KidsFirst was born from a dream to help a child. When I would soon graduate from the Indiana University Masters in Social Work program, I was introduced to a humanitarian agency in Washington, D.C. that helped children from Russia and Kazakhstan. As an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, I kept thinking how cool it would be to do something so meaningful but wondered whether it was possible to find a job in a field which rarely had any openings.
Then, in 1998, my husband Steve and I decided we would try to do it ourselves. Steve dealt with all of the legal aspects of forming an entity and obtaining a license and I addressed all of the social work elements. I attended numerous educational workshops about adoption, adoption medicine, etc., which took place all over the country. I wanted to be prepared to be an asset if anyone would ever choose to work with us after our license application is approved. I knew it would be difficult because everyone said you had to work with an agency that had great experience, and we had none!
Finally, after many months dealing with the Department of Child Services, we were approved and I became terrified! I had never dealt with any kind of adoption issues in my life! People will meet me and will think I don’t know what I am doing! How would somebody trust me with something so huge if we hadn’t placed a single child yet?
I called numerous agencies and asked if I could attend one of their information meetings. An agency in North Carolina allowed us to visit, but then rescheduled and we had to cancel our tickets. That’s when I decided that I will do meetings the way it feels right to me and will cover the information I would want to know.
I remember driving to my first home study appointment and being so scared. I prepared my notebook with questions and called Steve’s law school friend who adopted a child in the past for suggestions. She laughed and replied, “Inna, they will be more worried then you are, are you kidding me?” Anyway, I spent many, many hours with our first home study family and we are still in touch. Their son Vasya is probably around 27 now.
I started with a couple home studies and found myself so enjoying work with families! It still felt like no one would ever ask us to try to find a child for them. But then one of our families, Sam and Kim, called me and said they wanted to adopt through us. I remember sitting in the car and feeling so honored that they would trust us with something so huge, even though we hadn’t placed a child yet. I remember repeating again and again that we will work so hard and will do everything we can to make it a success.
Their son, Noah is 23 now and Kim has been our social worker for many years, doing home study reports for our families. We love having her on our team!
International adoption aways has bumps in the road and is not for the faint of heart. There are always questions during the process and issues to resolve to make the adoptions work. We honestly put our heart and soul in to our adoptions and have now completed over 800, with over 600 from other countries.
After years of doing this work we love to stay in touch with our families and children and we never forget about the trust both biological and adoptive families put in us to make sure that the child ends up in the best situation possible in life. Each child we help, whether they are a newborn or school aged, is our primary concern. When we work with families we take into consideration every aspect, from the wishes of the biological family to the openness and preparedness of adoptive family, to the child’s
medical and family history, to the ability of the adoptive family to meet these unique circumstances of each child. We feel the pain of the selfless decision of the biological family and the anticipation and commitment of adoptive family.
We are a small group, Kim, Jill, Steve and me, and we are so honored to do the work we do! Do we have days when we are wondering what the heck we are doing? Yes, as all of us do!:) I am so proud of our staff: Kim, who brings a lot of wisdom, personal experience and passion, Jill, who joined us two years ago and brings her passion, bubbly personality, commitment and social media skills, and Steve, who is our attorney and my husband of 29 years, and deals with all the legal aspects of an adoption (plus corrects my grammar in official letters since I am originally from Ukraine, have an accent and make plenty of grammar mistakes, especially in sentence structure).
We need to be honest and share that it is not just work for us: it is a mission in life, a passion about children and families, and a great appreciation for the families trusting us at the most difficult and complicated times in their lives. We don’t judge, we help, provide options and answer your questions.
We are also incredibly proud of our big KidsFirst family, with over 800 children placed. We love our yearly reunions and get together with the children we placed and their families often throughout the year.
Ask us questions, or call us, we hope to be a resource for you and promise to be honest and transparent.