Last week was a challenging one for the international adoption community with the release of new regulations for families desiring to adopt a child from China.
According to most social media posts and adoption agencies, the regulations that seem to affect the largest number of families are the following: the new requirement of one year between the date of the last adoption and the submission of a subsequent LOI or dossier; the youngest child in the home needing to have reached his or her third birthday before a dossier can be submitted; and the number of children currently living in the home being reduced to five (the child being adopted can be the sixth child) after years of larger families successfully bringing children home.
On a more positive note, there were other regulations that will actually benefit families wanting to adopt from China such as the ease on certain health conditions or the number of years couples are required to be married after a divorce.
Adoption in itself is a roller coaster of emotions but adding in unexpected twists and turns in a predictable program is now leaving a community of people wondering where to turn next.
For some families, the new regulations mean they may need to wait to adopt from China until they meet all of the requirements. Some families may decide to look at other country options and leave the China program altogether.
Despite the changes, China still remains a very stable option for families and I know I stand with so many in the adoption community who are incredibly grateful that China continues to allow us the privilege of adopting their children.
Although the new regulations do not affect our current adoption process, I know all too well the wave of anxiousness that program changes can bring.
Our own adoption story started out on an entirely different continent. Our plan all along had been to adopt from Uganda, Africa. My husband and I visited Africa on a vision trip through our church and made a decision to adopt a daughter from there just months later. We applied to our adoption agency and begin studying and learning what we could about the beautiful continent and its culture.
I had several t-shirts with the picture of Africa that I wore often, a friend gave me African artwork to decorate the nursery, and I wore an Africa shaped necklace each day to give me hope as we waited for a match. We even put a close up picture of the African necklace on our Christmas card that year.
I poured over blogs, videos, and pictures from other moms who had adopted from Africa and I watched their “Gotcha Day” videos on repeat. I sought out friends who had adopted children from Africa and I asked them constant questions so I would be ready when it was our own time to go.
Then our dreams of Africa started to unravel. We had originally been told the wait would be one to two years. Then we were told it may be a three year wait. A few months later we were informed the wait had stretched to five years. Our dear agency’s hands were tied. There was nothing they could do but wait for Uganda to send files even though there were so many children who needed homes.
Next came program changes through no fault of our agency. They were told we would need to sign a covenant saying we would bring our child back to Uganda every five years until she was 18-years-old for repeated culture trips. This would add thousands of dollars to our already tight budget as we would need to come up with a financial plan for all of the trips. We were also learning that the time in country for the actual adoption process was being extended.
In the adoption world, paperwork expires after 18 months and an update is needed if you would like to continue with the process. We had now reached that 18 month point and our paperwork was expired. After countless hours of planning for a Ugandan daughter, we were faced with a heartbreaking decision.
The program had stalled and the changes were not ones we felt comfortable with and we didn’t see a way forward.
I was so frustrated and confused. Had we misheard God? Were we even supposed to adopt in the first place? What were we going to do now? If we were still to adopt were we supposed to adopt domestically or internationally and if internationally, what country? I was angry with God and remember furiously scribbling out in my prayer journal that the last 18 months of this journey had been a colossal waste of time and money.
God knew all along about the program changes and the extended time period so why didn’t He show us the “right” plan in the first place and let us go on our merry way? I felt like we had been shoved to the back of the line. It was a sense of running in a marathon for the last year and a half only to be told we were actually at mile one instead of mile twenty-six.
My husband and I took a lot of time that month to really search God and allow Him to gently love on us and speak to us. We became confident that He was still calling us to pursue international adoption. We had not misheard Him. There were simply some areas of our lives that He needed to do work in and those 18 months were a necessary part of that pruning and refining in our hearts.
He showed us that His best for us wasn’t just the end product of a child but that we would have fellowship with Him along the way. All of the adoption training we had received and the connections we had formed with the adoption community was to strengthen and grow us.
He had not forgotten us; quite the opposite. He had been shaping us and preparing us for the chid He had for us all along.
Despite how shaky the ground felt, He showed us that we had been on solid ground the whole time.
We went back to why we had chosen to adopt in the first place. We knew that we had a home and love to share and we wanted to help a child who might not otherwise have a chance for a family. After talking to our adoption agency and seeking counsel from others and asking God to show us His plan, God landed our hearts on the special needs program in China.
I remember talking to our social worker about how much time it would take to actually be in China adopting a child and she said to prepare for at least a year. A year seemed like infinity when we had already waited 18 months. A year and a half is the equivalent to two pregnancies and now we were learning we had to wait for the length of one more. I gave myself permission to grieve what felt like two miscarriages and then I took a deep breath and we began the process to adopt from China.
We updated our home study and had our fingerprints taken again in July of 2013. We read books on Asia and resubmitted our information to immigration. In August of 2014 we met our beautiful daughter face to face. Now looking back, that two and a half year wait starting with Uganda and ending in China seems compressed in my mind.
When we were going through our adoption, God gave me the gift of having three friends who were also in their adoption journey as well. Not one of us ended up adopting from the country we originally planned. God used program changes and other circumstances to providentially lead each of us to His sovereign plan. One of my dear friends originally applied to adopt a child under the age of three in Haiti and ended up switching agencies and countries and adopted two precious older boys from Costa Rica. A second friend hoped to adopt from Uganda like us and God used the diligent prayers of her adopted bi-racial daughter to switch to a domestic program to adopt a bi-racial baby boy who looks like her. A third friend applied to adopt from China and switched to Ethiopia.
Each Sunday, I get the privilege of seeing two of these families at my church and it still takes my breath away almost three years later to watch these children thrive in their homes. None of my friends and I “planned” for these children. We all started out with a different vision in our heads of the children who would be placed in our homes. Now, I can’t even imagine missing out on what God planned for each and every one of us. His timing and plan was perfect.
Dear friend, if you are one of the many who are affected negatively by these new changes and regulations, please know my heart breaks right along with you. I know how scary and out of control this all feels.
Change is challenging to all of us. Your time, energy, and financial investment has not been a waste. You have moved in ways spiritually and emotionally you may never know. None of these program changes and regulations are a surprise to our sovereign God. He is writing the most beautiful story for your family.
Take a moment to breathe and put your feet down on the floor because I can promise that you are on solid ground.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:21-24