Monday, December 27, 2010

A Most Significant Date!

Coming soon...

Updated 1/11/2011...

Okay, here's the news you've all been waiting for...

Four years ago today, 12/27/2011, a miracle was granted me by Heavenly Father that provided a spot for me at my adoption agency. You can read about this miracle by clicking on Part 7 of My Story on the right of this blog.

Today, Heavenly Father bestowed upon me the greatest miracle so far:



Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

I waited until today to open all my cards and even my Secret Pal giftl Jie Jie's first gifts along with Apple's from the Oct. and Dec. Secret Pal gift exchange!

Thank you, Secret Pal. I lost it when I saw the Hello Kitty pajamas! It made Jie Jie seem so near. Thank you!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Childless Christmas

I'm really feeling it this year! My desire to be a mother, to have a child, a family, is enveloping me.

I can hear a little voice calling me mama. I can feel a tug on my shirt as a little one clamours for my attention. I go to sleep each night feeling like I'm going to be awakened by a cry in night that I will have to respond to.

I can imagine a little face, eyes wide, mouth in a wonderous O, as the tree is lit for the first time. I keep feeling like I need to bundle up myself and a little child so we can walk over to my little town's Christmas Tree Lane and see all the lights and visit Santa.

I have presents that should be wrapped and placed under my tree to be opened in the morning by small hands.

I feel like I should have bought a pink bicycle to go under the tree for a certain little six year-old.

Next year...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

100 Good Wishes Quilt - Another One

Back in the beginning of my adoption process, mid 2007, I participated in a quilt square exchange and received about 50 squares with little "wishes," or inspiring notes, to go with each square. These are to be used to make a quilt for Apple. I plan to ask friends and family to contribute the rest when I'm closer to referral time.

Meanwhile, I realized I need to get started on one for Jie Jie. I'll repeat the same legend that I posted then:

There is a tradition in northern China called the "Bai Jia Bei." In Mandarin, it's 百家被, which literally means Quilt United by 100 Families. 家 is the character for both family and home. The following is a story of the origin of the Bai Jia Bei...

"The last Empress of the Qing dynasty was a mere concubine, until she had the good luck to birth the Emperor’s only son. When forced to leave her baby alone for a while, she conceived a plan to protect him from the senior wives and obligate the other powerful Manchu families to back his claim to the throne. "From the head of each of the highest one hundred families in the Empire, she required a bolt of the finest silk. From the silks she commanded the palace tailors to cut one hundred small pieces and from these make a robe for her child. Thus he belonged, by symbol, to one hundred strong and noble families, and under their shelter the gods would fear to harm him."

I would like to invite anyone who is interested, to participate in helping me create Jie Jie's quilt. She will probably be 2 1/2 to 7 years old. The square should be of cotton fabric and be cut to at least 8" x 8". It does NOT have to be prewashed if it's good quality quilter's cotton, but it should be if you aren't sure. This is to prevent shrinkage once it's sewn into the quilt. Then, make a "wish" to go with it, a little note, verse, poem, prayer, etc. with a piece of the fabric stuck to it so it can be identified in the quilt.

Please send it to my business address at:

New Conceptions
P.O. Box 2155
Alameda, CA 94501

If you'd like to receive a square and wish from me for your own child's quilt, please include a little note and your address and I'd be happy to send you one.

I see this quilt, not as a safeguard against my child's life, of course, but as support and a blessing for myself and her as we become a family.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Aging Out

What does this mean in the China adoption world? I was mistaken in that I thought it meant that when a child turned 14 years old they were evicted from the orphanage and turned out onto the street.

What it really means, is that a child is no longer available for adoption.

So what happens to the children who grow up in orphanages? We know that some, horribly, do end up on the streets doing whatever they can to survive, and others, working menial jobs with terrible working conditions and barely any money for it. Some, however, and it's a growing number, have some higher education and find better jobs. Many children, and I don't know what percentage, are trained in something that can support them.

My agency's China coordinator and his sister grew up in an orphanage. Several girls right now, through various charity organizaitons, are being sponsored so that they can attend nursing school. Some have become teachers. Some have ended up working in the orphanage they grew up in, becoming an ayi (aunty) and caring for the children.

I just read a story about an 11 year old girl who found the orphanage herself and begged to live there because her father beat her. They took her in and she says she's very happy now. She goes to school and is doing better than she did with her father by far.

I am not trying to paint a rosy pictures of life in an orphanage or life after growing up in an orphanage, but to give examples of improved situations for abandoned Chinese children and show that there is hope for them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Healthy Preschoolers in China SWIs?

As I look at children on all the lists and advocacy sites, I wondered what happened to the "healthy" children ages 3-10, who used to be the Waiting Children. I asked a person who is with one of the charity organizations in China and she said that in the last four orphanages she's visited, there aren't any more "healthy" children. She said that they are the ones that have been adopted during the past several years. What she said she sees the most now are 80% boys with special needs and the rest girls with special needs.

This is consistant with what I have been seeing on the current Shared List of children. The majority of them are boys.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

44 Months Waiting for Apple

When I began my adoption, my agency told me that the current wait was 24 months and getting longer. I never gave any though to how long "getting longer" would be. As I approach the four year mark in four months, I think the numbers are looking pretty long. The amazing thing is that is doesn't FEEL that long. I'm thankful for that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Waiting Child Program

I explained the regular adoption process I was going through to get Apple in the beginning of my blog. Now I will explain the Waiting Child Program process. Keep in mind, however, that it is constantly changing, with three major changes occurring in just the last 4 months.

The children on the Waiting Child list are mostly children with special needs. The special needs may or may no be what we, in America, would call special needs since many of them can be corrected with surgery or even just left alone. Some examples are:

A malformed external ear with or without ear canal involvement.
Extra or missing fingers and/or toes.
A large birthmark, scar or portwine stain.
Malformed hands, feet, arms and/or legs.
Heart conditions (ASD, AVD, Tetrology of Fallot, etc).
Brain conditions (major to minor brain damage, hydrocephalus, microencephaly, etc).
Chromosomal conditions (Down's Syndrome).
Spinal cord conditions (variations of spinabifida).
Malformations of the genitalia and/or anus (atresia, fistula, ambiguity, hypospadias-boys).
Intestinal disorders.
Cebral Palsy.
Cleft palate and cleft lip.
Athrogyposis (joint disorder).
Club feet.
Blood disorders (various anemias)
Hep B / HIV
And many, many more...

Many on the Waiting Child List are older and healthy. Older is around 10 to 14. At 14, children "age out" and are no longer allowed in orphanages. I don't know what happens to them, but for many, I'm sure it's not good.

What one sees on this list is the following:

A number
A gender (male, female, hermaphrodite)
Date of Birth
A condition, which may be badly translated
Date the child was placed on the list
How long a family has to get the dossier logged in (some have to be logged in already, others have 3 months and others have 6 months).

An agency can click on a child listed as above and open their profile which contains more information, such as:

A photo (often not current)
Name of the orphanage
Scans of medical forms, lab results
More details on medical condition
General description of the child

Most of the time, the information in the profiles is NOT current and an update must be requested. This is what complicates the process and why many agencies do whatever they can to buy their families more time to consult physicians, etc. Often, too, the information isn't completely correct. The condition may be less severe than stated or more, it may even be completely wrong. One child may be diagnosed as autistic when, in fact, they are deaf.

The children on the Waiting Child List are split up on many different lists:

Shared List: The list that all agencies can view at the same time. Any agency can lock a file from this list at any time for any of their families. When a file is locked, it disappears from the Shared List for 72 hours. If a family proceeds with the adoption, then the file never shows up again. If a family doesn't proceed, the file automatically comes back to the List at the end of the 72 hour period. A family may only lock a file one time.

On the Shared List, children who have been on the list for more than two months or have a particularly severe special need have a designation Special Focus. If a family is interested in adopting one of these children, CCAA allows them to take 6 months to get their dossier logged in (some families find a child before starting the adoption paperwork). If a child has a very minor special need, CCAA requires that the family already have a dossier logged in. In between, is a three month deadline to be logged in.

Individual Lists: Agencies can request files from the Shared List to go on their Agency-specific List. The intent of the Individual List program is to allow agencies time to advocate for specific children for three months, basically, to find them a family among their client families who have an interest in adopting a child with a special need. A file on an Individual List is completely controlled by the agency whose list it's on. The agency will show the file only to the families they choose or may post it on a list accessible by their clients. Some have a list viewable by anyone, but interested parties must inquire at that agency about that child to get more information. Agencies get the files for three months. Sometimes the time period can be extended by special request.

There is another scenario I've discovered, too. If a child has particularly severe special needs, then their adoption paperwork may be made ready, but they won't be released to any list. Instead, CCAA waits for a family to request the file. The only way this child will ever be found is if a family just happens to be visiting the orphanage to get different child and happens to see this child there and falls in love enough to ask about them. Or, someone from a charity group, usually providing special medical, health or educational services, may see the child and advocate from them somehow, usually through a blog.

In addition to these lists, there are many charities who operate small healing homes or special homes for children with certain conditions that require more care than an orphanage can provide. Many of these groups advocate for their adoption-ready children on blogs and/or through programs such as a Hope Camp. A Hope Camp is when a group goes in and selects specific children to join them for a week or so doing fun activities like dancing, plays, arts/crafts, etc... The goal is to video record and photograph the children doing a wide variety of normal things to show prospective parents the child's abilities, despite whatever special needs they have. For example, on little girl with a certain type of cerebral palsy may be shown drawing a picture since her condidtion may make is hard for her to use fine motor skills. A prospective parent viewing this video will be able to see that the child's CP is very mild. The opposite may happen, a child may be featured who has extreme special needs. Either way, children are shown in the most advantageous way possible so that parents have more information when looking for their future child.

But what I've learned really happens is that it's cut-throat adoption out there. Many families and agencies, tired of the long wait for healthy children, are looking for a waiting child with the most minor special need possible. These children are snatched right up as soon as the lists are released. Agency reps stay up all night combing the list then requesting these minorly affected children for their Special Focus Lists.

In other cases, children who are particularly cute-looking, but have a more serious special need, are also pulled to Special Focus lists for families who ask them to do so in order to allow them more time to investigate the child's condition further by consulting with specialists here in the US and, often, by requesting an update from the child's orphanage. This by-passes the 72 hour limit one has to lock a file. This can be beneficial, unless, like in my case, I already knew I wanted to adopt a certain child and other families had their agencies requesting the file to their Special Focus lists in order to investigate whether or not they wanted the child. In my case, many, many families looked at the file and did not want to proceed with the adoption and the file returned to the Shared List and many agencies requested the file for their Special Focus Lists to give their families more time, even when they knew I was ready to lock and adopt, then returned the file when the families didn't proceed with the adoption. This is when you know the agency is buying families more time rather than advocating for the child for three months, because the file is returned quickly to the Shared List. This cycle happened for 11 months with the child I wanted to adopt!

Now, here's where things get sticky. What if a family sees a child on the Shared List, requests the file through their agency, but doesn't lock it because they know that it will take more than 72 hours to investigate the special need, then after a week, goes to lock the file and it's no longer on the Shared List?

The file could be locked by someone else, moved to a Shared List, or be inbetween. Then a grand search begins. I joined advocacy boards, forums, contacted charity groups who had funded the child's surgeries, and, in the end, my agency contacted CCAA directly.

Some agencies, and I have to say most of them, are willing to share a file. This means that if they have the file on their Special Focus list and family already working with a different agency wants the file, usually, but not always, because they are committed to adopting that child because they already saw the file or child somewhere else, the that family's agency can call the agency with the file and ask if they'd give it up. In my case, the first agency would not give it up. Not only would they not give it up, they were mean and rude and deceitful about it. I had asked through my agency, personal email and personal letter, if they'd inform my agency if they returned the file and they did not. On top of this, I gave their family, who contacted me personally, all the info I had on the child and they promised, in return, to tell me if they didn't proceed with adopting the child and they did not. My last two update posts on this explained what happened in the end. I at least know that the other family's agency was willing to share the file if their family had decided not to lock. Agencies that do this have my heartfelt gratitude because then I know that they really care about the children and not the bottom line where the dollars are.

Now, there are some new developments with the Waiting Child Program, the first was announced in Aug. 2010 and took effect Sept. 1 and this allowed me to be where I am. The new program is called Special Interest. If a child has been on the Waiting Child List for more than three months, they become a Special Interest Child. A family has 6 months to log in a dossier after locking their file instead of three. A waiting family, like me, can use a copy of my dossier that is already logged in, to adopt a Waiting Child, all while keeping my original dossier in line for Apple. A family may also adopt two children at the same time, but one must be a Special Interest Child. The most recent change is that a family who has completed an adoption in China within 12 months may also use a copy of that dossier to adopt another child off the Waiting Child List.

These are HUGE advances in the Waiting Child adoption program. I have read blogs of families who were actually the exceptions over the past year or two that were sample cases that CCAA let do this before making it policy. Currently, even some children about to age out of the orphanages are allowed to be adopted by single people by special request. Some of us believe that CCAA is trying it out and may possibly allow singles to adopt Waiting Children readily in the future.

So, if I have this right, the general process to adopt a waiting child is as follows:

Identify a child.
Lock the child's file.
Submit a Letter of Intent to CCAA.
Receive a letter of Pre-Approval back from CCAA.
Submit dossier.
Receive Letter of Approval.
Submit CIS documents.
Get a consulate appointment date.
Get Travel Approval.
Go get your child!

I am under the old CIS program so my CIS documents will be ready sooner than the new way it's being done. My dossier is also already in China so that cuts a lot of time off that part, too. Once I get Pre-approval on a child, I could travel anywhere between 4 and 8 months later to bring her home, probably more like 4-6 months since my dossier is already there and I'm under the old CIS program.

I don't know when I'll feel like looking at lists again and feel ready to committ to another child. There are things I'd definitely do differently next time. I've learned that it's rare to find a child on your own and actually get the first one or two that you try for, versus, the agency matching you up with a child. Yes, I forgot to mention that it's most common that agencies will present a family with several files to choose from rather than having the families search themselves.

Honestly, I'm still holding onto a small thread of hope that I'll still get the Child of my Heart, that something will whisper to the other family that she isn't meant for them. Or, likewise, it would help me if I heard a voice telling me that she wasn't meant for me. Even though I am in this weird limbo, I am still praying for guidance and comfort and I'm on a path that will help me be more ready physically, financialy and spiritually, regardless of what happens next. January through March I think are going to be major transitional months for me and I'm very excited about it since it will make me more prepared to be a mother.

Update #12 Not Good News

The other family decided to adopt the Child of My Heart. Their agency called mine to let them know they were waiting on one more doctor's report and then would most likely lock the file and submit their Letter of Intent. Since my agency hasn't heard back from them, I assume that this is exactly what they did.

My heart is aching and I cannot even imagine another child at this moment (except Apple, of course). I've tried looking at some pictures, but my heart is so full of my little almost daughter that there isn't room right now for someone else.

The only hope that is left is if this family didn't actually lock and their agency didn't let mine know, or they did lock and something happens along the way in the next several months that disrupts their process.

It's such a strange feeling to have been so committed to this and then to have it disintegrate in a second. If and when I feel ready to look at another child, I'm sorry to say it will be in a very guarded manner to avoid a repeat of this experience. I'm sorry about it, because I feel it takes an open heart to search all these files and pictures and decide if I can be the mother to one of them only to have someone else tell me yes or no in the end.

I know this now, the Waiting Child adoption arena is cut-throat. Agencies are looking for the children with the least of the special needs to grab for their special focus lists because their clients are most likely to accept these children. Next go the cutest looking children with moderate special needs, then the cutest onew with more severe needs.

I've read some amazing blogs lately written by families who adopted extraordinary children. Many children were found by their families when the families travelled to adopt their first child and visited the orphanage and saw them. Another family adopted a little girl who is still alive by the grace of God. Her little heart is so deformed that they weren't sure if she'd survive the trip home, but this little girl goes around all day long telling everyone how happy she is. She might be a candidate for a heart transplant, but I'm not sure. I'm adding these blogs to my blog list so you can read them, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hard Place to Be

I remember a Sunday School lesson called Faith Takes Energy. I can attest to it being true. Living on hope and faith this intensely is exhausting. A lot of good is coming from it, at least.

I wonder if this is why so many little girls adopted from China are named Faith and Hope!