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!