FROM ROMANIA WITH LOVE
Shes 30 months old and 36 inches long, with brown hair and brown eyes. Shes a small bundle of energy and enthusiasm.
Shes Rylee Ana Montgomery, born in Caransebes, Romania, on June 5, 1999.
Rylee is now the daughter of Merry and Keith Montgomery of Union.
Shes the light of our lives and a true blessing, Merry said.
Keith describes Rylee as very feisty and active, a typical 2-year-old.
Its hard to put into words his exultation at having the child in their home as their own, he said.
Deciding to adopt was not a hard choice for the young couple, they said.
We have always known this was the road wed take since we found out about our infertility problem, Merry said from her desk at Alegre Travel on Depot Street, where she works two days a week. She is also set up to work out of her home the rest of the week.
Merry said she had a rare auto-immune disorder that prevented her from getting pregnant. The couple did explore the possibility of invitro fertilization and other procedures but decided the cost was too high.
Adoption seemed like the natural way to go for us.
We got the idea of looking online when a woman came into our office to get a passport to go to China to pick up a baby girl she was adopting, Merry said. We werent even aware of the option of international adoption before that.
I visited with the woman for two hours that day, and my life changed.
When they first decided to adopt, the Montgomerys were focusing on selecting a baby from Russia, but when we saw Rylees picture we just changed all our plans, Merry said.
It was on Christmas Eve 2000 that the couple received via Fed-Ex a package containing the first pictures and a video of the Romanian baby.
After much detailed paperwork, interviews and consultations with various officials and agencies, including Tree of Life Adoption Center in Portland, Merry, 31, went to Romania in southeastern Europe in March 2000 to meet the child, who then was nine months old. Keith, who will be 32 in January and who works for Union Pacific Railroads La Grande maintenance department, accompanied Merry two months later to bring the youngster home.
After a 36-hour trip from Portland that put them in the small village where the orphanage was, they had expected to be ushered to an apartment to spend the night before seeing the baby the next day.
Even though it was late at night, the American Mennonite missionaries running the center wanted the couple to see the baby.
While it had only been two months since I had seen her, it seemed like an eternity, Merry said. We didnt want to wake her, but the Mennonites said she was a good baby and would go right back to sleep.
They led us into the nursery, over to her crib. My heart was in my throat. I felt as though I was having an out-of-body experience. And this was all on Mothers Day.
The best part was watching Keith get his first look at his little girl, so content and so beautiful. And all of this was by candlelight, which created the perfect atmosphere. She has been the light of his eye ever since, Merry said.
The whole process took about a year. We went at our own pace as we could afford it.
The baby had been in two orphanages. The first was more like what we know as an orphanage, with about 100 children. Then she was moved to a placement center that had six babies.
While Romanian orphanages a dozen years ago under the draconian rule of Nicolae Ceausescu before he was overthrown and executed in 1989 were overcrowded and had been short-staffed, with the children often not well cared for, the Montgomerys found that no longer to be the case.
The first orphanage had a very caring staff, Merry said, adding that the Romanian government has placed a moratorium on international adoptions.
She was told little about the baby she would bring home except that she was from a poor family.
I know she was born to a young mother who lived with her parents in a one-room, dirt-floor house. They told us nothing about the father. We got only pretty basic health information about the baby, only that she was in good health.
There was paperwork to be filled out at various stages of the process, with a Romanian adoption foundation, an American adoption agency in Portland and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Merry said.
Keith said, The paperwork in the United States took a long time, but we completed the foreign papers in a matter of days.
The child has adapted well to her new environs, the parents said. Since the baby was only 11 months old when they got her, language has not been a problem. The child had not begun to talk and had heard both Romanian and English, since the people who ran the center were Americans, Merry said.
She started talking at about 18 months and speaks English fluently now, Merry said.
Rylee fits into a family that includes Merrys mother-in-law, Kathy Montgomery, who cares for Rylee when Merry has to work in
La Grande, and two other grandparents, Terry Horn of La Grande and Joann Barton of Baker City.
As any mother would, Merry has no problems in lavishing adoration onto the child.
Shell either be an actor or politician. Shes funny and loving, considerate and caring. Shes teaching us a lot. Shes a great sleeper and a good eater, Merry said.
There is no stigma surrounding the adoption issue.
It wont be a secret. She will always know shes adopted. Were already talking about flying with her back to her country someday. Well preserve her heritage. We want to try to practice various customs of Romania and educate her about that country, Merry said.
International adoptions involve an expensive and lengthy process.
But its probably comparable to paying for an OB-GYN, Merry said. Cost should not be a factor in a decision to adopt. It shouldnt scare people away from adopting.
Theres money, different grants and low-interest loans available. The cost can be spread over time. There are all kinds of ways and means to cover the costs. Anyone with a will to adopt a child can.
She said she and her husband found a lot of support and information on various Internet sites.
It was a huge, huge source of support. It was definitely a lifeline for us and can be for other families struggling through years with infertility problems.
Merry and Keith, who were married in July 1994, are both graduates of Union High School. She moved from her birthplace of Alaska in 1972.
This wont be their last adoption, Keith said. They are raising money now to adopt again.
We want to adopt more children. Were looking at Russia and a couple of other places as well as in the United States, including Oregon, he said.
There is one other reason Merry will have little trouble not only teaching Rylee about adoption but empathizing with her daughter.
I was adopted in 1970, three days after I was born in Fairbanks Merry said. Ive always known I was adopted.
Story by Ray Linker
Photos by Kelly Ward
FACTS ON ADOPTION
Adoption once carried a societal stigma. No more.
In 1944, there were 50,000 adoptions in the United States. That rose steadily to reach a high of 170,000 in 1970.
It leveled off to 104,000 domestic adoptions in 1986 plus 10,000 from abroad.
There were 120,000 adoptions each year in the 1990s, with adoptions remaining constant in proportion to the U.S. population.
The number of Americans adopting foreigners has grown, too. In 1996, there were 16,396 foreign-born children adopted by U.S. families. Russia was the greatest source for intercountry adoptions, followed by China, South Korea, Guatemala, Romania, Vietnam, India, Ukraine and Cambodia.
The waiting period is usually from one to three years. Agencies report that inquiries about international adoptions are down since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Source: U.S. State Department
Cost of adopting from other countries ranges from $15,000 to $30,000 on the average.
Costs at different types of agencies:
Domestic public agency: Zero to $2,500.
Domestic private agency: $4,000 to $30,000.
Domestic independent adoption: $8,000 to $30,000.
International private agency or independent adoption: $7,000 to $25,000.