Sunday, February 23, 2014

On starting to work with Safe Families for Children

So I just wrote about us writing our dossier for Ethiopia. After the bulk of my work on that portion was done and I was waiting for things to come back, I happened to attend a meeting at The Orphan Justice Center in Grandview, MO about Safe Families for Children.

I had never heard of it, and I was instantly excited/convicted that I had stumbled upon a way to be hands-on in orphan prevention here locally. Because we have been in and out of adoption processes, we are unable to be foster parents as that involves having "custody" of another child (thus affecting our homestudy). Because in Safe Families we are just free childcare volunteers, we are able to help out without it messing us up legally.

I was so excited.. and then there was also the terror of doing it. Ted and I talked it over at length. We were at a great place. Sammy was very well adjusted. We agreed we could start the process of getting approved. Since we already had a perfect homestudy for our Ethiopian adoption, we only had to do a few additional pieces of paperwork to get our file in order. We went live in mid December with Safe Families.

We didn't hear anything over the Christmas season, but had a few near-assignments in January. Finally, a situation stuck and moved forward to needing our help. We are currently helping a 3 yr old little boy who has actually been able to stay with his mother at ANOTHER Safe Families host home. My other SF comrad can't do childcare for children but CAN help adult women and my situation is the opposite (due to the size/nature of our house, I can't give adults much privacy). He is with me during the day and some evenings/weekends while his mom is getting some wonderful help from the Women's Employment Network.

It is an interesting thing to have your life now intertwined with another little family. It is sometimes inconvenient and messy (example: we had a death in the family, but our friends need to be in court for a domestic abuse situation and we are responsible to both situations... hm...). Do you know what else? It is AMAZING. Just the other day, I was explaining to a stranger that these were my 3 boys, and my extra little boy was my "friend" who I help sometimes. He looked up to me with his big blue eyes, pointed and me and told the lady "mama (is) my friend". He knows I'm not his "mama", by the way, he just thinks its my name so it is used in more of a "hey you that helps me with stuff" tone. I love that he views him and me as friends. We help each other and we spend time together. What a great thing to call our relationship!

I can't really show pictures of him since he isn't my child, but I can show you a behind the scenes of my house without full identities and names.

We have been so blessed by Safe Families. I hope we can work with them for a long time. It is very good stuff.

For any/all information on Safe Families (a national network, by the way) here is their website and a few more. Email me if you'd like even more information!

Back to Ethiopia? Re-entering the Ethiopian adoption process

So the story of how this happened started back when we were still in Bogota. When we happily exited the Ethiopian program in 2011 things were becoming a lot more difficult over there. Regulations were changing quickly (and many for very good reasons). Shortly after Ben got home, our agency stopped taking applications for children younger than 5 years old. Since all of our children were under the age of 5 and we aren't qualified to parent anything older, Ethiopian adoption was kind of a closed door moving forward (hence, the decision that Sibley child #3 would be Colombian special needs and we found ourselves back in Bogota in the summer of 2013 a bit ahead of schedule...).

So, the Colombian adoption completed, we started thinking about Sibley #4. Because we had felt Ethiopia was a closed door, we had planned to move forward with a domestic adoption of an African American child in a few years. I had looked into Ethiopia with another agency and was seriously considering enterring the program when we got wind that our agency was allowing returning families to enter the Ethiopian program (and only a select # allowed at that). This all happened while I was still sitting in my room at El Refugio in Bogota last summer. Who starts paperwork talks for their next child while the ink is not yet dry for the current child?! Apparently us, especially since another Ethiopian adoption is estimated another 2-3yrs to actually happen, at which time our kids will be significantly order than they are now. Surely I will be bored or something by then.

So we got Sammy home, got our savings account above $4.00 which, I kind you not, was what we had left when I got home, and started the paper trail yet AGAIN. Who writes TWO dossiers for TWO separate countries in one calendar year??!! Again, apparently us.

The timeline for people that like those:

*not yet 6 weeks after Sammy getting off the plane, we applied to the Ethiopian program on 8/8/2013

*final homestudy approved 11/3/2013 and immediately applied for our I600A the next day

*had minor drama with a Request for Evidence from immigration because they wanted a fresh date on my background clearance from MN since my previous one from 2010 was more than 14 mo. old. I really did promise them that I had not moved back to MN to abuse any children in the meantime, but alas, they wanted proof from MN and that cost me a few weeks. A few days after Christmas we had that fresh approval back to our agency and they immediately filed it with immigration.

*My 171H (immigration approval) for up to 3 children, ages 0-4 yrs at time of referral with any/all special needs (save 1) came to my mailbox on January 10, 2013. This, OF COURSE, happened while my husband was out of the country in he Dominican Republic, but luckily I already had the entire dossier prepped so signatures by him were not needed.

That, folks, is why this is the only photo I have, taken from my phone that day on our way to Fed Ex. I didn't have the camera, but it was monumental, as was 3 little boys at Fed Ex in the rain.

Lucas got to do the honors when we sent the papers for Sammy last February, so now it was Ben's turn. Our documents were found to be satisfactory with our agency, and we started the waiting process at lucky #35 on the wait list. I think we have moved down a few slots since then.

On one hand, we are in for a long wait, but on the other hand our dossier was written for special needs children. If a child comes in to care that does not fit what the folks above us wrote theirs for (most for normal, healthy, 1 or 2 children/twins) then it goes to us by default. So, in reality, we could get a referral at any time in our specific case.

We must tell you that the climate of adoption in Ethiopia has really shifted in the past few years. We are entering this process "eyes wide open". Our goal being to be in the right place at the right time for a child who is hard to place. The door for Ethiopia may close, and it may close abruptly and without warning. We know this. We feel we owe it to Ben to try to give him a similar relationship to a sibling that Lucas and Sammy enjoy. For lack of a better explanation, "sameness". "You look like me. You are from where I am from. Your birth mother looked like my birth mother in some way. They spoke the same language". This may not be possible, but at the moment we are at peace with the Ethiopian program and the type of referral we are open to.

On that note, just in the past weeks MOWYCA (Ministry of Women, Youth and Childrens Affairs, for my Colombian friends, this is the "Bienstar" of Ethiopia)made a sweeping change that requires all adoption documents to be signed by only the Regional head or assistant head of MOWYCA. Think of this like only one person in the state you live in can help with all of the adoptions, and this isn't America, people. That means a major bottle-neck of cases to go through 2 people, thus slowing an already slow situation. That wouldn't be a crisis, but the problem was that this new issue was made "retroactive".. meaning many of the kids already in process (and specifically all children with special needs that are cleared for adoption but haven't found families yet) and some already referred to families are stuck. The Regional heads don't want anything coming back to their desk/are refusing to sign off on old cases, but the kids can't move forward without the new signatures!!!

This is where you stop right now and pray for these kids. They are stuck. Pray that the MOWYCA officials would have compassion on these children and sign off on their cases so they can move forward, ESPECIALLY the little ones with special needs who need to be matched with families in order to receive therapy for their disabilities. We want transparency in adoption and we want ALL cases to be thoroughly investigated. These children were already cleared by their government. We pray that the government can look at their cases again and re-clear them so they can move forward.

Now that the blog is mostly caught up, I'll post when I have more developing news on Ethiopia. For now, we prayerfully wait and parent those we are already blessed with and pray for children waiting for parents, and children yet to be reunited with their parents who are still living.

After the Airport with Sammy: Fall 2013 until now

Hello dear friends,

I'm so glad that I gave myself grace last fall for updating. Sammy worked through a lot of transition last summer and fall. I don't dare tell you that portions of that were easy as many weren't. Last July and August were very difficult while he grieved. Sammy seemed rather well adjusted during the day, but his alter-ego "Alejandro" came out in the evening between 12a-5am. It was during this time that he wanted to be with us, but didn't "know how" to be with us. This made for a lot of restless nonsleeping for all. We seemed to turn a corner in September and the routine of the fall was upon us. We were really cruising until the holidays when "Alejandro" again came to visit us every evening from the week of Thanksgiving through January. Again, a rough time when Mom and Dad aren't sleeping much. About a week after being back in routine in January we were smooth sailing again.

Just today I was looking back at our photos of him from last summer. He has grown SO MUCH people. Although we still use Spanish at times around the home, he fully understands English now. He is still rather behind in formation of understandable words, but he tries to repeat about everything. He can say "Mama","Daddy", "please', "more", "milk", "puppy", "baby", and I'm sure a few more that I am forgetting. He climbs stairs on his hands and knees and uses railings. He climbs up into his own booster seat at the table as well as on and off the couch. Sometimes all of the climbing can be a problem if you know what I mean... He loves his brothers and always wants to be doing exactly what they are doing. No baby stuff allowed and don't you try to get away with it. We are moving more and more into the "normal"s of toddler-hood. He has figured out his has a voice and opinion on many things and he will let you know, perhaps even with a flair of defiance. Yes, discipline and required respect have kicked in and sometimes this is a battle.

Over all, we couldn't have asked for a better transition. We know him well enough to know that when he is "dealing" with things or becomes unsure, he will summon us unto himself late in the night to work it out. Here are a few highlights of our fall!

First, his first baby pictures and new family pictures taken by my beautiful friend Carmen who even gave us an "adoption" discount. THANK YOU Carmen!

Can I get a cumulative "AAAWWWWW" ? Yes, he is adorbs. Totes adorbs.

Everyone went home and took a nap after that shoot.

Although we missed the best portions of the summer, we were still able to soak up a little bit of it. Here are some highlights from Sam's first Independence Day, our trip up to MN for the Fana gala fundraiser with the Colombians, and some other random stuff.

Here was some of our time in MN meeting the extended Sibley's as well as our Fana weekend

We made it over to see Friends from FANA too

Meeting new Great Grandma and Grandpa Black and the Iowa State Fair!

We also spent a weekend at Adventureland in Iowa, which was a very big deal.

My baby left for M-F full time preschool at Traditions. Sniff. He obviously had no problem posing for his pictures.

We celebrated Sammy's 2nd Birthday too!! We went to the big Dinosaur restaurant in Kansas for a low key family party. He thoroughly enjoyed his chocolate cupcakes and his new Chuck Truck

Lucas started his professional career in soccer through the Upward program in Raytown. I spent my Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings with little boys in tow to watch Lucas on the soccer field. We loved Upward (Christian and teaching sportsmanship values) as well as the level of diversity there was in Raytown!

Halloween was just as epic as it looks.

Sammy and I were lucky enough to fly to San Antonio and see all of his new Aunties in November, for which we were very thankful!

It is at this point that I realize our Christmas stuff is backed up on another computer. My internet never fully recovered from Colombia and we finally sent my computer into the shop at Christmas and just got it back! So for Holidays 2013, stay tuned.

It this very moment I am tucked away in a lovely hotel room in Phoenix, AZ while my man is at a medical spanish conference for work. We are so thankful for this opportunity and I have gotten so much work done! We haven't been smart enough to take any photos (and also, we are well aware that expense paid vacations are a thing dreams are made of, so we really don't want to rub it in my taking pictures and making folks back at home in the cold look at them on this February day). Even more updates to come everyone!