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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.