Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breaking it to the boys

We finally decided to tell the boys yesterday that we would no longer be able to bring a baby sister home from Ethiopia.  It went about like we thought it would with Lincoln openly expressing how broken his heart was, while Noah who looked wounded was more reserved at first.  Of course when I asked Noah how he felt about things he began to cry and then came to me and just hung on me and sobbed for a couple minutes.  He doesn't come to me for comfort like that very often (he's so grown up now, you know) and we just wept together.  Noah then proceeded to get out things like our Ethiopia picture book under the coffee table and look over it, and ask if we could still keep the Ethiopian doll we'd bought for baby girl.  Then without a word he retreated to his room and wrote out his heartache in his journal.  He is south a tender, sentimental soul and we knew this would be difficult for him to digest.

We had the opportunity to explain to the boys that even though we don't know yet exactly how things will work out, that our Heavenly Father does and we even touched on some of the bumps in the road we encountered during Noah's adoption journey.  While heartbreak is never fun, and the inclination is to shield one's children from it...there is also something beautiful for children to be part of this process with us and watch God as he allows us to be part of something beautiful.  In His way.  On His timetable.  For our children to exhibit faith through prayer with us, and to see that it is ok to grieve and also necessary to submit our will to His.

We've been doing a lot of thinking, talking, researching, and praying.  I look forward to seeing what direction we will go next, and I know in the end it will all work out.  Just like it was supposed to.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Ethiopia program we knew is closed.

Our agency's program has now been changed to an older child, severe special needs program only.

And because somehow it makes me feel better to document things, here is the info I gathered between yesterday's web conference and my long phone call with our case worker today:

Because Ethiopia is not a country that participates in the Hague Convention (although our agency is Hague accredited), there is no central authority monitoring referrals.  This puts orphanages in charge of deciding what agencies to refer the children they care for.  Over time this has become an extremely lucrative affair for orphanages and has become has lead orphanage directors (many of whom had noble intentions originally) to greed and corruption.

Agencies, in order to supply children for the long wait lists that have ensued amidst the slow downs, are willing to pay large sums of money to orphanage directors including thousands for a child's referral and sometimes even quarterly payments in order to guarantee that their agency will receive referrals for the most "desirable" children.  This practice is widely used and justified as a means to an end, but has only lead to more greed and corruption.  Some orphanages even go as far as to hire baby finders to go out in to communities to essentially recruit for their orphanage.  Our agency will not participate in this unethical behavior, but has continued to consistently provide direct support and care to orphanages (food, medical supplies, refurbishing buildings, hiring nurses, etc), but they will not just hand over money.

There is little to no monitoring of orphanages by MOWA (the arm of government in Ethiopia that oversees adoptions) at the regional or federal level.  Nor is there any accountability from regional MOWA to federal MOWA.  One effort that has gone into place to try and combat some other corruption involved during the abandonment phase of adoption is to have an orphan verification completed on the regional and federal level.  Each region has a MOWA director, and some of them simply have decided they are against international adoption and won't sign out any children (so they continue to languish for years in an institution when families are ready to take them) even though their orphan status is clearly outlined.  In some cases children they refused to sign off on have had medical needs that needed attention and have died in orphanage care because of refusal to sign and release them for adoption.  Further, some directors will only sign off on children that are being placed through specific agencies that are insentivising them enough to do so.

Our agency has held strictly to a no negotiation policy with transfer of funds for children (that is child trafficking) and has had to cut ties with multiple orphanages as the corruption has spread.  In addition to the hugs slowdown and also with their non-negotiable stance they simply cannot compete with other agencies out there that through under table exchange of money are able to buy referrals for their agency.  So, they are doing their best to care for and find homes for the children that there is no competition - older children with severe special needs.

While I commend AGCI for their commitment to ethical adoptions, it has really rocked our world to have been preparing to bring our daughter home from Ethiopia the last couple years only to find out that won't ever happen.  And it's even more tragic for the long term picture of adoptions in Ethiopia.  I don't see things getting better until the whole program in Ethiopia closes, becomes Hague and re-opens with government officials put in place who are committed to overseeing an ethical adoption process.

As for my phone call today with our caseworker - there is not another program currently open (accepting applications) within AGCI that fits our perimeters, so termination of our contract is the only possible option.  And there is no possibility of partial refund for any of the $16,000 we have spent on this failed adoption (and no tax write off for a failed international adoption like there is for a failed domestic adoption).  It's not about the money, but it sure would have been nice to recuperate some part of that to put towards what ever direction we end up going with this adoption.

Until then, we'll pray for peace and direction.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Web conference today

I've known since last week that our agency would be holding a webinar today, but I've kind of been ignoring it.  Like knowing your employer has an important meeting scheduled with you amidst company cutbacks, or when your boyfriend initiates wanting to have a conversation and you know it's to break up.  I pretty much know what they're going to say.  Yet I still am managing to feel nervous about it...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

That darn broken dam

I have spent a LOT of time thinking about things this last several days (like, day and night).  While I'm still worried, sad, and processing a lot I also thought I had gotten my emotions a bit better under control.


I teach 6 year olds in primary at church and during singing time today I totally lost it.  The kind where the tears won't stop and you better find a kleenex because you nose is starting to run now too.  We hit a series of songs in church that had lyrics that just hit that sensitive spot straight on.  And the dam broke...

First was 'A Child's Prayer': "Heavenly Father, are you really there?  Do you hear and answer every child's prayer?..."

Then it was 'I Am a Child of God': "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.  Help me find the way.  Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday...I am a child of God, And so my needs are great; Help me to understand His word before it grows too late..."

Then what tipped me over the edge was singing 'The Family is of God'.  I was afraid I was going to start doing the ugly cry, so I had to actually leave my class and go to the bathroom (get away from the music) and cry it out a bit.  It's a beautiful song, but when you think about it (and the previous two) within the context of the millions of orphaned children in our world that need a family it is just too heartbreaking.  Especially for my raw, tender heart right now.  Part of the lyrics on this third song sing: "He sent each one of us to earth, through birth, to live and love here in fam'lies.  God gave us families to help us become what he wants us to be.  This is how He shares His love, for the family is of God."

It is heart wrenching enough that there are so many children in this world suffering, and so many of them suffering without a home or family...it is almost just too much for me to see it getting harder and harder for people to offer that home and family to them simply due to greed and corruption.  I've said this before - I understand that adoption is not a cure-all for the crisis that so many countries in the world are facing, but for so many children adoption is their only hope for a home and family.  Watching more doors close, including doors that we thought our daughter would come through to our family...it's just heartbreaking.  And so the dam breaks.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Therapy post (and more info than most people will ever read)

I am not one of those women who prides myself on multitasking.  Sure, I do it - it's kind of part of the job as a mom, but I certainly prefer to put my whole self into whatever I'm thinking about or doing.  So the last couple days has felt particularly exhausting to me since every waking moment I have spent searching my thoughts and feelings about our pending adoption, while also trying to remember to be as present as possible while doing "normal" things like attending parent teacher conferences, or celebrating our son's birthday.  I have managed not to burst in to tears in public, but seem to have found some sort of strange connection between my tear ducts and driving the car.  Anytime I'm driving I find myself crying.

This morning I dropped my husband off at the airport and found a rare entire 30 minutes of silence on the drive home (3 year old had headphones on).  Yes, I was driving, so cue tears.  I find myself continuing to feel grief, but already being more open to thoughts and feelings about where to proceed from here.  Or at least what to consider thinking and praying about.  I'll share a little bit more about that in a moment but first, a little explanation about writing this post...

I decided that since I'm not really ready to try to explain my grief to the world face to face (especially while unsure where we're going from here), but I figured that I'd try to write some things down.  Ever since I was a little girl I found writing to be therapeutic.  I started a journal before I was even in kindergarten and kept one religiously until I got married.  Apparently I converted to verbally dumping my feelings at that point (lucky Mark).  In any case, writing is always a fall back (especially when my feelings are this intense and the hubby is out of town).  Hence the title of this post being therapy post.

First a little background.  While international adoption is something I felt strongly about as long as I can remember, and adoption specifically from Ethiopia had been brewing in our hearts for years, we officially began the process just over 2 years ago.  We excitedly submitted our initial application for the program on October 3, 2012.  At the time we knew the wait lists had gotten longer to adopt from Ethiopia and that there had been some hold ups in the process due to red tape on the Ethiopian side of things, but we were told the adoption could take up to 2 years.  

Right around the time we completed our paper chase, our dossier was complete and we were finally wait listed we received the disheartening news that the wait time had been re-evaluated to be 3 1/2 years.  At the time that news was crushing.  It was only a few months later that the agency explained that the slow down would be worse than projected and now was estimating a wait of about 6 years.  That was a tough pill to swallow, but we felt strongly that we should stay the course.  Now fast forward to this week and we got the email we've been dreading.  While our agency isn't officially closing their Ethiopia program yet they are not anticipating receiving any more referrals of children and we are being encouraged to either change programs (to another country) or to terminate our contract with them.

They included a very detailed email explaining some of the very complicated facets of the adoption process in Ethiopia that has led to this, but if I get into many of those details this will become an even longer (and much more intense) post.  It sufficeth to say that greed, corruption, and child trafficking has become more and more of a problem in Ethiopia.  Our agency continues to maintain its stance against those things and to keep its distance from anyone involved in it.  Unfortunately that, in addition to complicated adoption procedures/red tape that has been implemented trying to combat that corruption, has led to an even more drastic slowdown in the program.  To put it into numbers....during 2014 our agency has been able to place only 10 children from Ethiopia with families, compared to 35 in 2013 and 62 in 2012.

While I will certainly continue grieving the loss that I feel personally right now and my thoughts certainly point to what path our future will take us down, my emotions seem to be more consumed today with grief I have over all the children in this country I've grown to love that NEED families and can't get to them because of greed and corruption.  The sorrow I feel is so deep and complex that it is difficult to put into words.  I'm grateful to be affiliated with an adoption agency that refuses to participate in corruption as a means to an end.  The adoption process in Ethiopia is so broken and corrupt that I am finally realizing that it likely needs to completely close before it can be overhauled and fixed.  Probably alongside Hague accreditation.  I think that is eventually what will happen.  In the long run that's a good thing.  In the meantime that's sad for us, and even more awful for children that will languish in the meantime without hope of anything better.

I believe that there must be a reason that my heart has learned to love Ethiopia.  Also, my heart has become even more aware of and broken over orphan care in general.  And while adoption certainly holds a huge place in my heart and always will, I have always recognized that adoption isn't the answer to relieving the suffering of millions of children.  There needs to be more concern over family preservation and the things that prevent that (see organizations like Help One Now that I love).  I also believe though that even when great progress is made that there will always be situations where adoption is the only option available for a child to have a permanent home and family.  My prayer is that leaders in Ethiopia and everywhere will feel the urgency to create ethical paths for those children to find homes in families that are ready and willing to call them their own.

As I think about the things I've learned, or things my heart has begun to love or bleed for over the last few years...I wonder if that was enough of a reason for God to have put us on this path?  We still feel like our daughter is out there somewhere...was part of this path a timing issue?  Why did we have to throw away $16,000+ for nothing when that money could have been used toward her adoption later?  I have so many questions.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I finally was able have the a little bit of quiet clarity this morning to consider some of the things we need to think and pray about when considering how to proceed form here.  First, although Ethiopia is what we now have our hearts set on naturally, we are willing to at least look into other countries that we previously ruled out as a fit for our family (every country allows different perameters, it is nothing to do with race for us).  Secondly, we would consider another domestic adoption (I'd like to share more about that in a moment).  And third, we need to consider timing and finances.

Here is something on domestic adoption that we now find interesting.  While we cherish our experience adopting Noah and know without a doubt he was meant for our family, but we never entertained the notion of another domestic adoption.  It just wasn't something on our radar.  International adoption was simply our focus for our next adoption.

After finding out last year that our Ethiopian adoption would take 6 years, we realized that Max (our youngest) would be 8 years old by the time we brought her home.  For several different reasons we wondered if it would be a good idea to pursue a concurrent domestic adoption a couple years before we would complete our domestic adoption so she would have a sibling closer to her age...and considering our circumstance of adopting a child we knew would be black (being from Ethiopia) we figured that it would be wise to consider the possibility that when pursuing this domestic adoption that we adopt a child who is also black.  

We felt strange considering the notion of limiting what race of child we were open to (we had no racial restrictions with Noah's adoption) until we began looking into things and were surprised to find out that there is actually a real need for adoption of black children, including infants, within our own country.  We were aware that some people were not open to interracial adoptions, but had no idea how few adoptive parents are specifically open to adopting a black child, particularly if the child is fully African American (not bi-racial).  We found several agencies that actually have a separate program for AA adoptions that boast a shorter wait time due to shorter wait lists (not that a short wait is high on our priority list right now).  One agency we were aware of had a lengthy wait list for their "traditional" program, and only ONE family on their wait list for their "non-traditional" (AA) program.  This was shocking to us and only increased our desire to take ourselves out of the pool of prospective adoptive parents waiting for babies that would have no difficulty being placed, and to eventually specifically pursue a domestic adoption of a beautiful little baby with brown skin and curly brown hair that for some reason are more challenging to place with waiting families.

While we had begun our initial searches regarding domestic adoptions and the idea had begun to marinade and feel good to us, we were in no rush to make any decisions anytime soon or even narrow down agency selection with how long out we were looking before pursuing this adoption.  Now that the door to Ethiopian adoption is being closed for us, it causes us to consider this option more seriously and to re-evaluate our timeline for when we would want to begin that process.  For a person (me) that always has a pretty solid 5 year plan this has spun me for a loop.  Things happening sooner would be a different mindset for our family dynamic and for our finances (domestic adoptions cost about the same as international adoptions now days)...Not only all of this, but the agency we used with Noah's adoption ceased placements during the time we were waiting for our Ethiopian adoption, and I can't help but wonder if this was the path we had to take to get us to not only re-consider domestic adoption, but such a specific path for domestic adoption.  The agency we are currently most interested in for an AA adoption I found out about from a women on AGCI's private Ethiopia Facebook page (she adopted a child through AGCI from Ethiopia).  Is that what this whole journey was really about?  Is that why we had to go through this only for the road to end?...to open our hearts to this specific type of domestic adoption, and to find this agency that will lead us to our child?

I look forward to the day that I can look back on this post and hopefully smile with 20/20 hindsight vision and understand at least in part the path that God took us on to find our child, how we leaned on Him, and what we learned.  In the meantime, we will keep trying to educate ourselves on our options and pray for guidance on which way this crazy adoption path should take us to find our daughter.

I was going to end my post there, but I want to document one more impression that I had today that hit me very strongly.  It is a bit more personal, but if I don't write it down here I know I'll forget about it.  It's about decisions.  Every decision we make has a ripple of effects.  Some we can anticipate and/or see and others we cannot.  Some of these effects and positive and some are negative.  I believe also that some are just a trade off, not positive or negative.  There have been times in my life where I have been deciding between two things.  I have brought my choice to the Lord to ask if it is a good path and the answer that I have gotten wasn't a yes or no...it was simply the answer that either choice was good and that it was up to me.  That doesn't mean that either choice I make will have the same consequences, but that both choices are good and would have different consequences.  I don't know this for sure at this point, but I had a distinct impression that I made one of those choices years ago, perhaps not even realizing it.  I'd like to share.

After years of aggressive fertility treatments failing and the grief that naturally came with that we excitedly moved onto the path of adoption for growing our family.  We always knew we would adopt, but assumed that would come after bringing biological children into our family.  Once we believed that wasn't an option for us we were excited to build our family through adoption, and even more excited after we experienced the miracle of adoption with Noah.  Less than a year after Noah joined our family we felt compelled to begin our journey with international adoption (how we assumed we would add the rest of the children to our family).  We selected an agency and country to adopt from and started paperwork to adopt a child from Haiti.  Before turning this paperwork in we were approached about having a round of IVF paid for as a donation from someone.  This was a change in mindset, but we couldn't turn it down.  

We prayed about if it was a good choice, felt good, and decided to proceed.  Because of that decision we were able to experience the joys and trials of pregnancy and childbirth of two children.  We cannot imagine not having them in our family, but we always just assumed that international adoption would wait until we were ready.  Little did we know how much the climate for international adoption in general would change over the coming years.  

I always dreamed of international adoption, and I always assumed that I would bring children into the world.  I can't help but wonder if back when we made the choice to pursue IVF if we were being offered two good choices and didn't realize it at the time that we had to choose one or the other.  We thought we were taking advantage of a possibility that wouldn't be afforded us again and the timing on the other (international adoption) would just be different/later.  Perhaps it was really the choice to either pursue this adoption in Haiti then OR to experience pregnancy/childbirth.  I'm sure either choice came with heartache and joys.  Different choices, but both good.  I just didn't realize I was making that choice.  I have to wonder if because we made that choice that the Lord used our continued desire to bring an orphan into our home to guide us  in a very roundabout way back to domestic adoption, to a specific type of agency, and to our daughter here.  Maybe He made what He knew became a futile desire into something He could use for our good.  Maybe.  We'll see.  Like I said earlier, I can't wait to see what He does with our family.  In the meantime we'll do our best to trust in Him and to celebrate the blessing of the 3 beautiful blessings He has already given to us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Heavy heart

I don't even have the energy to write a post about everything right now.  And while I doubt that anybody even checks this blog I feel a need to put my feelings out there.  While talking on the phone with Mark today we both just kept commenting on how heavy our hearts are after receiving an email from our agency today.  Things are not looking good for adoption in Ethiopia...not with our agency, or in general in the long run.

We have so much to think and pray about.  My eyes burn from crying and from staring at my computer screen following the news feed blow up on the private AGCI Ethiopia group.  Everyone is in an upheaval of emotions and, frankly, grief.  Adoption loss is a unique thing that is difficult to explain.  The only way I can explain it is that right now I feel the way I did during our journey with infertility.  I feel like I am beginning mourning not the loss of a child I have, but one that I planned for, thought I would have, and had begun to love.  Mourning the loss of what I pictured and looked forward to.

Because of experiences we've had in the past I believe firmly that things have happened the way they have for a reason.  Timing.  Experience.  I don't know.  What I do know is that in the end things will all turn out how they are supposed to, but right now I just hurt.