Adoption makes coach’s family complete

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! STEVENSON RANCH – All the success in the world as an All-American track and field athlete at Cal State Northridge, husband of 19 years, college coach and a business entrepreneur meant only so much for College of the Canyons track coach Rick Kaufman. What Kaufman has always wanted was to be a father, and it’s finally happened. He and his wife, B.J., adopted orphaned Russian brothers Dima, 8, and Sasha, 4, last August, and the 43-year-old coach finally feels whole. “It was a drawn-out process that took 13 months, and it wasn’t easy, but it’s really been a wonderful experience,” Kaufman said. “We tried to conceive for years and couldn’t do it, and we also went through some previous adoption processes that weren’t what I expected and weren’t successful. Now, being a father has just made me a much better person. I feel like these boys were given to me by God. We’ve just gelled so well.” The Kaufmans first met Dima, then 7, at a temporary adoption camp in Arizona, where they fell in love with him – and then learned he had a long-lost little brother from whom he’d been seperated three years. “We just couldn’t let them remain apart,” Kaufman said. “They had to be together.” Eventually, the Kaufmans flew to Russia and brought the brothers to their new home, and the youngsters have adjusted vociferously to Southern California suburbia. “The older one, Dima, is just so full of love, and he already speaks English so well that you’d never know he’s Russian,” Rick said. “He’s going to be a good athlete, too – he loves ice skating and swimming, and he’s going to take karate.” One of the first questions Dima asked through an interpreter was if he could go swimming in America. Of course he could, his new father told him. During the spring, Dima celebrated his first American birthday at Chuck E. Cheese “and had a ball,” his dad said. Sasha was a bit underdeveloped because of a lack of stimulus in Russia, and he didn’t speak a word – Russian or English – when he arrived. But the little guy is coming around quite nicely. “Sasha is doing beautfully now,” said B.J. Kaufman, 41, a homemaker and freelance writer. “Rick has drawn up some cards and made up some great games for him.” Canyons’ track and field team competes in the Southern California JC finals Friday in Walnut, the last stop before the state championships in Bakersfield the following weekend. No matter what happens, Kaufman will continue to feel like a winner. “Rick and I have wanted to be parents for so many years, but we never planned to adopt from outside the country,” B.J. Kaufman said. “It just felt right. The adoption process is a very personal journey. When we met Dima and found out he had a little brother, it was a big decision, but we don’t regret it. “No, it hasn’t always been an easy adjustment for any of us, but we’re all doing remarkably well.” Has the experience changed Rick? “Well, he’s always been so great with children that I knew he’d be a great dad,” his wife said. “The kids just adore him. In Russia, most of the caretakers are women, so the brothers actually had very little experience with men. Rick is just a great role model for both of them.” Dima, a first-grader at Oak Hills Elementary School, is rapidly becoming Americanized. Like his brother, he was very skinny when he arrived but is getting healthier by the minute, devouring fruits and vegetables (his favorite foods). He has a newfound taste for pizza, chicken nuggets and french fries. “The one difference compared to most American kids is neither one likes peanut butter,” B.J. said. “I guess they don’t have peanut butter in Russia.” The brothers share the same mother and different fathers. In Russia, if a child isn’t properly cared for, a government representative simply extracts the minor to an orphanage. According to the reports given to the Kaufmans, that’s what happened to Dima. Sasha was voluntarily given up years earlier. The prospects are bleak for Russian orphans. Most eventually enter the military or work in a machine shop. “There’s just not a lot of money, and there’s a lot of alcoholism,” Rick said. Now the brothers will be afforded opportunites they never thought possible. Same deal for the parents. When Dima arrived, the only English words he knew were mother, father, sister and brother. That was just fine with Rick Kaufman. As far as he was concerned, those were the most important words on earth. Gerry Gittelson’s column appears in the Daily News three times a week. [email protected] (661) 257-5218last_img