Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Adoption Process

I realize that many readers will have been there, done that - but for those of my friends who have no connection to the adoption world, what do you think about when you hear that adoption is expensive ? 

Do you know WHY it costs so much - do you know where the money goes ? 
I'll admit - I never did, until I started following the adoption journeys of others - I have watched so many families scrimp, save and fundraise entire adoptions - and when they say that every donation counts, even the smallest ones - I have seen how true that is !!

While we are not actively fundraising yet - we'll wait until after Christmas - we have already paid out more than $8000 for our adoption- and there's still a long long way to go !!  
I will list below our expenses so far, so you can see where the money all goes.  

Now - I am in no way doing this to solicit donations, it is purely so you can learn a little bit about how international adoption works - and maybe, if another friend decides to adopt, you can throw a few dollars their way, or donate items to their fundraising auction - or help in some other way !

I will also try and explain the steps we've taken so far, the agencies we are dealing with, and what they do. I am in no way an expert, though - I am most definitely learning as we go along !

Firstly, Sealey was listed as available for adoption on Reece's Rainbow's web site.  Their goal is to raise grants to aid in the international adoption of children with Down Syndrome and other special needs.  Sealey is over the age of 10, so is eligible for a $10,000 grant, which will help immensely !!

In order to set up a "Family Sponsorship Program" page (aka FSP) with Reece's Rainbow, they ask for a $25 donation, as well as a $250 "love offering", which goes into the general fund that helps keep the organization running. 

The FSP is basically a page that introduces us, shows who we are adopting, and is also a place tax deductible donations to our adoption grant can be made. It also shows what stage of the adoption process we are at.
You can find our FSP HERE
Our next expense ($900) was signing on with Hand of Help in Adoption - this is a team of dedicated individuals who assist firstly in the compiling of the "Dossier", and are then the people who help adoptive families every step of the way once they are in the child's country - they assist with travel, translators, accommodation, dealing with the bureaucracy - pretty much everything.
Once we are in country, we will hand them a huge chunk of change - but it will be worth every penny !!

However, before we can do anything else, we need to complete our home study.  This is basically a document that lays out our entire life - it is what enables us to adopt - without it, we are going nowhere fast !!  Contrary to popular belief, a home study is not merely a visit by a social worker to check on your home.  While this is indeed a part of it, the biggest part is what comes first - the paperwork.  

We spent about 3 weeks gathering various pieces of paper that show we are worthy of adoption.
We had to have Child Abuse registries checked in every place we have lived since we were 18.
We had to be fingerprinted ($112), and send those fingerprints to our state's Division of Criminal Investigations ($72), and the FBI ($180), for background checks.
We had to get letters from our employers confirming we actually work there.
We had to get TB tests and medicals, with letters from our doctors stating we are healthy enough to adopt a child (thankfully, most medical stuff has been covered by insurance so far).

As we have an extra adult (my husband's sister) in the household, she, also, had to be fingerprinted, have background checks done, and get a TB test.
Our 14 year old son had to be checked on the child abuse registry, get a TB test, and have a physical.

This has all been done before we were even assigned a social worker, who will be the person who meets us, interviews us, checks out our home, and actually writes the home study !!
Oh - and the cost of the home study - we paid a $300 application fee, and then $2500 for the actual home study.

As well as a home study agency, we also need an oversight agency.  This is needed because we are adopting from a "non-Hague" country. In other words, it is not part of the Hague Convention, which protects the rights of children and ensures there is no corruption involved in the adoption process. Here's how the Department of Homeland Security define it -

"The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) is an international treaty that provides important safeguards to protect the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents who are involved in intercountry adoptions"

So - as our country is non-Hague, we need an oversight agency to ensure that everything is done correctly, and of course, they need our money, too.
There was an application fee of $250, and a first fee of $2200. There will be another payment due when we are further into the process.

The oversight agency also ensured we did our adoptive parent education, which is required for everyone planning on adopting. 

Did I mention the Department of Homeland Security ? Yes - they, too, need a piece of the action - they, too, make sure that we are eligible to be adoptive parents. Their fee was $775, plus $255 for more fingerprinting.

As well as the bigger fees listed above, there has been a lot of smaller stuff, which soon adds up (obtaining copies of birth/marriage certificates, postage to various entities, insurance co-pays). Also, we have to print out numerous paperwork and forms,  - so add the cost of printer ink and paper to the list.  

After the home study is prepared by our social worker, and checked by the facilitation team and oversight agency, it is sent to the Dept. of Homeland Security, who will hopefully approve us to adopt.

The next step is to prepare our "dossier".  This is a whole bunch of paperwork that is required by the foreign government's adoption department, which, along with our homestudy, will be sent over, translated, and submitted for them to approve us to adopt from their country.

All of the paperwork included in the dossier has to be notarized, and then apostilled. An apostille is an official seal that certifies the authenticity of the notary's signature and seal.  All notarized documents have to be sent to the Secretary of State in Pierre to obtain this special seal - at the cost of $25 per document. We already have had 8 documents apostilled ($200). 
Thankfully, there is a $250 cap - so when more than 10 documents are apostilled at once, it should only cost us another $250.  

So - we have to have our homestudy approved by our government, then our dossier approved by Sealey's government.  They then set an appointment for us in their adoption department, which is when we first travel to Sealey's country.  At that appointment, they will - all being well - give us the go ahead to go to his institution and meet him. We will then return home, and wait for a court date, when we will travel over there again to appear in court and ask to adopt him.  Once the judge says yes, there is a 30 day wait before the adoption is final - we would travel home again for this wait - then fly back there to finally spring him from the institution, and then spend some time obtaining his medicals, passports and all that fun stuff.  

Since starting to write this post,  we have actually almost completed our home study, we are just waiting for a couple more pieces of paperwork, and our home study will be notarized and sent off for approval - so the first stage is almost complete !!!

We're coming for you, Sealey !!!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why wait ?

I recently posed a question to a group of people who have either adopted, are in the process of adopting, or who are advocates of adoption. I told them that my husband was willing to step forward to adopt Sealey, a 13 year old with special needs, living in an institution in Eastern Europe - but that he wanted to wait a little longer, to wait and see if another, younger, more suitable family chose to adopt the child (we are older - I'm 54 , he's 62).

I asked them to tell my husband why we shouldn't wait.

Why Sealey shouldn't have to wait.

Here are their replies.

"The child is only going to get worse and harder to care for the more they decline...there will always be a reason to wait for us, but that child may not have that time. We committed while pregnant - can't get much crazier than that ! Hop on the crazy train !"

"It's also terrifying to think about, but I know many people, including myself, whose child has passed away unexpectedly before they could be adopted. You just never know how much time anyone has".

"Just what you wrote. The sooner you get him, the better his chances - you ARE the better family !"

"Because H accrued so much injury and so many physical problems in only 14 months, that even with the best medical care after adoption, he died. One day in an institution is a day too long".

"Frankly there isn't much competition for older kids who are in institutions. Each one who gets adopted is a miracle. The odds that someone else will choose that child between now and then are slim. You could also go through the process and not commit officially until the end, giving other potential families the most time to commit. But frankly, the kids need out sooner rather than later. When you are done, whether it is soon or in a few years, he will wish he had done it even sooner. Grab that baby out of the institution as fast as you can !"

"Yes, what others said. Our first two were 5.5 years old when we adopted them, and there was/is so so much damage from those 5 years, even 4 years later. They say it takes 2 days out of an orphanage for every one day they lived in the orphanage to heal. That means our kids will be teenagers by that point. But for a 15 year old who is adopted, that means age 45 ! Every day damages these kids and they don't have time to wait. "Older" parents are better than no parents (not to mention you've had years to gain wisdom and patience). (Nothing wrong with being an older parent, only saying that because your husband thinks so)".

"We adopted at ages 45 and 47 - could not have done it earlier, I am a much more patient and wise parent now than in my 20's/30's".

"The odds are SO small of a family adopting an older boy versus the damage that will be done by waiting. Plus a family looking for an older boy has plenty to choose from. It will mean two boys saved instead of one".

"What if no one else commits to this child ? He will wish, once this child becomes his son, that he did this sooner".

"I wonder every day why God didn't show us our soon to be son earlier. He turns 15 while I'll be there for our first trip. But it's all in the timing. You have no idea what challenges could occur once you start the process, and it could be too late. You could start now, and it might be a year or two before you get there, realistically. You just never know. But I will add you can't rush him ! He has to be ready, or it will not work".

"However long you wait, that many birthday celebrations, Christmas mornings, first days of school, family traditions. I watched a boy for almost EIGHT years before finally starting the adoption process - oh, if I only had a time machine ! I am now 62 years old".

"More years to bond, learn English and be educated before adulthood. My dad is 47 years older than I am, and I was soo thankful that my parents were mature adults when I saw how my friend's parents acted".

"Depending on the institution, it could mean that many more years for there to be abuse, neglect and self doubt. My husband and I adopted a child as he was aging out (like we filed with immigration 4 days before he turned 16). he had never been seen or advocated for. Go for it now ! Save him and get him into a loving family".

"It takes so long to go through the process. Starting now would be wise. And until you are there you don't "own" the child, so it doesn't stop them from being rescued. Wish it were "Scout" - blind and alone in an adult institution".

"Every fall, the orphanages prepare for the flu season. It's inevitable - some will die. In the institutions - especially for the bedridden kids, it's not an issue of "if", it's just "how many and who". In the baby houses, there is some medical care - limited, but some. In the institutions, the medical care is next to nil. In E's institution, the "doctor" on staff was actually a psychiatrist. Great for giving shots to sedate kids, but terrible for actual medical care when they got sick.
They don't stress like we do, when the fevers start, and the vomiting happens. There won't be IV's to rehydrate when they can't keep fluids down. It's the survival of the fittest - the ones who an survive, will - and the ones that can't will end up in graves out back.
We've adopted 12 kids from Eastern Europe, and this, this that I just mentioned, is the one reason I tell parents - if you think you want to do this, don't delay. It's not just because someone else might get there first, or because the orphanage damage will be greater.
It's because absolutely no one cares about that child, not in the way a parent does, while they're in the orphanage. The orphanage staff members have all accepted this cruel and brutal reality that orphan lives don't matter, and that death is just part of it, and nothing will ever change.
So ask your husband this, right now, if that boy he is drawn to gets cut, is he OK with the fact that he probably won't get stitches, that he'll just get some glue and then stinging medicine put on it, and they'll hope for the best ,and he'll have a huge scar ? Is he OK with the fact that if a bone breaks, there's a 50/50 chance if he's able bodied, that he'll get it properly set with a cast - and if he's bedridden, it's more like a snowball's chance in hell that he'll get medical treatment - that instead , it'll just be like the other kids that come home with limbs at odd, unnatural angles.
Can he live with the fact that if the boy soils himself, maybe with diarrhea or vomit from the flu, already feeling horrible, that he'll be yelled at, slapped, have it smeared in his face, probably after he's laid in it for hours ?
I tell potential parents this: every meal you sit down to, as you say grace, take 60 seconds to think about what that kid you might adopt is having - most likely a bowl of watery soup or dried out moldy bread. Maybe, if he's lucky, some stewed veggies and some veriniki dumpling type things. When you sit down to relax, to watch TV, to do anything fun, think about what his view is like, what his life is like. Every single thing you do - for 2 weeks, stop and compare lives. When you say your prayers at night, think about what he is praying for - because it's probably YOU. It's someone to love him, to get him out of there, someone to call him son. When you put on clean clothes, realize that he's still probably wearing the ones he's had on all week, torn, stained, stinky. When you are thirsty, have a fridge full of stuff to drink - he will likely go thirsty, or at best, have the brownish yellow contaminated water that flows through the pipes of the entire nation. When you have a little snack before bed - he's lying there, belly aching, from hunger.
I've never seen anyone last the full 2 weeks, honestly. Once you really start comparing lives - it feels cruel to leave him there. There are no perfect parents, no perfect families. When you're alone, and lonely, and no one cares - literally no one really cares - if you live or die - any family - any couple - will do. They just needed to say yes".

"It's so, so hard to live this way. but I wouldn't go back. The connection to humans everywhere is an unbearable burden at times, but so necessary. I will never forget the Christmasses and Thanksgivings and birthdays, of celebrating with families while my sons were in institutions or poverty, with malaria or bedridden in multiple casts. I will never ever forget the time I was at a family function where people were offering me fancy wine and cheeses and my son had just passed away in poverty, from pneumonia, due to lack of treatment and neglect and corruption, before I could get to him.  Sometimes it feels like a weight or a cloud to keep others IN MIND and to keep yourself within reality and the magnitude of situations people are living in, but other times it feels like you have woken up and others are still dreaming. This comment is TRUTH. So many CAN'T be adopted because of where they live, or whatever, they will never be adopted. Others CAN, but no one will come for them. So many others just wait. They have no way to know if they will ever have a family in their future. So many die before they ever get a chance. Some are so bad off nobody will ever consider them. SO many prayers going up today".

"With our fourth adoption, kids #10, 11 and 12, we arrived to our then 9 month old daughter, who had been listed for months, with a black eye. How many times have I wondered, if we had moved faster, if we hadn't delayed, would she have avoided this ? Who the heck gives a 9 month old a black eye ? (they claimed she fell while walking. Y'all, she couldn't even sit up unassisted She didn't start crawling for 6 more months. She didn't try to walk for more than a year later. She was hit, by someone or something. No doubt about it).
While we live our lives, they suffer and sometimes die. Once we're able to go back, we'll go. Time is of the essence when lives are perishing.
Yeah, orphanages are hell on earth sometimes. Our J had double black eyes, and more wounds, bruises, knots and raw places than we could even count, on the day we met him. And this was after they refused to let us meet him for over a week - we literally has the DAP referral in hand, but the orphanage director refused to tell our facilitator - or the regional social worker - where he was (they had been shipped out for summer "camp"). He was 19 pounds, starved, beaten, dehydrated and drugged. They nearly killed him".

"Yeah, my daughter's gotcha day photos show a black and blue swollen face with a busted lip. She was a lying down child, but yeah she "fell" while walking in the playroom".

"I'm, 58, there is no time like now ! Also, living in God's plan is the best place to be !!"

"The damage done to these children is unspeakable. Please, if you are thinking you can wait and it's not a big deal - it IS. Every single day could be the last. Abuse, neglect, starvation. It's all a reality for these kids".

"I think being understanding of your husband's feelings is a good place to start. It is scary to be a parent at an older age, everyone will tell you "Do you know how old you'll be when the child graduates from high school, goes to college etc". You have to be very strong in your convictions to be an older adoptive parent. I can tell you that even though we are adopting from a different country, we thought the process would be streamlined because we were adopting a "waiting child". Sadly, we've had tons of unexpected delays, and our daughter is still waiting. My husband, too, thought maybe someone else would step up and adopt her - that didn't happen, either. We've learned older kids aren't chosen, the adoption process rarely goes as smoothly as you think, and children need parents and are grateful people stand up for them. If you feel strongly this child is meant to be yours, they are. I hope your husband will be able to be with you as well".

I"f your husband honestly feels that this is your son, then why on earth would he want to sentence him to a few more years in prison ?"

"I do understand your husband's feelings. I thought that someone would surely adopt Tanner - of course they would - just look at him - why are they waiting? I don't quite understand why God didn't hit me on the head with a shoe or something and say YOU go get him !!  Maybe that constant whisper - you you you you you you you you go go go go go go should have been listened to".

"By the way, it took us almost EXACTLY a year to complete our adoption - start to finish - and we were rushing. Start now - trust in Him - and I LOVE  the concept above of the 2 weeks. Just jump in and trust !"

"DON'T WAIT !!! It's so urgent !! If the Lord is asking you to obey and follow his lead, do so now !! Throw yourself at this adoption and trust the Lord to guide you !! When my husband and I committed to adopting a child with Down Syndrome, we sat down and listed every single reservation we had. Each one was simply fear. We just said "We cannot live in fear. We cannot make a decision based on fear. We can only live in faith ! If the Lord asks us to obey Him, He will sustain us, even if it seems impossibly difficult".

"What if he dies waiting for a family ??? If you both have a specific child on your heart then GO and go as fast as you can ! It may take years to get there, even if you move as fast as you can. That will break your heart, but it's still better than putting it off. These children don't have time. Many die before age 20. No-one is lining up to adopt older children".

"When the social worker asked my husband "Why do you want to adopt" my husband said "At the moment of my death, I do not want to be wondering what happened to the child I did not adopt". If your husband is serious at all, I would not delay in beginning the adoption. So many children die in orphanages every day".

"Another thought is that it takes time to complete an adoption, so you could do all the paperwork without picking a particular child. If your child is still waiting, then commit to him/her".

There are sometimes "virtual holds', but not much of a line to formally commit. It's often doubtful they'll be adopted in time.

"What is he scared of ? All these kids need out now !  Anything can happen in the next few years. You may not qualify then, the country could close, the child could pass away. Does he think he's too old ? If that child is listed and older, waiting for a younger, what he thinks is better qualified family to adopt him is taking a huge risk that he may not ever get a family".

"Our 25 pound 15 year old was held up to heat lamps until her back was a BRIGHT red. This was done because they believed it helped her skin condition. (she doesn't have a skin condition). They also sit and even TIE children to potty chairs for HOURS. They did this while we were there - I cannot imagine the things that were done when we weren't ! Every day MATTERS, people !
P.S. I'm 60 and my hubby is 59 and we have been home four months with our 7 year old ! And we also have 15 more at home I might add, from age 16-4".

"Because children die, frankly. If your husband has truly fallen for him and wants to adopt him, you all should not wait. This boy has already waited too long".

"The time it takes to complete a home study, dossier process, and travel, changes frequently. Don't wait".

"Take a trip and visit one of the orphanages. See the neglect first hand. I'm told that it is life changing".

"You don't wait if you're willing, because it isn't about you (as parents)".

"Ask him how he would feel if it was him waiting ? Every day I go nuts thinking about how my little girl and boy aren't getting held or snuggled because this is taking so long. That child needs his daddy".

I printed all of the above out, and gave it to my husband to read, on the morning of October 1st 2017.
He read the first couple of quotes, then refused to read any more.
To be honest, I thought I'd blown it - I thought I had pushed too hard.

However, later that day, he said yes.
He said YES !
He gave me the go ahead to get started with the adoption process !

We have now committed to adopt "Sealey", and have our first home visit with the social worker who will write our home study next weekend (yes, the weekend after Thanksgiving).

To all who replied to my Facebook post with the comments above  - thank you !

If you or your spouse are contemplating adoption, I hope this post has in some way helped you to make your decision.

If adoption is something you haven't really thought about before, why don't you check out Reece's Rainbow's web site, where you will see hundreds of children with special needs who are waiting for a family.
Even if adoption isn't right for you, you can choose to advocate for the waiting children, or donate to them, or a family who is already in process to adopt - adoption is expensive !

Whatever you do, please do SOMETHING.
These kids have no chance without you.

We're coming, Sealey !!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"What if WE adopt him?"

""Sealey is almost 10 years old.
He lives in an orphanage in Eastern Europe.
I don't know much about his past - I'm guessing he has lived in the orphanage since birth. In his country, babies born with disabilities are mostly left at the hospital at birth""

Above is how I started a blog specifically for Sealey, 3 years ago, when Sealey was 9, almost 10. I never did write or publish any posts, as I decided to use Facebook, rather than a blog, to advocate for him.
I have shouted for him, off and on, since before then.
He is now 13.

The only photo I had of him until the beginning of 2017 was the one that had been on his Reece's Rainbow profile since he was first listed as being available for adoption SEVEN years ago.
This photo was taken when he was around 6 years old.

At the beginning of this year (2017), a new photo emerged, of Sealey aged 11.
This photo broke my heart, and it spurred me into advocating for him even more.

However, Reece's Rainbow recently changed the way they help fund the older kid's adoption grants - once they turn 10, instead of having individual grants, there is a grant pool, and each older child is eligible for up to a $10,000 grant, depending on funding !!

Unfortunately, this also meant that I could no longer raise money just for Sealey.
Instead, I devised a way to get him seen, AND to raise $$ for the grant pool.
I asked interested people to donate $5 to the Older Other Angels grant, and in exchange I would send them a laminated 10" by 8" photo of Sealey.
I then asked them to take that photo out and about with them, and take pictures - then post the pictures on social media.

You can see the results in THIS POST.

Anyhow, I digress.

Sealey has been on my mind and in my heart for a LONG time.

I had even thought about adopting him - but I had broached the subject of adoption once before with my husband, many years ago, and he had told me a definite no. At the time, I was sad, but came to terms with the fact that I was to be an advocate, not an adoptive parent - and I was fine with that !

Until last month.

One day, out of the blue, my husband asked "What if WE adopt him?"

After he had revived me, we talked.

He was willing to adopt Sealey - BUT he wanted to wait a while, to see if a younger, more "suitable" family stepped forward for him.

I tried a few tactics to get him to change his mind, but nothing seemed to be working, so one day I took to Facebook, and asked the members of the Reece's Rainbow group to share WHY we shouldn't wait.
Why Sealey shouldn't have to wait.
I printed out all of the comments, and presented them to my husband (I will share them on this blog eventually).
He read the first two comments, then refused to read any more.

A few hours later, he told me to go for it.
To get the process started.
To do what it takes to bring Sealey home to us, his family !!

We are, obviously, still very early in the process, and seeing what is involved is incredibly scary !!

It is a long, expensive process, with lots of steps involved - but at the end of it, all being well, we will be able to bring "Sealey" home, where he will receive the best medical care, therapy, education and, best of all, LOVE.

I ask you all for your support as we work our way towards bringing him home !

I will try and post as often as possible to keep you updated with what stage we are at - this will also be a great way for me to keep track of what's going on when !!

Here is the link to our profile at Reece's Rainbow :)

Monday, October 30, 2017

And the winner is....

Well, Sealey's Summer has come to an end - and what an end it was !!


While I cannot yet tell you who his family is, I CAN tell you that I have chosen a winner for his summer long photo contest - to check out many of the photos, go to the previous post HERE !

So - drum roll please - the winner of Sealey's Summer of 2017 - and the winner of $100 - is the person who wrote these words with this photo...

Guys, my birthday buddy Sealey has a family coming for him!!! His warrior has been shouting hard for him and a family finally committed! This is a picture of Sealey with my daughter's Halloween costume.
I thought wings were very appropriate for Sealey, not only because our birthdays are near Halloween but because Sealey is about to get his wings. 
His family is coming for him and he will feel freedom of life outside of a crib for the first time. What a joy that will be!
To think that this will most likely be his last birthday in an orphanage just thrills me!
Wings represent taking off and soaring to new levels.
And, Sealey, my friend, I can only imagine where yours may take you.

Congratulations to the winner, and I just cannot wait to, eventually, show photos of Sealey with his new family !!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

SEE them !!

What do these children pictured below have in common ?

They are all orphans - mostly "social orphans", who live in institutions because their parents couldn't care for their medical needs in their country.

They are all available for adoption.

They are all over the age of 10 years.

They are all waiting - to either die, or be adopted.

They are all eligible for an adoption grant of up to $10,000 !!

Please see them.

 Go to Reece's Rainbow to see these children and hundreds more who are waiting for their family to find them.

If not you- then who ?

Friday, September 29, 2017

SEE them !!

What do these children pictured below have in common ?

They are all orphans - mostly "social orphans", who live in institutions because their parents couldn't care for their medical needs in their country.

They are all available for adoption.

They are all over the age of 10 years.

They are all waiting - to either die, or be adopted.

They are all eligible for an adoption grant of up to $10,000 !!

Please see them.

 Go to Reece's Rainbow to see these children and hundreds more who are waiting for their family to find them.

If not you- then who ?