Friday, December 27, 2013

(No) Fun Friday: Update 16

A couple of weeks ago we were able to send a package with a family traveling to Ethiopia. We bought the girls each a Christmas outfit and made them a family photo album. We waited with great anticipation to see their sweet little faces but nothing came. Instead, what we received from online resources was that Ethiopia is possibly closing its doors to adoption which sent a viral gasp to many in the process. The rumors continued for 2 days with speculation of what might or might not happen to the future of Ethiopia adoption. 

Our adoption agency asked many families to take a deep breathe and wait until Monday (Ethiopia time) to get more information. Of course, I wanted to stand in firm faith that this could not be the case. But as we gear up for a trip to see the girls, my tired mind wonders and I catch myself in what if’s. What if Ethiopia adoption suddenly stops? What will happen to the girls? What if we can’t be grandfathered in to this new system? What if God places us on a different path? Finally, Monday came and this is the message that we received in response to the rumors. 

Dear Adoptive Families,

As some of you are aware of there have been some rumors about the current state of Ethiopian adoptions.  I would like to take the time to clear up these rumors and get you all some answers.  I was able to communicate with our agency director several times sense Friday about everything.  Time and time again he stated that the rumors were not true but he needed some time to find out where they were coming from. 

To refresh everyone’s memories and because not everyone knows what has been going on I will recap the events that started on Friday and went through this morning.  An internet media sources posted on Friday that the head of MOWA (this is the organization in Ethiopia that oversees adoptions) made statements calling for Ethiopia to close to adoption.  This person is known for being opposed to international adoption so it was not a surprise that she made these comments.  It did not take long for people with blogs to pick up this article and give their opinion on the situation.  (I would caution anyone about using blogs as a source for information on subjects like this).  Things seem to quiet down until Saturday evening when an unreliable source publicly stated that head of MOWA was calling for adoption to close within 10 days.  As I heard from many families, this was upsetting and frustrating, for all of you.  Everyone one of you have invested so much heart, time and money in this process and to hear that this could even be a possibility was devastating. I spent a lot of time trying to find some legitimate information but I was unable to find anything on it.  With all of that being said Radu was able to respond with information about what has been going on along with a better insight on laws in Ethiopia surrounding adoption.  I have posted this information below for you to read. 

After talking to several families, I think it is important to address the slowing of MOWA letters in our two biggest regions.  I want you all to know that these are two separate issues.  The timing of these issues is difficult but MOWA is not signing the regional MOWA letters because they are going to close Ethiopia to adoption but because, in these two regions, they are working on changing the documents at the grassroots level (the beginning of the process).  There are other regions (some of which we work in) that are still signing MOWA letters.

I would like to take just a moment to say that I appreciate all of you and thank you for feeling comfortable enough to contact us with your concerns.  Please do not ever hesitate to call or email with anything you may need.

Information received from the director

As you know, the international adoption process is a process to assist orphans.  The Ethiopian parliament voted the right to have an orphan adopted to international families into a law when they originally opened the country for international adoptions. As with any laws it cannot be stopped in “ten days” like some very irresponsible sites implied.

Let’s take a few moments to think about this: if they stop the international adoption process in ten days, as rumors have said, what will happen with all the orphans? Who will take care of them? Where are they going to go?

What will happen to all the orphanages and with the orphanage employees? Some of you may not know but the law states orphanages cannot be supported by anybody but by the adoption agencies, so if adoptions stop the children will not have anywhere to go and the orphanage employees will lose their jobs. Stopping international adoptions will create a mess nobody is willing to handle.

I have said this many times: creating rumors is not helping the orphans! Creating rumors is dangerous and not constructive…. but nothing else can be expected from organizations that release information without checking their sources.  We are here to help the orphans, and with your support we will do it. We have to show the Ethiopian government and all other governments, for that matter, that families are adopting orphans in order to give them a home forever. We have to show them that we are doing our best to help the governments make the international adoption process as transparent and ethical as possible.  One of the ways to do this is that we have to make sure ALL the orphans match the definition of an “orphan” and nothing is slipping between the cracks. We here at Adoption Avenues have programs which support the biological parents to raise their children because we believe it is very important that the children to stay with their biological family, when possible. We believe international adoption should be the last resort. We know and support the facts that the officials are trying to keep the children in homes in Ethiopia first, and this is how the process should be. But we also know the orphans have the rights to be adopted, so in cases where all efforts to find a home for the orphans in Ethiopia are not successful the orphans will be placed for adoption internationally.

So how did these rumors start?

The Ethiopian officials are trying to raise awareness, with the general public, about the orphans and they are trying to be more transparent about what inter-country adoptions means. In Ethiopia last week and over the weekend more than two hundreds politicians, including the President of Ethiopia, participated in a series of conferences. These conferences covered several subjects such as (and in this order): the increasing and ever disturbing drug related problems among the students, the protection against sexual harassment of the women in working places, the humanitarian problems created by the over 50,000 Ethiopians which are returning from South Sudan (which is devastated by the civil war at this time) and the orphan issues.

When it came time to discuss international adoptions, like in every country, some voices were against international adoptions, but there were many other voices who are for international adoptions.  During the hearings, at these conferences, the politicians presented their points. Here are a few things that they spoke about related to adoption: increasing domestic adoptions and having the international adoption as the last resort.  Also they would like to set a clear age difference between the child and the parents.  An example is a person which is 65 years old, can adopt under the present law, should they be allowed to adopt? And if they are allowed to adopt what is the youngest age of a child that they can adopt? Another example is a 25 years old woman can adopt a 17 years old boy, again under the current law, should this be allowed? Also they talked about single women adopting, which we have known for years is a very sensitive subject for the politicians in Ethiopia.

Also at the end of several conferences committees were established which will check and analyze all of these issues (the drug issues, the working place protection, the refugee issue and the international adoption concerns. The committees have 10 working days to come up with proposals which will be presented to the parliament. (It was stated as rumor that Ethiopia will close adoption in 10 days - this is where the 10 days comes from)

Bottom line it was agreed that stopping the international process is not the solution. The improving of the economic conditions should be addressed, and that will bring down the number of orphans.

I hope this gives you a clear and real picture of the events. As things develop we will keep you informed.

Thank you for your time and again we are here to answer any questions

Two countries have recently made big changes to their international adoption programs. Russia has shut down international adoption to the US completely for political reasons. The Dominican Republic of Congo has stopped giving exit permits to children. So basically, the children are stuck in the DRC though they have legal adoptive parents elsewhere. Some parents have been in country to bring their children home and have had to leave without him/her until exit interviews begin again. We ride the wave of international adoption and pray for a solution for so many children in need. 

I exhale and breathe thanks for so many who advocate for the needs of children without families in Ethiopia. I’m relieved to hear that better standards of care will be made to help families stay together whenever possible. My heart rejoices that international adoption will be a last resort and that Ethiopia will work hard to improve supportive family dynamics. There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia in need of a home. Children are worth every moment of wait. Every second of paper work. Every emotional twist and turn.  

Dear Father, thank you for having the best interest in mind for all of your children. For using what is intended for harm, for good. Thank you for the way that you try our patience and test our hearts. Thank you for stretching our faith and drawing close to you in stressful times. Thank you that you love us despite our moments of doubt in life. Thank you for continually molding our hearts to be all that you want us to be. Thank you for caring for widows and orphans. Thank you for meeting your people in need and for reaching families where they are. You are here, in this place and there where love calls your name. Thank you for holding our girls close and for keeping them safe and healthy. Thank you that you love them. You love us. Thank you for being faithful and for never leaving our side. Never once did we ever have to walk alone. Amen. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 15

Cute little toes

Praise God! Strong, healthy girls! Pink eye is gone and we have been told that they are as happy as can be. They are each approximately 13.9lbs and continue to grow each week. Thank you Jesus!!

This last week, on Thursday, we were finally able to officially send off our PAIR documents to be evaluated. There was a minor error on a document that needed to be resolved. Though we probably would have been okay not correcting it, we decided to wait, and error on the side of safe. We have dug through our paperwork with a fine comb. We have analyzed their stories and rechecked document accuracy. We feel that we have done our best to ensure that their stories are correct. Now our paperwork will go to the US immigration office and the US embassy in Ethiopia, where they too will verify the documents to ensure an ethical adoption. Any concerns will be further evaluated. Their history appears to be well documented. Three judges have already cleared their case along with 3 witnesses. 

It's been almost four months since referral. The wait is getting harder, but we trust in God's timing. There are days that I feel at complete peace and other days that I feel this inside bubbling of urgency to bring them home. Since our PAIR process is now in the mail and will arrive on Monday there is still nothing that we can do but wait. We do so in great anticipation. 

Mike and I always try to take an annual couples-only trip to regroup and refresh. We go in the winter because, honestly, I need some sun. Our vacation usually involves a beach and quite reflections with a good book.We have been going back and forth regarding whether or not we would go anywhere with preparations of traveling to Ethiopia for court - which now will probably be February or early March. So we have wrestled. To go or not to go. 

There is nothing like an early Christmas surprise to make my heart sing! And this was a big one. Mike came home from a busy day this last week to let me in on his planning. He had already taken off the time at work. He had looked into flights. He arranged for excellent care for the kids. And we are currently still ironing out the details of our upcoming trip to Africa! The beach trip is a no go this year. But doing mission work will be. Because simply put, this is where our hearts are. Aaaanndd…the icing on the cake is that we will be meeting the girls very soon!! 

While we are in Africa, not only will we be loving on our girls, but we will have the opportunity to meet with many great organizations that serve widows and orphans in Ethiopia. We are so very excited to be able to have this opportunity to serve in this way. On the West side of Addis Ababa (the capital city and where we will be staying) is also a women's hospital that helps women with injuries from prior deliveries. The Fistula hospital has been a blessing to many women who have been segregated from their homes from simply not having access to the modern day medicine that we each experience every day. 

The girls are currently in a foster home where all of their basic needs are being met. They are amongst 20 other infants and approximately 30 other children of varying ages. When we went to China, we were able to take suitcases full of goods for an orphanage there and are hoping to do the same for the foster home in Addis. I know many of you have expressed interest in helping so I thought that it would be helpful to list what we need:

1. We have received an abundant amount of formula and bottles from the Columbus Children's Healthcare! We are blown away by their generosity and kindness. This will make a huge difference in the life of the children in the foster home who are currently struggling to survive. Many children, just like in the US, struggle to digest milk protein. Obviously, if they are in an orphanage they do not have access to breast milk - though that would be awesome if they did. Nor do they have access to specialized formula. So bringing formula such as Nutramigen is a game changer for these kids. We are still looking for another donation of formula and would love to have this for our trip. Please contact us if you have connections to formula reps or formula companies. Or if you would like to purchase a container. Coming together as a team will make a huge difference! 

2. We have 2 Bumbo (thank you Brigette and Craigslist) seats and are looking for 2-4 more. This will make a big difference for the babies who lay down a lot in their cribs. It will also help with feeding. The nannies of the best that they can to let the children on the floor to play. They do their best to care for 50 kids. But honestly, can you imagine this without having the tools that we have access to. Give thanks for all that we have. Then donate a Bumbo. Thanks friends. 

3. We are looking for sweaters, jackets and shoes for all ages. Currently, the temp in Addis is 72-75, but at night the temperature drops and its cold. Also, shoes are great for these little ones to run! 

4. We are hoping to gather school supplies. This can be colors, coloring books, safety scissors, pencils, construction paper, etc. This can be as simple as collecting the extra crayons when you are out to eat with your kids. Any extra help is appreciated. 

I have a hard time asking for donations (or for help really - which I'm growing in). I like to bless others - to give - but realize that we can't do it alone. I would love for you to come along side us and weave a beautiful story of hope. I've grown to understand how much we have and take for granted each day. I know that your donation, both big and small will make a giant difference in the life a child. Whether you want to donate $5 or more, you will be part of the miracle that brings JOY and LOVE to these children. Please consider joining us to help those in need. To reach out with big, open arms and embrace another. Thank you in advance for your kindness. 

Father, thank you for the blessing of health. Thank you for Christmas and that you came to earth to bring redemption and salvation for our sins. Thank you that you came as an infant dependent upon care from adults. You were small and vulnerable. You came to us through a teenage mom, born in a barn. You didn't have a home like we do. Yet, through your birth, you gave us all that we need. You lived a life free of sin. You brought miracles and love. You lead the perfect example of how we strive to live our life. You died to forgive us all while we were still sinners. We each fall short of your glory. But you reach us through love. You pour over us mercy. You bless us with grace. You walk beside us as you call us to love others. Thank you for allowing us to meet our girls soon. Thank you for the gift of children. Thank you for preparing our path. For covering our journey. For going before us and behind us. Thank you for our experiences that have brought us to where we are today. Each lesson learned. Each hard, difficult season. Each joyful praise of thanksgiving. For its all to bring glory to You. Amen. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 14

Our baby, happy as can be!!

It's week 14 and we are so ready to see these happy smiles! Each week it is pure joy to be able to say that the girls are doing really well. They are healthy, strong and growing! One of the girls, however, does have a little pink eye but is on antibiotic drops to help clear it up. They both look great despite minor infections. Please continue to keep them in your prayers! We greatly appreciate so many of you who have greatly blessed us through the power of prayer! 

Mike came home from work this last week and decided to let me in on a little Christmas surprise  early! I am so excited to share it this next week after I have more details! Stay tuned my prayer warriors, family and friends! It's the best Christmas surprise! Eeeek!! {I'm dancing in delight}

Father, thank you for the gift of our family! Thank you for Mike and for the way that he loves me. I know how blessed that we truly are to have each other. Thank you for this holiday season and for the gift of surprises. Please help us use this time to draw close into relationship with you. Let us praise your name in worship. Show us how to be still and how to look for you in the quiet moments of each day. Help us, in the busy, to remember the reason why we celebrate this time together. Welcome us to delight in your birth. To celebrate your love. To joyfully give thanks. To feel your grace. And to rest in your presence. Amen. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 13

It's Friday!! The girls are doing amazing! We could not be any more encouraged by their health and growth - over 13lbs. There is now a sparkle in both of their eyes as they reach new milestones with each passing week. We are pleased with the girls' care in the foster home as they continue to be monitored closely and fed around the clock. Thank you prayer warriors for your gift of supporting us. Each prayer is heard and is truly a blessing.

According to tracking, Our PAIR paper work is now in Memphis, TN. We are hoping to have it by Monday. All other documents are ready to go. As soon as it is here, we will zoom over to FedEx and mail it to USCIS. And then we wait...and wait...until we hear of approval. We will continue to get updates on the girls during this time which is a great encouragement for our family.

Lord, thank you for another great update! Thank you that our girls are healthy and strong. Thank you for the friends that have been able to encourage us with validation of the girls' well being. Thank you for your peace in this journey. For bringing comfort on the days when the wait seems hard. For blessing us with great support. Please continue to bless over our girls. Continue to bring light into their little hearts. A twinkle in their eyes. Please hold them close until we can wrap them in our arms. Shower them with love and help prepare them for their new family soon. In your name, Jesus. Amen.