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)

We are adopting from….

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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]