Saturday, September 26, 2015

Let's talk money

The very fact that we are talking about money today means this post is brought to you by Laura.  Adam will tell you that I am the financial mastermind in our family.  And so I have the privilege of looking at the overwhelming cost of international adoption and helping to explain where all that money goes!

So, I made a little pie chart.  Because I am nerdier than most people realize.

We have established that adoption is expensive, international adoption especially so.  So, why is that?
 In the life cycle of an adoption, you pay for all kinds of things.  Small things like passport photos, online classes, books, notarization, certified copies of birth certificates for EVERYONE in your family, etc.  You also pay for big things like agency fees and travel expenses.

Let's work our way through each category.

When looking at the chart, you can see that travel is the single biggest expense, however, it is still only about 1/3 of the total cost.  Frankly, it is expensive to travel internationally on relatively short notice.  Additionally, we will be in China for about 2 weeks which means accommodations and additional travel in-country as we travel from our arrival city, to the province where the orphanage is (and China is big, so that travel is not a little taxi ride...), to the Consulate to finalize the adoption, to a major airport.  Also, it may surprise you but neither of us have a secret talent in speaking Chinese (although I have just started Rosetta Stone...), so we will need to utilize a translator during our trip.

The next largest expense is country fees.  That is different from travel.  Travel costs includes what we will need to spend in order to be there.  Country fees include a fee to submit our paperwork to the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption), translation costs for documents, visas, and various civil affairs fees. The largest cost in this category is a donation to the Children's Welfare Institute in China.  This donation enables the orphanages to continue to provide care.

Agency fees are fairly self-explanatory. We have an adoption agency and they provide a number of services for us including completing our homestudy, verifying all documents, submitting documents for authentication and translation, wiring all payments required in China, and facilitating our referral.  They also provided 10 hours of required education and have answered countless emails with questions and concerns.  Our agency fees are very reasonable, and thousands less than many others for an adoption from China.

Post-adoption reporting is done with an agency social worker at regular intervals following the completion of the adoption.  China requires 4 reports.  Our agency will complete the reports and submit them on our behalf.  These reports enable our agency to maintain good relationships with agencies in China in order to allow China to remain open to adoptions in America.  So, kind of a big deal.

And lastly, we have education and documentation.  This includes our submission fee for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to be approved to adopt.  Also, our additional online education, forms, passport photos, and notarization all fall here.

It is a lot.  A lot of information.  And a lot of money.  And truthfully, we are not exactly sure how we will cover all of the costs.  We pray daily that the Lord will provide exactly what we need in order to bring our baby girl home soon.  We aren't exactly sure how we feel about fundraising, but the reality is that we will need help to make this happen.

A little statistic to provide food for thought... 33% of Americans consider adoption. 79% of those are concerned about the costs, the biggest deterrent. Less than 2% adopt. (source: ABBA Fund)  We hope to be in that 2%.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why China?

Once we decided that international was the way to adoption for us, we needed to decide where in the world to adopt from.  International is a pretty broad term, after all.  Since we had already chosen Nightlight Christian Adoptions as our agency, that narrowed our country list very dramatically.  Nightlight has a program in the following 14 countries: Bulgaria, Canada, China, Ghana, Haiti, Hong Kong, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Nicaragua, Panama, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Romania.

Now, some people know they want to adopt from somewhere very specific.  They have always imagined themselves adopting a little boy from Ecuador, or a baby girl from Ghana.  Others feel very specifically God calling them to adopt a child with severe special needs from Korea, or they have a deep connection with South Africa and so they pursue adoption there.  Adam and I were in a strange spot at this point in the process.  We felt very clearly that international adoption was right for us, but we didn't feel especially drawn anywhere specifically.  Neither of us said "THERE, let's adopt from there".  So, we prayed that God would direct us somewhere specific.  And honestly, we looked at our options and started to narrow them down.

Let me walk you through our process.
Canada and the UK were out because Nightlight only processes relative adoptions in those countries.

Romania was next to be crossed off because one parent must be a Romanian citizen.

Latvia, Panama, and Ukraine went next because there are primarily children available older than ours.

Uganda and Nicaragua were both eliminated because they require visits of 45 days and 90-120 days respectively.  Kyrgyzstan requires three separate visits. Those travel requirements seemed logistically prohibitive with 3 small children.  This was a serious consideration for us.  We simply could not imagine taking our children with us for those visits, nor could we imagine leaving them home for that amount of time.  The travel requirements became a real factor in this process for us.

Bulgaria and Ghana can take up to 30 months for a referral after your dossier is logged in country. That could make the entire process 3 years- that's a long time to be in limbo.

This left China, Hong Kong, and Haiti.
Haiti has the highest program fees of the three.  And since we were already looking at very high costs, it scared us to walk into an especially pricey program. 
Down to 2.

Hong Kong and China.  Now, I wish I could say that we received super clear direction from the Holy Spirit and we simply walked in obedience.  But honestly, it was a much less spiritual experience.  Both Hong Kong and China have primarily children with special needs available for adoption.  I won't lie, that SCARED us.  We have three super healthy children today whose biggest health challenges included lactose intolerance as an infant and ear infections requiring tubes.  So to walk into an adoption expecting a special needs child was scary.  We wrestled with that.  We talked with a representative from our agency as we walked through that.

What led us ultimately to China was two-fold.
One, many children available in China have "minor or correctable special needs".  That seemed like something we could handle.  It was explained to us this way- if a child was born to us in the States with these needs, the issue would be addressed early on with little to no residual effects.  However, because of the Chinese "one child policy" and its lasting effects on parental expectations, children are abandoned.  Hong Kong has children primarily with more severe special needs.

Two, they offered a discount.  I know that sounds awful, but the cost of this whole endeavor was, and continues to be scary.  So, we thought it seemed prudent to take into account the cost.

Additionally, Nightlight has had a Chinese adoption program for 19 years and has upstanding relationships with 4 different orphanages in China.  They have had the opportunity to provide training and support to the caregivers in these orphanages which in turn allows for better care of the kids placed there.  With these relationships also comes more complete information about the kids- information is gold in an international adoption.  Nightlight is also given the first opportunity to place children from these orphanages which can make for shorter referral times and an overall smoother process.

Obviously this process is unique to our family- the ages of our children, the issues we feel prepared to parent well, our financial resources, our support system, the people in our lives, where we live, medical resources available to us, and our agency.  This process will look very different for each family.  But we figured we could provide a candid discussion of how we chose the international program to pursue.

The information provided about children available from specific countries can vary by agency.  Different agencies may work with different orphanages.  Also, program fees vary by agency.  So, if you are considering adoption and have your heart set on a specific country, don't let this information change your mind.  Find an agency you trust and work with them to make it happen.