by Caroline Turney
New Braunfels – Riding the Ferris wheel with his mother and sister Friday, Anton Stanfield gazed at the Comal County Fair grounds with wonderment and awe.
Since the time his parents, Alton and Nina Stanfield, brought two-year-old Zana and six-year-old Anton home from Moscow orphanages five months ago, the kids have been taking in every experience with amazement.
“Anton is so excited with life,” Nina Stanfield said. “He appreciates everything because he has come from having nothing.” Anton showed his appreciation for the new experiences at the fair by saying, “Cool!” and grinning widely with exhilaration.
Tot-sized Zana, joined in by adding, “I like it!” as she tried each new ride with her mom and brother. The joy of seeing her children happy is a thrill for Nina Stanfield. “I know they were really excited by the fair, but it was just as exciting for me to see them having so much fun,” she said. In fact, after taking the children to the fair for the Comal Independent School District holiday on Friday, Mrs. Stanfield brought the kids back for a return visit on Sunday.
Alton and Nina Stanfield decided to adopt children from Russia when they learned that being in their forties would probably decrease their chances of being selected by a birth mother in the United States. Nina Stanfield said, “We heard that most birth mothers in the U. S. like to pick younger couples, not people in their forties.”
As a result, the Stanfields decided to go through International Family Services in the Houston area. They began their paperwork in October, 2004, found their children through photos in March, 2005 and landed on United States soil with their new family on April 15, 2006.
The children became U.S. citizens the moment their plane touched the ground for an Atlanta layover. When they arrived at the Austin airport, a huge crowd was waiting to cheer and greet them. “It was an amazing experience! Everyone I know has been so supportive and excited for us,” Nina Stanfield said.
Nina Stanfield recalls the journey as a “...long and difficult process.” In order to adopt Zana and Anton, Nina and Alton Stanfield had to visit Moscow three times. Each visit lasted about ten days and bombarded the couple with paper work and other tasks.
While at the orphanages, the language barrier forced the Stanfields to rely primarily on hand gestures and interactive play as a means of becoming acquainted with their children. Still, Nina Stanfield said she would not have missed the experience for the world. “We absolutely have the most wonderful kids!” she said. “The orphanages in Russia are filled with fantastic children. We wish we could bring back even more, but we think two are probably all we can handle.”
Anton has settled into kindergarten at Comal Elementary—the very school his mother attended when she was a child. “I have been pleasantly surprised by the improved quality of education since the time when I went to school at Comal Elementary,” Nina Stanfield said. “Because he is still learning English, they are working with Anton one-on-one for 30 minutes each day to reinforce the classroom concepts.”
Anton and Zana also enjoy tumbling at a local gymnastic facility. According to Nina Stanfield, the children have transitioned well to their new surroundings.
In striving to make the transition as smooth as possible, Nina and Alton Stanfield have worked to maintain the children’s Russian heritage as well as help them move forward in American culture. The children have photos of their friends and caregivers from the Moscow orphanages in their rooms so they can remember their relationships from Russia.
In addition, the Stanfield family visits with two families from Austin who have also adopted children from Russia. Nina Stanfield explained, “It is really fun. They have children the same ages as ours and the kids spend weekends together a lot.”
Nina and Alton Stanfield look forward to sharing life’s experiences with their new family. “When we saw their photos, we knew they were meant to spend their lives with us,” Nina Stanfield concluded.