Friday, July 31, 2009

Could today be the day?

Today we might finally be filed for a court date. We aren't holding our breath. There is one item of paperwork that is needed from the orphanage that our children came from and it has to be seen and signed by 1 or 2 different government departments. It is very frustrating how long this has taken. We were told several times in the last month that all the needed papers were in order and that they would file for a court date. Then they would tell us, but we still need this other paper. AAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

Several years ago I was in an opera called the Consul by Menotti. I can't remember where it was set, but the family was trying to escape the oppression they were living under. My part, the husband, was part of the resistance and ended up getting killed. His wife was trying to get permission for herself, her baby, and her mother-in-law to leave the country. Every day she would go to the consulate. Every day she would fill out more paperwork. Then one day she just loses it. The consulate secretary gives her yet more forms to fill out. The frustrated and broken woman breaks into this huge, long aria screaming about papers, papers, papers. It is sooooo powerful.

While our situation is certainly not as precarious as the family in the Consul, I can relate to the seemingly unending mound of papers that one must provide and then to be told - "oh, there is one more" AAAAAHHHHHHH!

I am thankful that both our country and Ethiopia are doing everything they can to protect both the children, the children's birth families, and the adoptive families. I am also thankful for God's grace and goodness. This additional piece of paperwork didn't take him by surprise. He knows exactly when the best day for our court date is.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Still waiting. But encouraged.

These last 2 weeks of waiting have been really hard. While Yahoo/Google adoption groups can be great sources of encouragement and information, they can also be very scary and discouraging. We have been watching an Ethiopia Yahoo group. We never post - we just watch. Hardly a day goes by without something discouraging being posted.

In the midst of the discouraging posts and just being discouraged at the lack of progress we are seeing, we received a phone call from a couple who we know through our Orphan Care group at church. They just wanted an update of where we were at in our process. They were very excited for us and encouraging, especially when they told us that friends of theirs, who live near us as well, had just received a referal for a sib group of a boy and girl from Ethiopia, pretty much the same ages as ours.

This phone call came while Val and I were discussing our overwhelming discouragement and frustration. Knowing that there might be a family we know adopting Ethiopian children and that they live close by was just the shot in the arm we needed. God knew. Isn't he great.

Our story contined . . .

Our newest social worker's suggestion was that we consider making a change in the type of situations we were open to. She asked us to consider domestic healthy infant adoption. We thought about it and prayed about it and decided that since we could do this concurrently, it would be a good idea. But because life got busy, we failed to move forward on it.

Fast forward a couple of months. We receive a phone call one day in November. "A mother is giving birth right now in a nearby suburb, would we like to be one of the families presented to her for consideration?" Wow! We were sooo excited. Of course we said yes. But, we didn't have a family book put together. We would have about 48 hours to complete that. If you are unfamiliar with family books, this is a 10-12 page picture/text presentation of who you are as a couple/family. So we got to work - thank goodness for digital photos. We sat down Thursday evening about 8:00 and at least one pot of coffee later finished about 3:00 a.m. We were really pleased with our final product and had copies to our agency that afternoon. Then we waited. The mother was presented with 5 or 6 families books. At about the same time the birth mother's mother let her desires be known. She did not want her grandson put up for adoption. As far as we know the baby went home with his mom. Ultimately, we know that this is God's best for that baby, but we couldn't help but be extremely disappointed and sad. In fact we were heartbroken.

The day we heard this news was the day we were done with the adoption process. We knew God had a reason for our journey. We weren't sure exactly what that reason was, but we assumed the lessons and experiences and the relationships to date were it. We were ready to be done.

But, God wasn't. The very next day, what do we receive in the mail? A letter stating that we received a sizeable grant for our adoption - which were done with. Now understand we thought this grant had fallen through. We had applied for it and were told that we would be notified in October if we were to receive it. It is now the second week of December. This timing was nothing but God's perfect timing. He knew that to keep us from quitting we needed a big encouragement. This was pretty big.

This grant coupled with a donation offer from a family in our church opened the door in a huge way for us to consider an international adoption. And for the preceding year Val had been drawn to and was investigating Ethiopia adoption. I kept saying that there was no way. We just couldn't afford it. Well, knowing that God had provided this much and being pretty he didn't want us to end our journey yet, we took the plunge and began the newest leg of our adoption journey. Working with our agency we quickly made the necessary changes to our homestudy and received a quick approval from our state licensing office.

Several other pieces like Val's passport and our fingerprinting appointment and approval came through much more quickly than expected. During this time we had chosen an agency to work with for Ethiopia. Our paper work with them moved quickly and our dossier was approved and in Ethiopia by the end of March this year. It was a whirlwind, but we were so grateful at how quickly and smoothly everything went.

And once again we were back to waiting. But this time - not too long. We received a call for a referral - about 2 months later. We were seeing wait times of at least 4-6 months. In God's plan 3 other families turned down this sibling group. We immediately fell in love with this brother and sister sib group. We said yes almost right away. We had their medicals looked at by our pediatrition. Some problems, but only things that you would expect and things that are definitely treatable.

So, now it is almost August and here we are waiting for the next step in this journey. It is so good knowing that God has been putting every detail together for this adoption. He is in complete control of this. He knows what the perfect timing is for this and everything else in our lives. While we are hopeful that this is it, we know He may have other plans. This journey is in his hands. These 2 beautiful children are in His hands.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nothing new yet. Still Waiting.

We are anxiously waiting for our court date. During the wait we have been blessed to receive several new pictures and even one video of the little ones in Ethiopia. As other parents from our agency go to Ethiopia to pick up their children they take pictures and send them when they get back.

Our little boy loves to have his picture taken. He is in many photos - sometimes straining to get in front of the camera. His sister on the other hand is not seeming to enjoy the attention. Of the almost 2 dozen pics we have seen of her, we have seen almost as many moods and most of them are not in the happy realm.

Our story continued . . .

God's plans included a long wait. During that waiting time we were made aware of a ministry called Safe Families. Lydia Home in Chicago started this as part of their ministry. The Safe Families ministry is designed to give short term care to children of parents who need time (time to find a job or a home, time for health issues, time for instruction on parenting, or time to right their lives). It is similar to foster care, but it is all voluntary. The parent voluntarily places the child in the program and the safe family is not paid anything to keep the child(ren). The state is not involved, unless for some reason DCFS is overseeing the case.

We decided that while we were waiting for the adoption process to move forward that we would open our home for this ministry. Because we already had a home study in place, the paper work was minimal. Within a very short amount of time after signing up we received a call for a Safe Families' placement - 2 little girls, 5 and 2, who needed to be cared for while their mom was giving birth to a baby brother. What an amazing growth experience that was. The girls and their mom were living in a shelter and had almost nothing. They were very cute girls. The oldest one talked a lot; the younger one barely spoke at all (except to our daughter, Caitlin). We had them with us for about 2 1/2 days and were very sad to say goodbye.

What was amazing was the way our children each took on a role in helping care for the girls. Our daughter really took the 2 year old under her wing, making her feel safe and even helping her smile. Our son, Caleb enjoyed playing with the 5 year old. Our younger son, Cam was looking for ways that he could meet a need or provide a toy for both girls. Because of their connection to these little girls, we were able to very naturally explore some big life issues - responsibility being a big one. Caitlin was righteously angry at the fathers' lack of care and support for these children. She was also angry that the 2 year old only had 1 onesie that was stained and had a hole in it. While she was upset even beyond the time the girls were with us, it clearly had a positive effect on her growth. Within the 2 days because of the generosity of our church friends and neighbors, we were able to collect enough donations to take 2 big bags of clothes back with the girls. What an experience.

This was the first of 5 placements that we had with Safe Families. The next was a 3 year old boy, who we were able to be with for 2 1/2 months. He was such a joy. He came to us right at the beginning of baseball/softball season. Lots of games. He was always a trooper - of course, usually with his shoes on the wrong feet. He truly became part of our family for that time. So did his mother. She was trying to get steady work and a home during this time. She had come out of a decade of hard living and had recently renewed her commitment to God. What a long, hard road she was starting to travel. We still are in touch with her and are praying that she will persevere.

After that we had 3 other placements. 2 sisters who were both under 3. Because of their intense needs, we were quite overwhelmed and were not able to keep them for the needed time. They were precious. Every time Val was in the kitchen they would both be at her legs saying eat, eat, eat, eat. After they realized that they would get food and plenty of it, they also made friends with our dog, "dropping" food off of their trays. He feasted well for the whole 2 weeks. A couple of months later we had another girl, about 4. She was with us for over a month. Again, became part of the family, participating in school and church activities. She did really well. Shortly after that we had our last placement with Safe Families. This was our most trying placement. She was 3 1/2 going on 20. She was a baby in so many ways, but had emotionally become her mother's support. We truly believe there was also some attachment problems. She was difficult in many ways. While we butted heads many times when she was with us, our hearts went out to her. This was a girl who was living in awful circumstances and we knew that the situation she was going back to was not going to improve, apart from God's intervention. While we were relieved to see her go, we were very sad to know what she was going back to.

Because of the difficulty of the last placement, we decided to take a break from Safe Families. Still, we are so glad we participated in the ways that we did. Whatever blessing we were to those families, we were blessed way more by being able to serve in that way. We grew in so many ways and are able to see now how God used that to soften our hearts even more to the orphan and their needs.

During this time we continued to search the websites and send out more homestudies. We also had our homestudy rewritten. In reviewing with our new social worker - same agency - we realized that things could be written better and more concisely.

After the revisions we did see a slight change in responses. We actually had 3 inquiries to our social worker. I think the first situation was a phone tag situation that never made contact. Another set up an interview time with our social worker and then proceeded to cancel it saying that they were postponing it for about 4 months. 4 months came and went - no communication and the children were still on the website. The third inquiry was the most promising. It was for a five year old boy in Maine. His social worker called to talk to our social worker and asked 3 questions. 1) Would we let him choose his own religion? 2) How would we feel if he was gay? 3) Would we put him in public school? We felt for our social worker. How do you answer these questions? Whose issues are these, the 5 year old boy's or the social worker's? However our social worker answered them clearly was not to the other social worker's liking. She said that the boy was too close in age to our youngest child (already should have known that from our home study) and it wouldn't work.

Huge disappointment and major confusion. What are these social workers looking for? Why is this process sooooo hard?

Even with the disappointment we kept on and still received nothing but silence. At this point I stopped looking. Val did keep looking. I discouraged her from spending too much time. The whole process had become such a drain on our family. We did continue to send our home study out, but more and more sparingly.

Then our newest social worker - same agency - had some suggestions.