Couple adopts baby from Siberia
If all goes as planned, two months from now one very special immigrant will be arriving in Carson Valley.
She’s small – just 15 months old, with brown hair and beautiful big brown eyes. And, she’s from a place so far from here that it’s a miracle she’s even coming.
For her future parents, Karen and Stan Baggett, adopting a child from Russia is the culmination of a long, emotional roller coaster ride that began over a year ago.
Already parents of then 2-year-old Kyle, Karen gave birth to their second child, Dustin, who was born with brain damage and died three months later.
Devastated, they sought the counsel of their doctor on the possibility of having more children. To add to their disappointment, subsequent pregnancies were not advised.
Knowing they wanted at least one more child – a sister or brother for Kyle – the Baggetts began to investigate the world of adoption, contacting several adoption agencies.
“In Nevada there are only three main agencies: Catholic Services, the Nevada Department of Social Services and New Hope,” Karen explained.
“We wanted to try for a baby, but were told in so many words that a pregnant mother would probably never pick us because we already had a child. There is a fear that the adopted child won’t be loved as much as the couple’s own child.”
She said the next option would be to try for a toddler, but the waiting list was at least four years in most cases.
“Then, someone asked us if we’d thought about adopting an international child, but we said no to that right away,” Karen said, citing too many complications, too many hurdles.
“But a while later,” she said, “we were watching some world games on television, and I remember looking at the Russian women in a whole new light.”
Many of the Slavic countries like Romania and the Ukraine have a moratorium on adoptions, Karen said. But Russia did not, so the Baggetts began to call all over the United States to see about the possibility of adopting a baby from Russia.
In August, 1996 they found a one-woman agency in San Francisco that satisfied their needs. In February, Victoria Shusterova from the Russian Adoption Facilitation Service had found a match and sent a photograph.
The baby, Inna Likhanova, born Feb. 3, 1996, was in an orphanage in Teumen, Siberia. The photograph shows her sitting in a high chair looking bright and alert. Brown hair, brown eyes and a beautiful face.
Her birth mother, the paper work said, was a young single girl who had turned the baby over to her own parents shortly after the birth. Unfortunately, the parents had found it more than they could manage, so they turned their granddaughter over to an orphanage, a “baby house” in Teumen.
The Moscow Human Rights Research Center estimates there are 1 million homeless children in Russia. Unemployment, poverty and alcoholism are all contributors to the plight of these children, according to a report by the Associated Press. Moscow, a city of 10 million has a mere fifteen shelters to serve young people. Each shelter is already full to capacity.
For the Baggetts and perhaps for Inna, too, finding each other will be the answer to filling a large hole in all their lives.
Before they unite as a family, there have been mountains of paper work, regulations, requirements and a marathon of hurdles to jump.
For one, a home study was needed, which necessitated contacting Social Services again. Having never done a Russian adoption before, one of the first things the Nevada office requested was fingerprints of the Baggetts. This was to go to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who would be handling the baby’s entry into the United States.
The first set of fingerprints was sent in October and the Baggetts were told to wait 160 days before proceeding. A bureaucratic snafu occurred, however, causing the prints to seem to vanish. After the allotted 160 days, Karen called the Federal Bureau of Investigation to see where their fingerprints were. They were nowhere to be found.
“We were frustrated,” she said. “INS wouldn’t let us submit another set of prints, and we didn’t know what to do.” Even when we were finally allowed to send the second set of prints, they never arrived, she said.
What they finally did was to call the office of newly-elected U.S. Congressman Jim Gibbons.
With the help of Gibbons office, a third set of fingerprints was made and sent by Federal Express, and the INS approved the immigration.
“We are truly grateful to Congressman Gibbon’s office,” she said. “We were so stuck without the fingerprints getting through and they really helped.”
After the fingerprinting, the Baggetts were required to provide the adoption agent with passport copies, medical statements as to their physical health, employment verification statements, power of attorney, photographs of their home and family, birth certificates, a statement from local police that neither parent has a criminal record, a copy of their marriage certificate, and many more documents, not to mention cash up front. Most of these papers also had to be translated into Russian.
There is one more complication. Russia is reluctant to let go of her children, especially the healthy ones. As a result, many of the children being offered for emigration have health problems. Potential parents must weigh the consequences of each individual child and his or her alleged physical shortcomings.
For Karen, who has worked for the last 17 years as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse, she felt confident she could read between the lines on infant medical reports.
“We looked at the baby’s report, and while she does have some problems like hypotonia, which means poor muscle tone, she also seems to be on schedule developmentally. She just started to walk,” Karen said excitedly.
For now, the Baggetts wait with packed suitcases and passports ready. The phone call that will forever change their lives can come any time.
Though they have never been to Russia, both parents are required to fly there when the call comes. Kyle will stay home in Gardnerville and get the toys ready for his new sister.
Once in Russia, Karen and Stanwill be living with a host family and will have a driver assigned to them as they jump over the final hurdles involving court appearances in Teumen and dealing with the government requirements in Inna’s home country.
When the three of them board the plane in Russia for their journey home, the rest of the adventure – cementing a new family together – will begin.
Inna will become Nicole Inna Baggett, and Kyle will become big brother.
Perhaps Karen will attempt to say “pie dome” (we’re going home) in Russian, or Stan will try “pryee-stylig NYEE-tyee” (fasten your seatbelt).
Surely both will want to say “NAH-shuh-DOH-cheen-kuh.” Our daughter.