Mindy Daniels went through hell to adopt her daughter, Taylor Rose Daniels.
There wasn’t fire. On the contrary, it was 20 degrees below zero. And there wasn’t brimstone. But there were mountains of paperwork to fill out and have notarized and then have notarized again. There was hurdle after hurdle wrought with language barriers, and there were frustrations upon disappointments upon anxiety. And there was too much time spent with the "Bickersons"- a husband and wife whom Daniels nicknamed as such because of their constant fighting.
Daniels and her partner of three years traveled from Maryland to Moscow to snow-drenched Siberia, suffered through being sequestered - with the "Bickersons" - and Daniels lost six pounds in 12 days during her quest to adopt a child from Russia. But that child, little Taylor, a seven-month-old girl with grayish-brown eyes and brown hair, turned that hell into heaven.
"The first time I met her at the orphanage, I put out my arms and said, ‘I’m going to be your mommy,’ and she put out her arms - and I knew it was right," said Daniels, a local attorney with a practice in criminal law.
Daniels has that day saved forever in a photo of her holding and kissing Taylor, who turned a year old on May 19. The picture is one among a stack of photos taken during her December trip, during which she formally adopted Taylor and brought her home. Also in that stack are pictures of the Bickersons, whom the adoption agency scheduled to travel to Russia for an adoption at the same time as Daniels, as well as pictures of cultural peculiarities like oddly shaped toilets, and snow, snow, and more snow.
Back home in Maryland, these are now reminders of how special Taylor is to Daniels, who is the former president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and the founder of a political action committee on Lesbian civil rights issues. But Daniels doesn’t need reminders. Tucked away in a neighborhood in suburban Cheverly, Md., Daniels is already teaching Taylor math and reading skills using programs called Baby Math and Baby Read. And Taylor, coincidentally, gets along well with Daniel’s Siberian Husky, Sappho, who is the younger of their two Husky dogs.
Taylor is five pounds heavier and four inches taller than when she was adopted in December. She was walking at 11 months; no one had been certain that she would be able to walk, considering some of Taylor’s original health reports and her possible medical outlook. Early prognosis reports indicated a potential for physical and mental disabilities because of complications during birth. Daniels did not discuss what those complications were, but she said Taylor suffered partial paralysis in all of her limbs at one point. When Daniels received word from her adoption agency that a child had been identified for her and was ready for adoption, Daniels also learned of the health history but was also told later that medical reports indicated that she was doing well.
The adoption agency, which Daniels also declined to discuss, told her that the child had originally been identified for another couple, but that couple reportedly declined to take the girl because of her medical history.
"I had a picture of her and I fell in love with her," Daniels said, explaining why she decided to adopt Taylor. Now, Daniels said, Taylor is bright and absorbs whatever happens around her. All of her limbs are working well. Proof of this came recently during a Blade reporter’s visit, when Taylor walked through the kitchen, fell, wrinkled her face in determination, stood up, and continued walking.
"So much for paralysis," Daniels quipped.
When a child is identified, that means the adoption agency, which has employees in other countries, has found a child who is in need of a home and who would be a potentially good fit with the parent or parents hoping to adopt. Once the child has been identified, the adopting parent or parents travel to the country where the adoption will occur. Then, a court must approve the adoption based on an intense amount of paperwork showing that the potential parent is capable of raising a child, Daniels said.
Once an adoption is approved, there is a 10-day period during which time the state can overturn the decision, Daniels said. That waiting period can be waived upon request by the adopting parent and if the judge agrees.
When Daniels appeared in court, she recalled, most of the court officials were stoic. The judge asked her questions, left for about 20 minutes, and then returned to announce that the court was waiving the 10-day waiting period and approving the adoption. Daniels said court officials showed much emotion when the adoption was approved, hugging and kissing her.
"I started crying," she said.
Daniels said nothing about the trip went as planned, and she and her partner of three years, Elisa Rose, were thrown curve balls at every point of their 12-day stay in Russia. Daniels and Rose explained that rolling with the punches is necessary to survive the glitches, which the language barrier further complicated. They had a translator with them - for most of the trip. But, Daniels said, about an hour before their scheduled return flight to the United States was ready to leave Moscow, airport officials stopped them. The officials sequestered the two women, Taylor, and the "Bickersons" because one of the adoption agency coordinators had not stamped their passports as required. Without a translator and proper communication, it seemed they might miss the plane. But Daniels said they released them five minutes before the plane departed. They had to run to the terminal.
That was after enduring such afternoons as the one they spent at least six hours at Moscow’s U.S. Embassy to secure a visa for Taylor.
"Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork -- six hours of paperwork. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork," Daniels said, standing and waving her arms with each stated "paperwork."
The adoption process started with paperwork. Daniels said she began collecting in March of last year all the information the adoption agency required. Every paper submitted had to be notarized. Every notarized paper had to then have a county seal placed on it from the county where it was notarized. Then the materials had to Annapolis to be stamped with the state seal.
An international adoption requires not only a lot of paperwork and travel, it also requires a lot of money. Daniels said the total cost for such an adoption, including travel, could range from $20,000 to $30,000. She would not say how much she spent.
Daniels, who is almost 45, said she chose to adopt because it was relatively quick. She said she was ready to be a mother and didn’t want to wait any longer. She added that sexual orientation never came up during the process.
While the adoption process was cumbersome, Daniels said she realizes that the work continues - and increases - with raising Taylor.
"I thought work was demanding," she said. "I thought dogs were demanding. I didn’t know what the word demanding meant."