Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to Survive an International Adoption

At the orphanage in Ethiopia

I want to put some tips out there for those of you who may be thinking about an international adoption or who may be in the midst of one or who may be newly home.  It's an adventure and a challenge and sometimes it just helps to hear from those who have gone before.  So here goes.

{1}  I believe that if God wants you to do this, He will bring the money.  You probably don't have $30,000 sitting in the bank.  Nor did we, my friends!  But God tells us to take care of orphans and I think when we follow Him in that, He makes a way.  For us, it finally came down to taking the first step.  We applied to an agency.  That's it.  And we figured if God wanted us to do this, the money would come and if not, we would know we misheard God and we'd back out.  But God brought the money, ya'll!  So maybe you just need to send in that application and see what happens.

{2}  The hardest part is the wait between the referral and the day you get to pick up your little one.  You will survive this.  Do what you need to do to make it a little easier on yourself.  Get a dog.  We did.  Take a little babymoon vacation.  Sleep in.  Pamper yourself.  Get your child's room ready.  Study some adoptive parenting books.  Learn the language of the country you'll be visiting.  You will get through this!

Our referral pic.

{3}  You don't have to answer all the prying questions that are going to come your way as people find out you are adopting.  Some of these can get very personal like the questions about your assumed infertility.  Some of these can get very nosy about your child's life and history.  Expect the day when your 13-year-old will ask you how well his privacy was respected and who knows what about his life.  You can just say, "That's his story."  Or even use the "we're not allowed to say" excuse.  Think of most details as being on a "need to know" basis.  For example, you may need to tell your therapist, or maybe even your child's teacher, some personal things.

{4}  Remember that all of the trainings you have to attend are only telling you the worst case scenarios.  You are going to hear scary story after horrible story about adoption.  It's good to be prepared for whatever might come your way, but you have to remind yourself and your spouse that you might not have a worst case scenario.  Don't let it all scare you too bad.

{5}  It's okay to ask people to bring you meals when you bring your child home.  Sometimes, for whatever reasons, people just don't think of this kind of stuff with adoption like they do with the traditional birth of a baby.  This is especially true with an older child adoption.  You might have to be the one to bring it up to your family and friends.  This may hurt your feelings a bit, but do it anyway. You will need help and that might just not have occurred to them.

{6}  A year makes a big difference.  Things may not get much easier until your child has been home a year.  That first year home is the hardest, but hold on.  You can get through it and you will be filled with such joy when you realize how much more attached and healthy and rested your child is after a year.

When we first brought E home.  I look harried and he looks scared!

{7}  If you are adopting a black child and you don't know anything about black hair and skin care, do your research before your child comes home.  Read some blogs, google it, talk to some friends/family.  Buy the products you think you'll need so that you're ready.  Of course, every child's hair and skin are slightly different so once your child is home you'll have some trial and error before you figure out what products and systems work best for your child.

{8}  When it's time to get your travel vaccinations, you may be advised to go to a travel health clinic.  Don't.  They will rip you off.  Just go to your primary physician and bring your agency-provided list of what you need.

{9}  If your agency charges you to do your readoption/finalization paperwork when you get home, do it yourself.  This saved us about $600!  It's not that hard or time-consuming.  Ask your agency if they will just send you the paperwork for you to fill out yourself.

{10}  Read Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray.  You will learn so much about attachment and so many useful tools for helping your child attach to you.

{11}  Cocoon your child when you get home.  It's okay to tell Grandma and your best friend and anybody else that they won't be able to come over for a while.  We allowed our immediate families to stop by during our first week home.  It was overwhelming for E, but we knew everyone was dying to meet him so we allowed it very briefly.  After that, we kept people away for a while.  We also told our parents that we would have to be the only ones feeding, changing, bathing E for months.  No grandparents want to hear this, but your child is most important in this situation.  His life has just been completely turned upside down and he has no concept of what parents are so he needs you to help him figure out that Mommy and Daddy are at a different level for him than everybody else.  You also may not be able to attend family gatherings for a while as your child adjusts.  People will probably not be thrilled with these decisions, but remember that you are the parents and you are supposed to do what's best for your child.

{12}  At the same time, after our first adoption we realized we should've taken more help from our families or whomever else offered it.  When you are too tired, sick, etc. to be a good parent to your child, it's not worth it.  It's more beneficial for your child if you allow someone else to come over and clean or take care of the baby while you nap or whatever you need to get to the point where you are capable of parenting.  So give yourself that grace to temporarily put aside your rules when you reach that point.

{13}  Some people are under the belief that Americans should only adopt Americans as there are so many children who need families here.  Some believe that we should "take care of our own" before we take care of "everybody else's".  And some will express this belief to you.  Don't let it bother you.  The truth is there is a ridiculous amount of orphans all over the world.  I believe some people should adopt domestically and some internationally.  Different things are put on different hearts.  If you have a heart for international adoption, do it!  There is no "us" and "them", there are only children who need families so do what is on your heart and don't let yourself be talked out of it.

I may add to this list later on.  Please feel free to leave questions in the comments or I love to get emails!  I thoroughly enjoy helping other families in their adoption journeys so please don't hesitate to contact me if you need to talk to someone who has gone before!  International adoption has been such a blessing to our family and I pray it may be to yours as well!

The moment we met


Rhonda said...

Another question from me this morning....last one posted on another of your blog posts! But, when you said that you didn't have the $ , but had enough to apply.....are you saying that you had to trust God for all of the rest, literally not knowing when you'd have the money for home study or the first payments to the agency? I know some people say they had no idea where the money would come from, but then I see that they are awesome at rallying support, doing crafts for fundraising, know how to do an online sale or auction, have wealthy relatives or a very giving congregation around them. I really do not have any of this in my corner...I have $500 and some of this was given by friends.....I wonder if I send that in to our agency of choice, will I loose their money ???? I know this kind of fear is a "no,no" for believers, but I want to be responsible with "gifts" and had always thought that WHEN I get enough for a home study, then I would apply to an agency.....that would also allow me to apply for grants. Any thoughts for me on this? It sounds so easy when explained the way you explained it, and when we heard the call to adopt, I was sure I heard the Lord say that this would be provided for. It's been 8 months since then and when I look back over my journal entries, it looks so much like He intends to do a miracle...yet, I don't know how to proceed. Much thanks for just reading through this! I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog. :)

Laurel Feierbach said...

Rhonda, when we adopted from Ethiopia, my husband was a pastor, I was an actor, we lived in a one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. We did not have any money! No savings. We lived paycheck to paycheck and finished most months with a lot of top ramen! So, yes, we literally only had the application fee when we applied, and had to trust God (and make some sacrifices) for the rest. There were a couple of times where our payment was due in a few days and we did not have the money. One of those times, we got a call from my in-laws asking how much we needed and they sent a check. So, yes, we have generous family. We also had a generous church, but we did not realize that until we received so many checks during our process. That to say, we didn't expect help from our church, we were surprised.

Honestly, we didn't do any fundraising, but I know other families who have and it seems to help. We were blessed by the generosity of others. We also cut our own expenses in any way we could for those 2 years. We sold a lot of things we owned on Craigslist to make money. We cut way back on gift money for a couple years and didn't exchange any gifts with each other. For all holidays, we asked family to give us money for our adoption instead of presents. We didn't have cable. There were months where we literally only spent money we absolutely had to spend. We didn't buy any clothes, we didn't get our hair cut, we didn't eat out at all, etc.

So we experienced God bringing us the money we needed through people around us. We also made a lot of sacrifices ourselves to save as much as we possibly could.

I have never been 100% sure of anything I've done, including beginning our international adoption. I THOUGHT God was telling us to adopt from Ethiopia and my husband THOUGHT so, too. Nobody else did! But we finally decided if we lost that application fee, even if we lost thousands of dollars...oh well. We thought we were obeying God, and if we were wrong, we would be out some money, but was that really so terrible?

I believe when God asks us to do something, He makes a way for us to do it. I also believe He asks us to do things we do not think are possible. I will not pretend to know what God is telling you to do, but I will pray for wisdom and courage for your family as I know these are hard decisions. I admire your desire to follow the Lord in adoption!

Please feel free to email me, too, if that would be helpful.

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