Protected: When you put your “yes” on the table…

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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)

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

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

dossier

We are adopting from….

adoption

 

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!

 

In Him,

 

The Shraders

 

PS. Here are a few pictures that were not included in Sara’s blog that I love:

53Shrader[1]   29Shrader[1]

28Shrader[1]15Shrader[1]

64Shrader[1]05Shrader[1]

74Shrader[1]