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).
Cleft palate and cleft lip.
Athrogyposis (joint disorder).
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 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.
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.