It’s been a while…

So, we are terrible at keeping up with this blog. We have, however, been slowly and quietly moving down the long list of tasks that are required before we will get to meet our new child. Our wonderful case-worker is in the process of writing up the home-study we’ve just finished, before we begin the next step – the dossier. After the dossier is done we wait (3-12 months) for the agency to match us with a child. I am seriously excited to meet our child, to begin sending him/her pictures and letters, to have a name and a face when we pray. I will admit I am also starting to experience some anxiety (not a surprise to any who know me well) about leaving my children for 3 weeks. We will be required to take two 3 week trips to Uganda for court appointments. I have never left my children for longer than a day, so I’m expecting a lot of tears (mostly mine).

Our fundraisers have been going well – we have received so much support from friends and family, and have been able to pay for our home-study with money to spare! We’ve raised about half of what we need for the dossier, and are beginning a new fundraiser. A wonderful friend has purchased a puzzle for our child. For every ten dollars donated to our adoption, one puzzle piece will bear the name of the donating person/family. When our child arrives, he will be given the puzzle with the names of every person who has been involved in bringing him home. We are so grateful to everyone who has prayed, donated, encouraged and organized for our adoption!

Radha

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Generosity

We’re still plugging away at the mountain of paperwork that’s required to start the home study. It has taken so much longer than we’d anticipated, but the timing of everything couldn’t be better. Our first big payment is due at the beginning of the home study and its more money than we have saved. God has provided for us, however, through the hard work and support of our friends here in Cheyenne. Amy Moon has worked tirelessly to organize a vendor fair to raise money for our adoption. A group of local vendors have paid for tables at our fair, donated items for auction, and have committed to donating a portion of their profits. Also, Mitchell’s Barbecue and the Cupcake Cottage have generously offered to donate ALL their profits! We are so blessed to live in such a supportive community. So if you live in Cheyenne, stop by our vendor fair, October 12 from 9-2!

Sleep

I love to walk into my children’s rooms at night after they have fallen asleep. They look so peaceful, so full of hope. They look untainted by the world. They look safe.

Lily sleeps spread eagle. She takes up as much of the bed as she can. Her hair covers her face. She looks beautiful. I can kiss her on the cheek as firmly as I’d like and she doesn’t move.

Ben sleeps huddled up. His knees are pulled to his chest, arms folded underneath him. He breathes heavily because of his allergies and asthma. If I come to close to him, he moves.

I love to look at my children when they are sleeping. It fills me with joy and peace and hope.

I wonder how our child in Uganda sleeps. I wonder if they sleep alone or in a crowded bed with other children. I wonder if they sleep stretched out or scrunched up. I wonder if they sleep with a sense of hope for what tomorrow may bring. I wonder if they feel safe. I wonder if they know that they are loved.

I wish that I could walk into their room tonight.

I pray that they would sleep with the joy and peace and hope that comes for the truth that there is a God who loves them and a family for them. And I pray that I’ll walk into their room soon.

The Process

This is how I always imagined adoption working: a nice family decides, “You know what? We’d like to adopt a child. Let’s give ’em a good home.” The family then talks to an overworked case worker with a big heart, a woman whose hair is messily pulled back and held with a pencil, glasses on the tip of her nose, blowing the hair out of her eyes because her arms are filled with paper work. “Thank God you’ve come!” the woman says to the family. “We have the perfect child for you.” The family meets the child, ruffles their hair, signs a waiver, puts them in the car, drives home, shows them their new room, and they all live happily ever after. I probably saw Annie too many times.

Turns out that’s not quite how it works. You may be wondering, “How does it work?” The process is a bit different depending on the organization and the country, but this is what it looks like for us, adopting from Uganda through Bethany Christian Services (BCS).

  1. Preliminary Application: This is a simple application with some basic information that gets you in the door with BCS. Once approved you are given access to a portal, contacted by BCS, and sent the formal application.
  2. Formal Application: The formal application is much more in-depth. It includes personal information, references, financial info, background checks, and the like. Once approved by BCS, you are contacted about beginning your home study.
  3. Home Study: The home study is an educational, information gathering and assessment process. Basically, a social worker is trying to assess whether your family is ready and equipped to adopt a child internationally.
  4. Training: All families are required to complete 30 hours of adoption training. Ten hours take place during the home study process. This is general education about international adoption. Another 10 hours is completed between the dossier and referral and is more specific training on the child you are approved to adopt, as well as on the country and culture that you are adopting from. The final 10 hours is completed following the referral and is based on your specific child (ethnicity, age, special characteristics/needs, medical concerns, etc.).
  5. Immigration Pre-filing: Once the home study is completed you will file an I-600A with the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). This is an Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition that approves you to adopt internationally from a non-Hague country (which Uganda is). You then will receive an I-171H, a letter from the USCIS indicating I-600A approval.
  6. Dossier Compilation: Now you’re ready to start your dossier! Woo-hoo! Lots of paperwork! What God created me and Radha to do! Basically, your dossier is a compilation of documents about you that are required for registration to adopt internationally.
  7. Dossier Notarization and Seals: Now you get all those documents notarized, scanned into your BCS portal, and state-sealed (state seals are required for documents submitted to non-Hague countries). Then you submit your completed dossier to BCS.
  8. Dossier Review and Mailing: Your dossier is reviewed, then BCS’ Ugandan program team processes it and sends it to Nkwanga and Partners Advocates, a Ugandan law firm that partners with BCS.
  9. Referral: A match is then made between our family and a child. We receive information on the child and respond with an official acceptance letter.
  10. Court Application: Nkwanga now submits an application to the courts in Uganda asking for a date to hear the guardianship case between us and our child.
  11. Trip #1: The court assesses the application and we’re off to Uganda for trip #1. When we arrive in Uganda we will meet our child and have a few days to bond with them (3-4 days is recommended). Then the orphanage rep, the adoption agency rep, us, and the child go before the judge. The judge looks at the case, makes sure everything has been done ethically, makes sure we’re a stable family, and indicates the date when they will make a decision regarding guardianship. The court ruling is typically 1-2 weeks after the hearing, but it depends on the court and the judge.
  12. Court Ruling: The waiting is the hardest part. The court will issue a written declaration that the child will be under our guardianship (God willing). The court can reject the legal guardianship order if it wants to (please, no).
  13. Trip #2: Once the court approval of guardianship is received, and the child’s birth certificate and passport have been issued, we travel to Uganda to file the child’s I-600 and application for a visa with the US Embassy. We bring our child to the visa medical, file the documents at the Embassy, and attend an Embassy appointment. Once the Embassy issues our child’s visa , we can come back home with our child. This trip usually take about 2 weeks, but the US Embassy could decide to investigate the case further.
  14. Finalization: In Uganda we are given legal guardianship, but the adoption is finalized in the US.
  15. Post-adoption: We’ll have to file post-adoption reports at 3, 6, and 12 months.

There you go. Lots of paperwork. Lots of time. Nothing like Annie. Definitely worth it.

Motivation

Do you ever ask yourself why you did something? It can be a terrifying question, revealing things about ourselves that maybe we didn’t want to know. Unmet needs. Selfishness. Pride. Lack of intelligence. All those things that we would probably rather bury deep within us or just remain ignorant about.

In some of the literature that we received from Bethany there was a list of “questionable reasons to adopt internationally.” One of the questionable reasons that caught my attention was “I want to do a noble or religiously upright act.” For those of you who don’t know, I (Eric) am a pastor. I feed my family by being “religiously upright.” I lead people in worship. I pray with them. I read my Bible. I like to read theology books by dead people. I try my best to live my life centered on the axis of Christian faith. Judging by what I have seen, adoption is a very “Christian” thing to do.

But I think whoever came up with that questionable reason is right. Part of the justification is that “no child should be burdened with the task of being our moral project.” That’s right.

This reminded me of something from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Nothing like talking about Bonhoeffer to get people excited about adoption!) Speaking about Christian community, Bonhoeffer warned of the danger of “visionary dreaming.” “Visionary dreamers” get a certain idea of community in their minds – what it looks like, how people behave, what is accomplished, etc. Idealism, basically. But rarely does this vision come to fruition. People disappoint, including ourselves. So when the dream fails to become a reality, the dreamer blames others, blames God, blames himself. True community, in a sense, needs to be disillusioned community. It may not be ideal, but it is real.

I’ve been a parent long enough to know that your kids often don’t do what you want or act how you hope. I can only expect that adoption won’t be what I expect. I’m sure that my motivations aren’t 100% pure. I’m sure that a part of me will swell up a bit when people admire this “great sacrifice.” But I do hope that part of me slowly dies. I hope that my ideal view of adoption becomes a real view of adoption.

So, why? I believe that we know what love is by God’s love revealed to us through Jesus Christ, and that love is self-sacrificial. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16a). That love does not end at our benefit. “And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16b). So I guess that’s it. Or I hope so. We have an opportunity to give love to a child who might not have as much of a shot at it as the rest of us. If it’s real, love should cost us something and it shouldn’t expect a return. Whether it be loving our neighbor or loving a child on another continent, loving our enemies or loving God.

What motivates us can be a terrifying question. But it can also dig up what’s been buried deep and allow God’s grace to work.

Here We Go

Anyone who’s spent a little time with us knows we love adoption. I have 4 adopted siblings and have seen how much the joy of a blended family outweighs the struggles. Eric and I have been talking about adoption as long as we’ve been together, but there has always been a reason to put it off. We had Lily and Ben pretty quickly, finished seminary, moved to Wyoming, bought a house…

About a year ago adoption came back on our radar. We did a bit of research, but nothing much came of it. Then, a few months ago, Eric received an invitation to an informational meeting Bethany Christian Services was having on international adoption. He was the only person who showed up for the meeting and ended up talking to the speaker about Africa.

We always assumed we’d start by adopting within our own community. For various reasons, those options weren’t available to us. What we’ve discovered, though, is that there are many waiting children in countries that have been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. After praying and researching a great deal, we submitted an application with Bethany Christian Services to begin the adoption process and a few weeks ago we were accepted into their Uganda program.

This process is long, difficult and seriously expensive, but we are moving forward in faith that God will provide for us. We can’t wait to meet the newest member of our family and are excited to invite our family and friends to participate in this adventure with us.