Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Adoption Process Thus Far

Once Donny and I decided it was time for our family to pursue an international adoption, we spent the next month making two decisions: 

1. What country?
2. What agency?

After much prayer, seeking advice, and just trusting our gut with a few things, we decided to adopt from Ethiopia with Lifeline Children's Services. On July 11, 2012, we sent in our application to Lifeline. 

As a fun aside - On July 12, 2012 (the day after we sent in our application), Asher Noll came home from Ethiopia to his family, our good friends, the Nolls. Although we were in New Jersey and Asher was coming home to Florida, I rejoiced in a new way with them as we celebrated but also longed for the day when a homecoming from Ethiopia would be part of our family's story too.

When we applied, Lifeline was saying that the current wait time for applicants was 15-18 months to complete an adoption. After being in the process just a few months, we quickly learned that we will be waiting much longer. Our agency had a boom of applicants in 2012, and with that will come a longer wait than initially anticipated. We still clearly feel the Lord led us to Lifeline, but we anticipate the wait to be much, much longer. As I was freaking out about the length of the wait, Donny shared perspective that will forever change how I view adoption: I cannot approach this as a consumer. I am not purchasing a product or weighing the pros and cons of a car purchase. God has called us to adoption. We are following that call, and we need to trust the Lord to lead us to our child in his perfect timing and in his perfect way. Where he leads me, I will follow. I'll go with him, with him all the way.

Since Lifeline does not have an agency office in New Jersey, we began the process of finding a home study agent licensed in our state. You know, where a social worker has to examine your history, your family, your biology, your money, your home, and much more to determine if you can be a parent. I still think that's funny. I am all for thorough processes to protect children. Truly, I am...but I think it's funny that we had to go through a three month, $1700+ process for New Jersey to determine if we were suitable parents. 

On October 5, we told Hunter, Millie and Will that we were adopting from Ethiopia. While I can't remember all of the details, there was much excitement. Millie wants a girl and her first question was where the new child will sleep. Since we moved to New Jersey, she and Hunter are no longer sharing a room. She misses sharing a room, so she is dreaming of a sister with whom she can share a room. Since we have had a few friends adopt recently, our kids were excited and felt (as we do) that this is a natural thing. We celebrated the news with frozen yogurt.

Fun at Strawberry Fields celebrating the news of the newest Friederichsen on the way!

One thing I did not anticipate was their questions about how old the child would be. We are approved for a child from birth to six years old. It's a wide age range, and we kept it wide to keep our options open. We don't feel led to a certain age, so who knows what God has in store? We have made the choice of birth - 6 years to account for the fact that by the time we bring a child home, Millie would already be 6. There are a few opinions in adoption land about whether to disrupt our children's birth order with the age of an adopted child. Some agencies won't let you adopt out of birth order. Our agency leaves the decision up to the families, and we decided that we would like to leave Hunter and Millie as number 1 and 2 in birth order, but we do not mind having a disruption between Millie and Will. We also don't mind having a child close in age to Millie. So we are approved for a boy or girl ages birth to 6. That wide of a range left for some interesting conversations with Hunter and Millie, because it's hard enough to wonder if you are having a boy or girl. Now we wonder if we will have a baby, toddler, or big kid. Only the Lord knows, but it has been fun dreaming through each scenario with the kids.

We had to wait for a looooong time to begin our home study meetings. We applied with the home study agency on July 23 and didn't have our first meeting until September 20. Thankfully once the home study meetings began, our home study was completed in just over a month. We were certainly glad to get a big part of the adoption paperwork finished.

On October 24, we sent in our home study to the United States Child and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for, as we have told the kids, "the US government to say that we can adopt a kid." We have to get a letter with that approval before we can send our paperwork to Ethiopia and officially be a "waiting family" with our agency. USCIS is currently running a 45 day wait for that approval. We sent in our application on October 24 and have already been fingerprinted for it (ahead of schedule...thank you, Lord!!!). Our dossier of oodles and oodles of signed and notarized documents is in the hands of our agency in Louisville. We are missing three things at this point: a letter from our bank (which is in the mail to Louisville), Donny's birth certificate (which is in the mail to Louisville) and our USCIS approval letter (Who knows??? Hopefully will come soon). Once all of those documents land in Louisville, they will send our dossier of paperwork on a 4 week trek to Ethiopia. Once it arrives, we begin the wait to be matched with our child. We are hoping to receive our USCIS approval very, very soon. Considering we sent it in on October 24 and today is Nov. 19, I hope we will crush the 45 day estimated wait for the approval letter. I'm sure I'll let you know. :)

That's where we are. That's the long and short of it. Long to you but just a drop in the bucket to me. The Lord has been so good to sustain us in this process so far, and we trust him to do so throughout as we wait for our child. 

The contents of our dossier - a.k.a. the first thing I thought of protecting when Hurricane Sandy was coming. 

Up until the hurricane, I had most of our papers lying freely on a table waiting for me to put them in a safer place. Once the storm was on its way, all my papers went into individual plastic page protectors and then in a notebook placed in a plastic bin. Nothing was going to destroy our dossier. :)

November 14, 2012 - The day I let all the papers go.

We sent our dossier of paperwork to our agency in Louisville before leaving for Thanksgiving vacation. Sending off all of those papers was one of the hardest and most exhilarating things I have done. Soooo glad to almost be done with this part of the paper trail.

Now we wait (big shocker). Next step, USCIS approval and then waiting for our dossier to arrive in Ethiopia.

Everyday a little closer to our little one...

Monday, November 19, 2012

All I Want for Christmas...

One thing on my Christmas list this year. Only one thing:

For our dosser to land in Ethiopia

Yep, you read it. Dossier. Ethiopia. 

We. Are. Adopting.

And we couldn't be more excited. 

The Lord put adoption in Donny's heart early in our marriage. He mentioned it periodically. Enough to keep it in my mind but not too often to overwhelm me. And along I came. During our transition from seminary to our church in New Jersey, I had this feeling that our family was not fully complete, but I didn't feel the strong need/desire to have any more biological children. Thus the Lord kindly aligned my desire with my husband's and in June of this year, we sat down and decided to adopt internationally. Over chinese food. In our dining room. 

Nothing too magical happened. No smoke and lights or shooting stars from the sky. I will say that the Lord greatly used this article from a woman name Jen Hatmaker (who I seldom read but hear is great) as the tipping point for me. On June 5, 2012, after reading that blog post, I sent Donny a message on Facebook while he was at work that read:

I'm a little hormonal this morning, but I think we need to adopt.

We decided to go out on June 8 for a date to discuss things further. Our babysitters cancelled last minute, so we ordered Chinese in. As we started talking, Donny told me that if he had responded to my facebook post right away, he would have written: "OK," but he thought that might be a little too abrupt. I love that the Lord gave us such oneness at the right time. There was nothing to discuss in terms of the actual decision. The Lord was clearly leading us on a path to adopt, and we were ready to follow.

This pretty well sums up how I feel right now...

More to come...