After nearly 12 months of anxiously planning, preparing documents, and waiting for our daughter, we heard a simple statement yesterday that put huge smiles on our faces --- “your petition (to adopt) is approved”. As our translator communicated each word from the judge, we waited for the final positive statement to be said. When it finally came, I am sure we were all three grinning from ear to ear. There were many hugs as we left the judge’s office. Yes – court was held in the judge’s office as there are not very many courtrooms in Gorlovka! The only downside was the phone which rang continuously. She just picked up and put down the receiver each time without even looking!
The whole process took about an hour, with the court consisting of our judge (who was feeling better but not great), the prosecutor (who asked most of the questions), the court reporter (who hand wrote all of her notes), and two witnesses. The witnesses were citizens who were called in to hear the proceedings. They didn’t get a vote, but they could ask questions. Neither did. On our side, we had Helen, the psychologist from the orphanage. She testified that Snezhana had turned down many families before us because she did not feel a bond with them. In contrast, she feels that Snezhana has developed a strong bond with us. After each visit, Snezhana met with Helen and told her how much she wants to be part of our family and live with us in Colorado. In addition, one of the city officials, Oksana, testified that we met all of the Gorlovka city requirements for adoption. She was present during our first meeting with Snezhana and she was impressed with how prepared we were. We had written a letter to Snezhana, telling her about us and asking her questions about her favorite things. She felt that we would be supportive of Snezhana and would put her needs first.
The prosecutor then asked us each some questions. She wanted to know why we chose to adopt and specifically why we chose Ukraine. Matt told her about Ukraine Orphan Outreach and our experiences with the children who visited the U.S. during the summer camps. She asked why we wanted to adopt a child who was so old, and I told her that both of us had lots of experience working with children of that age and that we would enjoy seeing her develop into an adult. They asked about our home only briefly. We had brought lots of pictures, but when we offered to show them, we got a resounding – “Nyet!” I guess nothing was going to slow down the proceedings. They did ask about schools – would there be accommodations for her. Matt told them about the special programs in our schools for children who don’t speak English. The judge was surprised, and pleased. They asked Snezhana if she wanted to be adopted by us, and she said yes. They asked her about her family, specifically her grandfather, who telephones her sometimes at the orphanage. She said that he was old and sick and couldn’t care for her. They asked her if she did well in school and she said “Da! I am a good student!”
When it was all over, a tremendous sense of relief came over us. There is still a 10-day waiting period (actually more like 14 days due to the Ukrainian holidays). And there are still paperwork issues that may arise. But, we enjoyed a wonderful celebration with Snezhana and her friends at the orphanage last night, and we are so happy to finally be able to share details and pictures with everyone about our new daughter.
Her name is Snezhana Kristen Hooker. We love the name Snezhana and were so glad she didn’t want to change it. It translates to Snow Princess or Snowflake, and her grandmother was the one who gave her the name because she came home from the hospital during a blizzard (her birthday is in March). She chose her middle name from a list of about six that we came up with (with some of your help!). We hope she will continue to use Snezhana, but if she chooses not to then Kristen is not a bad choice. She is 13 years old and a talented artist. She likes to draw and do all sorts of crafts. Her favorite subject is history, and she has travelled to Italy three times for a hosting program. She still speaks a good bit of Italian, and the experience definitely opened her eyes to new foods, etc. She seems to love to travel and looks forward to seeing many states in the US very soon. Her favorite books and movies are adventure stories and she loves Peter Pan especially. Her favorite color is yellow and she is a thumb- and arm-wrestling champion.
We are heading home (provided we can get through the winter storms in Germany) and hope to be back in Ukraine in early January to finish the process. We cannot wait!!! Thank to you to everyone at home who has helped and encouraged us along the way, especially to those at work who have made it possible for us to be here much longer than we originally thought so that we can finally write today’s blog entry as new parents!
|Hooker family is all smiles after court!|
|Snezhana gets a hug of congratulations from the orphanage's psychologist.|
|A toast to Snezhana from her group at the orphanage.|
|A big smile from Snezhana Kristen Hooker!|