopting through Tulare County's foster care and adoption system, they decided to adopt from Kazakhstan, in part because they knew there was no chance Josiah's mother would change her mind and want him back.

He was abandoned by his mother years ago and has been living in orphanages ever since.

But more importantly, the couple was drawn by a desire to help after learning about the lives that orphans in Kazakhstan lead in a country that slid into poverty so devastating orphanages could barely afford toothbrushes.

"You're saving a child that will probably have a pretty miserable life," if not adopted, said Elina Filippova, director of adoption abroad for the Napa-based Yunona USA.

Nutritious food is scarce, and the children in the videos have puffy cheeks that hint at malnutrition. They sleep in rooms packed with a dozen beds.

The stigma of growing up in an orphanage there makes getting jobs difficult, leading many to lives of prostitution and crime, Filippova said.

There are plenty of children like Josiah because few people there are even aware of contraception, and abortions are rare because of fear that poor medical care will leave women barren, Filippova said.

When the Ribeiros heard about the life Josiah was destined for, they knew they wanted to adopt him.

"He's never had a birthday [celebration]," Susan Ribeiro said. "He's never had his own toy."

Yunona USA is a combination adoption agency and charity. It welcomes financial help from adoptive parents. The Ribeiros have set up a bank account for donations they will use to buy clothes, food or whatever else the orphanage needs.

But the adoption itself isn't cheap. The Ribeiros estimate they will spend $30,000 for fees, fingerprinting, interviews and travel.

Adopting from foreign countries isn't that common: Filippova estimates that 10 couples in the central San Joaquin Valley have adopted through Yunona while 142 children were adopted from Tulare County and about 180 from Fresno County last year.

The Ribeiros began their search July 7, and an impromptu network of adoptive parents in Fresno, Porterville and Hanford sprang up via the Internet, helping them prepare.

The life-changing phone call should come within the next few weeks. Though the Ribeiros know it would be smart to leave a few weeks afterward, when Kazakhstan's raging winter calms down, they're considering leaving the day after they get the call.

They'll spend three weeks at the nearest hotel, an hour and half drive from the orphanage. An hour a day will be spent with Josiah at the orphanage. If all goes well, he'll eventually stay with them at the hotel, and a judge will give final approval.

The Ribeiros are nervous. They don't speak Josiah's language. They'll take him away from his friends.

But they're hopeful.

The room is ready. Nine aunts and uncles and their families are ready. A Russian woman Josiah's future grandparents met at a Costco has promised English lessons.

And Joseph and Susan Ribeiro are ready.

"If you love them, they'll just respond," Joseph Ribeiro said.

The reporter can be reached at or 622-2421.



Donations are being accepted to buy clothes and supplies for the poverty-stricken orphanage in Kazakhstan where Joseph and Susan Ribeiro will adopt their child. Money can be donated to account number 004-059-344 at Visalia Community Bank.


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