Saturday, November 28, 2015

Why adoption?

I just wanted to post a little summary for those of you that are just joining us on this journey! So why are we adopting? Before Jason & I were even married we would talk about having kids one day, how many kids we wanted, etc and adoption always seemed to come up. {we've also learned that anytime we feel the same way about something we should definitely do it, because we are horrible about making decisions and rarely have opinions or 'callings' toward anything} We even considered only adopting but I was afraid I would look back and wish I had the whole pregnancy etc experience. So we had Gentry, our biological daughter, in 2012. She was a beautiful healthy girl and I am so glad I got to experience pregnancy but we also experienced the loss of her twin during pregnancy & some emergent postpartum complications. So that sealed the deal for us...adoption from here on out! We feel like we have been richly blessed in this life: we have a home, reliable cars, steady jobs, and a stable family. But it's so much more than that. We have such amazing people in our life and we have been so loved and supported through every phase of life. I feel like every child deserves people like that in their corner and because of each of YOU we are able to provide that. We definitely felt God calling us into adoption but once we walked through that door it was like standing in a large room with 15 more doors, where do we go next?

We put in our first application with Cherokee Nation shortly after Gentry's first bday. This would be similar to adopting through DHS; it wouldn't be a birthmom situation, it would be children taken into custody by the state. They told us it was unlikely to adopt an infant through this route but we were determined. Plus our other option was private adoption, and we thought no way can we afford a $15-30,000 adoption! After one year we had yet to receive one single call for a placement. We felt like it was time to start looking at other options but we were still against the idea of private adoption. So we started the process to get certified with DHS. It took me weeks to even fill out the application because I just had no motivation to do it, it was weird & I questioned if we should even do this. But I told myself I was just afraid & just went with it anyway. DHS also warned us that adopting under the age of one is almost impossible but I pushed on. To put it nicely...DHS is overwhelmed. They have way too many cases per worker & while everyone is doing the best they can, it makes it very difficult to get anything done. We are actually still in process of getting certified with them. Each step has taken a lot of time and communication is slow moving. This past summer we once again felt like it was time to do something, change directions, etc so we made an appointment with Cathoic Charities (a local non profit organization that runs a crisis pregnancy center) just to hear what they had to say. I was in love. Everyone was so nice and patient, explaining the whole process and answering all of our questions. I was ready to sign my name on the dotted line! But the one hold up continued...the money. And Jason still felt like we just couldn't make it work. And like I said before, if we're not on the same page, I move on because it usually means the timing isn't right. But I still felt like we needed to do SOMETHING because we've now had two agencies tell us "it isn't going to happen" and we've been waiting almost 2 years with no calls at all. So we started talking about foster care & we went through our 27 hours of DHS training and learned a lot about the foster system and heard a lot of stories of kids in state custody. And it broke my heart. I didn't know how we could turn our back once we'd heard these stories and statistics. The one possibility of adopting through state agencies is to foster first because if reunification fails they usually go to the foster family for permanent placement. However.... reunification attempts drag on for years and even once the parents' rights are terminated they next check for any possible family member anywhere in the entire world. We were also told several times by caseworkers that if we were going to foster we HAD to have reunification as our number one goal; "yes of course" I said every time. The idea of fostering actually terrified me but I thought that was just my human emotional side being scared. My biggest fear isn't for us but for Gentry. I know that she would have some understanding of what's going on but I think it would also be hard at three years old to have siblings moving in and moving out, hoping that one is going to be her forever sibling. I knew once we made the choice to foster it would be likely that we would receive a placement pretty quickly so we had to be completely in this together. Jason and I decided to take one day to individually just pray and think about what we thought we should do. I was very surprised when we talked that evening and both of us thought we should go with a private adoption. My reasoning- I selfishly want Gentry to have a permanent sibling before the uncertainty of foster care. I also realized that there was no way my heart would be in the right place to work with a bio mom for reunification. I would be hoping that every child we had would get to be ours forever; and that's not what foster care is for, that's been made very clear to us. I truly believe that foster care will still have a place in our lives; our state has way too many children that need homes. But I feel like if we get involved now it wouldn't be good for anyone. I need to be in a place where I want to work with bio mom to help her get things together so she can get her child back. We are especially interested in emergency foster care for kids who need immediate placement after being removed from their home. I'm excited to learn more about the foster system, children who have been through trauma, and just better prepare myself and my family for that process.

So we made the decision to jump in with both feet, going on blind faith that God will provide in His time and in His way. And ever since we made that decision....peace. I feel so completely at peace and every step has been falling into place simply and easily. Even with $10,000- $20,000 staring us down, we feel complete peace. I feel like we are exactly where we are supposed to be. The timing feels perfect and I think there are a lot of reasons why things haven't worked out over the past couple of years that I will get to understand some day. We have put in our application with CC and we are just waiting for our fingerprints to come back so we can have our home study and then we will be "open" (**update: just got our fingerprints in the mail on Wednesday & will turn them in on Monday!). Then we wait. Our profile book will be given to birth parents and we just wait until we are chosen. It is incredibly humbling to think that someone will choose us to be the parents for their child. My brain can't even comprehend having to make that decision. Please pray for the birth mom of our future child, I can't imagine the difficult road she must have walked to be in this place and making this choice. But what strength and courage it takes and I hope she has people in her corner supporting her and cheering her on. We all need that!

Cost breakdown:
The "legal fees" are what range the most, depending on how to difficult it is to locate potential fathers, family members, etc. CC told us their cases have ranged from $9,000-$24,000


To Begin Adoption Process
When Due
Adoption Application
File set-up and processing /Orientation Meeting/PSI Course
With Application

Update Adoption Application
File set-up and processing 
With Application

Initial Home Study and Report
Comprehensive study of prospective adoptive family done by social worker

When social worker is assigned Adoption Home Study

FBI fingerprint and background check
Motor Vehicle Fee
*OSBI Name Base Clearance
Due for each adult (18 years or older) in    household as part of Adoption Home Study
$50 Each
$25 Each
$20 Each

Mailed by Adoptive Family to DHS 
Mailed by Adoption Family to DPS
*For Adoption AHS Update-Mail to Catholic Charities
      with OSBI CHRU, 08/09 Form

Home Study Update and Report
Required annually only after completion of initial Adoption Home Study
When social worker is assigned Adoption Home Study Update
Matching Process
Identification of and presenting information about family to prospective birth parents
Upon submission of Family Life Book

Upon Being Matched with Birth Parents and Child
Birth Parent Counseling 
Counseling, case management, correspondence 
When matched with specific birth parents

Adoptive Parent Counseling
Counseling, case management, correspondence
When matched with specific birth parents

Medical and Social History Report

$  250
When matched with specific birth parents
Risk management, coordination of services at hospital for adoptive family, case management and coordination of legal services
Upon placement of child

Birth Mother Expenses
Approved expenses may include: medical, food, housing, transportation.  Beyond $1000must have Court Approval
Varies according to need
$1000 deposit when matched with specific birth parents.  Balance due at termination of parental rights.
*See insurance information below.

Other Associated Fees
Legal Fees
Termination of parental rights and other services
Deposit – Due upon match.  Additional legal fees could be
incurred which are due upon invoicing
Post Placement Visits & Reports
Three required within first 6 months after placement
$250 each
Upon completion of visit and report.
Associated with Adoption Home Study, Adoption Home Study Updates and Post Placement Visits
Determined by the Standard Mileage Rates set by IRS
Upon completion of visit and report.
Foster Care Fees
Paid when foster care is necessary.
$20 per day
Upon placement of child
Interstate Compact Fees
Due when another state is involved in adoption
When filed with ICPC

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Same book, new chapter

Well, we finally have something to update!
We recently felt like we had come to a fork in the road with our adoption options: it has become increasingly clear that adopting out of DHS or the Cherokee nation is not going to happen; by the time their children are legally free to be adopted, they're much older than what we feel would fit with our family right now, with Gentry just being 3. So we pretty much had one road of traditional foster care with the hope of adopting or private adoption.
I really thought foster care was the direction we were heading; we had previously discussed private adoption, and the cost is just overwhelming. But we each took a day to pray and think about it, and I just realized that my heart/mind/soul are not in the right place for foster care. Every caseworker I've talked to has made that very clear- we shouldn't foster unless our mindset is 100% that we want reunification for the child. I could say those words but I would not mean it in my heart. I don't want reunification, I want them to be a part of our family, forever. We still feel like foster care will have a place in our lives but for some reason I have this strong desire for Gentry to have a permanent sibling before we start having kids in and out of our home. I think it would help her deal with all of the unknowns of foster care.
So with foster care off the table for now that just leaves private adoption. And all of the sudden we just stopped fighting the fear of money and accepted the idea. And it has been such a huge weight lifted ever since! I had prepared myself for foster care but every time I thought about it I felt apprehensive and pretty much terrified. Now I feel completely at peace and so excited, which I'm taking as a good sign. Things have just been falling into place since that decision. We've turned in our application with Catholic Charities and received our massive packet of papers to turn in. Third time to be fingerprinted, background checked, home studied, references, 16 page autobiography, etc. But they say the third time's the charm! Catholic Charities is a local mission that provides crises pregnancy services in Tulsa and we actually met with them over the summer and loved everything we heard, but at that time the cost was still too daunting so we didn't pursue anything more. I just remember how calm and peaceful the woman was we spoke with, and after going over all the details and "what ifs" she basically said, 'but none of that really matters, God is in control of all of this and He knows which family each child will go to'. It was such a wonderful reminder that my God is bigger than all of this; He's bigger than my fears, our shortcomings, the broken child-welfare system and any situations that may arise working with a birthmom. The idea of even interacting with a birthmom scared me to death before but now I'm really excited & praying for her daily. I can't wait to meet her and hear her story and share ours. I'm praying for a great relationship with her.
Adoptions at CC range between $10,000 and $25,000 which takes my breath away a little even when I type it. But we just feel sure that God is going to provide, and that somehow the money will be there, as needed, each step of the way. The majority of the cost starts once we are matched with a birthmom. We're excited to start some fundraisers very soon! As always, we could never thank all of our family and friends enough for supporting and praying us through this journey. 
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life" | Psalm 143:8
Sweet girl mailing off our application!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Time for Everything

This past week has brought some interesting insight and decisions for us. It started when my sister contacted me about a foster case she heard about. It was a pretty far stretch but I looked into it anyway. Long story short, nothing came of it and that felt ok. But it did make me start to really wonder how we have not received one single call when I know these kids are out there. So I decided to email our caseworker at Cherokee Nation (CN) and we basically came to a mutual conclusion that if we are only interested in children up to 1 year and not willing to take sibling groups right now then it might be a good idea to start looking at other options such as expanding our preferences, continuing our certification with DHS, private agencies, etc. I totally expected her to say this but for some reason it really hit me hard and left me questioning pretty much everything up to this point...did we just waste a year and half? Is adoption really what God is calling us to? Why did we feel pulled toward CN if that's not going to happen? Am I even hearing God or just my own human emotions? Fortunately I have a very patient & level headed husband and a couple of friends and family members who have been through the adoption journey who let me work through all of these emotions. Everyone I talked to about it was very encouraging that if we felt like God was calling us here than we are probably right where we should be, we just can't see His plan. I still felt like I needed to DO something though, so I've been researching other agencies because Gentry wants a sibling now and I totally have baby fever and I get into this cycle... maybe we should just go with the crazy expensive private agency or hire an adoption attorney and just get us a baby! But wait...we could just have another biological child then right? Ok wait why did we decide to adopt anyway? Deep breath...because we are confident that that is what God has called us to do. We're not trying to have another baby...we're answering what we *believe* is God's call and simply saying we are willing to open our hearts and our home to a child who wouldn't otherwise have all of these blessings. The blessing of a safe home, loving parents, an incredible big sister, a ridiculous amount of friends and family to love and support them, and growing up knowing they are a Child of God. SO...I've pretty much just had to cool my jets and renew my perspective this week. On paper we have made a few small changes: we are continuing with our DHS certification (I had kind of put that on hold because I just wasn't "feeling" it) and we are going to an informational meeting with Catholic Charities (this would basically be a private adoption through a crisis pregnancy agency). At this time we are keeping our status with CN as adoption and low-risk foster up to 1 year old.
In one of my first posts I mentioned the song Oceans by Hillsong, I'm sure most of you have heard it. One famous line from it is "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders". I kind of picture that when we started this process it was like we were walking out onto a swinging wooden bridge with rope handles. I thought that was trust. Now I feel like the bridge is still there but the rope handles are gone, it still feels safe but a lot more scary. I think we're just beginning to understand what it really means to trust. There might come a time when that bridge completely falls out and we will truly have to rely on God alone to keep us up, that is probably what "trust without borders" is really like and to be perfectly honest I'm not sure I'm ready to know what that is like, I prefer safe. But I do know that wherever He calls us He will be right beside us. And one of the main reasons I have that confidence is because of the awesome faith of all of those around us, praying for us, sharing their stories of faith, bible verses to confirm what we believe, etc. We as a couple are not doing anything great by any means, we are just two regular weak & broken people who think we heard God calling and gave a nervous 'Ok we're willing...'. It's because of all of the support around us that we have been able to continue this journey headed who knows where! :) Here are a few sweet reminders that God has provided to us from people in our lives:
* One of the my coworkers reminding me that something God has been so clear about in his Word (James 1:27) can't be wrong.
* A sermon about how we are not going to mess up God's plans. I worry so much about if we should certify with this or that or change preferences etc but ultimately those decisions are not going to "mess up" God's bigger story that He's writing here. I like to picture that maybe God's path is a nice straight line and so maybe it curves a little more because of my choices but it ends up in the same place.
*Spending time with an amazing friend who has adopted a child with special needs and realizing how "messy" adoption is, both legally and day to day life. It sounds so noble to want to join the cause of "orphan care" but the reality of it isn't pretty or romantic or glamorous. It's 24/7, real life, mundane, challenging and tiring. But then I remember that Jesus spent most of his time with "messy" people... sinners, tax collectors, the very people who wanted him dead. And I for one am not very good at going into the messy places of life so this will be a big challenge for me.
*Looking at a local adoption attorney's website and the first thing on her site was this message from Jesus Calling: "stop trying to work things out before their times have come. Accept the limitations of living one day at a time. When something comes to your attention, ask Me whether or not it is part of today's agenda. If it isn't, release it into my care and go on about today's duties. When you follow this practice, there will be a beautiful simplicity about your life: a time for everything, and everything in it's time. A life lived close to me is not complicated or cluttered. When your focus is on My Presence, many things that once troubled you lose their power over you. Though the world around you is messy and confusing, remember that I have overcome the world. I have told you these things so that in Me you may have Peace. 'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven' Ecclesiastes 3:1". A lot easier said than done, but I'm working on it :).

And then finally at church today our sermon led me to this thought: when we made the decision to follow Jesus into this adoption, we surrendered our timeline for when we would have a second child. He is completely in control and I just have to be patient to see the great things He is working on. This is not our story, it is God's story, we are just the lucky ones he is hopefully going to use to bless one of his smallest and most vulnerable children. I can't thank you all enough for your continued prayers and support for us and our second child, wherever they may be at this time.