Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting [Im]patiently

"So are you still adopting?" We get that question a lot in regards to our Ethiopian adoption. We understand, though. It seems like we've been waiting FOREVER. Believe me, we feel each day pass, and we have ever since we started the process in March of 2013. We ARE still in the adoption process, and we will keep waiting...and waiting...and waiting. 

We recently found out that things are slowing down in Ethiopia...again. Estimated wait times for adoption from Ethiopia (for a healthy child between 0 and 3, with our agency) are now 36-48 months once paperwork arrives in country. (Our paperwork has already been there for 22 months.) There are several reasons this slow-down is happening:

1. The PAIR process, which began in 2013 to ensure ethical adoption practices, has added several steps to an already lengthy adoption process. There are a limited number of officials who can carry out and process this paperwork. Paperwork is also scrutinized and simple clerical errors (such as spelling errors) could cause paperwork to be rejected and the need to start completely over. Initially, it was hoped that the PAIR process would streamline and speed up the adoption process. Instead, it has sort of bottlenecked the process. 

2. The PAIR process requires the country to prove orphan status of a child. This is wonderful because it protects against human trafficing, stolen children, and biological parents who don't really understand the terms of adoption. However, this makes things extremely difficult when a child has been abandoned. There is no one to relinquish rights of the child. There is no one who knows the child's story. This makes proving orphan status difficult. Ads about the child have to be placed in newspapers several times in several places before anything can move forward. Typically, no one comes forward with the child's story because abandoning a child has severe legal consequences. The next step is to launch an investigation and oftentimes, these cases are not resolved, leaving an orphan stuck because they cannot prove orphan status. 

3. Government officials in some areas of Ethiopia are refusing to sign final documents to complete international adoptions. Some officials believe that the country needs to preserve Ethiopian culture by pushing for domestic adoption in Ethiopia. I love all forms of adoption, and I would love it if Ethiopian children could remain in Ethiopia, but the country does not have adequate funds or resources to rely solely on domestic adoption to solve the orphan crisis. Because of the refusal to sign documents, adoption agencies are forced to work in other areas of Ethiopia, which limits the number of orphanages they can work with successfully. 

4. International adoption is a lengthy process with several hoops to jump through and red tape to overcome. Combine that fact with the fact that Ethiopia runs on "Africa Time," and the result is an even longer wait. Government offices shut down several times a year for  holidays, the rainy season, etc. It is also perfectly acceptable in Ethiopia for paperwork to remain on desks for months at a time awaiting a single signature. 

Because of these issues, several adoption agencies have closed their Ethiopia adoption programs. Ethiopia is an expensive country to operate in, and the added wait times and added steps make it even more expensive. We are thankful to be working with an agency that is committed to staying on the ground and working in Ethiopia when so many others have pulled out.

The orphan crisis in Ethiopia is greater than ever. Agencies have closed their doors, officials refuse to sign paperwork, and people don't want to wait 3 to 4 years and pay thousands more dollars to adopt a child. Many people at our agency are transferring to other country programs. The effects of these things are millions of children who are stuck, without hope, without the love of a family. 

We firmly believe that we have a son in Ethiopia, and we will continue to wait and hope and pray, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many hoops we have to jump through. God puts families together, and he is still working on our family.

Pray with us. 

On a more positive note, last night we were able to celebrate Ethiopian New Year (a day early) with some dear friends who are also waiting to bring their son home from Ethiopia. We have been amazed at the number of people God has brought into our paths who are traveling/have already traveled the same journey. I tried my hand at Ethiopian cuisine for the first time, and it was delicious: doro wat (spicy chicken stew), kik alicha (split-pea stew), and injera (pancake-like bread used to eat with instead of utensils). Our house still smells like Ethiopian food this morning, but it was definitely worth it! Someday we will be able to celebrate the holiday with our son. Until then, we will celebrate in honor of him. Happy New Year! It is now officially the year 2008 in Ethiopia. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Quiet

Have you heard anything about your adoption? When will you get your little boy? Why does it take so long?

We hear these questions almost daily. We really wish we knew the answers to these questions. Heck, if someone could answer those questions for us, I'd throw a few more their way - like: What size clothing (or diapers!) should I stock up on? How long do we have to convert the basement into a guest room? What will it be like in our house when the adult:child ratio is equal? Or most importantly: When can I get my arms around that little boy?!

All we can tell you is the way our agency works and the estimated wait times (36-48 months) they are giving for families in their Ethiopia Adoption Program. Each agency is different. Each program is different. Each country is different. 

Our agency does all the groundwork to ensure orphan status before referring a child. They launch a full investigation for each child and attempt reunification of biological families first. That means that once we are matched with our son, we can be confident that he truly needs a family, that there are no loose ends, and that he will be cleared for immigration. Because of this, there is more initial, up front, SILENT waiting for us. However, once we find out who our son is and we accept our referral, we are submitted to court in Ethiopia and get to travel as soon as our court date is scheduled. We will get updates about him at that point, and we will (hopefully) be able to travel to Ethiopia within 6 to 8 weeks of seeing his photo for the first time. This is not the way all agencies or programs or countries operate. Some people are matched with their child very quickly but then have to wait longer periods of time for clearances and additional paperwork. Some people know who their child is for months...or even years...but they are not able to bring him/her home yet. 

There are pros and cons to the way all agencies do things. While it is difficult to wait years without knowing who we are waiting for, I truly believe it is better for my heart and soul. Seeing time pass, watching months go by, knowing our son is still in an orphanage would be difficult for me, as I'm sure it is for anyone in that situation. I know deep down that our son (whoever he is) is getting older each month and we are most likely missing those precious milestones that we've been able to experience with our daughter, but our waiting feels different somehow. We still long for him. We still love him. But the waiting and passing of time doesn't seem quite as heavy.

Some agencies also tell you your spot on The List. For example, some people might know that they are number 5 on the list to be matched with a boy. Their agency updates them each time their position changes, which happens intermittently and may take months to move one spot. But, at least they have an answer that satisfies those question-askers more than our typical, "Well, we're not sure, but we are praying we meet him this year." You see, our agency is not one of those agencies that tell you that piece of information. Sometimes I wish I knew our place in line, but I'm not sure that would be good for my anxious, (sometimes obsessive), sensitive personality either. God set our course the way it is for a reason, and we will continue trusting him through the silence, through the waiting, and through the longing. 

Although it's "quiet," there are still things that go on to keep an adoption in process. As of recently, all of our adoption paperwork is updated again...for now. Each year we have to do a Home Study Update which includes: new physicals, new employment letters, new financial forms, an updated autobiography, our signature on a stack of papers, new background checks, and a meeting with our social worker. This year, though, there was a little more involved since we have a new person living in our house (our precious daughter, Eliza).

Side note- Did you know that your fingerprints can expire? Well, they can and they do...every year. I just wanted to warn you. I didn't want you walking around, being all attached to your fingerprints when they could just expire without warning. Okay, technically that's not true. I get a warning e-mail 6 months, 3 months, and 1 month before they expire so I can't really forget about mine. Don't you wish you were so lucky? Good news: we renewed our fingerprints for the year too. 

We just finished everything we needed to acquire our new I-171H. This is the paper that allows our son to immigrate into the United States. It expires every year and a half, and it requires completion of the things previously mentioned to obtain it. We are hoping that we do not have to update it that would mean ANOTHER year and a half will have passed without our son. (Also, this update was free...sort of like a BOGO thing they have going on...but the next one will be costly again.)

We just want to thank everyone who continues to pray for our process and for our son, even when it's quiet. Thank you to everyone who contines to ask about him, even though we don't have answers. Thank you to everyone who continues to encourage us, even when we appear patient. It means more than you know. We are praying that we will at least know who our son is in 2015 and hopefully travel to Ethiopia in 2016. BUT if God wants to move mountains (of red tape), we would happily embrace it all as soon as possible. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Now that our baby girl is 6 months old (WOW- time sure does fly), we now have the ability to actually get a referral for our son in Ethiopia. Our agency requires a 6 month difference between bringing children into your home. (Now that we've made it through E's first 6 months of life...and although we have loved every chaotic minute of it...we completely understand that requirement!) So now, we have the "green light," but unfortunately, there appears to be a traffic jam caused by ever changing laws and red tape. Don't get me wrong, some of these thing are good things, protective things, necessary things. But, they are also wait-time inducing things. When we started the adoption process, estimated wait times were at 18-24 months. Now, just 2 years later, estimated wait times are 36-48 months. So I guess we could describe this time period as more of a "yellow light" phase...or maybe a "yield sign" phase? Eh, basically, we know that we are in the correct lane, inching in the right direction, and that we will get to go at some point. (Thanks for putting up with my cheesy analogies, folks.)

In just a couple of weeks, it will be two years since we started the adoption process. Two years. We are so thankful for those of you who have been faithfully praying for our son over the last two years. 

OUR SON- I think sometimes we confuse people when we call him 'our son.' We don't actually know who he is yet. That is what we are waiting for: our referral. That is our next step- receiving the precious packet of information that will tell us who our son is, how old he is, his medical status, and give us the first glimpse of our expanding family. Once we receive this information, we will be submitted to court in Ethiopia and prepare for our first of two trips to the country. 

OUR SON- No, we don't know who he is or how old he is or where he is or if he's even been born...but we believe that God knows these things and that He is orchestrating it all for His good, His glory, His perfect timing. We believe that we do have a son living (or soon to be living) in Ethiopia. We will continue praying for our son and working to bring him home, no matter how long the process takes. 

Recently, several adoption agencies pulled out of Ethiopia completely or are now only referring children with special needs. This is due to an increase in adoption wait times and the increasing costs of operating in Ethiopia. We are thankful for an adoption agency who is committed to staying on the ground and serving in Ethiopia. We are thankful for an agency with a large presence and network in Ethiopia. We are thankful that we can continue working and waiting for our son. We pray that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. 

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:14

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Year Ago

One year ago, Marcus and I stuffed 1.5 pounds of paper, 8 months worth of work, and our dreams of expanding our family into an envelope and sent it across the ocean to Ethiopia. Our dossier has been there for a year now, meaning that we have been on the official waiting list for one year. We are still waiting to be matched with our son, a little boy between 0 and 3 years old.

One year ago, we went to celebrate "Officially Waiting" at the Blue Nile Ethiopian Cafe. This past weekend, we went back there with our church small group to celebrate our one year "Wait-aversary." As things continue to move slowly in Ethiopia, we wonder how many more years we will have to go back to that little cafe without our son. Looking at current trends and estimated wait times, it appears that we could celebrate 1 to 2 more anniversaries of "officially waiting" for him. We have no doubt, though, that it will be worth the wait. 

One year ago, God answered our prayers to expand our family with two kinds of hope: the hope of bringing our son home from Ethiopia and the hope of meeting another child - the one that caused those two pink lines to appear on the same day that our paperwork arrived in Ethiopia. We are so thankful for our baby girl, and we are thankful for the hope we still have of meeting our son someday. God brought our daughter into our lives at the perfect time. (Go figure, God's timing is perfect.) Per adoption requirements, we know that we cannot be matched with a child in Ethiopia until after the end of February, when our daughter is 6 months old. Looking at estimated wait times, we wouldn't have been matched before then anyway. So really, it changes nothing about our adoption process...except for the fact that he will have 1 more family member to love on him when he arrives. 

Last week, we heard rumors (for the second time this year) of Ethiopia threatening to close its doors to adoption. Thankfully, this time, they proved not to be true. It is our prayer that Ethiopia will remain open to international adoption for the next several years. We continue to pray that our adoption will progress quickly and that someday soon we will be able to meet our son. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Waiting on Him

She's here! Eliza Mae was born on August 21, weighing 6 pounds 15 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long. She is 2 weeks old today! Marcus and I are overwhelmed with love for this tiny little person. We had been waiting on her for 40 weeks and 2 days. We watched my belly grow as she grew. We saw her wiggle and move within me. We saw photographs and videos of her throughout those weeks. We had an estimated date to look forward to, to count down to, and now she's here! Pure love.

We are so excited and happy to welcome her into our lives, but we are still waiting on one more family member. We are still prayerfully awaiting the arrival of our son. However, adoption is different. There are no real signs of growth or development that I can actually watch. There are no photos yet or due dates to estimate arrival. There is just a stack of paperwork in Ethiopia and a timer, counting up the number of days we have been waiting. (Our paperwork has been in Ethiopia for 279 days now!) After my 37th week of pregnancy, I felt like our baby girl would NEVER arrive! I joked that she would most likely graduate high school within my womb, but deep down I knew that we had, at most, 4 more weeks until we met her. Oh how I'd love to know how many weeks or months or years it will be until we meet our son.

How I long to hold him like I hold her. I long to tuck him in at night. I want so badly to make sure he's taken care of, and I desperately want him to know that he is loved. That he has been loved and wanted for 17 months now, which may even be longer than he's been on this earth. 

Unfortunately, expected wait times for referrals (when we are matched with a child) keep increasing. When we started this process, estimated wait times for a healthy infant or toddler was at 24 months (once paperwork arrived in Ethiopia). We have seen that wait time steadily increase over the last year and a half. Current estimated wait times are now at 36-42 months. Part of the increase in wait time is due to a relatively new adoption policy called the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process, which went into effect about a year ago. 

The PAIR process is good in that it protects adoptive parents and children. This process determines eligibility for adoption (declares orphan status of a child after a full investigation) and ensures approval for immigration before an adoption is finalized. What it really means is that a child you have adopted: 1. actually needs a family, and 2. he or she will not be stuck in their country due to an inability to immigrate into the United States. There are heartbreaking stories of children who have been legally adopted, but who are unable to live with their new families due to issues surrounding these things. While I wholeheartedly agree with these precautions, the PAIR process is somewhat difficult for me in that it adds extra paperwork and extra time to an already lengthy adoption process. We have heard that there are only 4 ladies in the country of Ethiopia who process these forms for the PAIR process. As you can imagine, paperwork is backing up, causing increased adoption timeframes. I know, I know: patience. This process is a step in the right direction to help ensure more ethical adoptions in Ethiopia. 

Marcus and I find hope in knowing that we are not really waiting for an estimated wait time to pass or a person to process paperwork. Ultimately, we are waiting on The Lord and on His perfect timing. He already knows when things will be set into place, as it has already been prepared beforehand. He even knows the number of hairs on our son's head. (Luke 12:7). Thankfully, our son's days, like our days, were formed before he was even born:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

We continue to trust in Him to continue to bring our family together. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Sister

It's a girl....and a boy! We are looking forward to welcoming our baby girl, Eliza, into the world in August! We are also looking forward to welcoming our little boy into our lives someday soon as well.

Because a six month difference is required between the time both children enter our home, we know that we cannot possibly receive a referral from Ethiopia until at least February 2015. Our baby girl will be here in 12 weeks! She will be six months old in February. 

Based on estimated wait times for our adoption, February would still be early for us to receive a referral for our son. By then, our paperwork will have been in Ethiopia for 15 months. We were given an estimation of 24-30 months once our paperwork arrived, but we know God is not restrained by time.  We also know that He could have a longer wait time in store for us. By February 2015, it will be two years since we began our adoption journey and since we began praying for our little boy. We will continue waiting and praying until God orchestrates the events that will allow us to bring him home.

As I stare at my ever-expanding belly, I can't help but think about our son. Because we have requested a boy between 0 and 3 years old, it is impossible to know many details at this point. Is someone else's belling growing with him right now too? Maybe. Has he already been born? Maybe. When we pray for him, are we really praying for a man and a woman who have not met yet? Maybe. As I feel baby girl's little kicks, I can't help but wonder: Will she have a protective older brother? Or will she be a loving big sister? Will our children end up being in the same grade?

We are looking forward to the day when these questions will be answered, as we know that God already has it prepared for us. We absolutely cannot wait to see how He works it all out! We thank Him for these blessings, and we continue to pray for our son and our daughter.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happy Anniversary

It has been 1 year since Marcus and I signed our contract with the Ethiopian adoption program and mailed our first payment to our agency. At that time (and still now, at times), I was convinced that we were a little crazy. We did not have money in the bank to fund this adoption....who am I kidding, we didn't even have a house of our own! We had been married for 1 year and 9 months, and we had moved to a new city only 6 months before. Yet, we still felt like God was telling us that it was the right time to start our adoption journey. We still firmly believe that God has laid adoption on our hearts. 

Throughout the last year, we have seen God do some amazing things. We were able to purchased a house. By God's grace, we have had enough money in the bank to make every single adoption payment. We made it through the mountain of paperwork and home study visits, even while moving into a new home. During this last year, our Dossier made it across the ocean and into the hands of coordinators IN Ethiopia, putting us on the official waiting list! (We have now been officially waiting for 113 days!) We prayed fervently for months when Ethiopia threatened to shut down international adoption, and we rejoiced when the country decided to remain open to international adoption. We have seen hundreds of people rally around us with support and prayer. (Thank you so much. It means more than you will ever know.) So many others have decided to encourage us or share personal stories about how adoption has impacted their lives. In the last year, we have prayed for and fallen in love with a little boy that we have never met, never seen...who may not even be born yet! We have also fallen more in love with our Savior as we have seen and experienced the parallel between earthly adoption and heavenly adoption.

Throughout everything, we never doubted God, but we also know that we don't deserve everything that He has poured out on us over the last year, and we are truly grateful. This last year has not been easy, but it has been worth it. During the last year, our Faith and Trust has grown immensely as we continue to realize that nothing, including this adoption, is within our control. All we can do is give it to God and know that He will bring our son home in His perfect timing, if it is His will. We know that, no matter what, this journey has already been amazing, and it is one that we were meant to take. Here we are, 1 year later, with another baby on the way, and we are still so sure that this is how God has led us to build our family. We know we have many months left in this journey, but we cannot wait to see how He leads and provides in this next year. Maybe this will be the year that we will meet our son!