Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Word About Fundraising

Does it feel like we have been in this process for forever!? Some days it feels like that for us too. Most days it feels like this is dragging on so, so, so much longer than we ever thought.

Does it feel like we have been constantly asking for money or doing fundraisers? Yep, some times it feels like we are doing this all.the.time.

Guess what? We don't particularly enjoy it. It's dead uncomfortable to admit we need help, to admit we can't do it on our own and to put ourselves in a vulnerable position. But we do it because we believe with all our hearts it is worth it and that these kids are worth every hurdle and all the blood, sweat and tears it takes to get them here.

We have been blown away by the amazing support of our friends and family and even complete strangers. And not just financial support. The moral support and the prayers are needed just as much.

Because we can't do this on our own. We have poured our lives into this including our savings, tax returns and work bonuses. To be clear we are not asking for help without making significant sacrifices, too.

I'm sure there are questions swirling around about where all the money is going and why we keep trying to raise more. I'll do my best to address this.......

1. We have to pay for the homestudy. Part of that fee included psychological exams, the social workers time she put into interviewing us on multiple occasions in her office and in our home. We also attended an educational seminar, we paid to have fingerprints done, background check run in every state both of us lived in since age 18. This homestudy expires after a certain amount of time which requires an update which also costs more money. To date we've done one of these updates so far.

2. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. There is fee required to process paperwork before the United States will approve you to be an adoptive parent. It's not cheap. There is also a fee we each have to pay to have our biometrics (fancy term for fingerprints) taken. These are different than the fingerprints done for our homestudy. There is also cost associated with traveling to get to this biometric appointment- a roughly 7 hour round trip drive for us. Since we are adopting two unrelated kids we also had to pay this fee a second time for their papers to be processed and approved.

3. We pay the agency/consultants. They review paperwork, help guide and offer insight on the process, they have connections with people who do the leg work for the adoption.

4. The attorney needs to get paid. I'll do my best to remember some of the things this included and lump them in this category since our attorney took care of most of these. There may be court fees, paperwork fees, transportation fees, passports, etc. I know I'm leaving out a LOT but suffice it to say there are a lot of small costs that add up VERY fast.

4. Foster Care Fees. Kids aren't cheap. It doesn't matter where you live. It is expense to care for a child well. There are the costs of formula, food, diapers, clothes, lodging, medical costs, stipend for the family caring for them, etc. These costs are hitting us especially hard right now as we had not planned on them at all.

5. Travel costs. For us to get into the country we have to apply for visas, we have to pay for airfare (round trip for parents, one way for kids), we have to pay for people to help us in country, tips for people who help us, we have to pay for a place to stay while we are there, we have to pay for transportation while we are there, we have to pay for food while we are there, there are certain legitimate fees to be paid to finish up the adoption and exit the country, there are cultural items and souvenirs to buy while you are there. There could be unforeseen medical costs. If you pack more than the allotted number of bags or if they weight too much there are extra fees, too.

6. We will most likely fall into this category unfortunately. Eventually visas expire. Our children's visas are only good as long as their medical report is valid (or 6 months - whatever is shorter). There is a fee per person to get these renewed.

 And all the miscellaneous stuff that adds up. The cost to mail things - to our agency, to friends/family, overseas to our attorney. There is a cost to wire money overseas. There are educational  things too - books are not cheap but contain vital information. There is so, so much to learn. There are conferences to attend to help equip us to help our kids. And there are so many more things I'm forgetting or not mentioning.

All this to say.....we thought we were done this part. We thought we had the necessary funds raised to pay our final fees and make a trip to bring our kids home. Our kids should have been home months ago. Instead they are not and every month they aren't home we are incurring more and more fees. This means we must kick our fundraising back into gear. This is not what we expected. This is not what we wanted. But this is what is happening. We are asking for help again. We realize we have asked before and so many have generously responded. We appreciate it and we thank you.

We have several things planned and in the works and we are excited to share them with you. We are
asking for your help in making our future fundraising successful. We hope and believe we are nearing the end and will have what we need soon.

Thank you for sticking with us. For supporting us. For praying for us and our kids. We need it now more than ever.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Crazy, Crazy Roller Coaster Ride

When we were first beginning this journey and reading about adoption, different countries, domestic, agencies, attachment, bonding, therapy, mom blogs, etc. Two themes kept appearing over and over and over. 

1. You MUST be flexible especially in international adoption. Flexibility is key. Being flexible will save your sanity. 

2. This is like a roller coaster. There will be amazing highs and many things to celebrate. But there will be days that are HARD. Days that just suck the life out of you. But to hang in there because all roller coaster rides eventually end. You may step on another one right after. But all roller coaster rides eventually come to an end.

Well, folks. We went into this eyes wide open. We read and researched like crazy. We attended webinars. We read everything we could get our hands on about the countries we 'qualified' for. We scoured blogs for any shred of helpful information or insight. We emailed agencies. We asked questions. We spoke with agencies. We asked questions. And we prayed. Oh we PRAYED!! And, you know what? God answered. He clearly made the path for us to walk down. He led us to the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the way our story played out after my August 20, 2012 phone call with Amy from our agency can only be described as God orchestrated. We were at the start of our ride heading up the roller coaster.

The months before we accepted the referrals of our kids were not so easy. We were on our way down to the bottom of the roller coaster. We questioned ourselves. We questioned God. I cried - a lot. And in the few weeks before we said yes to becoming Graham's family I was in the middle of one of the most confusing times in my life. We were coming to the bottom of what we thought was the lowest point on the roller coaster. We were hurting and grieving and we thought surely it cannot get any worse. We were wrong and just didn't know it.

We started our climb up another hill of the roller coaster at the end of March 2013 and the beginning of April. On the 8th of April I saw my baby girl's face for the first time. Oh what an amazing day that was! We waited anxiously and somewhat impatiently for the documents we needed to go to court to be made their parents. We tried to prepare ourselves for a LONG wait in court but were surprised to make it through relatively quickly. And then we were a family of EIGHT! Amazing. We were still on the uphill climb of our roller coaster.

We had worked to submit our documents to the United States Government to have our children classified as immediate relatives and get "in line" for a lengthy investigation period. We told ourselves it would be well into 2014 before we received confirmation of their cases being completed. The ride kept chugging on up.

Then news came that slowed down that climb. The DGM put a hold on issuing exit letters. We were so disappointed. But we said "it'll be ok - it will be a long time before our kids have visas appointments and surely they will be open by then!!" We were still climbing up that hill but much more slowly.

We were pleasantly surprised to be approved quickly by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service but even more shocked to FLY at lightning speed through the embassy investigation period. Two month investigations seemed to be absolutely unheard of!!! Our kids had visa appointments BEFORE Christmas. 

Our roller coaster ride had suddenly gotten very fast and was approaching the top of the hill at high speed.

On December 31, 2013 we met our kids for the first time. I hugged and said thank you to the woman who is filling in as 'Mom' in my absence. I held my kids for the first time, hugged them, kissed them, cried tears of happiness to be with them even for a short time. This was the exhilarating top of the roller coaster.

Coming home without them started the trip back down the other side of this crazy roller coaster. But we felt confident this was a short hill. That surely we wouldn't be gone for long. In fact we didn't even completely unpack our suitcases. We had hope that the DRC government, the DGM and the Embassy would make something happen and that the kids we love so much would be home soon. Time kept slipping by with no news and no indication of change but this still seemed to be a short hill - a bump on our way back up this ride.

Then this past Friday (3/21) we hit the lowest of lows so far on this adoption journey. There was a conference call between the Department of State, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the US Embassy in Kinshasa. Going into the call we did not get our hopes up - we know better by now. But the absolute lack of information and the lack of any sort of progress on anyone's behalf was disheartening. No one has answers. It appears, from the outside, that the DGM is not making the changes it says need to happen. We were told this will last until AT LEAST September and quite possibly much longer than that. And no one could say definitively that they WILL actually start issuing exit permits again. So we were left with more questions. How long will this last? Will this ever end? Will our kids ever come home? How old will they be when this does happen? What kind of chaos will there be in Kinshasa when or if this suspension does lift. There is estimated to be hundreds of us at this step. 

It felt like hope was gone. It felt like we were left completely on our own in this fight. It feels like our government has failed us. It feels like there is no one left to fight for us and our kids. And that is an awful feeling and an awful place to be. We also received reports that the situation in Congo is not good, that it is very dangerous for our children and the families they are living with. These were hard truths to hear. It is hard to be stuck on the other side of the world away from important pieces of your family. 

We had officially hit the lowest point on this roller coaster ride. Our stomachs had fallen out & we were feeling sick from all of the ups and downs and twists and turns.

Right now it feels like our ride is stuck here. It has lost the momentum to go back up another hill. We are desperately hoping and praying for positive movement forward. For answers and for a solution to be found. We are forever grateful to our children's foster family. They are doing an incredible thing and are loving on our kids in our absence teaching them what a family is like. But it is a temporary solution. Their permanent home is HERE - with us. For our kids we firmly believe that international adoption is the best answer. That is not the case for every child in the DRC but for our children it is. You will have to trust me on this as I refuse to reveal the parts of their story that make me believe this to be the case. Without us there is no one coming for them. They would be stuck in orphanages - most likely until they aged out if they even lived that long. Their futures after that would be very uncertain. We are not on this ride to 'rescue' anyone. If anything we are the ones being rescued. Rescued from our ignorance and inaction at what is happening around the world. No, we are on this ride because we believe we can provide a loving home for a child who otherwise wouldn't have one. We have met two of these children and call them son and daughter. We love them and have a God given FIGHT within us to do everything in our power to see to it that they have the very best.

Please, please pray for our family and for the families just like us that are STUCK. Please pray for our children and the many other children who have parents desperately wanting to bring them home. Pray for those children who don't have and never will have a family - they need positive influence in their lives and they need God's Holy protection in that place. Pray for movement within the government agency responsible for this suspension of exit permits - that they would let these children who have waiting loving parents take these kids HOME. 

Pray for the roller coaster ride to start moving again. We've hit what we hope is the lowest point. We hope the only direction we can go is UP.

Monday, March 10, 2014


We were completely blown away by the generosity and love showered out on our family during our week on Give One Save One. We made HUGE progress toward covering our financial needs for our trip to return to pick up and bring Graham and Olivia home. Here is a short video of our little people saying thank you!

Remember how I thought my husband was crazy for setting a goal of $4500??? Well, I thought he was nuts. Turns out he's not quite as crazy as I thought. Our total for the week came to $4016. Seriously. How amazing is that?!?

We aren't sure how much longer we will have to wait which could mean extra foster care fees for our kids while they wait for us. And we are preparing for a long stay in country when the time does come to bring them. If it ends up being short that will just be a bonus but we want to be prepared emotionally and financially.

There are a couple more fundraisers in the works right now and we will share them when the time is right. One of them involves an article of clothing you are going to want to get your hands on. The other one involves getting some seriously awesome bags and totes at a killer price.  Both of these are so exciting and I can't wait to share them with you!!!

We are praying continously that God would see fit to make a way for our kids to come home soon. You see they should have come home with us when we travelled back in December/January. We are so glad we took that trip and got to know them just a tiny bit. Our little girl's birthday is quickly approaching and I am really, really struggling with the high likelihood of missing it. I've never not been with one of my children on their birthdays and the thought of missing it is so hard. We are not sure of when we will be able to bring our kids home. We are committed to doing so in an ethical and legal manner and since there is a suspension in place right now there is no way to accomplish this. It's very frustrating. And its heartbreaking to have spent time with children you call son and daughter and then say good-bye to for an unknown amount of time. It's just plain hard. But we know they are worth it. They are worth every tear I've cried, every prayer uttered, every frustrated scream, and all the pain of the wait. They are worth it. We call them our son and daughter because they are. We are their parents and we are committed to bringing them into a loving family.

So, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who shared our story and video, to those who so graciously gave to us and for everyone who has and continues to pray for us in this journey. It is our desire that you see hope through us. That even though this path is painful and hard and not rosy that you see we have HOPE. And we BELIEVE. We believe that God has always been with and has loved our kids since before they were born - since before we knew about them. It is our belief that adoption and orphans and widows are close to His heart. Is our belief that He will make a way for these kids. And because of what we believe we have HOPE.