Where do I begin with our court day? It has seemed unending actually. Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in the USA) we were picked up from our hotel by E, our coordinator and her driver. E was calm and so that helped to soothe our nerves. She explained the procedures and reassured us that the judge was really for us even though she may not act like it. Her job is to make sure that we have all the legal credentials and will be good parents to Joshua. Our coordinator, E, could not be in the courtroom with us translating because she is seen as a biased source and may translate in our favor. We met our translator, Irina, who was awesome to work with. She gave us a few tips on courtroom behavior. For example, we needed to stand whenever we were addressing the judge and to smile and not be too nervous.
In the courtroom there were 8 people: the judge, the court reporter, the prosecuting attorney, the orphanage director, the social worker director, Irina (our translator), and Todd and I. It was all very official and austere. When the judge walked in we all stood and then sat when she sat down. She asked us some vital statistics questions then had Todd give his speech. Todd had written this speech and had rehearsed it many times. He did great and I was very proud of him. He’s a good manJ. The judge then started asking him questions. Then it was my turn and she asked me just a few questions. She seemed to be satisfied with our answers.
Then it was the orphanage director’s turn to talk. Natalya is an amazing woman. Her orphanage is possibly one of the best run in St. Petersburg. She has been working with the University of Pittsburgh, teaching the caregivers and nurses how to help the children thrive. She said that her orphanage has much experience with children with disabilities especially Down syndrome. She said that the orphanage staff all loved Joshua and that he would do very well in a family. (The main problem is that when the children turn 5 years old they have to be transferred to an older child orphanage or a mental institution.) Joshua could not stay the orphanage and we were his chance to have a family. It was very touching.
The social worker/director then talked about his mother. His father has never been in the picture. This was probably the most emotional part for me. He had a grandmother who used to inquire about him but she passed away. His mother gave him up at 1 month of age and after a couple of visits in those first months – abandoned him completely. He had no one. She also mentioned that no one had ever ever inquired about him to adopt him until we came along. Break my heart! He was truly fatherless and abandoned with no family to call his own.
After the social worker/director talked it was the prosecuting attorney’s turn. She was the one who’s job it was to protect Joshua’s best interest. After listening to the above speeches, she said that she had no questions for us because she knew this was his one chance at getting a family. His one chance. Tears.
As it was winding down the judge read out loud the title of every document of our entire dossier. Every last document that we have worked on since last September when we started this……..that felt good. Kind of an affirmation of all the work we have done. Then it was time for the judge to make her decision. She walked into a room and shut the door and then returned about 30 seconds later and said she had decided that granted us permission to adopt Joshua. Major relief. Court was adjourned!!
So this all happened before lunch!! I will have to do another post about our extra visit to visit Joshua in the afternoon!!!