The Interlude In Between Trips
After formally requesting to adopt Kiril, Elisabeth and I returned to Jamestown. This marked a very frantic and stressful two months for us. It was also a time of the Second Great Paperwork Chase.
Soon after our first trip, our adoption agency notified us that our dossier had “expired.”
“Tom, I have good news and bad news.” wrote our agency handler. “You have a court date of November twenty-third. Unfortunately, you need to have all of your documents updated.”
“Great and Not Great,” I replied.
While Elisabeth and I did not personally feel we had past our “use by date,” apparently the Russian government rules are that prospective adoptive parents’ dossiers are good for only one year. Our dossier would expire before we could get back to Kemerovo and pick up Wallace. To add to the unbridled fun, we had only about two weeks to complete the new round of paperwork so that all of the document could be sent to Kemerovo.
Elisabeth and I teamed up and again obtained the following documents:
- Updated certifications on our physicals
- Recertified home study reports
- Recertified income verification documents
- Brand new real property certification
- Update criminal history searches (No, there was nothing to report.)
- My neighbor’s lawnmower (It seemed like a good idea.)
- And any other form that I now forget
One of the most awkward items we had to collect was a copy of our physician’s license. The Russian government, really the Kemerovo regional government, apparently believed that some other adoptive parents had presented forged documents in the past. That meant that more work for subsequent adoptive parents. Elisabeth cheerfully let me procure this particular document. Fortunately, our doctor, Dr. Liu, lived just a few blocks from our house. We often saw Dr. Liu walking her dog, Bob, in the neighborhood.
“Uh, hi Dr. Liu. How is the doctor business these days?”
After a pause, Dr. Liu responded, “Fine, Tom. I just gave you another physical. Do you need anything else?”
“Well, yes. The Russian government needs a copy of your doctor’s license for our dossier. How about those Red Sox?”
“Huh?!?” replied Dr. Liu.
“It seems that other people, not Elisabeth or me, have presented fake documents in the past. Now everything has to be ‘extra verified’ including the physician’s report you did for us last week.”
“Ok, no problem. I’ll fax it right over.”
“Actually, Dr. Liu, can I come by with a notary and make a notarized photocopy?”
“Fine, but I should make you walk Bob for the next week.”
All of the forms that we collected were, of course, duly notarized. However, for international use, we had to send every one of these documents to a state office in Albany for apostiles. What is an apostile? It is your state government’s certification that the notary publics who notarized your forms are actually notary publics. Basically, for an apostile, you get to pay a modest fee (per form) to your state doubly notarize each form that you present. At least the State of New York puts a fancy seal on each document it apostiles.
Our revised dossier had to travel to Russia about two weeks before our second trip. I had a folder of about ten documents that needed new apostiles and literally only two days to get this done in order to keep our court date in Kemerovo.
However, Albany (New York) is about a six hour drive from Jamestown and winter weather was starting to arrive in November 2005. I looking at a twelve hour round-trip drive to get these documents apostilled. Then my partner at our law firm had an idea.
He called the New York Secretary of State like they were best friends (they were not). Andy, my law partner, somehow managed to get the direct phone number for the Secretary of State’s office in Albany and got her secretary on the phone.
“Hi, this Andy. How are you today?”
“Fine, Andy. How can I help you?” [Remember, these two people do not know each other.]
“Well I need to get some document apostilled tomorrow as part of an international adoption and I am here in Jamestown. Can you help me?”
“Sure. Let me see what I can do.”
The Secretary of State’s secretary then connected Andy with the person who processes apostiles. By connect, I mean that there was no voicemail, no “press 1 to continue,” or any other bureaucratic hurdle.
Andy then spoke to “the person” and explained the problem. This very nice person gave Andy an address to use for FedEx and told him to tell me to send the documents directly to her with a prepaid return FedEx envelope. I immediately dashed off to the FedEx office at the Jamestown International Airport (you can only fly to Pittsburgh). Thirty-six hours later, I received my documents with shiny new apostile seals on them.
At a time when Elisabeth needed a break, we got a huge break, thanks to Andy. What could have been a document nightmare ended with no problem. I sent the documents to our adoption agency in time for us to keep our court date in Kemerovo.
Though we managed to put together a duly notarized and apostiled dossier in time for our second trip to Kemerovo, Elisabeth and I were beyond anxious. We seriously considered having our priest bless all of the documents but there was no “blessing of the adoption documents” ceremony in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.
One of the other decisions Elisabeth and I had to make was a new name for our son. The hospital staff had chosen the name, “Kiril.” In other words, there was no (apparent) family connection to the name.
At the time of adoption, we had a one-time chance to choose a new name. We chose to name our son Wallace Thomas. Wallace was Elisabeth’s father’s name and my father is named Thomas. [Elisabeth vetoed an earlier suggestion of mine: The Dude. Apparently Elisabeth does not abide.]
Our adoption agency, in the midst of the Second Great Paperwork Chase, were kind enough to tell Elisabeth and me to work even faster on our new dossier. Other things needed to happen as well. We also took some time to finally buy baby furniture and clothes. It also occurred to me that Elisabeth needed a proper baby shower.
I worked with Elisabeth’s sister, Tina, to plan a surprise baby shower for Elisabeth. At that time, Elisabeth’s and Tina’s mother lived in a skilled nursing facility near Jamestown. The facility’s director generously let us hold Elisabeth’s shower in an activity room at the facility. I was in charge of food and drinks while Tina worked on the invitations. I was specifically told that I could not spike the punch or serve Spam-based appetizers. Once all the ladies arrived, I was invited to leave and let the party begin.
For about the only time in our marriage, I was able to completely surprise Elisabeth. The baby shower was a smashing success even though it lacked any Spam appetizers. We now had enough baby stuff to outfit the Duggar kids. The baby shower took place only days before we left for Kemerovo.
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