Friday, April 30, 2010
Basic adoption info
Haiti is a bit unique in that they still allow independent adoptions. This means that you can choose to use an agency from the US to work on your adoption or you can work directly with an orphanage/Haitian attorney. Either way, you will be required to create a dossier and to file immigration paperwork. The dossier is a huge pile of official paperwork like your birth certificate, letters of recommendation, letters regarding your state of health, your homestudy, etc.. This dossier is submitted to the Haitian government and combined with paperwork on your child. This paperwork then moves through the process, from office to office, with new papers being added at each step saying that you have the approval of each office. The immigration paperwork is what you file with the US government in order to legally bring your child home once the adoption is completed in Haiti. The agency route means spending more money but allows for a bit more surety as you generally can change to another country if for some reason, you were unable to adopt from Haiti. The agency may or may not help you assemble your paperwork. If you choose to work directly with an orphanage/attorney in Haiti, then your fees will be less and you will have to assemble all of your paperwork on your own. But there is a greater risk as there is often not an "out" if something goes awry with your paperwork. Both of our adoptions were done as indpendent adoptions where we worked directly with an orphanage.
The Haitian adoption requirements are also a bit fuzzy. Haiti's only adoption law is from 1974 and in desperate need of updating. What has happened in the past it that families who wanted to adopt but did not meet the requirements from 1974 (married ten years, aged 35+, no bio children) were sent to the President for approval. I do not know if this will continue to happen.
The JCICS just put out a good flyer that addresses Haitian adoption post earthquake.
Children who are available
There are all ages of children available. From infants to teens. These kids are in this situation for a variety of reason. Many have at least one living parent; some have two but one is not involved in the child's life. In these cases, the parent who is the legal guardian has decided that he or she cannot parent the child due to things like inability to feed the child, medical concerns of the child or the parent, remarriage where the child is not wanted by the new spouse, etc.. Some children have no living parents and have been brought into orphange care by relatives. Some have no living parents and have no living family to speak for them or have been abandoned by their parents and the parents are unknown. This last group of children can take significantly more time to process as they must be proven to be orphans and with no living relative to speak for them, a guardian of sorts must be appointed and then an investigation must occur proving that the child is eligible for adoption.
It is also important to know that children who are available are not perfect. They have all had trauma in their short lives. Some have been physically or sexually abused by family members. Some have been physically or sexually abused while in orphanage care. Some have spent years in orphanage care. All have had to grieve the loss of a parent, either through death or through the process of entering into orphanage care. Adoptive parents may or may not know about these challenges prior to adopting. As with any adoption, there is no guarantee that a child will come to an adoptive family without significant emotional problems. It is important that adoptive parents have a good understanding of what to expect (worst care scenerio) with an adopted child. Parents need to research how attachment happens, Reactive Attachment Disorder and developmental delays. They need to understand that about 1/3 of kids who are adopted do great, 1/3 show some signs of attachment problems, and 1/3 have real problems with attachment. It doesn't mean that your child will have problems but you should be prepared for the possibility. I would say that I have one kiddo who had zero problems with attachment and is well adjusted and well attached. I have another who has a few issues and is semi attached to us. We have not seen the wild crazy end of the spectrum. But attachment is not a destination; it's a journey and my kids will all have moments of attachment issues as they go through the different stages of life.
There are also kids who may have medical problems that should be disclosed at the time you accept your referral. Things like sickle cell, HIV, Hepititis are tested for. Kids who have noticeable physical problems like deafness, blindness, Down's Syndrome, etc. also should have this noted before they are referred to a parent. That does not mean that all phyiscal problems will be noted. There is always a possibility that a health concern will not be revealed until the child is home. This could be because of intentional omission or simply because healthcare in Haiti is not great and the orphanage honestly didn't know there was a problem. I personally don't know of anyone who has dealt with this happening intentionally but in theory, it's possible.
This is the most unpredictable part of the process. There is a process in place. The first step is 1st legal which takes a very short amount of time. The second step is IBESR where the Haitian government approves you as an adoptive parent and where they create a social history on the child. This step has been very inconsistent and has taken from 3 months to over a year. With Kenson, we were in this step 3 months. With Conleigh, we were in this step for 15 months and had not been released at the time of the earthquake. The next step, Parquet, is also inconstent. Time frames have depended upon where your paperwork must be processed. Paperwork that has to be processed in Port Au Prince usually takes much longer than that that can be processed elsewhere. It can take a few months outside of Port but 6-9 months in Port. Your child is legally adopted in this step and receives your last name. Once your file is out of Parquet, it must go to 2nd legal which usually takes a few months. The it's on to passports. Your child will be issued a Haitian passport. This can take 1-2 months. It took us 8 weeks for Kenson's to be printed. What is a bit confusing is that at the same time, the US government will be doing it's own investigation to determine if you are a qualified parent/if your child is eligible to be adopted. The immigration paperwork you fill out sets all of this in motion. You first fill out an I600A which is basically telling the US government that you intend to adopt a child from Haiti. After this, you must file an I600 which you will do at the end of the Haitian process. This form is to set up the orphan investigation where the US government in Haiti will interview the birth parent to ensure that he or she understands that they are placing their child for adoption. Once your this interview is done and you have a passport and medical exams done, a final visa interview will be conducted and a visa will be printed. This takes 1-2 months to finish up the US end of things. After that, your child can come home. Kenson's adoption took 24 months from the time our paperwork arrive in Haiti. Conleigh's paperwork had been in Haiti for 18 months and we were still on step 2. It is an up and down experience; we have been involved with Haitian adoptions for 3 1/2 years and have seen the process change at least 3 times. It's important to know that the process is pretty fluid and that things can change quickly.
We spent probably $10, 000-$12, 000 on each adoption (not counting travel expenses). I'm estimating here as I haven't really added everything up. But the big expenses were the fees we paid to our attorney/orphanage (currently about $8, 000), the home study fee we had to pay to a social worker ($1500) $250 or so that we used to assemble and translate our dossier, and $600 or so for immigration paperwork. Again, remember that this is for an independent adoption. Fees for an adoption through an agency are higher.
Okay with all that said, I would also encourage families who are interested to really think about their motivation for adopting. God can certainly use the earthquake to stir one's heart towards Haiti and her ophan crisis. But it is important to understand what you may be getting into. As with any adoption, a surface love that's full of warm fuzzies and reciprical emotions is not enought. Adoptive parenting can take a very deep, almost sprititual love where you truly live out 1 Corinthians 13 to the max. Not taking offense at a child who treats you with piles of disrespect. Not quitting on a child who often feels hopeless. Not getting angry over a child's behavior. Not seeking the love of self and taking a child's behaviors personally. All parenting requires a good grip on love but adoptive parenting has some unique challenges.
I'm happy to recommend some good agencies/orphanages if you're interested in Haitian adoption. I'm also happy to recommend some good websites and books which can help you get started researching adoption as well as resources for financial help. So if that's what you're looking for, just ask.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The first one is a no recipe one: grilled fresh pineapple. If you have not grilled pineapple, you really need to. It's divine. I like to sprinkle a little brown sugar and cayenne pepper on mine before I grill it. Sweet and spicy, one of my favorite flavor combinations.
The other is a recipe I just came upon this spring. I am not a real macaroni salad fan. But this recipe, Best Macaroni Salad, has changed my mind. I just use the dressing from that recipe and add in whatever type of pasta I have and whatever veggies sound good. Sweetened condensed milk? In a macaroni salad? Who knew?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
*My folks came up over the weekend. (My dad went with some men from his church to the Red White game and Ron Brown's Freedmen event.) So cute to see the kids waiting anxiously at the windows, looking for their car.
*It was my dad's birthday so the kids and I made a cake and decorated it. We held off on all the candles and just went with as many as I had: 18.
*Gearing up for a crazy week. Soccer tonight, tomorrow and Thursday. Craft night on Tuesday as well.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
With so many adoption related news stories, I have found it interesting to read and hear the discussions. There are so many commentors, some who have adopted, some who are adopting, some who are interested in adoption, some who are adoption specialists, and some who really have nothing to do with adoption but are interested in the conversation. One of the things I found was that there are lots of misconceptions about international adoption. So here's my best stab at addressing some of those things; it's a bit long. Sorry.
Adoption is for rich white people.
I have heard it repeated in a couple of places that international adoption is for rich white people. There are certainly people who are white and wealthy who adopt and I would venture a guess that there are more Caucasions who adopt internationally than any other race, but to say that only rich white people adopt is inaccurate. Most of the families I know of who have adopted are either middle class or upper middle class. (And depending on whose definition you read, they may not even be middle class. I know that we are borderline on the middle class catagory, depending on what income requirements you read.) They probably make between 40-90 thousand dollars a year. Some of them are one income families, not because they are rich and can afford to be but because they have worked hard to make this a possibility and because they value having a parent at home. Or because they are a single parent who has chosen to aodpt. Thinking about the professions of the people whom I know from the adoption world and I certainly don't see an overabundance of "wealthy" professions represented. I know teachers, ministers, and self employed, small town, small business owners. None of these people are making crazy money and most of them felt like their adoption was a financial leap of faith. For them it was not a matter of finances but priorities.
Americans should be adopting kids from the US foster care system.
Of course, many people also wonder why adoptive parents choose international adoption when there are so many children in the US who need families. It's kind of a "take care of our own mentality" that can be represented. The reality is that adopting from the US is not as easy as it sounds. If you choose to do a domestic newborn adoption, you are often looking at 20 thousand dollars (or more) in fees. (Which is more expensive than one Haitian adoption.) There are placing agencies who will do the work for minimal fees but many (like the one in our state) will not work with you unless you are experiencing infertility. If you choose to go the foster care route, this also is not just as easy as it sounds. Finding a child who you feel you are able to parent can be a challenge. In our state, what we found, was that there was a great need for people willing to adopt kids ten and up. Not every family has the skills to parent children adopted as teenagers. We also found that the majority of kid in foster care had special needs. For example, there was a darling 4 year old girl, Pauline, whom D and I prayed for and about. But she was prone to acting out sexually. What does this really mean? Worst case scenerio? She may not be able to ever be around children who are younger than herself unsupervised due to fears of her sexually acting out on those children. That would mean no younger siblings, tightly controlled extended family gatherings, very strict playdates with friends. Can you imagine having to explain to a family member how your child has sexually perpetrated on their child? Sibling groups were also widely available. Groups of anywhere from 3-6 kids who all shared the same hurts in life. Again, not all parents have the skills for such situations. Want to adopt a younger child? Maybe aged birth to three? In our area, to be an adoptive parent for a younger child, you needed to foster that child first and then wait for the parental rights to be terminated. This type of situation always involves a high level of risk as the primary goal of the system is family reunification not adoption. In our state, a child must be in state custody for 18 out of 24 months before they can even consider terminating parental rights. That means a minimal of 24 months of uncertainty regarding a child's ability to be adopted. It also means that small children who have parental rights terminated quickly often have been through a lot of stuff. As in a two year old who has had multiple broken bones. Or a child who was born drug addicted. None of these fit with the risks we were comfortable in assuming.
The money spent on international adoptions would be better used if it were given to specific families.
There are certain individuals who feel like putting out huge chunks of money to bring one child home is poor stewardship, that the money spent to process an adoption would be best used to provide care that would keep a family in a developing country together. The truth is this is not 100% accurate. Yes, it would be great if I could take the money I spent on our adoptions and give it to a family in Haiti. But simply providing them with money will not cure their problems. Imagine if we applied this to domestic adoptions. We would never assume that if we simply gave a pregnant 15 year old more money, then she could adequately parent her child nor would we assume that if we gave the neglectful parent whose child is under state custody, that all of a sudden this parent would be able to effectively parent. Yes, poverty separates families, especially in poor countries. But there are many factors that contribute to a birth parent's decision including physical abuse, remarriages, teenage pregnancy, disease, addiction, and mental illness. We also have to recognize that infusing mass amounts of money directly into people's pockets does not ensure financial stability. Dixie from GLA recently blogged about this as well. And truth be told, having a stable loving family does matter. It matters to my kids. I hate that adoption is so expensive. But I do believe my kids are better off because of the money we have spent.
Adoptive parents should continue to parent their adopted children, no matter what.
The story of the woman who "returned" her adopted son to Russia has also brought out all sorts of criticism, skepticism, and just general judgements on this adoptive mother. While I in no way think she made the best decision, I certainly believe her claims of feeling threatened, feeling like her life was in danger, and feeling like she may have been lied to by Russian authorities. Children who are adopted are all dealing with trauma. Losing your first parent is trauma, even if you are a baby when it happens. All kids react to this trauma differently. Couple that trauma with years of instituational care where discipline can be harsh and encouraging words few and you have the makings of a child who has real reasons to doubt that love exists. They honestly have brain damage. Their little brains have not formed the right connections and instead have learned to distrust rather than trust, to run away rather than run to, to react in rage rather than to love. For kids on the severe end of the spectrum of behaviors, we are talking dangerous behaviors. Not just tantruming. Not just biting or kicking or hitting. We're talking about threats made with weapons in hand. We're talking kids who were sexually or physically abused literally turning into predators who seek out the weak and vunerable so they can control them in the same way they were controlled. In some case, it can meaning having to choose between removing a perpetrator from your home so your other children can be kept safe or keeping your adopted child at home and trying to be hyper vigilant to prevent them from abusing a sibling. Should this woman have realized that these type behaviors were a risk? Yes. Should she have exhausted every single resource known to man including help from her adoption agency, help from a school district, help from private psychologists, help from her church, etc.? Yes. But please don't believe the words those who say "He's just a seven year old boy; he can't be that bad." It's not about badness or goodness. It is about a traumatized kid who is in survival mode who will fight like mad to keep himself safe. In his world, love is not safe. It's risky and scary. And he will literally go tooth and nail to get rid of that risk. Believe that there are 7 year olds and 3 year olds and 12 year olds who are dangerous.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The walls have been painted for many years now, believing that at some point in time, God would have a child who would use the space. D painted a garden mural; Conleigh just recently discovered the butterflies and the stars on the ceiling and loves pointing them out.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
So hard to hear him say that he was lost in Haiti, just makes me teary. We of course talked about how he did have a mama because Papa and I were here but we just couldn't be with him because his papers weren't ready yet. And we talked about how he is lucky to have his Mama Juislene and Papa Jameson plus the mama and papa that he lives with. How God knew he needed a mama and papa and helped us find him. I'm thankful that he does say things like that so we can talk about it and put a positive but honest spin on how his adoption came to be. It's just hard to hear him give a voice to those thoughts that must rattle around in his head, to know that most three year olds would never have reason to think about being lost or alone from your mama.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Hunting empty eggs at home on Sunday...Conleigh was a little bummed that these didn't have candy in them. We spent the day home without extended family.
Bo enjoying the ham bone from lunch...yummy!
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I think there's a coherent post somewhere in here but I just don't know what it is.
-I heard today of two very bizarre Easter experiences hosted by churches. One involved a helicopter, 10 thousand people, an egg drop, coupons inside the eggs for large prizes like plasma tvs, and then the ensueing madness. The other involved a woman winning a new BMW during her church's Easter service. To be fair, I didn't hear the why the churches decided to do such events. But my heart was certainly saddened a bit as I couldn't help but wonder if those churches had missed the whole point of the words "Don't be afraid. He is not here. He is risen." What fear were those churches out to conquer? It felt a bit like the fear of not being able to keep up with Joneses was being protrayed as the biggest fear. That the fear of death or a fear of not being captive to sin not really important. I guess more than anything it made me wonder if the biggest message people got from those events was that Jesus died so we could have stuff not that Jesus died so we could live life without fear.
-Our church sevice was packed today. We literally had to seat people in the foyer. There were lots of new faces, people whom I knew but who had never attended before or who have attended maybe once or twice. One of D's soccer players and his dad. A woman I have worked with in the past. The daughter of a friend who has never really seemed interested in the Jesus stuff. Gregg preached on Matthew 28-29 and specifically addressed the fears associated with Jesus' death and resurrection. He also preached on the reactions of many different people to their fears. I am hopeful that for both the new faces and the old that the words "Don't be afraid. He is not here. He is risen." will ring true in their lives. That for people like me who don't fear death but fear other, more trivial things, that we will seek to be fearless for Jesus. That we won't live in a strange place of fearing the opinions of others or fearing failure more than we fear death itself. I pray for others who don't know Jesus in a personal way that they would come to see how faith is about fearless living. That death is not the end but that this reassurance of heaven is not what faith is all about. Regardless of who we are or where we come from, may we live with the Spirit of a Risen Redeemer inside of us, believing that if God is for us, who can be against us and that nothing shall separate us from the love of God, neither life nor death, nor angels nor demons, nor the present nor the future, nor height nor depth. We are His and He is ours; we simply have to come.