Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bad News

(This was an email I posted to our adoption group in November. Our fees increased by $7000, and they were due immediately. We are very much continuing our adoption, but this was a pretty dark time for us, and it was hard to know how much to say and how to say it.)

We just got an email from our agency today, announcing that DRC fees are increasing, out of their control. This is a pilot program for them, and their first family has a referral. The fees in country keep adding up, but as we're adopting 2 kids, our fees have gone from $11,200 to $17,100. We've already paidover $15,000 this year (including homestudy, USCIS, and agency fees), and I'm falling apart. I don't know where we're going to come up with that much money! I'm losing it right now, and I guess I'm just not sure what to do.

This is their breakdown of incountry costs:
Foreign program fee (lawyers, etc): $6000 + 2500 for a second child
ReferralCommune fee $1000
Orphanage documentation $500
Orphanage Child request fee $100
Medical checkup $165
DRC Court and GovernmentRe-issue of child's birth certificate $200
Child's adoption judgment $200
Child's certificate of adoption $50
US EmbassyLegal certification of all Child's US visa documents $120
Certified translation fees (includes birth certificate, act of consent, etc.)$375, this fee can vary depending on your child's circumstances
Visa document copy fee $10
Child's passport photos $30
Child's passport $300
Bank charged Payment Processing and International Wire fees

Plus, there is $1600 every three months to care for our children until we take custody. With these added costs (including part of what we will spend to travel), we're spending more than we make in a year. I'm heartsick thinking about it. The worst part is, if we have a failed referral, we have to pay all of these fees all over again!!!! What do I do?! Our dossier has already been accepted in country, and we're so far into this, I don't know how we can possible quit now, but... I don't know how to continue either. I'm not seriously considering stopping the process, but I'm feeling miserableand confused and desperately unsure of where to go from here. Any advice?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Day to day

We're moving right along with this adoption stuff lately. We managed to sell the Subaru, which covered a nice chunk of our agency fees (but not all), and we're working on our packet to the Congo (called the dossier). I've applied for my very first passport, and hopefully, when that arrives, we can send this all in, and our agency will forward it to the DRC. Hurray! That being said, we have about $1500 that we need to come up with in a pretty short time span. So we've got a big giveaway planned, as soon as I can get the details squared away. So stay tuned, gentle readers. :)

In day to day news, there are big changes going on in the Hanson household. Mr. Robby will be starting Kindergarten on Monday. As if that's not bad enough, he woke me up this morning with the news that he has his very first loose tooth, which he is excited to no end by. When, exactly, did my baby boy get to be so grown up? He and Ella spent the entire day creating Geo Trax around our computer room, and their big brother, ahem, I mean their daddy helped them create an entire Geo Town when he got home. It's pretty impressive, actually, and only got bigger and better after the picture was taken. I'd say it's almost twice as elaborate at this point. Craziness! Just ignore the dog hair on the floor-I didn't exactly vaccuum first.

Miss Ella is getting excited for dance classes, which she will hopefully start next month. It will be a combination of ballet, tap, and tumbling. I try not to bring it up often though, because she get very indignant when I tell her that it will be a couple weeks and not "Just One More Minute, Mommy."

So, again, come back soon for the big announcement of our fundraising giveaway. It's worth the wait!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where did summer go?

Apparently, I haven't blogged in 2 1/2 months. This hasn't been for lack of things to say, but rather, an inability to express those things in ways that haven't already been said, and better. The biggest of these is this: on May 7th, 2011, my father-in-law went to be with Jesus. He fought for so long, and with such dignity that, even expecting it, it was an enormous shock when Rod was suddenly gone.

As you can imagine, the loss of such an important figure in our lives left a maelstrom of grief and heartache. Our lives are suddenly full of firsts. The first father's day. The first family vacation. The first family picture. Unlike the addition of a new child, these firsts are full of bittersweet memories. And with that comes the knowledge that when our new additions do arrive, their Papa will never get to meet them.

But we have so many things to be thankful for, so many years that we had with Rod that we never expected. And six grandchildren have gotten a chance to sit on Papa's lap, and be loved with his tongue-in-cheek humor and grace. And as much as my kids grieve their Papa, I consider it a tremendous blessing that they were given this time with him.

On the adoption front, things are moving very slowly but they are moving. We submitted our 1600A to USCIS (US pre-approval to adopt) on June 10th and had our fingerprint appointment on July 14th. May I just take a moment and say that the folks at the USCIS office were above and beyond friendly and efficient. They really made my day with how incredibly nice they were. Ryan and I were also fortunate enough to witness 30 new citizens being sworn in. It was beautiful, seeing such diversity being added to our (relatively) small community.

For those wondering where we go from there, let me just tell ya. :) Once USCIS approval is in, we can send our dossier to the Congo. The dossier is basically our packet of papers praying for permission to adopt. Like the alliteration there? Thought so. The dossier will include things such as our homestudy, our USCIS approval, and large sums of money.

Once the DRC government approves us, we wait to be matched with our kids-this is called our referral. We can choose to deny any referral, but we don't really see that happening. I will admit, I love the symmetry of another son and daughter, but that might not be who is right for our family. We are trusting that when the time comes, we'll know. :)

After the referral, we wait. Again. A lot of paperwork goes into proving that children are truly orphans (legally this means either their parents have died or abandoned them), and the last thing we want is to "buy" a child. The Congo will tell us when we are allowed to travel. At this point, once we travel, it looks like at least one of us will be in the DRC for approximately 4 weeks. Yikes! This, naturally is posing a few problems with logistics. We're not sure Ryan can get that much time off of either work or school, but the biggest issue is that we don't want to leave Robby and Ella for a full month without a parent.

So. Overall timeline until our kids are home? Right now, I think they will be home next spring, which is frustratingly much longer than we had originally planned. C'est la vie. Or rather C'est l'adoption!

I've been remarkably lazy about it, but I really want to learn a few basic phrases to talk with my new kiddos. The official language is French, but most people speak Lingala or another of the 243 languages spoken there! So, a few phrases in French and Lingala will hopefully aid both the bonding with our kids and our stay there.

I will confess that I'm having trouble remaining excited throughout this process. Please don't mistake this for 2nd thoughts. It's just such a long process, and while I'm fully aware that adoption takes a lot of time and patience, right now it's still just a pie in the sky dream. I'm desperately looking forward to our referral, when our kids will have names, faces. It's difficult, not know who I'm planning for. At least with a pregnancy, I know that I'm expecting a baby! But with adoption? Next summer I might have two infants. Or two more preschoolers. And while I will embrace them wholeheartedly regardless, my heart has no one to long for.

I am absolutely sure there is more I should update, but "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a..." Funny story. Miss Ella picked up a not so nice word. Can't imagine where she heard it. We talked about it repeatedly, and she didn't seem eager to drop said word. So finally, after I'd calmly talked about it 3 times before noon, I told her we'd have to wash her mouth out with soap, to wash away the dirty words, if I heard it again. Two minutes later.... we're washing her tongue with a drop of soap (carefully checked for nut allergies first-geez, even the soap?) She was suitably chagrined. That same afternoon, Robby came running in, telling on his sister, that she had used that word once more. We were busy doing laundry, and we reminded Robby that tattling will also get a person in trouble. When we left the room a few minutes later, however, Ella proudly announced that she had washed her own mouth out with soap (unbidden!) and the dirty words were all gone! Love that girl. :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teaching our children

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr

As an American who watched in horror as the towers fell, there has to be a small part of me that is glad to see the end of such a hateful presence in our world. I believe that Osama bin Laden had a hatred in his soul, and I can only imagine how it must have eaten at him to enable him to cause such immense suffering to so many other people. I can absolutely empathize with those rejoicing in his death. And yet, what I really feel is sorrow. Sorrow for this man, who zealously allowed his beliefs to blind him, sorrow for the lives that were lost to his terrorism, sorrow for those that were left behind... And if I could believe that his death took a small piece of hatred out of our world, I might find myself glad of it, but unfortunately I don't. I can only imagine how much more the hatred in the hearts of his followers has intensified in the last few days, how much more righteous they must feel-we've killed their leader, proven ourselves the enemy.

I don't want anyone to mistake this for sympathy for extremists. It is, rather, a cautionary tale for us of the dangers of hatred and allowing it to have any seat in our hearts. As a follower of Jesus, I believe in the power of a hatred that consumes a person. My Christ died because of that hate. But more importantly, I believe in the power of love and in the refusal to hate our enemies. But just as Islamic extremists use their beliefs to justify terrorist acts, so do we as Christians often use our ideals to harm others. Our Bible becomes a battering ram.

But my Jesus-I believe that He's grieving for Osama bin Laden, the loss of this man to evil. And so should we mourn for any person so corrupted by hate. Bin Laden absolutely needed to be taken down, killed even. But doesn't it just make you hurt inside, knowing how absolutely full of filth people can be?

So it brings up the question then, what are we teaching our children. Or better, what am I teaching my children. And what I want them to know is that hatred is never okay, regardless of who the object of that hate is. Do I hate what Al-Quaida has done and will continue to do until they're stopped? ABSOLUTELY. But for the people, I grieve that they are so lost to their iniquities. I can't deny that I'm glad he's no longer in charge of such a powerful terrorist group. But to hate him? That would only serve to make me his equal, and I won't let hatred have that place in my life.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fund Raising

I'm really excited to anounce our first fund-raiser for our adoption. We're making doll beds for Madame Alexander, American Girl, Journey Girls, Gotz, and other 18" dolls. These are awesome farmhouse style beds that any girl will love in her room. It's not painted yet, because I will be doing custom orders. This one is for Miss Ella's birthday, and it will be a pretty, traditional white.

I've opened up an Etsy shop to sell these, although if you're a local friend, we'd obviously love to skip the shipping completely, as these babies are expensive to ship!

If you want to check it out, our Etsy store is http://www.etsy.com/shop/2ndchance4love where we will also be selling trendy bedding and outfits for 18" dolls. We're really hoping to bring in funding for our adoption, as we have several big checks due to our adoption agency coming up pretty quickly. I can't wait to get started on this project, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Almost Done!

After much hysteria and gnashing of teeth, all of our paperwork has finally made it to our home study agency. Which means we're ready for the final interviews with our adoption specialist, Cara. She's booked up until next week, so Ryan's appointment will be on Monday and mine will be Wednesday. From there, Cara will confer back and forth with our adoption agency and our home study will be done!

I never realized how much depends on a home study before we started this process. We can't file paperwork with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (aka USCIS), apply for grants/loans or send in our dossier to the Congo. A lot is resting on this very expensive stack of papers. :) So here's what I'm working on:

1: Selling the Subaru for two reasons a. It won't fit our family anymore b. We need the money for our adoption

2. Filling out grant/loan applications. We can't send them in until we have our homestudy, but I can get them ready. These take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to be approved.

3. Filling out USCIS paperwork. Same as with the grants. Preparation. This is also taking a while. On the short end, it's taking 45 days. But I've heard it can take up to 3 months. Eek!

4. Praying. We don't know their name, age, sex, or when they'll come home, but our kids are living in pretty terrible conditions, and we desperately want them here safe.

5. Looking for fundraising options. Adoption is an incredibly expensive process, and we're working to raise the "ransom" to bring our kids home.

So, please keep us in mind as we navigate this process. It will all be worth it once our kids are home, but it's an incredibly invasive and time-consuming (not even mentioning expensive) process, but we're excited all the same! We'll keep you updated on paperwork and fundraising as these things arise. Thanks for all your support-we appreciate you all!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Putting things in perspective

I had a crazy dream last night, and it seemed strangely symbolic to me, so I thought I'd pass along my thoughts.

My family found themselves at the hospital. There was no explained reason, really. We were just there, along with both my parents and Ryan's. And there, there was my baby. I had given birth to her and then, just, forgotten her for a couple weeks or more. She was healthy, and I'm not sure exactly why she hadn't come home yet. And the nurses kept telling me that they'd been wondering when they were going to meet her mommy, wondering why I hadn't been there before to take her home.

And she was sooo beautiful. She had the start of these gorgeous green eyes and slightly reddish hair. And I looked into her eyes, just like I'd done with my first two, and I feel in love. And I wondered myself, why hadn't I been there before? How had I just forgotten her for so long? The nurses told me that she was being discharged to me that day-they'd just been waiting for me. I started to panic because the infant car seat was still in our shed at home. We weren't prepared for her. And everyone asked what her name was, and without consulting Ryan at all, I told them it was Callie Joy Hanson. (We've been thinking of Caylie Joy, were we to ever have another girl). My Callie.

And then, I forgot her again. The doctor came into the room and apologized that the nurse had mistakenly left peanut butter in the play area of the waiting room, and Ella was having an allergic reaction. And I panicked and the dream changed and became all about Ella and Robby. And Callie Joy was forgotten.

It's hard for me, sometimes, to really focus on the kids we are adopting. Of course we want them. Of course they are ours. But we don't know them yet. And we're still parents to these two amazing kids who need us every day. And there's so much paperwork to get through, and we don't even have a referral yet to fall in love with. And so, sometimes, our Congo kids are forgotten. They're waiting for me to come get them, why haven't I come and gotten them yet?

And we're not prepared. We got Robby bunk beds for his birthday last week, so we do have a bed for "Robby's brother," which is how my kids refer to what we hope will be our son, but what about their sister? Obviously, this isn't really a problem, and we'll put another bed in one of the rooms. But there is a general feeling of panic after that dream, why am I not ready for my babies? The answer of course, being that I'm working on it. We're getting ready for our babies to come home to us, and they're not going to be here tomorrow.

But it's hard. It's hard knowing that somewhere, across the world, my babies are waiting for me, and their caretakers are wondering, why hasn't their mother come to take them home? Why isn't their mother here to hold them and love them and feed them and be their mother? I don't even know their names... Or their faces.
But I love them. And I can't wait to hold them in my arms and hear someone tell me "They're going home today. We've just been waiting for you."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How I was conned into adopting

Hey everyone. This is Ryan with my first post. Actually, my first blog, so I can cross that off my bucket list of stuff that I didn't care one way or another if I ever did.

A few notes about my feelings in regards to our adoption:
-Sad for the fact that the are kids anywhere in the world that don't have parents who are there to love them and raise them, whether it be in orphanages in the Congo, or in bad homes here in Idaho
-Enjoying learning about the Congo
-Did I mention that scared thing?

I had never really thought about becoming an adoptive parent until I met Jess. I understood the concept, but just never really felt that interested in it. Orphanages were merely settings for characters in novels and movies.

One of the things that opened my eyes was on my mission trip to Tonga in the summer of 2002. While there, my mission team visited a small school for disabled children. Most of them had both physical and mental illnesses that required more care than they were able to recieve from their birth parents. Much like all countries, Tonga wasn't entirely sure what to do with these outcasts and opted to move them to this school. The kids there were amazing and my world view began to change.

Throughout our marriage, Jess has enjoyed browsing websites that talk about adoption, show the kids that are up for adoption, anything at all to do with adoption. She would often show me pictures of orphans and talk about how hard it was that she couldn't just bring them all home and keep them safe. This desire to save the lost often meant that we would take in stray animals until we could either find their owners or find them a new home. The need to provide for these lost ones even if only for a little while helped pave the way in my heart for adoption.

Eventually we had our own children, who I couldn't love more, but the needs of the orphans still exists. The love I have for Robby and Ella overflows and I want to share it with these children. We aren't trying to "save" these children from the Congo, or anywhere else. Instead, we want to give them the love that they haven't been able to recieve whether because of war or disease or ambivalence.

The needs of orphans are not as simple as biological children that you hold and love from day one, but they stem from that human need to be connected and loved. We hope that this adoption will give that connection to two children that didn't have it before.

It may sometimes seem like I am being dragged into this adoption thing by my zealous wife, but the truth is that I want this as much as she does. Jess is the heart of this family, but the four of us all want to share the love we have with others who were not so fortunate.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

To our dearest friends and family, we'd like to make the (official) announcement that we are adopting! For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to adopt a child. It has been my passion, my calling, and I'm so grateful that I have a husband that feels the same way, albeit to a lesser degree. We are excited to be starting the process to bring our kids home from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) aka the Congo. A question we've heard several times recently is "Why the Congo?" And there are a few people who've laughed at me recently because of how many times our adoption country has changed over the years. And the answer to both of those things is very simple: I feel called to the greatest need as I see it.

The Congo has been decimated by war and poverty for years. Without going on a tangent, there is little stability left for the Congo people. Rape and genocide are still rampant in the DRC, and there isn't much being done to bring relief to the people. In a country that has the richest resources in the ENTIRE WORLD, it's people suffer the some of the most severe poverty of any nation. While it doesn't make the headlines in the US, rape is so commonplace as to be expected for the tiny girls through the elderly granmothers of the Congo. On January 1st of THIS YEAR, over a 150 women were raped by two armies, and the world simply refused to pay attention.

While an orphanage is NEVER a healthy place for a child to grow up, the children in them are considered the lucky ones in the Congo. Lucky to be fed once a day. Lucky to have a roof over their heads. Lucky to have the chance to be adopted by even the poorest Americans, who are rich by Congo standards. And that, to me, is beyond tragic.

So, with your prayers God's grace, our hopeful plan is to bring home two kids by the end of the year. The research I've done suggests that a family does best if they stick as close to birth order as possible. That means that our tentative requests are two children 3 or under. We'd love to bring home a brother and sister duo, but we'll be open to the kids God sends us.

Adoption is yes, absolutely expensive. I know that a lot of people don't understand where those costs come from, but the professionals working with us will make relatively little for the immense amount of help they will give. Both our Home Study agency (A New Beginning in Boise) and United States Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) will be working to make sure that we are fit to adopt. We will also be working with an agency that will assist us in being placed with a child, preparing our dossier (in country profile), working with DRC agencies and attornies and officals, and ensuring that our kids are cared for while still in the Congo. And, of course, travel fees to bring our kids home. While the cost is very high, there is no one profiting in any significant way from the unfortunate state of the children in the DRC.

We'd love to see your support as we go through this process. We understand that the economy is hurting a lot of families, and any small amount would be greatly appreciated for the sacrifice that it is. Thank you for your prayers and support. We couldn't do this without the love of the wonderful people in our life.