Friday, May 25, 2012

Why Adoption? Why Africa?

Almost every adoption blog I read has a similarly titled post as this. And while each post shares many common ideas and thoughts, each one is invariably a bit different than the last. Each family has such unique circumstances and paths toward adoption that I still enjoy every 'Why Adoption?' post I read.

So why adopt? This is probably the question I see written across many people's faces when Adam and I reveal that we are adopting. We have two young healthy girls who were born easily and with fairly uneventful pregnancies. We are quite young parents (at least for the adoption world), and we have a very nice balance in our lives in which we are able to be great parents but also enjoy individual pursuits that are important to each of us. I think many people wonder why we would disrupt that balance, or why we would pursue adding to our family when we have two already. And I can't always explain it, honestly, because it's something that we entered into with our hearts, not always with our minds.

I've felt like I was meant to adopt since college or earlier. Well before I met Adam, I loved watching stories of family united through adoption (particularly international adoption). I used to watch adoption documentaries or TV shows, and when Guatemala and China adoption became so popular, the thoughts were always just below the surface that, someday, I wanted to be apart of that path. I'm not sure why I felt so strongly, but, like many of the things that make each of us as individuals, I think this desire to adopt was a combination of life circumstances and my own inherent personality.

After our oldest daughter was born, I started talking to Adam about international adoption. Mostly just attempting to expose him to the idea and families that had adopted. Adam was less enthusiastic about it and never really thought of it as a serious option for our family. Adoption, especially international adoption, was outside of his realm of experience and just something he'd never considered. Shortly after that, I had our youngest daughter, so discussions were tabled as we adapted to life as a family of four.

When Emma turned two, we aggressively started to pursue adoption. It took Adam much time to wrap his head around the idea of adopting and become as enthusiastic as I was. Mostly his concerns revolved around adding a third child to the family, as he was perfectly content with our family size. A third child throws you into mini-van territory and Adam was not ready for that ;) Also, in fairness to Adam, many of friends had not even started having children and I was asking him to consider expanding our family to three children under 5! I probably was crazy!

Now that a few years have passed and our girls are bit older and more independent, Adam is thrilled we are adopting (as am I obviously!). We aren't adopting to 'save' a child, but instead feel like this is the way to complete our family. We love the idea of embracing a new culture into our family, of being able to raise a boy after two girls, of (if I'm honest) being able to skip the infant stage and move into the sometimes-more-fun preschool age, and of being able to advocate for a child waiting for a family. We want to adopt because it's right for our family, because we believe our son lives in DRC right now and is just waiting for us, and because it's our path. I don't know how to explain it properly most times, as it is intangible emotion that can't always be described in practical terms.

Are we nervous? Yes! Do we sometimes think we've lost our minds, just a bit? Of course. I think we would be somewhat naive if we didn't have those natural fears (very similar to fears I had when pregnant with both girls, actually). But we feel such peace about our adoption right now that we know we've made the right choice.

I'll save 'Why Africa?' for my next post, as I wasn't anticipating just how many words would be needed to describe what brought us to this point in our lives...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


So my email has been very silent this week... well, at least silent about any possible adoption news. As I said, we possibly, maybe had a court date this week, but we weren't sure what that would mean as far as hearing about our process as the judge generally is taking an additional 3-4 weeks to sign a decree after giving verbal approval.

So we wait for verbal approval. And after we hear about that, we'll wait for our final court decree, and then we'll be able to submit all of our information for some key remaining pieces of the adoption puzzle - a new birth certificate for JN, a passport, and a visa for entering the US. Once his new birth certificate and passport are obtained, we will be able to file for an appointment with the US Embassy, which means travel to DRC! So not too many more milestones to go before I get on a plane to see our boy.

I'm still in the area of limbo where I haven't started re-doing rooms or buying any major items, but I think as soon as I hear about court, I will feel ready to get those things moving along too. I thought I'd found the perfect bedding (after two girls, shopping for a toddler boy is hard!), but I think it just got vetoed by my mom.

And I always try to remind myself, even though it seems difficult each day that passes with no news, this really has been a very smooth and quick process overall, especially considering other families stories that I've read about over the past few years. And the silver lining? Patience has never been a virtue of mine, but, through this process, I'm learning it pretty quickly (or not so quickly, as the case may be)!

Monday, May 21, 2012

While You Were Sleeping...

Well, I'm not certain, but possibly, while we were sleeping (or any time this morning, really), our case should have been submitted to the court in Lubumbashi. Again, I'm not totally clear, but I think this means that our court date should occur very soon. Basically, our file will be reviewed, given something like verbal approval, but we will wait 3-4 weeks for the final, official court decree signed by the judge.

If all goes well with this court date, then I can finally breathe a big sigh of relief and know that JN is on his way to becoming one of our family! I haven't heard, yet, of a family not passing court, so I'm being optimistic. Also, our agency has recently hired some new associates in-country that are supposed to help ensure that all our (very important!) paperwork is in proper order for upcoming Embassy and Visa appointments, etc.

I don't expect to hear anything today (and possibly not even this week), but it is exciting to know that across the ocean and across the Democratic Republic of Congo, our case could be sitting in a very important spot right now!

Around here, we are preparing for summer as the girls will both be out of school soon. It's finally gotten hot enough to plant all of our veggies and get some sprinkler time in. Everyone is ready for pools to open and for a beach trip we are taking in June.

As for getting ready for the newest family member, I am (somewhat superstitiously) waiting until we hear about court before putting major preparations into motion. At this point, I have picked out bunk beds, bedding (man, finding boys' bedding is much harder than finding it for girls!), and a few other odds and ends. I'm big on list-making and getting things in place way ahead of time, so I'm itching to have his room finished, clothes packed and toys organized. Hopefully soon!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I've always been a believer in things happening as they should... whether it's called fate or destiny, I tend to think I've followed a certain path because of some grand plan. When we decided to adopt, it seemed like (for many years) that I was fighting against my fate. Each turn we took seemed to lead us down the wrong path; nothing about our adoption choices and plans felt 'right' to me; and each month, we found ourselves further and further away from completing an adoption of our future child.

Many times, I thought we should halt our adoption (and at one point, we put it on hold for about a year), but I'm stubborn at heart. I wouldn't give up, and I couldn't shake the feeling that we were supposed to adopt our third child, even if evidence kept piling up that we weren't on the right path.

When we considered our options of changing to the DRC program and being matched with JN, I felt, for the first time in our journey, that we were on the exact path that we were intended to be. Everything clicked into place - I was finally at peace with our choices (versus being tormented that we would make the 'wrong' decision). And as if to confirm the feelings I was having, everywhere I turned there were signs. Some big, and some small, but undeniably odd occurrences that had to be more than coincidence.

At some point, I started documenting those signs, because they have been so important to me in affirming that this was the right path. That this adoption attempt will end with a son who will complete our family. Here are some of my favorite signs:

  1. On the day that we had to make a decision about switching agencies, programs, and being matched with JN, I was driving home from dropping off Hannah and was so conflicted. I literally said aloud, "Just give me a sign, please."

    When I got home, I started to research a trip we were taking that weekend to a local art museum. When I checked to see which traveling exhibits we would see, the first banner should a Congolese sculpture. The title of the exhibit was "Visions from the Congo"! We committed that day and saw that exhibit a few days later. When I asked for a sign, I'm not sure I knew it would be so clear or would come so quickly!

  2. Prior to telling Hannah and Emma about our referral (we had lost a referral before so wanted to wait to tell them until things were a bit firmer), I took them shopping and was picking out a few toys for JN's upcoming care package. I'd recently found out that JN spoke Swahili, and I was looking for picture books or similar. While shopping, Emma walked up to me with a big smile and said, 'Hakuna Matata!'. This means "There are no worries," in Swahili. She hadn't watched The Lion King in years!

  3. If you combine the birthstones of Hannah, Emma, and JN, it makes the colors of the US flag!

  4. I bought a children's book for Valentine's Day without reading it all the way through. It taught the phrase 'I love you' in multiple languages, and when I got home (out of only about 8 languages that were represented), I found the translation 'Nakupenda', which is Swahili, JN's native language.

  5. Everyone in our family had the blood type A+, and I've always joked (sort of) that if ever needed (hopefully not), we could be blood or organ donors for one another. When I got JN's medicals, the first thing I noticed was that he, too, is A+!

Those aren't the only things, but they are my favorites. And whenever I'm having an uncertain moment about the status of our adoption, I just read over these and know that this is going to happen. I really believe that, finally, we are right where we are supposed to be.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our Referral Story...

Like many things in our lives, Adam and I received our referral sort of non-traditionally. Had we stayed in the Ethiopia program, we would have waited on a list of parents and would have one day received a phone call from our agency presenting us with a referral. At that point we would accept our referral and begin the process to bring that child home.

Well, that's not exactly how our referral for DRC went, because we were matched with a waiting child. At the beginning of January, I began to feel some anxiety about the pace at which Ethiopia adoptions were moving within our agency. Because of this, I began to do some more research into available African adoption programs. I knew Rwanda was out due to its recent shutdown, and I kept hitting brick walls with other country programs. I inquired with a few agencies about Democratic Republic of Congo, but I never found a program that felt like it "fit". I was also very cautious about leaving the ET program and didn't want to make that leap unless their was a child in our age range, waiting for a family. With the uncertainty of international adoption (and the big changes we'd seen just in our own personal adoption journey), I didn't feel comfortable getting on yet another wait list.

Luckily, our preferred age range and gender meant that there were children waiting with some agencies in DRC. On a whim, I contacted an agency called A Love Beyond Borders after stumbling onto their website. The site listed no waiting children within our age range, but when Kelly contacted me, she told me that they'd recently had a large batch of children become available for adoption through their (very new) DRC program.

From the moment I spoke with Kelly, I felt great about the agency and their processes. Having been around the IA block for multiple years (and having been in a situation with a smaller, unstable agency), I was very wary about leaving a well established program and agency for a smaller, more unknown program.

But when I saw his picture (out of the many waiting children that Kelly sent for me to review), I felt like, "This is it. This is where we are supposed to be. This is the child we are supposed to adopt." Because of the ups and downs of our adoption, I couldn't let myself become too excited or to prepare too much. I spent the next week discussing the possibility of adopting JN, a just-turned three year old in Lubumbashi. I asked for, and received, signs around us that made it clear to me that this was the path we needed to be on.

We officially were matched with JN on January 20th, 2012. Immediately, we had to begin collecting paperwork to update our home study and to build a completely new dossier. We did this with two days to spare of our 30 day deadline, and our dossier was translated and sent to Lubumbashi, DRC in late March.

And now we wait... checking my email way too often, hoping for updates or new photos. Cherishing the few small photos we have. Shopping and preparing (less and less cautiously as everything moves forward extremely well). Talking to our girls about what this will mean and how things will change. And while it's not a traditional referral-phone-call-big-surprise story, it still feels wonderful. And it definitely feels like the right choice for completing our family!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Adoption Time Line

  • 2006 - 2007: We first begin discussing international adoption. At the time, I was most interested in adopting from Guatemala, but as that program closed and the Ethiopia program began to grow, I started heavily researching African adoption.
  • Mid-2009: We begin to pursue the adoption of a waiting child in Ghana with a small agency.
  • July of 2009: Program in Ghana through our agency is suspended and we lose our referral. Put our adoption plans on hold.
  • August 2010: Contact Forever Families of Virginia to begin a new home study for an Ethiopian adoption.
  • August 2010: Apply to Gladney's Ethiopia program.
  • August 28, 2010: First home study meeting.
  • September 15, 2010: Second home study meeting.
  • September 29, 2010: Third home study meeting.
  • October 14, 2010: Submitted completed Gladney application.
  • November 17, 2010: Gladney approved.
  • November 30, 2010: Begin dossier for Ethiopia
  • December 2010: Referrals are suspended for Gladney's Ethiopia program for three months.
  • February 14, 2011: Receive USCIS approval for a male child 0-3 from Ethiopia. 
  • April 2011: We do not send in our dossier, due to Gladney's investigation and uncertainty with ET program. We briefly consider Honduras as an alternate adoption option.
  • May 2011: Decide to continue with Ethiopia as the investigation is concluded with Gladney.
  • June 15, 2011: We are on the wait list for Gladney's Ethiopian Program.
  • June 2011 through January 2012:  Very little movement within the Gladney Ethiopia Program due to slowdown with referrals.
  • January 11, 2012: Contact A Love Beyond Borders about their very new Democratic Republic of Congo adoption program. Receive information on their current waiting toddlers and preschoolers.
  • January 20, 2012: Receive official referral of three year old boy from Lubumbashi, DRC!
  • February 18, 2012: Sent completed dossier to ALBB for JN's adoption.
  • March 27, 2012: Translated dossier is received in Lubumbashi.
  • May 11, 2012: Receive notice that our case will be submitted to court in Lubumbashi on May 21.
  • May 15, 2012: Go to Alexandria to be re-fingerprinted for our USCIS I-600A update.
  • May 21, 2012: Our case is submitted to the court system in Lubumbashi.
  • July 9, 2012: Receive personality update, pictures and news about Jonathan from Stephanie, who traveled to meet the waiting kids. Found out our case had not yet been approved.
  • August 1, 2012: Receive notice that our case has been verbally approved by the judge, but we must await final official judgement before beginning our 30 day wait.
  • August 13, 2012: OFFICIALLY PASSED COURT!
  • August 25, 2012: Our final and official court decree is received! We are now in our 30 day, non-appeal period.
  • September 12, 2012: Hear from Stephanie that Jonathan is to be moved to the transition home within the next two weeks or so.
  • October 6, 2012: Jonathan arrives in Kinshasa to begin his stay at the ALBB Transition Home.
  • November 8, 2012: All of our paperwork has finally been received to file our I600!
  • November 14, 2012: Find out that Jonathan's birth certificate has an error. His birthday is listed as 1/6/2009 on some paperwork and 1/6/2010 on other paperwork.
  • December 5, 2012: We decide to send in our I600 packet with the incorrect birth certificate, while we wait for the corrected one.
  • December 7, 2012: Our paperwork is received at the USCIS office in Missouri.
  • December 21, 2012: We find out our paperwork has been received and assigned to Officer Rivera for review.
  • January 4, 2013: We are faxed our I600 approval!!
  • January 10, 2013: We call the US Embassy in DRC to get our final visa appointment.
  • January 24, 2013: Jonathan's drop-off for Embassy paperwork.
  • January 28, 2013: Jonathan's Embassy appointment!
  • February 25, 2013: Visa is issued!
  • February 28, 2013: Kristy leaves for DRC
  • March 2, 2013: Jonathan is in Kristy's arms!
  • March 12, 2013: DGM issues exit letter and Kristy and Jonathan depart DRC
  • March 13, 2013: FAMILY DAY! We are all together for the first time. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Long Overdue!

Well, I can say that this post (and blog) has certainly been long overdue. My husband and I have been contemplating, discussing, researching and pursuing an African adoption for over 3 years now, but I've never taken the step to actually document our process. Now, as we look back over three years of twists, turns, and memorable moments, I'm sad that I wasn't more vigilant in keeping a record of our African adoption. This blog is a little bit of chance for me to rectify that as we are in (we hope!) the 11th hour of our long adoption journey.

Before I start to recall our journey over the next few posts, I'll tell you a bit about our family. My husband Adam and I have been together for over eight years and have lived in multiple parts of Virginia. We've now settled in the Piedmont area of Virginia with our two daughters, Hannah (7) and Emma (5), and currently own our own business, working in graphic design, Internet marketing, and web design (which makes it even more ridiculous that I've never started a blog before this point!). We love traveling together, spending time outdoors (especially at any beach that we can get to!), and constantly seeking out new, fun adventures. Adam thinks my constant need to be moving forward and to experience new things is sometimes exhausting, but also (mostly) exciting. It also ensures things never get boring around here! ;)

We began talking about international adoption in the year after our oldest daughter was born. Since early college, I remember having a desire to adopt internationally. The idea of embracing a totally different culture into my family, while also creating a family in a non-traditional manner really appealed to me. Adam had never considered the idea prior to my broaching the subject. It took months (a year?) of earnest discussion until he felt as comfortable as I did with the idea. And now that we have a referral picture and a possible court date, everything is solidifying for us, as we can both finally see the light at the end of a sometimes dark and uncertain journey.

Anyway, on to the fun stuff - our time line and process thus far. And then, hopefully news in the next few weeks about court. After that travel (yea!) and home. We are hoping to travel in August or September, but honestly, in international adoption, who can be sure of anything?