“The waiting does not diminish us…we are enlarged in the waiting…the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”
Since we’re getting so close to traveling to pick up our babe, I thought I’d repost an updated version of my Adoption FAQs today. I hope that it is helpful to anyone who might be curious and didn’t catch my answers the first time around!
1. Why adoption?
For as long as I can remember, I was always most drawn to adoption when it came to the idea of building a family.
My Grandma Evelyn and Grandpa Richard (who adopted my dad at 16 months) played a big part in my heart for adoption, and I always felt like if I was ever going to start a family, I would want to “have” my baby the same way. Thankfully, Kevin was totally on board with my somewhat unconventional way of thinking, and six years into our marriage (at age 36), we finally felt ready to start to exploring our adoption options. There were SO many of them! Looking back, I think it sort of feels like the shape of a funnel. Up at the top, it’s this big, wide opening- with all these different avenues to choose from. International adoption, domestic adoption, fost-adopt…special needs adoption, private adoption, open adoption…and then if you choose international, there’s all these different countries to choose from: China, Haiti, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Taiwan…the list goes on and on and on.
We started in the fost-adopt program, but when that door slammed closed, we were Led to the international adoption process. We got confirmation very quickly that that was where we were supposed to be, and and in making that decision, the funnel narrowed.
After that, we started praying about which adoption agency to partner with. Once we had peace about who to partner with (Lifeline Children’s Services) and our application was approved by them, the funnel narrowed again.
The next time it narrowed was when we had peace about which orphanage God was leading us to. (Three Angels Children’s Relief)
Once we received our referral (an invitation to meet the child they want to match you with) from Haiti’s social services (IBESR), I feel like we entered the bottom part of the funnel. We were going to meet our boy! No more gigantic funnel-mouth with 100 different options swirling around in it. Just a little-bitty funnel for three! 🙂
The rest of the adventure has felt like the narrow stem of a funnel. No more options, no more decision making, no more wondering who your baby is, just a long, focused tube that ends with your child coming home! Pretty miraculous if you ask me.
Miracles begin understated. They begin, and the earth doesn’t shake and trumpets don’t sound. Miracles begin with the plainsong of a promise~ and sometimes not even fully believed. This is always the best place for miracles. -Ann Voskamp
2. Why Haiti?
This is actually a pretty fun one to answer, and I can wrap it up in two, simple sentences: Because God led us there, and because our son was born in Haiti.
A few years ago, I literally woke up to the words, “Look at Haiti”. Not audibly, but I felt them in my head. Do you know what I mean? It’s a little hard to describe in writing, but if you’ve had a similar experience you know exactly what I mean. It startled me, but the message felt important, so I sprang out of bed and went over to the computer to see if Lifeline even had a Haiti program. Sure enough, they had just started one. (goosebumps) The requirements? Parents must be over 35 years of age, couples must be married 10 years and they preferred that you not have any biological children. Check. Check. Check. (GOOSEBUMPS) That was me and Kevin to a T! We prayed about it for 24 hours, and then called our caseworker to tell her our baby was in Haiti! 😀
Haiti has since changed its requirements, so those guidelines aren’t a factor for people just starting their processes now, but how MEANT TO BE that they described our EXACT situation RIGHT when were finishing our (4-month long) home study and RIGHT when we had to make a final decision about which country to put on our paperwork! #GodIsGood
3. Why does it take so long?
Wow. This one is so hard to cram into a nutshell! It seems to me, every kind of adoption has a lot of moving parts, and lots of moving parts can take lots and lots of time. In international adoption, there is a home study which includes the gathering of LOTS of paperwork, background checks (from every state you’ve ever lived in), extensive medical exams, lengthy psychological exams, mandatory seminars and adoption education, multiple interviews, fingerprint appointments (sometimes hundreds of miles away, depending on where you live) and, obviously, all of those things take time to schedule and complete. There is SO much paperwork that needs SO many stamps and signatures. The signatures have to be notarized and authenticated at several different levels before they can be included in your dossier. And keep in mind, all of those things happen before your paperwork even gets to whichever country you are adoption a child from. Once our dossier made it to Haiti (a year after we started our process), there were more interviews, appointments, court dates, exams (for the child), signatures and stamps from Directors and Mayors and Judges (that also had to be authenticated and notarized at different levels), etc, etc, etc. And in a developing country, there is a significant difference in resources, so all of that can take much longer than it does here in the US.
After that, there is still the matter of changing the child’s last name, and applying for their passport & Visa, which are lengthy processes no matter where in the world you live. And no matter which route you go- fost-adopt, domestic adoption, international adoption- factors, laws, rules and requirements can change at any moment. For example, Haiti is in the process of completely restructuring their adoption process with the implementation of Hague. The Hague Convention establishes international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions. When a country “goes Hague” it means that they are agreeing to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. When we started this process, Haiti wasn’t Hague and there was about a year delay while they made the (positive) transition. We heard that most countries completely close their adoption programs when they make the transition to Hague, so we are very thankful they remained open while they did that, and that we didn’t have to start over from the beginning.
I also want to point back to the verse I started this post with right here. Throughout this process I was continually reminded (whether I wanted to be or not- ha!) that waiting does not diminish us. It only (ultimately) enlarges us. It creates an incredibly humbling opportunity to draw super close to the God who wants more than anything to see our hearts enlarged, too!
Sea and land may lie between us, but my heart is always there with you. -Nancy Brewer
4. Why do you call him Sweet P?
The ‘P’ is for Palmer. I’m Mrs. P, daddy is Mr. P, and our bundle of joy is Sweet P! 🙂
Connecting our hearts through love yields a nectar so sweet we are forever full. -Amy Leigh Mercree
5. What adoption agency did you choose?
We chose Lifeline Children’s Services and they’re located just up the interstate, in Birmingham, Alabama. We have had an awesome experience with them and would definitely choose them again. I asked a few fellow adoptive parents if they would choose Lifeline again, and every person I asked said yes. Someone recently asked me if we would choose them if we lived in another state and the answer would also be yes. I do love that their office is only 2 hours away though, and that we can see our caseworkers face-to-face on any given day- and if you feel like that might be important to you, you may want to consider your agency’s location when you’re choosing. I have also heard wonderful things about All Blessings International, Bethany Christian Services, Nightlight Christian Adoptions and All God’s Children, but I can personally only speak to my experience with Lifeline. We attended a (mandatory) 2-day seminar called Crossings in the Lifeline office a couple of years ago and it was really neat to be able to spend 16 hours inside their building with them. Those gals are Wonder Women, and I can hardly wait to introduce Sweet P to all his “aunties”. 🙂
She was my bridge. When I needed to get across, she steadied herself long enough for me to run across safely. -Renita Weems
6. Can parents bring their other children with them on bonding trips?
I think every agency (and the orphanage they’re partnered with) has different rules. With Lifeline and Three Angels, you take the socialization trip, and you’re allowed two bonding trips before the homecoming trip. For the socialization trip, Lifeline & Three Angels suggests that only the parent or parents go. It’s a two-week trip, and you have at least one interview with a Haitian social worker and at least one long appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, so I think that’s why they suggest that be a parents-only trip. Many of our fellow adoptive families have taken their other children with them on bonding trips after that first trip though and it’s always so fun to see photos and videos of the kiddos together!
7. How did you come to meet the other Three Angels mamas?
Because of confidentiality rules, our adoption agency wasn’t able to share our information (and vice versa) with any of the other families. We had to get a little creative to find all 14! It started when one of the other mamas contacted me after reading my post about Three Angels accepting our application. She had already been in contact with one of the other mamas through Facebook and, slowly but surely, we found all the other mamas that way too. Over the past 3+ years, we have become a Sisterhood. Spun together like an indestructible web. If one part vibrates because there’s trouble, we all rush to help steady the thread. Being able to connect with, and get to know these women has been such an unexpected blessing, and I honestly cannot imagine going through this process without them.
We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. -William James
8. How much does it cost?
Honestly, I can only tell you how much it costs to adopt 1 child from Haiti if you take your two mandatory (socialization and homecoming) trips and your two optional (bonding) trips- because that’s what we did. If you adopt a child domestically or from another country, or don’t take as many trips to Haiti throughout your Haitian adoption process- your total will be different. Ours ended up being right around: $40K.
Yikes, right? Those kinds of numbers stopped us dead in our tracks when we first started exploring international adoption. We were month-to-month on our earnings (still are!) and only had a small amount in our savings. But when fellow adoptive families and our adoption agency explained how that grand total breaks down in greater detail, a lot of our concerns were immediately alleviated.
In our case, about 1/3 of that number went to cover legal fees in the US (through our adoption agency), 1/3 went to cover legal fees in Haiti and to cover Sonny’s care after we were officially matched with him, and 1/3 was spent on travel (airline, accommodations, food, etc.) to and from Haiti four times. And here’s the important thing to keep in mind: that $40K is broken down into lots and lots of small chunks throughout the 2-4 year process. For instance, our first fee was a $250 application fee when we applied to Lifeline. Some time after that, we paid our home study fee of $1800. Then a month or so later, we got up at the crack of dawn and drove to Birmingham for our biometric fingerprint appointment. That was $800. Then a month or so later we paid for psychological exams here in Montgomery. Seems like they were around $75 each? After that, there were medical exams, notary publics, passports, a 2-day adoption seminar (which involved two overnight stays in Birmingham), etc, etc, etc. All of those charges happened very sporadically throughout the first couple of years. In the almost-four years we’ve been in this process, we never once paid more than $3500 at a time, and there were only three instances we ever had to pay that much, with the exception of travel expenses. Honestly, those were the largest expenses. If you have lots of Sky Miles, you’ll do better than we did in that department! I should also mention, there’s a $13K adoption tax credit right now, so that is SUPER helpful when it comes to the overall cost too.
If God leads you to it, He will get you through it!
If there are any other questions that I can try to help answer, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. I look forward to sharing a post about our upcoming trip just as soon as we have it booked next week! AAAHHH! 😀
PS- I’m looking forward to doing some live Periscope broadcasts while we’re on our trip if you’d like to meet up with me over there! My username is LetteredCottage. XO