Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Morningstar Adoption FAQ

Here are questions about adoption and our journey to Sasha and Mei Mei that we hear frequently and the answers from our perspective. I've included both the raw questions we sometimes hear and their more sensitive rephrasing :)

We know that the path we chose in building our family is a little different from the norm ("normal" paths don't seem to suit us very well) - we have been so blessed by the addition of Sasha to our family and love to pass along what we've learned along the way. If you have other questions that we haven't answered here, leave us a comment and we'll add them to the FAQ!

Raw Question: Couldn't you have more kids of your own?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you choose to have children by adoption rather than by birth?
Answer: As far as we know, we could have more children by birth and we have been so blessed to have children both by birth and by adoption. What a gift! We had always been interested in adoption, and when the time came to add another child to our family we decided that providing a home and a family to a child already born into this world was the right path for us. You can read more about our choice to adopt in the posts, Our Adoption Testimony, Adding Another Morningstar and Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1).

Raw Question: When there are so many kids in the U.S. who need homes, why would you fly halfway around the world for a child?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you pursue international adoption over other forms of adoption?
Answer: We believe that every child deserves a loving family and stable home and that as long as the adoption follows the appropriate legal guidelines there is no wrong way to adopt. We knew from early on that international adoption was the path for us. You can read more about our choice of international adoption in the post, Adding Another Morningstar

Raw Question: So... Kazakhstan... I have no idea if that's even a real country...
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you choose to adopt from Kazakhstan?
Answer: As we started looking at the available options in international adoption, the program in Kazakhstan stuck out very early on in the research process. We really loved the mandatory 14-day bonding period in Kazakhstan and felt like it gave the children a really positive, healthy transition into the arms of their families. We also felt comfortable with the good level of care in the institutions in Kazakhstan and the extra time we would be able to spend in-country to get to know her birth culture. You can read more about our decision to adopt from Kazakhstan in the post, Adding Another Morningstar

Raw Question: What's wrong with Kazakhstan? Why wouldn't you go back there for another child?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Why did you choose to adopt from China?
Answer: When we were starting our journey to Sasha, China fell off of the list of prospective countries very quickly because the wait time for the "regular" program in China had already grown to 3 or 4 years and at that time we weren't looking for a waiting child program. With our second adoption, because we were specifically looking for a waiting child program, China bubbled up to the top of the list immediately. China has a really healthy, well-established waiting child program, we'll be able to take all of the kids with us on the trip if we choose to, and time in-country should be less than three weeks. It's the right fit for us now. For more information, see the post Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1).

Raw Question: Sasha looks just like she could be yours! Did you specifically choose a child who looked like you?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Sasha is such a beautiful member of your family. Did you have specific requests in terms of gender and ethnicity? (but in reality this is a pretty hard one to ask politely :)
Answer: With two boys already in our home, we did tell our agency that we preferred a little girl between 2 and 4 years of age. We had no ethnicity preferences and expected to adopt a child of Kazakh ethnicity. The first time we saw Sasha, Steve and I looked at each other in shock that our daughter was white, completely surprised that our little girl seems to be of Russian/German ethnic heritage! The truth is that she is ours in every way, just as much as either Sam or Ben. We are enamored with her beauty, inside and out, and truth be told I'm sure we'd be just as captivated whatever of her skin color, eye shape, or hair texture might be.

Raw Question: Were you pressured into adopting a kid with special needs?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Did you go into the process targeting special needs adoption?
Answer: With Sasha's adoption we were not specifically seeking a waiting child. We went into the process open to some special needs that we thought would be appropriate for our family, and cleft palate was on that list. The reality is that every adoption is a special needs adoption - every adopted kid needs an extra measure of patience and love and acceptance - and we tried to be realistic about this fact as we started our adoption journey. You can read about our experience with cleft palate adoption in the post, Adopting a Child with a Cleft

After our experience adopting Sasha, we fell in love with special needs adoption and knew from the beginning of our journey to WanYing that we wanted to adopt another little one who was having a little more trouble finding her family. So, yes, we specifically pursued waiting child adoption from China. You can read more about this decision in the post, Our China Adoption Story (chapter 1).

Raw Question: How much did/will she cost?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: What are the costs associated with international adoption? (again, this one's a touchy one. Tread with care)
Answer: It's no secret that international adoption is an expensive endeavor. Room and board for 2 months in a foreign country + U.S. paperwork and homestudy + document translation and processing + translator, driver, and facilitator costs = nothing in comparison to the joy and privilege of adding Sasha to our family. China will require less time in-country so the costs will be a bit lower than they were with Sasha's adoption, but the reality is that both of our adoptions are big commitments - emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Raw Question: Was the wait for Sasha tortuously awful? (ok, this question isn't really impolite, and the answer is yes!)
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: How long did the adoption process from Kazakhstan take? How long will it take to adopt from China?
Answer: It was almost 13 months from the time we signed with our agency and began the paperchase in earnest until we left on a plane to Kazakhstan and then we spent 60 days in-country. Our full schedule is posted under Kazakhstan Adoption Timeline

WanYing's adoption should be a little faster, and we hope to travel approximately 12 months from the start of our paperchase (Spring 2011), but it's hard to know at this point. Our full schedule is posted under China Adoption Timeline

Raw Question: Did you find out about Sasha's real mom? What will you find out about WanYing's real parents?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Did you get information about Sasha's birth family while in Kazakhstan? Will you get WanYing's birth family information from China?
Answer: We were blessed to get several documents from Sasha's early life so that if she chooses to pursue more information about her birth family when she is older, Sasha will have good information to start with and our full support. We did not meet any member of Sasha's birth family while in Kaz and there are no guarantees that they can be found.

It is very, very unlikely that we will get any information about WanYing's early life because in China there is now way to legally relinquish a child, all children must be "abandoned". We hope to piece together as much of WanYing's story as possible while we're in China, but we will likely be left with many unanswered questions.

Raw Question: Does Sasha know she's adopted? Will WanYing?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: How do you share your daughters' stories with them in age-appropriate ways?
Answer: We keep no secrets about our daughters' early life. We decorate Sasha's room with treasures from Kaz, have recorded our journey to her on this blog and in scrapbooks, and talk openly about her adoption. We intend to do the same with WanYing. There are hard conversations to come - the truth is that if the girls' early lives were all hunky-dorey, they wouldn't be our daughters. Adoption is always the story of loss and redemption. We will share the details that we know about the girls' birth and first two years in age-appropriate ways. If they choose to talk about those details with others, that's their choice to make - it's their story. Sasha and WanYing will always know that they are some of the great blessings of our life and that we are forever grateful to be their family.

Raw Question: Was it worth it?
Perhaps You Meant to Ask: Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?
Answer: In a heartbeat. You can read our reflections on adoption all over this blog - just start by searching for "adoption" and keep reading :)


kazkidcomestonebraska said...

Thanks for having such a wonderful family blog, I love to read about all three of your kids and their funny antics! I have been followng your stories for a bit now, and said I would be open to a child with a cleft after reading about Sasha. I appreciate your candid information and experiences.

tac said...

As always your blog is full of open and honest insights!

Lisa and Thal said...

That was just wonderful. I thank you for your post.

Lou Ann said...

Jamie - Thanks for the terrific post. You said it all so well and I really love the point that you made that all internationally adopted children are special needs. That will be the case throughout their lives since all the questions you just answered for yourselves and the choices you made will have to be answered again by our children as they come to understand what being internationally adopted means for them.

And thanks for both your "raw" question as well as the "what you meant to ask" since so many people don't seem to understand that there are right and wrong ways to ask the same question. Especially in front of the child they are talking about!

As always, I enjoy following the Morningstar kids antics and the wonderfully insightful parents raising them.

Lou Ann & Lexie too

PS - as for you comment on our Valentine's Day post - I think you are doing great with the girly stuff. I have to say if our rolls where reversed I know I'd be having a harder time with the boy stuff!

troy said...

Beautifully said.

Damien said...

Great post guys - coming from an adopted child, it sounds like you have the perfect perspective.

Regarding one of the last comments "There are hard conversations to come" - every kid is different of course, but I wouldn't be apprehensive about that notion. She'll always know she was adopted, but I always knew and that made it pretty easy to understand. It was just a part of my life, like having blue eyes or two brothers and two sisters or being from Maryland.

My parents always let me know that my bio-mom wanted me, but couldn't keep me. I don't know the circumstances behind why Sasha was given up for adoption, but just knowing that you have a family (if not two) that wants you very much is enough for any kid.

Odds are decent that she'll want to know about her birth family at some point - I always swore up and down that I didn't care, but there was some weird instinctual urge to know that I hadn't counted on and I sought them out in my teens. Not because I didn't love my family (I did and still do), but just out of curiosity. Also, having the medical history of my birthmom has been very useful.

Either way, you two (well, you four :) are doing a wonderful job and both you and your beautiful daughter have obviously been so blessed by this experience. Thanks so much for sharing with the rest of the world :)

Amy said...

I just stumbled upon your blog & I have to say the FAQ's regarding adoption is wonderful!! My dh & I are also in the process of adopting from China, after we had a bio daughter. I think I'll add something similar to this on my blog because I think it's just awesome! Of course, we've read all the books & websites & articles regarding answering these type of questions when they come along, but I never thought of posting it in such a neutral way on our blog! Thanks for the great idea!! BTW, if you want to see ours (which is really nothing compared to yours!), it's www.babybellylaughs.info.


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