We have an exciting announcement: We've decided to add another child to our family! And in the spirit of adventure that you've come to expect from us, we have decided to expand our family through international adoption. As I'm sure you can imagine, we are very, very excited about all of the changes that 2008 will bring to our family!
Here's a little of the back story:
Steve and I have talked in the past about being open to expanding our family through adoption, but always in sort of glittering generalities, not with a specific timeline or plan in mind. With my school done, Ben hitting four, and Sam in school full-time, it seemed like the time had come to actually make a decision about adoption, because it wasn't something that we wanted to not do just because we never decided to do it (if that makes any sense at all). So, we started to research.
There are basically three ways to adopt: domestic private, domestic foster, or international. This part of the decision wasn't too difficult... we were just naturally drawn to international adoption. As you know, we love to travel and experience different cultures and peoples and the idea of being connected in a deep way to the other side of the world is really compelling to us. There are lots of great reasons to adopt domestically and there are kids in undeniable need both in the US and abroad, but international is the path for us.
We also knew right away that we were looking for a toddler girl, probably between 2 and 4 years of age.
And then we had to choose a country. Steve was really drawn to programs that require an extended stay in-country because we want to have lots of time to experience our child's birth country and to bond with her while she is still in a familiar environment. And the more we read about Kazakhstan, the more excited we got.
Don't worry if your first response is "Kazakh-what?!?" because we didn't know anything about Kazakhstan before we started this process either. Kazakhstan is the second largest former Soviet republic, south of Russia, west of China, and east of the Caspian. I'm sure we'll do more posts on the Kazakh country and culture (don't let me forget!), but the things that initially were appealing about Kazakhstan are the stability of their international adoption program and the fact that they require a 14-consecutive day bonding period between both parents and the child before the adoption can be finalized. For some, that's a real barrier because our first trip to Kazakhstan will be between 3 and 5 weeks, but for us it's part of the adventure that we are really enthusiastic about. And, just as importantly, Sam and Ben will come with us on the trip to be integral parts of this hugely important family experience.
So then we started researching agencies that operate in Kazakhstan (if you haven't gotten the feeling yet, international adoption requires a lot of research). We cast a wide net in the beginning and then narrowed it down by looking at each agency's literature and then did a series of phone interviews with each agency on our short list and in the end we decided on World Partners. They're the largest US agency in Kazakhstan and for us the most important criteria was how well the agency is respected in Kazakhstan and how capable they are to take care of the unexpected when we are in country and we really felt great about the work that World Partners does in Kazakhstan and their relationship with the baby houses and Kazakh government.
And then it was time to decide if we were in. Even in those few short months of research and prayer and heart-wrenching discussions, we had learned so much about ourselves and each other that even if we decided that adoption wasn't for us it would have been worth it all. I love and respect my husband so much more after going through that really hard decision phase - I am truly blessed with an amazing and God-fearing, God-seeking man.
And we decided to go for it!
So where are we now? Well, we're in the middle of a truly astounding amount of paperwork, and I'm sure that if you continue reading this blog you'll learn more than you thought possible about the process of toddler adoption from Kazakhstan! If things continue to move along the current timeline, we'll be traveling in fall 2008 or winter 2008/9 to select, meet, bond with, and bring home our little girl. Oh my heavens, I tear up just thinking about it!
If you have specific questions or would like to know more about part of our decision, the process, or what is to come, just leave a comment on this blog. We want to include you, our family and friends, in this process, so let us know what you'd like to hear more about by clicking on the comments link below this and every post!
And what can you do? Right now (ok, now and always) we sure appreciate your prayers and support in this process. We pray that the paperwork keeps moving along efficiently every step of the way. We pray that God works in us and through us in the waiting times (there will be many and I am not a patient waiter) to prepare our home, family, hearts, and minds for a great big change and a colossal adventure. We pray that, just as with pregnancy, we (Steve and I, the boys, and our extended family) are moved to bond with this child we haven't yet met. And we pray that God is with our little girl, working in and around her as her perfect Father now and always; protecting her, growing her, and preparing her for a family.