November is National Adoption Month. USCIS determines the eligibility and suitability of prospective parents for intercountry adoptions, and the eligibility of the children to immigrate to the United States. Two years ago, Sam and Danae Lloyd of Wasilla, Alaska, adopted four brothers, ages 6 to 9, who were living together in foster care in Hungary. The childless couple lived with the boys in Budapest for almost two months while Hungarian social workers assessed their parenting skills. Today the family of six goes hiking and hunting and even takes karate lessons together. Sam, who overhauls aircraft propellers for a living, recently started building an indoor climbing wall for the children. Here he describes how he and his wife went from “zero to double bunk beds.”
From the time my wife and I got married in 2006, we discussed adoption and the desire to provide a loving and nurturing home for children who were without one. Over the years, we worked on finding the direction and goals for our life regarding where we wanted to live, what career paths we were going to pursue, and which church family we could permanently join. Our desire to adopt grew stronger and we began taking classes and doing the paperwork that would start the process.
The closer we came to being able to adopt, the more we needed to decide which country to adopt from. There are hundreds of programs to choose from, and millions of kids who need homes. Our hearts were pulled the most strongly by the thought of siblings being separated from each other, or not being able to find a home at all. Finally, after deciding on an international adoption and choosing the country and agency we wanted to work with, we had set our sights on adopting a sibling group of three or more.
We chose Hungary. I remembered very little about the country from my grade school days, but over the year and a half it took for us to get our house ready, finish the home study, and complete what felt like reams of paperwork, we developed an appreciation for the country and culture. I would listen to Hungarian language CDs on my way to work, and my wife would research foods and traditions.
On more than a few late nights, we worked our way through the paperwork, hoping and praying that people we never met would do their part, in the form of signatures, approvals, seals, etc. We also worried about the number of expensive documents entrusted to the mail. My family and our support group at church were very encouraging throughout the process.
Finally, we found ourselves in a hotel in Kecskemét, Hungary. We finished up our continental breakfast and anticipated a short drive to meet four boys who had grown up on the other side of the world from us and knew a different language from us. We hoped they would learn to call us Apa and Anya (Dad and Mom).
It is amazing how well we were able to communicate. There were a few times when our attempts to use Hungarian led to very confused response. The boys started to learn English. It’s hard to know what to say when your 7-year-old is marching through the metro in Budapest yelling his ABCs at the top of his lungs. And we grew to love their country, with its colorful festivals, castles and gardens. Every weekday, we introduced them to the concept of home-schooling, followed by exploring the city. The boys were adopted Sept. 29, 2012, and almost two exciting and educational months later, we left Hungary for our home in Alaska.
In retrospect, our big house in Alaska was quite a change in their climate, culture and expectations. Erno, 11, Daniel, 10, Gabor, 9, and Krizstian, 8, have adapted incredibly well, and we are thankful for them every day – though some days are more trying than others. We have decided to home-school. It’s a lot of work – a bit more than we bargained for – but the fact that we have them at home in a controlled and healthy environment has helped them grow and mature incredibly. All four boys are kind and helpful, and learning that life is about being respectful and wise, rather than getting “more stuff” or getting out of chores. They build friendships with other kids and adults through our church, and are, of course, full of energy. I don’t think that adopting is for everyone, or that everyone should go from having a box turtle and a cat to having four boys all at once, but we have no regrets.
And, besides, the boys now take care of the turtle and the cat.