Friday, May 29, 2009

What exactly IS the adoption process?

While everyone's path to adoption is different, it seems like with an international adoption, there is a general set of hoops that every family has to jump through on their way to holding their children in their arms.

Adopting from Ethiopia takes, on average, 18 months (according to our agency). So basically, we're talking the length of two pregnancies here, or as Brian likes to say, "So we're giving birth to an elephant!" (long gestational period).

First Trimester - 
  • Phone interview with the agency
  • Filling out an application
  • Filling out and notarizing a boatload of paperwork
  • Seeing a physician and getting blood tests done 
  • Fingerprinting to receive an FBI Clearance
Basically, the first trimester of adoption is a lot like the first trimester of pregnancy.  Realizing that you really are adopting is so exciting and even the paperwork isn't that bad because you know that there will one day be a baby on the other side.  On the other hand, there is a little morning sickness involved. Our bank simply wouldn't write a letter on our behalf, even though what we were asking wasn't anything crazy. They just wouldn't do it because they are in the process of being bought out by another bank and they "won't write custom letters during the transition".  Alright then! Thankfully, we figured out another way to get the letter we needed to vouch that we have a savings and checking account in good standing. Just like with morning sickness, you roll with the punches and adjust. We're glad that we're done with the first trimester. Whhheeeeeeeeeeeee!

Second trimester: The second trimester is a LONG trimester. It starts off with a bang and then it involves a lot of waiting.
  • Homestudy - An adoption social worker comes to your home and writes a report evaluating you and your home as a safe environment for a child. We had our homestudy visit last week and are currently waiting on our social worker to complete her report.
  • Compiling your dossier.  A dossier is a body of paperwork required by the foreign government from which you are adopting. We have hired a dossier service to help us in gathering an authenticating these documents. She has been a complete blessing and really KNOWS HER STUFF!
  • Once the homestudy is completed, Customs and Immigration send you your approval to adopt an orphan from a foreign country (form 171-H).
  • Once the dossier is complete, it can be submitted to the Ethiopian government, and then...finally...
  • You are placed on your adoption agency's waiting list to be matched with your child(ren). The current average waiting time for an infant 0-12 months old is 8 months.
Third Trimester
  • One day after you've waited longer than you ever thought you could, you receive a telephone call from a very excited adoption caseworker at your agency with your referral.  That means you get to see a picture of the baby you are being given the opportunity to adopt.  This is pretty much the equivalent of having an ultrasound and getting to see your sweet baby's face for the first time in a picture. You also receive any known information about the child (age, health, circumstances that made him/her an orphan).
  • Wait to be given a court date (usually a 1 month wait).
  • Wait for the court date to arrive (usually a 1-2 month wait).
  • Pass court.  The day your baby passes court in Ethiopia, you are considered the legal parents of the child by the Ethiopian government.
  • Travel to pick up your child (usually 3 weeks after passing court). This must be like the birth part--finally getting hold your long-awaited child in your arms!
We can't wait for that!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Have you ever had a stranger come into your house and ask you really personal questions?

  • What made you decide to adopt from Ethiopia?
  • What do you like to do together for fun?
  • What are some things you remember from your childhood?
  • What do you remember of your parents' interactions?
  • What are five adjectives you would use to describe your mother? Your father?
  • How will you prepare your child to face racism?
  • What is your philosophy on parenting and discipline?
  • Will one of you be the primary disciplinarian or will you share disciplining equally?
  • Do you drink?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you use recreational drugs?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • How do you describe your spouse?
We had our homestudy visit, and it was really weird having a complete stranger (the adoption social worker) asking the kind of questions that you would normally be discussing with a close family member or your best friend. It involved an interview of us together and then of Brian and me individually.  She also took a tour of our home to do a safety inspection.

All in all, it went well. She was at our house for 3.5 hours, and she was very nice.  I have to say, though, that I felt kind of rattled for the rest of the day. Even though I had been warned that we would be asked lots of questions, I guess I wasn't prepared to take such a stroll down Memory Lane with someone I had never met before.  

Just another unusual part of the process adoptive parents go through to bring home their babies.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Naming the Blog

The Redhead: "Honey, what should we call our adoption blog?" 

(Silence as husband thinks...suddenly, he swells with pride. A flash of inspiration has struck. A rare moment when the heavens have parted and a burst of creativity descends, filling his mind with the perfect name for their blog. He basks in the glow of this rare event. Finally, a chance to dazzle his artistic wife with his innovation, creativity, and insight. A chance for him to be the creator and not the recipient of inspiration. One shining moment of spontaneous expression).

Husband: "I've got it! We could call it 'Raising Ethiopia' and name it after one of my favorite movies 'Raising Arizona.' We could design our blog masthead to look like the DVD cover art. This will be hilarious! People will love it!

(Silence from the wife's side of the bed. Long silence. Extended silence. Husband thinks, "Wow, I've stunned her with my insight. She's speechless. She's overwhelmed with this rare moment. She's discovering a side of me she's never seen before!")

The Redhead: (with a smile and a twinkle in her eye) "So, you want to name our blog after a movie about a couple that steals a baby from a family with quintuplets?"

Husband: "Well, yeah! This is a perfect title for our blog!"

(More silence from the Redhead, followed by muffled laughter)

The Redhead: (laughing out loud) "So, when our baby is older, you want to tell him/her that the name of the adoption blog was based on child theft. Are you serious?!"

(cue cricket noise)

(husband lowers head in shame)

Husband: Got any other ideas?

(husband defers to the Redhead and quietly wonders what their blog readers would think of his brilliant idea)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Beginnings of a Nursery

This is the room that will one day be our baby's nursery. I love the big window that lets light in and also the plantation shutters to keep light out when it's nap time!

When we moved in, the portion of the wall above the high chair rail was red, as was the entire ceiling!!!  So Brian and I spent the weekend priming and painting over the red, and got it all back to a crisp white. 

So the room is now a blank canvas for us to pain a baby theme whenever we find out if we'll be adopting a baby boy or girl or both!  Actually, I already have an idea brewing that I want to paint argyle diamonds on the wall. It will be a preppy baby room!  And I figure that if I pick the right colors it could work for a girl or a boy.

The dresser was mine until recently when we bought bedroom furniture for our master bedroom. It is from IKEA, and I thought I could paint it to coordinate with whatever colors we paint the room. It is also deep enough that we can put a diaper changing pad foam pad thingy on top of it, and it can be our changing station.

Mom found these cool little bookshelves on the side of the road (score!). Someone was throwing them out and put a sign on them that said they were up for grabs. They are in fine condition, so Mom scarfed them for us and I've had fun finding things to decorate them.  Dolls from a trip I took to Estonia when I was in college, my baby shoes, Brian's baby picture...

A collection of children's books from my own growing up years...

 ...and this sweet book that my sister gave me for our future baby!  The stuffed animal is Babar, the elephant. I loved the Babar stories as a child, and my mom found him up in our attic recently, so I thought he'd add a splash of fun to the nursery!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Give You an Idea of the Journey Ahead

The idea of adopting has never been a foreign one for us. Brian is adopted, and my father was adopted. My closest family friends growing up had an adopted son, and one of my cousins is adopted. Basically, adoption was always viewed as a good thing and was considered something pretty normal in the families in which we were raised.

As a teenager, when I would dream about the family I would one day have, I would envision adopted children as part of it. When Brian was in his early 30s, the mistreatment of street children he witnessed in Romania made him want to adopt

When we were dating and getting to know one another, we were both delighted to learn that the other was interested in adopting children. After we married, we began talking more seriously about adopting, but we didn't have a clear direction. Even after attending an adoption seminar at a local church in Southern California, we still didn't know if foster-to-adopt, domestic adoption, or international adoption was for us. If we had to choose an order for those three options, international adoption was at the end of the list (for me).

I had read a blog post several years earlier written by a woman who was adopted from Korea, and she really grieved being removed from the culture into which she was born. "I don't want to do that to someone," I thought. And then I really never gave it a second thought.

This past January, Brian and I went with some friends to see Slumdog Millionaire. Seeing the way orphaned children were exploited was more than I could handle. At one point in the movie, Brian leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, "This is why we're adopting." At one point, I was so overwhelmed by the way they were exploited by greedy adults, I had to get up during the movie and go to the bathroom and weep. Through my tears, I asked God, "How can I be part of the solution to this awful problem?" Even though I was still uneasy about the idea of international adoption, something in me began to open to the idea.

After the movie, we talked with our friends (one of whom works for World Relief) over coffee about the plight of orphans in different parts of the world. In the days and weeks that followed, I couldn't get international adoption off my mind. I began to do internet research about it.

Some of our friends had adopted two children from Ethiopia. I began to learn about the 4 million orphans there who need families, and my heart caught fire for Ethiopia. Finally, I had a real sense of direction about adoption--I felt called to adopt from Ethiopia.

Seeing the Bottomly family meet their baby for the first time was so moving and beautiful.  Brian and I had to pause this adoption video to get kleenex because it touched our hearts so much.  These families made international adoption part of their story, and in the process changed the story of these beautiful children who needed the love of a family. As the stories of the adoptive parents and their adopted children have merged, new chapters of hope and blessing are being written. 

Oh, that the pages of our story will be so blessed!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It all started in Romania

I saw them every time I walked downtown. Two little girls, about eight years old, standing at the corner of a busy intersection. I was living in Timisoara, Romania at the time. It angered me every time I passed them. Who was exploiting these innocent children? Why weren't they in school? Who dropped them off on the street every day to beg?

Occasionally, my friends and I would bring them something to eat; a happy meal from McDonalds or some other treat. We knew that giving them money would do them no good. They wouldn't see any of it. These children were being used by adults. Adults who took advantage of the sympathy these kids garnered from those who saw them begging for money. Tragically, I witnessed children being used like this all over Romania. I hoped that someday, when I married, I could return to adopt a child and prevent at least one boy or girl from experiencing the exploitation I witnessed nearly every day.

Watching the moving "Slumdog Millionaire" brought back all those sad memories of Romanian street children. I found myself reliving those tragic memories over again. Halfway through the film, I leaned over and whispered to my wife, "this is why we're adopting."

At the time, we weren't even thinking seriously about international adoption, but the exploitation we saw in the film stirred our hearts and we reconsidered our options. We were moved by the story of a college friend of my wife who, along with her husband, had adopted two 3 1/2 year olds from Ethiopia.

Since the Romanian government no longer allows for international adoptions (long story...mostly due to corruption in the Romanian adoption system), we decided to look into adoptiong from Ethiopia, home to over four million orphans.

Though I couldn't change the world for those two little girls I saw begging in Romania, we knew we had the opportunity to change the world for a little one (or little ones) from Ethiopia and spare them from the fate I witnessed far too often in Eastern Europe.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Expecting from Ethiopia - The Adventure Begins

The documents arrived from our adoption agency at the end of March. The first page said it all:


You are about to embark upon the most frustrating, challenging, and ultimately rewarding experience of your life.

I can make you two guarantees.

One-if you stick through the frustrations and possible changes, we will find you the child that is meant to be part of your family.

Two-you will not be happy with this process until your child has come home.

The most important thing that you can do is to keep your eyes focused on the goal.

If you remember that the goal is to bring a child into your home, then the small frustrations will ultimately seem just that-small.

...surround yourself with people who truly understand what it is like to adopt internationally. The loss of control you will feel in this process is like no other you will ever know...

Most of all, do your best to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Here we go. Join us as we embark on our journey to the child (or children) God has for us in Ethiopia. Hopefully, eighteen months from now, we will fly to Africa to bring home a little one to call our own. One who will be ours, always and forever ours.