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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

PROGRESS!!!!!!

We hope you all had a wonderful weekend! 

We wanted to take the time and update you all on what's been going on with the adoption and the strides we've made these past few weeks!!!!!!  We also wanted to thank you all for the support you're showing us!  We hope this blog is informative and debunks a lot of myths about adoption!  If anything else, we hope it opens your eyes to adoptive families and they journey they took to achieve that!

For starters, our security clearances from every state we have lived in were finally completed on July 3rd!  This was a huge step as it was a timely process and frustrating!  The Army is great for a lot of things, but not for making you live in 8 different states in 12 years!  Luckily, our research and perseverance paid off!  In the end, we were able to have almost every state expedite our request to submit our clearances.  And no, we don't have any criminal activity in any of the states we've lived in!  This was such a huge step that Ron and I joked that Aidan was born in Ethiopia that day!!!!!

After our security clearances were in, our HomeStudy was completed by our Social Worker, Thea.  She then sent the HomeStudy to her agency for a board review.  After the board members reviewed and edited our HomeStudy, it was complete!  Thea notarized the HomeStudy and sent it to us.

We were then able to send the completed HomeStudy to USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services).  This completed our I-600A petition to adopt an orphan from a non-Hague country.  We received an e-mail today from our case worker/official saying our packet was complete and is being submitted for review!  Our fingers are crossed this clears in the next few weeks!

The USCIS was able to schedule our FBI fingerprints for August 9.  We'll be travelling to Seattle to the USCIS office to have these done.  Once these are cleared, our USCIS section should be done pending our application is approved at this time as well!

Then, everything will be sent to the State Department, then to the Ethiopian Embassy for final approval.  Once that is done, everything will be translated to Amharic.  Finally, it will be sent to Ethiopia!

We met with Adoption Avenues Agency's director yesterday.  The agency is located in Portland, so Ron and I took a day trip down there.  We met with the director for 1.5 hours and learned a lot!

First, we handed Radu our completed Dossier!  I have never been so proud of an application packet in my life!  Ron and I joked that the packet (45 forms) was my pregnant belly!  Radu said it all looked great and we're good to go!  Then Radu asked,

"How soon can you travel to Ethiopia?
We replied, "As soon as possible.  We really are flexible."
Radu said, "We have lots of children.  6 orphanages of children.  We have lots of babies.  What do you want?"
When we explained that we wanted to adopt a healthy baby boy ages 0-2, Radu said, "How old?  1 month?  2 month?  3 month?  You say."
Ron and I said as young as possible.  We had a brief discussion that many diseases aren't detectable at this age, but then again, many diseases aren't detectable at 6 months, or even 12 months of age.  So we're sticking with "as young as possible."  This way, we can get our son out of the orphanage setting sooner, and get him on good nutrition and health care as soon as possible!
Then Radu told us that the Ethiopian courts close from mid-August to mid-October for vacation.  Our packet will be received in Ethiopia around Sepetember 15.  We should receive a referral for our child between September 15 and October 1!!!!  Our court date will be scheduled once the courts re-open. 
Radu said, "You will have court date before end of this year!"

So if all goes well, Ron and I will know what Aidan looks like by October 1.  And we'll be in Ethiopia sometime in December to meet Aidan and to legally adopt him in Ethiopian courts.  If we can, we'll try to be in Ethiopia for Christmas to spend Aidan's first Christmas together, as a family!  HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!?!?!??!

We're trying not to have too many expectations as we know there's a lot that needs to happen between now and then.  But we're hopeful and we're going to keep on doing what we've been doing- working hard and following through!

We learned a lot yesterday...
1.  Once we pass Ethiopian court, Aidan is ours.  There is nothing that can take him away from us unless the Ethiopian Supreme Court reverts our adoption.  So may be parents by January 1!
2.  Once we pass court, Aidan is ours.  However, he can't enter the US.  That's why we have to wait for the Embassy to approve his visa, which could take about 5 weeks.
3.  We could stay in Ethiopia the whole time and care for Aidan.  But once we remove him from the Foster Care/Home, we can't really send him back.  Doing so, we'll disrupt his entire schedule and the system at the home.  As such, many families say good-bye to their kiddos for about 5 weeks and travel back to the US.  Once the Visa is cleared to bring them home, they travel back to Ethiopia to pick them up.  This is probably what we'll do, except our US will be Thailand.
4.  Ethiopian babies are tough (or orphan babies in general are tough).  They've gone through a lot and know how to soothe themselves/deal with the harshness of life (dirty diapers, not much attention) at a young age. 
5.  The babies are fed a banana pudding for their meals in foster homes.  This is a high calorie food to help them.  About 1-2 weeks before they're brought back to the US, the foster home begins feeding them formula to get the babies accustomed to their new food.

6.  WE'RE LUCKY!  Right now, the majority of agencies working in Ethiopia quote adoptive families 2-3 years from start to finish.  We worked our butts off to get the paperwork trail and HomeStudy completed in 3 months (takes most families 5-8 months).  Adoption Avenues has a strong relationship in Ethiopia and as such, they have a lot of orphanages they work with.  I think we definitely did our research and it's paying off!

So our fingers are crossed the next 5 months run smoothly!  We need the US government and Ethiopian governments to finally approve us for adoption and for us to be matched with our son!!!!  We're trying to keep our expectations low, but our hopes are high!!!!  :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Some Things We Wished Other People Knew (or didnt' ask)

During this journey, Ron and I have learned an immense amount of information and gained tremendous experiences.  Most of these experiences have been positive and most of the reactions we have received from others has been supportive.  However, along the way, we have encountered many questions and statements from others that caused us to have to think about how to react properly as they were hurtful (sometimes extremely hurtful).  So below is a list of things I wish others wouldn't say or ask, and my response to them! 

1.  Don't you want your own children?
Of course we do!  We want that with everything we are!  We want it more than anything!  Our children will be our own!  Whose else are they going to be?!?!?! 
*Although adoption is Ron and my "Plan A" for a family, can you imagine asking someone this if they had multiple miscarriages or couldn't become pregnant?!?!?  Talk about hitting a nerve with this question!  How personal and emotional for them to try to have to answer!  If you know others adopting in the future, just don't ask!  PLEASE!

2.  Don't you want your own natural children?
No.  Not now.  Maybe not ever.  This is our plan for a family.  It's no better or worse than any other plan for a family.  There's no cookie cutter family, and there shouldn't be a cookie cutter way to have a family either.  And if we did ever want natural born children, again, what a question to ask if we couldn't do so or were infertile!  Unless people openly tell you, don't ask!

3.  But Ron has such good genes!
Really, does he?!?!  Has he had a gene analysis performed?  I guess I never saw that test!  Last time I checked, his gene expression is his phenotype, so it appears he has a good phenotype, which may or may not be a reflection of his actual genes (genotype).  And his (and my) family are not void of medical and other conditions, so most likely, his genes aren't "perfect."  There's a possibility our natural born child could have genetic or congenital issues, so we're not perfect!  And I didn't marry Ron to be his breeding mate.  I married him as he's my best friend and I want to spend everyday with him.  I didn't marry him because it's the 1500s and I was raised that since I was a female I must breed with a suitable mate. 

4.  Don't you want to be pregnant?
No, not really.  I think it's a glorified idea until you talk to people that were/are pregnant.  Most of these women don't say that it was the best time of their life- being a mother is.  Although there are wonderful aspects of pregnancy, such as bringing a life into the world, it's not 9.5 months of pure bliss.  It's not something I have ever fantasized about.  I have dreamed about being a mom and a parent.  And that's what I'll accomplish.

5.  But you'll never really be a true mother/know the whole experience of being a full mother?
Really?  Since I'm not actually pregnant I'll never be a full mother?  You'll never know the full experience of being an adoptive mother with the ups and downs, piles of paperwork, folders of documents and crazy files!  My child will have an opportunity to love me just as much as your natural born will love you.  I will love my children endlessly, and isn't that the full experience of being a mother?  Devoting your life and soul to a child so that they may learn and grow? 

6.  You and Ron will never experience the bond of pregnancy...
Last time I checked, the female is pregnant, not the male.  The female has a fetus growing for 9.5 months, the man watches and tries to be supportive (if the woman is lucky).  But he doesn't have cravings, body changes and hormone influxes.  He doesn't give birth.  So it's not really something Ron would be a part of, he would be watching.  In our experience with adoption, every single step of the way, we have to do together.  It's not me doing the work with Ron at my side, watching.  Every document is signed by both of us, every HomeStudy meeting was attended by both of us.  Every penny earned was earned by both of us.  It's not me or Ron.  It's us.  So will we ever have the experience of pregnancy?  Who knows.  But what I can tell you is that we've bonded more over the adoption experience than I ever thought possible.

7.  Can't you have your own kids?
Again, please read my responses to 1 and 2.  What a personal question!  Don't ask unless you're told!  Don't ever ask.  Would you ask this to a stranger?  No!  So why does someone adopting give you the belief that it's ok to ask otherwise rude questions?  It doesn't!

8.  Your role in marriage is to have children.
Don't worry, we are.  We'll have a beautiful family and I'll fulfill that 1500s view of women and children!  Oh, you mean natural born?  Since when do you get to say what my role is and isn't?  You don't, so don't try!

9.  But your son will be black.  Your daughter will be Asian!
Really?!?!?!?  Wow, we had NO idea!!!!!  WOE!  OH MY GOSH!  You're kidding me!!!!!  What????
Please!  We're well aware of this and beyond excited for diversity in our family.  We have heard so many racist and mean comments regarding our multi-racial family that our guns are up and loaded.  We're pretty much to the point where if someone says one thing rude regarding color, they're out.  Life's too short to have to deal with comments like these and our society (in the year 2012) should be well beyond worrying about such things. 

10.   You're married.  You should have children.  The point of marriage is having children.
Thank you.  We are.  We'll have a beautiful family.  Thanks for feeling you should say what we should and shouldn't do!  But by the way, just because two people get married doesn't obligate them to have to have children.  Children should be a choice and be wanted- not a requirement.  By saying this though, are you implying that if you are infertile, you shouldn't get married?  Or you should remarry after menopause or a vasectomy?  After all, isn't the point of marriage to have children?  If you can't have children, why marry then?  What's the point??!?!  Exactly, I didn't think so.  :)

11.  You should....  You shouldn't.....  Don't you think......   Why don't you.....
Nope, we don't.  And no, we don't think so.  Just because we're adopting by NO means gives you ANY right to give your opinions in what we're doing.  Unless we ask, don't share.  You don't see Ron and I going around to every person we see sharing our thoughts of what they shouldn't and shouldn't do, so please don't do that to us.

12.  You're making Ron do this, or, It's all you, not him...
You're right.  This whole time, I've been holding a gun to Ron's head making him do this adoption process.  Oh wait- I'm terrified of guns and don't even know the code to our safe by choice.  Try again.  Ok- so I'm choke holding him to force him into this!  Yep, considering he only weighs 90 pounds more than I do and is just a wee bit stronger, that's easy for me to do!  And I'm just sitting here forcing him to all the meetings and I'm just writing the checks on my own!  And he's been lying at all of our meetings about wanting to adopt.  You're right.  I'm forcing him into this and taking things away from him.  In all honesty, if you knew Ron at all, you would know he's not one to give in and stands up to me.  I respect Ron, value our marriage, and cherish our teamwork.  Anything and EVERYTHING we have done with this adoption has been mutual between us and will continue to be.  We have been honest with each other all along and have given each other an "open" out if either of us changes our minds!

13.  Well maybe they (the naysayers) are more Christian/religious than you
First of all, Ron and I aren't really religious.  So yes, many others are more religious than us.  Second of all, Ron and I are strong Christians.  We just don't really believe in the isolation of a religion and the prejudice of churches.  We're not adopting to be "more Christian" than anyone.  This is our call and want to have a family.  But unless you're Jesus himself, please don't say we're not Christian for not having natural born children.  If you feel that way, I guess that the bible I've been reading, the churches I've been a part of, the schools I've attended and the values I was raised with are completely the about wrong Christianity.  Forgive me if I've been mistaken! :)

And lastly...
14.  Any racial comment.  At all.  About anything. 
See #9.  I truly feel that right now I feel like I'm pregnant with a black baby boy.  Don't tell Ron, but he's not the genetic father :).  My entire free time is devoted to this adoption- paperwork, research, e-mails.  They say in your final trimester, a baby grows a pound a week.  Well our stack of paper work and documents is growing a pound a week (I'm not kidding).  The piles of paper rival a growing belly and the weight of the paper is probably double a newborn.   So yes, anything racist that is said around Ron and I is EXTREMELY offensive.  We're not sitting here critizing your unborn baby or your child.  So please don't say anything offensive about ours.  Ever.  Even if it's not directed at our children, don't say it (if case you don't know, its 2012).  Times have changed and so should you!  And if you do say anything offensive, don't be surprised if Ron or I strongly verbally correct you, get up and leave, and/or remove you from our lives.  We will do everything and ANYTHING we can to prevent our children from experiencing racial prejudice from others.   We know we can't prevent everything, but if you say something, we will react.  So don't say it!

I know this blog really seems pestimistic.  In all honesty, this journey is truly amazing, but there have been bumps (or Mt. Everests) along the way.  Many of these derive from the opinions of others.  As we said before, we are doing this for us and our children, not for others.  But we don't live in an isolated world, and the words/actions of others do affect us.  Although we're strong and have learned a lot, we would appreciate it if these comments/questions stopped.

I encourage you all to share this with others.  There are 22,000 American families adopting this year, and the issues we have experienced are common across the board.  For the sake of other families adopting and for our friends considering adopting, please try to be considerate in what you say and ask.  Understand that words are hurtful and that the feelings they evoke can be prevented if the words simply aren't said.  Remember that just because a family is adopting doesn't give you the right to know all the details or share your opinions.  Wait until you're asked for your thoughts and don't ask insensitive/offensive personal questions unless you're told.  If the details are shared, great.  If they're not, respect their privacy and family choices and understand why.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Things We Wish We Knew!

As much research Ron and I have done prior to starting this process, there are many things we now know that we wish we knew earlier!  These things would have made our lives these past 5 months much easier and less stressful!  But we live and we learn, don't we?!?!?

BEFORE starting our HomeStudy...
 1.  It would have been great to have requested many of the required documents ahead of time: birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.  All of these needed to be ordered online from the appropriate states, and then authenticated.  Having them at the start would have been nice. 
2.  Have the list of letters of recommendation ready and already ask friends (4) and family (1).  This way, they have a heads up with what's coming and aren't rushed.
3.  Contact USAA, our bank without true bank locations, and find out how to request notarized letters of good standing and account status.  It wasn't hard to do: we had to call, then e-mail, then call, but knowing this ahead of time would have been great!
4. Have copies of the deeds of our houses ready (not after they've been packed for a move) :)
5. Have a list of what states we have lived in over what dates.
             Example: Michigan: 1984-1999
6.  Have an evacuation plan for your house already written/drawn so you don't scramble to get it done to show the social worker :)

BEFORE working on our Dossier:
1.  Turns out, there are different types of notaries.  The military uses Judge Advocates, which are good, but they're not valid at the state certification level.  For Ethiopia, all of our documents needed to be STATE notarized (by a notary licensed in WA state, not licensed by the US military).  Then, these documents all needed to be taken to the Washington Secretary of State for Authentication of the notary ($15.00/form).  Then, these documents are all sent via courier to the US State Department for Authentication ($8.00/form).  Finally, they are hand delivered for approval by the Ethiopian Embassy ($94.00 total).  This is required for legal documents for countries not part of the Hague convention, such as Ethiopia.  All adoption documents are required legal documents, and thus, all of these certifications are required!  We had ALL of our documents notarized by a military notary (Judge Advocate).  As such, they were invalid at the Secretary of State in Washington.  So Ron and I ran around for 3 hours yesterday getting them restamped by a WA notary (thank goodness this was possible) so they could be authenticated!  Note to self: just have a WA notary do this the first time (and Ft. Lewis does have WA notaries at the JAG office who still notarize for free).
2.  Understand that everything needs a WA notary.  Even though all our documents from other states needed to be notarized in that state, Ron and I needed to do a "True Copy" statement for that document and have that notarized in Washington.  Only these could then be authenticated at the Secretary of State!  As such, many of our documents are double or tripled sealed/stamped.  Now that's official! :)

BEFORE submitting our USCIS Form:
1.  This form can actually be submitted before the HomeStudy is done.  It just needs to be submitted with the $800 fee, your birth certificates and marriage certificate, as well as a cover letter requesting early fingerprints.  Ron and I tried this, but even now, our finger prints aren't scheduled until August 9 as there's a 6-week back log.  Submitting this form earlier would have been our fingerprints could have been scheduled earlier, which would have saved time.

I know there's a lot more, but those are the biggies!  Needless to say, by the grace of God we were able to redo all of our documents yesterday with the CORRECT notary stamp and get them to the Secretary of State office by 3:30 so that they were authenticated by 4PM while working a full day!  Let's just say that was just a bit stressful and terrifying knowing we may have needed to start from scratch!  But it's done and on Monday, Ron and I are driving down to Portland to meet with our agency director to turn in our completed Dossier and our largest check in person!  Biggest day of the journey thus far :)


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's In a Name

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  I am happy to announce that summer has officially arrived in Washington- we had an entire weekend with highs about 75 degrees, complete sun and no rain!  I know, that's crazy for Washington!  My fingers are crossed this weather sticks around for a bit as Ron, the dogs and I could use a chance to get used to sun and some warmth before our big move!

I'm sure you've seen/read/heard the names our our kiddos already, but I wanted to spend this week talking about the names we chose and why we chose them.

When we were first thinking about names, Ron and I initially thought that we would keep our children's given names.  We thought that these names would represent their past, their birth families and their birth country/culture.  However, after researching some of the names from Ethiopia and Thailand, we started to change our minds.  Many of the native names in both countries are long, difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to spell.  The last thing we wanted was for our kids to be made fun of in school or to be embarrassed by their names.  Ron and I want to do everything we can to have our children's pasts and birth cultures be a source of pride, not shame or resentment.  So we then got to thinking...

Our son will be Aidan, and his middle name will be his given name.

We started looking at traditional male Ethiopian names.  After searching through 100 or so, we found 10 that were easy to pronounce and spell, and weren't too unique.  Some of the names included Taye, Ahron, and Cain.  And then we found Aitan.  Aitan is a Hebrew name that is common in Ethiopia.  It means "firmness" and "long loved" in Hebrew.  My family is Irish and there is a Gaelic equivalent: Aidan.  Aidan in Gaelic means "little fire."  We thought the meaning of this name was perfect and we love how it combines our two cultures together into one name!

We are going to keep Aidans' given name as his middle name.  This way, he will never loose is complete birth identity and will always be connected with where he was born.

So if you hear Ron and I talk about Aidan, you know who we're talking about.  We have no idea where he is, or if he's even born yet.  All we know is that we can't wait to meet him and love him even more than we already do!  Oh yea- he has nicknames already, too!  So far, he's Mr. Aidan, Little Man and our Little Lion.  Lord knows what we'll come up with once he's ours!

For our little girl, her name will be Lanna Rain (yep, 2 names - the South did this to me)!  Her middle name will be Margaret.  She will mostly go by Lanna.

In researching Thailand, we read about Lanna Kingdom.  This was a dynasty/kingdom in northern Thailand that reigned for about 200 years.  It was very prosperous and progressive and placed a strong emphasis on the arts.  The capital of the Lanna Kingdom was Chiang Mai, where we will be living.  After hearing this, we thought Lanna would be the perfect name for our little girl.  We thought the name represents her native country, as well as a kingdom that accomplished great things. 

We decided to add Rain because it sounds poetic with Lanna.  I've always loved the name Rain, but after being in Washington, it has a different meaning.  And no, it's not because of my adoration of the massive amounts of endless precipitation this state receives :) .  Ron and I absolutely LOVE Mt. Rainer, which is only an hour from where we live.  On a clear and beautiful day, Mt. Rainer takes our breath away.  I know it's going to be a great, happy day when's she's out!  Mt. Rainer has bee a source of happiness for me in Washington, and I know our daughter will be so as well.  So we decided on Rain.

Margaret is the name we're asked most about.  My Aunt Lori's middle name was Margaret.  Aunt Lori was my mom's younger sister and my God-mother.  She was the perfect aunt and loved all of her nieces and nephews like they were her own.  Although my Aunt Lori never had her own kids, she loved her step children like they were hers.  Aunt Lori attended many sporting events, school plays and birthday parties while I was growing up.  She was there for my high school and college graduation.  She was such a large part of my life and a true friend.  Unfortunately, my Aunt Lori was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last March.  In May, just 3 months after her diagnosis, she passed away after an unsuccessful round of chemotherapy.  She died 1 week before my vet school graduation and 3 weeks before my wedding.  Although she wasn't there in person, she was definitely there in spirit. 

Although my Aunt Lori was proud of many things that I did in life, I know this adoption would have made her the proudest.  I could just imagine her face when she found out we were adopting and hear her voice and what she would say.  Through the ups and downs of this journey, Ron and I know that my Aunt Lori is leading the way for the adoption and making sure everything works out.  Although she left a large legacy behind, Ron and I thought that adding her name to Lanna's would increase the impact she already left.

Ron has been calling Lanna his Thai Princess.  Something tells me our daughter will be rather spoiled by her Dad!!!!!

So fingers crossed, in the next 6-12 months, we'll be proud parents of Aidan.  Then, when Aidan's crawling/walking/running around, we'll be able to welcome Lanna Rain into our family!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Is Adoption a Solution or the Problem?

I don't necessary want to ruin the huge high we're on from having our HomeStudy completed yesterday, but I wanted to present some questions, thoughts and opinions regarding the pros and cons of international adoption.

In an ideal world, 157 million adults would step in and adopt all of the orphans in this world.  At the same time, there would be a miraculous change in the world's economy, infrastructure, ability to treat infectious disease and view of children that would prevent any more children from becoming orphans.  If those 2 things magically happened, the world's orphan "issue" would be solved.  But that will never, ever happen- it's hocus pocus.

In our world, around 29,000 orphans are adopted internationally every year.  At the same time, the world's number of orphans increases every year, which means the orphan number doesn't really decrease despite efforts to do so.

Ron and I are obviously advocates for adoption.  By no means do I think it's a solution, but it's one aspect of the answer and is needed step in my mind.  Not everyone feels this way though.

There's a thought circling around that if there were no orphanages, there would be no orphans.  This is interesting to think about, but I disagree.  Even if there were no "formal" places for parent-less children to live, they would still exist.  They would just be hidden and unaccounted for.  I also don't think decreasing the number of orphanages is a good idea.  Orphanages are often times the only place children can receive shelter and food, and sometimes safety.  Taking that away could have a large negative impact on the poorest of the world's children.  However, reducing the number of orphanages may cause parents to see that giving them to an orphanage is not feasible, practical or right if the parents can still provide for their children.  I think that's the issue where this debate has arose.  Many parents living in impoverished countries will relinquish 1, 2 3 or more of their children to orphanages because they can't/don't want to financially care for them.  Having orphanages provides them with this option, having less orphanages would decrease this...

There's another valid debate regarding international adoption- countries that allow international adoption may inadvertently be encouraging child trafficking and children being "sold" into orphanages/adoption agencies.  This is an interesting thought and one that I'm still amazed by.  In Ethiopia for example, there are around 5 million orphans.  Every year, only 1,200 children are allowed to be adopted internationally.  Those numbers show that it should be "easy" to find orphans to meet the requests of the adopting parents, right?  Then why are children being trafficked or sold?  I don't have an exact answer, but my guess is that some adoption agencies want short wait times for their families to keep them "in business" and therefore, they go out and recruit children.  This is different than how most agencies function- they wait for children to become legally available either in their privately run orphanages or in government run orphanages.  For an adoptive parent, this is a hard issue.  We don't' want to wait 3 years for a referral, but at the same time, who wants their child to be "bought" into being an orphan from their birth family for a faster referral time?  We sure don't!  We'll wait!

Watch this video and let me know what you think....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lerZI8OSns

It's interesting for sure!  Who's right?  Who's wrong?  Or is there a right or wrong?

Another issue and thought is that international adoption encourages orphans, rather than helps to reduce the number of orphaned children.  What?!?!!? you may ask!  Try thinking about this...you're a parent of several children and you know that if you give one of your children away (who you may or may not be able to care for) to an orphanage, they may be adopted into the US or Western Europe.  They may receive an excellent education, be raised in wonderful, loving environment, and maybe one day come back to help you.  Would you do it?  For many families, including the one highlighted in the video above, this is an interesting thought.  However, the reality is many of the adopted children may never go back and take over care for their birth family.  I think it's a myth that fuels dilemma and controversy, but is also one that encourages orphans.

Watch this video:  http://www.adoptioninafricafilm.com/

This amazes me because there are so many "true" orphans in this world- children without parents due to famine, disease and war.  It's sad to think that the adoption of these children truly in need is at stake because of rumors/perceptions on adoption and adoptions that were conducted poorly.

To add to the thought above, there's debate about donating to orphanages and the trend of volunteer tourism.  Many people travel to developing nations to assist in orphanages.  Many adoptive families bring boxes worth of baby items to the orphanage for the other children.  The orphanages at first greatly benefit from this.  There has been a study done in Cambodia looking at this.  If an orphanage improves too much (looks to nice, dresses its children too well) and doesn't look as "poor," it looses it tourism appeal, and thus the influx of money it is producing.  Westerners want to travel to "poor" places (at least those that look poor) to help out.  If an orphanage or other location looks too developed, our thought as tourists is that the orphanage is doing well on its own and doesn't need our assistance.  We feel "jipped."  So to counter this, it has been found that many orphanages with much to offer actually deny their children of these things.  They want the orphanage to look "poor" and their children to look in need so that aid continues to come.  Don't get me wrong- not all orphanages do this and many are wonderful.  However, there are a few out there that do use their children as an advertising ploy.

In response to these issues, the The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) published a statement.  "It (international adoption) must at all costs be discouraged. It should be a last resort and an exception rather than the normal recourse to solving the situation of children in difficult circumstances, as it seems to have now become," said David Mugawe, executive director of the ACPF in a press statement. 
For the complete article,visit: http://articles.cnn.com/2012-05-29/africa/world_africa_africa-child-adoption_1_international-adoptions-demand-for-adoptive-children-adoption-expert?_s=PM:AFRICA

The African Union has held yearly meetings over the past 5 years to address the above issues.  Their last meeting was in May, 2012 in Ethiopia.  They discussed adoptions in Africa, its benefits and its consequences. 
They looked at the following for "Trends in International Adoption": https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/adoption-advocate-no-44.html
They published the following...https://www.box.com/s/185bf8ef0ad928bc8d85#/s/185bf8ef0ad928bc8d85/1/307749486  (f that doesn't work, click here http://www.africanchildforum.org/ipc/ , then click on "Conference Outputs").

In summary, the countries decided the following (these are just examples of their many points):
1.  All countries that are not currently Hague Accredited for adoption should take the appropriate steps to become Hague accredited (which calls for increased regulation on adoption)
2.  Countries that are not prepared for the legal and regulatory aspects of adoption should not permit international adoption
3.  Children should be reunified with their family if at all possible.  All efforts should be made for this to occur.
4.  "Consent for Adoption" must be given to all parents relinquishing their children before the child can be adopted
5.  Adoptive parents must be screened and found eligible to adopt before adoption can occur
6.  States and other agencies should not receive any financial gain from international adoption
7.  Countries should account for post adoption issues
8.  Adoption should be a last resort for orphaned children.  Every effort should be made to care for them in their birth country before international adoption is conducted

I think that this publication is incredible and a fantastic start/improvement to the current issues surrounding adoption in Africa.

In recent years, Ethiopia started making changes.  They are not Hague accredited but realized they were not capable of regulating the number of adoptions their country was conducting.  As a result, they drastically slowed their adoptions, causing them to be at a standstill for awhile (about 2 years ago) to figure things out.  Today, Ethiopia will not process more than 5 adoptions a day so that they can ensure they have enough time and resources to monitor and evaluate their adoptions.  This has limited their adoptions to roughly 1,200/year, but has greatly improved the success of their programs!

So what do I think after all of this?

I don't feel that adoption is the solution.  I know that countries must improve their care for their orphans and take ownership of their issues.  Developing countries must focus on education (birth control, preventive care, etc.) and work with NGOs to improve the health care in their poorest regions.  The world should continue to help these countries improve their infrastructure, economy and health care.  As these improve, the number of orphaned children will decrease.  This is a long-term, permanent change and solution.

However, in the meantime, I don't think adoptions should stop.  I don't think millions of lives should be "sacrificed for the greater good."   Not with children.  Not with people.  Will ongoing adoptions perpetuate the above problems?  Maybe.  But stopping adoptions will cause millions of children to never have a true chance at a future and an opportunity to strongly impact this world.  I strongly believe adoptions should continue IF they are regulated, controlled and used as a last resort for TRUE orphans.  At the same time, country development must occur so that the number of orphans in need of adoption decrease.

When Ron and I go to Ethiopia, we're not going to bring much to donate on the first trip, or even the second.  We're not going to ask for donations to bring either.  But we are selling adoption t-shirts to raise money to donate to UNICEF, a UN organization dedicated to the improvement of the child through education, human rights and health care that will benefit the orphanage Aidan comes from.  We want to help reduce the number of orphans but in a broad, permanent way.

Our t-shirts can be found at:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/HopeLoveEthiopia.  Please note, male and female shirts are available for purchase!

If you order, please specify male/female, size and color on the order form!  We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them!






Friday, July 6, 2012

Our HomeStudy

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Our HomeStudy is complete!  Ron and I reviewed it today and approved the final draft!  Now it just needs to be reviewed by an adoption agency committee this coming week, copied, signed and notarized!  Then we're going to overnight this to USCIS to complete our I-600A form: Petition to Adopt an Orphan.   Once USCIS approves us, our Dossier will be authenticated, translated and FINALLY mailed to Ethiopia!  One less step to go, one more step done!

This is the first HomeStudy I have ever read, and I thought I would share it with you.  We took out any private, financial or secure information.  I know it's lengthy!  Keep in mind that the HomeStudy is written by our social worker to advocate for our adoption.  As such, she had to write an honest synopsis of Ron and I, but be our strong advocates.  It's obvious Thea wrote about our positive qualities, and ignored our bad (trust me, they exist)!  Feel free to skim over the summary of our lives!

I just wanted to share what the heck a HomeStudy was to those interested as I really had no clue until today!  So this is what we spent the last 2 months trying to have done!

P.S.  To those who wrote our letters of recommendation, THANK YOU!!!!!!  :)

 Loving a Child has no Boundaries”


SUMMARY/RECOMMENDATION
Kelly and Ron Garberson are approved and recommended to adopt one male child aged 0 – 2 years old with minor correctible medical conditions from the country of Ethiopia.   They are a loving and generous couple with enthusiasm for life and a passion for children and adoption. They are devoted to integrating Ethiopian culture into their lives and will give their adopted child a life full of abundance and opportunity.  

And that's all, folks!  :)  I just hope the USCIS loves this recommendation and is fast to approve it!  Fingers crossed!!!!!!!!1

Why Not American?

In accordance with 4th of July, I decided I would write this post about something Ron and I are asked commonly..."Why aren't you adopting from America?"  This is a very valid question!  We're American.  Ron's in the Army.  We love our country!  Why in the world are we adopting from overseas?!?!?

As a start, we may one day adopt from the US.  Right now, Ron and I are focusing on our two pending adoptions from Ethiopia and Thailand.  Depending on what our life is like with the 2 kiddos when we return to the US, we may find it feasible to adopt 1-2 more kids.  We don't want to overwhelm ourselves and we want to give our first two children the time, love and attention they deserve.  We're not saying "yes" or "no" to anything right now, we're just open to adopting from the US.

We are choosing to adopt internationally because
1.  We feel any child, American or not, deserves a loving home
2.  We want a multicultural family to represent the beauty of the world as we have experienced
3.  We want to adopt young children (0-2 years of age) for our first adoptions to minimize "risk" with adoption and to experience having young children
4.  We will be overseas during our adoption and for the next 3 years, which will limit our access to social workers, psychologists and family support

To adopt from the US, there are 2 different options.

The first option is to adopt an orphaned child in the Foster Care/orphanage system.  There are many children in Foster Care that are not eligible for adoption as their parents or other legal guardians still have legal custody.  However, the children whose parents/guardians have relinquished that custody, adoption is a wonderufl option.  Today there are 107,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21!  In the state of Washington (where we're currently residents), Ron and I could only adopt from our state domestically.  Domestic adoption in Washington allows for

1.  A newborn
2.  A child in Foster Care that is 5 years old or older.  OR a family can foster to adopt a child 3 years of age, and then legally adopt them at 5 years of age if they are still in Foster Care

Although we would love to adopt a child/children from Foster Care, our move to Thailand makes this difficult.  Many children in Foster Care have emotional, mental or physical needs due to their upbringing and convulted pasts.  Some were drug babies, others have history of abuse, many have behavior problems (after hearing/reading their histories, this isn't surprising)!  All of these issues can be worked with and addressed, but they require strong support systems, stability, excellent schools and amazing health/counselor care.  Ron and I feel we would be doing a child injustice by adopting them after 5 chaotic years of life and moving them to Thailand immediately and asking them to cope.  We just feel it would be too much to have a child adjust to a family setting on top of a foreign culture.  When we come back from Thailand, our lives will be much more stable where such an adoption would be much more fair and reasonable for an adopted child.  for More information about adopting a child in Foster Care, please visit http://www.adoptuskids.org/meet-the-children.

In researching the children in Foster Care, I found it hard not to cry in reading their biographies and wants.  Many state that they want a family so badly!  Their bios and pictures are sure to pull at your heartstrings!
https://www.nwae.org/PhotoIndex-WARE-dbC.php?tn=3 .  Many of these children are older, but are still in need of loving homes.  I know it's scary to think of adopting an older child, but I know it can be rewarding and fulfilling!  One of my friends in college, Ashley Rhodes-Courter, was adopted when she was a teenager.  Her story is amazing and tear-jerking, but what she has done with her life is beyond inspiring!  Check out her book and bio here: http://www.rhodes-courter.com/ .  She's currently running for State Senate in Florida with a baby on the way!  Ashley, if you're reading this, congratulations and GOOD LUCK! 

The entire point of us wanting to adopt is to open our home up to orphaned children.  In our minds, that means a child that is already born and has been "given away."

Many American couples choose to adopt a newborn.  They want the entire experience with a child and the opportunity to bond with them from Day 1.  Many families that go this route enjoy being a part of the pregnancy.  Many of these couples are also ProLife and feel they are are saving an unborn baby from abortion.

For these adoptions, pregnant women are "recruited" form advertisements to consider adopting their child (Have you seen the billboards that say, "Confused?  Lost?  Consider Adoption," etc.).  Once a mother enters into an agreement with an agency, the mother then looks through the database of eligible couples that applied for adoption.  The birth mother reads their biographies, looks at family pictures, etc. before choosing the adoptive parents.  Once chosen, the parents are notified.  Then, depending on the state, the birth mother goes to court.  Depending on her living situation, she can request money from the adoptive parents to help pay for her living expenses and medical bills while she is pregnant.  Some states, like Indiana, don't allow this.  Other states have a maximum the birth mother can request.  Other states have no limit.  A judge reviews the case and then says what the adoptive parents must pay the agency, who then pay the birth mother for her living/medical expenses.  These expenses can range from $0.00 to $15,000.00 for 6 months of care.  Adoptive parents can specify what expenses, if any, they would be open to accepting and paying the birth mother.  This is put in their profile for review by the birth mother. 

Hearing this literally made me cringe.  I couldn't get beyond the fact the the birth parents would have to pay the birth mother.  Many agnecy representives tried explaining that these birth mothers often dont' have much, which I understand completely, but I just can't see paying for expenses that may or may not be used appropriately.

IF at any time the birth mother decides she wants to keep her child, she can, up until she gives birth.  Some agencies provide "insurance" for the adoptive couples finances in case this happens.  They'll re-imubrse the couples and help the start over.  However, many agencies don't provide any insurance and then the adoptive parents have to start all over without any reimbursement if this happens. 

I called many agencies during our initial research stage and was given the following information for fees:

$2,000.00: HomeStudy Fee
$4,000.00: Advertising Fee (to adverstise the adoptive parents to birth mothers)
$5,000.00: Agency Fee
$6,000.00: Legal Fee
$2,000.00: Paperwork Fee
$0-$8,000: Money for birth mother's expenses

The total is therefore around $20,000 to $28,000, which is the same price for an international adoption of a "true orphan.

I'm not ProLife.  I'm ProChoice.  Although I recognize the need and want for newborn adoptions, I couldn't do it myself.  I couldn't see Ron and I essentially "paying" a young girl to keep her baby for us to have.  In my mind, what are we teaching this girl?  That she can be irresponsible, get pregnant, and get paid for it?  Adoption is better than having/raising a child in an unwanted envrionment, don't get me wrong.  But with 7 billion people on earth and already having 157 million orphans, I couldn't see ourselves paying a young girl to keep her baby rather than abort.  That's just me though. 

So we're not adopting from the US at this time.  If and when we adopt an American child, it will be a child in need in the Foster Care system.  It will be a child or sibling group who is in need of a stable family, loving home and all of the support resources they need (and that we can provide).  When we return from Thailand, we may have this.  If it fits into our family, we'll be more than anxious to adopt children from our own country!  After all, Aidan and Lanna Rain may want older brother or sister :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grief, Loss and Adoption

Adoption, without a doubt, is full of joy, fulfillment and happiness.  It is a process that completes an adult's wish to be a parent and allows a child to be a part of a loving family.  It truly is a beautiful thing.

However, like most things in life, adoption is not perfect.  In being true to the purpose of this blog- to be open and honest about our journey, Ron and I need to write about some of the less than perfect aspects we have learned, experienced, and will encounter.

The first of these topics are those of grief and loss.  Both are very broad terms that encompass so much in adoption.  They are topics that Ron and I have had to consider and discuss at the beginning of our journey.  They're topics we have taken courses on, read essays about and have been talked to about from Thea, our social worker.  They are things that we will address now, when we meet our children, and deal with for the rest of their (and our) lives.

Grief in adoption can be seen in many areas.  The first area we learned is grief suffered from the parents.  For many parents adopting, there is a strong sense of grief about not being able to have a natural born child.  For Ron and I, this isn't the case as adoption is our Plan A for a family.  However, just imagining the grief and loss someone experiences in trying to have a baby is enough to almost bring me to tears.  For many parents, as exciting as adoption is, it still comes with a sense of loss.

Ron and I already feel a sense of grief.  We recognize that adoption is not a solution to the world's poverty or the plight of the orphan.  It is a band-aid for one or two children.  Knowing that when we adopt our children, there will still be so many more in need causes us grief.  How do you leave an orphanage with just 1 child when there are hundreds of others left behind?  This is something Ron and I constantly discuss and try to address.  It's tough!

Another feeling of grief we have discussed (and makes me cry when I think about) is the sense of loss our children will feel.  Although we will raise them in a loving and caring environment, and we will love them as our own, they will always know they're not our natural born children.  They will know that somewhere, someone left them.  They will know that at some point, their lives were too much for their parents or families and were given up to an orphanage.  No matter how much we show and tell them they are loved, this immense feeling of loss will occur.  It's a feeling of loss, guilt, grief, abandonment and not being wanted.  It is something we are training to deal with.  We have learned that our children will respond differently to this feeling at different stages of development.  Through all stages, behaviors and reactions, we will be open, understanding, supportive and loving.  It will be difficult to witness our children feel such emotions, but is something that is bittersweet.  I hate that our children will feel such feelings, but at the same time, I will be proud of how our children handle this.  We also will be reminded of our adoption story, where our children came from, their host culture, and the wonderful people in their native countries.

Our children may never know their birth families.  Ron and I will help our children with every means imaginable to find their birth families when they're older if they so wish to do so.  But what if their parents have passed?  What if they can't be found?  Can you imagine going through life and never knowing what your Mom and Dad look like?  Never knowing where your nose or eyes come from?  That crocked smile?  Or what you'll look like?  This is another sense of loss our children will experience, and again, is something we will do our best to address.

Ron and I are American.  We think, act and talk American.  Although we have broad world views, we are still American.  Our children will be raised in an American society.  They will speak English, attend American schools and do American things.  But they will know they're not native-born American.  They will know they were born somewhere else, in another country, and are of another culture.  Ron and I are going to try our hardest to include their birth cultures in our lives with food, language, holidays, traditions and celebrations.  We are planning on traveling back to their countries routinely to celebrate their heritage.  But we cannot give them what they will have lost - a feeling of belonging in the place you were born.  We have read stories of adopted children that have grown up.  Many love being American, but many feel a sense of loss of their birth country.  When they travel to that country, they realize they don't fully fit in.  They bridge the difference between two countries and cultures.  Our children may feel this way.

In a naive world, our children will come into our lives, love us unconditionally as their parents, and won't worry about where they were born, who their birth parents are or have feelings of loss.  They would just be so happy to have been adopted and given the life they have.  But we're not in a naive world.

In our world, our children will feel a sense of loss at some point.  I actually think this is the most real, and actually, is more ideal than the "naive" world.  Why?  It's not that we want our children to be sad or experience strong negative emotions.  It's that we want our children to understand adoption.  We want them to know where they were born and be proud of their birth country and heritage.  We want them to feel real emotions, analyze the world and life they're in, and learn how to accept reality.  We don't want to cover anything up.  And we want them to know that no matter what they feel, Ron and I are there for them with open arms, loving hearts, and understanding minds.

Grief and loss, I'm sure you can see, are difficult to think and talk about.  But it's honest, true and real.  Our goal as parents (and family and friends) is to help our children see that their feelings are normal and expected.  We want them to know that their feelings are ok and that Ron and I are supportive of them.  But above all, our goal is to help our children rise above these feelings of loss and grief so that they may be stronger and more equipped to deal with them throughout their lives as happy, successful adults.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Financing Our Adoption

Adoption cannot be fully discussed without disclosing the financial aspects of the process.  As this is a sensitive topic (yes, another one), I don't want to seem that we are flaunting finances or "buying" a child.  To stay true to the blog, I'll continue to be open and honest, but we will keep some specifics private as I don't think everything needs to be shared.

I'll begin by saying that adoption is not free.  It's far from it.  But depending on the road you take, the cost can greatly vary.

Looking at the United States for example, the price to adopt a legally adoptable child in the US from an orphanage or foster care is extremely inexpensive, and there are many state programs that cover these costs.  The HomeStudies for these cases are commonly covered or minimal as well.  There are also national programs that help with lawyer fees and whatnot.  However, adopting a newborn infant from a pregnant mom can be quite pricey: $15,000 - $30,000.  This is for couples who recruit pregnant mothers in the hopes of adopting.  Agency fees, medical bills, living expenses and legal fees must be covered.

Adopting internationally has a wide range of finances as well.  From what I have found, adoptions with African nations are the least expensive.  Latin America and Asian countries lie in the middle.  Eastern European nations are generally the most expensive to adopt from.  The fees involved for international adoption include agency fees, birth country government fees, travel expenses, HomeStudy/paperwork expenses, orphanage fees and Visa fees.  All of these can vary greatly.

When Ron and I first started looking into adoption, finances were a large consideration.  It is evident that for almost everyone finances are one of the main consideration with adoption.  Almost every adoption agency posts their fees for each country in a visible place on their website, and when I called to ask for information, the cost of adoption with that agency was one of the first things the representative would tell me.  This was extremely helpful in knowing what we could and could not afford.

As discussed in an earlier post, Ron and I knew we were essentially limited to adopting from Russia or Ethiopia once we moved to Thailand.  This was due to the adoption processes and laws of those countries as well as the US (the two-trip rule).  The price difference of adopting from Russia and Ethiopia is HUGE!

Adopting from Russia can cost anywhere from $40,000-$80,000, depending on the scenario.
Adopting from Ethiopia can cost anywhere from $20,000-$40,000, depending on the scenario.

The main difference is in country fees.  Ethiopia simply charges less for adoption than Russia does, and the costs are reflected in what the adoptive parent pays.

Ron and I then decided on Ethiopia (which was good as our heart was set on an African country).

Finances played a large role in finalizing our adoption agency.  As discussed before, we wanted an accredited agency that fits our needs, but that wouldn't break that bank.  I contacted over 30 agencies before deciding on Adoption Avenues.

For our Ethiopia adoption, the prices are as follows:

Application Fee: $250.00
Communication Fee: $200.00
Agency Fees: $4,000.00
International Fee (Ethiopian fee): $9,000.00
Translation/Processing Fees: $550.00

Total: $14,000.00.

In addition to these costs, Ron and I will have the following fees...

HomeStudy Fee: $1,600.00
Document Fee: $500.00
Notary Fees: $200.00
HomeStudy Update Fees: $1,000.00
USCIS Application: $850.00
Visa fees: $500.00
Post-Placement Reports: $1,000.00

We estimate our travel fees to Ethiopia (2 trips) to be around $4,000.00.  We will be using airline miles to cover the cost of airfare for at least one of these trips (2 if possible).

So the estimated total cost is of our Ethiopian adoption is close to $23,000.00.

This is us being open and honest!  Keep in mind that this isn't due all at once.  We have started to pay for the adoption, and will continue to do so until we bring Aidan (the name we chose for our son) home.

To put this in perspective, Ron and I won't have any labor and delivery medical costs.  We won't have an expensive co-pay for a c-section or NICU.  We will be adopting our son when he's around 1 year old, so we will not be paying for his clothes, diapers, health care and formula for his first 12 months.  When you add up all these potential fees if we had a natural born child, adoption isn't really that much more expensive!

In researching adoption, Ron and I found hundreds of couples who financed their adoptions through fundraising!  We even found a family that was able to fundraise enough money in 3 days to adopt 2 children instead of 1!  There are many grants, church groups, charities and other organizations that help fund adoptions and donate to families.  The resources available are incredible!

At first, Ron and I thought of trying to fundraise.  However, after making our budget and realizing the number of children in need of adoption, we changed our minds.  Although there are many resources available, they are not unlimited and endless.  We felt that we should not be taking those funds away from families in true need.  So we went a different route - we cut back.

Over the past 6 months, Ron and I have saved and saved and saved.  We cut back on a lot of little things we used to do.  We stopped eating out a lot (a HUGE money saver).  We purchased all our gas at Costco.  We bargain shopped.  We shopped at the local good will and thrift stores for baby clothes, gear, books and toys (we estimate we spent $800.00 on over $4,000.00 worth of items)!  We purchased washable/reusable diapers (BumGenius, http://www.bumgenius.com/organic.php) to save on diaper costs over the next 3 years for 2 children ($400.00 in diapers, which will save at least an estimated $5,000.00 for 2 children in 3 years: http://www.diaperingdecisions.com/VirtuesOfCloth.htm).  We sold belongings that we never used or no longer had use for (clothes, furniture, outdoor gear).  We turned our heat down, reduced our internet speed, and continued to have no cable TV.  We cut down on Christmas and birthday presents this year. 

We have been laughed at for doing so.  Yes, even I will admit that our house was a bit chilly these past few months (62-65 degrees, MAX) and I always wore a jacket!  When Ron was in Cambodia for 2 months, he ate simply and brought his own food to capitalize on the per diem pay he received rather than blowing it everyday on food and drinks, which was laughed at.  But it has been worth it.

These small cutbacks, as well as aggressive savings, have paid off.  We will be able to pay for our adoption ourselves without jeopardizing our other finances.  It's amazing at how much money we "wasted" before making these changes!

Our adoption from Thailand is completely different.  The Thai government does not charge any fees for adoption, and we will be doing the adoption directly through the government rather than with an agency.  We will still need to do an updated HomeStudy (about $1,000.00) and pay for a new USCIS application ($750.00).  But other than that, that's it.  The Thai adoption will take much longer to complete: 2-3 years, but it will be worth it!

To end this blog,  I will say that there are 2 current adoption credits that will help Ron and I with our adoptions.

1.  The Military Adoption Credit: The US military currently grants military families $2,000.00 to help cover adoption expenses AFTER the adoption is complete.  This grant is available for each child, but has a maximum of $5,000/year.  This credit, I believe, is reimbursable (meaning that if an adoption only cost $500, that is all you'll receive back).  Basically, you can't make money with this adoption credit.

On a side note, Service Members are granted an additional non-chargeable 21 days of leave for adoption travel and family days.  TriCare also begins covering children upon matching or placement, depending on the situation (and definitely upon legal adoption)!  For more information, visit
http://www.militaryfamily.org/your-benefits/adoption/reimbursement/

2.  The US Adoption Tax Credit: This tax credit expires in 2012.  Currently, the credit grants around $13,000 for non-refundable adoption expenses.  This means that if our adoption is completed in 2012, we will have a $13,000 non-refundable credit.  This can be applied for the next 5 years on our taxes.  If we owe money on our taxes, this money will be deducted from the $13,000 credit so we won't have to owe money.  However, if we don't owe any money in taxes, this credit will be transferred to the following year.  This credit is for re-reimbursable expenses only (If an adoption cost $5,000, that is the maximum credit you will receive.  Only direct adoption fees can be used in calculating the credit, so we're keeping ALL receipts).  It may help us a lot, or not at all, depending on our taxes over the next few years.

This credit expires in 2012.  There is a push to extend the credit to 2015.  President Obama included the extension of the Adoption Tax Credit in his budget.  However, it still needs to be passed in Congress.  If our adoption is finalized in 2013, this tax credit won't apply.  There is a chance the tax credit may be approved to be refundable (as it was in 2011).  If this passes, every adopted family will be reimbursed up to $13,000 for adoption expenses.  It will not matter if they owe anything in taxes.  With a refundable tax credit, you can get a tax return as well as the tax credit.  Again, you can't make money on an adoption-you can only receive back what you paid.  For obvious reasons, our fingers are crossed that the Adoption Tax Credit is at least extended, if not extended and made refundable.

For more information:
http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=231663,00.html
http://www.nacac.org/taxcredit/taxcredit20122013.html
 http://adoptiontaxcredit.org/legislation/

To help extend the Adoption Tax Credit:
Please "LIKE" https://www.facebook.com/AdoptionTaxCredit

Different people spend their money differently.  Some people enjoy nice cars or fancy jewelry.  Others prefer lavish vacations or a day of pampering.  Although I will admit I like those things, I love many other things more and want to do more with our money.  Ron and I joke that I am getting a rare African diamond and a precious Thai ruby in this process.  Although I will never wear these precious stones, I know that when my little gems smile, they will sparkle and glitter more than any other precious stone on earth.  To Ron and I, that precious sparkle makes every penny in this journey more than worth it!!!!

So in the end, is adoption expensive?  Yes.  Is it doable?  Yes!  With the help of agencies, grants, government aid and fundraising, as well as simple lifestyle changes and budgeting, adoption can be affordable to many families.  In our minds, we would rather spend our money on adoption than anything else.  There's no better gift than the gift of love and a family, and that's the exact gift Ron and I are giving each other, our family, and our future children for years to come!