For many parents looking forward to the arrival of their first child, decorating the baby’s room is an exercise of anticipation of a looming due-date.
For the Crutchfields, it’s an exercise of open-ended hope.
Despite not knowing when their child might arrive, what she looks like, or exactly where she might come from, Jessica and Chris Crutchfield have carefully decorated a corner room of their forest-surrounded home with pint-sized furniture and piles of plush toys in a cheerful, red Raggedy Ann theme for their yet-unknown daughter.
The Crutchfields are in the process of adopting a girl between 10 to 30 months old from Khazakstan, a former Soviet Republic country more than 6,000 miles away, tucked between Russia, China and Uzbekestan. Though they don’t know who she is, they’ve decided to name her Adler, after Jessica’s grandmother.
For both Jessica and Chris, who met in 1998 while attending college in Virginia, married four years ago and moved to the area in 2001, international adoption was always on their radar screen.
"Adoption’s been really strong in my family," said Chris, 32, who grew up in Covington, Va., and has a 16-year-old cousin adopted from Guatemala.
Jessica, 30, an Oxford native and occupational therapist with the Newton County School System, has two nieces adopted from Russia and did a research project on international adoption while getting her master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
"Part of the reason for our adoption, specifically international adoption, is the fact that most orphaned children in other countries grow up in institutions." Jessica explained. "A lot of those children, they don’t even get basic needs met."
"They get just enough to survive," agreed Chris. "We wanted to give a child a better life who would not otherwise have a chance at a normal life. Not that every need is met in America, but orphans and children here have a better chance."
For over a year an a half, the couple has undergone rigorous inspections, background checks, multiple visits, medical exams and interviews probing every aspect of their lives and fitness as parents. They described submitting, translating and notarizing reams of paperwork, many of which expire and have to be resubmitted while waiting for the slow wheels of international bureaucracy to turn.
The process has been a frustrating one, said the couple. They had originally planned to adopt from Ukraine, but after seeing other couples return home without children because of political instabilities and changes, they decided to look into Kazakhstan and switched adoption agencies.
"It’s so strange, it’s so stressful," Chris said. "We thought by now she would have been here, that we would have had her and she would have been here by Christmas. It’s a roller coaster for sure."
It’s also been a very expensive process. It’s cost the couple about $15,000 so far and they estimate they’ll have spent about $40,000 to $50,000 by the time the process is over.
To assist with the expenses of the adoption, the Crutchfields are holding a 5 kilometer run/walk and 1 mile fun run at 8 a.m. Oct. 25, an idea planted by Jessica’s friend after she had participated in a run/walk.
"She said ‘Why don’t we do that?’ Next thing you know, it was off and running," Chris said.
The registration deadline, in order to receive a long-sleeve t-shirt, is Oct. 18, but participants are welcome to register on the day of the run as well. The race starts from 905 Wesley Street, Oxford, and runs along a course winding through historic Oxford.
The cost to enter is $22 per person and donations will be accepted even if people are unable to participate. Runners can register online at www.runforadler.com or mail a tax-deductible check made out to World Partners Adoption to 905 Wesley Street, Oxford, Ga. 30054. For more information, call (404) 444-3091.
When asked if they’d consider adopting internationally again, Chris draws in a big breath and laughs doubtfully. Probably not, said Jessica, because of the length of the process which adoption professionals say is getting longer.
"It is difficult. It’s not easy," Jessica said. "It is not for someone who will give up easily. And there are people who do give up."
"But we keep the prize in sight at the end," Chris said. "We can’t wait until she gets here. That keeps us going."