Friday, January 31, 2014

Conversations with Charlotte: the ABC game

Charlotte: "k...kangaroo trainer"
Me: "l...lion tamer"
Charlotte:"m...mommy. Or money maker"
Me: "n...hmm...necklace designer."
Charlotte: "ooh.that's a good one! O...octopus actress."
Me:" uh...ok...p...a painter."
Charlotte: q...queen"
Me: "r...race car driver"
Charlotte: "s-psychiatrist! AHAHAHA I was waiting to use that one!"

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ethiopia Have I Loved: The End...and A Beginning

I was wrong in saying "China would be the easy choice."

I guess what I should have said was something like, "If you aren't in the middle of this, and you've not been waiting 3 1/2 years for your baby girl, or you heard, in passing, that doors may be closing in Ethiopia, and opening in China, you might be inclined to say : "What are you waiting for? Its an easy choice!"
That's what I should have said. 
Because as it turns out, this has been the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
The last few weeks have been full of prayer, seeking God's will, a little arguing, some intense discussion and lots of research. It seemed like a choice would never be made.

 And then all of a sudden, it was.
By Saturday evening we both realized the answer, and not to sound dramatic, but really- it felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted.
So... we are transferring to the China Waiting Child Program this week.

We are excited about what lies ahead-there is actually a light at the end of the tunnel now. Its exciting to think about how Zoey's story is weaving in and out and around and creating this amazing picture of God's plan. But there are moments where the joy feels a little like grieving. I feel like the Lord's been separating my heart from Ethiopia in the last month, even before this all happened. And in asking Him to give me one and take the other away, I honestly didn't expect China to be it.
Its going to take some getting used to, but I am confident that our God is sovereign. Ethiopia was not a waste and Ethiopia was not wrong. All along, Ethiopia was part of God's plan. For whatever reason, Ethiopia is important for getting us to Zoey. Maybe someday we will see the why's but even if we don't, I'm ok with that. Because God is good and that's what I know.

Friday, January 17, 2014

In Which Everything is Just...Typical

Well, Thursday came and went with the only news being "no news." 
"No meeting."
"Check back next Thursday."

We went to get our fingerprints re-taken with Homeland Security/ Customs and Immigration. 
Apparently I have the fingers of an 80-year old grandmother. 2 different (very sweet and encouraging) beautifully accented ladies tried really hard to get my fingers to work. They overrode the system several times until it locked them out.
I failed. At fingerprinting.

So I will have to go back in a few weeks, whenever they send me another notice.

And I have strep. 

Its not been the greatest week.

I think I need a nap.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ethiopia Have I Loved, Part 2

So, what I said about having always known about corruption in Ethiopia wasn't exactly true.We didn't really know until May of  2011, when we were getting ready to send in our Dossier. At that point we would be 3 months from having everything ready to send in and everything came to a screeching halt. Apparently, a lot of children were being referred who didn't have all the background checks in place to make sure there were no other family members who could take them, that they were actually orphans whose parents were not under the guise that they would be going to school in America and come back and take care of them in a few years, that they hadn't been bought or kidnapped, etc. It was found to be happening at such an alarming rate that many orphanages and adoption agencies were forced to completely close their doors. And referrals all but stopped. 
When we started, the expected wait time for a baby girl was 7-11 months. Right now, it is 30-36 months. But like I said previously, there have been only four referrals within our agency since February 2013 and we are unofficially #30. So, my guess is that it will increase again very soon.
So we have been praying like crazy, asking our friends to pray, and researching our other options. We found out today that we are "good candidates" for the China Waiting Child Program, so I will explain that a little bit.

In China, there are thousands of Waiting Children. These are kids with minor, repaired, or repairable medical needs like cleft lip, cleft palate, missing fingers or toes, heart problems, minor hearing loss, strabismus (crossed eyes) limb differences, birthmarks ( so strange that birthmarks are considered a special need there) albinism, club feet, and a whole lot of other things. There are kids with other medical needs too, like cerebral palsy, down syndrome,spina bifida, major heart defects, etc.
These kids have ALL their paperwork ready and waiting to go. They are just waiting for someone to pick them. Contrast that with Ethiopia, where none of the waiting children, or referrals, are paper ready- there are so many redundant steps to make sure they are who they are supposed to be. And China doesn't have the PAIR process, which is adding months to the wait in ET.

So, in China, in the Waiting Child Program, it is possible to get a referral OR to choose a child while you are still getting your dossier together. It blows my mind that this actually happens. It took us a year to get our ET dossier together, and we've been waiting 29 months on top of that. (Apparently a second dossier is much quicker to put together than the first. )
But, we don't know what to do. The easy thing would be to switch over to China, and if we did that right now, we have a good chance of at least getting a referral in 9 months or less. We might even be able to have her home by Christmas.
For the last 3 years+ I have loved Ethiopia. I know probably more than the average person should know about poverty and orphans there. I almost feel like deviating from this plan would be like losing out somehow. I have dreamed of a dark skinned little girl for so long that anyone else seems almost not Zoey.

We want to do the right thing, we just don't know what that is yet. Despite the above attachment to Ethiopia, we are both strangely peaceful about transferring to China. Sorry, its hard to explain. I think for awhile at least, it would be hard for me to mentally switch over, picturing a different kind of Zoey. But if that is where the Lord is leading, then that is where we have to go.
As for the other details- China is a 1-trip country ( which would be GREAT. I've been really dreading 2 trips to ET.) And the cost difference with what will transfer if we were to switch, is only about $1000. Travel fees are a little less, and there is a post adoptive report payment that is more than ET but it is refundable so we will get it all back at the end. The trip to China lasts a few days longer than 1 trip in Ethiopia though.

The meeting that was supposed to take place yesterday to give all the families in our agency The Big Update now won't happen until Thursday, so stay tuned...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In Which 75% of My Kids Repeatedly Drop The F-Bomb


Yesterday I was pulling lunch out of the fridge when Charlotte came into the kitchen. 

"Mom, Ethan said f%#@ is a bad word." (Insert incredulous snort here, after all, its such a weird, funny word, out of all the BAD words, how could that be one?)

Me: "Uh..."

Caden was playing nicely with legos at the table.
"F&#@? What is F&#@?"

Me: "..."

Charlotte: " So if someone says F&#@ is that bad?"

Me: "um, yes. Yes its a bad word and we shouldn't say it. But you didn't know that. Whoever you heard that from shouldn't say it. You know, there are a lot of bad words out there and thats probably the worst one, so lets not say it, mkay?"

Caden: "So, if a big boy says F&#@ we can say it right, we can tell you they said F&#@."

Me: "well, lets not say it at all, okay? If someone says it, you can tell me they said the "F-Word" ok?"

Charlotte meanwhile is crying because she thinks she is in trouble.

Caden: "What is the  F..f..F-word? What does that mean?"

Me: "Its what we can say instead of the other word I just said we shouldnt say."

Caden: " Ok. We shouldnt say F&#@.. We should say The F-Word."

Charlotte ( whispering) : "What if they say F&#@ing heck. We shouldn't say that either right? Because thats a bad word too."

Me: "Uh..Yep."

Caden:" Lets say The F-word."

Me: "Ok lets not say The F word. Lets just not say anything, ok? Dont say it anywhere. I love you. Don't say anything."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ethiopia Have I Loved (Pt 1)

What has been going on lately with the adoption, you ask?
 Well,I wish I could say something wonderful, but in actuality, there is alot of talk about a shutdown and things are really up in the air right now for everyone waiting. This last week there was a meeting to address concerns over international adoption between ET and the US,and  in-country adoptions there. A conference call was held on Thursday by our agency, America World Adoptions, that basically seemed to leave everyone with more questions than answers. There was a lot of talk of being able to transfer programs (countries), lengthened wait times,more restrictions on adopting families, etc etc etc. Not very encouraging. They said we would know more on the 13th, when the 10 days are up and the Prime Minister has his say.

Here is someones account of the meeting better put than I can explain it:
(MOWCYA stands for Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs)
The minister of federal MOWCYA, Minister Zenebu, has declared she wants to shut down adoption to foreign families in the coming weeks, and the parliament agreed with her. The meeting was adjourned with a plan to create a committee that will present a plan to end adoption within 10 days. If accepted by parliament, the prime minister will need to sign it.

There are TWO main reasons we believe this is happening in Ethiopia. First, there have been many recent negative articles on Ethiopian adoption in the mainstream media here in the U.S. and in Ethiopia. Second, the implementation of the PAIR process in Ethiopia has greatly upset the adoption process.

(There have been several stories about adoptive children being abused, even killed, by their new parents. While this has happened (and sadly even occurs in non-adoptive families) it is definitely not the norm, however the media in both countries seem to like to make it a much more common case than it is.)

(PAIR stands for Pre-Adoption Immigration Review:)
"In the new PAIR system, USCIS will review and provide a pre-approval of immigration eligibility to the adoptive family on behalf of the child that they desire to adopt.  This pre-approval has been referenced as the PAIR letter.  Starting September 1st, 2013 it is expected that the Ethiopian government’s Ministry of Women’s Children and Youth Affairs will require each adoptive family to have a PAIR letter prior to submitting a recommendation letter to the First Federal Instance Court"

This one letter is taking families several months to receive approval status before they can go get their children, and apparently the waiting is on the US side, not ET.

Another problem is that there have been no infant referrals since July, and only 4 since February 2013. We are unofficially number 30 on the wait list ( probably farther down the "official" list since this one is only for families who are part of our agency's yahoo group) We are 28 months  DTE ( Dossier to Ethiopia) and the current wait time for an infant girl is 30-36 months. Normally, the case has been that families who are the next up to get a referral get them at the last part of this timeframe. So doing the math, we would theoretically be able to get a referral in August, but there are also at least 29 other families ahead of us. With only 4 referrals in the last 11 months, its not looking too good. 

All along, we've known there is corruption that does go on in the world of adoption. Its extremely sad, but its a reality. I believe our agency is not involved in anything illegal or immoral. If they were, it wouldn't be one of the few agencies not recieving referrals for the most popular age/gender group in international adoption. There are other agencies that keep trucking along ( and also who send out referrals for kids in countries that are shut down) I completely trust our agency and I wouldn't switch to another one even if it meant getting Zoey home sooner.

From EthioStork, an adoption resource agency that helps families with alot of their immigration papers and orphan verification, explaining why the wait is so long:

Are there children who are orphaned and need homes? Yes. Are there children who are adoptable? Not too many, at least not right now.  Let me explain why.

One reaseon is there are over fifty licensed child placing agencies operating in Ethiopia  (at least 20 of these agencies are based in the US).   Surely that shouldn't be a problem when there are so many orphans? Not true. While there are many agencies, serving many adoptive families and ready to place a child as soon as he or she enters an orphange, there are simply not many children who are ready to be placed. You may have recently gone to Ethiopia and visited orphanages overflowing with children.  Most of them are not paper ready.   But even those who are not paper ready are older children. You will not find too many available infants. 

The relicensing of many agencies (after a few months of standstill) may be seen as a good sign for adoptions from Ethiopia. Here is the problem however, the process of declaring a child an orphan and adoptable has changed. This means that you will not see many infants who are ready to be placed.  So the realtly in Ethiopia right now is there are many agencies but not enough infants who can be placed. 

My sincere advice to families;

1. Please be willing to wait.  I understand how painful it could be. But when there are not that many adoptable children , it simply means orphanages and agencies are not able to meet demand.  This opens a door for corruption. It will cease to be about best interest of children.  I hate to use a market analysis however, imagine what happens when demand rises but what is being demanded is few.   There simply are not many infants.  To keep the integrity of adoptions in Ethiopia, families must be willing to wait so that there are no orphans created to meet demand.  

2. Consider adopting a special needs or older  child (3 to 5 are not older children in Ethiopia as there is as much demand for children in that age range). There is always a child in this catagory.

However, if any adoptive family wants their baby girl right this minute. The family must be willing to accept that their demand is driving adoption in Ethiopia in the very wrong direction.  Unless more children become available, i urge families to understand that, while there is nothing wrong to wanting to adopt an infant,  they have to be willing to wait.   Because i know the last thing you want, is to learn that an orphan was created or bartered to meet demand.  

So right now, we wait for whatever happens on the 13th. Hopefully we will know more then and be able to relay some info. I really don't know where we will be with all this in the coming year. We have felt all along that Ethiopia is where Zoey is and have prepared ourselves for that. We want to make sure all avenues have been exhausted before we decide to change course, if it comes to that. We do have some other options though if things don't work out the way we thought. The Lord knows his plans, even when we don't, and I'm ok with that. Im not worried, I actually have a lot of peace about our options. Just wishing I could know for sure what's going to transpire. I know Zoey is out there, somewhere.