Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Month Officially "In"

We're officially one month in to the waiting process, or as our Ethiopia-adoption group calls it: One Month DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia). We had a great day at church, followed by our new tradition for this waiting period. On the 28th of every month, until we receive our referral, we will send balloons up in the air and celebrate with a bowl of ice cream. My girls think the ice cream is a simply marvelous addition and the balloons give them something to look forward to each month.

Before we picked up the balloons, Meredith insisted on making her brother a picture (She remains convinced that these balloons make it all the way to Ethiopia and into the arms of her brother. I am not about to lead her differently – don’t you just love the innocence of a child?). She said, “Mommy, I need you to write these words down on the paper. Write, ‘Jesus, please help my brother.’ And I will sign it.”

We taped the drawing to the balloon, walked outside, and the girls let them go. For 5 seconds, we silently watched the balloons move quickly into the sky. And then we heard a sickening “POP.” Meredith’s balloon unfortunately got stuck in a tree, and popped right there, leaving the drawing dangling from the branch. Oh, the tears that fell from her sweet eyes. I held her on the front steps of the porch as she sobbed. All she wanted was for her brother to have that picture. My poor heart ached for her – she just wants him home, and I do too.

Fortunately, the wind must have carried off the drawing because we no longer see it dangling in the tree. She is hopeful that it’s still on its way to Africa. And I am too.


The night ended in more tears, but those were all me. I made the sore mistake of reading a children’s book to the girls for their bedtime story that had just arrived in the mail. Why I don’t pre-read these books first is beyond me (note to self: a children’s book about adoption is likely to cause emotion). If you haven’t heard of the book, Mommy’s Heart Went POP!, and you’re looking for a way to talk to children about international adoption, specifically for Africa, get this book. Beautifully written and illustrated, it will melt your heart or in my case, cause some tears as I reflect on being one month in to a long waiting process. I feel a bit emotionally drained; I’m sure I can write more later, but suffice it to say, this wait isn’t going to get any easier.

I hope to use my time in this waiting period wisely. One week from today is Orphan Sunday; is your church doing anything to support it? Our church is in the infancy stages of learning more about Orphan Sunday, but I’m hoping it can grow into something more. What a great way to spend one day focusing on these precious children.

November brings about Adoption Awareness Month. If you have a minute in your prayers, pray for these orphans. Pray for adoptive families. Pray for adoption agencies, and the countries who are working to place these children with their forever families. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Money, money, money

I've been asked, in some form or fashion, "How much is this costing?" Valid question, and I understand the curiosity. The numbers can range wildly from country to country, but for us, it's helped to have a big breakdown for each stage showing us where our money goes. Because we're not, contrary to popular belief, "buying a child." I've debated whether or not to post all this. Money is, after all, considered a private matter. But I want to show you how this breaks down because at the end of the day, I want this blog to be open and honest and let's face it: the cost of adoption is something heavily discussed. So here you go, our broad range of costs for adopting our son from Ethiopia:

The Home Study - $1,500-3,000 - This fee goes to a social worker or the agency where the social worker works who spends several weeks working with your family to ensure that you are qualified to adopt. They do many criminal background checks (often at the county, state, and federal level), a child protection background check, make you do training on adoption and specifically the type of child you are planning to adopt (special needs, older, younger, etc), visit with your family and interview everyone in the home to see if you are prepared and ready (click here to read more about our home visit), look through your home to see if your home is safe and adequate size for a child, look over your financial situation to see if you can afford to raise said child, etc. Then they spend a great amount of time typing up a summary - your home study - of all their findings, which in our case was a 16-page document. It's a very GOOD thing and the first safety net to make sure certain creeps don't get their hands on children. This person is completely separate from the origin of the child and is also required for US/domestic adoption.

US Immigration - $890 - This fee is for the US office of immigration (USCIS) to look over our information, fingerprint us (yet another background check), and determine if we meet the US criteria to bring a foreigner into the country on a visa. This fee is also completely separate from the origin of the child.

Adoption Agency fee - $5,000-7,000, roughly - This fee goes toward paying the social workers who work at the agency for the many hours they spend compiling the children's files and information, helping the families with their paperwork, organizing and compiling a family's dossier, agency overhead, state/federal seals for the documents (this really adds up) as well as courier fees for those documents, training programs for families, etc.

International fee - roughly $4,000-5,000 - This fee goes to the agency contacts in Ethiopia. It is spent on paying someone for the translation of the dossier (a very detailed look at your family, including your home study and immigration approval); fees for government documents like embassy paperwork, birth certificates, passports, etc.; in-country social services (community outreach and services the agency facilitates); facilitation of the adoption (acting as the family's hands and feet in the government agencies in the country to complete the adoption); travel coordination; orphanage fee (upkeep, buying supplies, paying nannies, utilities, etc); and childcare (approximately the amount of money spent on your child's nutrition, medical, schooling, etc. while they are waiting to be picked up).

Travel - $6,000-15,000 - Two trips are required for Ethiopia and many/most other countries. This is approximately how much will be spent on plane tickets ($1,500 - 2,000 each person/each trip), hotel costs, food costs, transportation costs, etc. This fee, of course, goes to airlines and in country companies, not to anyone relating to the child.

Embassy Visa - $400 each child - fee for each child to receive a US visa to enter the US as your child. Again, not a fee associated with the child.

If you're really curious, click here to view our agency's further breakdown of costs specifically for Ethiopia.

So as you can see, only a small portion of that actually goes into the hands of an adoption agency for their services. Absolutely ZERO money should ever go into the hands of the families placing their children for adoption and no more than an average salary should ever go into the hands of the facilitator who works in adoption in the country. It happens and those are the stories that of course hit the news. If the world was perfect, people would be able to work these selfless jobs for no pay, but we all know that simply isn't possible. And I guess in a perfect world, there wouldn't be orphans, so maybe I should just shut up about perfect worlds and face reality. Or maybe I just need to stop over thinking this. Or maybe I should go to bed, because thinking about numbers makes my head hurt. I don't like numbers. They scare me.

Have I lost you yet? Nervous about talking dollars like this?

Sorry about that. Continuing on:

No one likes to talk about the fees relating to adoption, but it's a very real thing and something that can't be ignored. Just like giving birth to a child costs a great deal of money, so does adoption. The difference is many people have medical insurance to help cover the costs associated with giving birth. Families who choose to adopt must come up with all of that money on their own.

When I think back to how much we would have had to pay for medical expenses for each pregnancy, I am grateful for medical insurance covering the large majority of it. Had we not had that, we couldn't have afforded our two daughters. For our oldest, the hospital stay alone would have put us in great debt. Thank goodness for good insurance (and good medical care)!

So no, we're not "buying" our son. And yes, it is expensive...if only something like adoption insurance existed! We do hope that the adoption tax credit that is due to expire this year is renewed with Congress. It will help us, and many other families, tremendously, in covering some of these costs. And yes, at some point we're going to do some fundraising (guess that's a good way for me to utilize this waiting time period).

I do hope this helps clear up any questions you may have. I know, starting on this journey, I didn't know the ins and outs of costs either so I promise I'm not offended if you have additional questions.

Sooo....this wait over yet? No? Two+ years to wait, you say?


Much love,