Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
As Katja was playing with her new friend as we packed our camping gear, these words echoed throughout the island “Mummy, am I adopted by you?” We stopped in our tracks as our jaws dropped; there was an uncomfortable silence which seemed to last an eternity as Cathy and I looked at each other stunned at what we had just heard. A wave of emotions hit us like a speeding train as we quickly thought of an answer. This was certainly not the time or the place in which to have this conversation. We simply answered “let’s talk about it when we get home”.
Many, many years ago, we talked about adopting, it was something we were both very keen to do. We never really talked about it in further detail for many years. Our lives were busy with work, building a career and then moving to live in Spain. By one of those weird twists of fate, we found ourselves living in Bulgaria in 2007 and no children. During our time we had been involved with several charities helping children in several capacities. I brought up the subject of adopting in 2010 (some 18 years after our initial conversation). I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday.
We were living in Sofia, Bulgaria. Cathy e-mailed several “agencies” she found on the net, none ever got back to us. She then contacted a lawyer who specialised in adoptions. As we were EU citizens living in Bulgaria we were entitled to the same rights of adoption as locals. We had to fill in several forms and provide endless amounts of paperwork which had to be legalised and approved in the UK. Cathy’s parents were brilliant in assisting us with this side of things. Nothing was too much and quite frankly, without their help it would have been near on impossible to get everything together while living so far away. Whilst the gestation period for new parents to be is watching mummy’s tummy grow and several trips to Dr’s etc, etc, for an adoptive parent it is made up of numerous meetings with lawyers, paperwork and countless entities involved in the process (for us, the length of time was about the same). I must admit, our lawyer was excellent and again, without her professional guidance and direction, the process would have been impossible. The final part of the process was to have a number of meetings with Social Services (two in their office and one at our home). Some nine months after starting the process we had been accepted as adoptive parents!!! Our criteria was pretty simple, we would like a little girl, no older than 12 months old and healthy.
Let the Search begin!
Once you are accepted as an adoptive parent in Bulgaria, your name is released to orphanages in the areas you are interested. We had opened it to the entire country, this meant that our file would be matched to children in any part of Bulgaria. not long after our file being released we had a call from our lawyer to inform us there was a children’s home in Varna (450 km from Sofia) where there was a child matching our criteria and the director would like to meet us to introduce us to the child. Our lawyer agreed to come with us and act as translator for us. We agreed to meet at 05:00 am near her office. The run up to the trip had been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster but the morning had arrived. We were parked around the corner from her office as agreed, she was running late. As we were parked, the tranquil dawn-break was abruptly interrupted by a very loud bang that our car rocked, this was followed by the sound of a few car alarms going off. Our lawyer arrived (also baffled by all this) and we were off on our trip to Varna. We later heard on the radio there had been an explosion at a newspaper’s office near were we were parked, no other damage apart from material damage had been caused). We arrived in Varna several hours later and met up with a representative of Social Services who then came with us to the home. There we were introduced to a little girl called Anna. She was cute but she had some health issues which we couldn’t ignore. This had to be one of the most difficult and heart-breaking decisions we had to make, do we say yes or no? After lengthy discussions we decided to say no. We know our limitations and in order to be able to give the best care, we need to make sure we are acting within what we are capable of; remember, we live a long way away from family, so in effect, even though we are surrounded by amazing friends, we are on our own. Several weeks later, we heard on the news that this home had suffered a major fire which if I remember correctly, it started in the heating system. I put a proposal together to a group I belong to and Cathy did the same with her school. The proposal was to replace toys and clothes which had been damaged. Fortunately, no child or member of staff had been injured. People were amazing and in no time we managed to fill up a large mini-bus full of things for them.