Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekend of reminders and perspectives...

Sometimes in the adoption process you have highs and lows of times when it's all you think about and you're on fire for your cause.  You feel God all around you and you get everything done related to it in record time.  Then you go through periods where although your heart is 100% committed you feel so far from the track you were on before.  Paperwork gets pushed aside because you see no rush in it, you haven't seen your child's face yet and you know how slow things are moving and fundraising comes to a halt because let's face it, it's exhausting and humbling and although you know it has to be done you'd rather just take a break from posting on Facebook, your blog, and sending mass emails about yet another option to donate or buy something in support of your adoption.  Now add to the fact that this is not your first adoption, you start to become even more exhausted because you feel like you've been pleading the case of your unknown future child to everyone you know forever and they're all probably a little bit tired of hearing about it.  That is kind of where I have been in the last month, with news of our agency closing, our loss of money due to that closing, our updated paperwork that needs to be done and the new fees that need to be handed in with the new paperwork, it is just overwhelming and more so emotionally than physically. 

When I say paperwork I don't mean just a bunch of papers that I can fill out, get notarized and mail off, oh no, that would be cake.  I mean some papers that need to be taken to another person to have re-written on their time and signed and notarized by someone whose notary doesn't expire within 1 year, then some other papers that need to be signed, notarized and sent off to the state for certification and then upon return of said documents, placed with others to be sent off to another state to be authenticated and making sure a few of these documents are signed and dated lastly before sending off.  That is the adoption dossier paperwork, the papers that will be sent to Ethiopia eventually that show that we are an acceptable family to adopt one of their children.  Then there is more paperwork.  Because we are not independently wealthy and don't have $35,000 just hanging out in a bank account, we have lots of options for grants but that also requires more paperwork, some online applications followed by a small booklet of essay questions about our faith, reasoning for adoption and life story as well as all the financial information anyone would ever need to know about us.  This is a lot of work but it has to be done.

This weekend we hosted His Little Feet and got to be at 2 of their shows in which we watched a powerful video (not available on YouTube yet), heard children's testimonies, listened to their sweet voices sing of their love for God and His love for all of us, hear stories of lives changed by sponsorship and were blessed to be a host home for 2 of the HLF children.  After walking away from those concerts I had a new feeling of remembering why we are adopting and why we need to press on and not be overwhelmed by it all.  It is a lot of work, stress and is emotionally draining but is it harder than anything these children we are fighting for have went through?  I may be stressed with paperwork but I know I will not be hungry, I know I have a warm house, a family, a job, a car, get to go to church weekly and can pretty much get anything we need and not worry that we'll go without.  I am not a mom living in an impoverished country having to leave my small kids behind to find work that barely makes enough to feed them or make a decision to give my child up to ensure they will live.  I am not worried that if my children get sick I will have nowhere to take them to get help and I know they will be clothed and have a chance to go to school and get educated.  When I put all things into perspective my little stack of paperwork and "to-do's" is not all that bad and I should have no excuse for getting off track because things are not just perfectly falling into place. 

My focus is on the fact that somewhere in Ethiopia, there is a little girl who has lost her mom and dad, maybe to death, abandonment, illness or poverty, but lost to something.  She is scared and sad because her life is not what it was, her life as she knew it has been changed and she is living with people who are not likely her family.  She may be in an orphanage with 20 other kids, wearing communal clothes, going to bed with a blanket pulled over her head to try to feel security of some sort and wondering if she will ever get to be a part of a family again and who will they be, where will she go and is it up to her?  This breaks my heart and because I have gotten the chance to talk to my own son who was once in "her" position less than 2 years ago I have heard first-hand about how all of these things are realities of orphaned children.  After the His Little Feet concert he told me he wanted to help raise money for children and wanted to help children and asked how he could.  I explained many ways and when he picked up a Compassion sponsorship envelope with a 10 yr old boy from Peru and asked if we could sponsor him I said yes very quickly.  We already sponsor another little boy from Uganda through a different organization and Jalen picked him out a few years back before Fetinet came home so this child from Peru is going to be sponsored because Fetinet chose him.  I explained to him that sponsoring a child or helping a child is a good thing and even though it might only help just one, that "one" matters to which Fetinet replied "like me, I was one child who needed adopted", I held back tears and gave him a hug and said "yes, sweetheart, just like you!". 

If you are an adopting family, I hope this has helped in some way to encourage you to keep on and don't lose sight of why you are on this journey.  If you aren't adopting but know an adopting family, please encourage them and let them know you care about their cause, their adoption, their children because I will guarantee they don't get it enough and the littlest reminder can give them hope for a while.  We have recently been gifted sweet notes of encouragement, some with donations and some without, by friends and family and I can't say enough what that does in my heart.  My prayer of late is God do not let me forget this, give me the strength to keep pushing forward and keep our little girl's image in my mind at all times and not grow weary because of worldly stresses and other's opinions and keep my focus on you.  We are running a half marathon in 2 weeks and may we keep remembering what is on the back of our shirts as we run the race.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

2 Week's Worth of Prayers....What's been going on around here

Well, where do we even begin.  Ok, deep breath in, sit down because A LOT has been going on and as of today we feel that we have enough information that we can finally share the news as well as need your prayers more than ever!  Also I know this is long but please read it through because I know there will be a lot of questions and I want to answer them all but am so mentally exhausted right now and have been on the phone almost continuously since Feb 28th, so I need to get it out on paper and let my mouth and brain rest.

So around Feb 1st, we were a family in the process of adopting from Ethiopia through an agency called Adoption Advocates International (AAI).  An agency we felt great about because they had great reviews and a long history of good adoptions.  Every agency has their issues and that’s just a fact, just like our own DHS and foster system in the US is not always going to be right on top of things or always make the best decisions.  The fact is children need moms and dads but in order to attempt to be ethical about placing these children, a lot has to be done and many have to be paid.  Social workers, government agencies, case workers, anyone who is working must be paid and when you adopt out of country you also pay for the people who are caring for the children there.  Whether you adopt locally, from Africa, China, Haiti or anywhere there is never a guarantee.  The country may shut down, sadly the child you are adopting may pass away while you wait, the agency may shut down, the child’s situation may change and they may become unadoptable and many other complications may arise that are just plain and simply out of your control.  The thing of it is, this makes so many people turn away from adoption because of the unknowns, the money, and did I mention the unknowns?  Sadly, although we may be more comfortable sometimes and decide not to step out in faith, when it comes to saying yes to adoption, the children still wait if we back down.  Children, waiting, without a family, in an orphanage…BREAKS MY HEART and I will do whatever I can to help, even if it is helping one, that “one” matters and if we all could just help one there would be no more orphans!

Ok, so I digress a little…back to the news.  In the beginning of February we contacted our agency to see what our balance was so we would know exactly how much more we needed to send in for the next step.  That phone call basically ended in our family being faced with a heart-breaking decision of staying with Ethiopia after we had been told that it probably wouldn’t happen for us or switching to a more stable country within the agency, China.  I prayed and cried and prayed and cried and talked to the boys and a few friends and just felt awful but finally came to a conclusion. We were being told there was a need in China and kids waiting now and in their Ethiopia program, no kids waiting that would meet our approved parameters and likely wouldn’t be for a long time.  We decided that we started this process to be a family to a child in need and although our vision was that our child was in Ethiopia, we were kind of seeing doors close.  We didn’t even think we could adopt from China because of some of their requirements but we were being told we in fact could and we met those requirements.  So although we started preparing some papers, getting our homestay update ready, getting additional state background checks done and all the China needs in place, we never officially changed to China.  Our Ethiopian dossier still sat at AAI and our USCIS clearance was still for Ethiopia…the 2 big pieces to an international adoption.

On February 28th, our hearts started to feel some pain.  We got word from another AAI family that our agency was closing their Ethiopian program due to financial issues.  Since there has been slowing in the country, many agencies are feeling the burdens but many are open and running just fine with a few cut backs in place where some are having to close due to it not bringing in enough money to pay the bills.  I will leave out all the details for now but just know many people were and still are in shock, as some are still just finding out this news. Over the weekend there were many conversations on our private Facebook groups over what was going on and my stomach was in knots because there was talk that the whole agency was in financial troubles and that it may mean closures for all the programs.  Being that it was the weekend there was no definite answers and no way to have any peace about anything.  Then last week came and every day I spoke to many people, people from AAI, people from other agencies, more families through AAI, our social worker, our home study facilitating agency and I’m sure others.  I found out that if AAI closed completely, there would be a backup agency to direct the China families to and I spoke to that agency.  I also called the agency we worked through for Fetinet’s adoption and another reputable agency and found out that to all other agency standards we would not be approved to adopt from China due to the one requirement we didn’t meet that we knew we didn’t meet all along.  Our agency still said we’d be fine but I just didn’t have a good feeling about it all.  I decided that I needed to call the agency that the Ethiopian families were being referred to and just see what was going on there and that night was the first night that I actually felt a full peace about this adoption since early February.  This agency worked with orphanages all over in Ethiopia and currently they didn’t have 100 families waiting and a few kids ready to be referred, they had kids waiting and needed families willing to accept children who may be 4 or 5 years old but also that would be willing to accept younger too.  That night and in the day following I found out more about this agency and the people that worked for it here and in Ethiopia and felt like we needed to switch.  I knew the status of AAI was questionable and what I was hearing was unsettling in my heart.  Although a few of the people I was working with closely were being as honest as I feel like they could be with me and I really appreciate their efforts, ultimately I knew and they understood, I had to be at peace with this adoption. 

So with that, we were now back to where we were, where our hearts had always been and where we prayed our daughter was all along.  Where Fetinet’s homeland country is and where Jalen was sure his sister was, he did not ever give up on his sister having brown skin and living in Ethiopia!  We were back to Ethiopia and really nothing had changed but we had to figure out how to get our paperwork and fees transferred.  We were told AAI would mail our dossier right back to us so that was not a problem but the fees, what would happen with the fees?  In my mind I thought, well we only paid the first program fee and really nothing had been done with our adoption yet, everything was on our end so surely it would just all transfer over right?  Nope.  I will say that last week when we found out there were financial issues at AAI we had the 2 checks sitting there from our fundraising (Chosen Marathon and Ordinary hero), cancelled and spoke to both places about it so they will be transferred.  But here’s the punch in the stomach, what we did pay out of our own money back in August 2013, that we had saved and saved for, $5,500…that would be GONE! Oh and then there’s one more thing we found out this past weekend, the whole agency is shutting down so not only are the families in the midst of adopting from Ethiopia but also from China, Thailand, Burkina Faso and maybe other places and they are all dealing with the same news, they are losing money and having to figure out how to complete their adoptions, many with children already referred to them and almost ready to come home…Please keep these families in your prayers.  We are in a sense, one of the “lucky” ones in the fact we are “only” losing $5,500 and we haven’t seen our child’s face, we aren’t getting ready to bring her home next month, but any way you cut it, it still hurts.  On the bright side, our new agency is doing all they can to help and is going to cut back one of their fees which we are EVER so grateful!  It may not cover the $5,500 but it is something and more than anything it means a lot to us.

So, what does it look like from here?  We will submit our dossier (once we get it back) to our new agency, we are updating some papers to reflect the new agency and once they have all of our paperwork and fees we will be a waiting family again!  I want you all to know that every penny that we have fundraised, we still have or has been paid to have our initial home study done.  I want to be transparent here because we have fundraised and have some more fundraisers coming up and so many of you have helped us get this far so I want to make sure you all know where that money is going.  As of Saturday night we were funded until the time of a referral but due to the recent closure of our agency and loss of money paid, we now have the money to complete the homestudy updates and cover some of the beginning fees with our new agency but we are $4,900 away from being where we were.  Once we have $4,900 saved/raised we will be funded until we receive a referral for our daughter.  At that point we will have our next set of fees and then travel but that will be a little while. 

Thank you for reading through all of this, I feel like we have had to be so vague to everyone and you all have been so supportive of us, I want you all to know exactly what is going on.  Today while I was having everything swirl around in my head one of my new favorite songs came on and I heard the words more clearly than ever before, these words spoke to me and pretty much wrap up my feelings of peace with all that is going on:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory
Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings
-Phil Wickham - This Is Amazing Grace

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Silent Auction for our Girl, come and shop March 1st!

We are pretty excited about our next fundraiser!  It's an online silent auction that will open on March 1st and will go until March 7th.  There will be a picture of each item and to make a bid you just comment under the picture with the amount you are bidding, highest bidder at the end of the auction (10pm CST) on March 7th, WINS!!!

There is some pretty cool stuff on there already but we are still taking donations and would love to showcase anything you may have made or want to donate.  All I need is a picture of the item sent ot me by Friday, Feb 28th, just leave me a message on here or find me on FB.

We have Thirty-One, Mary Kay, jewelry, gifts from other countries and an iPad mini to name a few things.  All starting bids are about half the price, or more than half, of the value of the item so there will be good deals and best of all, 100% will go to our adoption.

Since we have switched to special needs in China we currently have $3,000 to raise to update our home study and get all the needed documents to China to be available for a child who is waiting.

Here's a sneak peek at a few of the items to bid on.....

I will post the link to join the group here once it is open, so save your shopping for March 1st and shop for a cause :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

His Plans Are Not Our Own.

Well we have some pretty BIG NEWS to share and it is bittersweet for all of us but we are excited for this new journey and have to keep remembering that God creates amazing stories when you listen and open your heart to His direction.

So I'll just spill it and then give you the back story later because it really is quite an emotional and "only God" type of story and I know there will be a lot of questions so I'm hoping to explain them here.


As I type this I have to admit my heart is excited, nervous and broken.   Anyone that knows me knows how close Ethiopia and Africa are to my heart.  This has been this way for a long time but then when you have a child from another country, that country becomes even more part of your heart and your life.  Our son's father lives in Ethiopia, he has family there, he has friends there, his culture is there and we all can't wait to return to his homeland for a visit and to reunite with so many we miss.  We WILL still go back to Ethiopia, that is a promise, it might not be as soon as we expected but we will return but for now we are seeing that God has another place for us in the adoption world. 

First, I know many of you may want to know:  How does Fetinet feel about the change from Ethiopia to China?
This was a big part of our decision, we couldn't even really entertain the idea until we talked to him and to be honest I was nervous to start that conversation but to my surprise after explaining why, he understood and although he is excited to return to Ethiopia he also understands what is going on there and that there are kids all over that need moms and dads and so in his words "Sure, let's go to China!"  Jalen on the other hand was a little more upset, in his words "my sister is supposed to have brown skin like my brother (pouty, sad face)"  I pulled up pictures of children in China so he could see what his future sister may look like and we had a talk about the needs there and of course like anything with Jalen, all was fine in a couple minutes.

So although there are so many details to how we came to this change and I can't wait to share those, I will leave that for another post.  I want to answer the majority of the questions I think most will have, so here it goes.

Did Ethiopia shut down adoptions?  No they didn't.  There was talk about it and they definitely have slowed WAY down due to some changes in government decisions but there are still families waiting and brining kids home.  Every agency is different and has a different amount of "waiting children", families waiting and orphanages they work with.  I assure you, we didn't switch to China because we didn't want to wait.  There is a lot to the story but basically God showed us some doors were closing and others were opening at the same time and we followed.

Are you still adopting a girl and what age?  Yes, our parameters for a girl under 5 years old are still there.  Since Jalen is so excited to be a big brother finally, we are respecting his wishes on this BUT something is changing......we will be adopting a "special needs child" but in the category of a minor correctable special need (ex: cleft lip and/or palate).  In the adoption world you are given a long list of "special needs" checkboxes ranging from vision or hearing problems to cerebral palsy to physical irregularities to well, everything.  It is the HARDEST part of the process for me, having to look down a list and choose what I could accept or handle.  There are a lot of emotions when doing this from thinking as a physical therapist who has worked with all ranges of special needs children, I can handle it all to realizing, as a physical therapist I have a lot of student loans, I have to work full time, Jason has to work full time and how we just may not be the best family for many of those checkboxes.  BUT there are many on there that we have checked and many that we have recently had our eyes opened to and hearts softened for.  China is a special needs only adoption country unless you are adopting older than 8 or 9 years and thus long story short again, God has broken our hearts and opened the right doors and we are following. 

How long will it take?  How many trips?  Who all will go?  There's no guarantee on time as with any country or agency but once our dossier is submitted to China we can expect possibly 8-12 months before referral, although again it could be shorter too.  China is a 1 trip process and although only 1 parent has to go we will be trying our hardest to find a way to get us all there.  The boys are such a HUGE part of this adoption, they are excited about it, they pray about it, they plan out what life will be like once their sister is here and they really want to go.  Side note, if you ask Jalen, he will tell you his sister is 4, named Ellapi and will go to his school and he will be helping her at school :) 

Where are we at and what's the next step?  Because China is part of the Hague Convention we will have to resubmit our USCIS info and this time will be working on an I-800A instead of an I-600A, this little change in form numbers equates to a $720 fee (boo) but our fingerprints are still valid until Feb 2015 so we don't have to make another OKC trip for fingerprints at least (yay).  Also because of the Hague convention, our home study will be updated through our same social worker but through an agency that is Hague accredited.  There will be some fees associated with this as well but we'll figure it all out.  So we will be getting our home study updated, working on  China dossier and once submitted we will be a waiting family again. 

So we are asking for prayers to continue in this new journey as much will be new to us and as we still overcome the "loss" of what we planned.  Do I think we heard God wrong when we started the process to adopt from Ethiopia again?  NOPE not at all...we have seen so many times how God takes people down roads first because he knows that's how to get their attention.  I can promise you if earlier this year I was being told "adopt from China" I wouldn't have listened, maybe because I'm stubborn, likely because I wouldn't understand. In the last few months being in the process to adopt from Ethiopia has led me to so many stories and people and ultimately has opened my heart and mind to be able to say with confidence "this is where we are supposed to be".

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dossier is DONE!

Well after months of gathering the documents (and having to have some re-done), our dossier is complete!  It was mailed out today ad should arrive at our agency by Friday!  This is very exciting although we still have one more small step before it can go any further...what is that one small step you ask?

Oh just come up with about $2,900

This is a lot but when I look at the fact that in October that number was $5,500, it makes me feel a little bit better.  One way we have been able to raise money is through Ordinary Hero by tax-deductible donations made at
and only until FEBRUARY 1st, 2014 we can receive 40% of all sales made under our family name at the awesome Ordinary Hero store 
(just click on "oneal,joely" under affiliate)

Once we are fully funded for this step then ...
-The state sealed documents of our dossier will be sent to Washington DC to be authenticated by State Dept and Ethiopian Embassy
-Once all documents are returned to our agency they will be put into a final format and sent to the Ethiopian staff with our agency, at this point we can be officially able to be given a referral of a child (or children) in need of a family.

As I type this my heart is excited for that day to come and at the same time sad and broken because it also means there is a child or children out there that don't know the love of a family to call their own and to be honest, as excited as we will be, they will be scared.  I wished we could skip those steps and fast forward till the time where they can know they are safe and loved and in their forever family but the reality is we can't and those grieving steps are important for them, it's just such a mix of emotions when you're dealing with the course of a child's life.