Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wishes and waiting

Today I took Max to the park. Just him and me. It was one of those days that I remembered what a short amount of time I have left with him at home before he'll be at school every day and I soaked it in. It was really nice, we played together at the park and laid on a blanket together and stared up at the branches of the tree above us. It really was a perfect Hallmark movie-esque diversion from the normally hectic schedule of life that we bounce between.

Finally we decided we were tired and walked home. He still lets me hold his hand and so we walked hand in hand home and periodically he'd break away to scramble to gather the best sunshine yellow dandelions to present to me...until he ran across whispy seeded dandelions. He picked one and blew it to make a wish. I asked Max what he wished for and without skipping a beat he said, "Two baby girls. I'm going to get two little sisters."

While that's not likely to happen, I just thought that it was the sweetest cap to our little outing.  For a four year old whose life revolves around whether our pantry does or does not have fruit snacks, when he can play with his friends, and if he can play a game on my phone...the fact that without hesitation he wished not only for his little sister, but to double the wish for emphasis was just so sweet that I had to share it here.

I also got to thinking and realized that when we began this adoption journey Max wasn't even quite 16 months old yet. We felt an urgency to start the process when we did and since we knew it would take years to complete we weren't shy about starting while Max was still very young. However, because we did and have been talking about "baby girl" for over 3 1/2 years now Max can't even remember a time when we didn't talk about her. While the process has felt long for us, I can't even imagine how long it must feel to Max.

Which reminds me of one more story like this that I have to share like this from yesterday!! I told Max that we needed to stay home from the gym yesterday because my tummy was hurting too much. Max got very excited and with a lot of expression perked up and asked, "Does that mean baby girl is coming today?!!!" I realized that he thought baby girl was coming from my tummy. I had to re-explain that she is growing in someone else's tummy, etc, etc. I guess it's been a while since we talked about that. It was just pretty cute/funny to see him jump so quickly to that.

I also wonder if all the intense amount of feelings/thoughts I've been having about our little girl are bleeding over somehow to Max. I don't talk about the things I'm thinking or feeling to people very often since everything is still so abstract and far away (and honestly after 3 1/2 years people must get tired of hearing about it), but there are weeks that I just feel it more than others. I've been feeling it lately and I wonder if Max has noticed that somehow, or if it's just coincidence that two days in a row he's brought her up all on his own...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

You can't say the wait is all boring

So, there are often stretches of time during this waiting section of the adoption process where there isn't anything really new to share.  However, the unpredictability of the timeline, process, and climate of things in Haiti keeps a constant underlying level of tension that is always there. (For me anyway)

If I step back and look at the last 3 1/2 years it looks like a roller coaster though.  Sometimes that rollercoaster is exciting, sometimes terrifying.  Sometimes I wish it would go faster and sometimes I feel like it's so bumpy I might fall out.

We recently had some ups and downs that I didn't write about as they were happening, but I'd like to share about them now just to be thorough about documenting this process...

For about 2 months I worked very hard alongside some amazing women to pull of a fundraising gala for Haitian Roots.  It was way more time and work than I ever could have foreseen and was very all encompassing.  I was stretched way out of my comfort zone, and there is only one other time in my life that I've run on that little sleep for that many consecutive weeks.  Anyway! During this time I snuck away for a 2 night getaway with my friend Allison to see a band we love play and to try and re-set a bit.  I was feeling physically and emotionally drained and as we were road tripping I shared how things were going with the adoption.  At one point I got a phone call from Mark.  He told me that he'd gotten a call from our CPA regarding our taxes.  

Now let me give a bit of background...we drained our savings and supplemented with a loan to invest in starting a physician owned surgery center.  So, Mark receives founder share payouts each month and taxes aren't taken out. We had to estimate how much to set aside from each payout every month hoping it would cover the amount we would owe in taxes at the end of the tax year. So! Mark got that phone call and we found out how much we would be owing in taxes. With some deductions that we qualified for this year we not only had enough in our tax savings account to cover our taxes, but that the amount left remaining in that savings account was exactly the remaining amount we needed to have set aside to complete paying for our pending adoption.  I was over the moon! It felt so good to have that milestone met, to have that money ready for whenever we get the good news of our referral. I was crying happy tears and it felt so good to get any good news associated with our adoption!

Now fast forward to less than 48 hours later (on March 14th).  An email popped up on my phone from our adoption worker and I could tell that it wasn't good news.  The subject line read 'Alert: Update on Haitian Inter-country adoption procedures and important cautionary notes. PLEASE READ.' Phrases like "approvals are now on hold" or "this is an urgent situation" popped out at me. My heart sank. All I could think was, "Not again!" and I proceeded to read the email.  I will try to summarize what happened.  In recent years Haiti not only overhauled all of its own adoption laws, but also joined the Hague convention (a neutral entity that regulated the ethics of inter country adoptions for participating countries). The specific guidelines and laws pertaining to Hague convention were to go into affect 2 weeks later on April 1. One thing that is understandably enforced by the Hague is that children adopted from Hague countries can't be selected prior to their referral. More specifically adoptive parents can't have any contact with the orphanage director, birth parent, or care taker of the child prior to receiving an official match. This is important in order to prevent unethical behavior to develop in the adoption process leading to child trafficking. Now to how this became a problem...

The U.S. government began to interpret some of the Haitian laws and look at the process of adoptions and felt that there were things being done in violation of Hague process. They were saying that agencies can't have affiliations with specific orphanages or creches.  And that orphanages/creches can't suggest referrals to IBESR. However, this is precisely how the referral process is set up in Haiti. They were saying that had to cease, and there is not only not a way for referrals to generate in Haiti but not a way for agencies to arrange travel for their adoptive families when meeting their child without having contacts through the orphanage. In affect, adoptions would either have to go on hold until a new system could be developed that was completely centralized, or adoptions would have to cease.

Chareyl, along with 2 other ASP (adoption service provider) heads hired an attorney in D.C. to help research the law and represent them to the U.S. government. We didn't know how this would shake out and I was really overwhelmed and upset.  I was hopeful things would work out, but realistic in knowing that sometimes that could take a VERY long time, and that sometimes it just doesn't.  I didn't even tell Mark about the email when I got home late that night.  I discussed it with him the next day.

On Wednesday there was a conference call for all adoptive parents with the US department of state and US immigration.  We were on a muted conference call where they went through all the intricacies of the situation and at the end parents were allowed to cue in and ask questions.  I was very impressed with the thoroughness of things and came away with things thinking that it sounded hopeful.  I was able to confirm my deductions the next day with Chareyl and felt so much relief.  Here's what it boils down to...

The US department of state is now saying that they will allow agencies to continue to pass on adoptive parents' paperwork to orphanages, but the orphanages can't communicate information back about specific children. Those orphanages can still recommend specific families to a specific child in their care to IBESR for referral, but IBESR retains the right to follow or reject the recommendation. This I can live with. This sounds reasonable to me, and this allows adoptions to continue happening and for agencies to continue fulfilling what they legally agreed to with the Haitian government in arranging travel for their adoptive parents during their socialization visit and picking up their child. I'm so grateful for this!

Families that already had a referral would be approved on a case by case basis (reviewing the application of their case with the Hague) and families with an I600a application had until the end of the month to get a referral and they could still process as an I600 case (pre-Hague).  Families who were being processed as I800a families (that's us) who have had no prior knowledge of a child or contact with their prospective referred child's orphanage will be able to accept referrals and proceed without issue.  Us not having ever traveled to Haiti or had contact with an orphanage and being an I800a family puts us in the best possible situation for families right now.  

The crazy thing is that we were almost an I600a family.  We had I600a approval with Ethiopia that was still valid and I could have just transferred it to Haiti when we started the process, but being aware of the Hague enforcement date (I looked it up at the time) I opted to just start clean as an I800a family and we applied for Haiti that way from the beginning.  I also very much wanted to travel to Haiti to learn more of this country of our child's birth and to find some way to give back while I was there...after thinking it through I decided that Mark and I wouldn't travel to Haiti until after our official referral "just in case" there was ever a circumstance that our having been there could have been misconstrued and would require more investigation and/or delays in our adoption.  

I am now so grateful that we are in the circumstance that we are right now.  I800a family never having traveled to Haiti. I don't think we made these decisions by chance. And it wasn't because I was clever. I feel that the situations we witnessed in Ethiopia and the widespread corruption with adoptions there currently, that I approached our adoption in Haiti much more conservatively that I would have otherwise.  I normally jump into things head first and full on. I would normally welcome something that would have been faster (not having to get new I800a approval) and less expensive,  and would have jumped at a chance to go start building my bond with Haiti right away...but our experiences made me more cautious and reserved.  I'm grateful for that now, and don't see that as a coincidence. I believe that the Lord has had His hand in our adoption all along. This may not have been the only reason why things happened the way they did for us with Ethiopia, but I am convinced that it is one of the reasons. I may be anxious to see our little girl and to know her story, but I am also equally convinced that things have worked out the way they have, with the timing this way for a reason.  And that my Heavenly Father knew just what little girl would join our family and when. I hope that is sooner than later, but more and more I am learning to trust Him and His timing!

So! We had the excitement of finding out we have our remaining adoption fees all set aside, followed by being unsure if our adoption could even happen anymore, followed by finding out that amidst families who still have to undergo more hold ups and scrutiny - that we'll be spared this and allowed to proceed with our adoption as expected.  I'd say that week counted as a roller coaster.

I have to add that because of the huge push on both the U.S. and Haitian side of things to get I600a families referrals before the deadline that there was a HUGE flow of referrals with many agencies.  This is primarily wonderful for these children (and their families), but also could potentially speed up the process of us getting our referral too!  So back to hoping we meet our little girl sometime this year!...