Archive | August, 2011

A Poem For Baby

27 Aug

I would like to share a beautiful poem my mother-in-law wrote for our baby.  The photo is of the card she put the poem in.  Perfect, right?

My precious little grandbaby,

My prayers they support your life.

I know not what you will look like,

Or with what you’ve had to strive.

Your months on earth have been but few,

Your little mind feels unsure.

You hunger for a touch that shouts,

“You belong and are secure!”

Your God Who formed you so complete,

Has never once left your side.

The fierceness of His love for you,

Is where you can always hide.

You’ll come to live with parents strong,

Who desire to see your face.

They’ve prayed and worked with endless toil

To prepare for you your place.

You’ll love them quickly, you will see,

They’re perfectly matched for you.

You’ll grow secure within their care,

With love they will see you through.

My precious little grandbaby,

For you I will always pray.

Come speedily sweet gift from God,

With us come and live your days!

Why Uganda?

22 Aug

One thing almost everyone asks after they find out we’re adopting is, “Why Uganda?”  I’ve mentioned our decision process before but I think this topic is worthy of its own blog. 

I like to say that Uganda chose us.  After deciding to adopt, the first thing Josh and I had to do was choose a country.  A natural choice for us was Vietnam because my sister adopted two girls from there.  But, Vietnam is closed so we started to look elsewhere.  A very helpful website is adoptivefamilies.com.  It is loaded with resources and information about adoption, including the facts and parental requirements for every country that is open for international adoption.  Josh and I decided what exactly we were looking for — as far as the age and health status of our baby, the cost of the adoption, the amounts of trips required, and the length of the adoption process — and compared that with each country’s requirements for couples wanting to adopt.  This enabled us to eliminate many countries and narrow down our options.  It was time consuming, but really quite simple. 

Because Josh and I are both under 30 years old and had only been married 2 years when we started the process, we were not eligible to adopt from several countries we were interested in.  This was slightly discouraging at first, but those countries will be available to us next time we adopt.  Each country has their own list of requirements for adoptive parents, including marital status, age, length of marriage, income level, criminal background (or lack thereof I guess I should say), number of children already in the home, etc, etc.

We narrowed our options to Ethiopia, Uganda and Taiwan.  We eliminated Taiwan after finding out they prefer couples who have been married five years or longer.  It wouldn’t be impossible for us to adopt from there, but it would be difficult to get a baby and the process would be very long.  When trying to decide between Ethiopia and Uganda, we came to the point where we had gathered all the information and research possible and really needed something “more” to help us make this decision.  We prayed that God would make it clear which country our baby was in and would close the door to one of these options.  Only a few days after we prayed, Ethiopia announced they would be cutting back 90% on their international adoptions because of corruption in the adoption system.  Needless to say, we got the message and started researching agencies with Uganda adoption programs.

FAQs

21 Aug

I really want our blog to be informative and encouraging for people who are considering or even just curious about adoption.  I’ve tried to think about some commonly asked questions regarding adoption.  Below are some we’ve been asked several times.  Let me know if anyone has others and I’ll try to answer them!

Why international adoption and not domestic (USA)?  Josh and I are open to both domestic and international adoption, but believe the need is much greater internationally.  Few countries have the kind of foster care and government system to take care of orphaned children like we have here in the US.  This is the main reason.

How long does the process take?  That is the million dollar question!  It’s hard to answer this question because it really depends on so many different factors, such as what country you’re adopting from, the age, gender, and health status of the child you want to adopt, the agency you work with, the speed and organization with which you get your paperwork together, and a whole slew of other issues that can arise unexpectedly.  To adopt a healthy baby as young as possible from some countries it could take years (6 years for China, 3 for Bulgaria), but for other countries it takes less than 18 months (Uganda).  One of the reasons we chose Uganda was because we could adopt a young healthy baby and the entire process takes 12-18 months.  Of course, something could happen to make it drag out longer, but at this point it looks like we’ll have our baby home pretty much exactly a year after we had our first homestudy meeting.

How/Why do children become orphans and available for adoption?  There are a number of reasons children are abandoned or given up for adoption, but usually it’s a result of severe poverty, sickness, and hardship in the life of the birthparents.  Sometimes they already have several children and just cannot afford to care for one more.  In many countries pregnancy out of wedlock is extremely shameful, so out of cultural pressure newborn babies are abandoned by unwed mothers.  It’s not uncommon, especially in Africa, to see babies abandoned or given up for adoption at a few months old.  This is most likely because their birthmothers have nursed them as long as they could, wanting to start their life off well and desiring to provide for them the best they could.  Eventually, because of poverty and sickness, these birthmothers are not longer able to provide food for their baby and give them up for adoption at that point.  I think about my baby’s birthmother almost every day.  I pray for her, knowing that right now she is probably making the most difficult decision of her life.  When you hear stories about babies being abandoned it is easy to judge these mother’s and see them as evil and unfeeling because they gave up their baby.  But that is usually not the case.  Most of the time, giving up this baby they’ve carried in their womb for 9 months is the most excruciating choice they’ve ever had to make, but one they felt was best for their baby and themselves.

How is a baby located for you?  Among the copious amounts of information you provide for your agency during the Homestudy and application process are the details of what type of child you would best be able to care for.  You can specify the age, gender, and health status of the child.  It is best to be as open as possible so the process doesn’t drag out forever.  Once your dossier (remember what that is?  The huge packet of documents you collect during the paper chase) is sent and approved by the country you’re adopting from, the adoption officials and your agency’s representative locate a baby for you from the orphanages they work with.  Then they send you a referral, which is a photo and all the information they have on that particular baby.  You have the option of accepting or rejecting that referral (upon rejection you would wait for another referral), but most people accept the first referral they get, especially if they’re working with a reputable agency that is really trying to match children with the best family for them.

Will you go to Uganda?  How long will you stay?  Yes, we will go to Uganda to pick up our baby!  Most countries require at least one parent to travel to the country to finalize the adoption and pick up the child.  We have the option of taking two short trips (about 2 weeks long each) with 2-4 weeks between each trip OR one long trip of 4-6 weeks.  We hope to do the one long trip because this will save us thousands of dollars in travel costs.

Why do you have to stay so long in Uganda?  The first couple weeks we’ll stay at the orphanage to work with the children and get acquainted with our baby.  The remainder of our time will be spent at a hotel, with our baby, waiting for our baby’s VISA and our court date to legalize the adoption.  We’ll spend time exploring the surrounding area, shopping for souvenirs that we can give our child throughout his life, and bonding with our new child.

How will you both get the time off work to travel?  Josh is saving up sick leave and vacation leave to use for our trip to Uganda and (hopefully) he’ll get to stay home with me for a week or two after we arrive home before he returns to work.  He can also take some “leave without pay” if his sick/vacation leave is not enough. I have always planned on being a stay-at-home mom, so I will be resigning from my job before we leave and not returning to work after we get home.

When do friends and family get to meet the baby?  Because establishing a bond and attachment with our new child is so crucial in those first months home, we will be spending the first couple weeks in “isolation”.  One reason for this is to allow us to get over jet lag and settle into normal family routines (a daily schedule, sleep and eating schedules, etc).  It is important to remember that although being adopted into a loving family is far greater than growing up in an orphanage, adoption is still a traumatic experience for children, even a baby.  Everything in their life has changed — the food, the climate, the schedule, the languages being spoken around them, the smell and appearance of the people who care for them, etc, etc.  We need to build trust and attachment with our baby and establish ourselves as the primary caregivers.  After the first couple weeks we’ll slowly introduce baby to the family, starting with closest immediate family members first — such as grandparents and aunts/uncles — and only a couple of people at a time.  As time goes on we’ll bring more and more family and friends into the picture, always making sure baby knows we are not leaving him and he is safe with us.

How much does it cost?  The answer to this question also greatly depends on the country.  For Uganda the cost is between $20,000–$25,000.  This includes everything (agency fees, airfare and travel costs, homestudy, FBI fingerprinting, US Citizenship VISA, court costs, notarizing documents, etc, etc).  The nice thing is you don’t have to pay it all at once but rather at each point in the process you pay for different things.

Is there financial aid available? YES!  Our very own Federal government gives giant Adoption Federal Tax Refund, which is over $13,000.  YES, it’s true!!  This is not merely a tax credit, but an actual refund.  So basically, you claim it on your taxes the year your adoption is complete and they cut you the check for as much as your adoption expenses were, up to $13,170.  There are also many organization that give out low-interest loans and grants for families adopting.  Many.  More on that later.

Sanyu Babies Home

20 Aug

Children Of All Nations(our agency, whom I will refer to as CAN from now on) has adoption programs in 14 different countries.  They just launched their Uganda program in December 2010 and have a representative from Uganda working to establish relationships with orphanages. They are in contact with a few different orphanages and hope to develop new relationships with more orphanages throughout Uganda, but at this time they are only doing adoptions with one orphanage called Sanyu Babies Home.  Sanyu is a very reputable and stable orphanage that consistently exhibits ethical practices.  Click on the link and check out their website!  I have downloaded and printed out many of their quarterly newsletters from the past few years and it has been so encouraging to read about how they are caring for so many babies.  I trust our agency and this orphanage and I believe they are giving the best care possible to these orphans.

I read their most recent newsletter a few weeks ago.  They had a list of all the babies that have come to their home in the past quarter.  Most of them were abandoned, several as young as just a few days old.  Our child could be one of those babies I read about!  ISN’T THAT SO CRAZY??  One thing we are super excited about is that when we go to Uganda to pick up our baby, we will get to stay at Sanyu for at least TWO WEEKS and work in the orphanage with all the babies!  DREAM.COME.TRUE.  Sanyu is used to having volunteers work at their orphanage.  In fact, they depend on it!  They even have a guesthouse for volunteers to stay while they’re working and this is where we will stay as well. 

*UPDATE:  12/29/2011  We are no longer working with Children of All Nations. For more on that, see this post.  Because we have switched agencies, we won’t be adopting from Sanyu any longer, seeing as our new agency is not working with Sanyu but is working with several other orphanages in Uganda.  I’ve decided to leave this post up because it is part of our adoption journey and I still believe Sanyu is a wonderful orphanage that does all they can to love and care for orphans.

Adoption Books

20 Aug

Here’s a list of books on the topic of adoption.  I’ve read all but the last two (just started one and just bought the other!) and would HIGHLY recommend any of them.

Adopted For Life by Russell Moore

The Complete Book On International Adoption by Dawn Davenport

Both Ends Burning by Craig Juntunen

Choosing To See by Mary Beth Chapman

The Whole Life Adoption Book by Jayne E. Schooler & Thomas C. Atwood

The Connected Child by Karen Purvis

The Paper Chase

20 Aug

The Paper Chase is the adoptive mother’s version of labor.  It is a long, tedious process of collecting all sorts of official documents, most of which need to be notarized.  Here is a list of what we had to collect (most of these we needed one for Josh and one for me):

  • Marriage License
  • Birth Certificates
  • Copy of Passport signature and photo pages (notarized)
  • Copy of Driver’s Licenses (notarized)
  • WA State Criminal Check (notarized)
  • Child Abuse & Neglect background check
  • FBI fingerprinting and background check
  • Employment Verification Letter (notarized)
  • Medical Form (notarized)
  • Financial Statement (notarized)
  • IRS 1040 Form (notarized)
  • Bank Reference Letter (notarized)
  • Original Home Study Report (notarized)

    Josh and I mailing our first set of documents to our adoptoin agency. Yay!

  • Home Study Agency License (notarized)
  • Copy of Social Worker’s License (notarized)
  • Insurance Company Letter
  • Passport Sized Photos (4 of each parent)
  • 4×6 Photos of family/home, photo of child’s bedroom
  • Foster Policy Form from Orphanage (notarized)
  • 5 Reference Letters
  • Proof of Residence (notarized)
  • Guardianship Form
  • Parent Education Certificates
  • Separate Power of Attorney for all staff members handling our documents (notarized)
  • Post Placement Verification Form
  • Client Contact Information Sheet
  • Letter to MGLSD
  • I-600A(this is the form we send into Homeland Security to get approval to make our baby a US citizen through adoption)
  • I-171H (notarized) (this is the form Homeland Security sends back to us after they’ve approved our I-600A.  We take it with us to Uganda to present in the court when we legalize the adoption. It shows their government that our government is granting US citizenship to our baby).

I know this looks like a very long and confusing list of documents, and I felt intimidated the first time I looked at it as well.  But believe me when I say it is not nearly as hard as it looks!  Our paperwork has come together so easily and much quicker than I thought it would.  The notarizing could have been a real pain, but we were able to get most things notarized for free (at our bank or by the goodwill of notaries who wanted to do us a favor because it was adoption paperwork.

Seding off our I-600A form to the Dept. of Homeland Security. Getting so close to being done!

We are just waiting on one more thing before we can send our documents off to Uganda — our appointment with the USCIS (dept. of US citizenship) office in Seattle where we will get photos and fingerprinted (again) for the completion of our I-171H form. Once that’s done we’ll send our Dossier (that’s what you call all these documents and our homestudy put together) off to Uganda.  Then……………..it’s just wait, wait, wait for a phone call from our agency saying they’ve got a baby for us!

 

 

The Homestudy

20 Aug

After you’ve officially decided to adopt or become a foster parent, the Homestudy is the first step in the adoption process.  You can start your Homestudy before you’ve chosen an adoption agency or even a decided on what country you want to adopt from.  It can be a lengthy process (6 months or more) or very quick (1-2 months) depending on how fast you get your paperwork together and how flexible your schedule is, since several face-to-face meetings with your social worker are required.  Because we knew we wouldn’t be adopting through an agency in WA, we had to find a local agency to do our Homestudy.  It’s necessary to use a local agency for your Homestudy because the social worker has to come see your house and meet with you in person.   We chose an adoption agency called Children’s House International to do our Homestudy.  They sent us a social worker named Thea and we LOVED her. Our first meeting was March 9, 2011.

The purpose of the Homestudy is two-fold:

  • Prepare & educate the adoptive parents about the issues and concerns related to international adoption
  • Check out the adoptive parents to make sure they’re not a couple of wackos 

We had a wonderful Homestudy experience.  Thea was so sweet and put us right at ease the first time we met her.  We met in our home 4 times.  During those times we discussed our backgroud and upbringing, how we were raised, how we met, our plans for paying for the adoption, our parenting techniques, risks of international adoption, adjustments we will go through, and what brought us to the decision to adopt, as well as many other topics.  The Homestudy was also the official start of the what the adoption community affectionately refers to as The Paper Chase (more on that in the next blog!).  When we started our Homestudy, my sister excitedly informed me, “Now you’re papers-pregnant!”  I liked the sound of that :o)

We had to provide Thea with all sorts of information about our lives so that she could write an accurate Homestudy report.  Several background checks were preformed on Josh and I, as well as FBI fingerprinting, and four reference letters were required.  We had to get a notarized letter from our bank stating we had an account that was in good standing, one from our employers stating our job title, length of employment, and salary, and one from our doctors stating that we were in good physical health and they saw no reason to discourage us from adopting.  We also had to take several parent education classes (ours were online) about international adoption.  After Thea collected these documents and completed her meetings with us she complied all this information to write a long report, sort of like a little biography, about Josh and I.  This report was read by our adoption agency, the Dept. of Homeland Security (because we had to get approval from them to bring an immigrant over and make the a US citizen through adoption…..more on that later as well!), and it will also be read by adoption officials in the Ugandan government.

I know this probably sounds like a lot of hoops to jump through and many people are intimated by the thought of going through a Homestudy.  But, honestly, we loved our Homestudy.  I never felt intimidated or uncomfortable.  In fact, I never even felt nervous.  The whole process was exciting and every step prepared us more for becoming adoptive parents.  The photo above is Josh and I with Thea after our last meeting with her.  We will get to see her a three more times when she comes for post-placement reports after we bring our baby home.