Monday, September 22, 2014
The Adoption FAQ
I've received a lot of questions about this latest adoption. Somewhat surprisingly, it hasn't felt intrusive; rather, compassionate evidence of people's interest in my family and the two newest additions. Some of the questions come from personal interest as well. Many people consider adopting at some point or another, and see the opportunity to get personal, up-to-date information from someone who is currently, or so newly, involved in the process.
For whatever reason, I've felt inclined to put some of the most Frequently Asked Questions--with accompanying answers--here on the blog. Some of the answers are perhaps more personal and candid than I might normally share, but I'm including them because I want those considering adoption to have real information.
Question: How much did the adoption cost?
Answer: I haven't totaled up receipts yet, so ask me again after I file my tax return this coming year. However, my best estimate, and certain to be pretty close to the final number is $40,000. Yes, that is forty-thousand dollars.
Question: How did you afford that?
Answer: With a lot of faith, a lot of hard work, and a lot of sacrifice. As a family, we saved up money for nearly four years to make this adoption happen. We didn't take family vacations. We shopped at thrift stores and clearance sales. We all pack lunches--me to work and the kids to school, and we eat a lot of PB&J. When I bought a house four years ago I purposely bought a house that cost much less than the loan amount I qualified for so that our monthly expenditures would stay down. All the penny pinching never would have been enough alone, though. I took on extra work and socked the money away for the adoption. I applied tax returns toward adoption costs. At the tail end, I borrowed a small amount from one of my retirement accounts and maxed out a credit card to make it happen. Thanks to the generosity of donors through the Reece's Rainbow website and my traveling companion Lucas, about $3,500 worth of fees were paid by others. International adoption is also a fairly drawn-out process, and the money comes due at many points along the process. This isn't my first rodeo. It was my first adoption as a single mom, but it wasn't my first adoption. I knew the process. I knew from my own experience that when God calls you to do something, He prepares the way. Being part of His plan is simply the best thing EVER. It doesn't erase the hardship, and this adoption was definitely a doozy at times. To badly paraphrase someone far wiser than myself, if Christ Himself paid the ultimate price to redeem a human soul, we shouldn't expect it to be easy when we walk the path to save a human soul, either. And don't give me any crap about how adoption shouldn't be viewed as rescue or saving. My baby girl was literally wasting away and DYING in her orphanage. Adopting her was a life and death thing. I saved her....and she has also saved me. She has brought new life to parts of my heart that I didn't even know were closed. She is teaching me about love in a deeper way than before. We are saving each other. The same has been true for each and every one of my children.
Question: Why did you adopt two kids?
Answer: Because I am certifiably insane. There are other explanations, but I think that's the biggest, most accurate reason. Also, I knew I wanted at least two more, and I doubted I'd have the stamina to go through another international adoption. Doing the two simultaneously saved a not-insignificant sum of money, either. I'm so glad I did! It's definitely been harder than adopting one at a time, but seeing the special bond these two have with each other makes it beyond worthwhile.
Question: How did you choose these two children?
Answer: That is an interesting question. With my others, I had fairly specific spiritual experiences with each one that led me to believe that particular child was meant to be in my family. This time around was somewhat different. I never felt any big rush of certainty, or instant heart connection. I did feel peace. I looked at a lot of children's files before I requested pre-approval for my son. I didn't have a blinding light telling me he was The One, but I thought he seemed like a good fit for my family. I prayed about it and didn't get any warning signs or "no" answers, so I moved ahead. I wasn't looking for my daughter; I had just begun to entertain the idea of bringing home two instead of one. However, these wonderful, wonderful women who have taken on the task of advocating for orphans, raising money for their adoption, and praying them home to loving families posted pictures of Annie on social media sites and blogs. I stumbled across one of her pictures, felt mild interest, and things went from there. I had no idea what I was getting into, as she ended up having more challenges than initially expected. The absolute certainty came later. My son came to me with arms outstretched, calling me Momma and staring deep into my eyes while he stroked my cheek, and I went head over heels, love all the way down to my toes, this is my son and I would throw myself in front of a bus for him. Annie's health challenges made it questionable at one point as to whether I could bring her home. There were a few points where I had to decide whether to continue pursuing an adoption that may very well fall apart. I couldn't tell you a moment when it clicked, but at some point I just knew that I would follow this one through, all the way, no matter what the outcome. A few days after taking placement, my agency worker called in China from the US and asked if I was sure, now that I knew just how poor her health was, now that I had a better sense of all the uncertainties and unknowns I would be facing if I parented this child, was I sure that I still wanted her? And I started bawling because this was my baby, and there was no freaking way in the entire universe that I could ever walk away. Adoption is a huge step into the unknown. I can't tell you any transcendent stories of how I knew these two children were meant for our family. But they were. Of that I have no doubt. Sometimes God leads us along His path through grand moments and rock hard conviction. Other times we just take faltering, stumbling steps on a whisper so slight we're not sure it's even there, and the path isn't evident until we look back.
Question: Why special needs kids?
Answer: Why not? Seriously, even with birth you don't get guarantees. The reality of adoption is that any child who is anything less than physically, emotionally, and mentally perfect may not ever find a home. In some countries even minor physical challenges can be a death sentence. Many things that we don't even consider an issue here in the US can lead to a child's internment in an orphanage or even death. My daughter had undiagnosed acid reflux for nearly four years. By the time I reached her she was dying. She had lost so much weight her skin was hanging and her bones were protruding. Her teeth were completely rotted away and her gums were a mass of infection. The severe malnutrition and constant pain she faced left her with significant developmental delays. It goes without saying that this would not have happened had she been in an even halfway decent family in the US. My two sons had surgery in China long before I took them home. Son no. 1 is in perfect health now. Son no. 2 has a couple more surgeries and some physical therapy, but he is likely to regain perfect health and full use of his body. Both of my boys would have been condemned to a life in the fringes of society as both orphans and special needs kiddos. That is unacceptable to me, and hopefully unacceptable to anyone reading this. I don't mean to sound blasé about adopting special needs kids. It broke my heart that there were some special needs I simply had to say no to. As a single mom without any immediate family nearby, with four other kids and a full-time job, there were some things that were just beyond me. Adding these two new ones is stretching me uncomfortably thin many days. But...at the end of day, I couldn't walk away, knowing that I had the opportunity to give these little ones a home.
Question: Why China?
Answer: That one ended up surprising me a little. After my older son's adoption I didn't expect to adopt again from China. I didn't have anything against the idea; I just had a soft spot in my heart for other countries as well. There were several factors that led me back to China. One, Eric really wanted a Chinese brother. Two, the list of countries who would accept single parents is small, and China is one of them. Three, I knew the adoption process with China. Four, I knew that my adoption agency, Children's House International, had an amazing track record of getting approvals for single moms. A smaller, though still valid consideration was the fact that China's adoption program is very stable and well-managed, compared to many other countries. My older children were very invested in this adoption. I did not want their hearts broken by having an adoption fall apart due to volatile and unpredictable events and changes with the other country.
Question: How do your other kids feel about having Jack and Annie?
Answer: This adoption was their idea! They argued for it and fought for it and wore me down enough that I was finally willing to get on my knees and find out if it was God's will. Jack and Annie are here today because of their older siblings. Having said that, I was sure that the reality of two little ones would wear thin and the time would quickly come when the older ones would be ready to pack them back to China. We are at the three month mark and it hasn't happened yet. They wake up each morning racing for the cribs to get their babies up, fed, and dressed. I sometimes have to intervene to make sure that I actually get any time with the babies. They've taken on a LOT of added responsibility, and give up a fair amount of their time to help care for their younger siblings. I ask if they wish things were different, or if this is too much for them, and they look at me like I'm completely nuts. It's hard to imagine a couple of children as loved and treasured and spoiled as Jack and Annie. There is a wonderful spirit of love and service in our home as we all rally around the babies.
Question: Would you recommend adoption to other single parents?
Answer: No. It's hard. Really hard. Parenting is hard, and doing it on your own is so very much harder. I do think two parents are better--better for the parents and better for the kids. I had lots of arguments with God over this very issue, as He prepared my heart for Jack and Annie. However, we don't live in a world of best-case scenarios and millions of children around the world just need a family; not a perfect family. I would caution single parents to think oh-so-very carefully about adoption. It's a huge deal. But if God is speaking to their hearts, even if it seems crazy and impractical and even slightly impossible, I can attest that His ways are far better than ours, and it will all work out. It really will.
Question: Do you think everyone should adopt?
Answer: Nope, not even one tiny little bit. I can't think of anyone I've ever looked at and thought, "Oh my gosh, she should definitely adopt a child!" I don't know people's hearts, I don't know God's plan for their lives, I don't know what silent burdens they carry. If you ask me whether you should adopt, I will tell you that I don't know. That's between you & God. On the other hand, I DO think that many, many more people should adopt. I don't know who those people are; I trust that God does. But with millions of orphans worldwide, and a Judeo-Christian ethic that teaches us an obligation and responsibility to care for orphans, I DO think that we all can and should do more. If adoption is not your calling, you can support families who do adopt. Financially, yes, but also emotionally and spiritually. Satan hates adoption. He hates children coming out of bondage and into family love. He fights hard to keep it from happening. I promise you, if you know families who are working to adopt, they need a cheering section. They need courage and strength and conviction. If adoption is not your calling, you can support the many worthwhile charity organizations that support orphans through providing education, vocational training, and even basic things like clean water, nutrition, and lifesaving surgery. You can pray. Just like Annie's prayer warriors and orphan advocates did long before I knew of her, you can pray these children home. There is SO much power in prayer.
Question: What advice do you have for someone considering adoption?
Answer: Do your research. There are times it might feel like a second job, because it is. There are excellent and reputable agencies and there are frightening ones...and at a first glance they don't look that different. Talk to other adoptive parents. Talk to different agencies. Read the fine print in agency policies. Carefully consider your family's needs and abilities, and what will work for you. Plan and prepare financially. I recently met a young, newly married college student who confided that she and her husband planned to adopt when they became more financially stable. I told her to start planning for it right now by living frugally and staying out of debt. In most cases, adoption is costly, and there are few exceptions, especially outside of foster care. If you are serious about adoption, start planning for it financially. God helps those who help themselves. Likewise, take care of your own health. If your own health is poor, not only will you find it problematic to raise children; you may not even be approved to adopt in the first place. Adoption home studies look at things like health, employment security, ability to provide for the child, strength of marriage, emotional wellbeing, and more. If you need to work on yourself first, do it.
Question: What is the best thing about adoption?
Answer: I can't choose just one. Seeing God's Hand so up close and personal is pretty awesome. Watching Him move mountains and cross oceans for one little child is pretty amazing. The good people you will meet....it's a privilege to walk with so many people who devote their lives to some of the world's most vulnerable and needy souls. Expanding your definition of family across racial and ethnic lines, learning first hand that you truly can love another human being with a love so intense and real it defies explanation, even if you don't share DNA and will never, in a million years, look alike to the physical eye. Watching the miracle of a child who has never known love or trust discover both through you.
The best thing about adoption is tucking a little girl into bed at night, a little girl who supposedly will never talk or walk and is so severely mentally retarded that her home country recommends institutionalization--and she reaches up to touch your face and whispers "mama." That's the best thing about adoption.