Giant Q&A Session

Ok!  So here is the huge, gigantic Q&A post.  I considered splitting it up into two but I didn’t want to make anyone wait to have their question answered, and I just started typing and got on a roll!  So feel free to scroll through and read only the questions that are interesting to you.  A lot of these are really great questions that should be their very own post, and my answers were attempting brevity so I might raise more questions than I answer!  If this happens pretty please comment or email me and let me know!  I would love to dedicate some blog posts to some of these, and I want to make sure I’m getting everyone’s questions answered when I do!  Enjoy!

What is the reason you decided to adopt?

I wrote about that more extensively here.  I have wanted to adopt since I was in high school; we have been talking about it since we were first married, and it’s always just been something on our radar that we hoped to do one day when God opened the doors.

How did you decide where to adopt from (country and organization)?

I have been advocating and fundraising for orphans and adopting families for years through Reece’s Rainbow.  Technically we are doing an independent adoption (per the laws of our country), so we don’t have an agency.  But Reece’s Rainbow is connected to a specific facilitation team in-country that takes care of everything on that end and helps us assemble our Dossier properly.  There are a few reasons we decided to go this route, but the main reason was familiarity.  We knew the organization and how the process worked through them so it was a logical way to go for us.

As far as country is concerned, we first ruled out places that we knew we didn’t qualify for. (There were quite a few actually) and then we began looking at photo lists for waiting children in countries we did qualify for.  God made it quite clear to us where our children would be.

Why go out of country or how did the location factor play in? Cost? Ease of adoption? Greater need?

We have always been open to both domestic and international adoption.  There are children everywhere who need loving families and country of birth is really a side note for us in the big picture.  If cost were a determining factor we absolutely would not have gone international!  Our adoption has cost well over 30k and we could have adopted from foster care for essentially nothing.

Again, it would have been much easier logistically for our family to adopt domestically.  There is no long travel time, no being away from home for months with our two little ones, no language barriers, etc.  The red tape for our country’s Dossier is one of the worst and most complicated.  Not to mention we are adopting from two different regions in our country which makes our adoption even more chaotic, hectic, difficult and expensive.  (Do we sound crazy yet?) :)

IMG_0017So why go out of country?  Is there a greater need?  That’s so hard to determine objectively.  America in comparison with the rest of the world, yes, has a much greater need just by sheer number of orphans and lack of resources in many places.  After seeing this news report a few years ago, my heart has always been with the children languishing in mental institutions overseas.  I am so grateful that God has given me the desire of my heart to rescue at least two precious children from that inevitable future.

On the other hand, the United States has thousands of children in foster care in desperate need of homes.  And although they are not consigned to the same fate as orphans who age out in poorer countries, most of them do live difficult and unimaginable lives and have little or no future unless a stable and loving family can be found for them.

I would love to add children to our family through foster care if God would bless us with that opportunity one day, but we also knew that for our family we probably had a small window in which we would be logistically able to adopt internationally, whereas we will very likely be in a position to adopt domestically for many, many more years.  We wanted to take the fleeting opportunity first and get our children from across the ocean home.

It consistently amazes us how, even though we were called to the most expensive and most complicated and difficult type of adoption (for our family), God has time and again opened the doors to make it happen.  If it were by our own strength we never would have made it this far.  It is so clear to us that God’s hand and leading is in all of this.

How did you choose Eastern Europe and special needs adoption? What is one piece of advice to someone considering the same?

I believe I answered the location question above, so I’ll address special needs specifically.  First, in the adoption world, special needs is a very broad term that can mean anything from severe health problems to a child over the age of three, or a part of a sibling group.  Would you believe that just being born a boy can get you put into this category?  A “special needs” adoption is usually described as the adoption of a hard-to-place child.

I have always known that this is the kind of adoption I would pursue.  I have never had an interest in being put on a waiting list for a healthy baby knowing that there are hundreds of other families who would be thrilled to take in that child.  How could I wait for months or years to be “matched” with a child, knowing that millions of orphans are not being matched with anyone because of one or more of those factors?  I wanted to adopt a child that was waiting for a family.

Now there are plenty of “healthy” children waiting for families, but more narrowly we decided to adopt children with disabilities.  I have worked with children and adults with special needs in college and I’ve had a heart for that type of advocacy ever since.  Once you spend a substantial amount of time around people with special needs you begin to realize how they are actually just really normal people who look or sound or think a bit different.  They also tend to be full of joy and spunk and never failed to brighten my day.  So that wasn’t a hard choice for me at all.  Jake and I both felt a tug toward children with Cerebral palsy, and we didn’t exactly plan it this way, but that is the diagnosis both of our kiddos have!

It’s always so fun to watch God work.  And that would be my only real advice for someone considering this kind of adoption.  Pray that God would work in your family and then sit back and watch the wonders unfold!  Well… that and possibly start saving for it like… yesterday. :)  International special needs adoption is hard and it’s not for the faint of heart, but it is also one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences you will ever have.  Read about others’ experiences, learn as much as you can and talk with those who’ve been through it.  Being informed is your best bet!

How much of a background check is done as part of the process? With all the posts about Ukraine news, I was wondering how closely they monitor things like FB and if that was part of the process.

A home study background check is thorough.  We had to get background checks from six different states and fingerprinting done in our current state and a second background check/fingerprinting done for USCIS.  I don’t know that our social worker or anyone else checked our Facebook profiles, lol!  We are careful what we post online or share publicly because there is a tiny chance that the wrong person might see the wrong information and it would endanger our adoption.  There is only so much we are allowed to share.  But do they actively check those things?  No, I don’t think so.

When is the official arrival home?

We are hoping for before July 20th but we are being delayed with this second court date so I am not sure if that is going to be a realistic goal still or not.  After we fly to America we still will have a few days in the hospital before we officially can sleep in our own beds again.

What sorts of things are you going to do to help Juri and Janna acclimate to the US?

This is an interesting question, they both have had such small worlds their entire lives that everything will seem overwhelming and scary, even if they were just moving in with a family from Ukraine.  Could you imagine spending your entire childhood never leaving the grounds of your orphanage, doing the same exact routine day in and day out, never seeing beyond the thick walls that barricade your playground?  Leaving would certainly be exciting, but also terrifying.  We will be keeping their worlds very small to start out with, and we’ll increase the distance and time we go away from home gradually.

I think the most difficult part of crossing cultures, for Juri especially, will be the language barrier.  We have learned some Russian and are teaching him bits of English so we can at least communicate basic needs right away.  We are also hoping to find a translator when home so we can have more substantial conversations before his English vocabulary catches up.

Does the passport process not take as long in Ukraine as it does in the US?

No… actually I think it does.  I’m not 100% sure how they compare, but we will need to pay to expedite their passports so we aren’t stuck here for a few more months!  All families pay that extra fee.

What are some things that you would do differently if there is a next time around that you didn’t do this time?

I would pray more, and relax more, and let God handle it more.  I would stress about things less and give them into God’s hands, knowing He had it under control.  I would start learning Russian months earlier than we did and I would be cooking freezer meals every week, instead of just really super-fast right beforehand.  And I would pack much lighter!!

What date do you need to get your plane tickets, and how many miles are now needed to reach your goal?

We are praying to get our plane tickets before the 19th.  That’s Stephen’s birthday and if we don’t get out of here before then we’ll have to pay an extra $700 for his ticket!!  Right now we are only 523 miles away from our goal and being funded.  But that would be a huge setback, so please pray for us that we can get out before then!

During your 10 day wait for Juri, are you allowed to go visit Hope?

Yes!  We are here now :)

Is it common practice to sedate children for their visits?

The children in laying rooms, like where Hope is, are typically sedated on a daily basis.  It is more convenient for the staff that way and probably cheaper since they eat less food.  I have not heard of an orphanage specifically sedating a child for their visit, but they certainly don’t stop sedating them because of a visit.

How did you pack everything you needed?

Very tightly!  We actually packed a lot more than we really needed.  It’s amazing how much stuff you think you can’t live without until you are hauling it all over a foreign country for six weeks and decide you really could have lived without it!  We ended up bringing one backpack, one big suitcase, one little suitcase and three Trunkis for the kids (one Trunki always gets packed in the big suitcase.)

What’re the digs like?

Crazy!!  The outside of the building and the stairwells are always crumbling and scary.  This particular apartment’s stairwell smells like a sewer (and sort of looks like one) but it is the nicest apartment we’ve had so far!  The inside of the apartments are always decorated pretty interestingly, and they usually have neat lighting features or decorative flourishes to them.  But you also start noticing that the appliances and furniture is all really cheaply made.  The beds here are very hard compared to the ones in America.  On an interesting side note almost all of our sheets and pillowcases are strange shapes and sizes and most of them seem to be hand sewed!  If I’m being honest it drives me a little bonkers, but I suppose it’s good for my sanctification.

Does Juri know he’s yours now? That you are Mommy & Daddy & siblings?

Yes and no.  He knows the words “Mama” and “Papa” and brags to every Nanny he sees about it.  It is really quite sweet.  He doesn’t understand anything about custody or belonging to us and I don’t think he is processing what “go to live in America” means, although I know they’ve talked to him about it.  It’s so completely different and outside of his life so far I doubt he’s able to comprehend much of what’s going on, if at all.

Favorite thing to see outside of your kiddo?

The churches!  The churches here are absolutely gorgeous.  A part of me wishes I could live in Kiev just to visit the Cave Monastery every week.  I love that most ladies here wear head coverings, that people cross themselves upon entering and leaving a church.  And I love seeing people come to churches to pray randomly during the week days; it’s great!

Hardest part so far? Easiest?

The hardest part is the emotional roller coaster.  There are so many emotions all at once over so many days that I think my receptors are breaking, lol!  There are days that I hate leaving the kids in the orphanage and some days I feel so guilty because I am glad the visits are over.  I’m running on emotional empty and I know the most challenging part of our journey hasn’t even gotten here yet.  (If you have your notepads ready for prayer requests… ahem.)

Easiest?  Umm… is there an easy part?  Haha.  I’m sitting here trying to think of what has been easiest and I really don’t have a good answer for that.  It’s all been difficult in its own way.  The SDA appointments were a breeze for us, even though I was super nervous, and our first court was easy peasy too.  So those are two things that were actually a piece of cake that I stressed a ton over beforehand.

What was your most successful fundraiser? If you were fundraising all over again which fundraisers would you repeat and which ones weren’t very successful?

We did an Envelopes Fundraiser that was super successful.  I always enjoyed local fundraisers and including an advocacy portion for waiting kids (there are plenty of advocates who love to donate to get their kiddo some exposure!).  If I was fundraising all over again I would be much more organized and plan out all my fundraisers from the beginning.  It was kind of hodge podge and at times I was doing too many things at once and nothing at other times.  The last minute fundraisers are always the ones that don’t do well.  We did one online auction that went over great.  I messaged a ton of shop owners on Etsy asking them to sponsor an item and we got tons of great things shipped directly from the owners!

What things are you doing to help the kids attach to you (or will you be doing)?

Oh wow.  Such a huge question.  Right now I’m planning on dressing, feeding, bathing and playing with them?  Lol… Honestly, they are both still so in need of basic care that we will just be focusing on that for attachment.  We will do some cocooning when we get home so they aren’t bombarded by a bunch of strange people and they can learn that we’re really here to stay, but we don’t have any elaborate ideas at the moment.  If they start struggling with bonding we will focus in on it more.

I know this will be different for every family, but I have always heard to adopt in birth order-how did you decide stepping outside of that would work for your family and what unique challenges and blessings do you think you will encounter?

Good question!  Our social worker really worked us over on this one too.  (In a good way.)  My thoughts on out of birth order adoption are quite plentiful and this really should be a post all its own.  I’ll have to work on one, but to answer briefly, our children are still very young and flexible.

We watched carefully how Evangeline interacted while playing with boys around Juri’s age and what her dynamic was like when she wasn’t the biggest.  We talked to her about if she might like to have a big brother and we read a ton about adopting older children.

I have been watching people bring home children from Eastern European orphanages for years, so it was easy for me to sort out information on what sorts of situations and concerns we’d likely have with Juri considering his age, location and special need and the other personality information we had at the time.

There are always risks when you adopt an older child, and we were very sensitive to putting our smaller, younger children in the way of those risks.  But we determined that in our case the dangerous risks were small to none and the difficulties we would come across we were well equipped to handle because of our preferred parenting style.  I hope that doesn’t just raise more questions than it answers!

How do you think Juri and Janna will react to the plane ride home?

Not even knowing beforehand how my biological children would react to such long plane rides, it would be impossible to predict how these two will do.  I am hoping for not too many issues, the planes are usually dark and quiet.  They have both lived lives of little to no stimulation so… I think they might actually do better than my other two who need constant input!  I am sure we will be seeing lots of orphanage/coping behaviors though, and that will be hard.  Probably harder on me than on them.

What is it like to go grocery shopping?

Intimidating and depressing, lol!  There are so many delicious things that I am either too nervous to try and order and so many basic things I can’t find or they don’t have.  I would be much more adventurous without the littles here, but shopping with them can be stressful enough anyway without spending an extra half an hour to explore.

Will you be able to take pictures before you leave, of the kids and nannies and such that have been his life this far?

I hope so!  I will certainly ask to do that on or before Gotcha Day.  I know that there are favorite nannies for both kiddos and I would like to at least have their pictures as an added bit of closure.

Are you glad you brought your other two kiddos along? Would you repeat/recommend to others?

Yes I am!  I mean, it’s definitely harder with them here, but it would have been literally impossible for us to complete this adoption otherwise, so I’m glad we got the opportunity to bring them!  I would do it again for sure if the Lord put us in a position to do an international adoption in the future.  For others I would say, if you have young children who would do really well at home, come by yourself.  Otherwise let them tag along.  It’s really so different for every family though!

How does it work that you still have fundraising to do. (I’ve never understood how this works.) How will you make it home if you haven’t got all the money?

Definitely a good question, I wondered this a lot too in the years I worked as an advocate.  What I’ve found is that most families travel with credit cards just in case they need them, but pray that they don’t!  Other families take out low or no interest adoption loans and try not to use them.  I have not heard of a family travelling and being at risk for getting into country and being stranded there.  I am sure it’s happened, but I don’t know anyone personally.

For our family, we never use credit cards, but we did apply for two to travel with.  We also have some savings set aside to buy a vehicle that will actually fit the six of us.  In a real pinch we would have to dip into that money and would probably just go a while longer without a family car after we’re home.  If we don’t get funded we will have to use one of those (really not ideal) options.

Comments

  1. Laura Henry says:

    Good post. I have had one question and it wasn’t answered here so I’ll ask in the comments. Was your congregation supportive of taking so much time off from his pastoral duties? How is managing those demands from overseas and who is tending his flock? I’m loving following your journey and am very excited for you all! I’m impressed at taking all this on with such little ones. we would love to adopt but that is a ways away yet. I’m learning a lot by observation so thanks!

    • Laura Henry says:

      Sorry for all the typos/mistakes. I guess i didn’t proofread very well from my phone.

    • I’m curious about the same thing as Laura. I know every congregation is different, but how has your congregation reacted and how did you first tell them that you planned to adopt? Were you already in the adoption process when your husband received his call? Did you walk in the first day and let any little lady who wanted to know when you were having more kids that you were hoping to adopt?
      My husband is also a pastor, we also have two young children, and we also began considering overseas special needs adoption because of seeing pictures of waiting children on Reece’s Rainbow. This question and answer post (along with the rest of your blog, which I just found out about yesterday) has been a huge help!

      • dalas.mueller@gmail.com says:

        Great questions! I will definitely find some time to answer you on all of these. If you connect with me on Facebook I’d probably have time to give you the story personally a little quicker than I will get to answering here :)

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