giveaway winner: week 5!

How can it be? It’s already week 5 of our Wild Olive giveaway.

Which means this is our last winner….


Congratulations Amy Jo!

Email me at stefanie@wildolivetees.com and let me know what Wild Olive Tee you’d like!

Be sure to check out our site, we’ve got a brand new design. Just in time for Christmas.


Peace.

Allowing Others To Be Obedient …

I definitely think one thing I learned quickly after bringing home our precious SN angel is that I could not be everything to everyone all the time … If God was truly calling us to this journey that was hard, came w/ many sleepless nights, required more in a day than I had, and required all of us in the family to give unconditionally of ourselves to help Maggie heal, adjust, and learn to love then there were going to be times we needed help … Help to get the kids to and from places, help w/ meals, help with house cleaning, help w/ doctor’s appointment,  and help w/ going to the store, etc … If He called us to this then He called others to walk alongside of us and for the first time in my life I gave up that control that I COULD DO IT ALL … We are the body of Christ and I would have been robbing someone else of their blessing if I denied them access into our world and life.   People wanted to help, they wanted to serve us, and they desired to be obedient to the Lord in doing so … The calls always came at just the right time and we accepted … People loving on us and helping us made a huge difference in the adjustment for Maggie … Because of other’s wanting to help, we could focus that energy on helping Maggie to adjust, attach, and learn to trust …

So my advice would be to take people at their word when they say, “Can I pick up anything at the store for you, Can I organize meals for your family, Can I pick up a prescription, Can I sit w/ you today and hang out, Can I pick your kids up at school today, Can I babysit for you while you go to the doctor, Can I fold your laundry, Can I pray for you (be specific), or Can I just drop you off a diet coke and chocolate.”  Accept kindness and allow the body of Christ the ability to do its mission,  IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A FAILURE TO REQUIRE HELP, IT MAKES YOU A CHILD OF GOD  … We can not stand alone, but when we stand together there is amazing strength …

Blessings to all !!!!

Making the right choice…

Our first experience with the special needs adoption matching process was in January 2006. 3 months earlier we had completed the adoption of our daughter Kiah from the China Non Special Needs (NSN) program. The path for that program is relatively simple. Apply to agency, complete homestudy and dossier, send dossier to China, get Log-In-Date (LID), receive referral, travel to china 4 – 6 weeks later. We thoroughly believe that God has His hand in the NSN matching process. Kiah is the perfect match for our family.

January 2006 was when God pressed the special needs children of China on my heart. I don’t remember what agency list it was but I stumbled onto their site and saw a chubby little girl with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I hesitantly inquired about her but was told that since we had just come home from China that they would consider us to view her file if she wasn’t matched by March. It was during those next couple of months that I realized how much of a “choice” adoptive parents could have in choosing a SN child…..choices for age, gender and the type of SN.

I kept looking at lists and it was months later in Spring 2006 that I inquired about another child. It was another little girl with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I was instantly smitten. The agency told us this little girl had a family already looking at her file so we were put on a list to view her file if the other family declined her referral. DECLINED. Oh. That was the first moment I realized on a very deep level that there was a specific choice to be made when viewing a file… YES or NO. Up until that point I think I thought that after viewing a file…. people just said YES because that’s what happened in the NSN program.

I immediately felt a little uncomfortable looking at SN lists. It truly felt like a whole child’s life was swinging in the balance. I started panicking… what if WE said NO to a child and no one else came behind us to say YES. Would our NO condemn this child to a life without a family? It seemed like such a heavy decision.

A few short months later we were called with Luke’s referral. Before I even looked at his file or his picture… God impressed upon me that Luke was our son. And I was thankful that the Lord showed up in that moment and we didn’t have to toil over a decision. Little did I know that in the future our special needs matching process would not be as simple.

We brought Luke home in May 2007. 3 months later I felt the Lord calling us to step out for another SN adoption. In my mind I thought finding a child would be easy like it was with Luke. And it wasn’t. We viewed at least 7 little girl’s files at various agencies and each time after reading the file and viewing the picture we felt clearly from God that the child wasn’t our daughter. And we had to say NO. And I would pray fervently that SOMEONE would come behind us and they would find THEIR CHILD in the child we had said NO to.

I was then contacted directly by an agency I had never spoken with before. They said they had lots of kids to place and they were looking for parents. They asked me if I would review a file of a little girl who was 15 months old. The age and gender matched our preferences and we were open to a bunch of special needs so without additional discussion I said yes and they immediately mailed the file to us. 2 days later I received the package. I opened it slowly thinking “This COULD be our daughter so I want to do this slowly and savor the moment!” The first thing I saw was the picture of the little girl. She was naked, laying on her side and she had severe scoliosis. They had placed a pink bow in her hair and she was crying… actually it looked like she was screaming. My heart instantly hurt and the air was sucked out of my lungs. I didn’t know much about this special need. All I did know was that it looked serious and she obviously needed a family quickly. A couple of days later the doctor we consulted told us that she had an estimated 35% curvature of her spine… and she was only 15 months old. It was stated in her file that she needed spinal surgery as the orphanage had watched her curvature worsen. We were overwhelmed and heartbroken. My heart actually hurt for her. And we thought about adoption. I did all the things adoptive families do when seriously considering a child…. I contacted families who had adopted children with scoliosis, I contacted our local doctor, talked to specialists, researched therapies. But at the end of each day, when we prayed about what to do, we continually felt she was not our daughter. But I wanted her to be! I wanted to bring her home, get her surgery, help her recover and watch her flourish in our loving home. But first and foremost, I wanted to be in God’s will. And God was not confirming this adoption. So, we prayed for her, sent her profile back and told the agency “no”. And I cried and I ached.

While we were in the decision making process I had lots of contact with a specific family. They had adopted a child with scoliosis however it was not as serious as this little girl’s. This family shared a lot of information with me and I was very grateful. About 1 week after returning her profile I sent this family an email to say we were not able to commit to her. The family never responded back to me. I thought it was very unusual as they had been so responsive before. I sent another email a couple of weeks later and I was not prepared for the response. This family told me all the things I had internally feared… they said that I had the means, the insurance, the time and the ability to adopt that little girl… and that I purposefully turned my back on her… when she desperately needed a family. That I should be ashamed of myself and that “these children” are more than pieces of paper and pictures. And those words stung. Those words devastated me. The words pierced me and I still cry each time I think about them. And then I was just mad. I was mad because don’t all prospective adoptive parents realize what lies in the balance with these kids? That some kids sit on lists for long periods of time. That children with severe special needs and older children sometimes never get matched. But after the hurt and the pain of that email initially subsided…. I focused what I always knew was correct… that relying on God for guidance and confirmation is the only way to proceed into the vast sea that is the matching process of China SN adoption. For us, if we did not have that Heavenly guidance this whole process would be too overwhelming.

It is important for me to focus on the fact that these children… before they are OUR children through adoption… they are God’s children and He holds them in the palm of His hand. And He knows exactly what their future holds.

For us, we slowly and prayerfully consider a child’s file and then petition God for His will…EXPECTING Him to answer. I just couldn’t imagine navigating these waters any other way.

I still think about that little girl. I wonder if she has a family, if she had surgery, if she is now smiling, if she has the warmth and comfort of a home and family. I have found no way to find out these answers. I just have to rely on the fact that God is in the details. The God knows the beginning from the end. And that God has a plan for her life.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Take Me Home Tuesday: The Lost Boysadoptive momma (China) Holly at A Purpose Driven Life… a son, who was adopted from China, shares thoughts with his momma after watching the movie Peter Pan

Early: But that’s okayadoptive momma (China) lighthousegal at Lighthousegal’s Scrap Shack… describing her daughter JB‘s first therapy appointment

My little chatterbox!adoptive momma (China) Chris at The Layers of Life… a momma whose daughter was born with cleft palate reflects on the progress her daughter has made these past few years

Prematurity Awareness Month
adoptive momma (China) and executive director of LWB Amy at A Life of Giving… raising awareness about some of China’s smallest orphans, often weighing just two to three pounds at birth

D-Day
adoptive momma (China) Nicole at The Baker’s Sweets… two recent trips to the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland and to see a Nuero-Reorganization Therapist in North Carolina leaves a momma stunned once she hears her son’s diagnosis

Why Me?adoptive momma (China) Elizabeth at Don’t Call Me Mother… contemplating why she got post-adoption depression

Blessing all around usadoptive momma (China) Rina at Bringing Home Myah… plans for their Make A Wish trip to Disney World

Tomorrow
adoptive momma (China) Julia at Brought to You By the Letters L & M… thoughts the day before her daughter is tested for ADD/ ADHD

adopting SN step one: choosing an agency

Often I am asked, “How do I get started? We have decided we want to adopt a child from China through the special needs program, but what do we do next?”

So, although I am definitely no expert, I offer my best effort in answering that very question.

The entire China program (NSN and SN) has certain requirements for all adoptive families, based on a set of guidelines set forth by the CCAA. Most of these rules are non-negotiable, as in the CCAA will not even consider a family if they do not fit within the guidelines. But some of these rules are flexible, especially within the context of the special needs program. So if you don’t meet every rule set forth by the CCAA, you should still contact several agencies to ask their stance on a particular rule. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Here is a list of rules, set forth by the CCAA in 2007, that currently applies to all PAPs:

  1. Both adopting parents must be at least 30 years of age and less than 50 years of age.
  2. BUT, for the Waiting Child Program, both adopting parents must be between at least 30 years of age and less than 55 years of age.
  3. Each parent must have graduated from high school.
  4. A couple must be married for at least 2 years. If either parent has been divorced, you must be married for five years. You may have no more than two prior marriages each.
  5. You must be financially stable, with an annual income that exceeds $10,000 per household member (including the child you plan to adopt).
  6. You must have a net worth of at least $80,000.
  7. Families with fewer than 5 children at home are permitted to adopt. BUT, families with 5 or more children in the home are eligible for the Waiting Children Program. The youngest child in the home must be at least 1 year old.
  8. Neither parent can have a criminal history with severe outcomes no less than 10 years ago. No history of alcohol abuse unless it occurred more than 10 years ago.
  9. Both parents must be healthy, without evidence of any mental or physical illness that will affect their life span or ability to parent in any way, including conditions that require permanent medical treatment or medication. No medication for depression or anxiety for the past two years will be allowed. No history of cancer at all will be accepted.
  10. Adopting Parents must have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 40.

Beyond the rules set forth by the CCAA, each agency can interpret the program how they see fit. It’s quite surprising how one agency can vary from another to another. That’s one (of many!) things that surprised us once we were on the ‘other side’ and had already brought our first daughter home: all agencies are NOT alike.

After reviewing the guidelines and establishing that you do, indeed, qualify for the China program, I recommend you sit down and make some calls. A list of agencies that participate in the SN China program can be found on our Agencies page. Many adoptive parents either don’t know or don’t take the time to call around, I didn’t do this our first time around, and I think it’s a very foolish mistake. Agencies vary WIDELY, and it is foolish to assume anything, especially when you’re talking about things as important as wait time for referral and expense.

So, you’re ready to sit down and make calls. Have a list ready. Be sure to cover the basics:

cost?
estimated time until referral?
number of families currently waiting to recieve a referral?
how they ‘assign’ children to families?
do they have access to the shared list as well as an individual list?

Of course, feel free to add your own questions, but be sure to cover those, most basic, questions. Write everything down and organize your notes so you can compare one agency to another. Also, note the following: were able to get someone on the phone quickly? Were they polite and at least attempted to answer all your questions? Did you feel rushed or unimportant? If you weren’t crazy about your initial contact with an agency, you might want to consider crossing them off your list. What you see is often what you get.

Know that there is no ‘best’ agency in the China adoption world. And that’s truly a good thing. Some agencies excel at hand-holding, some are less expensive and some have a very short, or non-existent wait list for a referral. But there are many good agencies. Plenty of agencies to fulfill all the needs of the families who want to adopt.

Just be sure you are aware of the good and bad points of that agency, before you commit. Are you willing to wait longer for a referral? Is $ an issue for your family? Are you comfortable using an agency that does less hand holding than others?

So again, I recommend you do your research. Decide for yourself based on your list of priorities and desires. Don’t just take your cousin’s sister’s advice on which agency is best, do the legwork for yourself. Ask questions. Be informed. You’ll be so glad you did.

Once you’ve settled on an agency, applied and been accepted, then the real work begins.

But that’s a whole ‘nother post :)

Giveaway Winner!

This weeks Giveaway winner is The Womble Times!

Head on over to WildOlivetees.com and pick out a tee. Then email Amie@wildolivetees.com with your design choice, fit, size as well as your mailing address.

If you would like to get in on the action too, become a follower of the No Hands But Ours blog, and you will be entered for a chance to win a tee from Wild Olive tees. We will draw another winner next Saturday!

Congrats!

Wild Olive Tees

FTIA

FTIA, a well-respected adoption agency, has recently made public their individual list of waiting children from China.

Visit here to learn more.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Literally One More Stepadoptive momma (Russia, Ukraine and Siberia) Christine at Smiles & Trials… photos and a description of her son’s recent casting for his ankle foot orthotics (AFOs)

Shriners and So Much Moreadoptive momma (China) Tami at Sea Glass & Jade… a recent visit to Shriners Hospital fosters a special connection between two girls

Response to Yesterday’s Commentsadoptive momma (China) Rumor Queen at China Adopt Talk… navigating the world of speech therapy

A Young Man’s Testimony to Suffering and the Sovereignty of GodJoe Eaton, an adult who copes daily with disability, at the volunteer disability ministry blog The Works of God… Eaton explores Scripturally why God allows disability and suffering

She’s Very Albino, Isn’t She?


Why, yes. Yes, she is.

Or should I have said, “What would make you say that?”

Or maybe, “And you’re very rude, aren’t you?”

Only the person who asked the question isn’t rude. She’s Sassy’s jazz teacher, and she’s a very nice person. So, imagine my surprise when I walked into the dance studio last weekend, and she looked at Cheeky (who she has seen many, many times in the past three months) and said, “She’s very albino, isn’t she?”

Three-hundred responses jumbled around in my head. The first….No, she’s not. She was born with albinism, and she’s very human and very beautiful. The last something along the lines of…..What would make you say such a rude and thoughtless thing?

Both girls were standing beside me, waiting for my response. Sassy looked like a deer in the headlights, her big blue eyes wide with surprise, and Cheeky was burrowing closer to my side (as she always does when people comment on her looks). So, I had to say something.

And what I really wanted to do was correct the terminology, remind the teacher that Cheeky was no different than anyone else, explain that it just isn’t PC to use “albino” to describe a person and, above all, tell her that Cheeky understood every word she was saying and that it really wasn’t very nice to point out other people’s differences.

But I held back because the girls were watching and because the world won’t always be kind. We all have to face thoughtless comments and rudeness at times, and it is our reactions and responses that make us strong. Being upset and unhappy and rude wouldn’t have accomplished anything, and (as I’ve said before) why should I be defensive about my sweet girl?

Finally, I smiled and put my hand on Cheeky’s white hair and said, “She’s very beautiful and very unique.”

And Sheri (who works in the office and has heard me field many questions about adoption and Cheeky) called out from her place at the desk, “She really is. All that gorgeous white hair and those beautiful blue eyes. Both your girls are gorgeous.”

And both my girls preened as the jazz teacher agreed that they were, indeed, stunning.

They are beautiful, my girls, but there is no denying Cheeky’s uniqueness. She is a white rose in a field of sunflowers. She is a single white cloud in an azure blue sky. She is the brightest of stars in the pitch-black night. People cannot help that their eyes are drawn to her.

She will learn how to respond to that by watching me. I am the mirror in which my daughter sees herself, and I am the person she looks to for reassurance when others try to define who she is by the way she looks. It is my privelege and my joy to guide her as she learns to embrace her God-given uniquness, and I pray each day for the ability to be as gracious as I want my Cheeky to be.

Some days, I think I am getting it just right.

Some days, I think I am failing abysmally.

Mostly, though, I simply acknowledge that I can only do my best.

That, I think, is all God asks of me.

Wild Olive winner week #3!

It’s Saturday.

You know what that means…

a new Wild Olive winner!

Congratulations to Sara at Football and Fried Rice!

Email me at stefanie@wildolivetees.com and let me know what Wild Olive Tee you’d like!

We will be giving away two more tees over the next two weeks, so there is still plenty of time to win!

Wild Olive Tees

Visit the Wild Olive blog for some new holiday buttons, too :)