Finally! After more than 50 long days of waiting for a DHL truck to arrive, it’s here! Continue reading
Although I feel as though the adoption process is a long series of “hurry up and wait,” I think we’re hitting the tail end of what might be considered the hardest wait of all. Many many of you have asked where we are in the process and when we are traveling.Although I was tempted to wait to make the next post when we received our final letter of approval, I feel compelled to share our frustrations with you too. I promised myself that if we were going to share this adoption journey with friends and family, that they wouldn’t hear the sanitized version where everyone is joyful and patient. In truth, the indeterminate waiting and long paperchases are emotionally exhausting. This week also marked a special celebration for our family, as Alexander turned one on Monday. It was a bittersweet occasion knowing we couldn’t be with him to celebrate such a milestone.
At present, we are waiting on the LOA– a formal Letter of Acceptance/Approval issued from the Chinese government to us for Alexander. It’s funny that in the end after all the electronic log ins and whatnot that we still need to physically sign a paper and FedEx it back to their government. As soon as we sign and return the paper, their government has given us final approval. The LOA also rekindles our dealings with USCIS. As soon as this letter arrives, a copy is included in our petition for Alexander to be classified as a US citizen as soon as we clear customs on our return home.
The difficulty in waiting for the LOA is the huge question of how long it takes to arrive. Some families get their LOA in a matter of days or weeks– others have been waiting well over 100 days! We have now hit Day 46 in our wait for our LOA. Our agency was kind enough to inquire twice to the Chinese government on our behalf; the first time it sounded as though the letter would be issued that week, but a change in how these letters are being cleared and mailed caused a weeklong delay in processing. The latest we heard was a direct promise that our letter would be mailed THIS week. Given the time difference and shipping time, we might not get that letter into our hands until sometime the following week. A slightly sad follow-up is that although we have prepared our care package, we need to wait until our letter arrives in order to be able send anything directly to Alexander (including medical supplies for his cleft-affecting feeding).
Please keep the prayers and warm wishes flowing for Alexander and for our family in general. We are so grateful for your support through all of this, but especially through these trying and frustrating weeks.
No, that is NOT Alexander’s current weight! Our little guy, like many internationally adopted children, is very small for his age. Although he turns one early next month, his measurements and weight are much more in line with a child less than half his age. Though that caused some initial panic from us, our medical team ensured us that he’ll sprout up and fatten out as soon as we get him home and on a more advanced diet. Additionally, because of his medical condition, eating is a much more laborious task.
So back to the 44 lbs! As Brian mentioned in a previous post, we attended our first travel meeting this past week. We focused primarily on the itinerary and logistics of our upcoming trip. We were handed a huge suggested packing list with one caveat– for our several week trip, we can each have only 44 lbs of luggage (based on the luggage restrictions for in-China flights). Yes, 44 lbs is a lot of weight, but that has to include a fair amount of baby gear, enough clothing for at least a few days, and several small gifts for ceremonial gift exchanges with various officials. We also hope to do a fair amount of shopping during our journey to gather some things from Alexander’s home town and province.
Does anyone have any suggestions for packing light and packing smart for international travel? Especially you parents out there– do you have any creative ideas on essentials to include and what to just leave at home? One thing we’ve definitely decided is to bring a soft baby carrier to help with attachment rather than to haul a stroller.
The moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived….. we have a son! On Monday evening, January 21, 2013, we received an email from our social worker that will change our lives forever. Staring back at us through my laptop screen were several photos of a little 10 month old boy diagnosed with severe cleft lip and palate. We continued to hold our breath throughout the week as we awaited several medical opinions on his medical records and lab reports. We heard what we expected to hear- that our little man is incredibly tiny for his age because of his medical diagnosis, and that he’ll need at least one surgery in the first few months home.
On Wednesday afternoon after a final consultation with the University of Chicago’s International Adoption Clinic, Brian and I looked at each other and couldn’t stop grinning. This little boy, who we have chosen to call Alexander Thomas, is our long-awaited son. After several phone calls (most of which ended up with all parties in tears), our application was electronically submitted early Thursday morning the 24th to the Chinese government and the countdown began.
Today, we received word from our agency that the Chinese government has issued us a preliminary approval (PA) for the adoption of little Alexander Thomas. Our huge dossier-o-life is now being scrutinized to make sure that we are a stable, loving, and healthy couple and a suitable home for this little guy. Once they have confirmed all of the information in our application, they will issue us a formal Letter of Acceptance (LOA) which we will have to sign and FedEx back to the Chinese government. Then the real fun of governments negotiating with governments begins. We hope, with fingers and toes crossed, that we will be able to travel by sometime in June at the latest.
But all in good time. For now, join us in the celebration that our family is growing, that this little boy, our son, has found his family.
We hope to be able to share more details about our son as soon as we can; until we officially sign the letter of acceptance, we will need to be sensitive about the information we share here. Feel free to contact us directly if you are interested in more details.
I figured I’d post a little update for you, as we’ve now entered into the first of a series of Long Waits ™. Our social worker told us this week that Log In Dates have been trickling in much slower than anticipated, and that we’re still waiting for ours. She is hopeful that ours will come in soon and is having our in-country contact check on our dossier for us. Having someone in China on staff at our agency is one of the major reasons we chose the agency we did– though waiting isn’t easy, it’s better knowing that someone is watching out for us over there.
On a positive note, we picked out our adoption clinic after consultation with a few hospitals and my favorite pediatrician-on-call. We found an awesome clinic through the University of Chicago– they will review our referral’s medical file and have an in-person or phone consult with us within our 72-hour window, and then will follow up once we’re home with our child. During subsequent visits, the department tries to lump multiple subspecialists if needed, resulting in fewer trips in to the city for everyone and a lot more teamwork between physicians. Although I hope we won’t have to make significant use of their services, I feel as though we have a strong team working with us.
When we share that we are adopting through a program that focuses on children designated as “Special Needs” (or SN to those in-the-know), we are often met with lots of questions. I think it’s safe to say that all parents want their children to be healthy, including us. In the world of adoption, the phrase “special needs” is a very broad term and encompasses conditions ranging from mild, easily correctable conditions to more severe, permanent impairments. Additionally, some conditions or diseases that are easily treatable in the United States are considered “special needs” in other countries. Some of the most often listed conditions for children in such programs include cleft lip and palate, malformed fingers or toes, and variants of heart disease, but there are also a significant number of children with more severe developmental conditions in need of families. That’s not to say that any of these conditions are no big deal or won’t involve a fair amount of treatment, therapy, and follow-up. In short, what might be insurmountable to one family might be completely doable to another.
Many countries who facilitate adoption now have special programs to place children with such needs. We won’t go into the details of why so many of these children are waiting for families, or why adoptive families are understandably hesitant to pursue such a program. We will say that China has a significant number of children waiting for homes, and while their healthy infant program (NSN or Non Special Needs) is shrinking considerably with adoptive families waiting upwards of six years for referrals, their Waiting Child/SN program is completing adoptions for these children and getting them families and the medical attention they need in less than year! An additional note about China’s program specifically is that in addition to young children with medical needs, the Waiting Child Program also includes healthy older children, who often fall off the radar of prospective adoptive families.
Any adoptive family will tell you that a child who spends any significant amount of time in what is considered less than optimal care, even if given a clean bill of health, will have some level of special need. Though it is not something to be considered lightly, a good adoption agency that facilitates international adoption will prepare prospective parents as much as possible, and we will tackle any medical care needs as a family. Though we were not actively seeking out a program that focused on children with special needs, it didn’t take us long to realize it was a good fit for our family. We believe we have the emotional and physical endurance that will be required, and anyone who has met us knows that we won’t hesitate to be advocates for the needs of our child. We are also fortunate that there are several international adoption medical clinics in Chicagoland, and they focus on both the medical and developmental challenges that may await us.
In the interest of family privacy and for the privacy of any child’s referral that we review, we won’t be disclosing specific medical details here. You can be assured that we don’t enter this process blindly– we have our eyes, arms, and hearts wide open.