Thursday, April 22, 2010

Texas Family Waits

Local couple waits as foreign government investigates adoption processes
By Kathleen Thurber
Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, September 20, 2009 11:58 PM CDT

After glancing down at her wristwatch to determine the date, Karla Kahler looked up and smiled slightly as she turned her head toward her husband Mike.

On the 21st — Monday — the boy they’re waiting to adopt from Kyrgyzstan will be 18-months-old.

He’s now about twice the age he was when they expected to bring him from the orphanage where he lives to their Greenwood home. Much older than they thought he would be when they introduced him to their three biological children who only know they must keep waiting to meet the boy they’ll call their brother.

“In our heart he’s ours but legally he’s not ours,” Karla Kahler said.

The Kahlers are one of at least 65 U.S. families continuing to wait for their adoptions to be finalized after the government in Kyrgyzstan stopped processing international adoptions in early 2009.

The U.S. State Department first alerted Americans to be wary of applying for adoptions in Kyrgyzstan in November of 2008, just weeks after the Kahlers were supposed to have their court date that would’ve allowed them to bring the boy to their home in December. They plan to name him Asa.

The review of adoption procedures by Kyrgyz government officials is meant to ensure the system is free of the rumored corruption Asian news agencies reported on earlier this year. It’s a review process, according to Jackie Semar, CEO and Director of International Child Foundation, Inc. — which processed about four of the pending adoptions — that is encouraged and not at all unusual.

But, she said, the difference in this country’s move has been the suspensions placed on families who’d already filed paperwork, passed standards and met the child they planned to bring into their homes.

For the Kahlers and others the process also is understandable, they said, but frustrating as they try to continue their daily routines.

“We want the Kyrgyzstan government to have the best adoption system in the world but not at the expense of 65 children who have homes,” Karla Kahler said.

Stepping in Faith

The Kahlers, who’ve lived in Midland County about nine years, said they’ve known they would adopt since they were married 12 years ago.

“Adoption is a perfect picture of the Gospel,” Mike Kahler said, explaining just as they’ve been adopted into God’s family so too God calls his children to take in others.

And though the couple said not everyone’s response to God’s directions needs to include adoption, for them they’ve always thought it would.

So after having three children of their own — Bethany, 10; Josiah, 5; and Judah, 2 — they started researching.

The two said they were drawn to the former Soviet countries and while they’d never heard of it before, eventually agreed on Kyrgyzstan. The international adoption program there was relatively new and typically could be completed within a year. In places like China the process can take closer to five years.

“That was one of the attractive things, that we could finish it rather quickly,” Karla Kahler said.

After completing a home study and other steps, the Kahlers traveled to Kyrgyzstan, which is located between Kazakhstan and China, in August of 2008 to finish paperwork and be matched with a child. After returning home, they were told the Ministry of Education, who must provide final approval, had shut down and would not re-open until late September.

When Christmas had passed without the re-opening of the ministry, the Kahlers returned to the country in January to see the boy they’d been paired with.

They were among the last allowed to see the child with whom they’d been matched before visitations were stopped altogether.

“From our perspective this makes absolutely no sense,” Mike Kahler said. “We have to trust in the character and the goodness of God. Whatever happens in this situation he is directing it and we trust him.”

The Waiting Game

In February, the U.S. State Department formally advised citizens not to consider adopting in Kyrgyzstan as Kyrgyz officials had formed an adoption commission to draft new policy and legislation and, for the moment, ceased international adoptions. Once new policies are approved by Parliament and the Kyrgyz president, it will take at least three months to implement the new rules, according to U.S. State Department officials.

Department representatives said , along with the families, it is their hope the 65 adoptions in process will be grandfathered in. But, officials said Friday, the Kyrgyzstan government still has given no indication as to when and if that will be allowed.

Several adoption agencies with families in limbo said they too are pushing for help in these situations, but prefer not to comment further on the situation.

Government officials from the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan as well as families waiting to adopt met in May in Washington, and a U.S. adoption expert also has been sent to meet with Kyrgyz officials. The Kyrgyz Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the U.S. this week, Semar said. Officials at the Kyrgyz Embassy in Washington were not available to comment on the situation or confirm the visit last week.


These steps, the Kahlers said, give them and the other families hope the process will start moving. However, after waiting for months, Semar said some families have relinquished their match to apply for adoptions in other countries.

For the Kahlers and many others, though, they say that’s not an option. Instead, Karla said, when one family struggles, the others are there to lift them up, share information they’ve learned and help them keep moving.

“This is an incredibly hard experience but we signed up for it,” Karla Kahler said. “Those children didn’t sign up to be in an orphanage.”

With adoptions halted, Semar said the government-run orphanages are becoming crowded. The children’s basic needs are being provided for, but several of the children are in need of surgeries and medical care the country may not have the resources to address.

Kids like the boy the Kahlers are waiting for, they said, are missing out on personal attention and developmental support they easily could receive and may not be able to make up for later.

U.S. Department of State officials said Kyrgyzstan, after electing a new president this summer, is set to review international adoption policies during the current session of Parliament. Whether that leads to a homecoming for the child the Kahlers have carved a place in their lives for remains to be seen.

Regardless, Mike Kahler said, they will continue to wait.

“There’s a God who’s ruling and reigning over things. None of this has caught him by surprise,” he said. “Our prayer is that this will work out in a way that brings God the most glory.”

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Kathleen Thurber can be reached at

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