ACPA Family Services

Cleft-Craniofacial Community Stories

Alisher’s International Adoption

We adopted our son, Alisher, at the age of 17 months from Kazakhstan in October of 2003. We knew that our son had bilateral cleft lip and palate, so no surprises there. When we decided to adopt from Kazakhstan, I originally thought an infant girl would be nice. However, there was a photo listing of the children who were waiting to be adopted, so I decided to look there first. And there he was, this beautiful, bright eyed little boy staring back at me. It was May 12, 2003 and he had just turned one year old at this point.

I came home from work and told my husband about him. When I mentioned the cleft, all he said was, “That can be fixed, right?” I said, “Yes, with some surgeries, it can be.” The next step was to express our interest to the adoption agency and then they sent us a video tape of Alisher. I must have watched that video one hundred times and excitedly shared it with anyone that was even remotely interested. He was the sweetest and most engaging child you’d ever seen.

After accepting the referral, we had a lot of paperwork to get done. Some adoptive parents call this “the paperwork pregnancy.” Every week that ticked by as we waited for travel dates frustrated me. Being a Speech Language Pathologist, I was aware of the ideal time frame for surgeries and we had passed it. After all of the dreaded hoops had been jumped, we got our travel dates for the end of September. (Getting your travel date is like being told your due date.) We met Alisher on October 3rd and got to visit with him for two weeks at the baby house. After a few visits he warmed up to us, and we were soon all in love with each other! Our adoption day was on October 17th and we were back in the States on October 25th, exhausted but happy.

Soon after our arrival we scheduled an appointment with the Cleft Palate Team at the University of Minnesota. We quickly learned that Alisher’s case was a little more complicated than most and it took us a while to get where we needed to be in terms of corrective surgeries. The lateral segments of the maxilla had collapsed which locked out his premaxillary segment. After a couple attempts with palatal expanders, we were finally ready for the lip repair in April, 2004 and then the palate repair in May, 2004. It’s now June, 2004 and he’s looking great! Although I miss the old smile, he’s still one handsome boy!

Besides being a bright, happy, engaging, and well-adjusted little boy, his language skills are progressing nicely. I’ve read the literature on language acquisition of internationally adopted children and on children with cleft palate, but I can’t seem to find any research on these two factors combined. His receptive language is age appropriate. He charms everyone he meets, so no worries about social skills. We’ve been signing with him from the beginning, so this has helped greatly. Loving to eat, his first signs were all food related (e.g., more —cookies, apple, crackers, cheese, etc.) Between verbal word approximations with vowels and sign language, he has almost 200 words in his vocabulary, which gives us a lot to talk about. Now we’re just waiting for those consonants to arrive. As with any toddler, every day is an adventure and every tomorrow is something to look forward to! We are indeed blessed!

*I am very interested in connecting with other parents of internationally adopted children with cleft lip and palate. If you’d like to reach me, please email me at

Last Updated: Jul 24, 2006