Q: Tell us a little about your family.
A: My husband and I have will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary this summer. We met when we were nineteen, so we’ve been together for over half our lives now. We have six children between the ages of three and fifteen. Our youngest two children joined our family through adoption from China.
Q: How did you decide to adopt?
A: After we had our fourth child, we learned that it would be unlikely for us to have more children biologically. Eventually, my husband brought up the idea of adoption after we attended a family retreat. I realize now this really isn’t the norm — it’s almost always the wife’s idea! I spent several months researching adoption while we discussed and prayed about whether this was something we should do. We were home with our son less than a year later.
Q: Tell us about your book.
A: My book is titled Mine In China: Your comprehensive guide to adopting from China. It’s available as an e-book through Amazon. I hope to also offer a print option in about a month. I tried to cover every aspect of this crazy process, from choosing an agency to things you need to know once you are home. I love lists so there are tons: what is included in a dossier, acronyms, questions to ask an agency, common special needs, what to take for your gifts for officials, what to pack — it’s all there. By the time you get back home, people have very specific questions. I looked up the information so you have answers about what medical tests to request for your child, getting your child’s Social Security card and passport, whether you should go through the legal process to re-adopt, and filing your taxes. While I tried to focus on the nitty-gritty details, I did also take some time to discuss some bigger topics such as abandonment, adoption dissolution, and the perspectives of adult adoptees. I hope it lives up to the subtitle!
Q: What made you decide to write a book on how to adopt from China?
A: I am active in several online adoption communities. I like talking to people who are considering adoption or are in process. The same questions continually pop up, and I thought it would be great to have one source where you can find the answers to all of the questions that you have as you move through the process. So much of this information, you don’t pay attention to it until you get to that point in the process, when suddenly, you need to know right now. Facebook groups aren’t easiest to search. A book can be easier because it is arranged in a logical order.
Q: You reference a lot of Internet resources throughout the book. What impact do you feel the Internet has had on adoption?
A: I know there are people today who manage to adopt from China without joining a single online group or forum, but it’s hard to imagine what that would be like! If you are in online groups you can keep up to date on the processing times, get tips on how to move things along faster, and hear about changes as soon as they occur. I think this biggest impact has been for helping people to be open to more medical conditions. When people start out, they are newly open to adoption but they are hesitant about special needs adoption. Through the advocacy efforts, parents can read about life parenting a child with a particular special need. They begin to see the child first instead of the need. No Hands But Ours is a wonderful example of that phenomenon.
Q: What do you think the most difficult part of the adoption process is for people?
A: All of it! You keep thinking that the next step will be easier but it never is. I think most people go into it assuming that the paperwork will be the most difficult part but are blindsided by how difficult it is emotionally. Filling out the Medical Conditions Checklist is so hard. Each of those boxes represent actual children out there. It can feel like you’re judging their worthiness. Deciding whether or not to accept a referral can also be a hugely emotional decision. “Referral” sounds so clinical when you have a file with photos of an actual child that you say yes or no to. In my book, I really tried to give people points to consider as you are making these difficult decisions. Sometimes having a list of questions to ask yourself or points to discuss can give you clarity. In the end, it’s important to remember that the best family for a child is the one which can meet all of their needs, both medical and emotional. Your “no” can be someone else’s “yes.”
Q: I loved the “squatty potty” tutorial! It’s funny but so true that even simple things like using the toilet in China seem complicated.
A: Yes, I feel like the travel portion of the trip is one big anxiety trigger at the end of a long anxious process. Most people have never traveled to Asia before, and it seems much more foreign than say, traveling to Europe. People have basic questions like “How do I book my international flights?” or “Which hotel should I stay at in Guangzhou?” But you also have to make really major decisions like “Should we take our other children with us to China?” and “Should we visit our child’s orphanage?” It doesn’t help that people online are very adamant that if you don’t make the same choice they did then your trip, and the entire adoption, will surely be a disaster.
In my book, I worked hard to collect experiences from a wide variety of experienced parents. While Garden versus China Hotel is a hotly contested question, in the end you can make the right choice for your family by asking yourself whether walking access to parks or Western food options is more important to you. In the same way, it sounds trite, but there is no wrong answer on the question of whether to take your other children on the trip. As much anxiety as you are feeling about all of these travel decisions, there simply is no wrong answer. Garden versus China Hotel, flying out of Guangzhou or Hong Kong, taking the entire family or not–you will get through this trip no matter which option you choose. Try not to put so much pressure on yourself to make sure everything is perfect. It will be fine!
Q: Any advice for someone who is sitting on the fence about adopting?
A: I think most people hesitate to adopt because they are worried that there will be negative consequences for their family. Something bad might happen — that you might end up experiencing challenges or sorrows. When we decided to adopt, we had been parenting for a dozen years. Through close friends and family, we knew people whose children had been diagnosed with minor medical conditions such as club foot or hypospadias to life-changing diagnoses like Autism and cancer. We know multiple people who have experienced the loss of a child. Would any of these people had rather not had their child than to have lived through these experiences? No, not one. If you try to shield yourself from any of life’s sorrows and challenges then you are missing out on all of the joys that come along with it all. We can’t imagine our lives without our two sons from China. We’re so glad we took that leap of faith and hope that you will, too.