Navigating Adoption, Part 3
This is a continuation of a series on adoption.
I was trucking along there with part one and part two. And then Nursing school happened and I didn’t have the strength to look at a computer for anything past facebook and Sunday postsecrets. But I’ve been thinking a lot about where we are with Abigail (our 5 year old daughter that we adopted from Ethiopia two years ago) and thought this could be a great place to hash through some thoughts.
So where did we leave off? Jones came home and we went from 2 to 3 kids – honestly one of the easier transitions for me. Of course that could be because I wasn’t recovering from the birthing process. Or because Jones was the easiest baby on the planet. But really, by the time the third baby comes along you realize that you aren’t going to break them. And that no matter what you do they are GOING to end up in therapy talking about you – so the pressure’s off.
We always knew we’d adopt again. And not just because of my fondness for even numbers. We didn’t want Jones to be the only person in our family that was black – or adopted. But we weren’t sure if we would adopt domestically again or internationally the second time.
(Cue – sign from the Universe.)
At that time in my life I was thinking a lot about what really mattered in life, what it means to love, and other generally super deep questions that you can answer in a week. John was up late working one night and I was channel surfing (pre-streaming Netflix). I landed on a news story out of Africa. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what the story was about – but it brought me to tears. Tears because I saw faces of parentless children. Tears because they were hungry. Tears because I have so much – and I’ve never once worried about my children not having enough.
(Sidenote: Once when Jac was really little- like 3 or something, I thought it would be a great idea to show him youtubes of poverty-stricken African children. He was and still is the world’s littlest hoarder and his favorite word was “mine”. As we watched the video I told him, “See bud? There are kids all over the world that don’t have ANY toys at all and sometimes they don’t even have enough food.” He JUMPED out of my lap, ran to the toy box, threw his body over his toys and screamed “They are coming to get my stuff!!!!!” Fail.)
Back to my revelation…
All of the sudden all of the reasons I had for waiting to adopt again (the size of our house, the money, the chaos of little ones) didn’t seem to matter anymore. All of the sudden I felt like the wealthiest, most available, most OBVIOUS person in the whole world to add another child to our family. So I did what any reasonable person who was ready to adopt again would do – I got online. And within 15 minutes I had found the one. His name was Abdi, he was from Ethiopia, and he was freaking ADORABLE. I called John over to the computer so he could meet his new son. Pause: Thank God for a husband who is always willing to roll with me and my very spontaneous, yet resolutely decided ideas and never once giggle loud enough that I can hear him. Play: He agreed that Abdi was the cutest orphan on the internet and that we should go ahead and book a flight to go get him. I promptly sent an email to inquire about what day might be best to go pick him up because I’m very good with details.
A lot of people have asked us why Ethiopia. The truth is – it just made sense for us. We knew we wanted another black child and there aren’t really that many countries in Africa that adopt to American parents without having to live in their country for a time period. The laws and policies in Ethiopia have changed pretty drastically since we adopted and now you have to travel twice, once for the court date and then back 6-8 weeks later to pick up your child. And truthfully it’s a much longer and more tedious process than it was just two years ago. But there are other countries that are opening up more in Africa, and of course there are dozens of other countries that could be a great match for your family. The crazy thing is, each country has their own set of guidelines for who is eligible to adopt. China even has a BMI requirement for their adoptive parents. If you want to play around and get lost in the internets check out: http://adoption.state.gov/country_information.php
So back to Abdi… I heard back from Sue, Abdi’s caseworker and the director of an adoption agency out of Florida, the very next day. Turns out, there’s a HELLA lotta paperwork to adopt internationally. She asked if we were “paper ready” and I told her that I was ALWAYS ready for any kind of paper. She explained that being paper ready meant that your homestudy and dossier were complete and ready to be submitted.
Well then, no.
But have you seen his picture??!?! We NEED him.
Luckily for us, we had literally STUMBLED upon one of the best adoption caseworkers out there. Sue was incredible. She said that if we weren’t paper ready then Abdi would probably not be available by the time we were. BUT – that she was confident that she could move as quickly as we could in order to get a referral for us. (Referral is adoption talk for a child that they present to you – you can either accept or deny referrals for any reason. Which sounds kind of harsh, but everyone involved wants what is best for the child and sometimes your family may not be the best match.)
We started our communication with Sue in late November and had a referral for an equally adorable little GIRL by February 8th. Her name was Abiyal (pronounced AhBEHlay…we think) and she was right around 3 years old. (Sidenote: Ethiopia doesn’t keep birth records, so almost no one in the country knows their actual birthday. I’ll get back to that in a bit.) As soon as I saw her picture I knew she was mine. We learned that she was from a small village on the west side of the country and that she had already been moved to Addis Ababa (the capital) to our agency’s interim care home. My hero/husband finished up all of our dossier in a matter of days and our paperwork was on its way to our agency and then to Ethiopia.
At the time (2 years ago) you did not have to be in Ethiopia for the court date. They had a hearing without you there where they finalized the adoption. Once you cleared court you submitted (more) paperwork to the U.S Embassy in order to get a visa to bring your kiddo home. The time between court and embassy clearance for us was about six weeks (can be much longer now sadly). (I think I like parenthesis.) So on June 12, 2010 we boarded the first of 4 flights to go get our little girl.
To be continued… Stay tuned for Part 4: Attachment in Adoption, the good, the bad and the ugly cry.
Ashleigh Carroll is a wife, mother of four and has a degree in Communications from the University of North Texas (which she uses daily in instructing her children how to use the potty, say please and thank you, and not use their nonverbals in an “ugly” way). Ashleigh is currently working towards a BS in Nursing and expects to graduate in December 2012.