The End.

The End.

Yesterday we got a letter from our international adoption agency updating us on the current situation in Russia.  We get these letters almost weekly and usually they aren’t very informative.  This one was:

 

“Dear Russia Families,

On Wednesday the Department of State held another conference call regarding the current situation in Russian adoption. Our hope was to see some shift of direction within the Russian government but unfortunately the prospects continue to remain bleak. In the course of the DOS call, they reported the situation is neither good nor hopeful; Russia is sticking to its interpretation of the new law by applying the ban to all adoption processes where no court ruling was issued prior to January 1.  Based on this information, (We) believes there is no recourse for your family to proceed with our Russia program.

As per the current Russian regulation, US Adoption Agencies are not allowed to work in Russia and more and more agencies have already closed their offices.  (We) had just one case that was allowed to proceed in line with Russia’s Supreme Court ruling last month, which permitted families with a successful court date prior to 2013 to complete the adoption. That family is returning home in the coming days and it marks what we believe is our last Russian adoption until/unless the adoption ban is lifted.  Consequently, it has become necessary for (Us) to start working on a plan to close our Moscow office in the near future. We will retain minimal staffing – only enough to handle the post-placement reports that are still due to Russia.

We sent you a couple of e-mails in January regarding the need to consider your options by devising a different plan, which may or may not involve (Us), and we have already been contacted by a few families to discuss alternatives. We want to support all of you in identifying a different path to move on to.  I will be contacting each of you next week to answer your questions and discuss your options. If you prefer that I try to reach you at a specific date/time, please let me know.  Likewise, if you’d like to include your social worker and/or spouse on the call, I would like to accommodate your preferences – just let me know.”

 

 

 

Bah.

 

 

 

 

 

So those final fleeting hopes that Russia would grandfather us in have been answered with a cold “no.”  Not that we expected any different, but the news is still hard to stomach.  If you have been following my posts you surely know that Josh and I depend on God with every ounce of our beings.  We know He is bigger and He will bless our family with another child through adoption somehow.  But this is still a difficult time.  We have wanted to adopt from Russia since we went there together in 1997.  Our lives have in some way been intertwined with the thought for 15 years. For the past three years we have been on a hard and fast (well, not as fast as we wanted, haha) course toward that end.  Our time, our money, and our prayers have all somehow centered on an unknown little girl from Vladivostok, Russia.  So this letdown, however expected, brings to the forefront how unfair it is that we have invested so much only to never see our goal be met in the way we had anticipated.  And c’mon, we’re human.  It hurts.  ….It sucks.

You are wondering what our next step is; what our plans are.

We have investigated every country on our planet earth that does foreign adoptions and found only one match.  Most countries are resolute not to adopt out their children until they have turned eight years-old, or unless the adoptive parents can become citizens in some way.  There are all kinds of crazy rules and they vary from country to country.  But for our needs, there is only one real option.  And it’s a Hague Convention-ruled country.  Russia was not.  That would mean completely starting over with everything from the VERY BEGINNING,  even the home study.  Every paper, every authorization, every form; is all oriented to the Hague status of a country.  Switching would mean starting from scratch, and there is no fast track for people who have already been waiting for three years.  We could easily end up waiting another three.  And we’re tired.  And we don’t even know or love this other country like we do Russia.      (sigh.)

In light of the above, Josh and I have decided not to pursue an international adoption at this time.  We’re plumb spent.  We need a rest and to pull ourselves together and pray over our next step.  So give us some time before you expect us to know what the heck we’re doing, because we really don’t know what to do with ourselves just yet.

In closing, I would like to ask for prayers but don’t know what for.  I would also like to tell you that if you’ve given us money for this adoption process we are so incredibly grateful to you- and sorry that the money and hopes are all spent.  We do have some money still in the adoption account that is sitting there until we know how to proceed.  We will keep everyone informed as to what happens to it.  The money in that account will not finance anything other than adoption-related expenses, one way or another.  Even if that means donating it elsewhere.

Thanks for loving us and staying with us through all of this.  And I know this isn’t really “the end,” it just sort of feels like it right now.

Thoughts on Russia’s Adoption Ban

Thoughts on Russia’s Adoption Ban

This morning Vladimir Putin signed the bill (that had already passed through Russian Parliament) into effect.  Russia will no longer be allowing US families to adopt their orphans.  Not us.  Not even those in process; an estimated 46-52 children (depending on the report you read) who are already promised to US families will now be cut out of the process entirely and caused to stay in Russia.

This after our being interviewed for two news stations yesterday about our thoughts on the “pending” ban.  One can be seen on the website for Denver CBS 4 (once they post it) and the other on Colorado Springs KKTV 11.

After our interview was posted on the news’ website page, a coupe of people commented:

Commenter #1: “I understand couples wanting a baby, but why not adopt a baby here in the U.S.?  Makes me wonder if they can’t pass the adoption regulations here so they go to a foreign country?  Just wondering.”

Commenter #2: “Russians need to learn to help their own children and US children need real homes with US parents. I hope this passes.”

Commenter #3: “It’s sad that this couple has gone thru this ordeal to have it fall apart at the last minute but as long as there are children without parents in the United States waiting to be adopted, our country needs to put strict restrictions on overseas adoptions. Take care of our own orphans that are placed in foster homes where some are taken in just for the extra money. Now before anyone jumps all over me about that statement, not all foster care is like that. It would be nice if every child had a home and a loving family, but let’s start here at home first.”

Besides the comment made by my own mother (bless her heart), this represents all comments made.  Is it me or do people seem callous and unenlightened?  I posted this response:

Sarah Wells: “We have been asked many times about why we would choose a foreign adoption over a local one.  The fact is, we are not against one or for the other.  All children who are without families need a loving family.  We believe that God has clearly instructed us to take care of the widows and orphans (James 1:27).  Is God a god of the whole world or not?  Does He desire us to follow His will only in our backyard?  I believe He does want this, but I also believe He is God of all and we are implored to love everyone, the world over.  I see interracial and interethnic families as beautiful examples of the intertwining of all God’s people.  From a more fiscal and logistical point of view, the children here in America have a different future than those in Russia (as an example because I feel familiar with the Russian orphan’s plight).  In America, an orphan is in the foster care system.  Not a system without flaws, to be sure, but a system that offers that chance to attach and bond with a loving family even without adoption.  This is the key to mental and emotional health as children age.  (Not that a permanent family isn’t better, because it is.)  In Russia, there are a few regions which offer foster systems but most offer dank and under-funded orphanages in which the children have few caretakers and less opportunity to bond.  They are malnourished and the children I have seen look like they are seven or eight years old when they are actually 14 and 15.  The Russian population is a great people who certainly are generous and could be expected to take care of their own orphans, and many do.  But by and large, they are not as financially able to do so as a “wealthy” people like the Americans.  So I find that the answer may be for us to take care of our own, but also for those who have the means to adopt from abroad and lessen the world strain on those orphans who have little chance of being helped by their own poor countries.   The main point is, take care of the orphans.  They are not in their situation by choice.  They are helpless victims and need love and support.”

I reads this from a news report straight out of Moscow: “UNICEF estimates that there are about 740,000 children not in parental custody in Russia while about 18,000 Russians are on the waiting list to adopt a child. The U.S. is the biggest destination for adopted Russian children — more than 60,000 of them have been taken in by Americans over the past two decades.”  The implications are huge.  America is a land of wealth and means.  And we have been sharing that with orphans from Russia and will no longer be allowed to do so.  I see no good in this.  And then I read this quote passed along by a friend (I don’t believe it is an official news quote)…. “Putin signed the ban on American adoptions saying 19 kids died out of 60,000 over the course of 20 years. People, more than that died in Russian institutions YESTERDAY.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

All of this makes Josh and I stop and think, “What about our plans to adopt from Russia?  Was that not God-inspired?” We have wanted to adopt from Russia since Josh slipped a ring on my finger 14 years ago.  We followed a $25,000 adoption reimbursement fund to Houston in order to facilitate this dream.  We have fund-raised, prayed, and fasted.  We have depended on God to lead us to the day when we would take off in a plane headed back to the US from Moscow with a new little girl in our arms.

So what’s the deal?  How could God close this door?  A little commentary now, if you’ll indulge me: First of all, God is not Head Puppeteer.  He lovingly created us to be in communion and relationship with Him, and we turned down this amazing offer in order to fulfill our own need for control. (Eve ate the apple in the garden not because she was hungry, but because the serpent promised her she would “be like God.” (Genesis 3:1-6)  So God respected Adam & Eve’s choice for independence from Him (a choice knitted wholly into all of our genes as their offspring) and allowed them to leave His presence and be their own “gods,”  to control their lives in every way and forge ahead on their own.  And to this day we do just that.  The Russians are limiting their orphans’ chance at finding a permanent family, not our God.  God’s heart for the orphans is clear, and He would never cause pain to them (or anyone).  God implores us to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)

Not being able to adopt from Russia does not cause us to falter.  We desire to be in God’s will and be available to Him to spread His glory throughout our community.  Our mission is simply His mission; help the orphans.  So, my friends, whether it be from Russia (though that ship has sailed) or Ethiopia or China or Peru, we will pursue adoption as a way to share God’s amazing love and His story of salvation for the human race.  We will do it because we have love and excitement to share.  We will do it because there are children who have seen terrible things and don’t have anyone to comfort them.  We will do it because this life is short and meaningless compared to what awaits us, and with that vantage point, selflessness becomes a privilege and a joy.

So I know that may be a little deep, but I wanted to share our hearts with you.  And I want you to feel comfort through our comfort, which comes from our knowledge of the Bible and all that God has done, and will continue to do, for us- His creation.

Coveting your prayers for our family’s next steps and direction.

Praying that you and your family feel as blessed as we do to share this world at present and be able to lean on each other and cry with each other and rejoice together.  And praying that even through the darkness of this world, God’s Kingdom will break in and shed a ray of light in this plight for the world’s orphans.

Click on this link to our KKTV 11 news interview.

Click on this link to our Denver CBS 4 news interview.

Ah, Feuding Governments. How Helpful.

Ah, Feuding Governments. How Helpful.

We got an email from our international agency today announcing a possible holdup (permanent holdup?) with adoptions from Russia to the US.  Essentially America has been making Russia crazy for a long time. See my previous post, “Newsweek“). Americans have adopted several children from there and ended up treating them terribly as attachment problems began to surface and the parents couldn’t cope.  These cases ended terribly, many in death.  Russia didn’t take too kindly to these several incidents and has threatened to cut America off from adopting Russian children ever since. But each time it has been an idle threat.  Adoptions have continued.  But our image has not improved and there are groups lobbying the Russian government to cease adoptions to the US.  And now…

(excerpt from the letter sent to me by our agency):

“We’d like to make you aware of media reports that have surfaced this week stating that Russia is considering a ban on all U.S. adoptions from Russia.  The proposed ban is considered a retaliatory measure to counter a bill President Obama signed into law last week, the Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions against Russian individuals who are deemed to be connected to human rights violations. (It was triggered by the death of Sergey Magnitsky, a Russian who claimed that corrupt officials were carrying out fraud.)

Individuals in Russia’s parliament who have been against adoptions to the U.S. brought an amendment to ban any U.S. involvement in the adoption of Russian children to the Duma, where the legislature approved it. Tomorrow, December 19, it’s expected that the Lower House will consider the bill.  Our Moscow office reports that Russian mass media have created a widespread discussion about the possibility of a ban on American adoptions from Russia, and many politicians are expressing their opinion. Our Moscow office explained that most Duma legislators are angry at the U.S. for passing the Magnitsky Act.  Unfortunately, our Moscow office says there are few people voicing opinions against the adoption ban in Russia, despite what many considered significant progress made in support of inter-country adoption to the U.S. with the recent ratification of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Agreement.  

It’s expected that we will know tomorrow if the Duma’s Lower House will approve the amendment to ban U.S. adoptions from Russia. If the Duma does approve it, we must wait to see if President Putin will sign the amendment. Some speculate that President Putin will wait until January to make a decision, when President Obama is expected to visit.”

This is more than a threat.  But we will wait to see what materializes.

Josh and I are praying that Russia stays open to the US for adoptions and I know many, many other families out there are as well.  Many people have traveled there and met their child; and I can’t imagine being in that place and then having the process severed.  It’s not fair that a spat between countries is able to destroy the placement of a child to a loving home.  But it could happen.  So please join me in praying that our leaders will rectify this and come to an agreement that allows these precious children to find homes wherever there is love for them.

And if it doesn’t work out…. because life is often unfair and we are not in a world always under God’s control, then Josh and I will continue on our path to help the homeless and orphaned.  We will just have to pray about what that will look like to our family.

**Update! Update!**

I got another email from our international agency today:

“As you may have seen in today’s news, the Duma approved a second reading of the proposed legislation to ban adoptions from Russia to the U.S.  The legislation is known as the “Dima Yakovlev” bill and must undergo a third reading in the Upper House before going to President Putin for consideration.  While it has significant support from Russian lawmakers, it remains to be seen if President Putin would sign the bill.”

Our I-171H Came in the Mail Yesterday!

Our I-171H Came in the Mail Yesterday!

Alright people; this is it!  The point at which we are once again done with paperwork and we can rest easy while we wait for a referral!

I have been worried about our I600-A getting renewed by November 30th since June when we relocated back to Colorado from Texas.  In order to renew this all-important immigration form, we had to have a current home study.  In order to have a current home study, we had to have a home (!) and we were living in limbo without one until September 1st.  Home studies can take a lot of time but we had ours done by early October.  Then the home study report had to go to our international agency for approval, which means they had to make sure the wording was done in such a way that it would be properly translated once it got to Russia.  Then they send it back to our local agency.  After it is in its final draft form, it is sent to the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration to request our renewal.  The government process for renewing can take a couple of months and at this point we had about four weeks…

When we had three weeks left before our expiration date of November 30th, I called our local caseworker to ask when she had mailed it out and express my concerns.  She said she put a “rush” on it.  Hm.  Hadn’t heard that there was such an option.  Okay, I felt comforted and thanked her.  It was the next day when I got a call from the officer who had our renewal request on the desk in front of her.  (that was rushed, for sure!)  She asked some questions and made sure she was doing everything we needed.  She found out at that time that we needed our biometrics renewed too.  (Biometrics = fingerprints.  No idea why they have to make it sound like they’re going to draw blood.)  So she said she would schedule and appointment for our biometrics immediately and send us out a notice.  That’s how it works; we do not have the privilege of requesting a convenient date or time.  They just send you a letter with your appointment on it and a stern warning: “If you are not present at the time of your scheduled appointment we will consider your case abandoned.”  (it’s the same concept for letting the I600-A expire, which is why we were so nervous about it!)  A few days later we got our appointment paper: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 9 am in Denver.  Black Friday?? Seriously?  What if I wanted to stand in line for five hours in the wee hours of the night to get the latest hot toy for one of my kids? Alas, that wouldn’t be an option this year.  So Thanksgiving night we shipped the kids off to Grandma and Grandpa’s and woke up at 7 am to get on the road by 7:45 and make it to the immigration office in Denver.  There were two accidents on I-25 near our home but after we went through the city to avoid those we were on our way to Denver.  Clear driving.  I think people were either still shopping the Black Friday deals or at home sleeping soundly after Thanksgiving and/or being up all night shopping. (which may have contributed to the accidents we passed.)  We got to the immigration office with our appointment papers in hand at 8:57.  We walked into the bland strip-mall building store-front that was mysteriously labeled “Application (Office)” and got checked in.  Then we got in line for being fingerprinted.  Even with a few people ahead of us we were processed almost immediately and told we were done. The fingerprinting technicians were lightning fast!  We walked out of the building at 8:59.

After biometrics are done they can officially update the I600-A.  So they gathered everything up and did so, and yesterday the I-171H came in the mail; the paper that states we have been officially updated and our I600-A is now current until May of 2014!  WHEW. We did it!!!

Home Study #2 Completed!

Home Study #2 Completed!

Hurrah!!  Hurrah!!

Our home study with the state of Colorado is now complete!  We signed the home study report yesterday after looking it over.  Both Josh and I were quite relieved to see that we (don’t quote me on this) “are considered to be fit to parent a child.”  Also I noticed Josh is “free from any physical abnormalities,”  so that’s good.  Unfortunately we do not have the right to see our home study report ever again.  Not like in Texas where they made five copies and handed them to us to do as we pleased.  The law is different here.  But we did get to see it once and it seems that we are generally viewed as healthy, happy, and responsible people through the social worker’s eyes.  I’m not sure Maggie passed our social worker’s internal checks and balances, (she barked forEVER at the poor lady) but she was written up in the report as “a 14 year-old dog who is generally friendly around children but takes up to ten minutes to stop barking when people enter the home.”  Way to GO, you darn dog- trying to wreck our unblemished report!!

So we had four meetings with the caseworker, not including the fifth where we just read over the report, made corrections, and signed six copies saying we had reviewed it.

Visit #1:  Our social worker arrived and asked for a tour of the house.  We showed her every room and she wrote in the report a written guide of how the house is laid out.  She asked where the child would sleep and we pointed into Hannah’s room amidst all of the unpacked boxes, still sitting there from our move not much more than a week prior.  She was very understanding and assured us that she had just moved this month herself and she totally understood.  She loved the house and commented on how much space we had.  She looked outside around the house for anything hazardous.  She chatted with Josh and I about our family dynamic and upbringing, and how we met and work on keeping our kids behaving and our marriage thriving.  The visit lasted approximately an hour.

Visit #2:  She met Josh at his work and talked to him alone about himself.  He had to fill out a huge ol’ questionnaire.  Then she discussed what he filled out with him at length to make sure she understood everything about him.  After he was thoroughly grilled, she headed down to the house and met with me.  Same routine, same length of time.  She is very pleasant and had me at ease.  We joked around some but got everything she was wondering dealt with and answered.

Visit #3:  She wanted to meet with the kids one-on-one.  She showed up around 4:00 when we were fresh home from school and talked with each of them in their respective rooms.  She was pleased to share that the kids said the following things to her: Lex- “I will keep my door shut because (the new child) could choke on my Legos, and I have lots of them laying around.  Also, I don’t like to read much, but I would like to read books to her.”  Hannah- “I can’t wait to have a sister to play dolls with!”  Elijah- “I will read books to her.” (which is cute because he can’t read. : )  )  After talking to the kids she talked more in-depth with Josh and I about our routine and what average days look like, what we like to do in our free time and how we provide boundaries for the kids.

Visit #4:  She called me after visit #3 and asked, “Can I come down tomorrow?  I just need to see everyone all at one time and it’s a requirement that I do this fourth visit.  I’m actually totally done with writing your home study and all of my questions are answered.”  “Sure!  Come on down!”  So we had a quite brief (20 minute) visit where she still asked questions and chatted with us, but not about anything that would go into the report.

The next day, she met us to sign the final copy.  And here we are; all finished!

But the report must clear through our international agency before being finalized and sent in to renew our I600-A with the department of immigration.   (Which expires November 30th and takes 45-60 days to process)  We are expecting it to not go out to immigration for another 2-3 weeks.  All of our background checks and references came in and everything was apparently quite supportive of our endeavor to adopt.  Thank you to all of you who sent in a reference!  It means a great deal to us.

So that’s it.  Until you hear from me again, I will be clasping my cute little hands in prayer that our form does not expire.  The rest is up to God!  Thanks for keeping up with us and we so appreciate your support!  Lots of love from the Wells Family.

: )

Starting our Home Study Again! (AKA Home Study #2)

Starting our Home Study Again! (AKA Home Study #2)

So we’ve moved across country, lived in my (gracious!) parents’ house for three months, and finally purchased and moved into our own home here in Colorado Springs.  And though there are still boxes everywhere, we are anxious to jump start this adoption process (again.) and get on with paperwork renewals and upheavals.  In order to redo the dossier and make sure our USCIS form I600-A form does NOT expire, we have to have a current home study.  Meaning it has to apply to where we are currently living.  Which ours does not.  So time to start a new one!  And the good news…?

Our new social worker is coming down from Denver tonight to start the process!  YAAAY! (Kermit flail)

We are super stoked that this is in process again, but please, please be praying for the speed of it. Already on the phone our social worker tried to calmly inform me that it will take way longer than I am hoping.  (We were trying to send out the new home study report to USCIS by September 15, HA!)  So I hope that doesn’t mean mid-October.  Because our stuff expires the end of November and we have to allow for the 60-75 days processing time.   Prayers!  Prayers!  Thank you so much!

It’s a pleasure to be able to share with you again about our journey.  : )

ReStarting the Process

ReStarting the Process

If adoption is a journey, then we’ve already worn out two pairs of hiking boots.  The first we wore through during the process of getting certified for foster care, which we hoped would end in a local adoption.  The second was our time spent in Houston preparing for international adoption.  Now there’s a new (third) shiny pair of steel-toed, red-laced boots on our feet: preparing our home study for the second time after our move back to Colorado.

I have had a lot of people ask me what changes will take place with our adoption process since we had to move.  And frankly, for a while my answer was pretty vague.  That’s because I knew a lot would change, but I didn’t know the details. I knew we would lose the money invested in working with our local agency in Austin, TX.  And I knew we would have to pay the agency here in Colorado to work with us.  So money was an instant downside.  But being around our family in our hometown seemed to easily outweigh any issues we’d have with money or time.  We need the support of friends, grandparents, and siblings.  We need to remain in the same home for at least a year or two after the adoption is finalized, as well.  This is to ensure stabilization and proper attachment of our new child.  If we had adopted in Texas, we would be committing to stay there, far from family, for all that time.  We knew, when we saw the opportunity finally arise, that we should move back home to Colorado.

So here we are.  We are currently living in my parents’ house while they are out of state on temporary job assignment.  They were so gracious to allow us to live here while going through the process of finding a home.  it is helping us save money and sanity while we try to collect our bearings and move forward.  However, we can’t complete a home study living somewhere that’s temporary.  Redoing our home study has to wait until we have a home of our own.  But the downside is that our dossier is still in the hands of a Russian agency and very “active.”  They can’t “put it on hold” while we figure things out.  We could get a referral at any time.  Compounding things is the fact that our I600-A (a very important form we obtained through the Immigration/Homeland Security Agency) expires soon.  Our fingerprints that go hand-in-hand with that form expire in less than a month.  We can renew them with no cost or hassle if we have a current home study to send in with the request.  Which we don’t.  So we don’t have all the time in the world to get this home study done.  In fact, I have been collaborating with people from our agencies (including our new one here in Colorado) since before we moved just to make sure the coming home study gets done in time.  So now we know the layout of our situation.

We have a firm grasp on what has to take place to move forward (or backwards, it feels like) with the adoption:

  • We need a home study to move forward.  A social worker must re-interview us and give the “thumbs-up” on our living situation and put that all on paper. (30-40 pages, to be exact)  The home study cannot take place at my parents’ house.  It must take place where we intend to bring the adopted child home to.
  • While we house-hunt, we have begun to get things done that are required for the home study.  We have had doctor’s appointments and blood work done (can’t have HIV, just like last year when we were tested for it), I filled out a mountain of paperwork including all new applications to our all-new agency here in Colorado and lots and lots of questions about our lives and how much we bicker and yell.  The kids’ appointments are next week and we have gone down to the police department to have our fingerprints taken so background checks can be run.  AGAIN.  I have talked and talked with my liaison at the local agency about how we can gear up for the home study without doing it until the last possible moment; when we buy a house.
  • We have signed up for training classes through the agency.  In Texas 10 hours were required.  Here, it’s 24.  Bummer.  We completed 24 hours 3 years ago (in Colorado) for fostering, updated that with a 10-hour booklet the following year, and then attended a 10 hour class in-person just last year in Houston.  We’ve kind of heard all this stuff before.  But policies be policies.  We follow along as many times as they tell us.
  • I have called the Department of Homeland Security to assess exactly how much time we have to buy a house and get into it.  I am told that the fingerprints that expire in less than 30 days can be allowed to do so.  However, the all-important I600-A that I mentioned above can NOT be allowed to expire.  We need a home study to renew it.  Fine.  How long do I have to get the home study done?  The representative tells me I have until November 30th when our form expires.  “But…” I wearily assert, “when do I have to send the renewal forms and home study packet in by to get it completed by that expiration date?”  She tells me that the current processing time for such documents has been running at 60-75 days.  “GREAT!”  So now I have an actual answer.  I need to send in the completed home study 75 days before our form expires.  Which looks like mid-September to me.  And a home study, at it’s fastest, will take two weeks to complete.  So, by my estimation, we need to have our house purchased and lived in by late August or the first couple days of September.  Voila’!  Answers, people!  We have answers!!
  • So that means we have a month and a half to get into a house.  But we are looking in a nice neighborhood where all we can afford is a fixer-upper.  So we need to get into the house ASAP in order to first have two or three weeks to fix it up and make it livable.  With closing taking 30 days or so, that gives us about 4 and a half hours to find a house.
  • ONCE we have the home study snafu averted, we will have to move on to updating all necessary paperwork with Russia.  Which I assume will be pretty close to ALL OF IT since we changed addresses, states, jobs, you know; everything.  This is the stuff that has to get notarized and then apostilled by the state (at the capital) each time.  Such a pain in my eager keester.  But at least the state capital is only an hour away from me now instead of 2 1/2.  That’s something to be happy about.
  • And to top all of this off, we have now overspent by paying two agencies to do something we only needed to do once.  So funds are starting to feel low.  If anyone would just love to step up and help me with an awesome fundraiser idea that doesn’t put anyone out or anyone on the spot, please let me know.  Something mutually beneficial would be better than just flat-out asking for hand-outs, which Josh and I have agreed is not the greatest way to approach people for help.
  • In the meantime, we grow concerned that any minute we could get that referral that will cause all paperwork and house-inspecting to have to be done simultaneously over the course of twenty short minutes.  That would stink.  Like, a lot.

Our latest-greatest agency application. I finished it last weekend.  This is the starting point for our new home study regardless of whether or not we’ve completed one already. Ask me how many times I had to fill out our phone numbers and social security numbers. ASK ME!!!!

A nice profile shot of the same stack of papers. A bit much you think?? Me too. But it’s worth it.

So that’s the latest summation of our situation.  Good, bad, or otherwise, all of these steps are necessary, no matter how many times we complete them, to get our little girl home.

Major Change to Russian Adoption Process

Major Change to Russian Adoption Process

First of all, I received an outpouring of encouragement from people after yesterday’s post.  Here are some of the very kind and very wise words I had sent my way:

Thanks for “keeping it real”! Your strength, patience and persistence are encouraging to me! Stay strong and know you are in our prayers!

Whininess or jubilation, right there with ya honey!

Frustration is a healthy feeling I am so glad to hear I am not the only one who goes through being let down..I am praying for your baby and your family..support whenever u need it

I love you! A verse came to mind. This in no way shape or form is meant to take away or minimizes the hurt or frustration. I would never want to do that to you. Feel it all my friend. But remember that very short verse that says “Be still and know that I am God.”

Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth . . . they waited, and they were blessed. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. ♥ Praying for you, Sarah.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praises to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” Love you all!

U r on my heart constantly

Love you sister dearest!

The challenges have been really hard, but God will move the mountains for you! We went to a church lunch the other day and the pastor said that you have “to trust to trust God.” That really hit me. Then this past weekend the pastor spoke about finishing the race. He spoke about Heb 12:1-2 that talks about finishing the race that God has put before us. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He has surrounded us with a cloud of witnesses to encourage us. Heb 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

__________________________________________________________________________________

Second of all, I feel much better today.  As you can see, I have been surrounded with love and encouragement.  And it is both an immediate relief as well as a reminder that God is there for us.  In this case, He is showing up through all of my friends and family.  His love is real to me today.  So thank you.

But thirdly, I am here to enlighten everyone as to just how flexible you have to be to adopt. (!) Some things change constantly.  We have seen changes in the way certain forms are laid out just in the short time since we’ve submitted our dossier.  Routine changes in paperwork are expected.  Delays are expected. Struggling to find the copious amount of money needed to adopt: expected.  But what we didn’t expect was the latest change to the Russian adoption format;  there will now be three trips required to finalize the adoption instead of two.

An excerpt (slightly edited) from our international agency:

We have just received confirmation that a new amendment to Russian civil law will impact all court proceedings in Russia, including international adoption cases.  Previously, a ten day waiting period for appeal was imposed after the court hearing.  Instead, starting now, judges will orally declare a court decision at the end of the in-person court hearing.  After five days the judge is required to issue the court decision in written form.  The decision will come into effect thirty days after the written decision is issued.  Only after this can the parents apply in person for the child’s passport and citizenship.

This change will require that parents travel to Russia for the court hearing (generally known as Trip 2), then return home after the court hearing is complete.  A third trip for at least one parent will be necessary after the court process is completed to take custody of the child and complete the visa process in Moscow.  This third trip will probably occur around eight weeks after the court hearing and will last approximately one week.  We are not aware of any changes to the first trip at this time.

Translation:

First trip remains the same.  This is where we go have medicals done on us and the child and essentially decide whether or not we want to proceed with the adoption.  This trip is the one afforded to us so that we can determine that the child referred to us is in fact a “fit” for our family and vice versa.  (After the initial phone call/referral it can be a month or three (or more) before we are able to travel on this first trip to make this decision.)

After the first trip it can be another couple of months or even six or more before we are able to return to Russia to go to court.

Second trip (original):  We would have gone to court, had the adoption approved by a judge (hopefully!) and then had a (usually) mandatory 10 day waiting period where we got to hang out with our child in relief that it was all over but in anticipation of getting the child home.  After the 10 days we would stop in Moscow on our return trip home for a couple of days to secure the child’s passport and visa to get them into the United States.  (the ten days was a “way out” for parents who found they had made the wrong decision, and a nuisance for those who were sure they had made the right one.  It was a way for the Russian government to essentially give one more chance to back out, rather than have families doing that in the US and dumping these unwanted kids into the US foster system, far from their homeland.)  After all of this though, we would be done.  Congratulations!  You’re family is one child bigger.

Second Trip (new rules):  Apparently the approval for the adoption is still being given in court, but only orally.  And even when it’s in writing (within five days of oral declaration) it is not effective for thirty days.  Is this just a way for them to give and extra, EXTRA chance for families to back out? I’m not sure what the driving force behind this change is at this time.  I do know that Americans adopting from Russia have basically made idiots of themselves and neglected their adopted children enough times that Russia is starting to pull out all the stops in protecting these kids rather than stop adoptions with the US altogether.  (This latter option has been visited but not settled on, thank goodness.)  So because the written approval is not valid for thirty days, we will have to return home and wait for it to become valid.

In between the second and third trip, as stated in the memo above, there is expected to be an eight-week wait.  That’s eight weeks longer we will have to wait to get our child home.  Stinky.

Third trip:  As of now, this trip will exist solely to take custody of the child and travel through Moscow (as we would have had to do anyway) to get the child’s visa and passport.  As stated, they are expecting this trip to last about one week.

I have to tell you; the travel is such a HUGE part of our finances for this trip that this will surely cause the cost to go up even further.  Accommodations, food, and plane tickets are almost half of the entire process.  Divide half by the original two trips and each trip costed nearly a quarter of our total expected expenditure.  This means that we may be looking at an additional quarter needed to finance the trip.  So it may be that it will cost 125% of what we expected. This is off the top of my head and I am much more exacting than that.  I will have answers soon with a more realistic goal for money we need to raise.  But for now start sending up those prayers.  We are really on a bumpy ride!  It will all be worth it.  But my butt is already starting to get bruised.  : )

Cloudy Day

Cloudy Day

I haven’t written since we had to turn down our referral in November.  The fact of the matter is that I’m just having a bad attitude about the whole thing.  This isn’t every day.  Some days are great and I’m filled with faith and joy, waiting as long as it takes for God to move His hand on our behalf.  But today is not one of those days.  So I thought, “Hey, this is a perfect day to set my fleeting thoughts forever on our webpage for all the world to see!” Not because people love a bad attitude, but because those of you who are reading this because you are on your own adoption journey understand; it’s life.  And it brings doubts and cursing and frustration.  I just want to be real here, more than anything, to help everyone feel justified in their own emotions and struggles.  We’re all in the same boat, fellow adopters.  One being tossed about by unseen waves and shadowed sometimes by months-long clouds.  Will the sky clear up?  Absolutely.  Will the waves calm?  You’re darn tootin’.  But let’s spend a moment in Sarah’s brain for a moment, because today really sucks.

Two months ago we had to turn down a child because she was too needy for our family’s ability level.  I hate writing that.  Hate it.  But them’s the facts.  A month ago I began to prepare for Christmas and travel and vacation.  All was well.  Happy times.  A referral at that point would have been a bit of a nuisance since we were about to get on the road, so I was actually somewhat relieved that it didn’t come.  (Please do not take this too deeply, as any referral at any time will have us happily canceling any preceding obligations)  So then we came back from our vacation.  And I unpacked our clothes.  Did the laundry.  Cleaned the living room.  Took down the Christmas lights and tree.  Packed the holiday stuff and put it in the attic.  Vacuumed up bits of tinsel.  …   ……    ……..     …found a misplaced ornament and added it to the packed boxes.  …sat down.  …had some tea…..

After all of my stuff was taken care of I just sat around for a couple of days and got some much needed rest.  But then it started to haunt me; when will we get our next referral?  The first one came so fast.  It’s okay, Sarah.  Russia is on holiday too.  There’s probably no one even in the offices there this week.  But then the question would come right back; when will we ever meet this little girl we are waiting for?  Then the self pity starts up.  We have been in this process, full boar, since the fall of 2009.  It just turned 2012.  This makes it sound like three years!  It’s not been three years.  It’s been two years and three months.  But when you are in self pity mode, it’s three long years.  I just want to cry sometimes.  We have waited long enough.  There’s just silence on the other side of the ocean.  And the thing is, we have prepared ourselves to wait for up to two years based on the advice of our agency.  (we’ve waited four months since that advice) That’s why days like this are so bad.  Let them add up and they could overtake you and leave you writhing in a sad little puddle on the ground.  And with two years of possible waiting ahead, letting days like this add up would be a very bad idea.  So I will take care to bind up all of this sorrow by tomorrow or the next day.  But for now I want to be real with you and just sort of bask in it.  This is just how it feels.  If adoption is similar to pregnancy, then I am starting my tenth trimester.  That’s a lot of friggin’ waiting!  So here’s the other problem; I have a stack of paperwork that needs to be done when the next referral comes.  It’s surprisingly big, considering the amount we’ve already had to do.  But I in no way intend to complete it because I’m pouting.  If the adoption won’t come to me, why should I go to it?  Isn’t this immature sounding?  Geez.  But that’s my mental state for now.  I have had this stack sitting in a digital file in my computer since early December and I still just want to cry every time I think about going through it.  I have adoption books to read and Russian language to practice.  Won’t have any part of it this week.  It’s hard to think about it without feeling all torn up over whether or not it will ever actually come to pass.

So I’m going back to my tea.  And maybe to take a nap.  And try to think about happy things like Star Wars or Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs.  We’ll revisit this whole adoption thing when I feel stronger.  Or when the referral comes unexpectedly and I’m like, “Oh, crap!  I have all that paperwork to do still!”

Received Referral (November)

Received Referral (November)

After over a month of waiting for the referral we were told about, it came last Monday afternoon.  A referral is essentially a brief history of the child including, most importantly, their medical information.  It also includes their birthdate, name, and most often a picture of the child.  When the agency representative called and said she had the rest of the information on our referral (previously we only had a rough age; 37 months), my heart leapt.  But she would continue to tell Josh and I that she was *very* concerned about this child fitting our stipulations.

We found out that this child’s brain never fully developed.  Her head is, as it was put to us, “tiny.”  She is in a state of needing full care and she is never expected to be able to function well enough to be able to care for herself.  We had over a month to think about the referral that was coming to us.  What would she look like?  Would she be smiling in her picture?  But with this blow we requested that our representative withhold sending us the full picture and information until we could talk and pray about it.  We didn’t want to make a skewed decision based on seeing an angelic face.  So with one heartbreaking fact in hand we proceeded to discuss our feelings and options.  We both had previously discussed whether or not we would be able to handle adding a child with severe needs to our family.  The agency makes you talk about this and decide up front in case you are faced with a referral like ours.  The worst thing ever would be to take on a child outside of your ability to care for him/her and then face having to reenter them into the system so they could get adequate care.  So we were armed with earlier decisions about our ability level when it came to care for a special needs child.  And we had decided, without a doubt, that we couldn’t do it and still offer adequate care to our own three children.  But still we talked about it and re-visited that decision.  Could we do it?  She needs a home.  Who’s going to adopt her?  We had felt *so* sure that God had rushed us our meant-to-be child that this whole discussion became utterly excruciating.  Neither one of us wanted to be the first to say aloud, “No.  We can’t adopt her.”  But it had to be said.  ***  I just had a whole paragraph on our life and why this wouldn’t work, but I deleted it.  I don’t need to tell you any of this.  The decision is private and personal.  But I fear that anyone might think we took this decision lightly or simply didn’t want to have to work harder at having a special needs child.    Please keep in mind that in our hearts, for weeks and months prior- since the start of this process three years ago to the month she was born– we thought that this first referral would be God’s perfect choice for us.  In our two days of stillness and prayer after we made what we thought to be the right decision, God upheld it for us.  We felt free of guilt and shame.  We felt sure that we were doing the right thing for our family, but also for this little girl who deserved so much more than we could give.

I got a call from our social worker the day after I wrote the email to our agency turning down the referral.  Our social worker called just to see how we were doing emotionally.  This stuff happens sometimes and she’s watched it rip people apart inside.  To not be able to help a child in need- it’s like looking them in the eye and telling them you won’t help them… It sucks.  It makes you feel an inch high.  Our social worker expressed great concern for us and likened it to a miscarriage.  She said she’s had two and also watched people go through a turned-down referral and that the emotions you go through are very similar.   A lot of adoption is so easily related to pregnancy.  And in this situation, having a child in your heart for three years and praying for her every night only to have to turn her away and never see her… well it sucks.  (I can hardly type)  And I agree that the analogy is probably a good one.  Though there is still hope for her to join a loving family somewhere someday and be taken care of.  We may never know her, but it doesn’t mean she will be suffering.

All of this to eventually say that we have been given peace about it.  Spiritually speaking we know she is in God’s hands and we will pray for her our whole lives.  It was this thought that revealed to me what it meant when the orphan boy (Zhenya) I met at camp in Russia in 1996 contacted me *the day after* we heard about this 37 month-old girl in October.  I still am amazed and surprised that he found me and thought it was an absolute miracle.  But what was more- I found out he has gotten along great in life, has a job, and is well-adjusted.  He has beaten the odds.  And I’ve thought since he found me back in October that God answered my prayers as I prayed for him constantly over the 14 years I hadn’t seen him.  Him finding me the day after we heard we’d be getting a referral may have been God’s way to prep me for fully understanding that even though we couldn’t adopt her (as I couldn’t adopt Zhenya back then), we can pray for her and still be “spiritual parents” to her.  And we can resolutely know that God will find her the support she needs.  Just like he did for Zhenya.

We never did see her picture.  We never did find out her name.  But we will be praying for our little-far-away-thirty-seven-month-old girl forever.

And please be praying for us to continue in closeness to God and faithfulness that He is in control.  It’s been a rough week.

National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month

Did you know that November is the month for adoption awareness?  Yeah.  I didn’t either.  : )  But now that I do, I would like to share this article given to me by my wonderful momma-in-law.

Link to the original article and site

Remembering to take time to pray for orphans around the world is one of the best ways to advocate for them. Our desire with the Orphan’s Table is that it will be a special time designated for you and your family to intentionally think about and pray for these children. To help, we have created a short guide for you to experience a small taste of what many orphaned children all over the world experience each and every day at meal time.

We encourage you to choose an evening with your family or friends where you have a simple meal of beans and rice. The meal itself represents the typical meal that an orphan child might receive once a day, or in some cases only once per week. This guide will help you learn more about how the meal is prepared as well as give you devotionals to share as you remember orphans.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

This article stirred memories in me.  I remember days spent at a summer camp in the woods about four hours outside of Moscow in 1996.  I remember the meals they served us.  Barley one day.  Meat patties the next.  Soup the next. And the “soup” was made with light broth and…. well, we found out why they scraped our leftovers into bins after each meal… also in the soup was barley and chunks of meat patties from the days prior. One day we were served fish.  It was literally chopped into three pieces and each team member got one chunk for their meal.  Either the head, middle, or tail; bones in, skin on.  Good luck finding much meat if you got the head chunk!  As startling as this was to me, we are talking about Russia.  This is not a country in absolute poverty.  The orphanages there may have trouble making ends meet, and we certainly noted a lack of shoes and proper attire for the children.  Things are not at all up to the standards we would hope for.  But there are countries where orphanages are in absolute poverty and need.  The children there are lucky to eat at all.  This dinner of rice and beans, for us, is simply a startling snapshot of what a child may look forward to all day with a grumbling tummy.  And theirs is not a bowl overflowing.  Portions for these children will be small and regulated.  Our partaking of a dinner like this with our family affords us the opportunity not only to pray and talk with our children about those less fortunate than ourselves, but to escape into a mindset of what it must be like to live on meager rations of food in poverty with no parents or family so that when we pray we are praying desperately on their behalf.

Our dinner menu includes one night of rice and beans.  I am somber in looking ahead to it.  It’s hard to wrap my mind around the conditions some children are growing up in.  But I believe in my core that God loves these kids and will hear our prayers.  Please join me, in the least, in praying for orphans all over the world today and in days to follow.  That God will move on their behalf and spare them suffering by placing people and organizations in their midst that can provide them love and support, food and water.  And that these little ones find that there is a loving God with open arms to ultimately hear their cries and heal their hearts and bodies.

 

If it’s God’s Will, it’s God’s Bill

If it’s God’s Will, it’s God’s Bill

I love the title of this post.  A sentiment shared with me by a dear friend who I have only, up until this point, had the pleasure of getting to know through daily emails back and forth.  She too, is in the process of adopting from Russia and we have been valuable supporters of each other over the last couple of months.  I told her phrase, “If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill,” to another friend recently and the reply came, “Where God guides, He also provides!”  These two rhyming, rhythmic phrases are proof that we as humans are not inherently faith-filled.  Even though Josh and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will provide what we need, we have to remind ourselves daily as we feel the unsureness and doubt creeping up our spines.  So now I am armed with two new easy-to-remember phrases to keep me on track!  When it is literally the day we have to buy plane tickets and we don’t have the money, I will remind myself (while gritting my teeth and trying to breath) that the money will come just in time.  “if its God’s will, it’s God’s bill.”  I say this now because, frankly, it’s easy to say now.  There’s no deadline yet.  : )

Wanna hear something encouraging?  This weekend a couple we know gave us a check for $2,000!  We were staring at the check in absolute humility and joy all weekend long.  How on earth could someone in our lifestyle bracket afford to do this for us?  And why would they?  The “why,” in this case, is clear to us; these people have a heart for God and His work in helping the fatherless.  The “how” was even cooler though; they were helped by the same generous gift years ago.  They finally had the ability to pay the gift back.  But their gift-givers told them not to pay it back.  So when our friends thought of us, they knew resolutely that they wanted to pass the $2,000 forward to help us.  And they don’t want us to repay it.  And we hope to be able to pass it along someday as well.

On another, less inspiring note… I was at the doctor’s office getting my travel immunizations today.  The nurse was flicking the syringes and filing the release form and asked, “So is it cheaper to adopt from Russia?”  (Oy vey.  Here it comes.)  “No.  It’s much more expensive.”  She looked puzzled, “Then why don’t you just adopt from here?”  (ladies and gentlemen, this is not my first outright round of questioning on the merits of our personal decision)  I smiled and tried to end the conversation so she would inject me already and said, “We have traveled to Russia before and have a specific heart for the children we met in orphanages there.”  And she let her shoulders fall and thought a second and said, “Hm.  Well I guess that’s okay then.”   Well THANK YOU very much for your approval.  (sorry)  God asks us to take care of the widows and orphans.  Not just the ones down the street from us.  Not just the ones with our skin color.  Not just the ones who speak our language.  Are you surprised that God has led us to Russia to adopt?  Does He not care deeply for ALL humankind?  Even those in Russia?  And what happens if Americans don’t reach out to some of these countries?  Some of them are very poor and people there are not able to take on more children.  Often children are not orphaned at all, they are just given to the orphanage so someone can feed them.  So if I leave it to Russians to adopt the Russian orphans, I may not see much change there.  Or I may see more orphans rather than less.  This is certainly more true in other countries than it is Russia.  Russians are fairly well-to-do economically in many areas of the country.  But my point is, international adoption is just one  more way to take care of God’s children.  It isn’t easy.  It isn’t cheap.  But God is providing for our journey to accomplish this because it’s a priority He has decreed.  It’s an act of love from His heart, lived out by His people who are just trying to pass on the love they feel through Him.  Adoption is the whole central point of Christianity.  We are unworthy and not of the same “blood” as God Himself.  We are bastard children who have fallen far short of the perfection He requires to allow us into His presence.  But He loves us so much.  In our present condition.  In our present state of being turned away from Him.  In our state of self-dependence and self-reliance.  In our utter depravity… He loves us so much that He asks to adopt us.  He offers me (contingent only on my decision to follow His son Jesus) the adoption certificate saying that I am a new person now!  He has taken me out of the realm of this present darkness and into His shining light.  My last name is His last name.  My house is His house.  His love will envelop me eternally.  I am a child of God.  I have been adopted.  It’s His passion.  And doing what He does here on earth is how we can show His love to those around us.  Whether it be in these United States or across the seas in Russia.

How could I not want to follow this God whose every purpose revolves around love?