17 January, 2007
Today was a trying day to say the least.... We met all the parties involved with our hearing at the Justice Center and started the process at 9am local time...
This is where everything got interesting. The Judge (as we had mentioned before) has never worked a foreign adoption before...and for that matter....neither has anyone else in this small Ukrainian town...Because of this the judge was going to videotape the entire process...By the time we sat down and started the process he had decided just to tape the hearing.
We had talked to our friends we met from Dallas, Tx. and their hearing lasted an entire 15 minutes....We were told to expect more because of the local fear factor and their "Want" to ensure everything is done properly and according to Ukrainian Law.
Our hearing consisted of the Judge, a two person jury (they sit on either side of the judge) The judges secretary, the court reporter, the prosecutor, a representative of the City Government (Irena), The Director of the Orphanage and then on the other side of the court...Deanna, Olga (our translator), Nadia, Peter and I. We had to go through introductions of everyone in the court except the two jurors for the official record. The judge asked the children if they understood what was happening and if they wanted to be adopted by us, they both said "Da" or "Yes"!!!!! The children were excused and then the judge went though every document in our dossier and read them for the record aloud. At one point during the hearing, each party was asked if they thought this adoption was a good thing for the children. When it was her turn the Orphanage Director went on and on about how she was concerned for the children and wanted to make sure they were happy. At one point she even asked the court to REQUIRE us to bring the kids back in one year so she could see for herself that they were happy. Thankfully the judge said by law he cannot obligate us to do so. (We did agree to send a video of the children to the director at a later time).
After two hours (of pure torture) ...the judge announced that he would reconvene this hearing at 2pm to announce his decision and award the final decree....YEAH!!!!!
We took the kids over to the computer club to have their pictures taken for their passports and then let them play Ice Age for an hour on the computers... During this time Olga took our passports and went with Igor to the train station and purchased our overnight tickets back to Kiev (for our ten day waiting period). At about 1:30 Olga got a call from the Judge telling her he needed some help with something and asked her to return to the court house.
We finished playing with the kids and returned them to the orphanage, picked up the orphanage director and headed back to court to finish the process and receive our final decree which announces the children as ours.
Just before 2pm, Olga came out of the judges chambers and informed us that there was a problem and we may be delayed. We found out that the I-171H wording didn't quite fit in properly with Ukrainian Law. This is the form that allows us to bring the children back into the US after the Ukrainian adoption. In short...The form says that we can bring up to 2 children back into the US for Immigration...Then in bold letters below that...It states that this is by no means a guarantee that the children will be allowed to immigrate to the US....Very confusing!!!
It was about this time that we were informed that this "small town" was starting to talk....This talk was starting to create "problems" for both the Director of the Orphanage and Orphanage Inspector (Irena). Because of the change in the "Powers" from the NAC (National Adoption Center) which was under the Department of Education to the SDA (State Department of Adoption) which falls under the Ministry of Youth and Family. In short....The Orphanage Director reports to the Department of Education and the same person who use to be in charge of foreign adoptions...Irena reports up through the Ministry of Youth and Family....Rumors were started that these people were helping Americans "BUY" children here in Ukraine. More rumors were started because we were staying at the "Spa" which is owned by Irena's Husband Igor...and that Igor was our personal chauffer while we were in Svatove... You just have to love small towns!! We felt really bad that this was happening to Irena and Igor as they have been incredibly nice to us.
The judge and all the parties involved finally reconvened in the courtroom at about 3pm. We went through about a half hour of stuff which ended with the prosecutor recommending that this entire process be put on hold until the court can get better clarification as to the children being allowed Immigration into the US. Deanna and I plus, the City Official Irena disagreed with the prosecutor, but the Orphanage Director and the two Jurors sided with the Prosecutor. The judge announced that we would have to get clarification from the US Embassy in Kiev before proceeding and that this court would re-convene on February 1st.
At that time, Deanna lost it emotionally in court...shhhh, so did I, I just wasn't going to let these people see me breakdown...I informed Olga that I would lose my job if I extended this trip again....She stood up while Deanna let the tears flow and told the judge a whole bunch of stuff in Russian....The judge looked concerned and informed Olga to let us know that for the record the February 1st date was the official date we would have to return to court...BUT...If we were able to get the clarification back to the court, we would re-convene earlier...
After the hearing we called the US Embassy in Kiev, which informed us this wasn't that uncommon and that they would get a document ready to fax back to the Judge as soon as they received the request from the court and in-turn could have it signed by the proper authorities at the Embassy. The judge stayed late and waited around with us until 5:30 at which time we called the Embassy again and they informed us that they would not be able to get the document back to us today because there wasn't anyone available to sign the document....BUT, they would get it to us in the morning!
Since we were not leaving now....Olga went back to the train station to sell back our tickets at half price...(At least we got something for them right....).
SO...we went back to the "Spa" and decided to go to dinner and have some VODKA!!! We invited our new friends, Igor and Irena, to join us... This is the cute part...Igor calls the restaurant and tells them we will park in the back and use their special meeting room behind the kitchen to eat dinner so that none of the people in this small town would see us taking them out to dinner...WOW!
More Tomorrow in the third court hearing!
Troy and Deanna