Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Adoption is Hard

Adoption is Hard!  I knew this going into adoption.  I had seriously researched adoption for about two and a half years before we even started the process.  I've read the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the ups, and the downs.  I have read about some adoptions that took way longer than expected.  I've read about others that took less time than expected.  I've read about children that grieved really hard for the only life they knew.  I've read about children that struggled to attach to their forever family.  I've read about parents who experienced a post-adoption depression similar to postpartum depression.  I've read about really long home studies and I've read about really long LOA waits (I'll have to do a post to explain all the acronyms soon).  I've read about really long waits to be matched and I've read about others that found their child before they even started to process to adopt.  I have honestly gone into this process with a head full of knowledge and research.

But, when you are living it, you really see how hard adoption can be during each step of the process.  You also learn your weaknesses like never before.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

My biggest weakness during this process is patience and not being in charge of the plan.  If you know me, you know that I am a planner and I like a good plan!  Well, although China adoption is very straightforward in some ways and the process is much more organized than some counties, it is impossible to really "plan" anything.  First of all, I had "planned" that we would fly through our home study.  Well, our social worker had a baby about a week or two after our first visit and was out of the office for the next 8 weeks.  So, no matter how much I planned, prepared, and pushed us through with the home study process, I could not go any further until she returned to work.  We did have one visit with another social worker and honestly, I maybe should have requested from the beginning to switch to another social worker in order to get through the home study faster.  However, I did not and our home study took much longer than it would have otherwise.  However, flying through the home study might not have helped anyway because once our home study was completed, our FBI background checks were not done yet.  About the time we started the process, the FBI background checks started taking longer than normal and ours took 3 1/2 months.  I do believe that there is a way to expedite them, but at the time we started our process I did not know that I would want it expedited.  So, even though our home study was done, written, and ready to be reviewed, it could not be completed and finalized without the background check.  So, we did not get our finalized home study until December 23, 2014, four and a half months after our initial application to our agency to adopt.   I had "planned" for our home study to take a maximum of 3 months, but it took much longer!  

Throughout that long home study, I have reminded myself that God's plan will not change.  He knows the very second that we will meet our child for the first time.  Me rushing through the home study or a social worker having a baby does not delay or speed up his plan.  We have said "YES" to his plan for us to adopt and we have to trust and believe that His plan will prevail.  As long as we are being obedient the whole way through, we will meet our child when God planned from the beginning for us to meet our child.

We know that God KNOWS who our child is going to be.  He is not leaving it up to chance.  If we are being obedient to his call to adopt, nothing can keep us from the very child that God intends for us.  But, the matching process can be HARD.  For us, it is requiring patience and it is requiring that I not follow "my plan".  

A little background and information:  China adoptions used to be healthy, young girls.  Now, China only offers special needs adoptions of boys and girls.  Healthy children are able to be adopted domestically, but the special needs adoption needs are HUGE.  So, we are adopting a special needs child.  Now, special needs can be minor to severe, correctable to uncorrectable.  I have seen children with needs of heart conditions, missing fingers, missing legs, clubbed feet, hypothyroidism, cleft lip and palette, cerebral palsy, and hundreds more diagnoses.  Some diagnoses are severe, some are less mild.  Some require surgery, some do not.  Some are life threatening, some are not.  We have prayerfully gone into the adoption process and we feel that God has a child with minor and/or correctable needs for us.  

However, the process to match with a child can vary.  There are basically two different processes.  Some children are designated as Special Focus.  These children typically have more complicated or severe special needs or have more than one special need, but that is not always the case.  Very young boys are more likely considered special focus than very young girls, but that is not always the case.  There is not an exact science to which child or diagnosis is designated special focus or not.  I have seen one young girl (under age 3) diagnosed with hypothyroidism only.  That is a very minor thing that is managed with a daily pill.  I have hypothyroidism.  Sometimes these children will never need surgery, some will be post-operative, some will need surgery in China before they are adopted, and some will will need surgery after they come home.  However, children that have been designated by China as Special Focus can be "matched" with a family at any point in the process.  These children are typically shown on agency websites and advocated for on blogs and Facebook.  A potential adoptive parent could find a child through someone advocating for a specific child and decide that they want that child.  They could go to the agency that has that child's file and start the process to adopt at that point.  They would file a LOI (Letter of Intent) and receive PA (Pre-Approval) from China to match with that specific child.  All of that could be done before a parent even begins the home study process.  Or, a family could be in the process of adoption (such as during the home study process or the I-800a process or the dossier process or even after their dossier has gone to China) and find a child on their agency's list of special focus children.  They could then match with that child through a LOI and PA.  A parent can request to see the file of a child that they want to consider at any point.  Some parents may review only one file during the adoption process, while others may review dozens of files during the process.  Once you have requested to see a special focus file, if you are confident that you want to research the child and their special needs more, you can request to put the child on hold (at least, this is how our agency does it).  If someone else has not requested the child to be put on hold, you will have the child on hold and you will have a few days (5, I believe) to review the file, pray about the child, continue your research, and submit LOI.  Once LOI is approved, you will have PA (again, pre-approval) on that child and you are matched with them.

As I said, some children are designated as Special Focus.  Others, though, are designated as Logged In Date Only (or LID only).  These children are typically (again, not always) children with more mild or correctable special needs or younger children.  But, I have seen some children that are Special Focus that I would have thought would be LID only.  And, I have heard of others that are LID only that I would have thought were Special Focus.  To review these children's files, you must be logged into China, which means that your dossier has been sent to China and they have officially logged you into their system.  Once logged in, your agency can start trying to match you with LID only children.  

So, I explain that whole process so that you can understand where we are in the matching process.  We have not matched with our child yet.  If it were up to me, we would know who he or she is going to be.  I am a planner and I like to have a plan, so if it were up to me, we would match now so that we could plan and dream.  However, so far, that has not been God's plan.  

We have viewed several files of children.  A few times we have requested a file and received it, but we were told that someone else already had that child on hold, meaning that they most likely were going to submit LOI on that child, but the agency continues to allow parents to review the files of those children until PA is received.  A few times we have reviewed the file and immediately knew that the child was not who God was leading us to adopt.   We just knew.  And other times, we have done a lot of research to determine if we could handle the special need(s) before saying no.  For instance, last week, we looked a the file of two children at the beginning of the week that our case worker wanted us to see.  We knew fairly quickly that we could not handle the special need of one of them.  However, we wanted to research further on the other.  So, we contacted a few doctor and nurse friends.  After getting their opinions, we decided to have another doctor review the file.  But, after his opinion, plus a week's worth of prayer, we knew that God was not leading us to this child.  We have prayed individually and together for peace and direction as we review files to know what God desires for our family and we felt it then.  We have also spent time praying individually and together that God will provide that child (and each of the children we review) with the family that He planned for them and that they will be adopted quickly.  Saying no to a file is very difficult.

And, then last week, we saw a child's file that we were very interested in pursuing.  We tried to put the child on hold on Friday afternoon, but we found out on Monday that another family had already requested hold on that file just before us.  That was difficult to hear.  But, we had prayed and prayed for this child and for this child's family.  We had hoped that maybe we would be the family, but we also prayed that whoever it would be would be a family that would lead this little one to Christ.  We know that God will keep our child from us, so we know that if God wanted that child to be ours, He would move Heaven and Earth to make it happen.  And, if He has a different child for us, He will move Heaven and Earth to make it happen.  Our request to put the child on hold being shortly after the other family's request did not change God's plan at all!  That child was not meant for our family.  That child was meant for someone else.  I know that and I trust that and I have faith in a God that has a desire to bless us with immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine.  

So, although we were sad to not receive the permission to pursue this child, we know that it is God's plan.  God is teaching us so much about faith and trust and patience and His love for us.

We want to match with our child.  We want to see his or her face.  We want to know him or her.  We want to pray for him or her by name.  We want our match.  But, we also want it in God's timing.  We may match with a special focus child any day now or well after our dossier goes to China.  Or, we may match with an LID only child after our dossier is logged into China.  It may be soon or it may take months for us to match.  Either way, I know that God is in control and if we are obedient, we will be blessed with the child that God has intended for our family.

Our church has encouraged everyone, including the children, to learn a Bible verse a week.  We are using a specific book and learning verses together this year.  Our boys have done so amazing learning their verses!  We are really proud of them!  And, this week's verse is so perfectly timed.

 And we know that  in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Like I said, adoption is HARD!  But, it is so worth it!  The process is hard, but we are learning so much about ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses, our faith, and our God through this process.  So, even though it is hard, I wouldn't change it.  How else would God teach me all that He is teaching me!?  He is working it all (the long home study, the matching process, the finances, etc.) for the good of us who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  We have been called to adopt.  And, he is working every detail for the good!

We are only in the beginning of adoption and I know that there will be a lot of hard days with the adoption process and with raising an adopted child.  The adoption process is like a wedding.   The planning of the wedding takes months, sometimes years, but the process of wedding planning is for one big day.  The most important part at the end of that one big day is the marriage.  The marriage is for a lifetime, through the good and the bad and through the hard times.  Adoption is the same way.  The process is to get us to our one big day...our Gotcha Day!  But, the important part is our forever family for the rest of our lives!  We are at the beginning of the hard stuff, but it will be worth it.  And, I am thankful for all that God is teaching us!

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