Monday, May 23, 2011

AGCI Listserve, Hannah's Hope, and Orphanage Holdups

AGCI offers this amazing listserve for the families, and each Friday the families put out two lists (that are created/maintained by families, not AGCI). One list is for waitlist families, and it shows what "unofficial" number you are, according to the known referrals. The other list is the post-referral list: showing referral,  court, and embassy dates so we can see what the current time frame is for the post-referral process. Both lists are great ways to get to know the other families walking in this process.

Another thing this means is that we can GUESS as to how many kids have been referred at Hannah's Hope (the transition home where all the AGCI babies live). And when families go to Hannah's Hope, they can report on how many "open beds" there are, and if HH is full or not. Currently HH is not full, and most of the kids there are actually already matched with families.

My thought is: Open beds? Just bring some babies in! Our caseworker just explained to me a bit more about how this works. AGCI/Hannah's Hope partners with a few different government orphanages. When a child is paperwork ready (aka they have paperwork identifying them as a legal orphan) then the govt orphanages can call AGCI or any other of the agencies they partner with (it is seemed to be sketchy if a orphanage only partners with one transition home, like HH... so they partner with lots of agencies). So a lot of the "ebb and flow" of adoption is because the partnering government orphanages don't have paperwork-ready kids that are meant for Hannah's Hope. All kids in Hannah's Hope are paperwork ready and thus available to be matched almost immediately (although sometimes the kids are very sick, so they need a little TLC before they are ready for a referral). Sometimes the government orphanages will have a lot of kids that are ready for HH, and sometimes it is just one or two kids. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

Another thing is that "paperwork ready" is a really difficult thing sometimes! I wrote this in an earlier blog post (taken from an AGCI email regarding the paperwork process).One of the AGCI Caseworkers had just returned from Ethiopia, and noted:

"When traveling to the South [of Ethiopia] especially, I was struck by the difficulty involved in completing the relinquishment or abandonment process for a child, a process that happens before AGCI or any other agency can even consider advocating for the placement of a child with an adoptive family. To give you a little background information, when a case is being processed for relinquishment or abandonment, there are essentially 3 main entities involved. The first is the Kebele, a part of the government that actually has to process the legal documents and officially approve a child for placement. The second is the birth family member currently caring for the child. Lastly, there is the social worker through a government affiliated orphanage who is actually communicating with the birth family. The Social workers role includes, helping them complete the necessary paperwork to submit to the Kebele for relinquishment and asking all those “right questions” to be sure that the birth family is truthful about their living circumstances, age of the child, medical information, social history, etc."

"Even after that point though when AGCI or another agency is assigned a child for placement, the process is not quite done. Due to the increasing scrutiny by the US Embassy and media attention on adoptions in Ethiopia, it has become increasingly important for agencies to also follow up on the details of each case to confirm the information is true, check for any discrepancies in information, and be sure all viable facts are known and presented as accurately as possible. This means even after a child is assigned to AGCI there may still be discrepancies to correct or further information to clarify or be gathered before we can refer a child. Finally, once these facts are confirmed by our staff we are able to officially place a child with their forever family and jump into the court process. All in all, this entire abandonment or relinquishment process can be anywhere from a few days to many, many months depending on all the variables involved in each case."
Understanding the paperwork process + the process of a kid getting to Hannah's Hope really helped clear things up for me! It helped me understand why there are such lags in between referrals, and how sometimes we can jump lots of spots in one month and then drag by for a few more months. But one thing is CLEAR! The Lord is sovereign, and His timing will be PERFECT! I can't wait to see the timing of our kid's life, and how we will be able to see God's sovereign timing for this little baby to be ours.

So I will end this post with an {old} video of Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia. This is how it came about, and actually in 2010 Hannah's Hope moved to a bigger building, so this building is not the one our baby will be in. But still, you can watch the heart behind it and see how much love and care goes into those babies. I can't wait to see it in person.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FAQs: Boy or Girl??

So here are some commonly asked questions:

1. Do you want a boy or girl?
Well, we have the option of being on both the boy list and girl list, or just one of them... and we are choosing to be on BOTH lists. And although the boy numbers have always been lower than the girl numbers, it is not impossible that we would get a girl (several families who were on both lists received girl referrals despite the initial differences in #s). There are some days that we prefer one gender or the other. Some days I'm like "how in the world would I be able to do African hair well with a girl?" And some days I'm "wow the weight of raising a son is huge!" There are many ways we imagine having a little Ethiopian prince or princess too!

So basically, we have no preference. And despite our insecurities in certain aspects of having a son or daughter, we would be ecstatic either way. And we're so glad that we aren't making the decisions around here, that the Lord has hand-picked the child meant for our family. And who knows, maybe #1 will need a sibling that will be the opposite gender one day? (And with adoption as an option, you can get what you "want" haha!)

2. Do you pick your child? 
The way it works with our agency is that there is a waitlist, and when you get to the #1 spot (hypothetically) you get a call with information about a child. You are free to not accept the referral, however, we had to be so specific about what we were open to accept in a referral, that it is highly unlikely that we would be shown a child that we wouldn't be interest in. So we do not go through a list of children and pick which one we want, but are matched through our agency. (That is how we are doing it, there are certainly agencies -even our own- that have waiting children that can be matched).

3. Do you have baby names?
Yes and no. We have baby names that we LIKE right now but are not sold 100% on baby names for either gender. I'm also way-against "claiming" names (I'm from a big family, it is not nice to claim names) so we are choosing to keep our options private for now. Also, our child will already have an Ethiopian name, and we very well may keep that name as its first name. (And just as a warning, we can't share its Ethiopian name until we are home with the baby). We know that when we see a picture/meet our child, we may change our minds about what name fits our baby and it may very well be that the Ethiopian name is exactly what fits best. (So if you're looking to give monogrammed gifts, you may have to hold off for a long time, haha).

4. With a wait this long, why don't you just get pregnant?
Ahhh... one of my least favorite questions! First, stop and read this post about adoption vs. pregnancy. Then, realize that although we are beyond thrilled to start our family through adoption, the whole point isn't JUST to get a baby. If we were JUST trying to get a baby, then we would have tried to get pregnant first. In our case, we are adopting now because we felt we were being obedient to the scriptures and knew that this was the calling the Lord put on our hearts in this time. And another thing, our agency has a firm birth-order policy, and requires a year (I think?) between each child in your home, so if we did get pregnant now, we would (by contract that we signed) not be able to move forward with this adoption because of their policies. So pregnancy right now is NOT what we are trying to do. And honestly, right now all we can think about is a little brown-skinned baby in our home! We can't wait and are so in love already!

Any other questions?

Friday, May 13, 2011

May Official Numbers!

Well, we got our email from our case manager last night and we are SO happy with our new numbers!

For a girl:

For a boy: 

So in total, we have moved 59 spots for girls, and 35 spots for boys!

Just to recap what the numbers mean...The most simple way to explain the waitlist numbers is that there are 24 families waiting for a girl/ 15 families waiting for a boy ahead of us.... but this is not necessarily true, because some families (like us) are on both lists, so if they get a referral, then we move on both lists! There's not a set number of boy/girl beds, and Hannah's Hope just gets whatever babies have the most need... so there could be more boys OR girls there at any time.

I am also SOOOO EXCITED because some people I KNOW personally are headed to Ethiopia to meet their Hannah's Hope cuties in the next week! And there are at least 20 families who are going for their first trip to ET in May... and if, Lord-willing, they all pass court the first time (you go to court on the first trip after you meet your kid(s)...) then they could be bringing their kiddos HOME in June/July! How exciting that many kids are going to have forever homes SOON! (And selfishly, I'm excited because that means OUR BABY could be in one of those emptied cribs). It is crazy to think that part 2 of our wait is coming to a close (with the hardest wait to come: knowing who our child is but having to wait to bring him/her home!).

So we appreciate your prayers for these families, for the Ethiopian government as they sort out all of these cases (in a timely manner, I pray), and for the health/safety of our little one and the birth family as they are preparing for the hardest decision of their lives.

"I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
   Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
   and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
   upright and just is he."
Deuteronomy 32: 3-4

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My husband, the preacher man...

Will preaching in Haiti, April 2011

My husband has a lot of pastoral gifts (he is in seminary), but one of my favorite gifts that I get to benefit from is his preaching. He doesn't have as many opportunities to preach on a regular basis in our current life stage, but when he does, he thrives in the role and it is clear that it is one of his spiritual gifts.

If you would like to humor us, and have thirty minutes to spare, check out my husband's sermon on adoption (Galatians 4) from last summer at his hometown church. Click here to download & listen. I think you will learn something and be blessed!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To Celebrate Mothers Day

This was my second Mother's Day since we started the adoption process. And I'd be lying if I didn't tear up a bit when they honored moms at our church service. I think this long process helps me identify with those women who ache to get pregnant but can't; waiting to be a mom when you really want to be one just stinks.

So to do something happy in honor of Mother's Day.... we registered!! Hopefully this will decrease my urges to buy baby things all the time. Will & I decided a while back that we would wait until we were in the "teens" to register (and for April we were 17 for a boy) so we did it and it was really fun! I had to watch carefully because Will got a bit scanner-happy and started scanning things like mugs and baseball cards.

Check them out and tell me what is missing (we already have a crib, pack & play, carseat and aren't planning on registering for clothes).

Happy Mother's Day to all my mom and mom-to-be friends out there!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

We All Have Different Paths!

Since we started this Ethiopian adoption, we have been asked many times "what about the kids here in the US?" or asked why we are adopting from Ethiopia? (For info regarding why Ethiopia, click here).

The truth is, there is a huge need everywhere. And I'm not just talking numbers, because even if there are X Million orphans in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Russia, China, Guatemala, Honduras, etc or however many thousands of foster kids in your state, the problem is the same: if there is one orphan, that is one orphan too many. Amen?

So before you go about discouraging anyone for whatever path they are on, why don't you ENCOURAGE them because we are all doing our best to follow after Christ... even if it means a family has all biological kids and is just being an emotional support for friends/family that are adopting/fostering. That is a huge need too, and having biological children is not "less Christian" than adopting!

So while our story may look different from yours, or in 10 years our family portrait looks very different from our friends that are walking beside us in this same process now, that is OK! Because Jesus's final charge to his disciples was NOT "adopt kids that don't look like you" or "elevate adoption above all other commands I have given you".... Guess what it was?

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

So if we are elevating Christ & the gospel (through orphan care ministries, or whatever else the Lord has put on our hearts) that is the Lord's will. We can't all have the same passion or path, or else there would be huge gaps. What we have been commanded is to share the gospel (and yes, caring for the orphans and widows is part of that) and to live a life that gives God all of the glory. God isn't going to ask us at the end of our life how much trouble we were willing to go through to get our kids- he will say, do I know you? Did you take up your cross and follow me?


And just as a friendly reminder (sorry I'm going to get off my soapbox in a second, I promise ;) ) that we can adopt, start an orphanage, create a ministry at our church, etc and it will not be worth anything if it is not tied to the gospel. There is nothing we can do that will make God love us more or less, but we are only children of God if we accept the gift of salvation. Our salvation comes to us because Christ died for our sins and now we can have a relationship with him because our sins have been justified through his death and resurrection.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
There was an error in this gadget