Saturday, August 13, 2011

Colo. couples await breakthrough on adoptions from Kyrgyzstan

Pam and Matt Bean keep a door shut on a room filled with baby clothes, baby shower gifts and a crib. It has been sitting unused in their Delta home since the winter of 2008, when they prepared it for the arrival of an adopted infant daughter.

That daughter, Takhmina, is now 3½, and the Delta couple continues to wait while two governments fail to come to terms on a process for adoptions. Instability in the government of Kyrgyzstan and a lack of action on the part of the U.S. State Department have held up adoptions for years, affecting the Beans as well as two other couples in Colorado and 62 around the country.

Their plight has received a hopeful jolt of attention with a letter from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bennet urges her to speed up negotiations with Kyrgyzstan to end the limbo that has forced children to grow up in orphanages while their prospective parents wait.

"We have been riding this roller coaster for so long. I think now we have a guarded hope," Pam Bean said.

Bennet's letter to Clinton stated that two orphans have died in Kyrgyz institutions while adoptions have been delayed. Other orphans have been suffering from a lack of funding and overcrowding.

He urged Clinton to send an emergency delegation to the Central Asian country that has been mired in civil unrest, assassinations and ethnic clashes.

The adoption process went off track in the fall of 2008 when the Kyrgyz government halted adoptions in response to allegations of corruption and illegal processing. Two Kyrgyz adoption coordinators were arrested.

New adoption regulations were passed in the Kyrgyzstan Parliament and signed into law in May, but the law came with a three-month delay before it would go into effect. The new law also did not address the issue of the pending adoptions.

The matter has taken on new urgency because an election is set for October in Kyrgyzstan. There is a chance the current government could be ousted and the new adoption process derailed.

The State Department issued an alert in early June saying the department is "reaching out" to the Kyrgyzstan government to move ahead with the adoptions "but at this time it is not possible for new intercountry adoption cases to move forward."

"What we don't have now is urgency on the part of the State Department," said Kelly Ensslin, an attorney representing 33 of the families with delayed adoptions.

While they wait, the Beans send vitamins and birthday presents to Takhmina. They have occasionally been able to communicate with her on Skype satellite calls.

In Longmont, Brian and Shelley Nelson and their two children wait for their "son" and "brother" Nikolai, who was scheduled to come to them when he was 10 months old. He turned 4 in May.
They have no plans to give up on Nikolai.

"It would be really hard to walk away from a child we've been connected to for so long," Shelley Nelson said.

Steve and Teresa Affleck of Fort Collins say the same about Jasmine, the orphan they were matched with and met when she was 9 months old. They left a pink blanket with her and a promise to come back to bring her home soon. She is 3 now.

Nancy Lofholm: 970-256-1957 or

Read more: Colo. couples await breakthrough on adoptions from Kyrgyzstan - The Denver Post

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bring the Kyrgyz 65 Children Home: An International Adoption Nightmare

Huffington Post article by Tom Roston

Hey, Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State. . . mother of one. . . person with a beating heart), are you listening?

Tonight, there's a 3-and-a-half-year-old toddler who will sleep without the love, protection and goodnight kisses of his parents. His name is Ruslan, and he has been living in an orphanage in his native Kyrgyzstan since he was three days old, despite the tireless efforts of his adoptive parents, Frances and Drew Pardus-Abbadessa to bring him home to New York City.
The couple first held Ruslan when he was seven months old in 2008, and were approved for his adoption, but because of a Kafkaesque process that has been painfully drawn out, the couple continues to fight to be united with Ruslan.

And the long passage of days to months to years has been especially difficult for the Pardus-Abbadessas, because Ruslan is visibly suffering; he's been diagnosed with a "failure to thrive" physically and mentally; in the past year, he hasn't grown at all. And when Ruslan turns 4, he will be transferred to an older orphanage which could make him vulnerable to abuse from older kids.

And this is just one of many families stuck in a confounding nightmare -- there are five dozen others in the same situation, having all been approved to adopt Kyrgyz orphans, but unable to. The families have united to fight for their children, dubbed the Kyrgyz 65, and even though their hopes have been revived and dashed numerous times, they now finally feel that their struggle could soon be coming to a happy end. But not without a last, strong push that will call for a coordinated effort from both the U.S. State Department and the Kyrgyzstan government.

The chronology of events that has led up to this point is maddeningly Byzantine, but the main cause has been fits, detours, stops and starts within Kyrgyzstan policy and a seeming lack of priority from the US State Department. The country, which used to be part of the Soviet Union and borders China, is struggling, recently resorting to the sacrifice of seven sheep to clear its parliament of evil spirits in April. The government had put a one-year moratorium on adoptions soon after many of the American families had been approved. Kyrgyzstan has quite appropriately been concerned that its children do not fall victim to trafficking or other forms of abuse. But since the official lift of the ban, there's been little movement, and while policy has been reviewed, the government has gone through cycles of power transfer, which has caused further delays.

But, according to the American families, all of the proposed reviews have been completed; even the original birth families have been double checked for approval, and yet, still, Kyrgyzstan declines to let the children go.

Tragically, two of the children have died during the delays due to lack of the proper medical attention. Already, some of the American families are tending to the ailments of their Kyrgyzstan children -- about half of whom have serious medical conditions, but these kids are clearly at risk.

"We have great admiration for the parents for their courage and their resilience for remaining so true to these children for so long," says Ambassador Susan Jacobs, the Special Advisor for Children's Issues.

A State Department official also tells me that Ambassador Jacobs and U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen have "repeatedly" tried to get the matter resolved "as quickly as possible." They most recently met with officials from Kyrgyzstan, including the Foreign Minister on June 10th. Both sides hope to finalize a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that is needed to permit the pending adoptions to be completed. "We're doing everything we can to unite these children with their adoptive parents in the United States," says Ambassador Jacobs.

That sounds great; there have been indications that Secretary of State Clinton has been giving attention to the issue, but words and intentions are what the families have been hearing for years. What counts is getting things done. Discussions on the MOU began two years ago with work on the MOU going on for nearly a year.

But, still, Pardus-Abbadessa is not willing to cast blame. She doesn't even want to target Kyrgyz officials. Although she will say that there's a "lack of political will on their side," what is most slowing things down is mistrust: the Kyrgyz are truly perplexed that American families want these ailing children so badly.

Specifically, what the American parents want is to get that memorandum of understanding completed, and for U.S. representatives to go to Kyrgyzstan to hold negotiations similar to those recently completed in Russia before August, when the government slows down.

The State Department official tells me that a delegation, including Ambassador Susan Jacobs, plans to visit Kyrgyzstan in the fall. This is important, because the current Kyrgyz government will go through elections this fall and another transition of power at the beginning of next year, when everything may move back two spaces -- yet again. "We are committed to finding a path agreeable to the Kyrgyz to move forward on these cases," the State Department official says.

As a parent myself, it's impossible to fully understand what these families have been going through. Pardus-Abbadessa and her husband had hoped to adopt an infant, but now he is a toddler. At Ruslan's third birthday, she was disturbed at how quiet and reserved the children behaved. What every parent wants is to see their children thrive and feel joy. So, during several visits spanning more than two years, they have brought him gifts and books and vitamins, but it's all piecemeal.

"You feel powerless," Pardus-Abbadessa says. "This has been an emotional roller coaster. It's been absolutely horrible. Now we are the most hopeful, but we still don't know."
She clearly respects Kyrgyzstan's desire to reform its adoption process, but it is just common sense to let the Kyrgyz 65 go to their families immediately. As we can see with our own government's torn and conflicting agenda: where there's a will, there's a way.

To be powerless as a parent, being unable to care for one's suffering children, is perhaps the greatest cruelty a mother or father could endure, I'd think. For now, the Pardus-Abbadessas do what they can. Drew just recently returned from Washington D.C., where he and other Kyrgyz 65 families were meeting with members of Congress.

And yet, every night, the Pardus-Abbadessas know that Ruslan sleeps with a laminated photograph of himself and them together, under his pillow. Is that fact equally on the minds of the people with the power to get things done? How much longer must he cling to this laminated substitute for loving parents?

If that doesn't move governments to action, what will?

For more information, go to the Kyrgyz 65 website ( )
or their Facebook page ( ).

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