From Kazakhstan with love

Pam with Jackson, Travis, and Maksim
The family is all smiles during this joyful
reunion at the Martha's Vineyard
Airport. (From left) Pam with Jackson, Travis, and Maksim. Photos by Susan Safford

By Gail Craig - December 7, 2006

It may or may not take a village to raise a child but one thing was apparent recently when a large crowd of people arrived at the Martha's Vineyard Airport to welcome home Maksim Thomas Pachico, newest son of Pamela Thomas and Travis Pachico, and that is that this boy, a stranger until now, is already well loved by this village.

Maksim (pronounced Max-eem), is an adorable little boy from Kazakhstan, recently adopted by Pamela and Travis. Though the physical travel only took place recently, the actual journey commenced in January, when the couple began to investigate adoption opportunities available to them. Initiated first by Travis but then fully pursued as a team, they settled on Good Hope Adoption Services, a Cape Cod agency owned and operated by Karen Medve in Dennis. We really think we had such good luck because we chose Karen's small agency," says Pamela. "She really gives you attention and guides you through the process. She was incredibly helpful, on top of things and there for us every step of the way."

Though originally thinking they would like to adopt a child from Russia, they were encouraged by Ms. Medve, who is experienced in adoptions from various countries, to look more closely at Kazakhstan, a neighboring country that is often more accessible for adoption purposes. After learning more about potential delays or setbacks for Russian adoptions, Pamela and Travis opted for Kazakhstan instead.

Pam Thomas and Maksim
Pam Thomas and Maksim walk away from the plane towards assembled well-wishers after their long journey from Kazakhastan. Although Pam carried the toddler down the plane's steps, he was determined to walk himself once they reached Vineyard soil.

On this side of the ocean, the couple had to fill out seemingly endless paperwork. They had to be investigated thoroughly, from fingerprints going to the FBI to criminal records investigations. They each also had to write a personal statement, about who they are, describing themselves physically and emotionally, as well as family backgrounds, nationality, hopes and dreams, employment, goals - everything that makes Pamela Pamela and Travis Travis. When all was said and done, each had a file several inches thick. At that point, all the young family could do was be patient and wait.

On the other side of the ocean, things are slightly more complicated. Before a child can be considered available for adoption outside the country, the child must be listed on public notice for six months for consideration for a local adoption. Additionally, Kazakhstan doesn't do referrals, so hopeful parents don't usually know whom they will be adopting until their first visit. Once all the paperwork is done and approved, parents are required to travel to Kazakhstan, to meet and bond with a child and to go before the court to tell their story and basically plead their case.

Jackson Pachico and Maksim Thomas Pachico
Big brother Jackson Pachico (left) welcomes his new little brother, Maksim Thomas Pachico.

Although many suggested that they leave their four-year-old son, Jackson, home during this initial visit, Pamela and Travis opted to bring him along for the 30-hour-trek and almost month-long stay in Kazakhstan. "He has been on board with this from the beginning," says Pamela. "It was absolutely the right decision for us to have him be part of the process and he was great. He did fantastic." After going before the court, the child must then spend another two weeks on public notice, in case a family member or someone in country decides to adopt him.

"We were kind of afraid of what we might find there, what the orphanage would be like" remembers Pamela. "But it was really not too bad. They do a lot with art and music, so there were paintings and bright colors."

Travis adds, "There was a pretty good ratio of caregivers to kids, but the kids in Maks' group didn't appear to go outside much, which was sad." Some of this may have had to do with the child/caregiver ratio but it may also have had to do with the air quality, as Ust-Kamenogorsk is a factory city with very poor air conditions.

When Pamela, Travis, and Jackson made their initial trip, they were hoping to adopt an infant boy. But Maksim's bright eyes and warm smile derailed that plan entirely.

Travis Pachico
Travis Pachico (holding sign) is front and center waiting to greet his wife and new son as he and and a crowd of family and friends wait at the airport to greet Pam and get their first glimpse of Maksim.

"Travis saw Maks and he just knew, no question" Pamela says with a smile. "And we all just fell in love with him."

Travis adds, "I really did. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was our son." There is arguably an amazing family resemblance, but for Maksim's blonde hair. His eyes and his smile appear to be a combination of his parents, as well as his brother, Jack.

Pamela made the second trip back to Kazakhstan to pick up Maksim and bring him home, while Travis and Jackson held down the fort at home. "I met so many great people," she said. "The people in Kazakhstan are so kind. Our translator, Askhat, was amazing. He was from Kazakhstan, but he was educated in our country, so he was familiar with Western ways, which was a huge help. Our coordinator, Galina, was another wonderful woman, who, at 51, decided she wanted to change her life so she learned English and began working with these adoptive kids. She was so brave to just change her life and was just wonderful with us".

Though she was officially traveling alone, she journeyed alongside another woman making the same trek. They in turn, made friends with a number of other people along the way: a gentleman who became a volunteer sherpa for them, anxious to hear their stories as he and his wife considered their future options; or the flight attendant, "clearly a mother who knows what you need" said Pamela. "I actually recognized her from our first trip over and we bonded because she had kids, she knew what we needed and made sure we had it." The flight attendant in turn gave Pamela a bottle of Tattinger Champagne to celebrate her new son but Pamela was unable to get it through German customs. Pamela asked the customs agent to have a drink for her son with it later on but he informed her that he would have to throw it away. Instead, he told Pamela to open the bottle and celebrate the joyous occasion right there. In a trip full of surprises and unexpected moments, Pamela found herself opening a bottle of champagne in the middle of German customs and having a sip to celebrate her son!

During this whole trip, Maks was "...a man without a country," as Pamela put it. Arriving in customs in this country, a female customs agent explained that the seal on Maks's passport showed his citizenship, stating that as soon as his feet touched American soil he would be an American citizen. Pamela clarified "You mean, like, right here on the floor?" She asked the agent to celebrate with her as she touched Maks's feet to the floor, both women cheering in celebration for the new citizen.

Pamela was met in Boston by long-time friend and saving grace, Anne MacDonald, who helped her carry bags and maneuver through the airport. "Thank God she was there. She was a huge help. I don't know how I would have gotten through without her help." Pamela said.

"That airport can be a nightmare with bags and kids" added Travis.

Once he touched down on Martha's Vineyard, the newest member of the Thomas/Pachico family was welcomed by a flock of friends and family at the gate, a celebration of signs, balloons, hugs, tears, laughter and love, planned by Travis, the family immediately blending into one, big brother hugging little brother; mom and dad hugging after a long challenging effort to bring home a son; mom and oldest boy hugging after much time apart; and, perhaps the most heartwarming moment of all, when Maks, seeming a bit overwhelmed, put his arms up to Travis for the love and security a boy sometimes needs from his dad. It was clear at that very moment that Travis was right a month earlier when he first laid eyes on Maks. He is indeed their son.

For more information on Good Hope Adoption Services, call Karen J. Medve at 866-502-3678 or you can go to their web site at www.goodhopeadoption.org.