Friday, July 31, 2009

So, Why China?

We get this question a lot. Sometimes it is from well-intended family members or friends who are genuinely curious on what made us choose to adopt from China. Other times it is someone who has zero knowledge of the adoption process and thinks we are elitists who won't adopt from the US.

A large part of me feels like I don't need to justify our decisions to anyone. We prayerfully considered the way we wanted to add more children to our family and we feel God is taking us to China. End of story.

But, I do understand the genuine curiosity about what leads adoptive couples to make one of the biggest decisions in their lives and I admit I share the same curiosity when I hear of other couple's decision to adopt from other countries or the US foster system. I hope my blog can reach just one person who is contemplating adoption and to help them understand the thought process that brought us to the China, I will lay it out here.

Domestic adoption
Domestic adoption is typically referred to as an adoption plan set up by a birth mother. They are usually newborn infants adopted by the couple or person the birth mother or agency chooses. The majority of the adoptions are semi-open to open adoptions that allow contact with the birth mom set forth by a plan devised between her and the adoptive family.
I've seen costs for domestic adoption range from $12,000-$35,000 or more.
Our children are all 7 years old or older; we knew immediately we did not want to adopt a newborn. Even though the disruption statistics are lower than what most people assume we still were not comfortable with the idea we could pay a few thousand dollars and have the possibility that the child would not be placed for adoption at the last minute and we'd be back at square one- financially and emotionally.
Domestic adoption was not for us.

Foster Adoption
The foster adoptions are facilitated through Division of Family Services in each individual state. Many, many children in the US wait for forever homes and in the deciding stages of our adoption I felt incredible guilt that I wasn't pulled towards foster adoption. I know they need good homes; I know they need the love of stable parents but at this time we just didn't feel it was a good fit for our family.
The age range and gender of the child we want to adopt is quite common among adoptive families (beyond newborn adoption). We would have most likely waited a year or more to be matched with a child. Due to the age we desired this child would have most likely come to us before their parental rights were terminated making for required visits with the birth family. The goal of DFS is to reunite a child with their birth family. I completely understand that and whole-heartedly support it when it is clear that is best for the child. Unfortunately, it can take years to terminate parental rights in some cases and the risk does exists that the child will be reunited and your adoption plan terminated.
We have three children already and while making the decision to 1. adopt and 2. what avenue we would take to adopt, we had to consider the needs of our current children first. Is any adoption going to be easy, especially when adopting an older child? No. But we felt the risk of a complete upheaval to our childrens' daily lives was higher when adopting an older child from the foster system. This could have been completely untrue but when weighing all of our options we didn't feel like we were the best family for a foster child at this time.

International Adoption
Children who are orphans are available for adoption from many countries, all of which have different guidelines and restrictions and of course, a fairly wide range of cost. Here is a good chart comparing the different guidelines, restrictions and cost.
Our list of countries were narrowed down fairly quickly based on number of children in the home already, children available, wait times, length of travel and of course, cost again. We considered potential situations that may arise after placement based on reported prenatal and orphanage care before the adoption, and how we could use that information to minimize the risk of upheaval to our current family life.

And the bottom line to all of this is- GOD is taking us to China. After comparing, considering and praying about what would be the best way for us to add another child to our family, I kept coming back to China. Is it the orphanage care, the travel, the cost, the one-child policy, the clear restrictions (you meet them and adopt or you don't meet them and you don't adopt)? Yes, it is. But all of that didn't make our decision to adopt from China; the pull at my heart every time I considered another country or option, that I truly feel was put there by God, is why we found our daughter in China.

Is this going to be hard? Yes
Are we going to face challenges due to Claire being six/seven years old at adoption? Yes
Will Claire grieve the loss of her foster family, her culture, her language, her country? Yes
Are we prepared? Eh, I want to think so but no, we probably aren't.
Will parenting her be different from the other children? Yes
Is attachment and bonding going to be hard? Yes
Is it a big risk? Yes

Is it worth it? Absolutely

Just like getting two positive lines on an EPT, you do not know the challenges you may possibly face before and after the birth of that child. Adoption is no different; God brings special children to families in all different ways and nothing is ever 100% risk free.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Acronym speak for Dossier To China!

Our caseworker emailed me a little bit ago to inform us that the review of our dossier was completed and they did not need any additional information or documents from us. I'm going to credit that to the extreme organization skills I've acquired.

It will take approximately 10 days to courier our dossier to the CCAA. Once there it will be translated and logged in. This process may take 1-3 weeks after the CCAA receives it and we will be notified after the fact.

We are one huge step towards bringing Claire home!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The day we've been waiting for

This small little box contains all the information that will be sent to China for us to adopt Claire. All the months of collecting paperwork, sending off paperwork and trying to maintain a decent level of organization boils down to this one 2 lb. 6 oz. box. The anxiety I experienced when leaving the dossier at the Secretary of State's office pales in comparison to the anxiety I feel now handing over months worth of work to a FedEx truck. Hearing horror stories of lost paperwork recently DOES NOT help either!

So here is what is involved in a China dossier.
  • Intent letter to Chinese officials (basically says who we are, why we want to adopt and the condition/age of the child desired.)
  • Home Study (Refer back a few posts to see what all went into that. It was condensed into a 14 page narrative of our life; a bit weird to read.)
  • Birth certificates for each of us
  • Marriage certificate
  • Health examinations for each of us
  • Financial statement
  • Employment letter for J
  • Non-employment letter for me since I stay home with the children
  • Criminal history check for each of us from 3 states (states we've lived in within the last 5 years)
  • Copy of I-800a approval and affidavit that it is a true copy
  • 3 original letters of reference
  • 2 passport photos for each of us
  • Photos- couple, family, house exterior and house interior

All of these documents with exception of the reference letters had to be notarized, certified by the secretary of state and authenticated by the Chinese consulate. Documents from two states had to be certified by the county clerk prior to certifying by the secretary of state and one state had to be certified by the US secretary of state prior to being authenticated by the Chinese embassy. Confusing? I've kept a checklist and flow chart to keep up with it all. Oh, and we've gotten great use out the FedEx account we established a few years ago.

This afternoon I will drop off my 2 lb. 6 oz. baby with strangers and pray that she reaches the correct destination on Monday (FTIA). They will review it to make sure it has all necessary documents and everything is correct and if so they will courier it to China next Thursday. What a birthday present!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Almost there

We received our I-797C via email on Tuesday. That is the sheet of paper that immigration sends to us saying we are approved to adopt from China. I'm so glad we were given a pleasant caseworker who readily emailed me the scanned copy so we wouldn't have to wait until the hard copy came in the mail.
So this is how it works:
We will take the original copy of the approval with us to China but we have to include documentation in our dossier that we are, in fact, approved. So we make a copy of the original and attach an affidavit stating it is a true copy. That must be notarized, certified by the state. yada yada paperwork shuffle.

Thankfully it is summer and the children are out of school so we got the affidavit notarized Tuesday evening and the kids and I were downtown Wednesday morning at the secretary of state's office. We had to certify the home study and the affidavit to complete our dossier. Before leaving downtown we walked to a market and purchased a money order for the consulate fees and stopped at Kinkos to FedEx all of it to Chicago. Sometimes I feel like this process goes from 0 to 100 mph in a matter of hours. OK, I guess it really does.

Our last two documents are being authenticated in Chicago now and when we get those back we will finally be ready to send the completed dossier to FTIA!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where oh where...

...can my approval be?
Where oh where has it gone?
I sent it priority and paid the fee;
Where oh where can it be?

Even whilst on vacation I have our USCIS information to call and check on our I-800A status. Yesterday we were assigned a caseworker who was very pleasant to speak with. She had 2 cases ahead of ours so I really thought we'd get our approval yesterday but we haven't. Maybe things will sail through without a glitch today and we'll get the approval email.