August 27, 2012

Matters of the HEART

Tonight marks an interesting point in our adoption process. Beginning at 8am in China (roughly 8pm tonight our time) the Shared List will be updated. (see THIS post to learn about the Shared List) We've completed every government and agency requirement. Because of this...


The chances that that will happen however, are pretty slim. We were the 17th family in our agency's program, and although it doesn't necessarily "go in order," chances are many of those people have paperwork with requests similar to ours, and in those cases, they would be matched first. Bethany typically matches about 4-6 families per month, so if it did go "roughly" in order, we'd still be 3-4 months out.

There's only one thing that may change this...
I haven't shared a lot about the needs we checked "yes" to on our Waiting Child Openness form. But I did want to share one so that those of you who pray for us can pray specifically about this. After evaluating medical resources in our area, we determined that a child with a heart condition might be a good match for us. Heart conditions range from very minor to very severe, and our agency wanted to know VERY specifically which ones we were open to. The problem is that with EVERY condition, there is a spectrum. For example, one of the most minor is a VSD (ventricular septal defect). Basically it's a hole in the ventricular septum. Small holes often require absolutely nothing and close on their own and this is very common. But sometimes the holes are so large that they require open heart surgery.

The problem is, when the agency makes the referral, they have NO idea of the severity of the condition. All they see on their computer for a ventricular septal defect is "VSD".

We were open to a variety of heart condition in the mild to moderate range. Our China representative agreed this would be a good fit for us, but cautioned us that because you almost never know the severity of the heart condition until the file is reviewed by a pediatric cardiologist in the US, we may be looking at multiple referrals.

What this means for us, is that there's a very good chance we could get several referrals, that after being evaluated by a specialist, we will have to turn down. If the prognosis is too severe, we will have to say "no." We expect this to be a very, very hard decision...especially after we've seen the child's face. And even though we'll try not to get attached, it will be difficult to avoid imagining them as part of our family.

So if you're one of the dear people who has been praying for us, could you please pray that the Lord will make it clear to us which child is meant to be ours? And also that we'll find peace in our decision if we need to turn down a referral?

And in the mean time, even though WE don't expect a referral tonight, there will be many other families who DO get one, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind a prayer or two either :)

August 13, 2012

The China side (part 2?) - the hard stuff

I hadn't really planned on a "part 2" post about what happens in China.

But some of the things we learned in the last week about what happens there are worth sharing.

One positive thing we learned was that we have a log-in date of July 20th! We're officially eligible to be matched! In fact, we were eligible for the July matching, but our agency hadn't been informed of our log-in date so it didn't really matter since they weren't prepared to lock referrals for us.

Now for the other side...

Our agency requires the completion of a conference call between us, our local branch worker, and the China team. For us, this was about a three hour call, discussing the process as a whole and then the individual medical needs that we checked "YES" (or willing to accept). It was very eye-opening and extremely emotionally exhausting.

I was shocked to learn that only 20% of China's orphanages even have an adoption program. The rest can't even afford to facilitate adoptions. That's 80% of China's orphans that will never be adopted.

We learned that there are 70 agencies worldwide that have Waiting Child programs in China. Many of these agencies started their WC programs after the slow down of the traditional healthy child program. Our agency has always had a WC program. Each agency is allowed ONE computer (one IP address) that has access to the Shared List. When the new list comes out, each agency representative is ready. They scan the new referrals and when they see one that matches one of their families, they attempt to lock it. This process must be completed in 3-4 seconds because any other agency can lock that referral. Whoever enters the information first gets the referral. During that 4 seconds, the life of a child may bounce from the US to Spain to Brazil to Norway....anywhere. Therefore, the agencies must have their families files and log-in dates memorized.

The only information they have to make this decision with looks like this:
Male - 06-15-2009 - cleft lip/palate (Gender - Birthdate - special need).

We realized that the child who comes to us will in some ways, be chosen by who can type the fastest.

Almost every adoptive parent we've talked to mentions an "emotional rollercoaster" when discussing their adoption process. We're beginning to see where this could be the case!

As if that wasn't enough, discussing the individual medical needs with someone who actually sees the reality of adoption in China on a daily basis was discouraging. Everything we'd checked "yes" to - the things I'd stayed up late night after night researching, the things we had decided we could handle as a family, that we'd discussed with local and regional medical professionals - our China coordinator had a "but you need to consider this" scenario for every one of those things.

For the sake of an example, I'll share one. We were open to club feet. It's often easily correctable and we live (relatively) close to one of the top hospitals for treating this condition. There are other factors, but I thought I'd thoroughly researched them. Then our coordinator reminded us that because we're hoping to adopt a toddler/preschool aged child, if they still have club feet at that point in life, it's likely they may not know how to walk, and have been left lying on their back in an orphanage for 3-4 years. This would result in malformations of the skull, possibly little to no muscle tone in the legs, developmental delays and the need for significant physical therapy.

Wow. And down the roller coaster....

These types of things were the possible outcomes of needs we'd considered minor. And even in considering these needs (before the conference call) we felt like we were still taking a pretty big risk. Now it feels even bigger, and yet, still not nearly enough. Thinking about the reality of the lives these children lead just makes my heart feel like lead.

After three hours of conversation, we were totally drained. The whole thing made me question if we'll really be able to get a child with a need we can handle, or if the unknowns are just so great and so many that no matter what, we'll end up with more than we bargained for.

And.....this is where faith comes in. I'm beginning to wonder how you could really go through this process without Jesus. As scary as all the statistics and all the medical reports and all the worst-case-scenarios are, we have peace about the decisions we've made because we've seen God's hand in each one. We're praying over the forms and filling them out to the best of our ability, and have faith that we'll be matched with the child He wants us to have and that we'll be equipped to handle the needs of that child. We're so blessed to be working with a Christian agency who prays over their family files and prays and fasts throughout the matching process. But most of all, blessed to serve a great and sovereign God.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future...Jeremiah 29:11
....and back up the rollercoaster.

August 5, 2012

Refinishing project!

One of the good things about trying to save $$ for an adoption, is that it forces me to find creative ways to get the things I want. Luckily, this isn't too much of a sacrifice since one of the things I love to do is get good deals and one thing I love even more is to get a great deal and turn it into something really adorable and unique.

Granted, having three kids who are constantly in need of something hasn't allowed me to do this as much as I want. But, I sometimes manage to fit in a little project here and there.

I think the most recent one turned out really well, so I thought I'd share.

I have big plans for an "update" to our bedroom. Since this update is purely cosmetic and resulted mostly because I was tired of our dark comforter and dark walls, it will happen slowly, because I will have to get a STEAL on each piece or I won't be able to justify doing it.

I plan on simplifying and getting rid of some larger pieces of furniture. I wanted a small stool to replace one piece. When this ugly but VERY sturdy one popped up at the Habitat Restore for $1, I grabbed it.

It was love at first sight with this decorator fabric from Hobby Lobby. The green and brown matches the new (but purchased 85% off on clearance) duvet cover I got several months ago. And I just love the pattern. Two yards using the 40% off coupon was $13. This gives me enough to recover the stool and make a throw pillow for the bed. staple gun. I think everyone should own a staple gun...they're just so much fun.
I'm also realizing I didn't take very many "during" the project pictures. Anyway, all I did was remove the top of the stool, stretch the new fabric over and staple it on. I didn't remove the old upholstery or add any padding or anything.

Then I used an electric sander with 80 grit sand paper to strip the finish off the base and legs to prep for staining. I often paint things I refinish, but I wanted the wood grain to show through on this one. I used a 150 grit for a final sanding before staining.

I went with Rust-Oleum "Kona" stain because it was as close as I could find to an "espresso" color without being black. Minwax's darkest one looked more like a dark walnut to me. looks black in the picture. Trust me, it's dark brown.
I finished the legs with a coat of polyurethane and reassembled everything.
It doesn't match my living room too well, but after I make some progress in the bedroom, it will be perfect in there.

Stool - $1
Fabric - $6.50 (other half used for pillow)
Stain - $2 (it was $3.96 but it will definitely get used for other projects)
Total: $9.50

It was worth the $9.50 just for the fun I had doing it! I could seriously spend all day doing that kind of thing....maybe someday :)

August 1, 2012

The China side (part 1)

How many orphans are there in China?

This question is easier asked than answered. Relatively recent statistics put the number at 712,000. Unfortunately there's almost no way to to determine if this is an accurate statistic because it's quite likely that those in power (somewhat embarrassed of the orphan problem) attempt to keep those numbers much, much lower than reality. Some statistics put it closer to 3 million.

THREE MILLION. In China alone.

Since our paperwork made it to China, we're now waiting on them. Many people have asked what happens now, so I'll attempt to explain how things look, on the China side.

The majority of the children reside in orphanages. Some of them are wealthy, with toys and teachers and supplies in abundance, but most are not. There's a spectrum of care - wealthy to poor orphanages, group foster homes, and even foster care. Caring for someone else's child was something that wasn't always socially acceptable in China and so foster care was limited. As times change and those barriers begin to be broken, foster care is increasing. But it definitely isn't the norm, and it's very likely our child will be from an orphanage.

In China...

Once a month, China releases a "Shared List." The shared list is a list of adoptable, 'paper-ready', children with identified special needs. There was 1,759 children on the June list. Obviously, this is only a fraction of the children that need homes, but for one reason or another, many don't make it on the list.

Only agencies that work with China can see the shared list, and they are notified in advance before it comes out. It shows a birthdate, sex of the child, and lists their special need....and that's about it. When a new list is released (usually in the middle of the night here), representatives in the US are ready, at their computers, attempting to match children on the list with parents who are waiting. Children with minor needs are matched immediately - minor needs often include things like minor heart conditions, clubbed feet or an extra or missing digit. The children who aren't matched are left waiting on the shared list...sometimes for many, many months, or even years.

Many non-profit and charity groups have contact with certain orphanages and group homes and are able to advocate for children who are stuck on the shared list. And sometimes, they're able to find homes for them. Because of their close contact, they can often provide updated, detailed information about certain children, and this is definitely a luxury when it comes to adoption referrals! Their knowledge can give parents who are the 'on the fence' the courage to adopt a child with a need they may not have considered before.

Some agencies work closely with certain orphanages and so receive exclusive referrals. One thing we didn't realize when we started this process, is that prospective parents often search the many agencies for children they're interested in, and then sign with an agency to lock the file of a certain child. But since most of the needs we've agreed to accept are relatively minor, this probably wouldn't have worked for us anyway. We're signed with agency, and we'll wait for them to match us off the shared list.


If we receive our log-in-date (LID) in the next couple weeks, we'll be eligible to receive a referral off the August list. I don't expect that to happen...I'm thinking it will take more like 3-4 months for a referral, but there's no way to tell. It all depends on which children are added to the list each month. Current wait time to travel is 6-8 months (partially due to China's new visa application rules), so the absolutely earliest we could be home would probably be March 2013. Realistically, we're expecting closer to June, but again, there's no way to tell. We were surprised that our agency only had 10 families waiting in the the China special needs program in July, so it could possibly be quicker than we're expecting.

And so we wait, and wait some more. For someone who's a type A personality, the unknown is hard! But at least we're getting close enough to sort of "guess" at a possible timeline. We'll keep you posted!