2.15.2009

Adoption FAQs

(We love that so many people are starting to ask about our adoption. I've decided to list some of the more frequently asked questions on my blog. Since all of the questions are so great and so many people have similar ones, I thought it might be helpful to post answers here...but we love to talk about it, so please don't ever hesitate to ask.)

You have three kids and life is so busy, why do you want more? Why adopt?
We have felt God leading us to this for quite some time now. In the case of a passion or a calling, many times logic cannot be the sole factor in the decision-making process. We love children and we also don't feel as though our family is complete. I have had very difficult pregnancies that produce very big babies and my body is feeling quite tired from that process. There are so many children in need of a loving home and we have a home and plenty more love to share...so adoption seems like a perfect fit. We love the idea of a multi-cultural family and of teaching all of our children that God created us as exactly who He wanted us to be. He adopts us. We are His children first.

Why China?

For intangible reasons, we have both always pictured an Asian child. The more we learn of China, the more this feeling is confirmed. There is something compelling about the plight of little girls in China. Women have struggled there since the country's history began (foot-binding?). The history of the nation, of Communism, of women...it is an amazing (and many times, tragic) story. My two favorite Chinese adoption books are "The Lost Daughters of China" and "Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son." For anyone interested in a great non-fiction book about China, I loved "Wild Swans." It reads like fiction, but is a true story about three generations of Chinese women...a great history lesson and also an extremely good book.

How long is the wait for a Chinese child?
The wait is approaching 3 years from the point at which all of the paperwork is completed and turned in to the Chinese government. No one is exactly sure about the reason for the wait. It could be that there are less babies available. The status of women is growing somewhat better as the country becomes more urban and less rural. However, the one-child policy still exists and probably will for some time. Aborting babies because of their gender is illegal, but it still happens. Some feel that China has slowed things because it was beginning to appear that babies were their biggest "export." The answer is probably multi-faceted. Because it is a Communist country, information is not freely provided. There are many theories at this point, but that is all they are right now. The certainty is that there are still a lot of little girls in orphanages. We also know that the people of China (for the most part) are still only allowed one child and boys are preferred because they care for parents in old age.

Why Ethiopia?
We had envisioned our biological children to be relatively close in age to our adopted children. Ideally, rather than have a large age gap (our youngest is almost 2 and a three year wait for China means that she would be 5 when we brought her a younger sibling), we would like the kids to be one contiguous group. So, we began considering other countries as a means of closing that age gap. We tried many times to give up on the idea of China and switch to another country entirely, but we just love China and were too vested at that point to switch...it almost felt unfaithful. But it seems terrible to wait three years for a child, when there are so many in need of a forever family. The process and wait for Ethiopia is much shorter. The number of orphans in the country has been disputed, but it is well into the millions. There are just too many kids who have lost their parents - mostly due to HIV/AIDS. Until recently, there were no AIDS drugs in Africa - progress is being made, but it is still VERY slow. The more I learn about Ethiopia, the more fascinated I become with its people. There is such an amazing (and long) history there...extending back to Biblical times. The people and culture are beautiful and our hearts are breaking for the children. There are children throughout Africa who were were born into loving, two-parent homes - then their mother dies, then their father; grandparents or other family members are left struggling to raise the kids, but are caring for so many that they can no longer feed them. So these precious children go from a loving home to either living on the streets or in an orphanage in a matter of months. Many times it is surviving family members who bring the children to the orphanage. In our country, it is almost an impossible scenario to imagine - an extended family leaving a child at an orphanage because they are out of options. Even worse is that those making it to orphanages are the "lucky" ones...so many are living on the streets. It is an awful situation with some saying the number of African orphans could be well over 12 million. We also have several friends who have adopted from Ethiopia and to see them home with their precious kids has been an amazing experience. I have recently read the book called "There is No Me Without You." I would recommend it to everyone. Sometimes we become so entrenched in suburbia that we lose sight of the world...this book is a great reminder of what is truly going on and that we can't just ignore it.

How long is the wait for an Ethiopian child?
At this point, the wait for an Ethiopian child is about 9 months. It does fluctuate some and it may lengthen because as people avoid China or other countries, they may end up choosing Ethiopia. The paper-gathering required for an Ethiopian adoption is probably about half of what it would be for a Chinese adoption. International adoption can be a challenge because processes, requirements, wait times, etc. can all change with very little notice (or fairness) to those adopting.

Adoption is very expensive. How will you pay for it?
While not everyone is asking this, I would guess that many are thinking it. I know that we are. We could probably do one adoption at a time and it would be tight, but we'd get by. Two seems a bit daunting. We are just going to write one check at a time and pray that we can do it. It is sad that adoption is so expensive. There are so many families who would love to adopt, but are scared away by the cost. There are places to get grants or loans for those who qualify. There are also some pretty significant tax breaks. I have a new friend whose husband is a school administrator and they had no idea how they would do it. She opened a bank account and prayed that God would fill it...and through various means...he did! Not only did he provide the money, he also provided them with two adopted children instead of the one they had planned on. It is bigger than us and we are sticking to our theme...baby steps. We are going to have to figure out the money thing as we go. We found out recently that our home study agency will no longer be doing international adoptions. So they finished our China paperwork and will be transferring us to a different agency for our Ethiopia home study. But the new agency just informed us that they will leverage our previous home study, so that we will get a break on that portion of the fee. It isn't a huge amount...but it is still God answering our prayer...a little at a time.

Five children is a lot. How will you handle that?
I have no idea. Parenthood is a struggle no matter how many kids we have. It is the ultimate test of so many things at which I am not good. I have heard people call children "little sanctifiers" and I love this...because nothing reveals the ugliness in my soul more than a long day home (or out and about) with little ones. But they are also our greatest joy. Children are a blessing...truly a gift from God. In today's world, we have all gotten selfish with our "me" time. How can I work? Play tennis? Relax? Do what I want to do with so many kids? How can I schedule activities and provide for their every material need? Families are shrinking...even ethnic families that have historically been quite large. Our world is losing tolerance for children and it is so very sad. It took us a long time to realize how selfish we had been with our family planning. It isn't about us. So at this point, we are planning for two more children, but taking them as God brings them. He may steer us down a different path...we could have less...or we could even have more. We will do our best to plan for the future, but we will take baby steps to get there. Some days we are so excited the wait seems unbearable...other days we are paralyzed with fear. I suspect it will play out similarly to every other endeavor that has been truly worthy. It will be extremely hard work, very fulfilling...and there will be really great days and really terrible days.

Your children will be of noticeably different race. How will you handle this?
It will be difficult for them and we try not to underestimate that reality. We are reading everything we can find about the topic. There are quite a few families at our church and we also have several friends who have adopted from Ethiopia or China and so there is a great natural support group there. We also plan to maintain as much of the heritage of their birth country as we can. We will celebrate the major holidays, take language classes, find groups of kids in a similar situations, etc. We know that for some children, it will be a huge issue and for others, they aren't going to care as much - it just depends on how that child is "wired." We will be open, honest, aware and ready and if the needs seem bigger than what we can handle alone, we will not hesitate to seek outside help. We love the idea of a big, multi-cultural family and of extending that to our kids, their kids and to the generations to come. We are all God's children first and He creates us in His image for His purpose.

As we continue to hear questions, I will update this list. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and love as we travel what I suspect will be a very challenging and emotional journey.

3 comments:

Brandy said...

You are obviously an amazing mom. Your kids are so very cute and I wish you guys all the best in your adoption endeavors. God does have an amazing way of providing for us when we need it. I see this everyday teaching at a Catholic school. Many blessings to your family! WOuld love to catch up with you next time we are in ATL.

Martha said...

What wonderful answers to so many challenging questions... you are awesome and I love you honesty and the reality you live under.

Shea Gilbert said...

WAHOOOOO!!!! Bring on the kids!