Loadmaster's family adopts, Kazakhstan child given second chance Published Nov. 13, 2006 By Senior Airman Desiree Kiliz 446 PA MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- With millions of children around the world homeless, malnourished and without a family, one Reserve family at McChord is doing its part to bring happiness to their home and give a child another chance by internationally adopting. "We have always wanted a large family and adoption was an option for us," said Senior Master Sgt. Lance Gustafson, 446th Operations Group assistant standing evaluator and loadmaster. Denice Gustafson, his wife, added, "There are so many kids in the world that need a family and we have a great family." To get started with the adoption process the Gustafson's simply went online and did a search for international adoption agencies. Mrs. Gustafson said that it was really hard to choose an agency because there is so much information and so many agencies out there. After investigating, they chose an agency based out of Oregon. The Gustafson's joined the program in Kazakhstan, but explain they really did not have a preference from where they adopted. "Originally we were thinking about Russia, then leaned towards Uzbechistan. We were enrolled in the Ukraine program, and then transferred over to Kazakhstan," said Sergeant Gustafson. The adoption agency worked hard and after a year and a half of paperwork, the Gustafson's were finally able to adopt. "The hardest part of the adoption process is the finances and waiting," said Mrs. Gustafson. Sergeant Gustafson contributed, "We have been saving money for the last three years." The Gustafson's also have three biological children, two boys ages 16 and 12, and a girl age 8. Mrs. Gustafson said, "The kids were informed throughout the whole process, and they are very excited. My daughter is beside herself." From Sept. 28 to Oct. 24, the Gustafson's went to Kazakhstan for part of the adoption process and met then eight-month-old Ana, their newest addition to the family. The two returned to Kazakhstan for their final 15-day coping period on Nov. 6, and finally got to bring home their 13-pound baby right before Thanksgiving. Because Sergeant Gustafson is currently on long-term orders, he said, "I saved up my leave for the last two years, and the paid vacation has been helpful throughout this process." In May, the Air Force authorized 21 days of nonchargeable leave for Airmen adopting children. Reservists must be on active duty for more than 29 consecutive days to be eligible for this leave. Some civilian employers may offer benefits to those who are adopting internationally, which Reservists may want to investigate if they are interested. Mrs. Gustafson also offers advice to those who are interested in adopting, "I would try to talk to others who have adopted. Research an agency first before choosing, and make sure your agency is good and will fight until the end." After several years of saved leave and paychecks, the Gustafson's were finally able to add to their family and reduce 100 million orphans worldwide by one.