Testimonials & Press
My husband and I adopted our daughter from Kemerovo, Russia in 2003. Growing up, our daughter always talked of one day finding her birth mother, becoming more and more determined to do so. She also dreamed of finding a sibling, as the information we were given indicated that her birth mother had reported a previous pregnancy and birth. But, as I assumed an older sibling would also have been placed for adoption, I thought that was probably impossible. We put off considering a search for a long time, partly because of the cost and not knowing who we could trust to do one, and partly because our daughter’s situation is complicated by the fact that she deals with some pretty significant life-long effects of her birth mother’s use of alcohol while pregnant with her. So, besides the usual emotions and questions most adoptees might have, my daughter also had a lot of anger at her birth mom. And, I had a lot of concern over how she would deal with whatever the results of the search might be, or navigate any kind of relationship with a woman she had such mixed feelings about. But in 2020 two things changed; our daughter, ever more determined to search for her birth mother, turned 18 and so I felt it was time; and through a Facebook group of adoptive parents I was made aware of Karen, who was highly recommended by other parents as someone we could trust to handle a search for us.
I contacted Karen, who from the beginning was very helpful, prompt in responding to all my questions, and excellent in explaining exactly how the process worked, what we needed to provide, and what we could expect. The fact that no payment was expected until after the search was done and preliminary results were known helped me to have confidence that I was dealing with someone reputable. The actual in-country search by Ruslan was delayed because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, but finally in July he was able to travel. I cannot say enough about Ruslan’s diligence in doing the search, or about Karen’s relaying of information to me as quickly as possible. It was a difficult search, and I am sure some searchers would have given up, but Ruslan did not. As a result, he was able to find out that our daughter’s birth mother had died a number of years ago, but he was also able to find and meet with the sibling I was sure would never be found, our daughter’s half-sister. She was thrilled to be found, as she had dreamed of someday finding her little sister, who she had learned about when she was 10. Through her Ruslan was able to provide us pictures and a full report of her mother’s life and death, as well as information about extended family. My daughter is now in touch with her sister via social media, and hopes to someday meet her in person.
If you are on the fence about doing a search, I would encourage you to do so. Although the findings about her birth mother were not what my daughter had hoped for, it answered so many of her questions and will help her find some closure. And the gift of an older sister who very much wants to have a relationship with her is priceless. Being able to watch the video of her that was provided to us, reading the translated words that express how much she would like to someday meet my daughter in person “So I can finally hug you” - how do you put a price tag on that?
If you decide to do a search, I highly recommend Karen as someone you can trust to coordinate it. She was always extremely prompt and professional in providing information and updates, and in responding to any and all of my questions. I am so glad we finally decided to have the search done, and so glad we found trustworthy and dedicated people like Karen and Ruslan to do it for us.
Alison, North Carolina
I adopted my daughter from Kazakhstan in 2002. When she started asking questions about her heritage that I could not answer, I asked a friend from my adoption group how I could research her biological mother, she gave me Karen and Ruslan’s names. I emailed Karen and gave her what information I had about the birth mother, not even having a name for the birth father. She gave the information to Ruslan to start the search. I was worried that Ruslan wouldn’t be able to find her, or that she would not want to meet with him to relay any information about my daughter.
During the waiting period, Karen was always there to answer my questions immediately, with compassion, and quickly got answers from Ruslan when I had them. Her birth mother had moved from a small village near Aktobe all the way across the country to Almaty. In a little over a week, Karen emailed me with the GREAT news that he had found her birth mom and had successfully met with her. I never expected to get such a complete report! We have pictures, contact information, and even got the name of her birth father and his contact information, and much more, including medical history. Her birth mom agreed to do a video, she had tears streaming down her face, telling my daughter that she loved her, words I know she needed to hear.
I HIGHLY recommend Karen and Ruslan to help anyone who wants to find their child’s birth family. They are professional, compassionate, and trustworthy!!!
Lisa & Don
We used Karen and Ruslan to find our daughter’s birth mother in the beginning of 2020. We were apprehensive about providing information to someone that we didn’t know but it all worked out very well. We also didn’t want to do anything that would cause an issue for my daughter’s birth mother. We had to trust that Ruslan would take great care to be sensitive to the situation and it was apparent that he had.
The report we received was very detailed. Ruslan provided information about my daughter’s birth mother and her extended family. We were able to learn where she lives and what her life is like. We received pictures and a video of the area where she lives. We also received pictures of her and her extended family. My daughter’s birth mother is now married and has several other children with her husband. We were provided with pictures of her two youngest daughters who were outside playing. One looks so much like my daughter when she was younger, it is uncanny.
My daughter who just turned 15 was very happy to see what her birth mother looks like and to learn something about her. We were all very satisfied with the process.
Sadly, Anna Sternad James passed away unexpectedly in late 2019, as I read in the FRUA newsletter. Shocking for all of us who knew her and whose family benefited from her services. Karen Holt has taken over for Anna. Not to replace her. But to fill the void. In my 20 plus years doing lifebooks on the internet, Karen has been a reputable and familiar name, offering many resources for the adoption community. Now she is offering one more. You simply never know when things are going to change in adoption. I will be asking my 17-year-old Kaz born, Russian ethnic daughter if she wants to ' look' (for the 5th time) for any siblings. I trust both Ruslan and Anna. Ruslan did all my previous searches." Beth O'Malley firstname.lastname@example.org
Sixteen years ago, Ruslan and Anna did searches for us. Last year, we finally met and now we are a family. It’s beyond what anyone could imagine. Absolutely beautiful ❤️ so many hearts are at peace now. I believe that a using Anna and Ruslan was the best way to communicate because it was safe for both sides. I get worried when I hear that people are using social media and reaching out by themselves. Way too much risk and unknown.
I’ve got 16 years of communication with the birth families under my belt. I’ve learned a lot, good and bad. One thing I know for sure is that investing in Anna and Ruslan was the best decision I could have made.
Now it’s Karen and Ruslan, and I am pleased because Karen has always been there to guide us on adoption issues.
I adopted both my boys from Russia in 2004, M was 22 months old and G was 6 months old at the time I adopted. When they both started asking questions about their biological family, I started looking on the internet for any way I could help them achieve those answers. In 2014, I came across Anna Sternad and her company, I talked to her in great lengths about how the process worked. I decided to go forward with Anna and Ruslan. Although Ruslan could not find M’s biological mom, he was able to find a maternal aunt, sisters, and grandmother and with G his biological mother was not willing to communicate but he was able to find G’s maternal uncle and he was willing to communicate. When Anna called me to tell me what Ruslan had found, unfortunately life happened, and we had some family sickness and unexpected financial stress and we were unable to pay the money to get the final report. Years passed by as we dealt with family issues and all of this was put on the back burner.
Fast forward 6 years, one night when getting ready for bed, I receive a message on Facebook from Karen asking if I was the Jennifer that adopted M and G from Russia, as this piqued my interest, so I decided to respond. As we corresponded back and forth, Karen had told me Anna had passed away and she was working with Ruslan to continue and help families out. Karen had told me even though 6 years had passed by Ruslan kept all the information that he had found. I know Karen had to work hard to find me on Facebook, because I have my profile locked up and I do not have my last name on my profile, I know she had to work hard to find me. I couldn’t believe after all these years they had kept everything. I took it as sign and jumped on it and paid what the balance was and not only did both my sons get a lot of family pictures, the report of the findings had so much information in it, M’s aunt did do a video and it was so emotional to sit and watch, that they always wondered what happened to him and was so happy he was adopted into a family that loved him. G also received a video, although his aunt and uncle did not want to talk on video, they did allow a video to be taken of their home.
If anyone asked me was it worth the money, YES it was totally worth it, to see both of my sons face’s light up while they looked at their pictures and were able to see who they look like, they received so much information in the report about their biological family, why they were placed in the orphanage, family medical history, etc. I could see this weight being lifted off them, there was relief in their faces, now they have the answers they have been looking for. I am so grateful that Karen was able to find me via social media and that Ruslan had kept everything he found.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about our experience.
Born abroad, adopted teens find home in multiple lands
The Washington Post, January 2012, Tara Bahrampour
Finding faraway roots Children of the 'quiet migration' go searching
Vancouver Sun & Winipeg Free Press, December 2010, Denise Ryan
Opening the Connection
Adoption Today, December/January 2008, Gayle Lammers
Return to Kazakhstan
FRUA Washington DC Newsletter, January 2012, Roger Torstenson
Searching for Birth Families
Adoptive Families, March-April 2007, Carrie Howard
Seek and You May Find
Newsweek, July 2005, Peg Tyre
"Other" Moms Haunt
The Denver Post, August 2006, Jenny Deam
This past February, we hired Karen and Ruslan to reconnect with our daughters’ birth families. We had had successful searches 15 years ago, using Anna and Ruslan, but had lost touch over the years.
Karen, Ruslan, and their team were able to successfully make contact with our daughters’ birth families. We sent letters and photos, which were delivered, and we also had a list of questions, which were answered. We received reports, photos, and a video; all of which were very precious to our family.
I would highly recommend their services. They were prompt, professional, and discreet. Our daughters were extremely pleased to have updated information.
Roger & Karen
We adopted our then 2-year-old daughter in 1997 from Kazakhstan. She has always been very inquisitive about her birth family. Finally, Karen and I decided that we wanted to proceed with such a search. If successful, it would provide Deanna with some answers as well as possibly provide us with a family medical history. Karen discovered that Anna did such searches through a reputable contact in the Ukraine.
In February 2004 we contacted Anna and provided her with the requested information. The initial search done by Ruslan was completed in June of that year, but was not successful. Ruslan, however, was determined to try again and by December 2004, was able to locate the family. It was a terrific success, as Deanna found that both birthparents were living as well as 8 brothers and sisters, all as a close-knit family unit. Deanna's early medical problems had necessitated hospitalization far from the family home. We also were provided photos and information on all grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
We have been corresponding, through Ruslan, and hope that this will continue for years to come. Deanna is overjoyed as she has received letters from her birthmother and sisters. She is now a healthy, happy girl of 10 (going on 15!) and this summer she has gone to Russian language camp in Minnesota to enhance her limited skills in Russian.
I must say that both Anna and Ruslan have been a joy to work with. They are both very prompt in answering inquiries and most efficient with what they do. We recommend them highly!
I adopted my daughter from Kursk, Russia, in July of 2004. From the first time that I met my daughter in the orphanage, I often thought about the woman who had given birth to her, and I thought about other members of her family, as well. I knew that someday, I wanted to be able to provide my daughter with a more complete picture of her life story and Russian heritage. Additionally, I wanted the birth family to know that the little girl they had to relinquish for reasons beyond their control, was happy, healthy, and loved beyond measure.
Earlier this year my feelings to search became stronger and I felt like it was an urging in my spirit that I could not ignore. I prayed and prayed, asking for God's guidance and for affirmation that this was something I could do that would be good for everyone involved, especially for my daughter. I read other stories of families who had done this, and then I knew that this was something I would diligently pursue.
I truly believe my prayers were answered when I found Anna and Ruslan, and their wonderful team of people who have this amazing gift of uniting families. From the moment I made my decision to search, I had so many questions, and Anna was always there for me with an answer, and if she didn't know, she would e-mail Ruslan - they always made a point to answer my questions in a timely manner. They were very supportive and sensitive to my feelings. Katya, one of the team members who personally traveled to the remote village where the birth family lives, really cared about what her mission was, because she didn't stop until she found the person she had come to meet and talk with. She was able to gather so much valuable information and priceless pictures of not only the birth mother, but the father, siblings, grandparents and other members of the family! It was far more than I imagined it could ever be. Katya's compassion and sensitivity to the family was evident in the report that she wrote. I plan on maintaining contact with the family. I am so glad that I followed my heart! I highly recommend Anna, Ruslan and the wonderful team. They have a gift and use it to it's fullest. They know just what to ask and how to approach the birth family with this extremely emotional and sensitive subject. May God continue to bless their work.
Larry & Cyndi, Ohio
We are Larry and Cyndi from Aurora, Ohio and we used Anna and Ruslan to conduct our two searches in Kazakhstan in 2004. We adopted Max from Semey in 2001 and Logan from Taraz in 2004. Ruslan was able to locate our younger son’s birth mother and obtain priceless information for our son. It was also uplifting to hear that his birthmother was happy to know he was loved and, in her words, “a heavy stone was lifted from her heart”. While our son Max’s search was unsuccessful, we received pictures of the town his birthmother listed as his birth city. We cannot say enough about Ruslan’s compassion for all involved and we were very pleased with his service. If you would like any specific questions answered, please do not hesitate to email us at ckeilin1 at mail.com
International Adoption Birth Family Search
Karen Holt, Director
Alexandria, OH 43001