Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Who, The What, The Why, The When + A Few Photos Along The Way

There's a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. But what we have, we'll try to respond to. Trust us, there are a lot of similar questions, some odd questions we've been asked (not shared on here today), and plenty of those non-filtered/almost offensive questions (although they don't mean to be). We'll start with the "why" and work our way onward...as always, feel free to comment or send a message if you have any further questions we can answer about our journey!

The WHY?

-Why are you adopting?-
*back in 2008, Ty and I began our relationship. I took off, headed to South Africa, and had an experience that I'd say was one of the most amazing things in my life. The culture, the people, the children...they all touched me, they all moved me. I was called to South Africa for what I thought was for one reason, but the Lord placed something else on my heart and knew He'd call me back for an entirely different reason. I remember coming back and telling Ty that whether I was a single woman one day or eventually married, I would be going back...and this time going back to adopt a child. 
The calling was there, the timing was unknown. So as our relationship went on, Ty signed up for not just me but one day, a little South African we would call our child. There was no doubt in his mind from then on that it was our calling, that there was a child out there for us, and one day we would give a child with no parents, parents for life, a home, and all the love they could ever hope for.

-Why are you adopting before having your own children?-
*there are layers of answers to this question but we'll tap into them briefly. We have the take that because we have no children now, why not let the adopted child be the first child, be the one that began a child-filled home, to come into a family with no expectations, and to be the eldest child we'd hope lead by example to the younger ones. He/she would not have to try to fit in with other children and not have to overcome an already made Stanley family.
Secondly, Ty and I have not just the approvals from both of our employers to be gone for 6 weeks overseas, but we have the timed saved up to do so plus the ability to use extended illness time and FMLA if need be. Because we have to have two family members in country at all times, neither of us would have the issue of having to return to our jobs nor would we have to return because of other children in our home. Otherwise, we would be paying for other family members to fly back and forth to be the second family member in country.
Thirdly, why not do it now when we have the time to devote to this child, especially in regards to any specific needs he/she may have.

-Why would you even adopt?-
*there are a few questions I would love to have a few words in response, but I don't. This question use to bother me, probably because I couldn't figure out why someone would even ask that. Then I realized that we all don't have the same views in life and that we all are here in the world to do certain things. That's obviously not their calling. So I take no offense to it anymore and explain our story, our calling, our desires. If you skipped the first "why" go ahead and go back to read it.

-Why would you bring a child out of their culture?-
*when I was in SA they did not participate in international adoptions. The child was one day eventually released on their own, if they were fortunate enough they were adopted within the country, and others died related to an illness untreated or from HIV/AIDS. It wasn't until 1-2 years later that they began the international adoption process.
I remember many of the women in the orphanages tell me that the did not participate in international adoptions because the child would then be taken away from their culture, their heritage, their background. As much as I understood that, I also questioned "how much of their culture do they even know living in an orphanage that may or may not even be run by a South African?" So our take on this question is that there can be children all over the world living in orphanages or growing up in foster care that only has so much time for this child, that may not be consistent, that may not have all the love that they can provide, and that may not be able to supply some of the basic needs for the child. And we find it to be more suitable for a child to be adopted into a family who will provide all their needs, all the love, all the resources, and even as much of their heritage than the alternative. We all have our take, we accept all of yours and we hope you accept ours.

The WHO?
When we initially began this process, we were in the "special needs program." In that program we had the choice of age and gender, so our hopes were to adopt a boy between the age of 1-3 (South Africa doesn't typically adopt children under the age of 1 as they prefer to find a family member to take the child before going to international adoption). With all the hiccups along the way, especially since the program had closed when we initially applied...it wasn't until we got that phone call in June that offered us a spot in the "non-special needs program." This program for the year did not allow us to choose age or gender, however, we were asked to be open to a child between the ages of 0-4 years. And as for the "non-special needs" that means we would be adopting a child with most likely malnutrition/GI issues, attachment/institutionalization issues, and possibly corrective disabilities (vision, hearing, missing limb that be fitted for a prosthetic, or require a surgery). So back to the "who"...well we just don't know. And we won't know until we receive a referral for a child!

-What is the adoption process/What does the process entail?-
1. submit a non-formal application that obtains your basic information, make sure you can afford to care for a child, that you have references that could vouch for you, and that will sort out the countries you can even adopt from (each country has specific age, length of marriage, etc type of requirements). We only met the requirements for South Africa and two other countries. 

2. Submit your formal application.

3. Receive a million (maybe not a million) documents to fill out, sign, send back and forth. Obtain finger prints and background checks. Find 5 references that have known you for 4+ years and aren't family who fill out paperwork about you and your spouse. While you're waiting you do 10 hours of Hague convention training. Then you sit, wait, and pray you're not a criminal and that you pass everything!

4. Set up 4-5 home studies over the course of 1-2is months depending on schedules. Sometimes this meant Ty had to miss work and practice to be available for these long meetings. Once those are complete, pray again that you are sane enough and safe enough to care for a child.

5. Home study approval by the social worker, the Seattle office, and eventually our global worker in Michigan. Begin your next 10 hours of country specific and general adoption education hours. You must complete 10 pages of written documentation on all your hours (videos, webinars, books, support groups, etc.)

6. Submit an I-800A for the immigration process which takes 8-10 weeks. In the meantime, work on the dossier which is a giant packet filled with various items such as doctor's letters stating we are in a good state of mind and health to care for a child, legal documents such as birth and marriage certificates, government documents, home study packets, background clearances, employer letters, insurance documents, and more and more that you most likely don't even care to know. But just know that there are a lot of those fine details, all of which must be notarized on some same day occurrences so timing is a big piece of it as well.

7. Submit our dossier and wait for a referral!

8. Accept a referral, do 10 more hours of child specific training/education hours, travel to South Africa for about 6 weeks, return home for more bonding time, and participate in many more post-adoption placement meetings with our social worker to ensure everything is going well. Those occur for up to several years, then that part of the process is considered completed. But as we all know, the parenting and the child's needs will always be an ongoing process!

Another unanswered question. Sorry. As much as we'd like to know all the answers to the adoption process, we never do. What we do know is that we just received word that it's time to put our dossier packet together, which will be submitted to South Africa once our immigration paperwork has been approved by the government. Once the dossier is submitted, we wait for a referral for a child! They say it can take 12-18 months after that, but with how quickly this process seems to have gone in comparison to most others in the program who knows if it will be sooner than that! After we get the referral and approval, a tentative court hearing date is set up, we arrive about a week prior, and we end up spending up to 6 weeks in the country.

That's all we've got for you now, but as I said before...if you have questions, ask and we can respond accordingly. Feel free to take a peek at some of our photos below in which we captured to follow our own journey, which we now get to share with you all!

The Welcome packet. All the details for the beginning of the application process.

Formal application: background checks, medical records, references, etc.

Snacks and papers. They go well together when you're filling them out between meals.

Sending off our references paperwork.

Hard at work trying to pass all the Hague convention modules.

Guess who's backgrounds were clear??

Prepping for the home study: getting that first aid kit together.

Warm wishes, prayers, and gifts from family for our first home study!

The beginning of many...the home study photos!

Between home studies and paperwork, lots of reading and hat making...

and more hat making...

and more education hours (on the floor apparently)

and then a little room prep because our little one needs a worldly beanie and a spot we can think of him/her daily!

Time to send in our I-800 forms...

official report (I-797C) to get our biometrics screening and finger prints again

and in the meantime, we have shirts made for gifts to family and close friends, we knit hats,
work on house projects, and find ways to stay busy until we get the next email, phone call, or paper mail!

and while we wait for the immigration paperwork, we work on our dossier...
the big mama of all paperwork packets!

Thanks for reading and keeping up with our journey!

♡The Stanleys