On August 19, 1999, the husband of my wife’s, brother’s sister-in-law was killed. His death is listed as an “accident”. She had two children, Michael who was 4 years old at the time and an older sister. With no means of support she did what she could to make a living by preparing food and selling it in the market. This, however, meant she could not keep a close watch on her children. Michael’s older sister drowned when she was playing with her friends and was swept into a culvert. Michael’s Mom sincerely wanted a better future for Michael than she could provide. When she heard that we had come to Thailand, and were visiting orphanages with the hope to adopt a child, she contacted my wife and offered to give him to us for adoption. We were thrilled with the prospect. In times gone by, this would have been sufficient, but in today’s world, things are not that simple.
Thailand has no program for foreign adoption of their children, and in fact, try to keep their children in country. We were very willing to follow the legal process, but were unable to determine what that process was. The lawyers in the US all stated they could do nothing until he was on American soil. They suggested bringing him here on a student visa. The US embassy in Bangkok, twice rejected the student visa application. I dug through laws and wrote letters to our congressional representatives. For some time we seemed to be getting nowhere but, eventually, I determined a course of action that might work, but there were no guarantees.
I learned early on that it did no good to send letters or documents to Thai officials, they would simply disappear without a trace. My wife’s brother-in-law was a respected senator in Thailand. I’ll never know how much that helped us, people don’t tell you those things. In any case, we were able to obtain Thai documents making us Michael’s parents. To establish parenthood, one of us would have to move to Thailand and care for Michael for at least two years. This would naturally be my wife, but the problem was that she was not a US citizen, and would then lose her residency. So, the first step was for her to become a US citizen. The next step was an adoption study. This dug into our family medical history, employment history, education, legal/criminal history, marital status, life style, religion, friends, tax records, race and social status. I am still amazed that you need to be a virtual saint to adopt a child.
My wife then tried to get a leave of absence from her job at the State of Minnesota. When that was denied, she simply quit, and moved to Thailand in August of 2004 and established a home with Michael in Udon. In November, I traveled to Thailand, and together we went to the US embassy armed with our adoption study, and Thai custody documents. This time the embassy took us seriously, and assigned us to an embassy case worker. We were told that in the future we did not need to wait in line, and could go directly to see the case worker.
My wife kept in contact with the embassy. When they would ask for a document, she contacted me. I would obtain the documents, send them to her and she would hand carry them to Bangkok. In August of 2005 she called and told me the only thing left that they required was an employment verification for me and an affidavit of support for Michael, and they would then approve the visa for him to go home to Minnesota with us. I was sure she had misunderstood the embassy, because she had only been in Thailand one year. I dutifully obtained the documents, and airplane tickets and flew over to Thailand. At the embassy they immediately granted the visa, stating that it made no sense to keep a family apart. We were given special papers to pass through customs, so we would not need to wait in line. The airline and customs officials were extremely good to us and the trip home was a happy one.
Michael has since graduated from high school and is serving in the US Navy. He is married, has a son and they also bought a house.