Friday, November 8, 2013

An Adoption Update- Our Timeline and Home Study

Lily holding the completed folder of completed paperwork as we went to hand it in together....

Hello Friends,

First of all, I have to thank you for your kind comments, emails and notes surrounding our adoption news.  We are beyond grateful to have all of you to share this news with, your support and love increases our joy and hopeful anticipation exponentially.

Just like the imprint of God on our hearts making each one of us unique, every adoption story has its own unique imprint too.  I have just been marveling at that beautiful revelation recently.  I love that we are part of a story that is bigger than we are and that there is an unfolding that is taking place right here in these minutes and days leading us to our next baby.  It is with that cognizance that I want to take time to remember where we are today and where we have already walked on this path.  I liken it to taking a break on the mountain and actually pausing to look back where you have been to marvel at how far He has brought you through his faithfulness and our hard work.  It's beautiful every time you take the moments to notice.

Here is our timeline so far...

Mid-May 2013, We learned that another biological baby was not going to be joining our family

Mid-May to Mid-July- We spent time being sad, quiet and still.  We wanted to listen for the still small voice telling us which way to go...

Mid-July 2013- Joe and I had an important conversation over dinner in Colorado where we shared that we both felt that God was opening our hearts to adoption and decided to begin researching how to best go about adding to our family through adoption.

Mid-July-End of August 2013- I began spending every spare moment during nap time and every evening after bedtime researching adoption.  I am not going to lie, it has felt at times like I have landed in a foreign country where I do not speak the language and have no idea where to start learning.
Luckily for us, we have been blessed to come into contact with some amazing professionals and dear friends who have helped us learn a little bit about the lay of the land.

We spent this time learning about the ins and outs of domestic and international adoption, different kinds of agencies, learning about the different roles of the professionals involved in adoption, researching adoption expenses, researching fund raising ideas, reading blogs and trying to make sense of it all.  We also began talking to our friends who have adopted both domestically and internationally. We asked questions, we took notes, we shared meals, we hosted play dates and we dove into some of the personal and scary questions we had in our hearts about the prospect of adoption.  These friends we leaned on during this question asking phase were beyond honest, open and transparent with us about their experiences.  We took all of their recommendations to heart and spent time putting the flood of new information into filters and categories that were gradually beginning to make sense to us.

I can easily see why/how people become overwhelmed when trying to decide about adoption.  It's scary.  It is unknown.  It is dependent upon so many 'strangers' along the way who's work and decisions will directly impact your life, and the biggest thing: it is a complete leap of faith and trust. You pray and pray and pray and learn and take it all in and then try and make the best decisions you possibly can for your family and trust God to lead you down the right path to your child. It is overwhelming to think about from the 'big picture' perspective- of all that has to happen for it to work out, but we believe that our God is the God of miracles and hope and possibility and we are trusting him with each step and dollar we are investing in our family.  We long to be obedient to where he is calling us- no matter how big of a mountain it may be simply by taking it one step at a time.

August 26, 2013, We met with a local adoption agency to learn about their services and to start our home study paperwork.  We knew we wanted to hire them to help us with our home study based on other's recommendations and our own research.  We ultimately decided not to use them as our official adoption agency (more on that decision later).  However, this agency is staffed with wonderful people and has been a rich, ongoing resource of information for us during this process.

August 27, 2013- We officially began working on our home study paperwork.  I have been asked by so many what all is involved in this process, so here is a little synopsis. (** Of course it goes without saying that all of the information in this post is based on our experiences and opinions, and is purely subjective based on our family's preferences).  A home study for those who may not know is an official document that is required for EVERY adoption.  (I think it would be better called a 'people' study)  As you make the decision to adopt, this is the first thing that has to be accomplished before anything else can be started.  The experts say that this process can take anywhere from 3-6 months for it to be completed.  Of course this time line was discouraging to me because we had just decided that we were ready to adopt and in my mind that meant- ASAP!  So to have that timeline in front of us felt like an eternity - and just for paperwork!  I was determined that we could get it done faster than that.  :) (Type A, structured, task personality rising up!)

But what I have realized is that they were right.  Here we are in almost mid- November and having worked diligently for weeks and now months - and we are STILL not finished with it!  Our paperwork portion was the first half.  We were given a notebook with detailed and specific instructions of what was required.  This included obtaining copies of our legal paperwork (birth certificates, death certificates, marriage, divorce etc) as well as copies of all of our licenses, social security, taxes, insurance policies, etc.  Simple enough, I had that done in two days.  Then there are piles of paper work to fill out about ourselves, our family, our parents, our family of origin, our siblings, our employment, background checks on the state and federal level, physicals for everyone, documentation for EVERYTHING.  We had to obtain a number of personal and professional references from a variety of people to submit.  Then there was the autobiography section where we had to answer over 100 questions about our life and our perspectives on topics ranging from our childhood, our parent's marriage to our greatest disappointments and our thoughts on parenting, birth parents and adoption and our dreams etc.  Those autobiographical statements are written individually by each of us and are expected to be between 10-15 pages single spaced - each.  Needless to say, it took a lot of time to answer those questions thoughtfully and articulately.  Factor in life, work, illness, travel, family events, out of town guests and just takes time and surrender to the process.

We then had all of the preference questions about the kind of child we would like to welcome into our family.  This was extremely difficult for us to complete and required a lot of research and learning about various potential situations a child could bring to our family based on their own genetic make up and pre-natal exposures.  We knew that the more specific we were the longer our adoption process would likely take, so we wanted to weigh each scenario very carefully.  It was heart wrenching to think that each scenario represented a child, a family, a birth mother or father...

We were required to take some online training classes as well as attend a class and read some books too.  We have discovered that this process -as demanding as it has been- has all been extremely beneficial for us.  We have had some amazing conversations about our family and dreams and I truly believe that we have grown so much closer as a result of having to go through these rigorous steps.  I continue to marvel at how much there is to learn and am realizing that we are stepping into a lifetime of learning as a family.  We also took tons of photos of our family and our home and compiled them along with all of these documents and turned them in on October 29, 2013.  And that was only the completion of the first half of the home study!

In a little over a week, we begin the second half of the home study.  We have the interview and home visit with our social worker who has been assigned to us and who will be working to complete our home study.  She will visit our home and interview us as a family, meet Lily, speak to Joe and I individually and look at our house to make sure it is child-friendly and a safe place for a child to live. After that, she writes everything up into our official report (which takes another 3-4 weeks) and THEN our home study will be completed.  It will be valid for one year from that time before it needs to be updated and renewed, so the clock starts officially starts ticking the moment it is completed.  

A pic of us at the agency after being told that our submitted packet of paperwork was complete!