Our journey to Abenezer

If you have read our past blog posts, you are pretty caught up on our adoption story. We started the process in September of 2013, two months after losing Cora. In January of 2017, we (finally) obtained legal custody of Abenezer and he officially become a U. S. Citizen the day we arrived with him in America. Meet Abenezer Shrader:

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For those of you that follow me on Facebook, I was very open about the process happening in Ethiopia. We arrived the day before court (Monday), immediately went to the orphanage to meet Abenezer (as required) and passed court the next day (Tuesday, January 10th). We had our “gotcha day”-the day we took custody of him that Wednesday the 11th. His orphanage, Noble Action, graciously fed us lunch and gave him the sweetest goodbye ceremony. I cried the entire day, in fact I think Abenezer was confused as to why I was crying and not smiling. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that Abenezer was about to leave the only family he had ever known to be in a totally different country and culture. I also was so incredibly happy we got to be a part of his story in that way. We don’t know much about his past, as we do not have any contact or information about his family.

He was obviously very well cared for and loved by the nannies there. We have a big picture of all of his friends in our living room to help him remember them always. I think the fact that his best friend, Mahilet, went through her own goodbye ceremony right before we came to get him made him more anxious and excited for our arrival. He was adament he was excited to go to “his country” (America). Here are some pictures of the precious orphanage and ceremony:

We stayed in the Sidra International Hotel in Addis Ababa and we were so blessed by our stay. We had power, internet, good food and great friends staying with us. Our agency typically has several families traveling together so we were blessed to be traveling with 4 families. The hotel staff loved Abenezer and talked to him in Amharic whenever they got the chance.

We stayed at the hotel for the entirety of the process. After we took custody of Abenezer, we had to get an approval stamp from MOWA (their DSS) to continue to get his Ethiopian passport, we had to have the passport to start his medicals/TB test (48 hours), we had to have the medical slip from the doctor to start his exit visa process with the US embassy and make flights. We hit a few holidays that delayed us a few days and Abenezer had a positive TB test (but negative chest x-ray) that also delayed us, but we were still out of country in 2 1/2 weeks. We are very blessed to have made one trip and come back with him. Even though it was very stressful, we have no regrets. We are planning to return to Ethiopia to visit in a few years, so we can actually enjoy the country and sight see. Here are a few pictures of the hotel and our adventures:

We are adjusting to him, and he to us. He loves Lydia; he hugs her so hard she falls down every day. He loves to sing (anything English or Amharic), loves to read, needs to be on the go 24/7, eats like a grown man, loves our local museum, is scared of heights, still scared of big dogs, watches Clifford and Sesame Street daily, says “I love you”, amongst other things. He can write his entire alphabet, knows 1-20, days of the week all in English and knows his shapes as well as plays (and wins) UNO. He’s a very smart boy and VERY boy-like (which we are also getting used to). He will be going to daycare soon after my leave is over and he may start Kindergarten this fall. We are enjoying every bit of him and cannot believe he is finally here after 3 1/2 years of the process! Let the adventures truly begin!!

 

 

It’s finally happening!

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It’s here! It’s here! We are headed to Ethiopia Sunday morning and will arrive Monday morning January 9th because our court date is scheduled next week! We’ve been waiting almost 16 months to see this boy’s face and a week from today we will have met him! We have still not decided how long we are staying, as every case is different. We have to stay in country to sign his birth certificate and that could be anywhere from a 5-9 day trip. Usually, this is the most complicated and unstable part of the process as their servers can go down and the birth certificate can’t be printed right away. After the birth certificate, it’s exit visas and passports plus medical exams/tests and we can go home! So far, it’s taken people 2-3 weeks after court to bring their kiddo home, so we are torn about leaving after the birth certificate process or staying in country to bring him home.

We decided, for now, to buy a one way ticket and see how everything progresses once we are there. That could mean we leave soon after the birth certificate is signed if we foresee delays, or it could mean we bring him home with us forever! Please PLEASE pray with us that the trip is much quicker than we think and we can choose one trip to bring him home. This is the ideal choice, but because of delays in country this may not be what happens. I’m very sad to be without Lydia for a possibility of a few weeks but she will be well taken care of by family! We are also keeping our Lifesong account open in case anyone would like to make any last minute donations as we are spending SO MUCH on plane tickets, hotel stays, food, etc. You can donate HERE to our account. As always, we APPRECIATE all your prayers, thoughts, donations, kindness in this 3+ year process. It’s been a journey so far but the real ADVENTURE begins next week!!

In Him,

Shrader party of (soon to be) 4!!

Pray for Ethiopia

 

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For those of you keeping up with our adoption news, Ethiopia has been in a State of Emergency since the beginning of October due to unrest in country. You can read about it here and here. The state of emergency will last 6 months, unless the government decides to extend this.

This continued unrest lead to a travel warning for US Citizens, effective October 21st. This means the US warns against nonessential traveling to Ethiopia due to unrest. Our agency is allowing us to travel for now (if we get a court date soon) into Addis Ababa. We may get to visit with our son while we are there, but we are not allowed to leave the capital. I’m sure at the time of travel, our agency will provide us with guidelines of what to do/not do while in country.

The state of emergency has caused internet and cell service to be restricted or shut off for three straight weeks, so the US Embassy has little access to US citizens while in Ethiopia. There are curfews set in place and many rules against certain news channels and social media sites. US citizens even run the risk of arrest if they violate rules. We trust our agency to protect us if we travel anytime soon and more importantly, we trust God. Thankfully, court is open and they are issuing letters to families.

We are waiting on our letter for travel approval and we’ve heard it will be a few months after the letter that we will get a court date (the two used to come simultaneously). More than likely, that means no travel at all until 2017. It’s very disheartening but at this point, not unexpected.

Please keep us and all other waiting families in your prayers. There are many families that have been in this process 3-5 years already, including us. The holiday season is approaching and most of us thought we would have our kiddos, so this season may be another one of anxiety and sadness for most families. Pray for our kids to be safe and healthy and for the government to see the need to get them home to their families. Finally, pray for Ethiopia. It’s a complex situation there and it breaks my heart to see unrest. We will update the blog if anything changes.

 

The Shraders

Stuck waiting

Since we started this adoption process almost three years ago I’ve heard that THIS part…the waiting part…will be the hardest part of the whole process. I disagree. Everything has been taxing so far: the paperwork, the finances…oh the FINANCES and definitely the pictures of a little boy who is so, so, so far away. Waiting is hard, but I’m pretty sure the hardest part is yet to come.

I haven’t written since we announced our referral but really, there wasn’t much to say. We had to do some more paperwork and they met with officers to interview them before they could approve our adoption. At this point, we have done all we can do on our end. We are waiting on a letter from MOWYA in Ethiopia (Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth’s Affairs) to get a court date in Ethiopia. Worst case scenerio (and YOU KNOW that’s what I’m anticipating) is that we get ONE WEEKS NOTICE to pack, book a flight, take Lydia to TN and fly to Ethiopia. Typically, people get 2-3 weeks notice for travel. We will get a call one day with no warning and I have absolutely no timeline for when this will happen. It could be today…or 6 months from now. Everything has slowed in Ethiopia due to a drought and training for new government employees. So far, we’ve been really lucky because everything has been somewhat smooth for us.

What happens when we get that call? The first trip is 4-5 days in country during which we will get to meet our guy, visit his orphanage for 2 days, and then meet the judge in court to legally become his guardians. Then we get on a plane and come back to the States, we will be officially his legal guardians but he will stay behind. During this trip, we get to meet him and interact with him but we are not supposed to bond with him. It will be a surreal experience to meet our son and pretend he’s just a random little boy in an orphanage, but I understand how hard it would be for him to bond with us and then we leave the country.

The second trip can be 1-2 months after the first and it’s another 4-5 day trip. We will take him to the guest house where we will be staying for a day or two before we go to court again to apply for his exit visa. Once we have the exit visa, we head back to the States.

We are not allowed to post his picture or our court date on social media until an undisclosed time (but basically we’ll be shy about it until he’s here with us). We haven’t shown most of our family or friends his picture or told many his name, because we don’t want anything to disrupt our process. This kills me because he is so cute, and in my heart he’s already ours. My type A personality wants to be fully prepared and packed so that when we get a court date all we need to do is book a flight. I’m dealing with the fact that isn’t feasible. His room is minimalist for now, but ready for him. We are still collecting clothes (4-5T fall/winter), toys, shoes (7-9…I really have no idea until we meet) and books (especially educational books) from anyone who is willing. Right now, I pray for God every night to prepare my mind and my heart for this trip and for him. I have been struggling lately with mommy guilt and I know it will only increase when he gets here.

 While we wait, we have a few praises and a few prayer requests: 

Praise #1: I connected with another mom through our agency who has a little girl in the same orphanage. Turns out this little girl and my guy are BFFs. She lives literally across the States, but that’s closer than Ethiopia and I’m hoping for some FaceTime/Skype sessions to help him stay connected to his childhood. I LOVE getting pictures of them together. There will be a big picture of our guy with his friends printed and hung on his wall when he gets home.


Praise #2: Everything has been so smooth for us. Too smooth. We were #SO BLESSED (I can’t type that in emphasis enough) to get a referral when we were so low on the list. Our interviews and letters have been processed so quickly. I’m anticipating something to go wrong (it’s who I am) but I’m just trying to count my blessings.


Praise #3: Social media. The connections to other Ethiopian adoptive mamas through FB groups have been a Godsend. I can ask any question and someone has been through it with some good solutions. I have major anxiety about maternity leave and only being home for 12 weeks before I send him to preschool/daycare and going to work. I asked others’ opinions and they eased my anxiety and gave me good plans to tackle the transition to school. I’ve also gotten an extensive packing list of all the little things I never would have thought of. Thanks mamas!


Praise #4: Lydia is finally old enough to start explaining all of this to her. She sees my necklace and says: “Africa?” I say: “Who is in Africa?” and she says “brother”. She has a brother/sister in her class at school and is relating that relationship to her brother. It’s going to be my favorite thing ever…seeing these two bond.


Now for the (many) prayer requests:


  • Please pray for our guy right now and Ethiopians in general. Ethiopia is having the worst drought in its history and it is causing widespread famine. Thankfully he is not on the street and is in an orphanage with three meals a day. He has friends, clothes and does some school there.

  • Pray for the waiting period. I was just in the middle of typing “waiting hasn’t bothered me that much” and we got an email update from the agency saying that the process has been slower than they predicted due to the unpredictable staffing issue and other issues that need to be taken care of before adoptions. Once they have sufficient staffing, things will move faster. The process is incredibly unpredictable. We got a referral sooner than we ever thought imaginable, but it looks like our court dates may be the end of this year, into the next. Just like all the hard times, this brings us closer to God in a way we never imagined.

  • Pray for my mommy heart. I feel guilty for leaving Lydia behind when we travel across the world. I feel guilty that he’s stuck in an orphanage a little longer and we can’t do anything about it. I feel guilty for the fact that just as we are bonding, I will be leaving him to go back to work. I feel guilty ALL. THE. TIME.

  • Pray for smooth travel when we do get our travel date, that we are prepared, court goes well, Lydia does well in TN with family and we have some good bonding with him before we get onto a plane for 21 hours.

  • Grace. We’re normal people trying to walk by faith. We have, and will again, said the wrong things. Hurt peoples feelings. Are human and flawed and so we ask that you give us grace and understanding in the coming months and years. We aren’t going to be composed and pristine all the time. We’re hoping to use our openness, frankness, as a path for other families to see how normal people can be used for extraordinary things. If we can pull this off, many more can as well.
If you are reading this blog post and you have prayed for us, donated to our adoption, given us clothes/toys/books and generally supported us…THANK YOU. We could not have continued through this process without a village behind us. Not everyone is able to or willing to adopt but everyone is called to orphan care. You are caring for orphans when you support adoptive parents. We will continue to need the emotional/physical support after we bring him home. So far we’ve only been through the “easy” part of this adoption, so we will need a lot of understanding and support in the future as well. Thank you for loving on our boy as much as we do. Here comes the grand adventure!
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 Love,
The Shraders

Introducing: Shrader party of four

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I know what you may be thinking…no, I’m not pregnant. BUT, Lydia is going to become a little sister to a 3 year old BIG BROTHER! We have received and accepted our referral just this week! This happened A LOT sooner than we were expecting, judging by the number that we were given on the list of waiting families. We were warned sometimes this happens due to our qualifications (how old the child is, how many we are approved for, special needs) and we could bypass some families waiting on the list for infants.

Honestly, when I got the phone call at work that we could have a child if we accepted him, I was pretty overwhelmed. I didn’t know the timeline for travel and thought we may have to leave immediately. Were we ready? This little boy is 3. We have never raised a 3 year old, nor a boy, and this was a whole new world. We’ve obviously considered this likelihood, but theory and practice often require a different approach. We accepted this referral on Monday after much prayer, deliberation, and talking to many people in our lives with good advice. And honestly, this was probably one of the most stressful weeks of our lives. We had made up our minds that this phone call would come in mid Spring 2016. It was unsettling to jump the timeline up by 9 months, but that’s kinda how these things work.

We are excited, for sure, but we are also overwhelmed, nervous, and scared now that this adoption has taken the next big step toward reality. Its been a far off notion for so long. We’d set the ball rolling and have plenty of time to prepare. Well, we are rolling now. We are about to become parents for the 3rd time to a 3 year old little boy from another country who may have all sorts of special needs that adopted kids typically have. Are we ready?

Adoption is totally a Gospel concept. We, as sinners, can be overwhelmed by the notion of giving this little boy a home but nothing we’ll encounter will surprise God. He has woven this little boy’s story to include us as his family and that brings us immense joy. There will be hardships in the coming years, so please keep us in your prayers.

We have committed to doing this adoption with as little debt as possible, and so far God has blessed us to be able to do that. We still have about $25,000+ left to finalize the adoption of this little boy, including round trip plane tickets to Ethiopia for 2 separate trips, lodging for two weeks, transportation, food and paperwork fees. We have saved enough money to cover most of this next wave of expenses, though there are expenses and eventualities after the adoption that we haven’t paid for.There may be medical costs for any special needs he may have, clothing/toys/carseat expenses, counseling care for him as he’s grows and asks tough questions. On top of those, the loss of income associated with helping get him adjusted to life in the States by staying at home with him. When we told family and friends this week, the first and most frequent question we got was: “what can we do to help?”

First is prayer. Pray that we exemplify the gospel throughout the rest of this process. That we would live out all those things that Christ and His word have taught us. Pray for the health and well being of this little guy who’s world is about to change. Pray for the process and people involved that everyone would act in the best interest of the child at all times. We don’t ‘want’ to adopt, because it means that kids are out there growing up without birth moms and dads. Way better to have no orphans so no need for any of this, but the reality of a sinful world is that we need to care for those who can’t care for themselves.

Besides covering us in prayers, we would love it if we could get people to donate to our Lifesong account. To donate, click the link in the prior sentence to donate via PayPal (3% of your donation gets taken out) or send a check to Lifesong at Lifesong for Orphans, PO Box 40, Gridley, IL 61744. 100% of the check goes to our adoption account and checks should be payable to “Lifesong for Orphans”. In the memo, put Shrader adoption account #4591. We currently have over $700 and if we receive $1,300 more in donations into this account, our church will match our account with a $2000 adoption grant. This would help us tremendously with expenses incurred in country and after the adoption. If you can’t donate money but would like to help with physical needs, we would also love any hand me down clothing, toys, etc (whatever you need for a 3 yr old boy). He will have his own bedroom (currently our guest bedroom) and we currently have a bed, but not much else.

This referral has taken us by surprise and neither of us dealt well with that. I know eventually we will come around to that gung-ho attitude about it, but we’re still adjusting to the shock. Yet our God is a good God and He will provide us with everything (and more!) that we ask. Right now, we’re in the planning stages and there is A LOT to plan in the coming months. As far as our timeline goes, we will be taking two 1 week trips to Ethiopia when we get our court date. We will most likely be traveling in about 6 months (March) for the first trip to meet him and to go through their courts to get legal guardianship. Then we will come back to the States for a couple of months and take our 2nd trip (May) for a week to go get his exit visa and leave the country with OUR boy! Most likely, we won’t be taking Lydia with us which is a devastating thought to me. I know she will be either with our family or friends and will be taken care of, but we have never spent a night away from her so a week will be horrendous without her. However, the idea of juggling 2 toddlers on a 14 hour international flight gives Josh a bit of a wild eyed look, so a week with the Grandparents or cousins might be better for all parties. Please pray for our hearts as we make that decision.

I cannot at this time show you a picture of him or tell you his name, but I can assure you he is ADORABLE. Everything can change in an instant, Ethiopia could shut down and out of respect for his privacy these are the only details we can tell you. He’s a boy, he’s a little over 3 and he has been in an orphanage for 2 years of his life.

These are some prayer requests/physical needs we have going on at the moment:

  • Pray for this little boy who is without a family in an orphanage. I don’t know when they will tell him about us, but he has already gone through immense trials not having a family. Going to get him will be so scary for him, because we are all strangers. We’re taking him to a foreign land with foreign people, food, customs and even language.
  • Pray for our hearts that we focus on the Gospel and parallel our being adopted in Christ’s family to this experience. It may be the hardest trial we’ve ever had to go through.
  • Pray for Lydia that her little mind will eventually understand this is a great thing for her as well. She loves kids, especially older kids, so I have no doubt she will love her big brother immediately.
  • We would love to get $2,000 in our Lifesong account so that we can have it matched for expenses after the adoption.
  • We could use material things for a little boy: clothing (3-4T), shoes (not sure size yet), toys, books, carseat, etc. We would definitely accept hand-me-downs (except for the car seat). If you personally don’t have any, please share our need with friends/family because they may have hand-me-downs. We would also take brand new clothing and shoes as well if you feel so inclined.

Finally, we just want to extend a thank you to all our family and friends who have supported us through this process. You guys have enabled us to be bold about our faith and about the importance of adoption and orphan care. Thanks especially to our church family for having a heart for adoption, answering our many questions and leading by example. I know we wouldn’t have made it to this point without all of your help and support.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

We love you guys.

Josh, Bec, Lydia, and #4 (coming soon to a venue near you)

What the heck is going on?

Wow has it really been since July that I’ve written a post? So sorry it’s been so long since our last blog post. I’m writing an update (even though I don’t have much to say) since I’ve gotten so many inquiries about our adoption. Where were we in the process? How much longer? What’s happening?

Here’s what we know…there has been some sort of a slow-down in the adoptions processed from our agency and orphanage in Ethiopia. Our case worker informed us that we’d wait for a child aged 0-3 with mild special needs (usually HIV+) for at least 4 years, maybe more. I can only guess it’s because they are promoting domestic adoptions and reunification with families. That’s a definite YAY! We have been completely involved in personal family affairs and haven’t had time to really discuss this with our case worker. We are not allowed to post our wait list number on social media, but I can tell you it’s pretty low on the list. They do it based on when you sent your paperwork in and what your qualifications are. The number changes every month and every month we’ve gone up 10 or more spaces on the list…so that’s good. However, our agency is presenting another option to us.

There is a waiting child list in China with children ready to be adopted as soon as paperwork is completed. These are children with mild-severe special needs. Anywhere from a glass eye to around-the-clock care. China was the country Josh wanted to adopt from in the first place, but we didn’t match one of the qualifications. Our case worker told us the country will waive some of the qualifications if we were adopting special needs (which is sad, because they don’t place as much value on these children). Right now, our decision is to stick with Ethiopia. I just finished our dossier and with our 8 month old, filling out a totally new dossier would be horrendous, especially with all the decisions we have on our plate already not involving the adoption. This decision may change. If we adopt from Ethiopia and it takes that long…that means redoing our home study 2 more times at least (especially if we have another child) and our immigration that expires every 18 months. This means probably spending about another $3,000 just waiting. I don’t like the idea of this. I also don’t like the idea of children in China waiting for families and we’re waiting on available children in Ethiopia. We will just need time and more information to sort the decision out. There is nothing easy about adoption…but I know God is in control, not me, not the Ethiopian courts and not this evil paperwork.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy this cutie….

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Scary finances

Folks, adoption is expensive. Not just expensive, but we could buy a really nice car for what we are spending on this adoption. Every country, including the US, has different fees and they all add up to tens of thousands of dollars. That being said, we are hardcore fundraising starting NOW. We racked up over $4,000 in scarf sales through my Etsy shop last year (visit the shop here) and will be attempting to raise more funds through the store this upcoming fall. We will be brainstorming more fundraising opportunities, such as designing T shirts to sell, BBQ/pancake/spaghetti dinners, adoption yard sales, etc and we are also going on a relatively tight budget in case we don’t reach our fundraising goal by the time we fly to Ethiopia. We know the enormous cost of an adoption and while we believe God can move mountains and 100% fund this adoption through other means, we are willing to sacrifice a good amount of our savings to bring this child home. The one good thing about being on a waiting list for years for a referral for our particular country is that we have all that time to raise funds.

We have also been approved for a matching grant through The Summit’s Orphan Care Ministry. If we raise at least $2,000 through online/check donations via Lifesong, our church will match it. WE NEED YOUR HELP TO DO THIS. Lifesong is an organization that exists to help adoptive families fund their adoption through grants and interest-free loans. Here is how to give to our matching grant fund:

 PLEASE NOTE THE SUPER EASY “DONATE NOW” BUTTON VIA PAYPAL AT THE TOP OF THE BLOG

GIVE BY CHECK: 

Please make check payable to Lifesong for Orphans

**In the memo please note your gift preference with our family number #4591 and Shrader family.**

(if you don’t put the memo, we may not get your donation)

Please mail checks to:

Lifesong for Orphans

PO Box 40

Gridley, IL 61744

GIVE ONLINE:

Go to: www.lifesongfororphans.org/give/donate

Click: Give to an adoptive family

Complete online form and fill in #4591 in Acct # and Shrader family in Family Name fields

**Please note that PayPal will charge an administrative fee (2.9% + $.30 USD per transaction). Your donation will be decreased by the amount of this fee. Individual donations $250 or more and yearly donations totaling $250 or more will receive a tax-deductible receipt. Receipts for donations under $250 will gladly be sent upon request. Lifesong is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization.**

Our fundraising goal date will be September 8, 2014.  However, our account remains open and donations will be accepted until our child is home or adoption is complete – whichever is later.

In an effort to be transparent through the adoption process and honest with people donating to our fund, we have included a breakdown of what we have already paid and what we owe. We have currently raised all of the money for the expenses so far from the Etsy shop and donations. Here is the breakdown:

All fees below are paid and taken care of:

Homestudy: $1500

USCIS Immigration/Fingerprints: $900

Agency application fee: $250

Agency fee upon application acceptance: $2,667

Miscellaneous fees (mailings, notarizations, homestudy fees, dossier fees): estimation around $300

TOTAL we’ve raised so far: $5, 617…which is AMAZING

All fees below are yet to come:

Agency fee at completion of home study: $2,667

Agency fee at completion of dossier: $2,667

Homestudy update fee (after birth of new baby): $800 plus costs of background checks and fingerprints

Dossier fee: $625

USCIS application fee after referral: unsure

FedEx account to send the dossier to Ethiopia:  $345

Crossings training: $200

Referral fee (1 child): $12,000 ($8,000 each additional child)

Foster care fee: $750

Airfare for two trips to Ethiopia and back (at least 4 adult round trip-maybe 1 child, 1 child one-way): $9500

Hotel accommodations (2 1 week stays): $700

Parent visas: $80

Transportation in Ethiopia: $500

Adopted child’s US Visa: $230

Food (per person): $200

TOTAL: $31, 264

I’m going to be honest here. Looking at that number almost gives me a heart attack. Adoption is definitely a God thing. The waiting is difficult, the cost is enormous and the paperwork is a bear. Being obedient to the Word means caring for the orphan. This does not mean every believer should adopt or foster. Caring for the orphan could mean helping fund an adoption, supporting adoptive families in your church/community, joining the Big Brother/Big Sister organization, being a guardian ad litum, etc. We are very blessed to have a church community that emphasizes orphan care with our Orphan Care Ministry, because we realize a lot of people go through this process alone. If you are reading this and realize you are not in a position to adopt, please consider helping to fund our adoption and/or pray for our process. It takes a village to raise a child and you can be a part of ours.

 

In Him,

The Shraders

One year later

Today marks one year since we said goodbye to our firstborn, Cora. One year. I can’t believe time has moved that quickly. The months after we lost her last summer, we were frozen in sorrow. I thought the pain may never subside but we eventually moved through those first few months and into a new normal. All of your prayers and God’s grace are solely responsible. Yes, the saying is true: “time heals all wounds” but only partially. We are not healed from our pain, but we realize it’s only a temporary affliction. I still cry when I think about her, especially when I’m hold her baby sister Lydia. I could be holding Cora. Cora would be turning one year old this summer and we could be having a party to celebrate her first year of life, not remembering her death.

Life can be cruel. But, God is good. He brought us closer to each other and closer to Him throughout our experience with Cora. God blessed us just a few months later with a positive pregnancy test, a completely normal pregnancy and text book delivery. It’s crazy to think that Cora had such an extremely rare condition, with all of her organs growing on the outside of her little, fragile body and within months I can have a completely healthy baby girl. I cannot reason God’s ways and I’m not sure why He had us experience Cora, but I’m thankful He did.

Since Lydia was born two weeks ago, I’ve been overly emotional about my feelings for Cora (probably due to my hormones). Just walking into Lydia’s room (originally Cora’s) and reading her a book makes me yearn to be reading it to Cora. I also think they look alike; Lydia has her nose (the Shrader nose) and her dark hair. Last year, we were worried we didn’t bond with Cora because we knew her outcome was grim and time was so short. The feeling about calling bereavement services to come pick up her body that day and the way we still feel today lets me know our bond is strong. My heart shattered into a million different pieces after that call to take her body away. It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done in our lives to say goodbye to her, knowing we would never see her again in this world.

Cora changed us. She was a reminder from God that this life is temporary. Our wants and needs are not important, because they can be taken from us in an instant. I hope to remind myself of this when Lydia ventures out into the world when she’s grown. We hope and pray she chooses to follow God in her life, but God gave her to us temporarily also. If He calls her home or out into the world to spread the Good News, then we must let her go.

Cora also changed the world. I still get messages from people who came across this blog  to tell me how much reading it affected them. I’ve had a few people tell me a family member just got the same diagnosis for their baby and they want advice from me as to how to approach them with love and grace. Reading these messages from people who are affected by Cora helps me grieve in a healthy way. I know that through this blog and through us all telling people about her life, her legacy lives on.

We hope to help those who are experiencing grief. We want to share our lives and our hope in Christ, because only He can satisfy. We’ve been so blessed by everyone praying for us, caring for us, and demonstrating Christ so we can show the world how we are meant to love one another. So if you have questions, ask. If you find yourself seeking the Father because we lost a daughter, then it makes it worthwhile. We fix our eyes of the prize and run the race He’s set before us. We are abounding the love and peace of God, knowing that at the end of our lives, we’ll meet our ultimate Father and our first daughter. And with God’s grace, we’ll meet those people who Cora helped along their path. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you 1 Peter 5:10.

 

cora1

Cora Kimberly Shrader

7/2/14

1 lb 2 oz

11.75 inches

 

In Him,

Josh, Rebecca, Cora and Lydia Shrader

The Dreaded Dossier

I knew a dossier was an official document related to international processes before we began the adoption process. I did not know if we would be required to complete one for our adoption, nor did I know how much stress this one word could place on a person. I heard about all the paperwork involved in completing an adoption, but I thought it would be integrated with our home study (which, thanks to our case worker and agency, was a complete breeze). Turns out, every international adoption requires a dossier. The purpose of this post is to answer  questions about our place in the process, and hopefully clue in any potential adoptive parents.

The domestic adoption process is significantly different from the international process. There is a similar home study (pretty much every detail of your childhood and marriage/relationship/child rearing skills), but you may have to write it yourself, depending on the adoption agency. From our limited experience, this seems to be a fairly different process for domestic than international. For a domestic adoption, you collect pictures of your family, your house, likes/dislikes and put them into a book for the birth mother to look through when choosing families. In our home study, we had forms to complete but our case worker met with us three times to help fill out our biographies and write about our relationship and home environment. That written study is then submitted for approval. Once approved, there was no biography picture book for us to fill out, just the dreaded paperwork. Contrarily, completed homestudies for domestic cases can then move to agencies to be potentially paired with a child.

After reading of some requirements from countries other than Ethiopia, I realize we may actually have less paperwork. We have lots of documents that have to be originals, some we have already collected for our home study that we have to obtain and complete again. Almost all of these forms have to be notarized and most have to be original “certified” copies. Looking at the list, I have a mini panic attack, but we soldier through and have been steadily working through the list, checking off forms one by one. I want to take my time, ensuring we do it correctly the first time, as it can delay the whole process. Then the tricky part comes in; all forms have to be no more than 6 months old at the time of submission. Some of the forms leftover from the home study have exceeded that time frame by now. Which means we have to obtain them a second time. It is an all-together frustrating and stressful time of the adoption. However, this is the bulk of the pre -child paperwork for our adoption. There will be paperwork in the future, but not this much and not at one time.

I’m trying to step back, breathe, be as organized as possible. Take it slow instead of rushing to get it all turned in, like my Type A personality would usually approach tasks. Adoption is a challenging process for everyone, period. It’s a lot of politics, paperwork, and emotions all wrapped into a helping a child. Since we don’t have a referral for a child yet, so we don’t have a specific person to focus our motivation on. We constantly need to remind ourselves that this is worth it. All the stress and red tape is worth a child’s life.

In our particular situation, the fact that I could go into labor any minute adds to the already stressful circumstances. Getting the nursery ready, having showers and working full-time distracts us from completing a good amount of the paperwork. Finding time is difficult. Most of the documents we’re waiting on are ones  we have to send off or complete during our work hours. This is awkward to manage while I save up time-off for maternity leave. Our goal is to get everything in by the end of July, within our 6 month window for most of our paperwork, the homestudy particularly. If you’re reading this and you were considering adopting, it’s important to read and consider the necessary steps before you make a huge commitment like this. If I hadn’t had friends that just went through the process and a church family with answers, I would be incredibly lost.  I felt it could be helpful to others to compile a list of all of the paperwork we have to complete for the dossier:

Note: This is for our agencies, foreign and domestic, and Ethiopia, not a comprehensive universal all situation/countries list.

1. Letter of intent: This is a letter, written, signed and notarized to the Ethiopian authorities stating why we are adopting, why Ethiopia and what kind of life we can provide for a child here in America.

2. Original, certified birth certificates: Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that I was adopted by my stepdad and have had to track where they keep my birth certificate.

3. Original, certified marriage license

4. “Good Conduct” letters from the Local Police Department: This is a signed and notarized local background check from your hometown. (This is after doing a national background check, with fingerprints…twice, and a state background check.)

5. Original medical report: This is also notarized by a doctor during a physical exam. The agency sent us a pretty general form to get them to fill out.

6. Two original copies of our home study, which also have to be notarized.

7. USCIS approval (I-171H): This is our immigration approval. We had to fill out paperwork and get fingerprinted for the second time, to be approved to bring a child into this country.

8. Letter of employment verification stating hours, compensation and years work signed and notarized for both parents.

9. A letter from our bank stating we are in good standing with them, signed and notarized.

10. A financial statement form signed and notarized: This is a standard form the agency sent us to find out our debt-income ratio.

11. Letters from each health insurance agency stating we have a policy.

12. Letters from our life insurance agency stating we have policies on all members of the family.

13. Three letters of reference: We already turned in three letters of reference for our home study, but these should be new. They should be from friends and family favoring our position to adopt, also notarized.

14. Obligation of adoption-reporting commitment: This is a standarized form the agency included for us to sign and get notarized.

15. Three original Power of Attorney forms, signed and notarized.

16. Color copies of passports

17. Passport photos of both parents

18. Tax returns from past 2 years. 2012 and 2013 for us

These are all the paper forms we have to include and send to our agency through Fed Ex, who then sends it to the Ethiopian agency’s US headquarters (West Sands), who then sends it to Ethiopia. If we have even a small, minuscule mistake they will send it back to us and our referral will be delayed that much longer. Once the dossier is approved, we are then in the looooooooooonnnnggg waiting period for a referral. Waiting for a referral for a child can be anywhere from one to two years, provided Ethiopia does not close to international adoption (see Russia, Congo, Guatemala).  I’ll refer to this time as the “raise as much money as humanly possible for our waiting child and try not to freak out” period. Essentially, we may be driving everyone crazy with our fundraising ideas (more on the cost of our adoption and how we’re financially planning to conquer costs in a later blog post).

If the process so far sounds overwhelming and stressful, you understand our pain. If it doesn’t sound overwhelming, dive right in and show us how it’s done. Top that with a new baby (any day now) and two full-time working parents and our stress level is through the roof. But, this is such a small amount of our lifetime joy with this child. This paperwork will bring a child with no family to love and care for them, into a loving and caring home. This process will hopefully show this child, as well as others around us, what lengths God went to for His children and the beauty of the Gospel. I am stressed, yes, but I am also excited and nervous to enter this new phase. I feel like once we begin the waiting process, we are officially adoptive parents. That referral means a new member of our family and that is worth every bit of stress.

In Him,

The Shraders

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