Sunday, March 26, 2006

Referral Updates

UPDATED: 7/1/07

What do you think of the latest addition to Melonhead's decor?

We haven't updated in a while, but hey, there's nothing really to tell. Let's see: we're still waiting and there's just no end in sight. That pretty much sums it up.

We get our neice this week while Jen's sister is out of town. Build-a-bear, here we come! I think we'll go to the Childrens Museum, also, to see the dino exhibit. She's really into dinosaurs now. The bad part: we'll have to take down the fire scene tape while she's here since that's where she sleeps *sigh*. We haven't opened that door since the first week of April.

Still hangin' in there,

Matt & Jen

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Done at last!

Due to procrastination, Melonhead's room was the last room of the house to updated/remodeled. It was very difficult to choose a theme for her room because we didn't want something too baby. I really liked the jungle theme but most were to "boyish." Matt and I found this jungle themed comforter at Target and thought it would work for a girl because of it's light colors.

The wall color is Honeydew. My mom drew all the animals on the walls and we started to paint the giraffe. Later, Matt and I finished painting the rest of the animals. I made the curtains, dust ruffle and the organizer on the side of the crib. Matt painted the dresser. My sister has given/loaned us the things that our niece, Marianna, has out grown. Also, my sister's mother-in-law has given us toys. There are very few things we'll need and we appreciate all the stuff.

Disclosing the Name...

Jen is Evil! She wanted to make the grandparents wait till the last minute to tell them what their new grandchild's name was going to be. I think it was just because she wanted to stall in choosing a name in the first place. I, on the other hand, being the good son, thought it would be a good idea to tell them the name on Christmas. A devious plan was conceived.

We had the name embroidered onto two identical Christmas stockings and gave them to the Grandpas as presents. We told them they didn't have to share their presents with anyone if they didn't want to. The plan was for them to hold the name for ransom and torture the grandmas with the info, but it didn't quite work. The grandmas realized what they were before the grandpas did and Jenny's mom got out of her seat and practically grabbed it out of her dad's hands.

We had always referred to her as Melonhead, which Jen's mom absolutely hated, but now she has a real name... Maya. We still call her Melonhead, just as a pet name and because it irritates Jen's mom so much.

Dad with his stocking!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The very, very long wait begins

Our paper work was sent to China in November just before my 30th birthday. It was logged in on November 17, 2005 at the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs office. That date will be referred to as our LID (Log in Date).

What happens now? Well, the long wait begins for our referral, which is when they match a child with us and send the paperwork with her information and pictures. At first, we were assuming our referal would come in June. Now, referals are coming in a little slower so we're guessing it will be sometime in October or November. Hopefully, we'll be traveling to China sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Choosing an Agency

After Matt and I had decided to adopt from China we then had to choose an agency. It was a very difficult process and it took several months to make the decision. Some of the things we had to consider were cost, travel arrangements, location of the agency, the focus of the agency and our overall comfort level with the agency. Several we looked at were disqualified because they charged several thousand dollars more than other agencies. Most of the agencies were disqualified because their focus was on the plight of infertility and not finding parents for children.

Finally, we had narrowed it down to three agencies. We drove up to Fort Wayne for an informative meeting about one agency and were immediately turned off because their focus was adoption as a means to cope with infertility. The second agency we considered was located in Indianapolis, but their fees were 3 to 5 thousand dollars more than the others. The last agency, Great Wall China Adoption, seemed to be a good fit for us. The travel arrangements included several days of sight seeing, the fees were reasonable, and their focus was on finding families for Chinese children, but we still weren't sure. We discovered that they were having an adoption conference in New Jersey, so off we went.

The conference was the deciding factor. We met the staff as well as the founder of Great Wall, Snow Wu, and we were impressed! They were kind and very extremely knowledgeable about the adoption process. After spending the day cramming our heads with information about adopting from China, we went to Fuddrucker's for lunch and decided that Great Wall was going to be the agency we used.

Unfortunately, that was the beginging of a long wait. It is required by Chinese adoption laws that adoptive parents be 30 years of age or older. I was 29. We had to wait until May 2005 to being the "paper chase."

Friday, March 03, 2006

Breaking the News

The next big hurdle was how to tell our parents. Matt had just finished the deck and we wanted to have everyone over for a cook-out. We thought that a cook-out would as good as any other time. We had a high chair that Matt's parents had given us years ago and we dug it out of the garage. I made a sign that said "Reserved" and we just left it in the corner of the deck while we ate. No one said one word about the high chair, assuming it was for my neice, Marianna. It wasn't until we told them it wasn't for her that all the excitement started. We then told them of our plans and everything we had learned up to that point. All the parents were, and still are, extremely excited about having a new grandchild.

Monday, February 27, 2006

How It All Works...

This is a very L O N G explanation. Let's start by briefly describing the situation in China. In order to control their booming population, China implemented a "one child" policy in the late 70's. If a couple were to have another child, they would have to pay a steep fine which most in the rural areas could not afford. Having a son is very important to many Chinese or two reasons: they carry on the family name and they stay home to care for their parents in their later years. Girls will marry and move away to help care for her husband's parents.

These factors have resulted in a phenomenon which they had not anticipated and are not proud of. Sometimes, when a family has a girl, the mother will be pressured to "give up" her daughter so that they can try again for a son. This doesn't mean that they are unwanted or just discarded. Abandoning a child is illegal so the families or mother will leave the girl in a public place like outside a shop, in a park, or some other place where she is certain to be found. They will often leave a note with her ,giving basic information, and stay to see that she is found. We just can't fathom how hard that would be to do.

This phenomenon has resulted in a large population of baby girls in their orphanages. As difficult as it is for China ("saving face" and looking good is important to them), they realized the best course of action to benefit these children was opening up to international adoptions.

There's a large number of babies and a large number of international parents... So here we are!

What did we have to do? Let's make a list of the paperwork we needed:

1. Application Letter
2. Birth certificates
3. Marriage license
4. Physicals
5. Financial report
6. Work verifications
7. INS pre-approval
8. Home study - social worker visit to our house and interview us
9. Passports
10. Pictures of us and our house

After we got everything, it all had to be sent to the Secretary of State to verify the notarizations and then to the Chinese embassy in Chicago to put their stamp of approval on everything. Everything is then sent to the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) office in Beijing.

Once the CCAA logs the paperwork in, your "on the clock." Our log in date (LID) was Nov 17, 2005. The CCAA will match us with a child (called a referral) and then we will travel to China 6 to 8 weeks later to get her. The wait time between LID and referral was down to 6 months at one point but the line has grown long and it may be up to 12 months by the time we get our referral. She will be somewhere between 7 to 11 months old.

All of our paperwork will be finalized at the American embassy in Guangzhou, China so she will be an American citizen the moment the plane touches American soil.

Overall costs: A popular (but possibly offensive for some) question. Let's just say it probably isn't much more than a natural pregnancy after a federal tax credit.

How Did We Get Here?

GOOD QUESTION! We still haven't figured that out ourselves but I'll try to recall what I can. We had toyed with the idea of having a child for a couple of years but never seriously. We knew there would be difficulty becoming pregnant and that there probably would be complications even if we did. The risks that could be involved with mom and baby were ones we were not willing to take. So we had somewhat decided to adopt before we ever decided to "just do it."

Still, we never did definitely decide we were going to do anything other than look into our options. For a few months we researched everything we could from domestic adoptions to international, from newborns to older children, costs, tax credits, health of children, etc. and learned much of what we needed to know if we wanted to get started.

Why an international adoption? There are multiple reasons, for us. For one, we did not want to expose ourselves to the even slightest chance of a birth parent changing their mind at some point. Another reason was we were uncomfortable with the growing trend of "open adoptions". For those who don't know, an open adoption is one in which the birth parents basically have visitation rights. To what extent is negotiable but for us, we just weren't comfortable with that. Now before all the open adoption activists start jumping our case, we recognize the importance of knowing birth families and are not uncomfortable in that aspect, but, again to us, the situation just didn't seem like a good fit.

We were drawn to China pretty early. As far as international adoptions go, the children are healthy, the process is relatively streamlined, and the costs are lower. Some countries required people to stay there for up to 8 weeks or make multiple trips within a couple months to process the adoption and that wasn't very feasible for us. China just requires a 2 week trip.

But how did we get here? We always felt that we had too much to offer to go through our lives with just the two of us. Somewhere along the way (and we each blame the other), we told ourselves we'll never feel ready so let's just buckle down and do it!