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Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Kids that Changed My Life

     As I mentioned before, the summer I spent in India changed my life.  I was at a large orphanage with maybe, 1,000 kids.  I went there with, really, nothing to offer.  I had no medical expertise, no theological training, no teaching experience, I just went.  I helped out at the orphanage clinic, and I helped reorganize the orphanage library and tutor children there.  What I realized was, the kids at the orphanage could care less about what my background or training was.  They just wanted someone to spend time with them; someone to tell them how precious they were; someone to pray with them and encourage them.  These kids I left behind changed my life forever.  They're the reason I want to adopt, the reason I want everyone I know to adopt!

     The one thing all of these children had in common was their desire for a family.  Some of the children were true orphans.  They came from parts of the country where the fighting and violence was so severe, whole families were killed.  Some were found in the streets.  Others had one or even both parents living, but due to economic reasons, safety reasons, or other problems in the family, they could not live at home and have enough to eat or be cared for.  The one thing that surprised me is, even the children who still had parents living, who maybe got to see their parents once or twice a year, they still would have gladly hopped on a plane with a family willing to give them a permanent home.  I don't know if this is just because of the allure of "America" in general, or if it was just their desire to be in a permanent home, with loving parents who could be there for them any minute.  I think it was probably a combination of both.  I think it completely stinks, though, for families to be separated just because of poverty, and I hope we can keep working to end that.  For many of these kids, though, poverty was not the only issue. 

 The orphanage really did the best they could with all of these children, considering their limited resources.  The children were treated well, got to go to school, got medical care, and had enough to eat.  The one thing that was really lacking, was the number of adult workers in the orphanage.  They had a set-up where the teenagers would be chosen as room leaders.  They would be in charge of a room full of 30 children, varying in age from 3 years old to 15 years old or so.  They would make sure every child did their chores, got dressed, bathed, got their meals, did their school work, etc.  I was so impressed with these room leaders.  Granted it's more responsibility than most teenagers should have, but they were amazing.  They really took care of the children. 

I was impressed with all of the kids in general.  They took care of each other.  They made their own little family units within the orphanage.  But that didn't replace their need for a family of their own.  These children changed my life.  Maybe they'll change yours too.

     By the way, lest you think I'm actually a good photographer, most of these pictures were taken by a dear friend of mine that I met in India.  Her family is about to go do more amazing things in the world...she's the coolest. 

     It wouldn't be right to share this post without pointing out what amazing people my parents are.  They let their 20 year-old daughter, go to India, BY HERSELF (As in, no mission trip group here, literally, a solo mission), for 2 months.  I showed up at the airport in Delhi, and looked for a guy holding up a sign with my name on it.  My parents knew very little about the orphanage I was going to, and the organization that funded the orphanage.  Still, they let me go.  They never even shared any doubts or fears with me AT ALL.  They bought me a camera, some new luggage, and hugged me goodbye.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for always supporting my crazy dreams.  I've learned so much from you guys that will help me be a better parent someday. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What #13 Means

So we are #13 on the waiting list.  Matches or "Referrals" as they're called in the adoption world don't happen at any given time for Holt's Thailand program.  There are 4 distinct matching periods each year. Usually they fall at the end of December, March, June, and September.  This December, the matches actually happened in November.  I think it was due to the flooding in Thailand, and everything being off schedule, but I'm not sure why that meant the matches came earlier rather than later.  I'm just so happy for the familes who got their referrals!  They didn't even have to sit by the phone for a whole month!  By the way, does the word "referral" seem weird to you?  I think of referral as, "I know a really great hairdresser, here's her card."  Or, "I know a great ob/gyn...not at all awkward (harder to find than you'd think)"  Not, "I've got this really great baby in mind for you, here's their info."  I guess there's not a better word for it, baby-in-waiting?  Usually, 4 children are matched each "quarter".  One time, they did have an unusually large group of 7 referrals.  I don't think they've had a referral group of less than four, but correct me if I'm wrong, experienced adoptive parents!  So, being #13 means that Holt estimates we will get a referral this coming September.  This is assuming that at least one of the upcoming referral groups will have 5 children instead of 4.  Our situation is a little less predictable, because we are open to quite a few medical conditions, some quite serious, others more minor.  So, if for some reason, a precious little one with a medical condition that we said yes to, and the other familes were not comfortable saying yes to comes up on the list, then we would all of a sudden move to the "front of the line" so to speak, and receive an early referral.  I'm not really sure how often this happens.  I do know there are other families open to some medical conditions and are ahead of us in line, so I don't think it's super likely for us to move way ahead.  But that's ok, because it means more healthy children are being born, and I'll never complain about that!  The childen, at age of referral, are typically between 7-14 months old.  To apply for the Thailand program, we had to say yes to a child, of either gender, ages 0-2 years old.  This is just fine by us.  We LOVE toddlers, and I'm not a huge newborn type of girl.  They're adorable, but I've always found toddlers so much more fun and enjoyable.  I know we will grieve the loss of those special baby moments with our child, but we're ok with that. 

Holt recommends that everyone have their referral information reviewed by a doctor who has experience in international adoption. Even if the child is completely healthy, they always recommend a second look.  Or even if you know you're open to just about anything, it's worth it to have someone tell you in more detail what to expect and prepare for in your child.  After reviewing your child's file, you have the opportunity to say yes or no to the referral.  Holt never holds it against you if you say no.  They want to be sure you are completely comfortable and capable to parent any particular child.  And, let's face it, every child deserves to be in a home where their parents were confident they were meant to be their child. 

After match, we don't rush right over to Thailand and get our little one.  Although, every single adoptive parent will tell you they so wish that was the case!  The waiting period after referral seems to be excruciating from what I can gather from those who have been there.  So, the waiting period to go bring your little one home is a minimum 9 months, and lately, it has been stretching out into 14 months.  The longer waiting periods have been caused by some disruption in positions in the Thai government, along with the severe flooding in Thailand.  I'm hoping the waiting period slowly goes back down towards the 9 month mark, but there's no way to know for sure. 

Ok, that's all for now.  To recap:  #13 means we probably won't have any news of a child until next September.  In the meantime, we'll learn everything we can to prepare for this adventure!  And, please, ask whatever questions you'd like.  I know this process can be really confusing and daunting.  I'm happy to answer anything and everything!  I hope giving all the little details might make the process less scary and inspire someone else to consider adoption :)

Our Decision to Adopt, Part 1 (of many!)

Thanks for sharing in this journey with us. I'm not generally a "share everything with everyone" kind of person, but I've learned so much from reading others' adoption blogs that I had to pay it forward. Also, as a military family, we live far away from many of our family and friends, so this blog serves as a way to keep them posted on everything we'll forget to tell them about on the phone.

I can already see Chris rolling his eyes at the name of this blog. "Beth Anne", he'll say, "me being a jet pilot is not what defines us." "Yes, Chris," I'll rebuff, "but it does have a pretty big impact on many areas of our life. It dictates where we live, when you will be in or out of the country, your work schedule, and who (a lot of) our friends are. Plus also, "jetland" just represents the craziness that is our life. We've moved 5 times in the 4.5 years that we've been married, and now we're planning to adopt maybe, 5 or so kids? (And pause, so all the experienced adoptive parents can laugh at our lofty goals.) Ok, so we're taking this adoption thing one step at a time, one child at a time, but I'm pretty sure if the first one goes well, we'll keep going... and going... we just have a heart for these kids, and who are we to question what God gives us a passion about?

The decision: Ever since I spent 2 months at an orphanage in India at the age of 20, I've had a heart for orphans. I knew, at that point, that adoption would be a part of my life. I still think about the kids I left behind, and pray for them often. The one thing I realized is that every child is so incredibly precious, and every child deserves a family to love them unconditionally. (A lot of you reading this blog are much better people than me... you realized this without God having to drag you around the world to show you!) For Chris, the decision didn't happen overnight, he's just the most caring guy you could ever meet, and generally, if I feel passionately about something, so does he. Yes, I'm really, really lucky. So, last fall, we started talking about where our lives were headed and what was most important to us. Being parents came up, and we both decided we were ready for that. Then adoption came up, we both knew we wanted to adopt at some point, but we always thought we'd ease into parenting with a biological child, then look into adoption. Then all of a sudden, we were thinking, why not?! We know we want to adopt. We have more time, resources, and money right now to make this happen. So we prayed about it, both felt a peace, and moved forward.

The next decision was what type of adoption to pursue. There's domestic, intercountry, foster-to-adopt, embryo adoption... and a bunch of variations of each of those types of adoption. I immediately wanted to pursue intercountry adoption. Big surprise, considering all the children in India I remembered by name. It's just where my heart is. Chris initially leaned towards domestic adoption. He wanted a child as young as possible, and as an active-duty military family, it seemed like a slightly easier route (logistically) than inter-country. I discussed some of the reasons I felt strongly about intercountry adoption: It can be more difficult, logistically, so less families may be willing to go this route. If you look at the sheer number of orphans in the world, compared to the number of orphans in the U.S., it seemed like more people need to be signing up for intercountry adoption. The other strong opinion I had was this: A healthy infant in the U.S. will always get a home, while a toddler or older child in another country, especially one with a medical condition, may wait months, or years to get a home. I guess I just sort of felt like there was a greater need for intercountry adoption, but that doesn't at all mean we don't need lots of people to adopt domestically or foster-to-adopt, it really just goes back to where my heart was. Really, what we need, is for anyone who has a heart for adoption, to look into it, pursue it, or support these children however they can. After "pleading my case" so to speak, we both toook a week to pray about it. Much to my surprise, Chris came back and said he wanted to pursue intercountry adoption, and that he was open to medical conditions in a child as well. I was so incredibly happy! Usually, if I really feel strongly about something, I can communicate well enough to persuade Chris. He claims that it's completely unfair, because he has great points for his side, but just can't communicate them as well. Confession time: sometimes I even KNOW that Chris' side really should win, but I STILL talk him into agreeing with me. Terrible, I know. I'm working on it. In this case, I stayed silent. I knew that for such an important decision, it was God who needed to put us both on the same page, and no amount of smooth talking would work. God delivered, and we moved forward.

More to come. I could talk about adoption all day!