Friday, December 29, 2006

Merry Christmas by Third Day

These are the lyrics to a song titled "Merry Christmas" by the band Third Day (currently my favorite band next to Danny Cox). It is about a baby waiting in China for her forever family at Christmastime.

"Merry Christmas"
by Third Day

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Crying for mama's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are

But half a world away I hang the stockings by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine

It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I'm warmed by the fire's glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white
And make angels in the snow

But half a world away you try your best to fight the tears
And hope that Heaven's Angels come to carry you here

Christmas is the time we celebrate the Holy Child
And we celebrate His perfect gift of love
He came to Earth to give His life and prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with Him above

It's Christmas time again and now you're home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep,
I'll hold you in my arms
And tell you from my heart
I wish you Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 28, 2006

My feelings on the new requirements

It has been almost one month since I last posted. The reason has been the announcement of the new requirements. We found out about them about 3 weeks ago. They really surprised us. They were unexpected. And there are a lot of changes! These new changes go into effect May 1, 2007. This means our dossier has to be to our agency by April 15 th (so it is a doubly horrible day being tax day too!) in order for our dossier to be logged into the CCAA in time for these new requirements not to apply to us. Based on the new requirements, we will no longer qualify. Those of you that know me, know that this past year I had some issues with anxiety. I have it under control and have for a few months now thanks to a wonderful therapist and medication as needed (which I haven't needed in months either) But this will disqualify us. I started to doubt that the adoption was the right thing for us. I started to think that I misunderstood God's intentions for us. Pete and I prayed and prayed about it and decided to do all that we could to expedite the process. We have a wonderful social worker at Adoption Advocates that is very understanding and is going to do all that she can to help us speed it up. The only glitch we might have is the US government. Currently their website states that they are taking 3 months to process I-600A applications. This is our application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petitions. We need this in order to send our dossier to China. It is going to be very tight but we just might make it time. Please pray that we do.

New Requirements for Chinese Adoption

The CCAA has posted their new adoption regulations:

According to the Adoption Law of the People’s Republic of China (published
11/4/1998 ), current Chinese government policies and practices, and U.S.
immigration laws, you must meet the following guidelines to qualify for a
China adoption:

1. Applicants must be a legally married heterosexual couple. At least one
applicant must be a U.S. citizen.

2. Couples with no previous marriages must be married for at least two
years at the time the dossier is logged in at the China Center of Adoption
Affairs (CCAA). If either spouse has been previously married, the current
marriage must be at least five years old at the time the dossier is logged in
at the CCAA. No applicant may have had more than two divorces.

3. Applicants must be at least 30 years old and no older than 49 years old at the time their dossier is logged in at the CCAA . Applicants are qualified to adopt children based on their ages as specified below. When spouses have ages that fall into two categories, they must be open to the upper age limit of the child to be adopted.

Applicants ages 30 - 44 qualify for a child with no known medical conditions
up to 12 months of age.*
Applicants ages 45 - 49 qualify for a child with no known medical conditions
up to 24 months of age.*
* Currently, the youngest children coming out of China are about seven
months old. All families are qualified for a child older than the above-
mentioned age range, if desired.

4. All above applicants are qualified, if desired, for a child with medical conditions.

5. Families must have no more than four minor children living in the home,
and the youngest child must be at least 12 months old at the time the
dossier is logged in.

6. Families must document $10,000 of annual income per member in the
household, including the to-be-adopted child. A minimum of $80,000 net
worth is required.

7. Applicants must be in good physical and mental condition necessary to
provide responsible care for an adopted child. Each applicant’s Body Mass
Index (BMI) must be under 40. (BMI equals a persons weight in kilograms
divided by height in meters squared. BMI\u003dkg/m 2).

8. Applicants must have a minimum of high school education or equivalent.

9. Applicants must have no criminal record or history of domestic violence,
sexual abuse, child abuse, or substance abuse.

10. Families who have adopted from China previously may submit their next
dossier to China once their previous adoption has been finalized for at least
one year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Process

The China adoption process is divided into 3 stages:

The paperchase. We are here in the first stage. It is simply assembling a collection of documents referred to as a dossier. Imagine buying and selling a home times 100 when it comes to the amount of paperwork that you must collect. These documents have to be notarized, certified, and then authenticated before they can even leave for China. Once our agency (Great Wall) looks everything over, it then leaves for China. Our agency actually has an office in China and hand delivers all dossiers weekly on Fridays to the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA). They are the federal agency that oversees all adoption-related activities in China. They maintain a database that holds all the information and placement criteria on children from over 200 orphanages and foster homes. Then once the dossier arrives in China, it has to be translated too! This stage normally takes 4 - 6 months. That is partially because you are waiting for the government to process things such as your I-600A. They are currently taking about 4 months just for that!
The waiting stage. This has got to be the worst stage to be in! You just wait. Currently the wait here is 18 - 22 months. Some say it is only going to continue to get worse and others say it can only get better. Please pray that it gets shorter! The process of matching a family with a child is called a referral. The referral is composed of a medical profile, two photographs, and a brief biography. This information is typically outdated by the time you receive it. While being matched with a child, your dossier moves through 3 different "rooms". They are translation, review, and matching.
Travel stage. Once you have accepted your referral, you begin planning the details of your trip. This is the third and final stage of the adoption process. Most families travel within 6 - 8 weeks of receiving their referral and stay in China for about 2 weeks. While in China, families complete additional paperwork, become acquainted with their child, and tour some of the country's cultural sights. Currently we plan to take all 3 girls with us. We know it is a long flight but think it will help them all bond quicker. We also think it is a wonderful opportunity for the girls to see where their new sister comes from in person. The girls currently have Disney banks that they have been saving for their trip back to Disney in. I asked them if they would like to go to China (and see the Great Wall - they are studying walls and bridges this year as the theme at school) and they said YES! So now when they put money in their vacation bank, they say it is their China money. We have asked Pete's sister Sue to travel with us. She said No at first but I think with time she will come around. We haven't traveled far without her! It just wouldn't be the same. Plus I am aiming for a 1:1 adult to child ratio for this trip.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

China's Lost Girls

At the recommendation of many, I bought this movie. I was hoping it would arrive last week so we could watch it over the Thanksgiving break with the girls but it just arrived tonight. I just couldn't wait until this week-end (the girls go to bed at 7 pm so there is not time during the week to watch TV) to watch it so Pete and I went ahead and viewed it. We will watch it again over the week-end with the girls. It was very informative. It re-affirmed our decision to choose China as the country for our international adoption. It just made me even more impatient for the process and teary eyed. When we first started talking about this, agencies were saying the process would take about 14 months after our dossier was sent in. Now just a few months later and they are saying possibly 18 months. I want my little girl now! So if you get a chance, buy this movie to watch. Even if you are not considering adoption, it is very informative as to what is going on in the Chinese culture and what the future looks like for them. It is estimated already that some 10 million boys will go without mates because they outnumber the girls so much.

Why China

This seems to be a common first question when we tell family and friends that we are planning to adopt a daughter from China. China has a one child policy. If someone chooses to keep a second child, then they are fined heavily. China has a cultural preference for a male child. There are many reasons for this. In rural provinces (where most orphans come from), the families livelihood depends on the output of the family members. Naturally boys produce more than little girls. Also historically, it is the son's responsibility to take care of his parents as they age. A girl would be expected to take care of her husband's aging parents. This is a form of social security for the Chinese to have a boy. Having 3 daughters already, we highly value them and feel drawn to show a little Chinese girl just how wonderful and appreciated she is.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Timeline So Far

November 16, 2006 - Application Accepted
November 14, 2006 - Application received in Texas
November 11, 2006 - Attend Bethany Adoption seminar (just so Pete could get an idea on the process and ask questions)
November 10, 2006 - Application mailed (I don't know why I didn't mail it on the 8th, but it just felt right today)
November 8, 2006 - Application completed
November 6, 2006 - Decided on Great Wall China Adoption as our agency after I attended one of their information sessions (this counts as 1 of our 4 homestudy visits too!)

I'm going to add this to the sidebar so I can keep it updated for everyone for an easy reference to where we are in the adoption process. I am so blessed to have so many dear friends and family members to always be asking how things are going. This is going to be a long few years...

How It Began

I'm not sure exactly what day the conversation happened. I do remember that it was in early October 2006. Pete was standing in the kitchen staring into the refrigerator and I was standing in the dining room in the hallway entrance. I said something like, what do you think about adopting? He said something like, maybe. That was all that I needed to hear. I was shocked that his first response was not "Are you NUTS? NO!"

I immediately started to research adoption (costs, agencies, processes, etc.) It didn't take us much discussion to decide on China. It was the one and only country that just felt right to us. 95% of all children in Chinese orphanges are girls. We love girls! Obviously. So I digress. It was on our 9th wedding anniversary, our first week-end ever away from all 3 girls, and all that was on my mind was adding a 4th! Who knows when this chance away would ever happen again for us. The possibility of adoption weighed heavy on my heart all week-end long. It was all that I wanted to talk about. Pete finally said, let's do it but not until I get a promotion so we can afford it. Let's pray about it some more. Not exactly what I wanted to hear. Of course I had all of my reasons why we could not wait that long, who knew when that would happen? Why wait? It's God's Plan, why are you stalling? Why not now? I had researched fundraising, grants, as well as Pete's work benefits already. I didn't want money to stand in our way. So by the time we were on our way home (btw, we only lasted one night away and came home on the second night) Pete said we could go ahead with it! I was thrilled and excited all at the same time.

So our Journey to China begins - it is all in God's hands.