thanks for the questions. just cuz they are all so awesome, b and i are gonna tag team it up. it's a blogging first-- me and b writing together, should be interesting...
and quick disclaimer-- i am in no way an expert on this process. there is a lot i don't know. this has just been my personal experience thus far... we still have a long way to go and much more to learn. by being transparent in these questions and the process in general, it is my hope that it would de-mystify some of the notions people may have about adoption, and hopefully encourage anyone who is on the fence to take the plunge!
1. have you always known you were going to adopt?
(H)- yes and no. for a long time i didn't think i even wanted to have kids... then i got married and a baby seemed like the next step, but like most girls, i thought wouldn't be able to have kids for no real reason. it was probably then that adoption first entered my mind. not having any idea about anything, i was sure it was something i would want to do. once we got pregnant with lily it fell to the back of my mind. every so often i'd hear stories, or meet people that had adopted and those desires would be rekindled, but i felt pretty overwhelmed with just trying to figure out the one i had... five years later i had 3 kids, and its really then that the desire to adopt came on the forefront. in our past discussions about adoption brandon felt strongly about wanting to adopt domestically (more on that later). when we talked it out and decided international adoption was for us, we felt a real strong pull towads haiti. i was still pregnant with tali at the time, so we weren't going to do anything soon, but after some preliminary research we were confident it would be haiti when the time came. a few short months later the earthquake hit, and we quickly realized that haitian adoptions were going to be on hold for awhile. it was then that we found our way to ethiopia. i had heard from a few people that the process was the easiest there and the need was great, so we thought, why not?!
when people ask me why i want to adopt, i sometimes feel super tongue tied, like i need to have some profound answer. but the reality is i just want to, and god has provided the means to do so, so we are walking forward in faith.
(B)-I don’t really know…I had some reservations for sure. Logically it made good sense: I wanted to have another kid, Holly didn’t really want to get pregnant again, and we had the capacity to love another kid as our own so why not?! Functionally we could provide a good home full of love so it didn’t seem like such a crazy idea…except how was I going to pay for it?! I had some reservations going into it because of some things I had seen on TV about the way adoption (especially interracial adoption) was being portrayed in the media as sort of a popular thing to do—like having an interracial family was trendy, which is total bullshit as is much of the media hype surrounding pop-culture…for whatever reason it’s pretty natural for me to aggressively resist pop-fads (or just fads in general, though I did have a mullet in 7th grade…) and even the slightest media buzz about something so personal unfortunately had an impact on me (I am ashamed to say); that until I decided I could give a shit about what Brad and Angelina do and if the media wants to titillate the readers of US Weekly with spam about a black child as an accessory then they can poison their own conscience but they can’t have mine.
The Bible commends adoption, I know in my heart it is as right as rain and that is that.
2. why aren't you adopting domestically?
(H)- honestly, i really don't know much about domestic adoption. the things i do know is that it is very pricey for a private infant adoption and they are in high demand. when it comes to 2 and older typically you are able to adopt through the foster system which is not expensive. since we intend to adopt a child that is between 12-24 months, i honestly don't feel like my strengths would lie in adopting a child that age that has been in and out of foster care in this country. i also don't feel like our family would be up to taking the risk of having a child come be with us for awhile and then have to leave (which can happen in foster situations). a lot of people have a lot of opinions about foster care/adoption in this country. instead of focusing on that, i'll tell you more why we chose ethiopia (ET). ET is one of the least expensive countries to adopt from. in terms of country relations, our embassy's currently get along great. the process tends to be quick and easy compared to most other countries, and there is a HUGE need for adoptive parents—as in 5 million children waiting for care. this is due primarily to HIV/AIDS, starvation and disease. the combination of need, ease and cost all made ET the natural choice for us.
(B)-I can be a little more raw on this one…and when you say to yourself (about me), “how could you?!” I’ll say, “I'm a realist Focker…” My position on this is based purely on supposition and my claims are largely unsubstantiated, however that being said I do not feel they are completely off base. I was initially very bent on adopting domestically—it seemed to me that it didn’t matter, a kid who needs a home is a kid who needs a home, why must it be more complicated than that? Well, stop and consider for a minute the circumstances normally surrounding adoption both domestic and international…in my estimation domestic adoptions do not typically arise from the fact that one or both birth parents may have died from disease or some combination of natural factors medical or otherwise—typically domestic adoptions are from force of necessity; young mom/parents don’t want a child (this seems the cleanest/least damaging), drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse…on and on, but the bottom line revolves around something much more damaging than one might otherwise see as the root cause in international adoption cases. Typically on the international front there could be a combination of medical, environmental, or health factors that may lead to the death of one or both parents and there are no surviving relatives to take on caring for a child, or if there are surviving relatives they do not have the resources to care for another person in their family…the possibilities are endless as to WHY the child is without family, but the root causes seem to stem less from neglect/abuse and more from environmental factors…all of the circumstances surrounding adoption are bad, and each camp carries with it a unique set of issues. Adoptive families are all equipped in different ways to handle what they choose to bear and that is uniquely personal and nobody’s business but their own.
All that to say, what we have learned about early child development in this process definitely sent some red flags up with regard to domestic adoption in terms of what issues we would no doubt be inviting into our family…and to be completely honest—we didn’t want that…there are people (saints) who do and who God has equipped to offer a loving caring home ready to nurture those challenges into positive change and there are families who know that they are not equipped like that…we’re not equipped like that, our hearts are geared towards something else, not better, not worse, just different.
3. the biggie... so how much does this cost anyway?
yeah, so it’s kind of pricey all right. all agencies are different, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000 for an ET adoption. why the range? well, different agencies have different fees, and depending on what time of year you travel can have a big impact on how much you spend. one of the things that drew us to ET initially was that you only had to travel to addis ababa (the capital) one time. however, about a month after our initial application went in, the embassy changed the requirement from one visit to two, with each visit being between 4-7 days. even though the price point seems high, thanks to the big man in DC (3 cheers for obama for extending the adoption tax credit for 3 more years) the year you bring your child home you qualify for an adoption tax credit of up to $13,000 and some change. for us adding on the $$ it would cost for us to birth another baby thanks to our crazy high deductible, we're not to far off from coming out even if we end up on the lower side of the range.
4. not to get to personal, but how are you paying for this? are there ways to get help?
(H) - thankfully not all the money is due up front. our initial application fee of $250 seemed easy enough, but when the next bill came, we really had to figure some stuff out. after much thought and prayer, we decided to ask b's family for help. in the meantime, we really wanted to move forward but didn't have the means. so b had the great idea to borrow from his 401k in the form of loan-- which for those not in the know is a legitimate option that does not carry the tax consequences as a withdrawl, it is basically a 5 year loan available for up to 50% of your holdings—now i'm sure some of you may think this a bad idea, but for us it was the perfect solution. once that money ran out, b's parents gave us a very generous christmas present which took us through the next few hurdles. and though the majority of that money has been spent, we are pretty sure that we don't have any more big fees until we actually travel which could be as long as 18 months from now. it's been such a huge confirmation from god that we are heading in the right direction, for with each seemingly financial roadblock god has provided us with the means to keep moving forward. we are confident that he will continue to provide as we get closer to traveling.
there are many grants and loans available to prospective adoptive parents. i looked into them briefly and have an extensive list if you are interested. from what i gathered in my brief research is that all of them work differently but ultimately they can each provide you with small increments along the way. in terms of getting one big adoption loan beforehand??? i'm not aware of any such thing, but that doesn't mean its not out there!
4. what agency are you using and how did you choose them?
(H)- our agency is called AAI (adoption advocates international). they are based out of washington state and have programs in ethiopia, china, ghana and thailand as well as washington state. once we decided on the country, we began looking for agencies that had programs in ethiopia. i joined an adopt ethiopia yahoo group and just kind of lurked around for awhile. there are a lot of loud voices on there, but i tried to pay attention to the agencies that got talked about the most in the most favorable light. after a few weeks i had narrowed it down to 3 agencies i wanted to look into further. my next step was to contact the one person locally that i knew that had adopted from ET and ask her what agency she used. fortunately for me, the agency she used was one of my top 3. after hearing about her experience and what amazing things she had to say about AAI, it was a no brainer.
a bit about AAI... they are a small agency. they typically only work with two orphanages in ET. the directors are easy to talk to, and very accessible. everyone in the office i've spoken with has been incredibly friendly and helpful. the general feeling i get from those who have gone through the process with them is very positive (once i became in process with AAI, i got on their specific yahoo group. the support and information i've received from it has been invaluable). even though we are not adopting an HIV+ baby, one thing i will say is that AAI is kind of the front runner in getting these kids adopted. last year they placed more HIV+ kids than any other agency.... pretty awesome to say the least.
5. how many times will you have to go to ethiopia?
6. what age and gender are you requesting?
(H)- while some people find it strange that you can request what gender you want, for us it was a non-issue. we have 3 kids, 2 of them are girls, one is a boy. it seemed like the natural choice to add another boy to the family. if i didn't have any children, there is good chance i would just be open to whatever came up, but for us, since we were given a choice we felt like giving the kids a brother would be the best fit for us. (side note, if we were to leave our decision gender neutral, chances are very high we would receive a boy anyhow. there tends to be a greater demand for infant girls).
as i've mentioned before, b and i are not huge newborn people. we like a good 12 months under their belt, so again, if given the option, why not do what seems like would work best for us. so to sum it up, we are anxiously awaiting a referral for a 12-18 month old baby boy!
7. what does the general process look like and how long will it be before you bring your son home?
(H) - well, once you decide international or domestic and then you pick an agency, you basically contact that agency and ask for an initial application. after the application and some dollar bills you have begun! all agencies are different, but for us after our application was done we got loads more paperwork asking you everything you could think of. then we began our homestudy. since our agency is in washington state, we needed to have an approved agency in our state of california. the one we chose was called across the world adoptions. they are located in pleasanton. they sub-contract social workers in our area to come and conduct the homestudy. our homestudy was incredibly easy. we met 3 times with our social worker who was very kind and helpful. she then prepared a report-- 12 pages about EVERYTHING you could ever want to know about me and b and the kids. after this was completed, we began even more paperwork to compile our dossier. a dossier is basically a huge packet of notarized papers (including your homestudy, bank statements, more letters of reference, and other various random information) that gets completed stateside and then translated and presented to ET. once you are DTE (dossier to ethiopia) status you are officially queuing for your child. again, all agencies are different, but we will likely wait about a year or so before we will receive our referral. your referral is basically a picture of your child with some basic background information. you can accept or reject (but who's really going to reject right?!) and then you began arranging your travel plans. the first time you go to ET you keep your fingers crossed that you pass court, if so, you come back home and wait for another date (2-6 weeks) where you will ultimately travel to ET to bring your child home.
as for us, we finished our dossier up in january. however, 2 days before we mailed the completed dossier to our agency, the ET embassy decided an additional form needed to be included. this form is a government form that we had begun, but hadn't yet received. sooo, we are delayed until we receive this last form, which should be any day now! once we get that form, we send it up to our agency to add to our completed dossier, which gets translated and then sent on over.
8. shouldn't they make it easier to get these kids a home? why is it so much work and so expensive?
(H) no, they shouldn't make it easier. though the process can be overwhelming and slow and seemingly unnecessarily bureaucratic, there are good reasons for it. first of all, it’s to weed out anyone who's intention is for evil. i know it sounds crazy, but there are some crazy mofo's out there who will stop at nothing. this process is intensely personal and invasive, but so necessary. another reason is that child trafficking is a huge problem right now. you've all seen the dateline specials and heard of the scams... they are very real. always be wary of agencies that make fast and easy promises, there is a reason the process can be long and frustrating-- typically its because they are doing everything right. just a couple weeks ago a stateside 'christian' adoption agency was shut down. it is important for all involved in the process to maintain a high level of ethics and integrity. so when i began to feel frustrated about additional forms or paperwork or delays, i try to recognize how necessary this is for everyone... especially the kids.
(B) If you can’t handle the pain in arse that is compiling your dossier then you have no business adopting, plain and simple…in fact that is very likely going to be the easy part. The reality of a child born in less than optimal circumstances is something most of us cannot fathom…it has a profound effect on EVERYTHING about that child and the six to eight months spent doing paperwork will pale in comparison to the ongoing night and day effort that will be required of you to create healthy and lasting attachment with your child.