- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Here, parents and adoption specialists pass on their more valuable nuggets about international adoption travel:

•"Ask agencies what kind of services are provided. It needs to be absolutely transparent, itemized and broken down, and you should be able to identify what those costs are. Are you audited every year? What's your mission statement? When we travel, what kind of support will we have? Will we have training ahead of time? Will we be traveling alone or with a group of other parents? Do you have your own medical staff in that country?" Susan Cox, Holt International Children's Services

•"It turned out to be a good thing to be paired up with other adoptive parents [traveling to pick up their children]. Play off their good points. Ours was a schoolteacher. She helped us get through airports, et cetera, and plus she knew how to help us with the children. Being an accountant, I could tell when someone was being overcharged or something like that." John Suttora, adoptive parent (Kazakhstan)

•"Make sure you're up to date on hepatitis and tetanus shots, if you need them, which take some time. They're a series of shots. We basically started them when we started the adoption process. I always carried my vaccination records in my travel documents, clipped to the back of my passport." Antonia Siebert, adoptive parent (Guatemala)

•"I always recommend people get some sort of [medical-evacuation] insurance, especially traveling to a Third World country. It's not expensive at all. You can find them online easily enough; SOS is one that comes to mind. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, we all had it. You want to have an option." Bill Strassberger, Immigration and Naturalization Service

•"Because it was my second time adopting, I knew that typically with Asian countries at least, the agency staff want to pick you up and take you to the orphanage right away when you arrive. The first time I did that, but I found that after a 33-hour trip I wanted a night's sleep. I needed to get my bearings and my sea legs before I got my baby." Kathy Rafferty, adoptive parent (Cambodia)

•"It's really important not to drink the water. One family put hotel ice in their drink. They were so sick I don't know how they made it home they were the sickest I've ever seen anyone. You really have to drink bottled water and also use it for the baby's bottles." Bonnie Horowitz, adoptive parent (Guatemala)

•"A major bad thing that happened to us: When we were flying back, we put our video camera in our luggage. The video camera went missing, including the tape. The camera could be replaced, but the tape was all the video we'd taken [in the country], including his foster mom saying goodbye. It's all gone. It still upsets me." Antonia Siebert, adoptive parent (Guatemala)

•"You can never go back to that time, even if you go to the country every year. Keep a journal. The memories will become more precious as time goes by. Once you see your child, don't ever wash the clothes they were in. Let those smells and essence always be." Susan Cox, Holt International Children's Services

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