Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thinking of You...

A Christmas Letter for My Child:

During this busy Christmas season, I have been thinking a lot about you. You are living so far away, and I wonder what you are doing today, Christmas Day. Your daddy, your brother, and I enjoyed our time together this morning opening gifts and having fun, but something was missing... YOU! We have been working diligently to bring you home as quickly as possible. There is so much paperwork and so much "red tape" involved, but we are making progress little by little.

Your daddy bought me a special gift for Christmas this year, it's a Prayer Box necklace. The idea behind it is that you "place your prayers inside" and then wear the box close to your heart to remind you to pray. Inside the box, he placed a small picture of Ethiopia, to remind me to always be praying for you. I think it's also a reminder that even though we don't even know who you are yet, you are already so close to our hearts.

Today, on this Christmas Day, we pray that you are happy and healthy. We pray that you have enough food to eat, water to drink, and a roof over your head. We pray that you are surrounded by people who love and care for you. We pray that you will be home with us for Christmas next year. We love you!

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge, his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day... no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." (Psalm 91:4-5,10-11).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fingerprints, FOUND!

Go figure... we went to the Florence PD last Thursday to have our fingerprints taken (again) for FBI clearance, and as soon as I put them in the mail to our social worker she sent me an email saying that she received our fingerprints - the FIRST round that were supposedly lost. I have no idea why it took over three weeks for that envelope to arrive there, but oh well. Now we have a back-up set, I suppose.

Our agency is currently in the process of reviewing all of the paperwork we submitted last week in preparation for our home study, and we will likely complete our home study interviews in January.

Right now we are keeping busy trying to complete our adoptive parents training, as well as continuing to gather documents needed for our dossier.

The journey continues...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Home Study Paperwork - DONE!

Today I had the wonderful privilege of taking our big pile of paperwork to the post office and mailing it to our home study agency. This included our 10+ page autobiographies (whew!). This is not the end of the paperwork trail (unfortunately), as we still have various forms to fill out and our official dossier to complete (the home study will become part of that once it's finished). But, it felt great to finally get something else checked off the list, and now our home study agency will be able to move forward with scheduling our interviews and getting us through the AZ juvenile court system so that we become "certified" to adopt in the state of Arizona. Woo Hoo! Every step forward is worth celebrating :) Now if we could just get up the motivation to get those fingerprints RE-done...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oh Where, Oh Where, Did Our Fingerprints Go?


Well, it didn't take long but we just encountered our first "annoying" glitch in our journey. You may remember a couple of posts ago that we completed our fingerprints. One of the rules in Maricopa County (where our home study agency is located) is that you aren't able to touch your fingerprint cards once they are taken. You have to have the person who fingerprints you mail your cards, along with your FBI clearance forms, to the home study agency. So, we sealed everything in the postage-paid envelope and left them with the deputy to mail. And that was the last anybody saw of them!

I emailed our social worker yesterday to see if she had received them and she had not, so I knew we had a problem. They should have gotten to her before Thanksgiving at the latest. I called the Pinal County Detention Center yesterday and was able to get through (after a long series of transfers and calling back twice) to the person who mailed them, and he claimed that he did! Who KNOWS? So, we are now in the boat of having to be RE-fingerprinted and send everything all over again. I think we will visit the Florence PD this time, instead of Pinal County Sheriff. Ugh, how annoying.

Guess we should get used to it, their are families further ahead of us in the process who have many stories similar to this, and it looks like we should continue to expect them throughout the entire process and even after returning home. Did we really need a warm-up? :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Congrats!

It is always so exciting to watch things "happen" to families within Holt's Ethiopia program. Many of us converse frequently through a Yahoo group, as well as blogs, and are able to see one another's progress throughout their adoptions. I love the support system it provides, because nobody else truly understands the ups and downs of this crazy process than those who are experiencing it (or have experienced it) themselves.

November was a fairly disappointing month for many families that had court dates, as some of the rules surrounding requirements for passing court were changed at the last minute and many of the cases did not pass. They were rescheduled for January so we are wishing everyone the best and hoping the 2nd time is the charm. There are quite a few other families in our program who have upcoming court 1st time court dates this month and next, so please keep them all in your prayers. Everybody wants to bring their children home as quickly as possible.

There were two families (one being the Gratz family) that DID successfully pass court last week and we are so excited for them! They will be leaving for Ethiopia next week and will be home with their beautiful children to spend Christmas together. Please be praying for their safe travel, smooth process in Ethiopia, and transition upon coming home.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Fabulous Book...


I just started reading this book last week, and would highly recommend it! Quite a few people who are adopting (or have adopted) from Ethiopia recommended this one, so figured I would give it a try. Whether you are adopting from Ethiopia, or not even adopting at all, this is a great read for anybody! If you've read it, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Inspiration

Here are a few quotes/poems/verses I came across this this evening (thanks to the Google search engine) that spoke to me in some way about this adoption journey we are on and gave me new inspiration to finish writing that autobiography for our home study :)

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life.
But those who make their journey home across time & miles,
growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,
are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us
by God's very own hands.
--- Kristi Larson

I'm only one. But still, I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still, I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
--- Edward Everett Hale

I know God won't give me anything I can't handle.
I just wish he didn't trust me so much
--- Mother Theresa

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
--- Robert Frost

Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
--- Ralph Waldo Emerson

God sets the lonely in families.
--- Psalm 68:6

Every child deserves a home of his own.
--- Harry Holt

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Productive Week

Micah had most of this past week off of work, so we took advantage of it and accomplished quite a bit towards our adoption to-do list.

We both had our physicals and blood work completed, and are now just waiting on our doctors to mail us the signed forms. We requested and received a completed form from Eli's pediatrician.

We went to the post office to purchase stamps for our Christmas letters, as well as send of requests to both of our health insurance agencies for them to fill out a form (proof that our adopted child will be covered).


We requested and received police clearance letters from the Florence PD. We also made the "exciting" trip to the Pinal County Sherriff's Office for our FBI fingerprinting session. It was a pretty crazy experience because we were fingerprinted in the same "intake" area as the inmates, so it was a strange feeling to walk back through all of the metal detectors and concrete hallways! We now get to wait approx. 1 month to see if the FBI clears our fingerprints or not. We have heard from our agency, as well as other adoptive parents, that the fingerprinting can be a huge pain during this process.

We will have to be fingerprinted (again) by Immigration further down the road in this process, and if either of those agencies don't like the way the fingerprints were done or if they aren't completely clear then we will have to re-do them and possibly add months to our process by waiting again for clearance. We'll just hope this first round is accepted and that we won't even have to go down that road :)

I also attended an "orientation session" with our home study agency, Dillon Southwest, to meet our social worker and be able to ask questions, learn more about the process, etc. I was extremely glad I went, and it put my mind completely at ease about our home study visits and interviews. All of the social workers there are so nice and so down to earth. Thank heavens (I have heard some nightmare stories from others!).

Oh, and one other thing we have made progress on is our adoptive parent training. We are taking an online course which will count for 8 of our 10 hours, and we'll complete the final 2 training hours with our social worker. The course is very interesting and helpful... it has definitely led us to some interesting conversations and given us much to think about as we move forward in our journey.

Hooray for productivity and items crossed of the to-do list!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Endless Paper-Chasing

We are up to our ears in "to do lists" and the endless "document collection" process to obtain everything we need for our home study and dossier. I thought I would list out some of the things that we're working on just to give you an idea of how much is involved...

*Complete 10 hours of training on international adoption (in process)
*Micah and I each have to write an 8-10 page autobiography (in process)
*Physicals and blood tests (scheduled for next week)
*Obtain certified copies of all of our birth certificates (still waiting for Eli's...)
*Obtain certified copies of marriage certificate (completed)
*Copies of diplomas/transcripts (completed)
*Letters from employers (Bethany - done, Micah - in process)
*Letters of recommendation (in process)
*Copies of tax returns (completed)
*Letter from bank and bank statements
*Letter from health insurance
*Letter to Ministry of Women's Affairs in Ethiopia
*Have passport photos taken
*Power of Attorney forms
*Police clearance letter
*Immigration clearance
*Fingerprints/background checks

Many of the documents we have to collect must also be notarized, certified, and/or authenticated... so it makes obtaining a simple document a more complex process and more time-consuming.

Once we have everything required by our home study agency, we will go ahead and submit those items to them and they will come out and conduct our actual home study visit(s) and interview(s). Once the visits are completed, the agency will then write up our home study which must then be notarized and approved by Holt. The home study is the most important piece of our dossier that will be sent to Ethiopia. Once the home study process is complete, we will send our entire dossier (aka "life on paper") to Holt who will then send it on to Ethiopia. It's at that point that families are normally placed on the wait list to be matched with a child.

We would appreciate your prayers during this busy holiday season that we would be able to complete our paperwork and not run into any serious glitches with obtaining documents and letters. We are *hoping* to complete this paper-chasing phase by January/February and get on that wait list!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Clean Water for Christmas

Entering this adoption process has really burdened our hearts for the people of Africa, and in general, for those in this world who are less fortunate. Take two minutes to watch the video below, and take time this Christmas season to remember those who might just be asking for a glass of water that they won't risk their lives to drink.

Did you know that...
1.8 million people die every year from water-born illnesses?
And 3900 of those are children?
And that only $10 will give a child clean water for life?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Holt?

One of the concerns we had in regards to adopting from Ethiopia was the number of children placed for adoption by their parents, simply because they could not afford to care for them. This was heartbreaking for us, even though it is the reality many face living in a country of extreme impoverishment. We felt that in those situations, where poverty is the only thing preventing the birth family from remaining together, why not just give the money to the birth family that we would otherwise spend to adopt their child? We wrestled with this issue for quite some time, because once you are far enough into the process to receive the referral of your child, you don't have much control over how that child became available for adoption or what the situation was that led to that decision.

In the midst of that struggle, we came across Holt International and it was as if they were speaking directly to our concerns when we read this, "Holt never considers poverty alone to justify international adoption." Whenever possible, Holt actually assists birth families in remaining together, which Micah and I believe is always going to be the best situation for the child when it is possible. Holt judges each child's situation individually to determine if international adoption is really the best option for that particular child. If the birth family is unable to remain together, Holt also looks to the possibility of adopting the child to another family within the child's birth country so that at least he/she can remain within their home culture.

For many children in Ethiopia, international adoption does become the best option because adoption "within" the country does not occur very often, and the child was orphaned due to parents deaths, they were abandoned and nobody knows the whereabouts of the parents, or maybe they only have one living parent who is extremely ill or on the verge of dying. When these things happen, children in Ethiopia either end up living on the streets or they end up in orphanages... either way, they are left without a loving, forever family. Those are the situations where a family like ours is able to open our home and invite a child to join our family and thrive in a loving, nurturing, environment. "Holt International Children's Services is dedicated to carrying out God's plan for every child to have a permanent, loving family."

Holt has been around for over 50 years, and the story of how they began is truly an amazing one. It all began with a couple named Harry and Bertha Holt who in the 1950's saw a movie about children in Korean orphanages who desperately needed help, and they decided they wanted to adopt EIGHT of them! In the 1950's this decision would not have been a very popular one with most Americans, because at the time adoption was regarded as something that should be kept secret - something that would be impossible when a child is clearly of another race/culture than the parents! But Harry and Bertha had deeply rooted Christian faith and pushed through the barriers of race and nationality to show the world that "adoption is a banner of love, not a badge of shame." In order to bring their eight children home from Korea, they actually had to get both houses of Congress to pass a special law - and they did!! Talk about determination, right? Anyway, their story is truly amazing and after Harry died in 1964, Bertha Holt's legacy continued as she became known as "Grandma Holt" to many adoptive families and thousands of children around the world. "She worked tirelessly on behalf of children in need until her death at age 96." If you are interested to learn more about Harry and Bertha, CLICK HERE to go to the Holt website has some great information as well as videos that were created in tribute to the work they began 50+ years ago.

Harry Holt on the floor feeding one of his adopted children from Korea.

Bertha "Grandma" Holt at 80 years old.

Harry and Bertha Holt arriving home from Korea in 1956 with their eight adopted children



We are very excited to be working with Holt during this process, and if you found this blog randomly because you are searching for information about adopting from Ethiopia and want to hear more about our experience, please feel free to leave a comment with your email address and I would be happy to share more with you! :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why Ethiopia?

I could talk your ear off with the "long version" about how we finally decided to adopt from Ethiopia, but in a nutshell, here it is...

We initially looked into adopting a child through the AZ foster care system, but realized from the orientation meeting that we attended, that most of the children in the system are older children. If you know us, you know we don't have any opposition to older children, after all... you have a former middle school teacher and youth pastor here! But, we did feel that we wanted Eli to have siblings close in age to him, while maintaining the birth order with him being the oldest child. We also felt that it would be very tough on a young child to experience the "loss" that can occur with fostering children and have the children leave your home. We believe that foster care does have a place in our lives though, and might be something we explore again down the road...

So, in order to adopt a young child (we are thinking 0-24 months) that pretty much left us looking toward the international arena. We soon felt a peace that although this route was filled with uncertainty, this is what God had called us to. We also felt that He was calling us to go to the place of greatest need. Not all countries are even open for international adoption, but after doing some research of ones that are, here are some statistics we learned about:
  • There are close to 133 million orphans in the world today (some studies put that number as high as 200 million)
  • Approximately 1/3 of the world's orphans live in Africa
  • 15.2 million children in the world have lost one or both parents to AIDS (12 million of those children are in Africa - estimates predict this number will rise to 20 million in Africa by 2010)
  • 4.3 million orphans reside in Ethiopia alone.
The bottom line is that there is a need for adoptive parents in all countries, but Ethiopia is somewhat unique in that there are more orphaned children there, than there are people willing/able to adopt them.

We know that our God is a God of the world, and although adopting from Ethiopia would require us to cross country, cultural, and racial lines, the children there belong to God - they are orphans that he loves and cares about, and they need forever families. International adoption is not the best answer for all of those children, but for many it is, and we want to be available to provide a loving home and family for a child who needs one. We also know, that this child will bless and enrich our lives in more ways than we can possibly imagine right now.

If you'd like, click here to watch a video from our agency to learn a little bit more about their program in Ethiopia.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Accepted!

Yesterday we received our official "welcome email" from Stephanie, the Ethiopia program assistant for Holt International. Yeah! We're still waiting on the welcome packet to arrive in the mail, but in the meantime she emailed us information about the things we need to start collecting for our dossier. "Dossier" is a new vocabulary word I have acquired in the last few months, and every international adoptive parent knows this word :) It's basically your life on paper... to put it simply. It's pretty overwhelming the number of documents that need to be collected, certified, notarized, etc. for the dossier. The process of collecting all of these documents generally takes people 3-5 months. The dossier is what eventually gets translated and submitted to the courts in Ethiopia to approve us for adopting a child from there. Anyway, more on the process later, but in the meantime we are glad to be approved :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Divine Intervention


It's funny how God works sometimes. We have already seen His hand at work in so many ways, leading and guiding us in these initial stages of adopting. When we first began talking about adopting, we were strongly leaning toward foster care and domestic adoption. But, as we continued to pray and seek the Lord, we found ourselves drawn to international adoption... an idea we had initially tossed out because it seemed unattainable.

Soon after making the decision to adopt internationally, we prayed about what country and although we first looked into China, the Lord closed some doors and led us to Ethiopia... again, an idea we had initially dismissed.

Following this, we thought we had chosen the agency we wanted to use. Everything seemed right about it and we filled out the application. However, I left it sitting out and to my dismay Eli colored all over the entire thing, so I had to request a new one. Upon receipt of the new one, I noticed something I hadn't really noticed before when filling it out... and God closed another door.

As we began searching again for a new agency, I started battling some health problems. Well, the problems could possibly have been "major," and so this pretty much halted the process of applying because a clean bill of health is ultimately required when adopting internationally. I went through a series of tests that created long periods of "waiting"... waiting for results, waiting for the next test, waiting for results, etc. But, the waiting period, although very hard at the time, proved to be all a part of God's plan because it allowed us more time to research agencies and find one that appears to be a perfect fit for us (more on why later). In the end, everything with my health turned out to be okay (Praise God!), but we are now a couple months later in submitting the application than we initially planned. Are we truly "late" though? I'm sure not. We know God has already chosen the child that will be joining our family, and we trust that the date we sent in our application was done in God's perfect timing.

We are reminded that when God calls us to do something, we have to trust the HE will make a way. Right now we look at the process ahead of us and know that if we factor God out of the equation, we will not be able to complete what we've started. Our pastor posed a question during one of his sermons, asking something along the lines of... Are you currently doing anything in your life right now that requires you to fully trust in God for it to succeed? As I thought about that, I could honestly say that I wasn't. I mean, I trust God from day to day, but if I weren't trusting him, I could probably make it through my day to day tasks relying on myself. I realized that for us, adoption was that thing... that thing that we would not work out for us without the hand of God coming through in a major way. It was also what God has called us to do, and to walk away from it would be to miss out on His blessing and allowing Him to use our family in ways that we can't even begin to imagine yet.

There were many reasons to waver back and forth about whether or not to pursue this, and still many doubts that creep up about how this will possibly all work out, but ultimately we serve a God that is bigger than all of that. We serve a God whom we believe has called us to trust him and take a leap of faith to make a difference in the life of a child. Not saying it will be easy, but we know that He will make a way.

So what are YOU doing that truly requires you to be trusting in God for it to succeed? What would you do if you knew you could trust God with anything and it would not fail? How BIG is your God? Interesting questions to ponder... right? :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Step 1: Send Application.... Check!

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and blameless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

For those of you who have kept up with my other blog (Hutchison Happenings), you may remember a couple of posts within the last six months (Beginning a Journey and Adoption Update) where I discussed our family's thoughts on beginning the adoption journey. Well, we're happy to announce that it's now "official" and we have taken the first step toward bringing home our child by sending in our application to the Holt International Ethiopia program (Eli assisted by holding the important document in his car seat on the way to the UPS store). :) We eagerly await our "acceptance" call/letter from Holt so that we can take the next steps and continue moving forward. I have spoken with other adoptive parents, read many blogs, joined online adoption groups, etc., etc., to start learning as much as possible about what is to come. The scary thing about international adoption is that you never can predict what might happen... every situation is unique, multiple government agencies are involved in both countries, timelines are always changing, and basically there are just a lot of unknowns throughout the process. We anticipate many emotional ups and downs throughout the process, and covet your prayers. We hope you'll bookmark our blog to your favorites and check back often for updates... we invite you to come along on our journey!