Thursday, July 12, 2018

Blog-therapy

Honestly I don't have anything news-worthy to tell here, but sometimes it just helps me to write so I'll consider this a "blog-therapy" post.  Besides - it's been 5 months since I posted last, so I'm gonna ramble!

Last week we hit exactly 5 years and 9 months since we started our adoption process...and today makes exactly 3 years and 7 months since we started the process from Haiti (after changing from Ethiopia). Next month it will be 3 years since our file was formally accepted by IBESR (the Haitian government agency in charge of officially matching us to our child).

So! We have been stuck at the same stage waiting for a match for a very long time (only compounded by how long we were already waiting before having to start over). Renewing home studies, renewing fingerprints. Worrying through hurricane seasons...and various political unrest.

Which brings me to this month. It has been a rough week in Haiti the last week. After the Haitian government announced that there would be drastic increases in fuel costs (between 38-51% depending on the type) there were huge protests. The protests turned violent and even deadly. People were forced to shelter in place for days and all flights in and out of Haiti were even cancelled. I was so worried about the state of things there, what that meant for children at the orphanages (Did they have enough food available at the orphanage? What if a storm/flooding hit and contaminated the drinking water while they couldn't leave? Were the nannies safely at the orphanage with the children? What if a child needed medical attention?....etc, etc)

My mind became caught in a cycle of unproductive worry and hypotheticals. What if with UN forces having pulled out of Haiti they couldn't get the protests in control on their own? What if the people now angry with their government leads to long-term political unrest or a coup? And of course I worry about how all of this will delay or affect adoptions...will this further delay us meeting our daughter? Will the delays cause the child we are potentially be advocated for a match to (no I have zero information on this child) take so long that she'll age out of our approved age parameters?

I tried not to dwell too much on the news reports and violent images found in the media, but it is hard to glean information without seeing them either. Reports from people on the ground were grim at first, but over the last couple days we have been hearing more encouraging information about things slowly going more back to "normal" (with appropriate caution of course). Yesterday a girl I've been able to communicate with online (that actually went to high school with me) received her official adoption decree for her son!! If that's not miraculous, I don't know what is. For something that big to happen right on the tail of such turmoil in Haiti was so encouraging to see...and at the same time I want only that much more desperately to hear good news of our own. This girl is adopting through our same agency and entered IBESR just a couple months after we did...and they are at the final stages of bringing their little boy home in the next few months! It is wonderful and I'm so happy for them! The sting of wanting to be traveling that part of the journey ourselves alongside them feels so much more apparent to me right now though. 

I know we have such a long road still to travel after meeting our little girl, and that makes me all the more anxious to get going with that stage of the process. We have been waiting for so long to meet her. To see her face. To know anything at all about her. To even have the option of flying down to see her an hold her while we are waiting. To feel justified in getting her room ready and using her name.

I have felt this ache before. I have traveled this road and felt this yearning...just not for this long consecutively. Don't get me wrong - I'm grateful for the 3 children I've been blessed with, but our family is not complete and I just yearn to be to that point. To de-mystify things. To know her. To touch her little face. To have at least some answers. To be able to show people her picture. For her brothers to see her face!

I could go on and on about this aching, but let me at least say something I have been grateful for. The connection to people who are going through this process also. I cannot imagine not being able to reach out, ask questions, and connect to other mamas going through various stages of this process. To share in their worries and share in their joys. 

One way I recently have seen the hand of the Lord sustaining me in this process recently was through someone He has recently put in my life. At the beginning of the month the prayer list was updated (for those who have been waiting a long time for a referral) on the Adopting from Haiti FB page. For families waiting 26 months or longer in IBESR for a referral (we're at 35 months this month) they take off any families who received a referral the prior month and update the number of months waiting for other families. When I was looking through the list I got curious about families who were close to us in number of months waiting. I clicked on the profiles of a few families that have been waiting within 2-3 months longer or shorter than us and one caught my eye...when I peeked at one family's profile, their most recent post was asking if anyone had a spare iPhone that they could use for their son's CGM! We had just posted the same thing the week prior for Max. Say what?! Someone on this site who has also been waiting forever for a referral that ALSO has a child with T1D??! I fessed up to my facebook "stalking" and left her a comment saying that we also had a T1D and she quickly messaged back. Before long we had exchanged phone numbers and began to send each other Marco Polos (an app for video messages). Finding someone else who could relate to the 2 biggest stressors currently in my life (the long adoption process and T1D) was so amazing. It has been so amazing to get to know her, and uncanny how many similarities we seem to have (we even share the same birthday)! The support I have felt from being able to communicate with Sarah came at a time when I so desperately needed it. In fact, I don't know if I fully realized how much I needed it...but I know that He did, and I'm so grateful. We're praying that somehow we could be blessed to receive referrals for our little girls from the same orphanage so we could try and meet one another in Haiti since we live on opposite sides of our country. That would be so amazing. In the meantime, I'm so grateful to have each other to support one another during this sometimes agonizing wait...and to talk diabetes and life in general along the way.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that Chareyl has given very little information (which I understand that she can't say more), but that they have a match they have been advocating for us...and that there is just a document missing that needs to be fixed and then we could potentially be ready for a referral if IBESR approves it. That is a lot of ifs, but I am so hopeful that it will work out. There have been 2 other potential matches they have advocated for us that have fallen through, so who knows if this one will work out either, but I was feeling so optimistic about things happening soon...and then the protests/riots broke out in Haiti. I'm praying that if this is supposed to happen that the document will be provided so we can move forward with this match. 

This whole process is full of so much heartache, beauty, unknowns, waiting, faith, patience, impatience, hope, isolation, connection...the dissonance is dizzying sometimes. Sometimes I just feel like I'm riding a rollercoaster blindfolded. It can be exhilarating at times, but sometimes the coaster breaks down unpredictably for unknown amounts of time (and I feel stranded in the darkness waiting)...and when things are moving you can't see when the big drops are coming. I don't want off the ride, but I am anxious to have a peek from behind the blindfold for a bit to at least meet our daughter. Hopefully sooner than later. We'll see.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Treading water...with fingers and toes crossed.

First of all, I appreciated a text I received from Chareyl (our adoption facilitator) last week. She explained that while the fee increases for accreditation do seem exorbitant, that it doesn't look like agencies will be required to pay the collective fees upfront and they aren't in danger of closing. While I still take issue with the amount of increase in fees (as does she), as well as some of the other new accreditation requirements...I was very relieved to know that the potential impact on adoptions and our agency specifically won't be what my worst case scenario feared.

So, we'll continue slogging on through the unpredictable process like we have for over 5 years. Hoping for the murky waters to begin to clear for us as we approach the next stage of this journey. We may not be able to reach the ground right now (we're still wearily treading water)...but we know that any moment now our toes will touch sand beneath them and we'll be able to stand up in the water. While we'll still have much to wade through - the water there will be more clear and the shore will be in site. For now I'm holding on to that hope.

Chareyl is in Haiti right now. She does both humanitarian work with Haitian Roots and adoption work while she is there. Every time she is there I get extra hopeful and sentimental. Hopeful that we'll see movement as she follows up on our file. Sentimental that perhaps she (or one of the volunteers) might be holding or loving on our little girl, even unknowingly. I love watching their updates come across social media. I've grown to already love the country and people of Haiti so much over the years and long for my chance to go there...of course primarily to meet our child, but also to experience Haiti first hand.

I've written before about loving this child that we haven't met or even seen a picture of yet...I've also grown to love Haiti even though I haven't visited her yet. I've loved looking at pictures of her, trying to understand her struggles, reading about her history, admiring the strength and resilience of her people, and feeling excited about the potential brewing inside her. I have felt passionate about my ways to help her (through supporting education of her children). I've begun to try and understand her tongue and taste her food. I love her. And I can't wait to meet her.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Weary, worried, and wishing

Weary. We're well over 3 years into this Haitian adoption. It's been 30 months since we officially entered IBESR (the Haitian government entity that officially issues referrals/matches). And we're over 5 years since starting the adoption process (2 years were spent pursuing adoption from Ethiopia before that failed). It saddens me to know that once we finally meet our daughter that we still have up to another year before she can come home and complete our family. And knowing how far we still have to go after all these years, I am simply aching to move on to the next step of this journey. To see her face. To know how old she is. To find out anything about her. To hold her. I'm simply weary of waiting.

Worried. I could spend hours listing out all the things I've worried about regarding our adoption over the last 5 years and 4 months (not to mention all the worry and research that went into it prior to actually pulling the trigger and starting the process)! I'll just write about my worry right now though. 

The U.S. Department of State has implemented several new accreditation requirements (some of which are foolhardy in my opinion) for adoption agencies. The current accrediting entity were unable/unwilling to fulfill them. That accrediting entity has now been replaced by a new one that has implemented huge fee increases to agencies. There is a lot of fine print, and many things that simply haven't been explained. No contracts to agencies have been provided...yet they will be required to pay the new fee structure starting February 15th (yes, next week). From what I hear some smaller agencies will be able to pass the fees on to their clients and pay as they go, but larger agencies (like mine, apparently) would be required to estimate their number of adoptions based on the last 2 years and pay that amount up front...at a fee increase of 1,000%! Yes, that's not a typo. I read that they will require fees for 4 years at a time. Currently 4 years of accreditation costs our agency $24,000...with fee increases it will be around $240,000. How is this even possible?? 

Our agency did let us know about this and encouraged us to contact our representative and senators. In the process of drafting what I was going to say I called our agency's office to get specific numbers. I asked them if things aren't restructured with this fee what would happen, and they said that they wouldn't be able to continue facilitating international adoptions. It wouldn't be financially plausible. For them or many other agencies. Of course there is worry and concern about what that would mean for the big picture of international adoptions (and most importantly the children that would affect), but on a personal note...the idea of another huge hiccup in our adoption potentially looming in the near future. Possibly changing agencies again. Being so close (I sure hope!) to a referral and then being relegated to another agency, along with heavens knows how many other families, and lost in the mix...and waiting even longer. Or worse. I just can't. It's just so much worry. So many variables. 

I'm trying hard to focus on doing what I can do instead of idly worrying. I did a bunch of reading up on things, contacted my representative and both senators and really tried to plead my case and pass on information. I tried to put it out there on social media. I contacted a friend who is a reporter on one of the major news stations here to see if they would pick it up. I called a couple people that I knew would be personally invested in doing the same things that I am. And that's as much as I can do. Now I wait. And try not to let the worry eat me alive.

Wishing. I would be lying if I didn't admit that alongside the worry I also hold on to hope that good news could still squeak-in our way soon. Our adoption facilitator will be traveling to Haiti in 10 days. Good things always seem to happen after she travels there and follows up on things. I am hoping and praying that she comes back with news of our final payment request and that our referral will be only weeks behind that in March. 

I seem to always get my heart set on a hopeful date that we'll travel. So far they have always come and gone, but they help me keep looking forward. Like a runner that just has to make it to the stop sign down the street...and once they get to the stop sign they choose a new landmark that they focus on to keep running until...and on it goes. Right now my landmark is April. I am really hoping that we'll get a referral in March and be able to travel in April. Mark & I are so blessed to have a big trip in March (to celebrate by 40th birthday) with some good friends, and then I'm taking a cruise with my mom and grandma in Europe in May (and we're taking a family trip in June)...so April would squeeze right between those. It would be hectic, but at least the kids would still be in school so it would be less of a time burden for my mom and any others that help watch the boys while we're gone those 15 days.

So, my wish is for a referral next month and travel in April. That's my landmark that I feel like I'm running breathlessly for.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Remembering 8 years ago

My heart is heavy and I'm not in much of a writing mood, but I felt compelled to at least acknowledge that today marks 8 years since the big earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and misplaced millions. I wrote a more wordy post on this day last year, but for today I will just say that my heart goes out to all the Haitians that are remembering today with pain. While Haitians resilience is remarkable, this really was a horrific day in their history. I will be honoring the victims as well as the survivors with a minute of silence (and prayers in my case) at 4:53 as requested by the Haitian Embassy, which is the time that the earthquake struck. I also am looking forward to watching a live Facebook broadcast tonight by Williamson (with Arise Project for Humanity) as he recounts his experiences that day. You can't leave an interaction with him without feeling encouraged, so I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

No adoption news or feelings to share. Not today.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Next time

December was a difficult month. Several personal and family struggles made the already busy month physically and emotionally very challenging. For a good part of the month I hoped for a ray of hope to come from Haiti (in the form of good news). It did not. However with all the difficulties occupying our hearts and minds it did leave less time for sadness about not being able to finally hang an additional stocking on our mantle and worry about if our little girl was being held or fed on Christmas Day.

I am grateful that the holidays did offer glimpses of joy and magic that is only found at Christmastime. I truly am grateful for my family and for the memories we were able to create together over the holidays.

Today as I updated the kids photos in the entryway I looked at the spot reserved for our daughter by this Haiti print and realized that before the next time I replace these pictures a photo of her should already be there. That made me smile. Also, as a sidetone...I bought the metal trees you can see a little bit of in the corner of this photo a couple Christmases ago and they were made in Haiti. Metal art is popular there and I love my little trio of trees...

Another bright spot over the holidays was getting this card in the mail...
This cutie is Nelie Chery. We have the honor of sponsoring her education through Haitian Roots. The last 3 years we have been excited to receive a card around the holidays from her with an updated picture. She is so adorable and I look forward to when I will be able to meet her when we travel to Haiti someday. I'm sure her family is so proud of her!

Also, something else from Haitian Roots...they did a fundraiser where you could sponsor the painting of a flower on a mural the kids would paint at the school and put someone's name on it. We purchased a flower for each of kids and also one for Nelie. We liked the idea of her being able to see her name on the mural at school over the years as she attends there...and we thought it would be a fun gift idea for our boys to see their name on the mural's flowers too! You can see Noah's name on the orange flower in the bottom, center of this picture...

Obviously Max & Lincoln here...

And cute little Nelie...

I also opted to purchase many of our Christmas gifts this year from Haiti. I was so pleased with how beautiful they were and I love the idea of supporting artists there who are receiving a fair wage and helping to stimulate the economy in this country that I have yet to visit, but that my heart has already grown to love.

I am really hopeful that we will receive good news from Haiti soon. Somehow the passing of the holidays and the beginning of a new year has refreshed a bit of my optimism. Perhaps it is my conviction in being able to say that I am quite confident that this is the year we will meet our daughter...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holding out hope

We received our approval letter for our I800a on November 20th. Glad that there were no RFE's - or errors this time! I emailed Chareyl the next day and she had already received their notification and sent it off to Haiti (wahoo for that). I have been particularly emotional about not having a referral going into the holidays. I remember last year at this time feeling really hopeful that we might get a referral anytime. *sigh*

For some reason I had really been hoping to see our little girl's face (at least in a picture with our referral) before my 40th birthday which is in less than 3 weeks. I've given up hope for that happening, but am still hoping that maybe we'll get a final payment request by the end of the year??...which would mean that a referral would follow soon thereafter.

Sometimes I feel foolish continuing to hope for something to happy by a certain time (because it's been blown out of the water time and time again). I do trust that it will happen when it is supposed to, and that the Lord's timing is perfect. I also just need to hold out hope for something to keep my spirits up. So, for now I'm hoping for SOME sort of news to be my Christmas miracle this year.

On another note! A couple days before we received our I800a approval letter we had the chance to attend a nice dinner prepared by a Haitian chef! We were able to enjoy it with another couple that is also adopting from Haiti. They are at the very beginning of the process, still receiving their initial approvals. It was really nice to get to know Brooke and Greg. They were a lot to fun to chat with and enjoy this special meal with together.

A little bit about the meal...Chef Roody Salvator of Makaya Catering lived in Haiti until he was about 21. He shared with us about his humble upbringing and introduction to cooking. When each course was served he gave a bit of information about what Haitian influence was involved with that dish...if it was based on something in Haiti, if Haitian spices were used, etc. I got the chicken (on polenta) which was super tasty...

I didn't take a picture of the soup or salad (both were good)...but I especially LOVED the soup. Mmmm. Here is a picture of the dessert though. It was caramelized plantains and ice cream with a special sauce to pour over it. Delicious!...

I regret that I don't have a better photo, but entertainment was provided by the lovely Marj Desuis. She had a fabulous percussionist also, but I don't remember his name. I remember Marj's name because I have followed a bit about her online over the last nearly 2 years. She, also being Haitian, was the entertainment for the formal gala fundraiser I was heavily involved with for Haitian roots in the spring of 2016. Because I was running the auction that had just closed I wasn't able to be over by the entertainment when she performed though and didn't get to hear her at all (which I was really sad about). So! This was a great, more intimate setting to be able to relax and enjoy her talent! Her music can be purchase on iTunes also :)


Lastly, here is a picture of Chef Roody Salvator. He was quite charming and has an amazing culinary talent. Here's to hoping we can attend another pop-up dinner of his soon! Because his business is a catering service he doesn't own his own restaurant, so this dinner was held at Eggs in the City (normally only open during the daytime, so it was perfect). Looking forward to see what Roody creates for us next time!! Maybe by then I'll have happy news of my own from Haiti. I'm holding out hope.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kind-of updates

On October 12th I received an email that our I800a application had been received on the 6th (which I knew because of my tracking info). All it really said is that an official letter stating the same thing would be received in 7-10 days. I got that letter yesterday (the 17th) and am now just crossing my fingers that our fingerprint appointment is here very soon. Our I800a expires in 2 weeks and fingerprint appointments are often scheduled that far out or more. I just am dying to know if there will be any lapse in our I800a which is what allows us to accept a referral.

We don't have any reason to believe that our referral is pending any day, but I think I'm extra on edge knowing that Chareyl (our adoption facilitator) is in Haiti now. I wonder if she's finding anything out about our file? Will she have news for us? Will she (knowingly or unknowingly) see/hold our child?

AAAAARGH. I just want to know the things. I want to move on from this stuck stage of waiting and wondering and want to see our child's face and know anything about her. So, when I'm feeling that way extra - I feel extra protective about making sure that I do everything I can to be sure that an expired document won't stand between that and us.

You know what...I'm going to call USCIS now and see if our file has been passed on to a case worker yet. The letter said they would receive it 10-14 days after our application was initially received. Today is 13 days. I'm calling. Maybe we'll get lucky and get to "refresh" our fingerprints this time instead of needing an appointment, and maybe they'll be able to give me any information. ANYTHING!...calling now.

Done calling. Well, I got a helpful person on the phone but not great news. She said that they have our file, but that our file hasn't been assigned to a case worker yet and that once it has they anticipate 4-6 weeks for approval if everything is perfectly in order. So, we'll likely have at least a month of lapse in coverage.

She said that they only refresh fingerprints on the 1st free extension (which we've already done) or if we have an approved I800 (which happens after we are matched). So, we'll definitely have to go in and do fingerprinting...and she said those are scheduling out 2-3 weeks. I said that hopefully everything is in order with our application, but asked if there was a need for an RFE do they wait to schedule the fingerprinting appointment until that is satisfied (so we aren't waiting another month after the RFE is fulfilled) and she said sometimes, but not always. She said that depends on how the caseworker likes to handle it. The reasoning behind that is that if it takes 2 months to satisfy the RFE then that is 2 months of time "lost" on fingerprints, so it's seen as a favor to the applicant not to go ahead and run those before approval is ready.

It looks like I'll want to call again in a few days and talk to our assigned case worker and feel things out. Best case scenario if he/she says that everything is in order and that our approval will be complete upon receipt of fingerprints...and that she'll be sending out fingerprint appointments right away...that would be next week at the earliest before I'd get our appointment, then at least 2 weeks later to do our fingerprints. So at least a month from now at the SOONEST before we could get approval. Possibly longer even if things go smoothly, and definitely longer if they issue an RFE for current background checks. I'm so frustrated and sad. Sounds like a minimum 2-4 week period where we will be ineligible to receive a referral for the first time in several years of waiting. And of course this happens at a time where it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that a referral could come in the near future.

I guess there is nothing else that I can do right now. Wait. Wait. Wait.