We are Rafael and Christy Diaz. Sofia (age 3) and Aleksandar (age 2) joined our family in July 2016 from Bulgaria!
We met Sonja and Lydia at an event hosted by our church. We then met with Nicole a few days later to gather more information and explore the details of each country’s program. When we met with Nicole, we were initially researching adoption from Latin America. Due to country requirements, including length of marriage to begin the process (we were only married a year and a half when we submitted our application) and the length of the required in-country stays, we started looking into other programs. Bulgaria’s process is very stable and predictable. Once we learned about the children in need of families, particularly those of Roma descent, we immediately fell in love.
MLJ is very organized, and we appreciated their assistance in walking us step-by-step through the process—from home study to filing the required post placement reports.
The events hosted by MLJ were another factor in our decision to choose the agency. We enjoy meeting other families who have adopted, and many of these families are now good friends of ours.
Bulgaria requires two trips for the adoption process. We loved spending the first trip meeting our children. There was also time for us to take pictures of the children’s home city, which are now printed on canvases and hung in their rooms, and also to take a walking tour of the country’s capital. We appreciated the time we had on our first trip to learn more about our children’s birth country.
The VESTA staff is amazing and very accommodating. After our international adoption doctor reviewed the children’s files, he recommended requesting videos and a couple of additional tests. The VESTA staff went out of their way to work with the social workers to ensure the tests were completed and also took videos of our children meeting each other for the first time since their placement. We very much appreciated the staff taking the pictures and videos of the visit, and know that, in the future, Sofia and Aleksandar will cherish these memories.
During our second trip, one of our children became ill, and we called the in-country staff very early in the morning. They arranged to take us to a medical clinic the very next morning. Additionally, they made sure we knew what appointments would be taking place each day, and also helped us find activities once the appointments were finished, including driving us to the zoo.
Our children lived about six hours away from the capital city where we would spend the remainder of our second trip, and when we expressed our concern about the long drive to the Vesta staff, they mentioned there was an airport about 45 minutes from the city where the children lived. We were shocked at how calm Sofia and Aleksandar were. We had picked them up only about 2 hours prior to boarding our flight to the capital city. They loved looking out the window (and really enjoyed the snacks!).
The transformational change that has taken place since arriving home has been remarkable. When we picked up our children, Aleksandar could barely walk and didn’t know how to feed himself. In five short months, he has learned how to use a spoon and fork properly. He also chases his sister through the house and walks up 15 steps in our house with ease. He surprises us, his therapists, and teachers every day with new skills.
We have been shocked at how quickly they picked up the language! Sofia knows her ABCs, colors, and numbers. The songs and crafts are two of her favorite activities at preschool. Sofia and Aleksandar love playing at the park, and riding their scooter. They also enjoy playing with the other children in the neighborhood and recently discovered the popular neighborhood game of Hide and Seek. It has been fun to see their personalities show. Sofia is our energetic helper and Aleksandar loves making everyone laugh. Sofia does miss living within a 15 minute drive of the beach, so we’re planning a trip to a beach this summer.
We would encourage parents considering international adoption to connect with other families who have adopted internationally and if possible, from the same country. We met with a couple of families whom we connected with through the MLJ events prior to going on our first and second trip. The information gained from those conversations was invaluable. Those same families offered great encouragement during our second trip by communicating with us while we were in Bulgaria. Now that we are home, these families are a significant part of our support system.