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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Switching Gears from African Adoption to Foster Care

As our family switches gears from being focused on African adoption to domestic foster care, God has shown me over and over that “yes” doesn’t mean “right now” and the opposite, “not right now” doesn’t mean “no”.   In other words, we’ve decided officially to wait a few years to start the Ugandan adoption process to create a little distance between our “red flags” (refer our blog post titled “red flags” for more info.) and the adoption.  The advice I’ve been given by a few social workers is that sometimes just having a long period of time (I’ve mostly heard that 10 years is the “magic” number) where there are no “offences” can make all the difference.  While we are waiting, we decided that we still wanted to touch the broken hearts of little ones by becoming foster parents.
We are in the part of the foster care process where we’ve taken the classes and done all the paper work and are now waiting for our official home study.  Our case worker has been to our house and her exact words were “don’t change a thing” so I can only assume that we should be ok.  With that said, I’ve heard that some agencies will drag their feet (which this agency is doing right now in regards to starting our home study) until there are children that need to be placed and then they will work backwards by assigning us children and then pushing our home study though at the last minute.  Every day I wonder if “today is the day” they are going to call me with children and I’m expecting it to be a surprise.  
Foster care is very “bitter sweet” because on one hand, I really want to be there for kids with broken hearts and wish they’d hurry up already and assign us kids.  On the other hand, getting assigned kids means that another family is being torn apart.  I guess it’s kind of like what they tell us as Army wives when our husbands are deployed:  “No news is good news”. 
I get asked a lot of we are fostering to adopt.  The answer is “I don’t know”.  I have a dear friend who is adopting though the same county in which we will be fostering and she says that the waiting adoptive parents to children actually up for adoption ratio is something like 10 waiting families for each one kid (or set of siblings) available for adoption.  I read somewhere that around 46%(ish) of foster kids get reunited with their birth parents.  Part of me thinks that between the TON of waiting parents and a great amount of reunification going on that we may opt to not adopt.  With that said, I cannot imagine having a child here for a long time and them thinking of Rich and I as “mom and dad” and then sending them away to be adopted by a different family.  I’m completely against kids moving from home to home and getting “lost” in the system.  I’m not sure that Rich and I are on the same page with this but I believe that both of us are just waiting and seeing what God has in store rather than trying to plan something that is very unpredictable. 
In the mean time, I’ve begun praying for the little ones that will come stay with us, whether temporary or permanent.  I don’t know who they are or what they look like.  I don’t know exactly how old they are and what they have gone through but I can’t wait to meet them.  All in God’s time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not Easy?

Funny I just ran into this artical posted on MyCrazyAdoption because I've been asked a lot lately how I could possibly have time for all this adoption crazyness.  This artical summs it up pretty nicely.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Red Flags

I’ve been asked a lot lately how our adoption is going so I figured it was time to update my blog instead of explain the situation one person at a time because, truth be told, things have gotten really complicated with our adoption process.

In my last post I’d mentioned that we’d been told we were best suited for Africa because we have some things in our history that could hinder us from adopting from any Hague Convention countries (which is almost every single country with an international adoption program- except for a few African countries).  I also mentioned that I had a heart for Uganda specifically.
About a week or so ago, I finally was able to get a hold of 2 separate Ugandan lawyers in order to get some clearer answers as to what an independent Ugandan adoption would look like (as opposed to using an agency).  I emailed them a summary of the “red flags” in our past (the things that could hinder us from adopting internationally).  Although one was more optimistic than the other, they both told me that independent adoption from Uganda would be near impossible.  It was later confirmed after speaking with a few social workers from the US that, at least in our case, using an agency (whether it be for Uganda or Ethiopian adoption) would be our only option. 
The problem here isn’t the agencies in the US.  It’s the countries themselves.  I heard it straight from the horse’s mouths, the lawyers that work with the judges in Uganda:  it would be very risky, given our history, to move forward in this process.  Every judge is different and we take the risk that our dossier would cross the desk of a judge that had no tolerance for anyone with our past.
This would be a good time to address what you all might be wondering:  “What in the world could you or Rich have done that’s so bad that they won’t let you adopt one of the millions of orphans in the world?!”
Here’s the deal:  out of respect for my husband I will not get into details but let’s just say that he made some mistakes as a young man and got in a little trouble.  When I've confided in friends about it, even those who are also adopting, they would agree with me when I say that it’s something really minor and even trivial.  I guess you all will just have to use your imaginations J
Back to the our update:  After we found out that we could only use an agency and that  Uganda would have little tolerance for our case, we decided to go with an agency that had already preapproved us and that we’d pursue Ethiopian adoption.  After explaining them my story and still being told that I should be ok, my official case worker in another state emailed me and asked me to send a summary of my “red flags”.  After I did, she told me that our case was “high risk”.  Uggg!
As if finding out that we probably wouldn’t adopt from Uganda wasn’t enough (I seriously cried continually for days), now we were being told that Ethiopia might be out too!  After talking to 3 separate adoption agencies, 3 separate home study agencies,  2 Ugandan lawyers, and spending countless hours researching African adoption and talking to any adoptive mom of African children that would talk to me, it felt like a big, huge door was slammed right in our faces.
My first reaction was to give up.  I’d bought a bunch of Ugandan necklaces to sell for a fundraiser for our adoption and I couldn’t even look at them.  It was just another reminder of a broken dream. 
Could I have heard God wrong?  I’m still not sure.

The biggest question on our minds is:  Is this God’s way of closing doors and guiding our paths to what He wants for us, which may not be African adoption (at least for now) OR is this a sanctification process in which God is wanting us to trust Him even though things look bleak (God is bigger than the Ethiopian and Ugandan government right?)?  We have been and will continue to pray for insight and wisdom.
I was blessed to have been given an amazing amount of peace over all of this during this time.  Rich is, as always, peaceful as well (he’s a mellow guy anyway).   God helped me pick myself up, dust myself off and move forward.

We HAVE NOT given up on African adoption at this time and have even continued to fundraise.  I will keep moving this process forward until we are officially told “no” but knowing that a “no” might be inevitable, we’ve talked about other options.  Domestic adoption (USA) has always been a topic for us.  It’s certainly not an afterthought and was actually our first choice when we were first discussing adoption.  We’ve even talked about fostering for now and adopting in the future.  I still have a couple more people and another agency to talk to before I will wave the white flag and surrender. 
Rest assured anyone who’s bought things from us as part of our fundraisers, we plan to use all proceeds either towards our adoption (as long as they let us keep moving forward) OR we will use it for orphan focused mission trips and/or donate it to various organizations that support orphans worldwide.  I hope to have more answers to the question “How is the adoption going” by the end of this week.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ethiopia or Uganda???

Ok, so, the agency we've decided we'd like to work with if we decide to adopt in Ethiopia has accepted our pre-application pending me sending one of the ladies in the main office a detailed description of everything me and my husband have done wrong in the past.  I'm not going to lie.  We don't look good on paper.  We've already been told that because we don't have a squeaky clean past, we could not adopt from most countries especially Hague Convention countries (which is almost all of them by the way!).  FYI, the Convention is designed to protect the best interests of children and prevent the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children.  The Convention has very specific rules that are great and help the children so don't get me wrong:  I'm all for the Hague convention.  The problem lies in the fact that the rules would make our family most likely unable to adopt.  We've known for a while that we'd most likely be told that Ethiopia was our best bet (and still no guarantees there either).  The Lord has prepared my heart for African adoption and I've even fallen in love with the idea and almost wouldn't want it any other way (of course we'd be happy with any country really). 

An agency wants to work with us for goodness sake!!!  So why don't I sound more excited?

Well, in preparing my heart, the Lord has also lead me to find out more about other countries in Africa, particularly Uganda.  Uganda is, just like Ethiopia, NOT a Hague Convention country however, Uganda don't have a legitimate adoption program outside of the fact that they will adopt to citizens with a minimum of 3 years living in Uganda.  That clearly rules us out.  With that said, the government has found a "loop hole" that says non-residents can take legal guardianship of orphans and then adopt them once they get to the US.  Although I've seen adoption agencies that say they will work with Uganda, most of the families that I've gotten in contact with that do adopt in Uganda suggest doing an independent adoption instead of having the umbrella (and the high costs) of an agency.  This would involve the actual orphanages, lawyers and Ugandan judges as opposed to the agency being all-inclusive.  Here's the breakdown of pros and cons from both countries.  Note:  I have not found an agency that works in both countries so that option is out!

Ethiopia:  We would get to work with a large agency with a great track record.  They have affiliates all over the US so we may still be able to work with them if we move in the middle of the process.  Lots of Americans adopt from Ethiopia and it has a great adoption program set up.  I would know before I even got involved with the country's courts if our background history would hinder us and I believe our agency would indeed fight for us.  Also, using an agency is great for making sure it's done RIGHT.

Uganda:  I've talked to adoptive mommies of Ugandan kids who say the process was faster and cheaper and since they don't use an agency, moving would just mean a home study update (I should note that the same goes for Ethiopia except that if there isn't an affiliated agency near by, they told me I may end up paying two separate agencies for one adoption).  A con about this country is that I probably won't know what the judge is looking for until I meet the judge (and all our money is gone).  We could make it all the way there, fall in love with a child and then get turned away.  Also, in country stay is super long (4-8 weeks for some). 

Ok, so it looks like I only listed good things for Ethiopia and bad things for Uganda.  So why am I still even talking about Uganda?  I believe the Lord has given me a soft spot for the little ones there and even though all the stories I hear about orphans in Africa break my heart, Uganda seems to be calling out to me over and over again. 

Truth be told, I'd love a child from either BUT we have to choose now between an agency that's waiting for our reply on moving forward and adopting from Ethiopia OR taking the "pioneer" route of trying to adopt by ourselves from a country that doesn't really have anything set up for that (and is still in a civil war for goodness sake!). 

I am currently waiting for replies to a few emails sent out to a couple of Ugandan lawyers as well as a mother who just went though it and is helping others do the same.  I probably won't have much of an update on which way we are going until I get more answers.  Please pray for us to decide on which way to go.  I know the Lord already knows which way we'll go, now we just need to know too. 
To all things be His glory no matter which way we choose to go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pre-Application Anticipation

We've officially turned in our pre-application to who we hope to be our adoption agency.  I'm excited but a little nervous at the same time.  I'm very curious to see what countries they recommend to us.  We've been told that we are best suited for Africa so far but who knows.  I'd love to work with Africa, South/Central America or Eastern Europe.  So many kids out there need so much help.  Now, the first of many waiting periods for our family.  I'd really like to start the fundraising but knowing what countries to focus on would really help...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Is this money phenomenon happening to any other soon-to-be adoptive mamas?

Today, I found out that I lost not only my cell phone but that my guitar has also been possibly stolen along with an expensive case and detachable pick up, a tuner and my capo.  I need my guitar because I play for two seperate praise and worship teams!  This all happend no less than a week after, while laying face down on the floor, sobbing and praying about our adoption, my husband walked in and informed me that he's lost a $900 peice of Army equiptment that was unreplaceable unless purchaced at full price.  Ugg!  Why is all this happening when we are trying to save for an upcomming adoption???
I should've listened to my friend Kryste who warned me that, when saving up for an adoption, money will start disapearing.  Things will break, get stollen and get lost.  Satan knows we are trying to save and things will start happening.  I don't know if I'm worried now that I'm on satan's radar about money or happy that God is using this time to confirm the whole adoption concept to me. 
I will miss my guitar and phone but you know what:  it's all replaceable.  I guess this is all part of the process. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Because He Said So!

James 1:27 says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

So what does that mean to us?  It means we are gearing up to take a path that may not be a popular one.  I can hear it now "But Lauren, you can't save them all!", "Don't you have enough kids?", "Can you guys really handle this financially?".  Here's the thing:  I don't have all the answers.  What I do have is a heart for orphans and the oppressed and an overwhelming desire to do something about it.  What I do have is a God that's done nothing less that prove to me time and time again that He will make a way.  It's easy to stay comfortable but I've found that God does most of His most impressive work when we are out of our comfort zones and we have nothing else to rely on but Him.  I'm ready to take that, terrifying, heart stopping leap of faith that even though this decision defies all reason and logic, I know it's the right thing for our family.  Somewhere out there is our little one struggling to survive and just as if one of our biological children were out there, I plan to do what it takes to bring them home. 
Most of you know that I've been talking about adoption for quite some time.  I bring it up every once an a while but now I believe it's time to move.  It's time to make those dreams of mine a reality.
Some of you may be asking at this point "How does Rich feel about all of this?".  Well...he feels scared...just like I do.  International adoptions are super expensive and home studies can be really invasive.  We currently don't have a big enough house to be approved for anything and would have to wrestle with military housing to give us an exception to policy to move.  We have some things in our past that could hinder us from even being able to adopt from certain countries.  Rich is still in school and he's still struggling with getting into a couple of programs to further his career.  Scared is an understatement for us!  I remember hearing a quote from Joyce Meyer one time that "if God calls you to do something and you are afraid to do it, you do it afraid". 
I sincerely hope that our family and friends support us during this process.  In case you are curious, the current recommendation by the last adoption agency that I have been in talks with is that we are best suited for African adoption (Ethiopia, Uganda or Ghana) or Bulgarian adoption. 
So what can you all do now to support us?  PRAYER!  We are in the very early stages of this process and a lot of decisions still need to be made.  I will definitely keep you all posted.