It's been almost a year since we started our adoption journey to bring home our newest miracles from Ethiopia, Africa. There has been several changes - good changes - that have taken place since we started this new adoption journey. As our adoption continues to unfold I will share with you these changes and how they are going to impact our family.
Let's start from where we are right now. We are currently still waiting for a referral. Last I updated, our dossier arrived in Ethiopia, Africa on May 7th, 2013. After it arrived, it needed to be registered in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Typically registration takes 3 weeks after it enters into the country. For us, that would be approximately May 28th. With that being said, we have been waiting 12-15 weeks depending on the date some choose to calculate wait times. New laws have taken effect in the middle of our adoption that will change the way that adoptions are processed. This new program is called Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR). I will do my best to explain what this means, but I sometimes find myself wondering if I need to have a law degree in international adoption services to understand the lengthy lingo addressed in the adoption reform.
First, some history of adoption from Ethiopia, as I understand it. Over the last 3 years adoption in Ethiopia has grown significantly. Because of this rapid expansion and in some cases, greed, there has been corrupt practices in adoption (this happens all over the world including in the US). The government in Ethiopia is working together with the US (and other countries) to implement laws for the best interest of children being adopted from Ethiopia. Before the PAIR program, there were cases of parents traveling to Africa and finding missing links in their paperwork. Months after court, new adoptive families would find out that the birth mother changed her mind, the father was unable to be found or that the child was in fact not an orphan. The child was already legally the adoptive families according to Ethiopia law. During this time, the US was stuck in a rock and a hard place to issue visas. In some cases families were sent to a larger embassy in Nairobi, Kenya for further investigation. Some orphanages have been closed and adoption agencies (not ours) forced to discontinue their practice in the last two years. Now keep in mind that these cases are few and far between, but we believe that even one unethical adoption is not right.
Many, many more good, ethical adoptions take place each year. I don't want to lose sight of the significance of a healthy adoption. The PAIR process will reduce or put an end to the above case scenarios. We are optimistic in this joint effort. There is so much to be thankful for as this new program takes place. Several families, country officials, and adoptive agencies have been working together to address the best interest of children available for adoption. Brave parents have stepped forward to share their tough experiences. Country officials have shown integrity and courage. Agencies have jumped on board to fully support these changes. Together they have called for safer practices and advocated for the need of stricter, more thorough laws. We, as adoptive parents, have rallied behind their efforts. As a community, its essential to hold adoption standards at the most optimum level. And all families in unison say - Amen.
With the new PAIR program, all children will now be "paper ready" before a referral is made to a family. The Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) will issue a letter stating that they have studied the child's paperwork and that the child does indeed meet the qualifications to be a classified as an orphan. Once the child has all paperwork processed, the agency will call the family for a potential match. The family will review all paperwork and meet with their pastor, physician, etc to determine if the child is a good fit for their family. After the family accepts the child(ren), the family must request their PAIR letter from the US Immigration in the form of their I-600. Keep in mind, we have already filed the I-600a which approves us for a child, but not our child. The US will then conduct a thorough investigation to assure orphan status. When the child again clears, this time on the US side, the adoptive family can request to be submitted to court. Once submitted, the birth family or finder (depending on abandonment), will go to court to testify that the child was in fact relinquished or found. And finally, the adoptive family can fly to Ethiopia to meet their child and attend court. Our agency is still planning on us traveling on two trips. One for court and one for the visas from the US Embassy in Addis. The time before referral may or may not be longer. Travel between trips should be much shorter. Our agency said that we are some of the first families to go through this new process (effective September 1, 2013). We will have to wait and see how the new changes directly effect families in the middle of the process. It's a whole lot of emotions nicely wrapped into the gift of an adoption journey. But hey, who doesn't love an adventure, right?!?
Lord thank you for adoption and for the peace that you have placed in our hearts as we move forward with a safer system for both birth families and adoptive families. We have asked the hard questions of our agency and are trusting in your plan for our family. We want precautions to protect children and are thankful that you have brought this issue to light. We know that the one constant in international adoption is change. If we are being honest God, there are days that our stretched hearts are worn thin in the ever changing time frames, agendas and politics. But you are always quick to show up. Lord, you have been so good to calm our thoughts and remind us that we need to press into your will more during these times. That we need to be joyful in all moments using you as our compass to navigate through the trenches of the unknown. To trust when we don't fully understand. God, we also pray that other children do not now get "stuck" in the orphan world unable to escape due to new regulations. Other countries have sadly seen so many children fall through the cracks of the system when new laws are implemented. You meet these children in their need and provide love in places that we can't see. You know each child intimately. We pray that good organizations will be able to offer other positive in-country options for children when adoption is not possible. We pray that more families open their hearts to sponsorships, humanitarian aide and volunteer opportunities. Father, the more we learn about international adoption from Ethiopia, the more we begin to understand that it is a complicated issue far greater than we yet fully comprehend. Practices are laced between cultural differences, tribal rituals, and language barriers that we can't recognize. We are thankful that both Ethiopia and the US are willing to work together to bridge the gaps in the current process. We pray for difficult decisions made by our countries - that officials would make choices that would honor your hope for children so close to your heart. As new practices are taking place, help us also remember the millions of children that are still waiting for forever families. And the thousands of adoptions that have been safely, ethically processed each year. We praise you God. Thank you for your provision and for orchestrating beautiful change. For the many transformations found in your children when welcomed home. Thank you for reminding us that it is you who knows each child by name. It was you who stitched them into existence. It's because you loved, Lord, that we also love. Amen.