Hello Everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to read our story and follow along with our adventure! We hope you enjoy hearing our tale as it unfolds before us over the next year or two.
One week ago today, Joe and I made a life changing decision. After years of talking, planning and waiting, we had a moment of clarity and a calling of fate to begin our journey into parenthood. However, this calling is leading us down a path that is somewhat less traditional. We have chosen to begin our family by adopting! For those of you that know me very well, you'll know that adoption is something that has been a part of my life since I was young. I've known that I wanted to use international adoption as a way to create my family ever since my parents brought the idea into my life back in 1989 or 1990. I just knew it was a route I would eventually take. The idea of international adoption is something that has excited me beyond reason for years, and I guess that fits perfectly with my love and facination with all cultures, histories, races, and backgrounds that are anything different than my own. Many of you know my obsession with international travel to quench my thirst for exposure to people from all geographies in our world. The more I've traveled, the more it's been cemented in my heart that I would one day do everything in my power to welcome a wonderful little angel into my family through international adoption. Luckily for me, Joe feels much the same as I do in his reasons for wishing to adopt! He believes that adoption is an amazing way to create a family and that with all of the precious little ones currently in orphanages around the world, just waiting for a family, how could we not go this route? We have not chosen this route because of an infertility issue (as we haven't yet tried for biological children), we feel this is just the route our hearts are willing us to take right now. For us, we're also excited that we've chosen this child, and they will always know they weren't a backup plan for us. They were meant to be with us because although our future little one wasn't grown below my heart, they WERE grown in our hearts. As for the future... I imagine we'll be adding to our family through biological means too at some point, however, right now we know this is what's right for us. We realize this is a difficult path to take, and the journey will certainly test our strength, patience, finances and parenting abilities. Our choice is by no means one that we take lightly. Joe and I are completely and totally committed to each other and our future child and we will ride out this adventure through wherever it takes us.
Before I begin explaining our reasons for choosing to adopt from Ethiopia, I thought I should quickly mention our estimated timeline for this process. We are planning to apply for adoption with an Ethiopia program sometime in April 2007. We aren't starting the adoption sooner because we still need to make our final decision as to which adoption agency we'll be working with (and there are no placement agencies in California that do Ethiopian adoptions!), and we are also hoping to finish up the last of our house projects. In addition to that... The adoption is rather expensive so we're hoping to get some money saved up by then in order to get the process going. Once we apply in April, it will probably be about 1 year until we travel to Ethiopia to bring our angel home. After the application is submitted, we'll begin our homestudy process (this takes people anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months to complete) and gathering all of the necessary documents for our dossier. Once the dossier is completed, authenticated, notarized, certified and accepted we will finally be officially waiting for our referral. Once we get a referral for a child and accept it, it is generally about 8-10 weeks before you travel to Ethiopia for about a week to get your baby. Ahhh.... Patience will certainly be a virtue!
Now, I'm sure many of you are wondering how we came to chose Ethiopia as the country to adopt from. There are so many amazing children in so many countries around the world, I will tell you I thought it was going to be a very difficult decision to make. However, as I began doing some adoption research (immediately following the discussion last Saturday which lead Joe and I to agree it was time to start doing our adoption research), I kept being drawn to the Ethiopian adoption programs. I looked at more adoption agencies' websites than I could even count, and at each website that had a program in Ethiopia, I ended up feeling a strong draw and connection. I don't know if I could fully explain it, so I'll give you some of the more concrete reasons that we love the Ethiopian programs.
First of all, there is an estimated 4.5 million orphaned children in Ethiopia. Let me say that again... FOUR and a HALF MILLION! And that number is growing every day. Many of these children are orphaned because their parents have died (many from HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis), or because their parents are so incredibly poor that they cannot possibly care for their child. I'm sure many of you are wondering if any of the children are HIV positive, or sick with any other diseases, but let me assure you they are quite healthy. The do HIV tests when they arrive at the orphanage and then again at 3 months. You need a special license to even adopt an HIV+ child and those children are kept in special orphanages for HIV+ children so they can get the care they need.
Secondly, abuse, neglect, etc. Towards the children is virtually nonexistent. That means there are fewer difficulties with various emotional and attachment issues. In Ethiopia, children are considered to be a national treasure, and they do everything they can to care for them. Although the children undoubtedly will have some effects from living in a non-family environment, they tend to be much less than in children from orphanages in Eastern European Block countries for example. Not that the children in those countries don't need a home too... we just feel for our first experience with parenting it would make it that much more difficult. In the Ethiopian placement orphanages the children are taken care of in situation where they have "nannies" that love and care for the children, and most of the agencies place children from orphanages where the infant to caretaker ratio is 2:1 (2 babies per nanny). That's phenomenal!
Another draw for us is the age of infants when they come home. Ethiopia is the country with the youngest placement ages. A child must be in the orphanage for a minimum of 3.5 months, but that means babies can come home as early as 4 months old! Since this is our first child, the idea that we could have such a young baby is very exciting. We are still deciding what age range we'll be considering, but I think our cut-off will be 3 years old. However, I think we'll be shooting for an infant. We'll figure more out about that during our homestudy when we start talking with a social worker. Boys are more readily available than girls since there are so many families requesting a little girl to adopt, so it's likely we'll end up with a little boy. But, just as with pregnancy, we're opening to letting the stork decide what's in store for us!
And lastly, as many of you probably know quite well, I'm completely in love with Africa. Our entire downstairs is decorated with African woodcarvings and paintings I got while in Tanzania and South Africa. I have a beautiful coffee table book on Africa I got last year around Christmas (for myself, yes... Shame on me!) that I look at frequently. I desperately wanted to go for a safari in Africa for our honeymoon, however the expense was a bit out of our reach! My point is, for whatever reason I've spent most of my life in love with a continent I just can't get enough of. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my heart would draw me that way in adoption, should I?
So, now that you've come to understand some of our key reasons for adopting, and some of the biggest reasons we've chosen Ethiopia, I hope you'll feel free to ask any questions you may have! We are going to start looking for Ethiopian/African cultural events to attend as we feel that keeping our child actively involved in those activities as they grow is very important. We feel it will be an important part of their identity to be able to be exposed to other African Americans and Ethiopians so they can explore and embrace their heritage. Therefore, to learn as much as we can, Joe and I are planning to start looking for events to attend and groups we can become a part of right away. I am so unbelievably excited to meet people from Ethiopia right now and also other families that have adopted or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Just another way to get some exposure, ask questions, and get geared up to start the adoption!
I hope this first blog helps to start to clarify our reasons for selecting this path. My heart is filled with hope and anticipation for the adoption journey that is soon to begin. Now, if only I could figure out a way to slow the excited beating of my heart for another 6 or 7 months. As I think anyone could attest to, I am NOT the most patient person and now that we've made up our minds I'm ready to move forward right now! Eeks!
Our love to you all. We hope the fall is off to a great start for each and every one of you. Have the leaves begun to change colors yet in other areas of the country? It's still a bit hard to get used the "lack" of seasons here in Southern California after spending most of my life in Colorado with snowy winters!