Anastasia Kennedy, 14, originally from Kazahkstan and recently adopted by Rick and Robin Kennedy of Williamsport, Ind., designs a table centerpiece during play day at Danville Gardens.

After living in the United States for only four months, Anastasia Kennedy, 14, is adjusting well to her life as the newly adopted daughter of Rick and Robin Kennedy of Williamsport, Ind.

Anastasia arrived in the United States on Aug. 27 from Zhas Davren Orphanage in Kazahkstan, an Asian country that bor-ders Russia. Since then, Anastasia has enrolled as an eighth-grader at Seeger Memorial High School, started dance lessons, joined the school choir and even started a part-time job.

Anastasia thinks American teenagers are about the same as teenagers in Kazahkstan.

“Kids are still (the) same,” she said. “They can be good kids, and they can be bad kids.”

Anastasia’s new life in America is the result of years of planning on the part of her adoptive parents. Two years before Anas-tasia arrived, Rick and Robin decided to expand their family that already included five children who range in age from 6 to 20 years.

When she decided she wanted to have another baby, Robin heard some disappointing news.

“The doctor said I was too old,” she said. As an alternative, Robin began researching overseas adoptions.

Robin first saw Anastasia’s photo on an adoption agency’s Web site. Looking for a girl ranging in age from 1 to 5 years old, Robin said she was drawn to Anastasia’s photo, but was worried about how her age would affect the family’s dynamics.

“I was concerned about throwing a teenager into the mix,” she said.

Although she had concerns, Robin showed Anastasia’s picture to her husband and children who were equally drawn to the photo, and that ultimately laid to rest Robin’s worries about Anastasia’s age.

After contacting the adoption agency, the Kennedys began the daunting task of filling out forms and participating in a home study.

With paperwork complete, Rick and Robin were invited to Kazahkstan for a five-week visit with Anastasia. For the first two weeks, they visited Anastasia twice a day in the orphanage.

“They have to make sure the parents and the child want each other,” Robin said.

Rick and Robin were surprised to learn that Anastasia, who enjoys reading and studying, already had learned English pro-nunciation by reading books available at the orphanage.

Although she could read English, there was still a communication gap.

“She could pronounce it, but she didn’t know what it meant,” Robin said.

The Kennedys learned a lot about Anastasia’s life at the orphanage during their visits. Although the orphanage met Anasta-sia’s basic needs, other creature comforts were scarce.

“They don’t have extras at all,” Robin said.

Anastasia attended school at the orphanage and had perfect grades.

Anastasia shared a room with other children. Groups of 10 children were supervised by two adult “care workers.”

Robin said many children at the orphanage are known for their artistic abilities and are innovative in their use of materials. They participate in native dance lessons, recitals and art contests.

“They use the materials they have,” she said. The children also collect plants and herbs as natural remedies for common ail-ments.

The Kennedys also learned that Anastasia’s window of opportunity for adoption was nearly closed due to her age.

“We were told that within a year she would have gone off the adoption list,” Robin said.

Robin said orphans who reach age 18 without being adopted are sometimes sent to college if they perform well in school, but others end up on the streets.

For the last three weeks of the Kennedys’ visit, Anastasia was permitted to stay with them in a hotel. During this time, the final adoption proceedings took place, and American Embassy in Kazahkstan issued Anastasia her passport.

Anastasia’s departure from the orphanage was bittersweet. While she felt lucky and excited to begin a new life, she remem-bers those she left behind.

“I feel sort of bad. Just me, but not my friends,” she said. “Nobody cares about those kids.”

Anastasia keeps in touch with her friends at the orphanage by sending letters with others who are traveling to Kazahkstan to adopt children, and she hopes to travel back to Kazahkstan after she graduates from college.

As she continues to adjust to her new life, Anastasia has discovered she likes McDonald’s hamburgers and spaghetti. But be-cause she also enjoys dancing, she is afraid of eating too many hamburgers.

“I like McDonald’s, but I don’t want to be fat,” she said.

Anastasia works part-time at Robie’s in Attica.

Libby Sheffield, guidance counselor at Seeger Memorial High School and a former English teacher, is Anastasia’s English tu-tor.

“She is an absolute delight, and everyone who meets her comments on how bright she is and what a ray of sunshine that she is,” Sheffield said.

Determined to understand everything she can about American history and culture, Anastasia spends hours studying.

“She’s very intelligent, and she will not move on until she fully understands,” Robin said.

Anastasia has already decided she wants to attend Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management after she graduates from high school.

Now preparing for what they hope will be their first of many Christmases together, the Kennedy family is introducing Anas-tasia to American Christmas traditions, including the spirit of Santa Claus, and the exchange of gifts on Christmas morning.

Anastasia, diligently and excitedly working to absorb her new surroundings, is thrilled about spending the rest of her life as a member of the Kennedy family.

“I know it is forever,” she said.

Recommended for you