Monday, January 23, 2012

Xin Nian Kuai Le!


Happy Lunar New Year!

I am still buried in paperwork and finally found someone to pay to take care of some of it for me. We have had a tiny bit of fun here and there. I'll post pictures when I come up for air.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Xiaoyun Speaks




Xiaoyun is currently in the hospital undergoing extensive treatment for her congenital scoliosis that she never received treatment for in China. She was adopted mere days before her 14th birthday. You can follow her family's blog HERE. She really is something special!

Special Focus


There are mixed feelings about the Special Focus lists. I have had positive and negative experiences with them. The most positive thing about them is that children can get more exposure to a family that will be most interested in adopting them. Some agencies specialize in certain special needs and families know this. For example, Bringing Hope to Children is very knowledgable about spina bifida, though they also have children with other needs on their list. Families who are comfortable with this need can go directly to that agency to find their child.

One of the most huge advantages to having the Special Focus program, is that a family can "buy time" to take a file to a medical specialist and learn more about a child's need without locking the file or risk it being picked up by another family during their research period. For children with more severe special needs, this is crucial. It's also where my daughter's file got hung up for so long last year. It falls to the agencies to determine how long they will allow a family to research. No matter how long an agency gives a family, China only gives them three months, then the file goes back, hopefully, to the Shared List again.

Another advantage is that it buys a family time to raise money to fund the adoption. One can argue that the best way to go about adopting is to have all the money in place first, but it doesn't work like that in reality. Often a family travels to adopt one child and sees another on that trip that they fall in love with and end up adopting soon after the first one. Or, something just happens within a family that brings a child to their attention and they have that incredible feeling that this is their child and decide to move forward. Or, there are other circumstances that leave on a tiny window to complete an adoption in a certain span of time, like the child who will age out, of another concurrent adoption getting close, or paperwork expiring, etc... So, an agency can agree to hold the file without showing it other families, but they'd better be positive that this family will follow through, then, at the end of three months, have the family lock it, which buys them another 3-6 months to get their dossier in, then you figure up to three months more once travel permission is granted. This may sound awful, to make a child wait, but there is no guarantee that another family would ever adopt this child. Now if there is a family clearly ready, then I think it's a terrible thing to delay the child's adoption while waiting for another family to get it all together.

Some agencies do seem to get the younger babies with the most minor special needs. So far, I've not been able to determine how this is happening. Some agencies do have more Chinese speaking staff in the US and more staff in China. Perhaps this advantage leads to this since they don't have to translate the files. Perhaps there is some favoritism somewhere. I just don't know.

I've already touched on the main disadvantage, which is an agency holding a child's file when there is a family with another agency clearly interested and ready to proceed.

No family should ever proceed with an adoption of any kind without first accepting the risk that their child may not be perfectly healthy. On top of that, no family should ever be pressured to adopt a child with a known special need if they aren't 100% willing to do so. I don't care how long the wait is, you have to know what you can handle. On the other hand, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about the children in the Waiting Child program and I hope that if there is a family reading this who is interested, but needed more information to make their decision, that this helped them.

Waiting Child Program


Currently, the majority of children being adoption from China are from the Waiting Child program. In April, 2011, over 75% of all US Chinese adoptions were from this program and that percentage was growing. Meanwhile, the non-special needs program has continued to run smoothly, but slowly. There are many reasons for this, a quick internet search will lead you to many articles, blogs, info, etc... that will explain the reasons for this.

The biggest thing to remember, is that ALL children adopted, especially those who were raised for any length of time in an institution, will have some kind of special need. The emotional needs of such a child are very, very different and need to be addressed and dealt with their entire life.

Who is the Waiting Child in China? Currently, the children on the Shared List (the list of waiting children) range in age from infant to just shy of 14 years. There are more boys on the list than girls. I think that a lot of children 12-14 (I use 14 to mean up to 14, for once a child turns 14 they are no longer eligible to be adopted), are healthy, though some do have physical special needs.

Over all, the special needs range from mild to severe, congenital to acquired. A congenital special need is something a child is born with, a birth defect. An acquired special need is one that happened afterward or through the birth mother, such as HepB, or an injury, like a burn that left terrible scarring, or a dislocated shoulder at birth that was misdiagnosed and left untreated or other illnesses that crop up.

With most special needs, there is a spectrum. Many people believe that cleft palate is a mild special need. It can be. Or it can be so severe that a child requires multiple surgeries over many years, with years of speech therapy. A child may have a malformed external ear that is noticable or not, called microtia, and this may be that minor. Or, the internal ear can also be affected and the child deaf in that ear, which is still quite minor if the child has normal hearing in the other ear, or severe if both ears are affected. However, if you know sign language, or are willing to learn, this may not seem very severe to you. There is a huge spectrum of special needs pertaining to the eyes, vision, development, glaucoma, strabismus, etc... One family is about to travel to adopt their new daughter who is perfectly healthy, but she has one underdeveloped eye that is blind. The treatment is a prosthetic eye that will fit over her tiny eye. Honestly, would you consider this a special need if she had been born here?

There are various heart conditions. Honestly, there is a huge number that repair themselves in the child's first year, but these babies were labelled special need, and still wait, now perfectly healthy. On the other hand, there are many children with severe heart defects and these children will have a shortened life depending of when they receive treatment. There are some conditions that enable a child to live a full, mostly normal life if the surgery can be done as infants, but will kill them if left untreated even for one year.

There are limb issues, Cerebral Palsy to various degrees, Trisomy disorders, one of which is Down's Syndrome, urogenital disorders, intestinal disorders, brain disorders and much, much more that I've never heard of. Some conditions that appear minor end of being part of a syndrome that may end up leading to more severe discoveries upon arrival home. Often, it's the other way around, where the condition ends up being less severe.

Adopting a child from the Waiting Child Program is a leap of faith, just like the unknowns of pregnancy and non-special need adoption, but you are starting out knowing that there is something, and you accept that.

In my own experience, there were things about Jie Jie that I knew she'd have and a couple that were a surprise to me. Since we are still in the diagnostic phase, I can't predict her outcome, but I can tell you this... She is so intelligent and well-balanced and happy and secure, that whatever her body ends up like, she will be able to cope to the best degree possible throughout her entire life. I cannot imagine my life without her; I love her so much. She captures the heart of all she meets. Even my social worker forgot herself at our first post placement visit and asked my daughter for a hug (remember, only parents and close family get this priviledge at first while bonding is crucial) and I had to call her on it at the time and she had to settle for a high five, and we still joke about it. As I meet with surgeons and specialists, my mother's heart shakes and quakes and I struggle to find the wisdom I need to make the best decisions possible for my daughter's care, but she is the light of my life, the breath in my body, my most precious and beloved child and I'd do it all again and again and I'm looking forward to adding to my tiny family.

Options and the I-800


As many of you have realized, my adoption journey has been a bit out of the norm. For those of you new to my blog, I'll explain:

My dossier was logged in April 15, 2007 in the non-special needs line. This means that I am waiting for a "healthy" infant, which CCWA will match me with. My dossier was logged in 2 weeks before singles were excluded from the Chinese adoption program.

Because of my "grandfathered" status, meaning I was not restricted under the new single exclusion, in Sept. 2009, when the new Waiting Child / Special Interest program started, I was eligible to use a copy of my original dossier to adopt my daughter, while maintaining my original place in the nsn line.

All throughout, I kept my I-600A current. A few weeks after returning home with my daughter, China again opened their adoption program to single women, but with severe restrictions.

Because my original dossier is still waiting and active, I am still waiting for my referral, along with thousands of other families. However, it looks like my I-600 will expire without CIS allowing any more renewals, in July 2013. I don't think my referral will come by then. If I will be allowed to renew the I-600, then I'd have to pay for it, which costs the same as the I-800 anyway, so I'm not out any money. I would have been out money if I'd kept it current without using it to bring my current daughter home.

I have three adoption options facing me with my current dossier and CIS paperwork:

1. I could continue to wait, then go I-800 if the referral goes past when my I-600 expiration date.
2. I could use my dossier for a waiting child, before my I-600 expires. There are children of all ages constantly coming up on the Waiting Child list and some are very young infants with mild special needs. I have the option of adopting a child of any age with any need, using this dossier.
3. The last option is to not to use this dossier at all and let it go. This isn't a option I'm interested in, but it's an option none the less.

There was a commenter question a bit back, so I think this is a good time to answer it. Jie Jie is not my daughter's name. It's her online pseudonym and it means big sister. Apple is the pseudonym for the baby I'm awaiting the nsn referral for.

57 Months Logged In


I'm closing in on the 5 year mark and I'm in the midst of completing what I've been told is my last I-600 renewal. It was a free renewal. They count like this:

Original filing - paid fee
1st renewal - free
2nd renewal - paid fee
3rd renewal - free

If I don't use it up by July 19,l 2013, I'll have to go I-800. Unless, someone in Washington decides otherwise.

I hope you have all seen and "signed" the petition to extend the adoption tax credit. It is often the only thing that makes adoption affordable. The more available this is, the more children can come home to their forever families.

Please go HERE to sign it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

M.I.A.


I've posted some Christmas pictures, scroll down to see them!

I will be missing in action for about two weeks, though I'll try to get some pictures up. My agency forgot to let me know ahead of time that my I600A is about to expire so I'm scrambling like crazy to get everything done to renew it. Just for the record, my agency has been GREAT. This is the first mistake they've made and they probably caught it in the nick of time.

I am so envious of all the people who just get pregnant and pop out their babies and then they are parents, no fingerprinting, homestudies, I600s, CPA letters, financial statements, medical exams and reports, TB tests, attachment classes, etc... Why can't adoption be easier and less expensive?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Last Year on Dec. 27...

...I got The Call! My daughter's file was LOCKED with my name on it after two months of chasing it around. In case you didnt' know, Dec. 27 2006, was the day I was notified that I got a spot with my agency. I had four months to get EVERYTHING done and logged in before singles weren't allowed to adopt from China any more. I mean, I was starting from scratch. I needed my homestudy done, all the letters, finger prints, birth certificate and other documents - EVERYTHING! It only took me three months to finish and send my dossier in, then one more month to get my log in date.

Here I am, more than 4 years later, still waiting for that little one, while having another little one here already.

I am still just as patient in my wait. I am still as excited. I am just loving my daughter right now, too, and always think of Dec. 27 as my very special day.

Happy New Year!

Coming to you from the bathtub, where I'm recovering after losing my birthday dinner in a most painful and undignified way!