Bellevue Deputy Mayor Claudia Balducci gets the best Valentine's Day present: her new son

An animated three-year-old Victor waddled his way over to the table where his mother, Claudia Balducci waited to great him. A bright smile filled his face as he fell into the arms of his new mom.

Victor, originally born in Kazakhstan, has only been in the states for a little over a month, but is already acting right at home.

Balducci, Bellevue's Deputy Mayor, is elated to have Victor home after a two-year adoption process full of heartache, frustration and ultimately, joy.

In 2007, Balducci and her husband decided to pursue an international adoption. They contacted a local adoption agency, WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) based out of Renton, and began the long process of filing paperwork and interviews. The couple narrowed down their choice of countries to adopt from to Russia and Kazakhstan.

“After I began researching Kazakhstan, I was drawn to it,” Balducci explained.

The couple was able to specify gender, age and the health of the child they desired, but were not given any information or photos of the child before traveling to the country.

“We were going on blind faith,” Balducci said. “It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.”

When they arrived in Kazakhstan, Balducci and her husband anticipated a process that would take two months with trips back and forth. They ended up renting an apartment in the town of Almadi and lived in Kazakhstan for seven months over the span of two separate trips.

“When we first arrived in Kazakhstan we were excited, but things went sideways from there,” she explained. “When we visited the Umit orphanage in Taraz, a nearby town, we were told they didn't have a baby for us to adopt and we failed to get a referral. We were turned away.”

Just as her and her husband were about to give up and fly home, they decided to contact a lawyer and continue to fight for what they came for.

After a long, drawn-out process, the couple met Victor on August 29, a two-and-half-year-old boy who was in the special needs group at the orphanage.

“We wanted an ethical adoption process, without participating in bribery or corruption which often goes on,” Balducci said. “There were a lot more road blocks placed in front of us because we were trying to do everything by the book. It was not a very straight forward process, but it's hard to complain about the end result. Just look at him. He's wonderful,” she said about her son.

Victor flew home to Bellevue with Balducci and her husband on February 14, “The best Valentine's Day present I could have gotten,” Balducci added with a smile.

Victor officially became an American citizen when the plane touched down on American soil. He went from a shy boy who barely spoke in a whisper and was unable to walk, to a bouncy, energetic three-year-old who loves cars and is learning to say new words every day, Balducci said.

While visiting with Victor at the orphanage prior to the finalization of the adoption, the couple met and fell in love with the other children in Victor's special needs group. There were roughly 100 children at the orphanage and they were divided into small groups of four to five children according to age, gender and needs.

“The orphanage is in great shape and they have plenty of staff, but what they don't have is training for the staff when it comes to the special needs kids who have muscular disorders and the ones with cerebral palsy,” Balducci said. “They would just hang out in the doorway just inside the orphanage, unable to go outside and play. These kids deserve the same opportunities as any of the other kids.”

Balducci became inspired to help. She looked into what it would take to get the staff some training in the area of physical therapy and working with kids with special needs. With the help of a friend, she located two physical therapists, one American and one British, who lived in the town of Shymkent and were willing to travel to the orphanage to train the staff. The workshop will be conducted through Interlink, a non-profit organization working in Kazakhstan.

Balducci is now working to raise the money, only $803, to pay for a four-day staff training workshop led by the two therapists on proper feeding, dressing, washing and general care. The workshop would also include an assessment of the children currently in the special needs group and suggestions on what can be done to aid in their physical development.   

“I was expecting something like $8,000 not $800 to pay for the necessary training,” she explained, adding, “I thought, I can do this.”

Balducci is now reaching out to those in the community, hoping to get 83 people to pledge $10 each to raise the money needed. Additional money would help pay for other supplies and medical equipment for the orphanage.

“I know these times are tough for everyone, but just $10 can create a lasting change for these kids,” she said. “The special training could mean the difference between some of these kids learning to walk or not. You can't tell me that giving up $10 isn't worth a child's well being.”

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.

From Bellevue to Kazakhstan with Love:

Ask: 84 people with $10 each can change the lives of children a world away

Donate: By check payable to Interlink Resources to: “UMIT Disabled Program.” Interlink Resources, Inc., 4630 N. Broadway

Muncie, IN 47303, 765-213-3975 or on the Web site at Enter the amount under “other” and follow up with an e-mail (there’s a link, but the address is and let them know you want your donation to go to the “Umit – Disabled Program.”