In the past four days I’ve probably been asked about a hundred times, “Is it what you expected?” The thing is, when you work in adoption, you don’t go into anything with expectations. When I reported for work on my first day, I knew I was going to be doing, and I quote, “adoption-related work.” So the only expectation I had on the first day of work was to be doing something related, in some way, to adoption.
[Insert 549 page Colombian adoption manual. Entirely, 100% written en Español.]
About 15 minutes into the day, before I even learn where the bathroom is, my supervisor, Beth Whitacre (the Intercountry Adoption Caseworker) sits me down with this HUGE manual of annexes, divided into two parts, and explains that the Colombians just recently changed the law and I need to update the templates. In my head I’m thinking, “Ay dios mío, tengo que traducir toda la ley de adopción de Colombia?” Thankfully my work was kept to about 30 pages, give or take.
I was a little spooked by my very first assignment at Gladney. However, considering that on a recent Gladney Adoptee Service Trip Beth made me jump out of a tree in the middle of a jungle in Colombia more than 100 feet off the ground with no liability forms signed or paperwork filled out, and a danger sign picturing a stick figure falling head first out of a tree, I figured sitting at a desk with both feet on the floor translating Spanish into English was doable enough, so I got to work.
I. Learned. So. Much. Wow. I’ve only ever really studied Russian adoption law in regard to the United States (which, by the way, is currently just “not possible”), so learning the tricks of the trade behind the adoption process of a country so dear to my heart was mind-boggling. There’s so much to know and fill out and photograph and process and sign and notarize and mail. It’s like even the air you breathe gets analyzed! (For example, they want to know how much money you spend on fruit, dairy, and meat per month per child).
That project, though, is just one part of the picture. I’ve gotten to know some very friendly staff, the scanner/printer/copier is simple enough to work, the mail system is streamlined and easy, the Snicker’s bars in the commons are cheaper than they are in vending machines, and I’ve learned that miniature ping pong, made up of two lunch room tables shoved together, is a very, very serious sport.
On a more serious note, I’ve been incredibly intrigued and a little surprised by the “drop everything, Colombia needs this five minutes ago” part of my/Beth’s job. There’s an urgency that comes with adoption that I’ve never been exposed to before. I knew the process wasn’t a calm one, but seeing how swiftly and professionally Beth gets those papers to Colombia, and how she trusts me to get it done as well, shows me that the process (and work) is only as complicated and stressful as you make it.
I’m excited to (finally) officially work for Gladney and to be here for the next two and a half months!
By: Margot Twomey
International Adoption Intern