Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Ok, now that the mama bragging is out of the way, I promised this post would be on Korean adoptions. When we started our research Korea was in a large list of countries we looked at. There were several reasons that led us there:
*Older babies mostly for adoption
-In Korea, they are really pushing for domestic adoption to be more accepted. In the last few years, they have changed their program to have the children put into an adoption plan available for domestic adoption for the first 5 months. If they are not adopted after that time, then they are eligible for international adoption. So, most folks adopting healthy babies receive referrals that are around 5-6 months old. We knew we did not want an infant, but still wanted a smaller child, so this was a perfect age range for us.
*Foster families in place for adoptive children
-After these babies have been in an orphanage for those 5 months, they are then put into a foster family where they will stay until they are adopted. While it's difficult to imagine these babies going from 3, 4 or 5 different caregivers in their first year or two of life, it's comforting to know they are under the care of a family.
*Good medical care/records
-Korea's medical system takes very good care of these babies. They go to monthly check ups with a physician and any follow ups/hospital stays are all documented and held to be supplied to the adoptive family. We received a ton of information on Asher's medical background along with all of his monthly checkups, specialist visits and hospital reports. While we couldn't understand some of it, our adoption specialist (physician) could easily explain these reports to us.
*Good potential of knowing family history
-While poverty and other reasons may lead a birth mom to put together an adoption plan for her baby, still today unwed mothers are quite a stigma in Korea. Although progress is being made, there were not a lot of options for these mothers. Many of them were disowned from their families, couldn't find jobs to support them and sometimes even the child was punished along with his mother with prejudice actions from society. Family blood lines are very important in Korea, which is why the domestic adoption program is very slow to pick up pace. There are different homes set up in Korea where these birth moms can go and receive prenatal care their last few months of pregnancy along with counseling and job training. They work hand and hand with social workers and care givers to put together an adoption plan for their baby. Many times information about the birth mom and father can be released, which is invaluable. We do not know Asher's birth mother and father's names, but we do know their backgrounds and the situation that led to his adoption plan.
*Long standing international adoption program
-Korean adoptions starting occurring in 1955 as a result of the Korean war. Many of these children were orphaned due to the war or were multi-racial (Korean mothers, US fathers) and were not accepted in Korean society. The reasons for the international adoption program to continue on have changed over the years, but the stigma of illegitimacy, unstable economic conditions, limited interest in adoption in Korean couples and internal government challenges in dealing with a large number of abandoned or orphaned children have led to a continued need for these adoptions. S. Korea is the oldest organized international adoption program in the US. There are 4 agencies in Korea that work with international adoptions: Holt, Eastern Social Welfare Society, Korea Social Services and Social Welfare Society. Depending upon the local agency you choose here in the US will depend on the agency you work with in Korea. We chose Holt because they had over 50 years of experience and felt they had probably seen and heard it all!
* You can travel over or choose to escort
-When we were initially looking at this adoption, we felt sure we would choose the escort route and loved that the Korean program offered this, however, we have since changed our minds and are thrilled to go to Korea to meet our son and his foster family in person. I think this is a great choice though to have depending upon your family dynamic and needs.
We just felt drawn to S. Korea in our hearts to adopt. These are just some of the reasons we chose to adopt there, but I could have gone on all day. Below are some factors to consider to see if Korea works for your family. All countries have guidelines for adoptive families to meet. As well as a list of the process, agencies that work with Korean adoptions and some blogs/websites to check out!
~Who are the children? Korean boys and girls ages 5-12 months are available for adoption. Because there are many more boys than girls available, many agencies will quote longer time lines or put restrictions (no girls already in family for example) if you want to adopt a girl. There are also many waiting children from all ages available.
~Who can adopt from Korea?
-Couples married at least 3 years with no more than 2 divorces between them
-Ages 25-42 when initiating the adoption process
-Must meet Korean health requirements (they have certain BMI requirements)
-No more than 4 children already in the family
-Meet financial guidelines (for example, make minimum of $30K per year)
~Adoption Process- After you do your research on which agency you want to go with, you will need to contact them and complete their initial application. Once this is done, you will either be referred to a social worker or chose one yourself to complete your homestudy along with receiving a list of adoption education classes you must complete as well. A homestudy is a 1-2 month process where a social worker assess pretty much everything from your background, home, family, job, finances, etc. to ensure you are fit to adopt. Once your homestudy is complete, they will send to your agency and you can officially start your wait! Once you have been matched and receive your referral, the time to travel over (or escort) depends greatly on the agency. I've seen some travel in 9 weeks..I've seen some travel 9 months later. It all depends on how fast the paperwork gets processed on both the US and Korea side of things. I would say a range of 4-6 months though. Korea also requires 3 follow ups with your social worker after the child is placed in your home at 2 month intervals. Once these have been completed, you can officially finalize your adoption!
If you would like more information on Korean adoptions, please feel free to check out the following links!
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/search/agency-list.php - A list of all agencies in the states that do Korean adoptions
http://www.youtube.com/user/loswhit#p/c/D25616FB0EB7F706 - this is from Carlos Whitaker. Awesome blogger (Ragamuffin Soul). He records pretty much every moment of going to get their son Losiah in S. Korea in the videos in the right. Get out your tissues for this ride...especially #14!
There are just too many blogs to list that are so good for this! Here are a few that I found early in our journey and followed through on the ones they followed and found so many more great ones!
Next post....domestic adoptions in US!
Sunday, November 28, 2010
If you've got the heart and resources to adopt waiting children, you are certainly giving that child opportunities they may never have in their current situation. Many times medical conditions in other countries are easily treatable here in the US. Most of these situations here in the states center around older children waiting for homes or sibling groups. There is much stigmata around each scenario that I will talk about below. I want to also note again that these are strictly for informational purposes and in no way reflect or push my opinions or feelings about each issue.
**"I don't want to adopt an older child because they already have so many emotional issues from being in institutionalized care."
**"We want to adopt internationally and they do not speak English."
**"I'm scared to adopt a child that has had a history of abuse and neglect."
When a family sits down to consider adoption and older children come to mind, these questions are some that may pop up. It's good to be honest with yourselves on why you want to adopt the child you do and if it's an older child, some of the issues that MAY occur. All of us have seen those 20/20 specials with the out of control older kids that do not bond with anyone and the adoptive parents cannot handle. I'm not saying situations like that do not happen, but they most certainly do not happen with the majority of older children adoptions.
Yes, most children that are older in government ran care are there because of some traumatic event. Maybe it happened as a baby and they grew up there or maybe it was something recent. Every child is different along with every situation. It is important to understand what occurred in their past to be able to understand how to give them to support they need and help them to bond into your family. While babies require patience in learning routines and sleep issues, older adoptees need patience as they try and mold into your family. This may be the first family they have been apart of or maybe they have been passed from family to family. Either way, it takes time to build trust, just like it does with anything else. Try to see things through their eyes.
Language issues may occur initially, but most schools now have wonderful ESL programs that have been very successful as well as parents learning some basics in the foreign language to help communications.
The main thing needed is the same with any adoption (or birth for that matter) and that is a strong support group of friends and professionals. These are other families that have adopted older children, psychologists, physicians, etc. These folks have seen it all and can be an invaluable asset, especially finding a counseling professional that specializes in adoption. Also check your expectations at the door. This I think also goes along with any adoption or birth as well. I think all of us as parents have discovered our expectations at some point or another have been greatly exceeded or underestimated. Don't expect them to naturally bond to you. It takes time. Don't expect them to feel at ease immediately in your home for a while or to let their guard down all of the time. Take time to form the relationship and the trust will follow.
Here are a few links about older adoption:
Sibling groups are much the same way. Many times these consist of an older sibling among one or several younger ones. Sometimes the oldest feels responsible and there is a loss of childhood for them. They have become the parent..even at 8 years old. Once again, this is where your support system comes into play and can help both you and your child come to understand what it means to be a child. Also it is just a wonderful thing when you can keep all of the siblings together and make a scary situation more comfortable!
Children with certain medical conditions or backgrounds are also categorized as waiting children. Depending upon the country, these medical conditions may be severe or quite minor by US standards. For instance, I'm sure everyone has seen information on cleft palate surgeries that have been performed here in the states for adoptive children. Medical conditions can range from HIV, heart disorders, down syndrome, respiratory issues, pre-term birth, neuro problems to limb differences or skin disorders or simply having an extra finger or toe. Backgrounds also vary from country to country. You know when you adopt from Africa you will have a greater chance of your child being affected by HIV than say from Russia. Or if you are adopting from Russia your child has a greater chance of being affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome than Africa. This is where your research of different countries is key. It's also important to sit down as a family and take in the resources in your community (hospitals, therapies, counseling, etc.) to see what you are equipped with locally.
It's a hard conversation to have. I remember how hard it was for Bobby and I to go through a list and try and decide what we felt like we could handle and couldn't. It was awkward and I don't think either of us walked away feeling especially good about ourselves, but honesty was needed for the child's sake. There is a list of potential conditions on the Rainbow Kids website that I will post a link to below. The hardest part of the waiting child process is concentrating on the facts...what needs are you able to accept and care for? It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a child in need, but if your nearest resource is 100 miles away and that child will need constant care, is that really in their best interest? I do believe there is a family for every child. Pray on it. Sleep on it. But be realistic of your efforts and the long term of the child. Sit down with an adoption physician and discuss their file...any questions you may have for their long term future as well as just understanding the medical information given to you. Sometimes depending upon the country or situation, you may not receive any information at all. Adoption is a loving, beautiful thing and you are jumping in to be a forever family. As hard as it may be to say no, sometimes it's for the best and then another family better equipped will have the opportunity.
With that said, below is a link for those interested in waiting children with medical issues/backgrounds internationally (most domestic sites do not distinguish between children with medical issues or older children). I have listed Rainbow Kids, which is where our Asher was listed. No matter where you are in reading this, I invite you all to make a profile (it's anonymous, no one will contact you) and check these kids out. You can even choose to be alerted when a child is posted that meets your profile (certain country, age, medical conditions, etc.). If nothing else, please pray for these children that they may soon be matched with families. Rainbow kids includes children with medical issues as well as older children and sibling groups needing homes all around the world. I also include a couple of links for adoption physicians. The first is country wide, but the second is locally here in NC and who we used to review Asher's information. Dr. Douglass was very throughout and talked us through page by page!
This is really a very basic layout of waiting children, but I hope it's enough to get you thinking. These kids no matter their age, family situation, background or medical condition all deserve homes.
Next I will touch on Korean adoptions, which are close to my heart :-)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Here are some astronomical statistics....
**It is estimated there are between 143 million to 210 million orphans worldwide (recent UNICEF report)
**The current population of the US is just a little over 300 million to give you an idea of how huge these numbers are
**Everyday 5,760 more children become orphans
**2,102,400 children become orphans in Africa alone
**Every 15 seconds another child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan
**Each year 14,505,000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age 16
**Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home
**In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10%-15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age 18
**These studies also show that 60% of girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals
Can you just take a second and read those statistics again. Think on them.
Our family has two biological girls. My first pregnancy went like clockwork. My second ended up being quite different with both of us in very real danger. It was not recommended for us to have anymore children. At first I was ok with all of this. I mean, I always wanted more kids...a house full, but I was just thankful and blessed that we were all healthy and safe. I was so grateful that God had given us two healthy children. I figured it was meant to be that we just had our two. We got rid of all of our baby stuff and moved on. That was 2005.
Flash forward January 2009. One of my very best friends told me they were adopting from Ethiopia. I didn't know much about adoption at all. I decided to get online and start researching...to be able to follow along with her, to be a support and understand all of the acronyms and language she was using! The more I researched, the more my eyes and heart were opened. I just couldn't believe the stuff I was finding. It was unbelievable. I held onto it for a few months and just thought on it, prayed on it. We were doing fine financially with our two kids, we were out of diapers, out of it taking 2 hours of packing to leave the house, sleeping through the night. What the heck was I thinking?
But, I could not think of one reason alone to not adopt that wasn't selfish. Yes, finances are tough for everyone, but could we give up some of those materials things for some extra money? Yes. We have plenty of room in our home, plenty of food in our pantry, plenty of love to go around. Could we do this too? Could we move beyond our own American dream to give a child a home? Maybe God had a different dream for us beyond what we had planned out ourselves.
When I first went to my husband with all of this, I knew in my heart we were called to adopt. I could not turn my heart away from everything I knew now. He was reluctant at first. How would we afford another child? How would we afford an adoption? Did we have enough time and energy for another baby in the house? At first I was very hurt by his response....didn't he understand and feel the way I did about this? I finally just let it go and prayed. A few weeks later completely out of the blue he came up to me and said yes. I couldn't believe it! We were going to really go forward with this and adopt! I was so excited and thrilled, but honestly scared at the same time. It's like that "Oh CRAP" moment you have when you look to that positive pregnancy test the first time and then look at your husband and he has the same look. Scared joy!
The next steps involved much much research. Domestic or international? If international, what country? What about waiting children? Which agency? How will we pay for it all? How long will it take? How will our family handle all of this since no one else has ever adopted? How will our kids feel about it? My next blog will take on waiting children since these are the kids worldwide with the greatest need of adoption. I will also cover domestic and several other countries as well in subsequent posts.
Although not everyone is called to adopt, I hope that those reading will open your hearts and minds. Maybe your family can do it. Maybe you've just never thought about it and don't know where to begin. Maybe you can help support a family in the process. Maybe you can get involved in an orphan ministry here in the states or oversees. Maybe you can foster. I hope and pray that you find clarity in your mission these next few weeks and fill compelled to do something.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" James 1:27
Friday, November 19, 2010
Before I even roll out of bed in the morning, I lay there and go through all of the things I need to get done/am supposed to do that day. My days vary widely, but I do have set things I do every week like volunteering in my daughter's classrooms and girl scouts. I am definitely a Type A person..I like to have a plan, well ahead. I've certainly gotten better about going with the flow of the moment, but the entire time I cannot enjoy the "flow" because guess what I'm doing in my head..yup, trying to figure out what's next.
So I'm trying to plan the next few months of our lives. Ugh. I've found myself wrapped back up into the stress of looking at time lines and trying to ride a fine line between being anxious for answers/follow up or pestering my adoption agency and/or social worker. In my head, I feel like we are losing time...no one is moving fast enough...what's taking so long just to mail paperwork for goodness sakes!
But then I remember the wait. The molding and everything I learned. And I know this wait will produce something completely different if I let it. I found myself watching Adoption Story today (whoo, bad choice of programing for my emotional state by the way!). I watched as a first time foster mom handed over this completely adorable 6 month old little boy. My heart broke for her. While those parents in the US were praying for time to pass, she was praying for time to stop. I've been so focused on MY wait, MY impatience, MY adoption story, that I am completely leaving out an entire other side to this. And anyway, it's not about ME.
I'm still working this all out and I'm sure before it's all over with God will make it clear. I love how He hesitates to see if I can get it on my own...giving me time to figure out the reality of things outside of myself. On the other side of that blue sky are two families....a birth family and foster family. My inconvenient wait is in no comparison to the choices and decisions they have had to make these last 9 months. My patience needs to be with God working through their lives. Because they have all made the decision to put our son first.
So, now I am stressing on how I'm being about this wait. And let's call it what it is, selfishness. I want him home...yesterday. Yes, the selfishness is due to my love for him and wanting to care for him and have him finally join our family because I am incredibly excited, but selfishness nonetheless. I'm taking a day just to myself tomorrow. It's long overdue and I'm hoping some time of reflection and peace will make things better. Just some deep honesty on this Friday afternoon :-)
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I do not know why God chose now for our family. I wasn't expecting it at all. After the absolute excitement of everything comes down, I think about many other people. I think about his birth mom, his foster family and my other friends I have made over the past 1.5 years on this adoption journey. I know folks in every aspect of the wait....some are still being moved in their hearts and trying to find the courage to move forward to talk to their spouses, some are just starting on the mountain of paperwork, some are at the beginning or end of their wait and some are waiting to travel. Every story is different, but the desire is the same. It brings us together and it's beautiful.
I remember reading posts of friends who received their referral and I was incredibly happy for them, but I could not help but feel sad at the same time wondering where our little one was. For everyone that has given their kind words, wishes and prayers, we thank you so much! And, we also ask that you do the same for those still "in the wait". I want to say a special prayer for the strength and peace to continue to hang on.
I want to send positive thoughts your way...even though the wait is hard, God's plan is so worth it. I did not want to hear it when I was in the middle of mine, especially while having a particular tough day, but it's true. God was waiting until everyone was in the right place physically, mentally and spiritually before making this happen. I think back to the last 1.5 years and there are so many times that I am truly thankful God did not answer my prayers then!
And if he would have, we wouldn't have our son. He was worth every tear I cried, every bad day I had, ever irritated day I spent explaining again why we hadn't heard anything. I am in awe and amazed by the whole thing and my heart and prayers go out to those families still waiting. I cannot wait to share in your good news and I pray for peace for you everyday.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
THAT'S RIGHT, WE HAVE A SON!!!
Adoption as a whole is certainly not for the weak at heart. There have been good days and bad, but it all melts away once you look at that picture. We have been on the waiting list for a "healthy" child for some time now, but open from day one to certain medical conditions. In a crazy twist of fate, our eyes were brought to the most precious baby boy and we just knew he was our son.
He was born quite premature and had some issues in connection with that, but is making great progress. We just want to throw a party for everyone! It still feels so surreal. I cannot believe I was praying so hard and the whole time this was being worked out. I would love to share a picture just to prove his cuteness, but our agency doesn't suggest we post pictures on social websites until he is in our care. But, take it from me, this Korean cutie is just that.....beautiful dark almond eyes, spiky hair and the sweetest cheeks! So now we are finalizing all of our referral paperwork and getting ready for probably the hardest wait...4-6 months to travel. I already have his picture memorized, so I hope we get new ones soon!
Tonight we surprised our family at dinner. They were not expecting anything at all and thought I was handing them Kyleigh and Reece's school pictures and opened up the package to find baby brother! It was so great to see the joy and excitement on their faces! Of course one of the first questions we get asked is his name. It is kind of a hard thing right now. Bobby and I cannot seem to decide on a name, so I guess we are really taking our time with it. His Korean name means "strong" and "abundant/generous", so I would love to find a name to fit just with that and continue to honor his birth mother with that. We know we will be keeping his Korean name as his middle name for sure.
So, needless to say it's been an absolutely crazy week full of every emotion imaginable! We are THRILLED and BLESSED to be mama and daddy to this sweet baby and just cannot wait to hold him in our arms! I'm sure if you look hard enough you can probably see my perma-grin from where ever you are in the country!
Friday, November 5, 2010
On a separate topic, do I have any Private Practice watchers here? Last night's episode was so emotional. I couldn't even sleep afterwards. My heart goes out to any woman who has been sexually assaulted. I do unfortunately understand to a certain extent, but the violence of last night left me speechless. Kudos to this show for bringing awareness to this and providing support opportunities for these women. If you missed it, I hope you will check it out.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Here she is after getting her award:
All week we had been working on the "Parade of Pumpkins". Each class designs a pumpkin for the contest. In Reece's class, we went with "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom". For those of you that have read the book (numerous times!) you will really appreciate it! We had some other great parent volunteers that really pulled it all together, and were much more creative than I was!
Bobby and another parent volunteer are using power tools to suspend the "coconut pumpkins" from the tree.
And Reece as the leopard. For every bit Kyleigh doesn't like to dress up, Reece LOVES it!