Autumn 2002 (10.3)
Adoptees-First-Ever Reunion in the U.S.
four children enjoyed a day with their families at the first
reunion picnic for adoptees from Azerbaijan. From left to right:
Daniel Simone, Gabrielle Barnard, Inara Abernathy and Paul Simone.
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More than 60 people representing eight families attended the
first-ever Azerbaijan Adoption picnic, held July 13, 2002 in
Nashville, Tennessee. This event was a reunion for the families
who have adopted children from Azerbaijan during the past two
The nine adoptees who attended were: Inara Abernathy, Gabrielle
Barnard, Matthew Bergman, Talia Blum, Grayson Huffman, Dale Papp,
Sabina Shifrin and Daniel and Paul Simone. Their families are
widespread throughout the United States - specifically Tennessee,
North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Illinois, New Jersey, Alabama
"The children were obviously the highlight of the day,"
says Kimi Abernathy, Inara's mother, who helped to organize the
event. "They were all healthy, happy and beautiful. They
played with one another and seemed to have an intuitive connection.
Though the children don't remember one another, we parents remember
seeing them in the orphanages or on videos. It was amazing to
see how far they've come. While strangers often comment on how
lucky our children are to have been adopted, we know that in
reality these children are much more of a blessing to us - their
parents and families. This picnic reminded each of us how much
we owe Azerbaijan by allowing us to build our families by loving
Right: Nine Azerbaijani Adopees and thier families met
for a reunion this past July in Nashville, Tenessee.
One of the reasons the parents organized the reunion was to give their children the
opportunity to stay in touch. "It's wonderful that these
children who share a common bond are able to grow up together,"
says Michelle Blum. "The combining of cultures-their Azerbaijani
heritage along with their American heritage - is something that
should be cultivated. It has been a great gift and honor to be
the parent of such a beautiful Azerbaijani child. Talia will
always be our little girl, and she will always be an American
citizen, but a part of her will also always be Azerbaijani, as
it should be."
Kimi and the other parents plan to make the reunion an annual
event in order to build relationships between the families. "I
was deeply touched by how much everyone treated each other like
'old friends,'" says Grace Barnard, another one of the parents
who helped to plan the event. "It was very obvious to me
that many of the people intended to stay in touch and make the
reunion a priority for their children."
The parents also expressed deep concern for the Azerbaijani children
who remain in orphanages. "I don't think it's possible to
see the children in the orphanages without wanting to help them,"
Kimi says. "We want them to be fed, loved and cared for,
According to Gwen Burchell from United Aid for Azerbaijan, the
desperate situation now found in Azerbaijani orphanages is not
improving. In fact, the number of children being abandoned each
year continues to grow. In terms of care giving and nutrition,
Baby House No. 1 - the orphanage from which most children are
adopted - has the highest standards. During the picnic, the families
pooled together a $500 donation to help the orphanage.
International adoption does not completely fix the problem of
abandoned children, but it does provide loving homes for a few
of them. "We need to work together to try to effect system-wide
change," Kimi says. "It's important to work to eradicate
the reasons families give up their children in the first place.
The Azerbaijani government in turn needs to create social policies
that will support children and their families."
All of the families who attended the adoption reunion this past
July keep in contact through the AzerbaijanAdopt ListServ, a
valuable resource for information, support and friendship. Plans
are being made to hold a second reunion next summer. Discussion
is underway to pick the best location for the most families -
such as Kansas City or Chicago. Already, many other families
have indicated that they want to attend. To join the ListServ
go to YAHOO.com/group/azerbaijanadopt.
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AI 10.3 (Autumn 2002)
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