Adopting ONE CHILD won't change the WORLD, but for that CHILD the WORLD will CHANGE.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another Road

Back in April of this year, we made the difficult decision to pull out of our adoption of two sisters from Colombia.  It was a heart-wrenching decision, but the one we knew was the best at the time.  Due to changes within the Colombia adoption process and, I believe, changes in the country itself, it was becoming more and more difficult to finalize that adoption.  We were not totally surprised when it came time to make the decision we did.  We had been trying to jump through hoops for many months at that time, and we had been feeling that this decision was inevitable.

But even in this, we knew in our hearts that we just were not done growing our family.  In the ensuing weeks following our decision to pull out of this adoption, we explored our options.  We looked into changing countries, doing a domestic adoption through an agency, and foster care adoption.  We prayed and sought God's will in this in our lives, looking for the option that we were completely at peace with.  In the end, we choose to go back to a country we had previously adopted from.  With this in mind, we received a partial refund from the adoption agency we were pursuing the girls' adoption through, and began the preliminary steps to adopt from Philippines.

For those who helped fund our previous attempt, know that the funds you so generously gave are still being used towards adoption.  While we lost some funds (a risk that is taken with any adoption), we did get a portion of our fees back.  Also, because we had completed some of the paperwork that is necessary for an international adoption in all countries, (immigration approval, etc.), we do not have to completely redo these documents, just amend them so do not have to pay the same fees as we did to initially do them.

In the last month, we received preliminary approval from the Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) in Philippines to move forward in pursuing another adoption from that country.  The last several weeks have been spent gathering the numerous documents we need to update our home study.  This is one vital part of the process that we do not have to start over, only needing an addendum to update the study for Philippines' requirements (every country has some slightly different requirements for including in the home study).  We are nearing the end of this step in the process.

Once we have the completed home study, we will gather the documents required for the dossier, including amending our I800A (this is the immigration pre-approval for adoptive children) for the new country and children.  Once that has been submitted to the agency, we will wait for final approval, and then travel to pick up the newest members of the family.

We will update through this blog as we go along.  Please continue to pray with us - for patience, provision, and God's hand on every step of this process.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bittersweet Day - Three Reasons Why I Still Have Mixed Feelings About Mother's Day.

Mother's Day.  Such a bittersweet day in our home!  While I enjoy the little things my children do for me on this day (on their own, of their own free will), we keep it pretty low-key here.  This post is not intended to sound like a complaint, or to make anyone feel guilty.  It is simply another perspective I want to share.  Here are three reasons why it is a day filled with such tension and apprehension by many mothers like myself, and by many children like my own.

1.  Even though I am now a mother through adoption, it will never erase the pain of infertility.  My children are an incredible blessing in my life, and I am thankful beyond words every single day for them.  I know God's plan was for them to be in my life and be my family even before they were born.  This, however, does not make the agony of years of infertility go away.  It does not make the broken dreams of the other children who could have been null.  That pain is still very real.  And that pain is still poignant and real for other mothers who have lost a child.  Having other children does not make the pain of the loss of another go away.  They are not  replacements.  Mother's Day is a difficult and painful holiday for many mothers, those whose reality and journey to motherhood has been fraught with pain and loss.

2.  My children grieve on Mother's Day.  Yes, I am blessed by their small gestures and gifts, but I know that the reality for them is the memories of another mother, a mother who gave them life.  It was their loss of that reality, of what could have been, what should have been, that sticks in the back of their minds, and my own, on Mother's Day.  I know they grieve.  It does not matter if their memories of the other mother are good or bad.  It still hurts.  We choose to honor these first mothers on this day, for without them, I would not be a mother.  Without the loss they and my children have gone through, I would not have the incredible honor and privilege of being their mother, too.  Today, we do not celebrate one mother.  We celebrate and honor four.
   
3.  No matter how joyful being a mother is to me, I absolutely cannot get the reality out of my head that those other mothers grieve.  Being in an open adoption with one of my children's birthmothers, and knowing in a small way how incredibly difficult the decision she made had to have been, and how she must of grieved, and grieves still, I cannot help but consider what this day is like for her.  We have the privilege of living close to each other, and my son can choose and give a gift to her on Mother's Day.  Watching his excitement and joy this year, the first year he is old enough to really choose this on his own, has brought be so much joy, seeing how much he loves BOTH of his mothers.  But in the back of my mind, and deep in my heart, I wonder how if her circumstances could have been different at the time, so that she could have made a different decision, how that would look in her life now.  I wonder this about my other children's birthmothers as well, though I have never met them.  It is the bittersweet and painful reality of adoption.

  
Today, on Mother's Day, I celebrate, yet I grieve.  I grieve for myself, for my children, and for the other mothers who gave them life, so that I could have them in my life.  It will always be a day full of conflicting feelings of pain and joy.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Adoption Grief and Loss

Adoption is a bittersweet concept.  With the joy and celebrating comes grief and loss.  While one family is formed, another has been broken.  While one mother rejoices, another grieves.  

There is grief involved with every point of the adoption triagle.  The triangle consists of three distinct points.  One is the adoptee, one is the birthmother and birthfather, and one is the adoptive mother and adoptive father.

While I have neither been adopted nor placed a child for adoption myself, I am an adoptive mom.  While I can acknowledge my children's grief, listen to them, hold them tight and grieve with them, I cannot ever understand what that was like for them.  While I can honor and respect their first mothers, while I can grieve with them, and with the many mothers I have had the honor and privilege of working with who have chosen adoption for their children, I will never understand how painfully difficult that choice was for them.  My own grief as an adoptive mother, however, is something I can understand fully, and which can help me relate on some small level to my children, as well as to mothers and fathers who have chosen the path of adoption for their children.  

An adoptive mother's grief comes in many forms.  I think the most significant for myself lately has been the ache I have experienced as I have listened to my children's stories, and been heartbroken that I was not there for them during those times, that there was absolutely nothing I could do to protect them.  Those moments hurt me not only because they were beyond my knowledge, reach, and control, but because like all mothers, I hurt when my children hurt.  

One of the most poignant point of grief for an adoptive mother, however, still relates around the themes of our own loss.  Many of us have experienced the death of a child or the pain of infertility.  My own journey on the road of infertility is not one I often share, not only because of how devastating it has been, but also because for us, it was not our reason for adopting.  We were called to adopt regardless, and having biological children would not have changed that for us.  We always knew we would adopt.  

Yet, it is my own experiences of loss surrounding infertility that are what makes adoption a bittersweet and grief-filled process for me.  It is the knowledge of what could have been, of what will never be.  I have not been able to become pregnant and bring children into the world.  We will never know what they would have looked like, whose personality they would have inherited, what talents they would have.  

And that is what makes my grief parallel that of my children, as well as their birth parents.  My children can only fantacize and dream about what their lives would have been like had circumstances and life allowed them to remain in their families of origin.  My chldren's birth parents have had to imagine and dream about what their lives would be like had the circumstances of their lives been such that their children could have remained with them.  

As adoptive families, we cannot ignore the grief any of us has experienced, the grief that will always remain a part of each of our lives in some way.  We must acknowledge our grief and our children's grief.  We must embrace it, talk about it, and give each other permission to grieve, to feel safe in that place of pain and heartache.  Only by acknowledgeing it, accepting it, and allowing it, can we move forward as parents, and help our chlidren move forward in their new lives.  Grief is a part of adoption, a part of who we are, a part of the makeup of each and every adoptive family and those who are a part of them and love them.  This grief does not have to define us, but also cannot be ignored.  Parents, acknowledge your own areas of grief, whatever they may be.  Acknowledge your children's, and accept it let them feel safe in it.  Acknowledge to and with them the grief their first set of parents has experienced.  Then, move forward wtih the new family God has created with all of you, and know that those feelings and emotions will never go away, but they will get better, and they will bring your family into new levels of healing and growth.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Journey to Colombia

Most of our friends and family know we are in the process of another adoption.  For various reasons, we have been working on this one for 3+ years now.  We have had many questions from many of you concerning why it is taking so long and what the process is, and we realized we have never really shared what adopting from Colombia entails.  So, this post is to serve as both an update on where we are in the process, as well as fill in the details of what to expect and maybe some time frames, and hopefully answer some of those questions.

We met Kelly and Ana through Summer of Hope in the summer of 2010.  They were 9 and 11 at the time.  We did not host them, or any child that summer, but we did meet them at the weekly picnics and activities and began to feel that maybe we were supposed to be their family. 

At the time, we were still paying some expenses related to Jenalyn's adoption and needed to deal with a couple of other financial issues, and it took us several months to get to the point where we felt we could move forward in their adoption.  This is an overview of the process of international adoption, specifically from Colombia.

We had to write a "letter of intent" to send to ICBF (the agency that oversees adoptions in Colombia) stating our intent and interest in adopting these two girls.  ICBF approved our letter, which means they basically put the girls on "hold" for us.  This is no guarantee that we will be approved in the end to adopt them, but it is the first step and takes them off the list of waiting children as well as shows us as a potential family.  This gave us an unofficial "match" for the girls. 

The next step was the typical homestudy process.  Even with previous adoptions, we had to start over this time, as the Hague Convention adoption standards have passed since our last adoptions and Colombia is a Hague country.  We also officially applied at the adoption agency we were going to work with and once they approved us, began gathering the myriad documents for our dossier.  We have fundraised throughout the different steps of this process. 

We finally had the funds (another story) and the paperwork together as of this past summer, in June 2013.  The agency translated the documents and forwarded them on to Colombia.  We expected and were told it would be about 6-8 weeks before we received the official referral, which is the document giving us the official okay for adopting the girls and pending travel dates. 

This is where we are still waiting.  Like many countries, Colombia has faced some internal issues specifically regarding making sure the children they place for adoption are true orphans (most children in oversees orphanages are not truly orphans and still have contact with some family members, therefore making them ineligible for adoption).  They have also become cautious in making sure the families they place their children with are good candidates as adoptive families.  With the ethics of international adoption often in the spotlight, this is all good and necessary, but it does drag out the process even longer. 

ICBF has began to ask for an "amplification request" on all home studies.  This is basically an attached letter from the social worker who did the home study asking for further explanation on details of the report.  A couple of months ago, we were asked to do such an amplification and our social worker did put this together for us and send it.  In the past couple of weeks, ICBF has asked for another amplification request from our social worker on another detail, and also for the psychologist who did our psychological assessment to expand on a section of his report.  We are in the process of getting this information together as well.  Also, Colombia has a six-month limit on many other documents as well, so we have also had to update some other documents - FBI clearances and medicals for instance.  We have just submitted the paperwork for an extension to our I800A as well.  This is the girls' immigration authorization to the U.S.  They have also asked for our kids' birth certificates - first for just the youngest two, and more recently for the adult kiddos as well.  We are updating and complying with all requests, and hope to have our file approved and have the official referral soon.

So, what's the next step once we have that referral?  We sign and return the acceptance documents, then wait for an invitation to travel to Colombia.  This will take likely another 3-6 months.  Here's where we still really need some prayer.  Once we have permission to travel, both of us must go to Colombia for at least 10 days, at which point we will receive custody of our daughters and will go to court in Colombia.  After 10 days, one of us can return, and the other must stay in Colombia for up to two months waiting for the girls' travel documents and permission to leave the country.

We have some decisions to make about this period of time - who will stay, will we switch places partway through, what to do with the other kiddos at home (I work from home, but Dave still has to work if he is the one home with the kids, so childcare considerations do arise).  I am absolutely terrified to live in a foreign country by myself without my husband there, and even more terrified to take my 5-year-old with, but for his sake we may have to do just that for some time.  Either way, it will be a difficult time - wether in Colombia or America, I will have to leave behind some of my children in either place for a time, and that is heartbreaking.  Please pray with us, for wisdom and clarity in decisions, and for no fear for me.  I have been told by other families who have travelled that they have made lifelong friendships with the people they met there, who did take good care of them while they were in country.  It is still a very real fear for me nonetheless.

Finally, an update on our finances.  We have received some funds via grants we applied for (one quite substantial!).  At this point, all agency fees are covered, and the referral fee we will have to pay upon referral will be covered.  There will be a small amount left over from grants to put towards our travel expenses, and we are waiting for that referral to hear back from a couple of other grants.  We will be honest here, we absolutely HATE fundraising.  It is uncomfortable and unpleasant for us.  We have learned, however, that God will provide for what He has put on our hearts, and He will open the hearts of those He wants to use to help bring this about.  While we do still need the remaining funds for travel, we have also taken out a couple of other loans to help us thus far and keep the process rolling.  We did not want to put the process on hold any longer, and all fees that were due up to this point have been covered with these funds.  We have also received several donations, anonymous and otherwise, and we thank all who have donated from the deepest part of our hearts.  You are helping to make a life-changing difference for two young girls who will soon no longer be orphans!

For anyone else who feels led to donate towards our adoption, there are several ways to do so.  First of all, if you want to contribute towards either of the two loans we currently have, you can send funds with a separate note with our name to either of these entities:

Sacred Portion Children's Outreach
7104 Bristol Lane
Bozeman, MT 59715

OR

Journey Church
1794 Baxter Lane E
Bozeman, MT 59718

You can also send funds directly to our agency:

Bethany Christian Services
901 Eastern Avenue
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Finally, we were awarded two matching grants; one of them will remain open to donations until our adoption is completed.  This option doubles your donation and is still tax deductible.  To send funds to that:

Please make checks payable to “Lifesong for Orphans.  In the memo, note “family account number 3817” and “Furniss family” to assure it goes to the correct account.  Please mail to: 

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744

We will send another update (hopefully shorter this time!) once we get that anxiously awaited and anticipated referral letter! 


    

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dear Daughter...

Dear Daughter,

Here I sit late at night/early in the morning, when I should be sleeping, but sleep once again eludes me.  This time, my heart is heavy with thoughts and prayers for you.

I think we both agree it has been a pretty crappy week, for lack of a more appropriate word.  It's been ugly, heartbreaking, and just plain yucky and sucky.  We have had so many struggles over the years.  YOU have had so many struggles over the years.  I know we would both agree that this week it was big.  This week was HUGE.  This week - well, the choices that were made and the events that took place this week top the cake.

As the thoughts and emotions swirl around in my heart and mind, I find myself in the place once again of wondering, of trying to separate out , what is adoption related, and what is typical teenager struggles and mistakes.  In the end, it doesn't matter if it is the struggles you will always have to face from your past, or you simply being a kid.  You have been through SO MUCH in your life!  Your normal, healthy childhood was ripped out of your grasp by the choices of others.  You had no control over what happened and where you would go.  It is not fair, and nothing can ever restore or bring it back.  I can't fix it or take it away 

As I move past the anger and the guilt and the disappointment of this week, I find all that is left is sadness that this is yet another thing you have to work through and heal from.  Yet, you can heal, and you can grow, and you can move on.  And, in fact, you HAVE healed!  You have come so far, and you are truly an inspiration to me.  You are my hero!  

I guess this is why I am writing this, why I am posting it on my blog for all to see.  Because I want the world to know how amazing you are!  I want them to know how incredible you are, how you have worked so hard to overcome some pretty awful things in your life.  I want them to know that, whatever it is, whatever mistakes you make, no matter how unexpected they are, and no matter how blindsided we may end up being, I LOVE YOU!  You are beautiful and strong and amazing.  You are going places in life.  God has amazingly awesome things in store for you.  

Nothing you could do could ever take away the depth of my love for you.  This, too, we shall get through, and we will both come out stronger and wiser in the end.  You won't like facing the consequences, and you won't always like the decisions we make and the things we say, but we do it BECAUSE you are so important and special to us. 

You, my angel, are the light of my life.  My heart has feet, hands, eyes, and ears.  My heart has a face and it is YOU!

My love forever and always, 
Mama

Monday, July 8, 2013

In the Wait

For many reasons, even though we have been there twice before, this international adoption has been the most difficult so far.  Many factors, most financial and personal, have contributed to these difficulties, and as we are going on 3 years since we met the girls, we finally have our dossier in to ICBF in Colombia and are awaiting their approval and the "official" referral for the girls.  After all this time and effort, it all comes down to this - yay or nay, approval to adopt or not.  It feels a bit like all those negative pregnancy tests over the years, planning around ovulation and hormones, waiting until it was early enough to take a pregnancy test, hoping and praying for a positive result.  We have been told the paperwork is in the hands of the officials at ICBF for review, and we are awaiting the results of the "paper pregnancy test" - positive or negative.  Even after all this time, we are still aware it could go either way.

I know God's got this.  I know He has plans for our family, and we will continue to step out in obedience whichever way it goes.  His ways are not our ways.  But in the meantime, while I wait, I prepare - my heart, my home, my mind.

The girls' bunkbeds are up and neatly made, we have unbagged and sorted through and neatly put away all the clothes that were hand-me-downs from a friend.  We still don't know their sizes, aren't sure what their tastes are, but big sister, who has quite the eye for fashion, did all this.  She thinks it will be okay.

I prepare my mind for the reality of the addition of two teenagers.  We've been here before, we know what to expect and what to do, we know the reality of what it will be like to add two daughters from a different culture, country, language, and background to our home.  I won't lie - I am borderline terrified to do this all over again!  Most of our other kiddos fairly well-adjusted, thriving, happy, and healing, and the ones that are still struggling we know what we need to do and have worked hard to get the supports and structure in place for them.  We are settled, in a routine, happy, and calm.  And that routine and calm is about to be completely obliterated.  But we've got this!  We have the tools, the knowledge, the support, and the Father of the (formerly) Fatherless on our side.  In time, the routine, calm, and peace will return, and the new girls will heal, thrive, and be happy as well.  But this mama loves and needs her routine as much as the kids do, and I'm not afraid to admit, I'm in a bit of a panic!

Finally, I prepare my heart.  I already love these two girls so much I often can't believe it - the always surprising miracle of how one can love a child one has only met a couple of times, and so long ago at that, a child one barely knows.  I feel like something is missing in our family that will not be complete until the girls are home.  At the same time, I know and understand all too well the reality of bonding with an older child, of going through the healing process with them (because, let's face it, parenting adopted children brings out all the areas in us as parents that need healing, as well), and how messy and heart-wrenchingly uncomfortable it can be.  But I've seen the healing this brings forth, in myself and in my other children.  And it is always worth it in the end, to see one child come to a place of healing and peace.

So I wait, leaning on Him, and letting Him prepare my heart and my mind for what is to come.    

Friday, June 14, 2013

Danna's Post

I could not have written this better, or found better words to express what this fellow adoptive mother has written in this blog post.  Please read this beautiful post by Danna Hopkins.

NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE