Volume 124, Number
Adopted children adapt quickly to life in the USA
BY CONNIE KRAPP Northern Plains Electric Co-op
Like any five-year-old, Jacob Arnold looks forward to his birthday every year. But his parents look back on two of them as milestones — days they’ll never forget.
Jacob was living in a Russian orphanage in Khabarovsk (in the far east corner of Russia, not far from the Chinese border) when he was about to turn two. So far in his young life, he had not been chosen by a Russian couple and therefore was eligible for adoption by someone outside his country’s borders. Like the 350 other children in his orphanage, Jacob lived with 15 children to a room and viewed orphanage caregivers as his family.
But that arrangement wasn’t going to last long, for Lynn and Robin Arnold were en route to Russia. Traveling around the world from Esmond, the Arnolds flew to the city of 600,000 on the Amur River with one mission: to adopt the beautiful, blond-haired little boy they’d met through a St. Paul, Minn. agency.
The Arnolds knew from the day they were married they wouldn’t become birth parents. But having children was a top priority for the couple, so, soon after they were married, they began researching adoption agencies. Once they discovered the timeline of US agencies, they began considering other options. "In the United States, the birth parents choose you," Robin says. "And so you can wait for years before you finally have a child."
The Arnolds learned that Russian agencies used a different adoption process. "You register on the International Adoption Registry and once you get all the paperwork completed, you are assigned a worker who handles your case," Robin says. "Four months after we were assigned a worker, we received Jacob’s information."
Though they did not receive much information regarding Jacob’s background or birth family, the Arnolds had all the information they needed to pursue the adoption. Six weeks later, the Arnolds, working through their US agency, had reserved a court date. "When they are ready for you, they don’t give you much notice," Robin says. "They don’t tell you your court date until two or three weeks before."
Russian adoption agencies require that prospective parents visit Russia twice during the adoption process — first to meet and accept the child, and then to complete the adoption. The Arnolds were in Russia three days during their first trip. They spent the time visiting the orphanage and acclimating to the country. They were grateful that many Russians know at least some English.
"We had a hard time communicating, especially in restaurants," Robin says. "But there always seemed to be a waiter that knew some English and we figured out after a couple times what to order."
She noted that people were generally friendly and nice, and the people working at the orphanage wanted to make sure the Arnolds were comfortable and safe.
Robin says, nonetheless, it was scary at first to go halfway around the world to such a foreign place. "The most unsettling time was when, upstream in China, a tire factory blew up. Benzine got in the water and they had to shut off water to the entire city," she says.
"Bottled water became scarce and it was scary to think you were in a situation like that."
The hotel where the Arnolds stayed, however, had secured a plentiful supply of bottled water, so the Arnolds — and other American families pursuing adoptions who were also staying at the same hotel — got through the ordeal unscathed. "We became a tight-knit group," Robin says of all the American families pursuing adoptions. "And we still keep in touch with people we met there."
Robin stayed in Russia five-and-a-half weeks during the second trip to the orphanage. Lynn, who had to attend to the couple’s grain and cattle farm, had to leave after two weeks. But by the time he did, the Arnolds had survived a grueling court date in which they communicated with a judge and social workers through an interpreter.
"It was nerve-racking. When you answer their questions, you have to rely on an interpreter, but you have a shadow of doubt, wondering if you are coming across the way you want to," Robin says.
Apparently, the Arnolds came across as the loving, stable people they are, and the moment they’d been waiting for finally arrived.
"We heard Jacob running down the hall, and when he got into the room where we were, he just stopped and stared at us," Robin says. "He must have remembered us, because it seemed like he just knew that we were his mom and dad."
He’s been a "daddy’s boy" ever since. Robin says from the first day they took him home, Jacob has loved the farm and going with Lynn to work outside. Both parents are delighted that Jacob learned English in a couple months and has developed normally into a well-adjusted, bright-eyed boy.
Jacob and his family received a precious gift on his fourth birthday. It was the day that his parents brought him a special playmate — his little sister, Andrea. The Arnolds adopted the petite little girl from the same orphanage, repeating the same adoption process they went through two years earlier.
"Jacob turned two while we were in Russia waiting to complete his adoption," says Lynn. "And then, on his fourth birthday, we actually brought Andrea home."
The Arnolds say that day was unforgettable. "We’d left Jacob with my parents, and Grandma Cheryl prayed every day with him while we were gone," Lynn says. "He knew we’d been flying, and the first thing he said when we got back was, ‘Did you see Jesus in the clouds?’ "
This article was originally published in the North Dakota Living magazine’s November 2007 issue. It is reprinted courtesy of North Dakota Living and Northern Plains Electric Co-operative.
The Arnold family of Esmond is pictured. Lynn and Robin are holding the children they adopted from Russia. On the left holding the flag of Russia is Jacob Arnold. On the right is the newest addition to the family, Andrea Arnold. The children learned English within two months of arriving.
Andrea Arnold plays with a Russian toy as her mother, Robin, looks on.
Andrea and Jacob Arnold are brother and sister in every sense of the words, but they are not related by blood. "They have sibling rivalries just like any other children," says their father, Lynn Arnold.
The Christmas season is here
The Christmas season has arrived with festive lights gracing homes in the area. This photo shows part of the display at the home of Aaron and Trish McQuoid in Minnewaukan. The home, a block south of the grocery store, has sheltered many families. Lena Pederson probably lived there longest.