Thursday, May 31, 2007

Panda Rocker--Too Cute!

How cute is this?! This is the favorite thing that we have bought for Willow so far. I just love it! I can just see our girl on it rocking away...too cute.

I ordered it online @ , they have a lot of different "rocking animals"....not just your average horses. I also ordered a plush rocking horse for a friends child...very cute too.

Oh, I just can't wait for Willow to come home!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

China Adoption Forecast

There is a website out there, the China Adoption Forecast, that will give you an estimated referral date based on a combination of current activity and past trends of the CCAA. I put in our LID, 02/16/06 and here is our prediction:

Our prediction for LID 2006-02-16
Our best guess - a weighted average of recent CCAA velocities, guessing that CCAA will perform about as well in the future as they are performing now, but might return to previous trends: 2007-12-17
That's our best guess for when you might receive your referral. Just at a guess, we can suppose that the CCAA either speeds up or slows down significantly, and show you those dates. If they speed up: 2007-10-25. And if they slow down: 2008-10-16.
Since China generally sends out referrals in a batch about once per month, your referral date could easily vary +/- one month depending on whether you just get included or just get missed in a particular batch.

So, what can I say now? "I sure hope they "speed up"!"...DUH! Duh
My "guesstimate" at this point is a referral sometime in December as well, which means that we will not be traveling until probably February 2008. Ugh...another holiday season without our Willow....not looking forward to that.

Here is a link to the site if you want to check your LID or if you want additional information on what information they use to make their estimates:

Parental Leave

We receive a wonderful weekly update email from our home study agency, ICF. Not that there is ever really any news to update regarding the China program, it is nice to know someone out there remembers us here waiting...and waiting...and waiting. Often Jackie Semar, who is the executive director of International Child Foundation and authors the updates, will include something that is currently in the news that is adoption related along with a sort of "commentary" of her opinion of the issues. I always find this part of the updates interesting and thought provoking. The following is part of her recent update. Jackie includes some very interesting facts and brings up some great points.
Tom and I have been working toward being in a position, financially, for me to not have to work once we bring Willow home, or at the most, work only part time. This certainly will require some changes in our lifestyle being a one income family, but ultimately we both feel it is the best thing for Willow. Wouldn't it be nice if we all were in a position where we did not have to choose?

author: Jackie Semar-International Child Foundation (reproduced with permission):
Canada recently changed it's parental leave policy to 2 years with 90% pay for the mother, and 1 year for the father, although there are restrictions on taking the leave concurrently. Most European and Scandinavian nations, too, offer generous paid leave for new mothers (and fathers), subsidized or state sponsored childcare, wage protection and health care. The US offers some of the least humane or progressive policies for families and children. Most research indicates that the absence of parental involvement with a child, due to the 40+ hour work week, causes as much harm in adolescence as it does in early childhood. It is related to lower cognitive functioning, behavioral and academic problems in school, anti-social or criminal activity and even childhood obesity. This is not just a challenge for us as individual families, but for our communities and society as a whole.
Those of us who operate small businesses (for-profit or non-profit) know that there is no way an employer could provide 90% compensation for 2 years for employees taking family leave. And that is not how it works in most of the countries that provide lengthy family leave. Family leave is endorsed or mandated and financially supported by the government. Why? Because the government has calculated that NOT helping a family provide a child with a good start in life, and NOT providing families with safe and affordable child care and health care, is more costly to society than providing these services. Other governments do not provide these benefits because they want to be "nice" -- it is based on sound economic research. The more a government helps families thrive, the better off the nation is, as a whole. Less crime, less drug addiction, less unemployment.
The downside of parental leave, paid or unpaid, is loss of time establishing a career and maximizing income. Although the parent's wage or position is protected, there is no way to recover lost time, productivity or experience. But we can't have it all. Or can we?
There has been such a polarization of parental leave European-style v. parental leave US-style. The European style is predicted to ruin the economy. But will it, if the long term benefits are so high? Maybe, what we are rejecting or suspicious of, is not the financial issue. It may have more to do with our deeply-felt American history of individualism and self-determinism. Any kind of state subsidy is viewed with skepticism in this light, as the way our country will become undone, soft, socialized or "domesticated."
But let's let go of those assumptions, for the moment, and ask our representatives in Congress to really examine what would be best for American families and children. Honestly, there is probably no one more keenly aware of the problems of modern living than our Representatives, so you would have a ready ear. In the past, the politician's whole family would move to DC. Now, our Senators and Congress abandon their families at home for months at a time. Their lives are fractured, their children and marriages suffer.
How do we get from where we are today, in the US, to where we would want to be, in the next 20 years? For those of you just adopting, would you like your grandchildren to be able to have their mothers or fathers stay home with them, for few months or years? What do you think would be best for the child? That's the key question -- what would be best for the child? Then, don't dismiss your thoughts as impossible or improbable -- play it out, put a few ideas together, like a puzzle, and then tell someone. Talk it out -- send a letter to your Representatives. Whatever you think -- let them know!
I heard on NPR that the level of happiness in the US is way down. The high point was 1956; that's when the highest percentage of Americans reported being happy with their lives. Since then, according to this research, our material comforts have tripled, but our happiness has declined. There is a clue here. Material Girl was the road to dissatisfaction with life, not fulfillment. Living for others, rather than at the expense of others, gives us more joy. Having stronger communities, good neighbors, safe schools, faith -- not only spiritual faith, but faith in the future, in ourselves, our country -- this gives us happiness.
I've thought since I was in my 20s, a long time ago now, that the solution to having more parent time with children, was the 6 hr work day. Combined with a 6 hr school day. In China, children go to school from 7:30-5:30, 6 days a week. It matches when the parents work. (I am NOT proposing the China model!) But if we looked at work through the lens of what is good for the family... what would be best?
I think that no matter what, we will need to evolve to being a little less materialistic. If either parent works less, to be with the children more, there will be less income. That means less "stuff." Could we live with a little less stuff, to have happier families? Less TV, more Scrabble. Less video games, more trips to the park. Less shopping, more volunteer work. It sounds kind of like the 1950s again, doesn't it? Maybe I'm out of my mind. But I would sure love to see the children that come home to the US have more mommy time and daddy time, and for those new parents to have more parental leave without penalties.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Referral History

The following spreadsheet gives a breakdown of the history of referrals since we began the adoption process.
Some items to note: The wait time when we began the paperwork process of this adoption: 6.12 to 7.1 months. The wait time at the time of our LID: 9.14-9.5 months. The most current wait time: 17.95 to 18.12 months. We have currently waited 15.25 months.
When, oh when, will be get our referral?!

Can You Please Repeat The Question?

Don't get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate it when I am asked about our adoption. Your interest shows you care about our lives, our dreams, our future. Here I have tried to compile a list of questions that I am commonly asked.

To my fellow international adoptive parents, wherever you are in the process, this is to serve as a disclaimer, and in defense of the "questioners". Keep in mind that nearly all who may ask me one of these questions has NO experience with international adoption. Do not judge them for what they do not know.

Welcome to my frustration:

  1. Any news on the adoption, about Willow or about the baby? news! Currently they are matching babies with families who were logged in _ _ _. We were logged in 02/16/06. They average roughly 2 months to get through 1 month of LID's, but for the past several months have gone considerably slower. We wait.....we will see. And by the way...when you ask me the same question next week, the answer will be the same! Maybe you can change your question to "what date LID's are they matching now? (just to let me know that you have been paying attention).
  2. Why Willow? This is the name Tom and I have chosen for our daughter from China. An "unusual name" you say? Well if it is necessary to classify our babies name, I would prefer a "unique name". No, there is no deep meaning behind it. Willow will have Tom's last name, not mine. I kept my maiden name.
  3. Why can...insert latest celebrity name....Angelina, Madonna, etc...just go get a baby right away and you have to wait so long? Well, this is really 2 separate questions. The reason we have to wait so long is a complicated situation with many different theories that I will address in several future posts. But I can say that NO MATTER WHO THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS ARE, if they are adopting from China, they are waiting just like everyone else. If you look my first post, I gave a simplified explanation of how the process works. This is the process for all prospective parents who adopt from China. The only "celebrity" that I can recall adopting recently from China was Meg Ryan. And from all accounts, she waited in line just like the rest of us. Now, for the other countries, international adoption processes differ by country. Angelina's last son came from Vietnam. Vietnam opened again to international adoptions late last year after being closed down due to corruption in the system for some time. The process in Vietnam is completely different than that in China but seems to be running relatively smoothly since it re-opened and hopefully for the waiting children will continue to do so. Keep in mind with international adoption, the vast majority of people who are wanting to adopt want an infant AYAP and a girl. Wait times vary greatly for boys and/or older children. Is the wait longer than we thought, wished, want....most definitely. But all we can do at this point is have faith that when the child that is meant to be our daughter, the one who is Willow is ready...we will get "the call".
  4. How old is Willow, how old will she be when you get her, is she born yet? We don't know, we don't know, we don't know. We have requested a girl AYAP. China government rules prevent any infant from being adopted prior to the age of 6 months. So by the time we travel, the youngest would probably be around 8 months old. We anticipate probably between 8 months and 18 months. Our best guess would be at this point yes she has been born....but again, that is just a guess based on when we are estimating that we may get a referral.
  5. Why did you pick China to adopt a child from? Hmmm...quite the controversial question to some. Well, for US, at the time that we started this process, we were not comfortable with private domestic adoption due to the potential of the adoption not being completed. We have all heard the horror stories. Adoption from the public child welfare system was out of the question due to the failure of these organizations to put the welfare of those children that they are suppose to be protecting first. This left us with the option of international adoption. We did a lot of research, found out which countries we were eligible to adopt from (each country has its own rules), narrowed it down by eligibility, did a lot more research and came to the conclusion that China was the best choice, at that time, for US to make. Even with the extended wait times in the China program, the program is still one of the most stable, uneventful, predictable programs. It is not coincidence that more adoptive children have come from China than any other country for many years. It's a good international adoption program.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Remembering My Friend

Completely off the adoption topic, today I have spent a lot of time in my head and my heart remembering my friend. On May 22, 2000, Nichole Pisano lost her battle with cancer at the age of 32 years old. Nikki left behind many friends, wonderful family, and the most tragic of all, 2 beautiful little girls.
Her daughters, who are my God Daughters, Demecia Hope, now age 10 and Grace Edith, now age 8, are two of the most incredible kids I have ever had the pleasure of being involved with! I will be eternally grateful to Nikki for allowing me to serve as the girls God Mother and hope everyday that I am following her wishes and living up to my responsibility in helping the girls grow into the exceptional women I am sure they are meant to be!
Beyond the relationship with these 2 girls, because of my friendship with Nikki, Tom and I are both part of a whole new family. Nikki's bio family are just as much part of my heart and due to logistics more of a part of my daily life that my own. I can't imagine my life now without any of them.
I miss Nikki terribly. I never before and am sure will never again experience such a friendship. We had some sort of connection that could not be explained, the same thoughts, the same feelings, the same spirit and definitely the same unusual sense of humor. Those close to us both saw it and sometimes were amazed by it. I had never before laughed...out loud...the uncontrollable laughter, that makes your eyes water, your nose run...when you can't stop and you loose your breath...that kind of laughter is what Nikki and I shared on such a regular basis. It makes me smile even now as I type this to think about it!
I loved Nikki. I respected her for her kindness, openness, dedication, her strength and love was beyond measure!

A few months ago we took Demecia and Grace to see the new version of Charlotte's Web. My ALL TIME FAVORITE childhood book. Towards the end of the movie when Charlotte dies, Demecia got a little teary eyed. Then Charlotte's babies where born and some of them went away, but several of them stayed in the barn with Wilbur and Wilbur gave them a speech about how he wanted to tell them about their mother....about what a wonderful "person" she was and about the great friend she had been. I pulled Demecia on my lap and put my arms around Grace and told them both, "see, that's like guys are like the baby spiders and I am like Wilbur who is there to keep the love, spirit and memory of your mommy alive".
As I choked down the lump that had risen in my throat just before the theater lights came up, I had to smile. I had to laugh to myself, because I just knew that somewhere Nikki was watching and laughing...taking pleasure in the fact that I was the "simple pig" and she was the "eloquent beautiful spider".
Nikki was my best friend and I will miss her forever, but when I remember her, I always smile.

Adoption Acronyms

The following is a list of possible acronyms you will see on this blog....yes, we even have our own "language" in this adoption world!

ACR-age of child requested
AYAP-as young as possible
CA-consulate appointment
CCAA-China Center for Adoption Affairs (in China)
CN-Chinese name
DOA-date of adoption
DOB-date of birth
DOR-date of referral
DOT-date of travel
DTC-dossier to China
FCC-Families with Children from China
HS-home study
I-600-Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
I-600A-Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition
I-171H-US federal approval to adopt foreign born child
ICF-International Child Foundation (our homestudy agency)
INS-Immigration & Naturalization Service (now the USCIS)
LID-log in date
LMI-Little Miracles International (our international agency)
LOI-letter of intent (special needs adoptions only)
NSN-non-special needs
PA-permission to adopt (special needs adoptions only)
PAP-prospective adoptive parents
RQ-Rumor Queen (adoptive parent who maintains a HUGE china adoption info website)
SN-special needs
SW-social worker
TA-travel approval
USCIS-US Customs & Immigration Services (Dept of Homeland Security)
WC-waiting child

Slow Boat To China

As our LONG wait continues, I have decided that it is time I start a blog so those interested can follow along with our progress and eventually with our actual trip to China to bring our daughter home.
I am beginning to believe that there are those of you out there who no longer believe that we are adopting! And others of you who are just humoring me by going along with my stories relating to "my daughter Willow-who will come from China". Thinking about those imaginary friends you had when you were little. But really...IT'S TRUE!

There is a whole different world out there in the land of adoption...specifically International Adoption, that no one knows about until they are involved. Maybe it would help if I give all of you a "crash course": INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION 101.
Okay, let's assume that you have done your research, decided that you wish to adopt internationally to add to your family and have chosen which country you wish to adopt from.

  1. Choose an agency--in our case Little Miracles, Inc. (after much research)
  2. Submit your application to the agency, pay some money.
  3. Once accepted by agency, sign your contract with agency, pay some money.
  4. Start compiling paperwork you need for your dossier: birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, police clearances, medical reports, financial reports, employment verifications, photographs, pay some money.
  5. Schedule with Social Worker meetings required for home study. Joint meetings with both spouses and individual meetings. Your social worker will provide a written home study report after your meetings, pay some money.
  6. File necessary paperwork with state of AZ to be legally authorized by a Judge to be an adoptive parent in AZ. *this is a bonus one we had to do...not many states require state approval, pay some money.
  7. File necessary paperwork with US Government Immigration to be legally authorized to be an adoptive parent of a child born outside of the United States. This one includes getting FBI fingerprints! Oh...and pay some money.
  8. As all the documents from items 4-7 are all compiled, they must be notarized, for notaries of course, you have to pay some money.
  9. Once you get all your documents together, your home study, your state clearance and your immigration approval, this is considered your "dossier", it gets sent to your agency, translated to Chinese and sent to the government agency in China responsible for adoptions in the country, the CCAA. The date your dossier gets sent to China is your "DTC".
  10. Once the CCAA has your dossier you wait for them to log it in their system, this is called your "LID". And once they have it logged in....your wait technically begins! Apparently all of the months of paperwork, appointments and meetings that have gone on prior to this were the pre-wait.
  11. After you are LID, the CCAA basically has only 2 processes of handling your paperwork.
  12. First, everything that was sent in your dossier is reviewed by a CCAA worker to ensure accuracy of paperwork, that you meet their requirements, etc...This is the REVIEW ROOM.
  13. After the Review Room is the MATCHING ROOM. This is where a CCAA worker looks at our dossier and photos and looks at the photos and files of the babies that are available and matches a baby to our family!
  14. The match that is made in the Matching Room is called your REFERRAL. This information is sent from the CCAA to your agency, your agency has the information translated from Chinese to English, reviews the information and forwards it to you.
  15. You decide, based on the information provided, if you will accept or deny the referral. Nearly all referrals from China are accepted, usually referrals that are denied, from any country are due to possible medical issues, but this is highly unusual in China.
  16. Once you accept your referral, the acceptance is sent back to the CCAA and you wait to get your Travel Approval ,TA, and your Consulate Appointment, CA, dates in China.
  17. When you have these dates, you can apply for your Visa, make your travel arrangements and off you go to China.

This is a VERY BASIC outline as to the process of what every adoptive parent has to go through before they even travel to China. I will outline what actually happens when you are in China for your adoption in another post soon.

I would think that for you "outsiders" from the international adoption world, your heads might be spinning, but keep following these posts, there will be much more to add in preparations for the adoption.

It is funny though, because I already know that all of this, as well as all that we have yet to go through, will turn out to be so inconsequential once Willow is placed in our arms!