Sunday, August 23, 2009

Attachment Issues

This has been a crazy, adoption filled weekend. On Thursday evening, we were informed that our social worker would be coming by our house at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. We had already signed up to attend a two day seminar on international adoption (a requirement) that would go from 8-4 on Saturday and Sunday. Adam had a 16 hour shoot on Friday, and I also work on Fridays. With us being gone, how on earth were we going to be able to clean and baby proof the house for the social worker? Enter Jenna and Zach. Jenna helped me clean, and Zach shopped and installed some baby proofing locks for our exterior doors. Adam came home in the evening, and he started working on cleaning his office. We were up until 2 a.m. getting the house in perfect shape, and moving my office stuff out of the baby’s room. I even steam cleaned the carpets!!

We woke up at 4 hours later to get ready for our seminar. The entire way to/from the seminar and our lunch break, we were finishing up paperwork for the social worker. The seminar was so tiring, and afterwards, we rushed home for the social worker. We had dinner after the social worker left, and we crashed. Today, we woke up early again to finish off the seminar. We are tired! (Even though we are tired, we had a great night with Wes & Cal and posted a video of our playtime in the video section of this blog.)

We did learn some valuable information at the seminar. Even though your child may be under 2 that you adopt, it doesn’t mean that they will attach to you. Most likely, they won’t immediately attach, and you have to spend a minimum of a month working on this. Sometimes it can take years. You think back to when you were 18 months, and you probably don’t remember anything. However, when I look back to when my kids were 18 months -- they understood a lot. They were starting to talk, and they understood what was happening and what I was saying. So even though our child may not remember what has happened to her many years down the road, while she is going through the orphanage process, she does understand some things. She understands that her mother, her primary caregiver, is gone for whatever reason. She understands that she is in a new place where she doesn’t get very much attention, and she sees people coming and going. These places could be orphanages, foster homes, hospitals, transition homes, etc. Orphans can move around a lot when they are young. When we come to pick her up, she doesn’t understand that we are going to be her forever family. She understands that we are another person coming into her life that may walk away at any moment. That is really scary for a child. Just because you love and cuddle with an infant, doesn’t mean they give you that love back. Sometimes infants are scared to attach to anyone, and some don’t understand what attachment is -- so they think you are no different than the cashier at Wal-mart.

There are scary stories, and great stories of adoption. Being educated will help us raise a healthy, adopted child. Our instructor discussed a period of time, at least a month, where only Adam and I are the primary caregivers for our daughter. No one else can feed, bathe, or change our daughter. Our parents and siblings may briefly hold our child at times, but it is best that it stays between Adam and I for the first month. If our daughter is young enough, we are strongly encouraged to “wear” our child as we walk around the house throughout the day. This helps establish that we are going to be there for our daughter. It helps make her feel safe, and understand our permanency. This idea was completely foreign to us, but it makes sense.

We also learned that you need to “spoil” your child for the first few months. Having them sleep in their own room immediately is scary because they never have. Having a child “cry it out” isn’t good because that triggers the abandonment all over again. Again, this is not something we had initially planned to do, but it makes sense. We were on a strict schedule with Cal & Wes, and we let them cry it out in their crib. I see how things should be different this time around. Before establishing rules, we must establish trust.

So even though the seminar felt never-ending, and we needed lots of sugar to stay awake, it was well worth it. We also made a few friends with other families adopting from Ethiopia. One of the families has twin boys who were born 2 days prior to Wes & Cal.

As for the social worker, we have one visit out of the way, and one to go. Normally they can’t really smile, laugh, or show much emotion. A lot of parents worry that they won’t pass. However, our social worker was extremely nice and stated a few times that she was impressed with our stability, reasons for choosing a girl, etc. While never stating it, she indicated that her report would be a positive one. We will meet with her again in the next week or two before she finalizes the report. The next meeting will consist of separate interviews of Adam and I.

We are moving along. The boys will go to their 4 year check-up tomorrow, and the doctor will provide us with a letter for our dossier describing their health. This is the last document that we have to turn in to the agency at this time. Once we have our last social worker visit, it takes about 2 weeks to write the report, and 2 weeks to get approved by the State Court. It takes a little longer for us to get approved by immigration. Once this is done, we then submit our dossier to our adoption agency for finalizing. We are getting closer.

P.S. The picture above this blog is a picture of our daughter’s room. Once we are approved by the courts, we are going to start painting.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork!

I cannot believe all of the paperwork we have to go through in the next 3 months. Sabrina has spent HOURS every single night filling out paperwork.

We have so much financial history documents that have to go to the home study agency and the adoption agency. We are trying to get a CPA to verify our income; gather our bills/expense info, tax returns, etc; and fill out our declarations to show our assets/liabilities and income/debt.

We have so many medical documents to complete. Adam and I both went to the doctor this week, and she had to fill out a two page form on our history and our ability to adopt. She also has to type a letter on our behalf to include in our dossier. Adam and I have been tested for TB, diabetes, HIV, etc., and we are waiting on all of those results before the doctor can finish this paperwork. In addition to our doctor, the boys have to go to their doctor later this month for the exact same thing!

We have so much government paperwork to fill out. We have to get our local and federal criminal history information, and we also have to go through Child Services databases to confirm we haven’t had any complaints against us. We have had our fingerprints taken, and the State will run our prints in the next few weeks. Next month, we will have our fingerprints taken again for the US Immigration Services. We have submitted adoption applications to both the state and federal courts. Once they get our fingerprint, criminal history, and home study information they will then approve or deny our applications.

If that weren’t enough, we still have so much paperwork to fill out for the adoption agency and our home study agency. Our social worker wanted us to type a 10 page autobiography - EACH! It took us 5 hours to answer all of the questions. We have also filled out a 6 page document addressing race/cultural issues and how we will/have handle(d) situations. We have a 32 page workbook that we have to go through regarding interracial adoption, and we have to answer questions on different scenarios presented.

We are waiting on our social worker to review our autobiographies and set up our initial visit. We have to spend a minimum of four hours with her, over at least two visits, before she will write our report. Once the report, and all of the other documents are in, we then have to get everything notarized --- even the page that contains photographs of our house. The notarized documents then go to the Secretary of State’s office to confirm that the notaries are valid. Then we have to ship them off to our adoption agency to be bundled and packaged into our dossier. From there they go to Washington D.C. for approval at our embassy and Ethiopia’s embassy. Once that is done, the documents FINALLY go to Ethiopia -- and then we wait for 6-12 months (closer to a 12 month wait right now) for our child referral.

Getting everything together has been quite stressful for me, but it won’t be long before the paperwork is done and the waiting begins.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

We're Adopting a GIRL!

Well, we are only 1 week into this, and we have already made a change on our application. Under “gender preference”, we have changed our selection from “either” to “GIRL”!!!!

Adam and I have loved being parents of boys, and at first, we were leaning towards that again. However, the more we thought about it, we both had secret wishes to have a girl. On the selfish side, I see myself styling my little girl’s hair in all sorts of fun styles, painting fingernails, etc. On a more serious side, we believe that a girl will transition better into our family. We have always worried that if we ever adopted, would the adopted child feel even more “alone” because not only are they not biological children of ours, but they are trying to fit into a family with tight-knit, twin boys. We worry that if we adopt a boy, he may feel left out at times because he doesn’t have that best bud twin. When the boys go to church or the YMCA, they always play separately with other children, but we don’t want to take that chance of our adopted child feeling like an outsider. I think it will be much easier for a girl to transition into our family. In addition, this would explain why she would have her own room, no hand me down toys, etc.

Adam has talked to Wes and Cal a little bit about getting a brother or sister. He was simply explaining what that meant because they don’t even understand what it means to be twins. They think any two boys together are twins. Wes and Cal picked the brother/sister concept up quickly, and a few days later Cal asked me if he was going to get the baby now. I didn’t understand what he meant, so I asked him to repeat it. Same question. I asked, “Do you mean when are you going to get a baby brother or sister?” He said, “Yeah.” I explained it would be a long time, and I was really shocked that he was bringing this up. Wes joined in on the conversation and clarified that it was going to be a baby sister. Cal said he wanted a baby brother and a baby sister. I explained that we would just get one baby. The boys talked amongst themselves and announced that they were going to have a baby sister. That settled it. Application was changed.

The Ethiopia program director stated that we have to get our girl preference approved by our social worker. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be approved to request a girl, but it is ultimately up to them. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We're Adopting!

Dear Friends and Family,

We have some exciting news to share with you! We have been approved to adopt a child from Ethiopia!

Go ahead and take a few minutes to get back up off the floor, we understand. As most of you know, we have struggled with infertility. After undergoing infertility treatment for over a year, with no success, we decided to try a different procedure — and make that our last attempt. Adam and I knew that we did not have to biologically have children for us to become parents. We obtained information on adoption, and if our last fertility surgery did not work, we would start the adoption process.

The surgery worked, and we became pregnant with twins. The pregnancy and delivery were difficult, and our boys were born premature. Sabrina’s doctor recommended that she avoid future pregnancy due to the internal scarring, and her family physician stated that it would defy all laws of science if she were able to get pregnant again. We never struggled with our doctor’s advice because we knew that adoption was always an option.

Over the last 4 years, whenever anyone asks if we are going to have more kids, we always tell them that we may adopt in the future. A lot has changed in our lives this past year, and the past few months, the idea of adoption has been on our minds a lot more than before. This summer, Sabrina has really struggled with the boys growing up and getting ready to start school, and we once again were reminded that our family does not have to stop at four just because we can’t conceive.

We began looking into adoption again, and we felt a calling towards international adoption. The boys have a good friend, Mia, who was adopted from Vietnam three years ago. We began looking into the agency that Mia’s parents used, and we read about adopting from South America, Russia/Ukraine, China, Korea, and Ethiopia. Adam and I both came to the conclusion that Ethiopia was the best fit for us. Right now, it is the easiest country to adopt from, and Ethiopia has so much poverty, hunger, and other hardship. One in six children die by the age of five, and the life expectancy is only 46 years old.

While there are still so many uncertainties, we know that we have made the right decision. We wanted to explain to everyone our decision, as well as the process, so that you can have more of an understanding of what this means for our family — both immediate and extended. We will no longer be a family of just one race.

The first question is simply what do Ethiopian children look like? They are black, African children. Some can have lighter brown skin, and others can have very dark skin. Once the adoption is complete, we will become an interracial family. We are speaking to people who are already in this situation, reading heavily into both the racial and cultural background of our child, and we are also attending a weekend seminar regarding interracial families.

We have been approved by Children’s Hope International. They are an adoption agency based out of Missouri. They will handle our international adoption; however, Oasis Adoption Services in Tucson will handle our home study and Arizona court approval. We are currently in the “document gathering” stage. It is amazing how many documents you need, and how everything has to be worded just right and even our recommendation letters from friends have to be notarized. We will have to go through criminal checks by our local police, child protective services, and a fingerprint clearance through the federal databases. In addition to gathering documents, we are also working with a social worker from Oasis to conduct our home study. The social worker will meet with us, our boys, and they will also speak with our friends. They will evaluate our house, financial stability, medical stability, etc. This process should take approximately three months if everything goes smoothly. At that time, the social worker will have her recommendation, and our case will be presented in front of a juvenile court judge in Arizona. Once we are cleared by the judge, we can obtain the visa for our child. We hope to have the first stage completed by the first of November.

The second stage is waiting on a referral. Children’s Hope International works with an orphanage in Ethiopia called “House of Hope”. They receive orphaned children, and they test them for disease. If a child is healthy, then they “refer” the child to a family. When you get referred, you will get to see your child via photographs, and receive medical history and birth history (if this is known) from the orphanage. At that point, you accept your child. The wait to be referred begins after the Arizona court approves us, and it is between 6-12 months long. These are rough numbers based on how many children are in the orphanage.

The third stage is approval by the Ethiopian government. All of the documents gathered in stage one, and approved by our courts, will become certified and sent to Ethiopia in our dossier. If we meet the requirements, the government will then approve us for the adoption prior to us arriving in Ethiopia. This process takes approximately 2-4 months.

The final stage is the best one! Once we receive approval from the Ethiopian government, Adam and I will travel to Ethiopia to pick up our child from the orphanage. We will stay there for approximately one week, and we will appear in court during this time. At that point, we get to bring our baby home with the promise that we will provide yearly pictures and updates from our social worker to the Ethiopian government until the child reaches age 15.

If everything goes smoothly, we should have our child approximately 12 months from now. Again, that time frame can be pushed up or back depending on many factors. We have requested a child between the ages of infant (6 months is the youngest they will allow) to 18 months. We have not requested a specific gender.

We hope that you will support us in our journey. We promise to keep you updated, and just ask that you continue to pray for our family during this process. We encourage any questions you may have.


Adam & Sabrina