Saturday, June 30, 2012

Questions to ask...Adoption finances

Continuing with questions adoptive families should ask themselves...

How do you feel about the financial end of adoption?

Most people do not realize how expensive adoption is regardless of the program a family chooses.  If I had a dollar for every time I've read or heard "people should adopt babies in the U.S. instead of spending all this money in other countries!" I'd be rich.  However, this comment is based in a fallacy.  Depending on the situation, international and domestic adoptions often are similarly priced.  

Adoptive Families magazine (which has no ax to grind internationally or domestically) released the results for 2011 adoption costs.  The average cost of a US domestic adoption with an agency was over $33, 000.  The average cost of a US domestic adoption with an attorney was over $31, 000.  (I personally think these are pretty high averages.  They have aggregated the data into a different chart and it shows that about a quarter of domestic infant adoptions cost between $10, 000 and $20, 000, about 30% fall into the $20, 000 to $30, 000 category, and about 20% fall into the $30, 000 to $40, 000 range.  That arrangement of data is pretty interesting to me because I think it shows that the bulk of US infant adoptions, basically 75% cost between $10, 000 to $40, 000.)  

If you compare that to the international adoptions the magazine spotlighted, you will find that the average cost for a Chinese adoption was around $28, 000.  Ethiopia was similarly priced.  (All data taken from I do not think our China adoption will be quite that pricey but a lot depends on travel costs as they can vary depending on the time of year you fly.  I would also add that our Haitian adoptions were significantly less than that, probably closer to $15, 000 each.  

And while I think the US average is high, I can tell you I have researched domestic infant adoption programs within our state and across the country.  I think you would be hard pressed to find an agency that quotes you fees of less than $20, 000.  (To be fair, there are some low cost options out there.   In Nebraska, we have Nebraska Children's Home which is essentially free.  However, this agency has its drawbacks.  They have about twice as many potential families as they do placements and once they complete your homestudy, you have to agree to work only with them.  This means you cannot network your family's information with any other agency or placement group.)  

I also think I would be rich if I had money every time I heard someone say something about how we all ought to be adopting from foster care.  The reality is foster care to adoption situations are not for everyone.  Cost wise, they are very economical.  Often they are free and a family will be eligible to receive subsidies to cover their new child's medical expenses or therapy needs.  However, the goal of foster care is not adoption.  The goal is reunification with birth families.    About 50% of the case management goals in the system are for reunification and about 50% of kids leave foster care to be reunited with their families.  (   The average age of a child who is adopted from within foster care is approximately 5-7.    ( on the state, you are much more likely to become the adoptive parent of a child if you were first the child's foster parenting which means the idea of adopting from foster care without doing foster care is unlikely.  
( )  Lastly, parenting a child who has been in the foster care system make require a specific set of parenting skills or at the very least,  retraining so to speak in how one parents.  Almost every child in foster care is there because of abuse or neglect in their life; while those losses can be overcome, it take dedication and creativity on the part of the parents.  Foster parenting and adopting from foster care is a great way to grow a family but it is not for everyone.

Know I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time I've heard a comment about adoptions being free or low cost.  While I do think we could do some things in terms of reform that would help the cost of adoptions be less expensive, adoption is a business.  People are performing services and need to be compensated for those service.  It is unfair to expect them to do those things for free or reduced rates.

In terms of how a family feels about adoption expenses, I know all families set their own financial values and those values differ vastly.  And that is okay.  Some things I think one ought to consider before dismissing adoption as too costly include:

*Is the financial cost a good reason to disobey or disregard what God might be calling you to do?

*Would you balk at the thought of taking out a $20, 000 loan for a new or used vehicle?   How is an adoption loan different from this?

*What lesson about financial security might God desire to teach you through an adoption process?

We personally have never taken out a long term loan or received any grant money for our adoptions nor have we borrowed from our retirement funds or used our home equity.  We have not received huge monetary gifts from friends and have not done any fundraisers.  Know also that before we started our adoptions, we never had any money set aside, earmarked for adoption.  I don't know that this is the best strategy.  But I do know that we have always managed to make it work.  D picked up extra hours teaching summer school.  We sold items on Ebay (and did have a friend donate some items that way.)  We had a few people gift us some money but nothing that was huge and added together over 3 adoptions, I would guess we've received maybe $500 total from others.  I sold items in an etsy store.  In the case of Zeke's adoption, we were blessed by inheritance money.  Somehow it has all just worked out.  And I believe that God will make a way to put children in families, even when money seems to be an issue.

As I said before, we have not done fundraisers, taken out loans, or applied for grants.  So I cannot speak to those things.  People use all of those avenues as ways to fund an adoption.  If you google "adoption fundraisers" you'll see a plethora of current projects people have going.  There are many organizations who offer grant money and low interest loans specifically for the purpose of adoption.  I won't list them as again, you can google and get most of the information.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Questions to ask...Open vs. closed adoptions

Continuing with questions adoptive families should ask themselves...

How do you feel about birth moms, birth fathers, birth siblings, and birth grandparents?

Consider how you feel about birth families.  And then do some research and consider it again.

I think many people enter into adoptions with a lot of uncertainty about the role of birth families.  There is the underlying fear that a birth parent will promise one thing but then at the last minute, change her mind and choose to parent.  There is the Law and Order:  SVU drama based fear that at some point in time a birth family may step in and kidnap an adopted child.  There are some fears rooted in realism about the choices that a birth family may be making regarding crime, drugs, or alcohol.  And often there is a deep sense of wanting to protect your adopted child from all of the above.

That said, after many years of closed adoptions, in today's world, most domestic adoptions have some degree of openness.  Some may involve a birth parent who regularly visits.  Others may be as simple as sending a photo and a letter once a year.  And some start as open adoptions but over time the connection is lost.

Many times, the prospect of interacting with a birth family is intimidating.  I also think it is tempting to start an adoption and think that the relationship between your child and their birth family is maybe not all that important, that it will be a hard thing to navigate and that it might be best if it was just left alone.  

That said, as someone whose children have lost their first families, I think a softening of hearts towards birth families is a good thing.  If you consider nothing else, consider that your child needs you to love his birth family.  He needs you to have put aside your discomfort in order to have some answers for him.  He needs you to speak affirmations about his birth family so that he can believe his story is hopeful not hopeless.  (Even if the birth parents have screwed up every single part of parenting, do your best to find some small positive thing that your child can hang his hat on.)  

If you choose to do a domestic infant adoption, there is a good chance, you will be asked to have some type of relationship with the birth family.  Within foster adopt situations, the opportunity for an open adoption may appear to be not an option since the parents have lost their rights to parent.  However, a child may have a grandparent or sibling relationship that needs maintained.  In international adoptions, it is often assumed that every international adoption is a closed adoption where there is no contact with the birth parent.  This actually depends on the country you adopt from and the child's unique story.  In China, it is illegal to abandon your child and it is also illegal to relinquish your child to an orphanage.  So often, while children are abandoned at city gates, police stations, or shopping centers, it is done stealthily so that the parents are purposefully unknown.  However, in China, a child may spend months or years in a foster family.  It may be possible (although not likely) to maintain contact with this foster family.  In countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, and Haiti, it is fairly common for there to be a living relative who is placing the child.  Often, adoptive families are able to meet this family and in some cases, they are able to establish a relationship with the birth family.

In all situations, you might also need to consider how you feel about the ethics involved in a family relinquishing their rights to a child or the ethics involved in how a parent's rights are terminated.  In domestic situations, are you comfortable with providing medical care, food, and housing to a birth mom with few restrictions on how the monies are used?  Would you prefer that a birth mom be living in a special situation that might lower the costs associated with her living expenses?  Know how the agency/attorney feels about this and how the money will be spent.

Have you thought through what type of counseling you believe a birth parent should receive?  Ask agencies what they do to help a birth family grieve the loss of the child.  Ask how it is paid for and how long the counseling will continue.  Ask if birth families are able to access counseling later on if the birth family has a need.  Ask if a birth parent was given the option for drug and alcohol counseling.

In international adoptions, ask some of these same questions but also ask about the possibility that the child is an economic orphan, a child relinquished due to poverty.  There are many strong feelings on what should happen when a child is placed for adoption because of poverty and I'm not sure there is a right answer.  It is a bit too simplistic to just say "no child should be placed for adoption because the parent cannot feed them."  Often times, the poverty is just one struggle albeit the largest one.  I think my personal preference in international adoptions is to try to determine if the orphanage has programs in place (or will refer a parent to another program) if they feel the family should be kept together if a solution to the lack of food could be found.  Does the orphanage help moms who can't breastfeed buy formula rather than just taking the child in for adoption?  Doe the orphanage support opportunities for sustainable businesses in country which would provide jobs and keep families together?  Is the orphanage clear on the finite ending most adoptions have, that the child will probably not return to the birth country as an adult in order to help his birth family?

In terms of foster parenting and adoption, at what point do you believe a birth family has had enough chances to parent?  Are you okay with parenting a child whose birth parents are in jail and essentially had their rights terminated because of this?  Are you okay with a domestic infant adoption where the birth parent was in jail and may feel that she has no other choice other than to place for adoption?  In all foster to adopt situations, how will you navigate months or years of uncertainty regarding the birth family's role in a child's life?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Questions to ask..Who are we?

Continuing on with questions potential adoptive families should ask themselves...

Who are you as a family?  The reality is we all have strengths and weakness and different resources available to us.  These unique characteristics are sometimes designed for certain situations and it is important to be open and flexible but also realistic.

Consider what needs you have going into this adoption.  We are human and have selfish desires, even in parenthood.  If you really enjoyed the feelings you had while caring for an infant and are hoping to experience that again, it's okay to admit that.  If you know that you are a working mom and will not be able to quit your job to care for a child with major medical needs or emotional needs, admit that.  If you know that you have not parented a teenager before and that you have some major concerns about parenting without this experience, admit that.  If you already have 2 kids who are under the age of 5 and it feels risky to bring a child older then them home, admit it.  If you are not close to a hospital setting and have concerns about how you would handle medical conditions requiring frequent hospital stays, admit it.  If you are really over diapers and bottles and potty training, admit it.

Those things all stem out of our wants and I know it is tempting to want to squash down those wants and be selfless, but the reality is in doing so, you might also be squashing a part of who God has made you to be.  Coming off of just committing to a new little guy, I have my list of who I think God has made our family to be fresh in my mind.  Not a child older than my two I have right now.  Not a teen as much as I would love to do that.  Not a need that requires lengthy hospital stays.  Not completely blind or deaf.   Able to do self care as an adult.  Not wheelchair dependent.  Able to leave independently as an adult.  That's just a very basic list.

And the reasons I have those things on my list are okay.  My kids need to keep their identities as the first children in our families.  I don't have the parenting skills I think I need to parent a teen.  We are too far away from Children's Hospital in Omaha to knowingly take on a child who needs multiple surgeries or a surgery with a lengthy stay.  Completely blind or deaf overwhelm me.  At this point, a child who may not be able to function independently as an adult does not seem like a good fit for us.  I have thought a lot about what our retirement may look like and I think there is a strong chance we might not be in the States the entire year.  Also, I do not want to be changing adult diapers.Our house is not wheelchair accessible.  Yes, all of those may sound like excuses but they are not.  They are practical reasons that have been thought about and considered in prayer.

It doesn't mean that we are stubborn and saying "absolutely not."  It just means that we have a general framework that is based on who we are as a family.  And here's the thing: if you are really honest about it with yourself, your spouse and God, you will find your list changing over time.  When we first started this, I would have said absolutely not to HIV.  Now it's on our list of things we can handle.  I also would have said no way to Down's Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy.  We have not yet said yes to those but our hearts have been softening to them.  And that softening may not mean anything; it may just be about us seeing things differently.

The reality is successful adoptions are about the child and the adoptive family having their needs met.  When your expectations are unfulfilled, then it can be very hard.  It doesn't mean you should quit or that God won't use that experience.  It just means you may have a difficult road ahead of you as you align you desires with the reality of your adoption.

It is also true that certain situations are more likely to create certain adoption scenarios which is why evaluating who you are can help you think through what situations you might say yes too.  If you feel the need to parent an infant, then a domestic infant adoption is just about the only way for that to occur.  If you are looking to parent an HIV positive child, then you will most likely have to adopt a child outside of the US as the transmission rates between mother and child have been so reduced that most children in the US born to HIV positive mothers are born HIV exposed but not positive.  If you are looking to adopt an older child, then you will be able to consider more programs including foster care and international adoption.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Questions to Ask...Risk

Continuing with the questions adoptive families should be asking themselves...

What level of risk are you okay with?  Adoption is a risk no matter what; you cannot eliminate risk completely.

Being matched
There is risk involved in being matched with a child.  In domestic in almost every situation (foster placement or infant), someone else is choosing your family to parent the child.  With infant adoptions, its the birth parent.  With foster to adopt situations, it's a social worker.  There is a risk that it could take a very long time (years) to be matched.  Are you okay with an indefinite wait because you cannot control the matching process?  Also within domestic adoption is the risk of a birth family deciding to parent after initially choosing an adoptive family.  While I cannot imagine the pain of that, it is important that birth families have the ability to change their minds.  Making an adoption plan has life long implications for all parties not just the adpotive families and if the roles were reversed and we were facing a crisis pregnancy, I am certain we would want the leeway to do the same.

Within international adoption, the risk of an indefinite wait to be matched is lower.  It depends upon the situation, but many times there are waiting children so even if someone else (an agency or orphanage worker) is responsible for the match, once you are signed up with that program, you will probably be matched quickly.  (Or quite possibly, you will make the match yourself if you find a child off of a list of waiting children.)  That said, there are of course exceptions to both instances.  I know people who have done domestic infant adoptions and were matched within days and I know people who chose to do international adoptions and have waited years for a referral.  In the international situations, most often times, the time to referral is outlined by the agency so you have a pretty good idea of how long you will be waiting.  The wait to referral is pretty consistent.  However, there are instances where the "rules" change midstream.  China is a great example of this as that country has experienced a dramatic slow down in its ability to refer healthy, infants.  Many people signed up for that program believing the wait would be x months long and that has now stretched into years.

There is financial risk.  There are two ways to go about processing an adoption:  independently or agency based.  Most international adoptions are agency based which means the adoption agency is the middle man who oversees the processing of the adoption in the country it is occurring in.  There are a few countries which still allow independent adoptions including Haiti and Ghana.  Independent international adoptions mean that the adoptive family completes all paperwork on their own and works directly with an orphanage throughout the process.  Usually, the orphanage hires its own processors to work on the paperwork.  

Domestic infant adoptions can be either with independent adoptions occurring when someone uses a consultant or a lawyer to help them be matched with a birth mom and then uses a lawyer of their choosing to finalize the adoption.  Regardless of what country, agency based adoptions are probably considered less risky financially because there is an agency in the middle who should be looking to protect the interest of its clients.  The agency should be looking for red flags that would indicate that the adoption might never be finalized.  Also, if something does go awry, many agencies have more than one adoption program which means adoptive families can switch to another program if needed.  The family may not be able to recoup all of their monies but switching to another program should prevent them from losing all of their money.    If a family does an independent adoption, there is no agency to act as a safety net.  While the family may have signed a contract with an orphanage, consultant, or lawyer, most often these contracts heavily favor the orphanage, consultant or lawyer.  Often, monies spent are lost.  Within a domestic adoption, money spent on a failed adoption attempt are eligible for a tax write off.

Behavioral Challenges
There is also behavioral risk.  All adoption is a result of a loss.  It is just that simple.  For my child to join my family, he has to lose his first family.  And that loss is a part of his heart forever.  That doesn't mean the loss has to be so invasive that it cuts into everything the child does.  But for some kids, it does just that.  Even kids who were adopted as infants.

Domestic infant adoption carries the least risk emotionally.  An adoptive family is able to be there immediately to nurture and care for the child within a family unit.  There are no questions about if the child was left hungry or if he spent long hours crying in a crib.  But most domestic adoptions arise from stressful, unplanned pregnancies which can impact the fetus.  And there is always a risk of prenatal drug and alcohol use which can affect a child's emotional state.  

Foster to adopt situations are riskier than domestic adoptions in that most children are in state custody for a reason that involves neglect or abuse.  The kids are coming from hard places most of us have not been.  However, a good social worker should be able to give a family a pretty good idea of what needs the child has before a family says yes to adoption.  (There are instances where families have felt like the true needs were not revealed but I hope this is not reflective of the system in general.)

International adoption is more risky yet.  You have no control over what has happened in the child's first years of life and often you will have no back story to tell you about those years.  There is a possibility the child was neglected or abused by birth parents.  A child who suffers from chronic malnutrition in a birth family can suffer brain damage.  Within orphanage care, abuse and neglect can continue.  Even in the best orphanages, a child is left in survival mode where they develop certain behaviors because they feel the need to protect themselves.  There is always a risk of a child struggling to form attachments to a parent because he has not had the opportunity to learn to trust an adult to meet his needs.  In each of the scenarios, attachment is a concern.  You cannot eradicate the risk of emotional issues out of adoption by choosing to adopt as young as child as possible.  Yes, you can reduce the risk.  But you cannot remove it.  For older children, the risk is greater but it is not a certainty.

Karyn Purvis, a well known attachment specialist, breaks the stats up into thirds:  1/3 of kids from hard place will have minor bumps in their lives, 1/3 will have moderate needs, 1/3 will have some major struggles.  Recently, I tried to apply this principal to adoptive families who I personally know, only those families who I know their stories well enough to have a good idea of what the situations are that they are dealing with, specifically in families who adopted children internationally or through foster care.  As I tallied through the stories I know of, here's what I found:  I could think of 27 kids, some adopted domestically as infants, some internationally.  Out of those kids 4 had severe behavior issues and out of those 4, 3 were disrupted into new families.  17 had moderate behavioral needs including things like sensory disorders, sleep issues, and attachment concerns.  7 kids did not have any behavioral issues that were more than minor needs.  There are many many more families who I know of who I do not know well enough to say for certain that all is well.  However, those families appear to be functioning and thriving so my opinion is that those children probably have needs that are at the moderate to minor level.

Medical unknowns
There is a medical risk.  People often assume that international adoption is the riskiest in terms of medical unknowns.  In some ways, this is correct.  Many countries do not have access to proper medical care so you may think a child has one condition but it needs further testing in the U.S. to confirm this.  There is also no comprehensive family medical history for the child so you have no way of knowing what genetics may hold.  But the major things that people are looking for like HIV and Hepetitis are all screened for and these tests are essentially reliable.  (People seem to want to know about communicable diseases; however, if you have not researched them, I would encourage you to do so.  They might not be as scary as you think.)  I think the biggest fear people have is that their child will come home and have a major medical condition that was not revealed to them beforehand.  Honestly, I think the biggest problems occur if this happens and a child was thought to be healthy beforehand because the family now has to adjust to their expectations.  The situations I do know of where this has happened were all with families who knew their child had medical needs but the needs ended up being different than what they expected.  (For example, I know of two people who adopted kids who were always sick.  The families knew something was amiss but they did not know what as the children had not tested positive for any diseases.  In the end, one child had HIV and one child had Sickle Cell Anemia.  There were inaccurate tests in both instance but the families also knew that the child had heath issues.  Still a "loss" and a diagnosis but perhaps different than adopting a supposedly healthy child.)  That said, I think people forget that infant adoption does come with some medical risks too.  Yes, there is testing available prenatally which can help you be aware of any medical needs.  But many times the needs are not known until after a child is born or for many months after birth.  Major conditions like Down's Syndrome or a major heart defect may be apparent and known ahead of time.  But things like cerebral palsy or autism are undetectable until later on.  Thinking back to situations I personally know well, I know of 7 children who were adopted domestically as infants.  4 have moderate medical needs.  (I'm defining severe as situations requiring total care or situations that are life threatening.)  One has a genetic syndrome that has resulted in multiple surgeries and academic delays, two have concerns connected to their digestive systems including major food allergies, and one has vision issues and hip displasia.  Of those 4, only 1 child's needs were known before the family committed to the child.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Starting an Adoption-Questions to Ask

As I said yesterday, I've recently had a lot of people ask me about starting an adoption.  I already shared a bit about lessons I've learned but in terms of the nitty gritty, I think there are some questions a family can mull over as they start an adoption.  I think my list is a bit different than most lists of questions.  Most lists I've seen focus on questions for adoptive families to ask potential agencies.  I would encourage adoptive families to also ask questions of themselves.   By doing so, they are mentally walking through their core values and determining what they think to be true about adoption.  The questions become about embracing who you are as an adoptive family and having expectations that will match with reality which is one of the strongest factors in a successful adoption.  Too often, families enter into adoption with a few broad ideas and then find themselves swayed by things that may not be central to who the family is or wants to be.  It's tempting to sign with someone who promises short wait times.  It's tempting to sign with someone who promises an infant.  It's tempting to have someone flattering you and telling you how your family is a perfect fit for a teen in need of a home.  It's tempting to pick a program that seems to be the cheapest.  But those well intentioned thoughts may not take you on the road that is right for your family.  Many of the lists of questions to ask an adoption agency/facilitator are written from the perspective of avoiding a scam or an unethical agency.  I think when an adoptive family starts with questions for themselves, I think it also helps to reduce the potential of losing money or having an unethical situation.  Often times, scams occur because an adoptive family appears "desperate" for a child which then leads to the family making questionable choices with their finances and hearts.

For me, I think there is a need to do some thinking about how a family will answer the following questions and then use those answers as starting point.

What level of risk are you okay with?
Who are you as a family? 
How do you feel about birth families?
How do you feel about the financial end of adoption?

As I sat and thought about what things I've told the families who have spoken with me lately, I think most of what I've said fits under those questions.  So tomorrow let's do a little thinking outloud about those questions.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Starting an Adoption...My Bits of Wisdom

Recently, I've gotten a lot of questions from friends and friends of friends wondering about how to start an adoption.  There are lots of options out there for adoption and it is hard to know which road to head down.  So I thought I'd share a bit of what I wish we had known when we first started on our way to adoption.  To start, there are a few broad lessons I think we've learned about adoption.

It may not go as you think it will go...
If you know our story at all, our experiences to get to where we are today were definitely not "go from point a to point b" experience.  It was more like start at "point a, stop and wander around somewhere by point 3, zig zag over to line xy, and find yourself next to point b."  We started with domestic infant adoption with a low cost agency in our state and were told we didn't fit their criteria.  We then signed on to be trained as foster parents to do foster to adopt situations, with the emphasis on adopt and no plans to do foster care.  We waited for almost 2 years on the list in our state with essentially no potential placements all while looking into children who were available for adoption in other states.  We took on an emergency foster placement and struggled with the experience but learned a lot.  We spent a lot of time discouraged.  The dream of kids, bio or adopted, was just not happening.  In the end, we ended up adopting from Haiti, something I was pretty sure we would never do.  And in a lot of ways, it was a great fit for us.

Our story is not unique.   There are a lot of families who have adopted who found themselves facing false starts, having to let go of one plan and make a new one, and in general, praying about a lot of things that never happened.  If I could name all the potential adoption situations we've prayed over, the list would certainly be long.  And these are situations involving real children with names, not just mulling over what country or program we should be a part of.

Public perception differs from reality...
It's also hard to know what way to go simply because there is so much a family beginning adoption doesn't know.  For example, many assume that there is a huge need for families willing to parent infant girls from China because for so long, that was the story being put forth in the news, in adoption circles, well, just in a lot of places.  The reality is there are not healthy infants available for adoption in China unless you are willing to take on a 5 year plus wait.  There is a need for people willing to parent special needs children of both genders.

Even that word "special needs" is something people who are new to adoption might not understand.  People hear those words and think of things like a child who is wheelchair bound or who has Down's Syndrome.  While there are of course children with those disabilities who need families, there are many children with much more minor special needs who need families.  People who are new to adoption might not realize that the label special needs can be used to describe children who have an extra finger, who have crossed eyes, who have low birth weights, or who have a cleft lip.  I think most of those are concerns that people would say "I think I can handle that."  (As a disclaimer, people often say that about cleft lip and cleft palette; I personally would not consider those a minor special need as they often require multiple surgeries, extensive therapy, and can also involve hearing loss.)

Another perception is that it is very easy to adopt from foster care.  The reality is, in most places, it is not easy if you are desiring to adopt a single child under the age of 5 or 6.  There is a strong need for people willing to parent a specific type of child:  older kids, most often boys aged 8 on up.  Older girls and sibling groups with more than 3 children are probably also on the list.  Yes, there are people who have adopted an infant from foster care.  However, what people don't realize is that most often this infant is placed with a family as a foster child.  It often takes from 1-2 years before that child is ever available to be adopted.  That 1-2 year time span almost always involves a plan to reunify the biological family.  Many children who are younger than 5 also fall into this type of of situation.

Financial perceptions can also be wrong.  There are lots of people who have no idea of what it actually costs to adopt.  Foster care is free (or almost free depending on what the family needs for an attorney).  It also involves subsidies where the state pays for ongoing needs of the child even after the child has been adopted. It is basically the only low to no cost option available.  Many families will probably encounter sticker shock when they start researching domestic adoption options.  Without spending too much time on this, know that domestic adoptions and international adoptions, on average, are similar in the amount of financial investment.

In other reading, SisterHaiti recently blogged a bit about perception and reality in her post titled "The New Faces of International Adoption."  It's a great read that hopefully will help people understand international adoption better, specifically that adopting internationally as a way to parent a healthy infant may not be a great strategy.

So what does that mean?  It means be gentle with your plans.  Give yourself the freedom to change plans.  Don't count a change in direction  as a failure.  Know your heart but be willing to consider other options.  Investigate and make sure you are making your decisions based on reality.  Don't just trust the social worker or the agency or the one story you know about someone who adopted.  Join Yahoo and Facebook groups. Read adoption blogs.  Talk with adoption workers.  And know that there is a good chance, it will happen.  Maybe not in the way you imagined, from the place you envisioned, or in the time frame you thought, but it will happen.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sweet and Simple Pretend

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook something about suppertime being such a crazy time at her house and asked for others to share some ideas for how to keep her two little boys occupied while she prepared the meal.  As I read that and the responses, it was a great reminder that sometimes simple is best.  In our age of instant access and thousands of choices, I think it's easy for parents to lose sight of the simple little ways our kids will play, if we as adults don't clutter it up.  

In some ways, I think we as adults are so used to the busyness and multi media frenzy of life that we find ourselves easily bored.  (Can you say "Yes, I like to watch tv while surfing the Internet?"  How guilty I am of wanting that multi tasking, on demand, mindless entertainment.)  

And so we put that on our kids too.  We expect that they need lots of toys or at least something really novel to entertain them.  And we forget that to them, it's all pretty novel.  

There is joy in a kid sized clothesline, clothespins, and random clothing items.  

And all that is needed for construction work is a mish mash of hats, gloves, and a few plastic tools.  

I love the stage my kids are at with their play.  They spend large chunks of time together, with no adult interaction, just playing pretend.  Construction workers, chefs, teachers, doctors, parents, ballerinas, super heros...just sweet, innocent, simple pretend.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The First Big Move

Before the move...
All the rooms were painted and all the trim was up.  This photo is the master bedroom.
The house was wired and plumbed but no fixtures put in.
Kitchen space with penny tile and grey black laminate countertops-
if you have seen my current kitchen which has 2 feet of counter space and about 4 cabinets,
you know that I am terribly excited to have so much counter space and cabinet space

Office which is right next to the kitchen on the side of the dining space

Basement-the walls are all premade and have to be inside the basement before they put the house on the foundation

The Move...
All loaded up and coming down the street.  The wheels underneath are adjustable and someone actually stands under the house while the house is being moved to work a wrench or ratchet that adjusts the wheels to fit into tight spaces.
The truck went south down the street, then turned across our neighbor's alfalfa field and went east before  stopping and then backing the truck up so the house was parallel to the foundation.
The house was then lifted via hydraulics and slid onto the foundation.

The second portion of the house-Kenson and Conleigh's bedrooms plus part of the foyer and and front door.
This part will be attached later.  The front porch, garage, and rear covered patio also have to be built yet.

The second big move ie the one where we move all of our stuff has yet to be determined.  I'm guessing it will be 3-4 weeks from now but that all depends on how fast things get finished and when the inspections are done.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My favorite one liner from the week

Last week was crazy, crazy.  We went to watch one of D's soccer boys play in the Nebraska Shrine Soccer game and then drove up to my mom's for a few days.  We left the kids with her from Tuesday until Saturday while we purged and held a moving sale.  Our new house is a manufactured house that was built in a factory. It was delivered to the site via a truck on Thursday so we ran to the lot Thursday morning to watch them bring it in, then hurried home to do a late afternoon garage sale.  We also got an unexpected call from our former realtor saying that even though our house was not on the market, would we like to show it on Saturday?  So Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were full of sweat and a lot of grunt work as we moved items out of the house to sell and then hurried to rearrange, clean, and pick up from the sale.  When we picked the kids up on Saturday, D and I spent a lot of time chuckling at the two of them and the funny things they say.  (Apparently a few days break re invigorated my sense of humor.)  I didn't get them all written down but there were just lots of funnies.  That said, I think this last line takes the cake:

"Okay...when I throw you up in the air, you flap your wings."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How to be a Godly Man: Laying Down the List

With Father's Day coming up, I'm sure a lot of us will read articles and hear sermons extolling the virtues of a godly man.  In our American culture, it seems like that man is almost a mythical figure, a warrior who has a Herculean physique somehow mashed up with the Christian character traits of Billy Graham and common sense intelligence of Steve Jobs.  I think...   I mean I personally find it very hard to define the idea of a godly man.

It shouldn't be so hard because in the circles I most often find myself in, there are certain criteria that people use when they define a godly man.  Words like "spiritual leader" and "love the Lord."  Images of a man who leads family Bible readings or who prays daily with his wife.  But truth be told, I sometimes find all of that hard to swallow.

Not because those things are not good things.  But because those things often don't resonate with all women.  (And I'm guessing more struggle with it than embrace it.)  Many women are married to or are the children of men who don't do those things.  It's as if the American church has created a mock up of who we think men ought to be based on a checklist of spiritual actions.  Item 1:  Lead family devotions.  Item 2:  Have lengthy prayer times with your wife.  Item 3:  Create an elaborate system of mentoring which will teach your son how to be a man and make sure to include some special coming of age event complete with a symbolic gift.  Item 4:  Manage your household finances.  Item 5:  Be the final decision maker in your house with every decision going through the man.  Item 6:   Memorize multitudes of Bible verses (maybe even whole chapters) and teach them to your children.  Item 7:  Participate in a men's small group.  Item 8...really the list could go on and on.  That checklist sounds wonderfully Biblical and is chock full of Biblical principals.  Leading the house, over the wife, an authority figure for his children...all Biblical.  And it's full of actions that are borne out of Biblical principals like memorizing Scripture, teaching your children Scripture, and praying with your wife.

Know that I am not mocking any family who has a dad who does those things.  If that's who your husband or dad is, good for you.  That's awesome.

But I am afraid what often happens is that this list is created and then becomes the measuring stick for all men everywhere.  As a wife, I look at this list and yearn for a husband who will do these things and then am disappointed and discouraged when I don't see that happening.  As a daughter, I look at this list and wish that my dad would have been more like the imaginary man the list embodies.  It leaves women feeling like their families are failing spiritually.  (And I'm guessing leaves men feeling paralyzed because they think they can't live up to the standards.)

I mean, let's be honest and call that list what it is:  at it's worst, it is performance based legalism.  Creating a list of spiritual works that are intended to make us measure up in the eyes of the world, the church or the Lord  is legalism.  That is what bothers me.  I am not suggesting that we say to the men in our lives "it is okay to neglect the spiritual role you need to have in the lives of your family."  What I am saying is that we as women need to reframe our thinking, to see and appreciate the godliness that is already present in the hearts of our spouses and  fathers, rather than wishfully longing for a godliness that is based more upon a preconceived list of rules and expectations rather than the man's heart.

Rather than bemoaning a spouse who does not lead a family Bible study, can we as women chose to celebrate a spouse who faithfully attends church with us?  And what if the compassion he holds in his heart for hurting kids is really the compassion of Jesus who gathered kids and hurting people of all ages near?  Can I look at my dad's fidelity to my mom and see how that is an outpouring of his love for God, that he chose to love my mom as Christ loved the church?   Could my dad's continual commitment to provide for the needs of his family really be not just about our physical needs but also about what God had laid on his heart?    Can we as women choose to let go of our list and instead embrace the hearts of the men who walk beside us?

I will continue to rejoice when I find my husband reading a devotion, memorizing a verse, or discussing the sermon on Sunday.  I will continue to pray Deuteronomy 6:5-7 over my husband, believing that the Holy Spirit will help my husband love God and His word.  And when my dad died, it completely warmed (and tore at) my heart to hear my mom say she was just so sad because their marriage was really in a good place spiritually.  But I think I have learned to put down my list and to find the bits of God that are a part of the present, those little bits of God that are pressed down inside of them, trickling or gushing out.  Simple bits of God, borne out of His presence in their lives.

22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

 23-24Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

 25-26Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.  (Galatians 5:22-26)

Incredibly thankful and blessed by my dad and my husband who daily show God's spirit at work in their lives, in original ways.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just What We Needed

Today, we had a family reunion type luncheon.  It's on my side with some fairly distant and far flung cousins, great aunts, and great uncles, most of whom my kids do not know.  We spent about 15 minutes of our time being entertained by an older man who was missing 3 fingers.  He introduced himself to my kids by showing off his hand that had only 2 fingers and saying "Hi.  I'm Bugs Bunny."  He then joked around quite a bit about his missing fingers and let my kids interact with his hand.  It was good for my kids to see someone with a visible difference, to see him laughing about it, to see that it didn't hurt, to see him use his two fingers to hold a cup and a bag.  In some ways, I think it was something my kids needed in preparation for Zeke.

He also inadvertently provided another dose of "just what we need" when he answer a question about how he lost his fingers.  Without knowing anything about my dear daughter, he replied that he used to suck his thumb, and then moved onto his finger, but decided to stop once he had only two fingers left.  Those of you who know my daughter know that she does love her thumb...

In all seriousness, I'm not that worried about her thumb but I thought it was so funny that that was the answer he gave.

Monday, June 4, 2012

15 Minutes on Highway 41

For some reason, driving seems to be the time for processing big adoption feelings.  (See West Dodge Road post.)  Today it was Highway 41 on the way to Beatrice to pick up the repaired oven door since I managed to shatter the glass on the door about ten days ago.  (Oven door breakage=completely different post.)

Out of no where, a little voice starts asking about a Haiti mama.  "Why did she leave me?'  That word "leave" is a heart stopper for me.  No grown up around here has ever used that word "leave" to describe adoption.  But somehow a little heart has turned adoption into a leaving.  And then "Is this mama going to leave too?"  Oh, mylanta...I honestly thought we had been home long enough to not need the reassurance that this question begs for.  Words about why a mama might go, words about how God did not design families to work that way but that if a mama has to go, then God has to make a new plan called adoption.  Words about how most adoptive families never have to make new plans because that family is forever.  And questions about why a mama couldn't just take care of her baby all by herself, even if there wasn't a papa, even if there wasn't a job, even if there wasn't money or food or a doctor to help.  How deep a first Mama is set into a little one's heart.  Yes, my kids feel safe and loved and accepted.  But yet they still long for the mama who first knew them, who knew them before me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Free (or nearly free) summer fun

For some reason, there is something remarkably different about keeping two five year olds occupied for the summer versus doing the same for two four year olds.  I'm putting most of my money on elimination of a daily afternoon nap.  While it is true that they now play so well independently (as compared to being two or three), it is also true that sometimes we need a bit of novelty to keep things moving (and to keep us from fighting and whining).  So I wanted to make sure I had some kind of plan for the summer so I wouldn't be left wanting pull my hair out after trying to shoo the kids outside and being met with resistance or listening to them fuss over the same toy car.

I also changed our afternoon schedule a bit to have some down time that is purposefully very quiet.  (Up until about a month or two ago, Conleigh was still napping and so I was okay with Kenson playing quietly in his room while she napped. With kindergarten and no naps on the horizon, I've been working hard to keep Conleigh awake all day so I started letting her play in her room during rest time too.  But there was never any quiet time because even quiet play is actually a bit noisy and they were always tempted to want to play together.)  To help make part of our afternoon quiet, we've been using a free audiobook site to listen to stories online.  I had intended to get some books on tape at the library but we haven't gotten to the library yet, so I searched online and found Books Should Be Free.  The children's section has lots of choices with many classics that often get overlooked plus lots of books that are within a series.  From The Wizard of Oz (and all the sequels) to Tom Swift to The Swiss Family Robinson and Anne of Green Gables, there are many books I wish my kids were old enough to enjoy.  We've already done The Adventures of Reddy Fox and Raggedy Andy.  (I'm also eyeing Squinty the Comical Pig, not so much because I know anything about it but because the title sounds quite interesting.)  I have also been using which has a lot of fairly tales like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.. 

Another thing I have done is to invest in a summer fun box.  It's a box full of new toys for the kids, one for each week of summer.  I'm really not one to just buy my kids toys.  (It really never happens.Toys are for birthdays or Christmas and sometimes not even then.)  But I filled my box up with cheap, fun options for the summer.  I've included puzzles (100 piece ones which is much harder than anything we've done before), a clothesline and clothespins to create a pretend clothesline underneath the tree house so they can hang out their pretend laundry, a new slip and slide, a velcro catch tennis ball set, art supplies including paint and shape sponges, and a playhouse themed felt board I found at Goodwill.  None of it was expensive; I think the slip and slide cost the most and it was $5.  Much of it came from the dollar store or a thrift store.  I also tossed in some freebies like printed directions for Legos and recipes to make together.  And pinterest is rife with ideas like freezing toys into a chunk of ice and letting kids excavate the toys.

I would also offer up the suggestion of finding an oversized box or tube.  We just happened to order new bar stools which came in a gigantic box.   It's filled the afternoon and I'm guessing the fun will last just as long as the box does.  I vetoed Conleigh's initial suggestion of "Let's make it a casket!" so right now, it's an airplane with about 15 construction paper wings masking taped onto the sides.  And we got a new rug and some new carpet so we have not one but two large tubes.  Very fun for having Matchbox car races.

Lastly, we've been utilizing the computer this summer. is a fantastic language based site that is basically free.  (You can upgrade to a premium membership by paying but the free features are beyond amazing.)  My kids pick Starfall over PBS pretty consistently now.  Since I have two, usually I let one do the computer for 15 minutes, while the other one sits and works on a workbook, flashcards, learning game, etc. with me.  Then we switch.  I usually do that while I'm fixing supper which helps to keep the chaos down as we head towards downtime in the evening.  Around 5, the kids have to pick everything up and then once they are done, computer time starts.  If supper isn't done yet and each kid has had 15 minutes of computer time, I often let them work together on the computer until supper is finished.

So far, so good.  My hubby, who is home during the summer due to his job, has previously felt a little shock and awe at having to be home all summer long with two littles around.  He has even remarked that this summer feels a bit calmer.  Hoping we can maintain the momentum through July and August...