That’s right, folks. We decided on Ethiopia about a month ago and thought of a cute and fun way to announce it via a photo shoot with the lovely Sara Davis of Sara Davis Photography. Here is the link to her wonderful blog: http://saraedavisphoto.com/life/rebecca-and-josh-adoption-announcement/. I have known Sara for a while, even before she started her photography business, when she took some pictures for my best friend’s wedding years ago. She is a wonderful person and very generous (she gave us this photo shoot!). She originally wanted to take maternity pictures when I was pregnant with Cora, but the timing never worked out. She offered to take pictures just for us, and I thought…why not use this opportunity to tell everyone about our adoption?
We are currently in the VERY early stages of our adoption to Ethiopia. I’ve had a lot of questions, but the main one is “now what? what’s next?”. Now, we continue to fill out massive stacks of paperwork, write checks to our agency and wait. We are currently almost finished with our home study (we have our last meeting scheduled in one week). Once that is finished, we have to sign some agency agreements and get started on our dossier. “Dossier: when used in the context of adoption, this term refers to a set of appropriately authenticated and translated legal documents which are used in international adoption cases to process the adoption of a child in its own country by the adoptive parents, or for the adoptive parents to obtain the legal custody or guardianship of the child in the foreign court, so the child can be brought by the adoptive parents to the United States for adoption.” This is the massive paperwork I was referring to and this will allow us to adopt in Ethiopia once it is accepted. After the dossier, we wait for at least a year before we get a referral. Once we have the referral, they check the child’s family background to make sure the child is the definition of “orphan” by poverty or by death (meaning they have no relative willing to take them in). We then travel to Ethiopia for a week to meet the child and go to court. We then have to leave the child in Ethiopia, fly back to America while they process the visas and fly back for a week to pick them up and bring them home.
We have to be somewhat specific in our dossier for age, gender and medical needs of the child we are adopting. Right now, we are not preparing for a specific gender and we would like a child under 5 years of age. We also have to decide if we would like to adopt a child who has been tested HIV+ or not and are undecided. As Sara said in the blog and from the information I gave her, Ethiopia has one of the highest orphan populations than any country in the world. The children have mostly been orphaned due to parental death from AIDS. Here are some extra facts about Ethiopia:
- The Federal Republic of Ethiopia is the second most populous country of the African continent.
- The economy in Ethiopia heavily depends on agriculture, which in turn relies on precipitation. The country is marked by a negative trade balance: the volume of imports is roughly three times that of exports. Coffee beans remain the most important Ethiopian export commodity.
- Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is roughly 1/135 that of the United States.
- On average, Ethiopians have a life expectancy of only 54 years. Nearly two-thirds of Ethiopia’s population remain illiterate.
- Almost half the country’s population is undernourished and 39 per cent face a life on less than 1.25 US dollars a day.
- Ethiopia has only 3 medical doctors per 100,000 citizens, one of the worst figures in Africa. Only one in three Ethiopians have regular access to potable water and the sanitation coverage is very limited.
- Demographically speaking, Ethiopia is a very young country: around 45 per cent of its population are less than 14 years old.
- The country’s infant mortality rate is at a staggering 109 per 1,000 live births – one of the highest in the entire world. Only 6 in 10 births are attended by skilled medical staff. An estimated 830,000 children in Ethiopia have lost one or both of their parents due to AIDS.
The reason I give all these facts is to show what drove us to adopt internationally. We had a VERY hard time deciding between domestic (adopting kids currently in foster care) and international adoption. The deal breaker for us is that a lot of children, who are adoptable through the foster care system are not usually healthy, or under 5 years of age. We know we were not ready to parent a teenager, much less one who may have behavioral, developmental, medical or all three issues. I think in the future, we will consider adopting through the foster care system a little more seriously. For now, we both work full time and will continue doing so after adopting. We know we don’t have the resources for fostering or adopting through the system. It’s not that the child would not be right for US, but WE would not be the right parents for the child. We decided not to adopt a baby domestically, because there is a long waiting list and we decided it would not be fair for us to take a spot on the list, since we are able to conceive on our own. Josh also helped me decide international adoption by saying that kids in America, while it is a very tough life, will live to see their 5th birthday. Internationally, that is often not the case. American orphanages, as in receiving state funds,do not exist like there are around the world. Once we decided international, this decision became easier.
We eliminated all the countries that had more than a 2 week travel time, as we both work and I needed to save weeks up to spend time with the child when we got back. This eliminated a bunch of countries. Other countries eliminated us. China (Josh’s heart was set on it) required $80,000 in net worth, among other requirements, that we did not meet. Haiti (both our hearts were set on it) required we be married 10 years and one of us had to be at least 35 years old. Countries make their own adoption requirements and some are very lenient, but others are stringent. Here is the website that lays out the country requirements for adoption. Travel, time and country specific requirements did most of the narrowing down and that left Ethiopia. I’ve had a heart for Africa after reading Kisses from Katie and after friends adopted through Uganda. I was ecstatic to find out we could adopt from Ethiopia. I’ve heard what a heart-wrenching situation the country is in at the moment. Ethiopia is not a Hague country. *The Hague Convention is an international agreement to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. The Hague Adoption Convention applies to adoptions between the United States and the other countries that have joined it*. This means that they can shut down adoptions in the country at any point in time because of suspicions of corruption. All it takes is one family or one incident to cause all other adoptions to be put on hold. This is currently happening in the Congo. That is a very scary prospect. Adoptions can then be dragged on for years and years when this happens.We have to trust in God that if this does happen, He is working in it for His good.
We see a long road ahead of us for the adoption. The minimum time it will take to get a referral (not go to the country) will be 18 months. That is a long period of time to wait with no word. We are ready, though. We have prepared hearts for the long, possibly tragic road ahead of us. We are not adopting to replace Cora or because it is a trend. We are adopting because we were adopted into God’s family and He commanded that we take care of orphans. We are following His call and are preparing our hearts. We love talking about our adoption, or adoptions in general! We have several friends and church families who have adopted. Please contact us with any questions you may have, especially if you are considering adoption. We are very blessed that our church has a mentoring program to match us with other families who have gone through the exact process or agency we are with. We know how important that wisdom can be. We are excited…nervous…apprehensive…ecstatic…joyful, you name it! We cannot wait to bring this child or these children home!
PS. Here are a few pictures that were not included in Sara’s blog that I love: