Monday, August 28, 2006

Time flies.

Time flies.

For us, that statement describes both a source of frustration and anticipation. We want to both clip it's wings, while at the same time hoping it has a stiff tailwind.

Frustration because I intended to keep this blog updated quite frequently, yet I find that eight days have already passed since I first posted! Where does time go (I have a sneaking suspicion that it is hiding with all the socks that get lost in the dryer)??? So many things have happened in just the last eight days, but more on that later.

Anticipation because the more time flies, the closer we are to getting our daughter/sister (although at the same time I realize that AM is growing up so fast, and that makes me sad).

I am a walking contradiction.

This past week was crazy (that's my only excuse for not posting before now). AM began kindergarten this week. I can actually say that now without feeling a rock in the pit of my stomach, or feeling slightly nauseous. Okay, I'm prone to exaggeration, but I promise that this was how I spent the first three days of last week.

AM was sooo excited to begin school. The Sunday before he started, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. After all, he only moved from the basement of the building (where the preschool is) to the first floor. I know the whole staff and they adore AM (who wouldn't). Yet I found myself a little weepy on Wednesday. Okay, okay...a lot weepy. The pastor checked on me after the orientation meeting because I was crying...a lot. I dare ANY parent (particularly a mother) that was told their child would most likely be deaf, blind or mentally disabled NOT to cry on the day they start school. Our poor son undoubtedly has many years of his mother crying when he does what other's consider "ordinary" things.

However, AM being AM, he provided the "comic" relief I needed to bring me down off Morose Mountain. I had promised to take him out to lunch to celebrate his first day (and MotH surprised us by meeting us for lunch too) and as we enjoyed our culinary creations at McD's, he pushed back his hair and declared that his "brain already grew" because he was learning new things.

Wednesday night brought a migraine and a trip to the doctor's office. A sinus infection, along with the emotion of the day, proved to be the perfect recipe for a massive headache. I was the ultimate "party pooper" as I spent the rest of the evening in bed, while my two boys headed out for celebratory ice cream.

Thursday was relatively uneventful and we survived day TWO of kindergarten.

Friday found AM at school in the morning (where he earned a cowboy hat sticker for being "quiet" in the hallway.......he's already doing better then his mother was capable of at that age!), MotH working on the deck and me packing for our long awaited Sunday school retreat to Lake of the Ozarks.

We left Friday night and, after an obnoxiously long wait in the Peculiar, MO's (yes, that's a real town) Hardee's drive-thru, made it to LotO around 9pm. The forecast called for a 90 PERCENT CHANCE of thunderstorms all night Friday, all day Saturday and into Sunday morning. We were prepared to hunker down inside, play games and enjoy some fellowship. Luckily, God, in all His mercy, knew that having three active kids (that REALLY wanted to go on the "jumperlines".....our niece's word for trampolines.....the one's at LotO float on the water) locked in a lodge would surely trust our Christian patience and brought out the sun! We had a wonderful time playing in the lake and enjoying good friends. There is really something to be said for having a vacation where you don't have to worry about what your kids might overhear (from passerbys) or see (thanks to less-then-modest beach wear).

We got back home around 3:45 p.m. yesterday and things are now back to "normal".

Now....on to adoption news......(I need to figure out how to make a "news ticker").

Referrals came in, catching many off-guard, right before we left town for families with LID's before July 22, 2005. Typically the CCAA sends referrals out the last week of each month ("typically" is somewhat relative, since it's always subject to change, but that has been the pattern of referrals lately). Agencies usually know, a couple of days in advance, that they are on the way and can let their families know. This time, they just showed up! People are very disappointed, because they should have been able to get through more dossiers then they did with this batch. Most people really believed they would get through the end of July and perhaps even into early August. Obviously, that didn't happen.

Rumors are flying around like crazy right now. Most agencies are in agreement that the CCAA is about to issue new rules and restrictions, in an effort to decrease the number of adoptive families. The rumors I've seen most often suggest there will be further restrictions on the age of both parents (currently both parents are supposed to be under 55 years old, the new restrictions could considerably lower that age), further restrictions or elimination of the singles program (allows single women to adopt), health restrictions (including obesity), restrictions on past police records (NO infraction, no matter at what age it occured, will be allowed), restrictions on the number of kids living in the home (3), etc...

Historically, the CCAA has only enforced the new rules on dossiers not yet logged in when the changes are announced. Those that are in the "system" get a pass. However, I know of a few families that were denied in the review room (veeery unusual.....the first department is where we were logged in, the review room is the last stop before being "matched" with a referral) due to health conditions related to obesity. This has adoptive families on edge that the CCAA may apply the new rules to anyone not yet matched (that would include us). However, I want to reassure everyone that none of the new "rules" seem to effect us......though I am anxious for many of the adoptive familes that may be effected.

The next few weeks should prove to be interesting. Generally, the CCAA announces it's new rules in early fall and then they are effective at the beginning of their new adoption year (which begins Dec. 1), so we should know what will happen in the next month or so.

Meanwhile, things are still slow in the referral department and the families that have late-July LID's will have had a 14 month wait from LID to referral. This is certainly discouraging to those of us that were logged-in fairly recently, but we're hopeful that things will begin to speed up when the next adoption year begins. No idea if that will happen, but we can hope :).

Meanwhile, life goes on as normal!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What has happened so far.....

People always look at me like I'm crazy when I say we just started "the wait". They usually ask "what do you mean, you just started....what exactly have you been doing since November?!?!"

Well, this is what we've been doing, and why we've been doing it.......

Shortly after AM was born, we were quite certain that we didn't want to try for another biological child. If God decided to bless us with one, that would be fine, but we would not take fertility drugs. We began to talk about adoption soon after he came home (Nov. 2000) and it seemed like a very natural choice.

We initially considered domestic adoption through the foster care system. However, there were several factors that led to our decision not to pursue a foster care adoption. One, we wanted AM to remain the oldest child and the only way to get a young toddler/baby through the state is to "foster-to-adopt". Two, IF we had decided to foster-to-adopt, there was no guarantee that the birth parents wouldn't be granted their parental rights and be able to reclaim their child. Simply put, we just couldn't do that. To have a child in our home, to have it bonded to us and us to them, then to have them ripped out of our home.....we just couldn't consider it (we know someone that this happened to and it is not that uncommon).

International adoption was something we had talked about, but it really wasn't until we started going to LBC (our church) that we began to pursue it with increased interest. We suddenly found ourselves in a Sunday School class with a couple that adopted two brothers from Russia and another family with an adopted daughter from India. Coincidence? I don't think so. Within the next few months, we also met a family (at LBC) with two girls adopted from China (one was in AM's Sunday School class).

After casually discussing a few different countries, we settled on one. Unfortunately, we didn't both settle on the SAME one :). MotH was convinced that our daughter was in China, I was convinced she was in Latin America. Hmmmm.....we were in a bit of a pickle! So early last fall, I decided it was time to change MotH's mind, so I enlisted some help. I asked God. Now, lest you think I acted completely selfishly, I asked God to "align our hearts" so that we would both feel passionate about the country that would bless us with our future daughter.

Guess what.......the joke was on me, and I'm glad it was!!! I literally, and I am not kidding, woke up the next morning with China on the brain. I was literally bubbling over with excitement for the country! I learned a valuable lesson: God isn't always going to give me MY way and it's because He knows what He's doing...........thank heavens, because I'd be in trouble if left to my own devices!

Just a few days later, MotH heard an ad on the radio for an informational meeting held by Children's Hope International (CHI) and called to tell me we should go. Again I ask you....coincidence??? I went to the meeting and knew that was the agency we were supposed to use.

We turned our application in to CHI in November 2005. We began the document gathering process immediately and our home study began in December. We had to send off for MotH's employment verification (since the human resources' office is located in Michigan), get our passports, birth certificates and marriage license as well as having a full physical, having our police reports run and gathering various financial documents. Basically, we jumped through a bunch of hoops, turned around and jumped through them again!

Once we finally had all of our paperwork, we could proceed to immigration. In the US, you have to apply for "approval" from the government to bring a non-US born infant into the United States. When Clinton was in office, he signed a bill that made children, adopted abroad, citizens as soon as they land in their first US city (as much as I hate to admit it, he obviously had at least one redeeming quality......although I am saying that for a completely selfish reason). We went to the KC immigration office in March of 2006 to turn in our application and to be fingerprinted. Unfortunately, we happened to catch the immigration office as they hit a slow down and what should have taken just two weeks, ended up taking seven!

With our immigration paperwork in hand, I made a zillion copies of stuff and took them to the Secretary of State's office in Topeka. All of our paperwork had to be "authenticated", which basically means that the Secretary of State verifies that the notaries (each of our pieces of paper had to be notarized) are actual notaries in the state of KS. Then, the paperwork went to Chicago and our regional Chinese consulate for "certification". There, they attach paperwork (in Chinese) that says all the "i's" are dotted and "t's" are crossed (at least that's what I think it said....it was, after all, in Chinese). It took a little over a week for the paperwork to come back from the consulate.

Whew! We were finally able to send our paperwork to China! It left on May 26 from the CHI office in St. Louis. We caught a break this time and got in while China was still logging dossiers in pretty quickly. Our official LID was June 13.....and THAT is when the wait began.

We're often asked how long we'll have to wait and truthfully, we don't know. There are a bunch of rumors flying around right now about Chinese adoption. It's important for people to realize that international adoption is a very fluid situation, changing and shifting constantly. China appeals to many people because it is a very dependable process. Last year, the wait times were 6-8 months and a record number of parents flooded into China. The result: things got backed up!

The process for a child to become eligible for adoption is as follows: a baby is abandoned and taken to an orphanage. The police get called and place a "finding ad" in the paper, allowing birth parents to reclaim their child. This process goes on for a couple of months. After that time, the police file an official paper saying the baby was abandoned. The orphanage must them send this paper to another office where a birth certificate is created (unless the baby is left with a note, the birth date is the best "guestimate" the orphanage director can make), which takes another couple of months. The certificate goes back to the orphanage where the workers must then complete more paperwork to make the child "paper ready". When a child is "paper ready", they are eligible for adoption.

Now, part of the problem for the back-up (besides a record number of dossiers), is that orphanages are woefully understaffed and do not have enough "paper ready" infants. This, in no way, is a reflection of how many infants they currently have......in fact, they can have dozens (even over a hundred) and still not have any "paper ready".

Compounding the problem is the fact that China only allows certain orphanages to participate in international adoption AND only allows each of those orphanages to adopt out a certain number of babies internationally. Additionally, there was a baby trafficking scandal in the Hunan province last year and China completely shut the province down (there are a few kiddos being adopted out of Hunan again). This created a big shortage, because Hunan provided 40% of all of the babies adopted internationally!

Finally, China is embarrassed by it's problem with female, infant abandonment and simply will not allow a huge flood of babies to leave the country (they are especially sensitive right now with the Olympics being hosted there in 2008.....they don't want negative publicity). There is also speculation that the growing concern in China regarding the unbalance between males and females is leading them to adopt out fewer children internationally.

Okay, now that we know why there is a shortage of "paper ready" infants, let's look at the wait. Right now, the CCAA is sending out about two weeks of referrals at a time and only once a month (usually in the last week). At the end of August, it is expected that they will send referrals for the last two weeks of July 2005 (which means those families will have waited 13 months). August 2005 was a "small" month, but they always receive a larger number of dossiers in the fall of each year. Nobody really knows how that will effect the wait.

The CCAA just moved to a new office and is rumored to have brought in additional help to process dossiers. They are "committed" to keeping the wait around 12 months, but it is already at 13. Some believe it will grow before it shrinks, primarily because the CCAA can only process "paper ready" infants, and the number of those don't seem to be growing......in other words, they could hire 100 more people, but if the number of "paper ready" infants doesn't grow, there will still be a shortage.

So....we wait. We wish we could tell you (we wish we knew!) how much longer it will be, but we simply don't know. The good news is that we KNOW we will not get the wrong baby! God already knows which child is ours and His timing is always perfect. I remind myself of that often when I get impatient!

Lastly, if you've hung in with me this long, I want to recommend a few resources (to those interested). First, there was a good documentary done (National Geographic) called "China's Lost Girls", hosted by Lisa Ling. It can frequently be found at public libraries. Another good resource is "The Lost Daughters of China" by Karin Evans (book). Both will help explain, better then I could, the deep, cultural reasons for China's female, infant abandonment.

And finally, I expect that most of my posts in the coming months will be filled with "everyday life" entries, as well as current rumors and speculation. If you have questions, please try to post them in "comments" under each post (you can use that for comments too, lol) and I'll try to answer them. You can also email me.

Until next time, I leave you with this final thought. Frequently I've been asked if we get to "pick" our child, or what we'll do if we don't "like" the referral we get. My answer is this: never for a moment have I thought we'd get anything but the child predestined to be ours. God called us to adopt and His ways never return void. We will have the exact child God already knows as ours, at exactly the right time. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen " and while that applies mostly to faith in a savior we ourselves have never seen, it is also applicable in this context. From the moment we began this journey, we stepped out in faith.......faith in a God we can't "see", but who has called us on this wonderful journey.
Welcome to our blog! My primary objective with this blog is to provide an easy way for those we love to follow along on our journey to China and our daughter/baby sister. However, since that is still many months away, you will also find a good smattering of everyday-type posts.

Before I begin the business of "blogging" our adventure, I wanted to fill everyone in on what's happened thus far, as well as provide a list of acronyms (which I will use frequently) and frequently used words that many of you may be unfamiliar with.

Dossier - this is the complete set of paperwork that we sent to China. It includes our petition to adopt, homestudy, medical evaluations, police reports, verification of employment, etc....

Referral - this is what we are waiting for! Our referral will be the child they match us with. We will receive the referral (as well as some photos and basic information......date of birth, weight, current name, province, orphanage, etc...) and then travel to China approximately 6-8 weeks later.

DTC - Dossier to China. This happened back on May 26. Basically, this was when our agency sent our paperwork to China.

LID - Log in Date. This is the day that China (CCAA, see below) received our paperwork, did it's initial review and "logged" us in. This basically means that we are now "in line" for our daughter.
CCAA - China Center of Adoption Affairs. These are the people that basically determine our fate. They currently have our dossier and have "logged" us in. Eventually they will review our dossier and then match us with our daughter.

CHI - Children's Hope International. The agency we are using.