Category Archives: FAQs

The Questions Prospective Adoptive Parents Really Need to Ask

Like many of you, most of my initial questions were process-centered. What we quickly learned was that our most important questions needed to be family-centered. Meaning, we needed to do the hard work of learning about the trauma our child had experienced, its impacts both now and in the future, what that would mean for us to parent a child from a hard place, and what it would mean for our entire family to become and live “trauma informed.”

So, while the process questions ARE absolutely important, here are the top five questions I believe every Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) should really be asking and answering as soon as possible in their adoption journey, but often aren’t…

  1. Expectations: What are my expectations for parenting a child I have adopted? How will they be the same or different from my biological children and why do I believe that? Do these expectations line up with what experienced adoptive parents and trauma informed experts say? Where do I need to adjust my expectations? What are my expectations of myself? What will we do if we arrive in country and we find a very different child than the one we expected? This. Is a big one…Disruption happens way too often and is something every internationally adopting family has got to really process through and consider very early on.
  2. Education: What will I do to educate myself on parenting a child from a hard place? What do I need to learn about evaluating my own attachment style and how my own family of origin influences the type of parent I am? What is my plan for learning more about attachment, bonding, trauma, child development, self-care, language development (if applicable), sensory processing needs, and family transitions…just a few of the key topics that every PAP needs to be educated about. Click here for a list of some of the best resources out there.
  3. Encouragement: What resources and supports are available to me, my spouse, my other children and my new child as we go through this process of becoming a family, and helping our child heal from the losses and trauma they’ve experienced? You’ll need to research your local options for trauma informed attachment therapists, therapists and medical experts related to any specific medical needs, local adoption support groups or other networks of families that you can connect with on a regular basis. (If you’re in Central NJ like us, check out Miriam’s Heart!)
  4. Evaluation: Who are the wise and trusted, objective people in our lives that we can consult with regarding our decision to adopt? How will we evaluate our capacity to manage the possible medical and developmental needs of the child we are considering being matched with?  Who will we allow to speak truth into our lives so we can become more self-aware, connected parents and spouses? Do I know how to properly evaluate and assess the warning signs of parental and marriage burnout that are so common in adoptive families? And if so, have I done incorporated resources to respond to this into my Education and Encouragement piece?
  5. Empowerment: Adoptive families come from a variety of faith and religious backgrounds, and that is okay. Speaking from my own experience however, I can tell you that the challenges, and blessings, that come from adoption are not possible to handle within myself. Even surrounded by all of the “right answers” for the four areas above, you will need a power outside of yourself. A power that is responsible for the creation of every individual and which ordains the details and events of every life. Adoption is born from loss. We are not plan A for our children. By God’s grace we strive to be the best possible Plan B. He redeems and restores what is broken. He heals, and he carries us all in our pain. He strengthens our weary hands and feet, for unconditional love does not come easily. We are ordinary, flawed, weak people. We stepped way outside our comfort zone and we continue to learn and grow being changed daily by the mercy of God to better show His love and salvation to those around us. We need him desperately, and we thank Him for every provision He has given in this journey. Perhaps as you walk into this journey you will find yourself with a renewed sense of your own need for God, for faith in something greater than yourself. Seek Him and He will meet you. He is faithful to answer, to provide and to guide.

 

Prayer Needed

Note: I’m going to try to keep the blog updated a bit more as I know that a lot of our friends and family are opting to take a break from an increasingly hostile Facebook world, so they’re not able to keep up with our group page over there.

Can I be honest? Sometimes I really struggle to post here because I feel like I should only write when there’s something really big to say, or news to share, or I’ve written something that seems halfway as compelling as what another blogger is writing about their situation or thoughts and ideas. But I’m going to try to set those insecurities aside and just share from my heart and hope it resonates, and that it serves as a sort of journal and remembrance that our children can one day look back on and see the graciousness of God and the love and support of so many people in their lives.

We’re in a very tricky waiting period right now. Bear with me as I explain because I’ve tried to boil it down to the bottom line but we really need some prayer support here…

Our first round of USCIS (Customs & immigration) paperwork was submitted last week and right now we’re waiting on the notice of our fingerprint appointment. Approval of our fingerprints is the final document needed to send our dossier to China. That’s a HUGE step in the process and reaching it by early to mid March is our best shot at late summer travel to bring Emily home. Here’s the dilemma…

Based on how everyone else’s timelines with this step are going, there’s a strong possibility that our fingerprint appointment will be during the week of James’ surgery. If that happens, we’ve got a problem because we cannot miss this appointment or else we go to the back of the line and start the wait over, delaying the whole process by at least a month. There is a small chance we could squeak in before and they will assign us the 17th or 18th but it won’t be earlier.

We need to have our fingerprints done on or by Friday, February 18th. Our appointment notice should come next week. If it’s for after February 18th our only options are to call and reschedule for after we get back from MD, delaying us by weeks or we try to walk-in early to the USCIS office in Elizabeth, NJ or Philadelphia. These particular offices are not known for allowing very many early walk-ins. We would have to plead our case and hope for the best. But just doing this walk in will require Kevin taking time off work and hiring childcare so logistically it’s an investment for something that may not even pan out.

So, please pray that we’ll have peace as we wait to find out the appointment. That we would continually rest in God’s sovereignty over each part of this process. And join us in asking that God would honor this need and allow the appointment to happen prior to leaving for Baltimore. Rescheduling James’ surgery is not an option.

People often ask me…

… if it’s easier this time around. In some ways yes, and in some ways no. Having been through the process once it’s easier because I can see the whole picture. I know what to expect, and I have a better sense of what’s going to happen when, and I’m more confident in my understanding of the process. But, I also know what can go wrong and just because we’ve done this before, it doesn’t mean I don’t fight the anxiety of worrying that I made a mistake in preparing a document, or that someone else will make a mistake in processing it. Wednesday, the courier will return to the NY Consulate and we’ll find out if any of our documents were rejected. On the one hand, I knew to do this as soon as possible so we could scramble to make a correction if needed and not create unnecessary delay. On the other hand, I cannot wait for the feeling of relief when we hear that everything is approved and I can send it on to our agency.

But is it easier to wait? No. I still long to hold my daughter every day. I hate that I can’t be there to comfort her as she is likely teething, or help her through a cold, or give her a warm soothing bath at the end of a day of play. We’re grateful for the good care she’s receiving, but she isn’t home. She’s still in an institution, bottom line. There is no substitute for family.

With James’ surgeries and rehab therapy upcoming we’ll have plenty to keep us busy and hopefully time moving along quickly. And of course, we’re in no way ready for a baby girl in the house right now – there’s not a diaper or baby girl outfit in sight! But, as James tells me just about every night, “Oh Mom I just want to get Emily now!” We all feel the absence of her, daily. As many other adoptive parents will tell you, it’s truly amazing how you can love someone you’ve never met.

I came across this song recently and while it’s hard to get through it without shedding tears, it also brings a huge smile to my face as I think of that day – that moment – when we finally see our precious babes face to face, in person. When we finally get to begin showing her what a family is. When she finally has her very own place to belong, forever.

FAQ: Why not adopt from the U.S.?

This is a common question that is often asked of parents who choose to adopt a child from outside the United States. Much of the time it’s asked purely out of curiosity. Unfortunately, sometimes people have experienced the question being asked in a very hurtful and condemning way. We have not (yet) but we understand the curiosity that may would have in wanting to understand our thought process. I’ve wanted to write a post on this for awhile but as life has gotten a lot more intense and hectic of late (more on that in the next post) so I’m going to do my best to summarize.

We did not see adoption as a bilateral thing of “here” or “there.” It was not a question of “Do we adopt one of our own or one of theirs?” God has created all people. We all belong to Him, and to each other. His commands to love one another and care for the orphan were not racially, ethnically, culturally, politically, or nationally bound. Therefore, we are all one collected body of created beings, loved equally by God. So the United States was simply one of the many countries that was in the mix for consideration. We considered the needs of children in the United States the same as we did the needs of children in Asia and Europe and South America. We looked at the process of adoption for a multitude of countries as we considered what was the best fit for our family at this particular time and as we prayed about where God would have us to go.

Children around the world need families. Children around the world are in desperate need of committed parents. Children are hurting and vulnerable and traumatized everywhere. Brokenness is not a respecter of countries and cultures. There are thousands of kids who need families right here in NJ, thousands across the US, thousands across the western hemisphere, and millions around the world.

After considering the counsel of other experienced adoptive parents, talking with adoption agencies, considered our family’s unique make up and the particular season of life we are in, we felt it was clear that God had opened the door to China. You need to know that we could have loved a child from anywhere including the U.S. And we have A LOT of friends that have adopted older children from the U.S. through the foster system, and babies through private adoption in the U.S. They are amazing people (to us) as are our friends who’ve adopted from other countries like Korea, Ethiopia, and Russia.

So to summarize, it was a big question of “where is the child you want us to parent God?” and everything was on the table to start. Because we are all one body of humanity, beloved by God.

Emerging from the Cocoon

We’ve been home a month and while I would say we’ve definitely done our cocooning as planned, we have not had to do as super intensively as some families. That doesn’t make them or us any better, it’s just different. Depending on how things go, we may find we need to do that ourselves in the future. Everyone’s story is different. But, after a month lived primarily at home, and several weeks away from social gatherings, we are ready to slowly start emerging from our cocoon, starting with a return to church. 

We are really looking forward to reconnecting and being encouraged in our faith, particularly in these days of pouring ourselves out into our kids moment by moment. We are excited for folks to see James in person and for our family to begin the transition back into these group gatherings. Many in this gathering have prayed for us and made financial gifts of support. But this is different than when we returned to church with Gabi and Andrew shortly after their births. Actually, it’s different in just about any social group setting we encounter…

See, here’s the thing – we’re not bringing in a little baby that has been with us since birth who will likely sleep right through the service and not even notice if someone gets very close to him or holds him. Instead, we’re breaking entirely new ground here with James and as his Mommy and Daddy it’s our job to do it in the best way possible so that he feels as safe as possible. So, while we can’t wait for you to see James, we won’t be able to let you into his personal space and we won’t be able to let you touch him or hug him. What we would love for you to do is offer a gentle smile and a kind hello to him and offer a high five if you want, and a hug to us and our other children. As you’ve seen in pictures and videos, he is sooo cute and we all just want to cuddle him all the time and squeeze his adorable cheeks! But for now we need to be the only ones to give that affection as we build a secure attachment.

He can sometimes be very shy with new folks, but is usually ready and willing to give a smile and wave. We’re grateful for that and will encourage it, but it doesn’t mean he’s ready, or attached enough yet to us, to operate independently in a social setting. What we would love is if you could help us by showering a lot of that attention and affection on Gabi and Drew. They are going through a lot of change right now and although they may not return the affection, they need the extra support right now.

The other thing is that a gathering like a church service is full of sensory stimulation – all kinds of sights, smells, and sounds (sometimes at loud volumes) and kids will react to this in different ways. James may get very withdrawn or be quite the opposite. In any case, know that if we hang back for awhile it’s not because we want to have distance from anyone, but instead because we need to give James space to stay regulated. It’s likely we’ll come in late and leave early – this is SO weird for us! I promise we’re not avoiding you, but we are taking baby steps as we break this new ground with James, and as a family of five. Bear with us as we find our way week by week.

I was so inspired by this post from a fellow adoptive momma whose son came home this summer and has one arm with the same condition that James has. She called it “The Better Conversation” and in it share shares some helpful things for their friends who wanted to help prepare their kids for meeting their son who has some physical differences from other kids. This is something we think about a lot – we wonder if James already feels different. We wonder what he thinks about his arms and hands. We wonder if he was made fun at the SWI. We feel heartbreak and anger as we think about the first time it will happen here. The true story for him is that God intentionally created him, sees beauty in him, and that value is not determined by our external appearance. The true story is that God redeems our wounds and in our weaknesses He is magnified. That’s the true story we know as a family. But, even though all of that is true, it’s normal for kids to have questions and even feel a little uncomfortable when they meet someone new who looks/sounds/acts different than most of the kids they know, so we wanted to offer one way that you could proactively approach the subject and help your kids feel a little more comfortable as they anticipate meeting James.

“Hey kids, guess what? The Hamiltons will be coming back to church soon and you’ll get to meet Gabi and Drew’s new brother James! James has only been home from China for about a month. He can say some English words and phrases, but he probably won’t be able to understand a lot of what you say yet. So if he doesn’t respond to you that’s okay. He does understand smiles, and high fives and funny faces though. You can ask Gabi and Drew what he likes to hear and say if you want some ideas.

James is four years old so he’s not a baby, but his Dad may hold him and his Mom may have him in a carrier sometimes anyway. That’s because he’s still learning what a Mommy and Daddy are so they’re helping him learn to stay close and connected to them. Sometimes he may act differently than you would expect from a four year old. That’s because he did not live with a Mommy and Daddy in China and he’s never been in any sort of school, so he’s still learning a lot and will need us all to be patient with him. One thing that’s sometimes really tough for him is food because he didn’t always have enough food, or enough good food where he lived in China. So his Mommy and Daddy are working hard to make sure he’s getting the good things he needs, and also that he feels safe with his food and not scared that someone is going to take it away.

One other thing that you may remember or you’ll probably notice pretty quick is that his hands look a little different than ours, and his arms are a little shorter than ours. Let’s look at some of the pictures the Hamiltons have put here on the blog and on Facebook so you can see what I mean. That might help you to not feel like you want to stare so much when you meet him in person…

His arms and hands were that way even before he was born because one of the bones in his arms is not there. But it doesn’t hurt him and it’s actually pretty amazing how he finds ways to do all kinds of things even though he has different hands. He can feed himself, color, paint, play with toys, and loves to run, climb, jump, swim and do most of the stuff that all kids like to do. He’s a lot of fun and I hope you can be good friends.”

If you’ve made it all the way through this post, THANK YOU! It means a ton to us that you would be purposeful about preparing your kids – it’s a gift to them and us.

One last thing – Gabi and Drew are still figuring out their own ways of introducing him and feeling like they have to say something about, or explain his hands. They haven’t been around other children with physical differences very much in their life and this is a maturing experience for them. So,  if you hear them talking about it with your kids know that we are completely okay with that. We’ve asked them not to do it in front of James, not to point, or to hold his hands in some sort of awkward way to explain (yes this happened 🙂  ) but they need their own safe places to sort of talk it through and receive other people’s feedback. The more chances they have to talk it through, the more their own awkwardness seems to dissipate. 

 

The final leg

Today we received news that James’ immigration documents were approved and are now on their way to the National Visa Center. This came a few days earlier than expected which is great news! The next few steps are fairly predictable in terms of timing, and then there’s the big unknown at the end – how long will China take to issue our Travel Approval? Lately it’s been just a 1-2 week wait and if we land at that 1 week point…well, we could be in China 7 weeks from now!!

While it is very exciting to think about boarding the plan to China, and finally holding our son after this long wait, we are still facing a pretty big financial hurdle. Most of you know that the adoption process is crazy expensive. In our case, the total cost will be over $30,000. As of today, we have $13,700 still to go in fees, travel costs, and the mandatory orphanage donation. (If you want a detailed breakdown, you can click here to go to our page about the cost details.) 

Financial Picture 2Here’s the honest truth – this is the part of the post that feels awkward to write. The part that I stress about how to word the right way, about how to balance our faith in what we know we are called to, with the realities of what we are facing and then hoping people hear our hearts expressed the way we mean to…We know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we were meant to be James’ family. He deserves the love, care, and commitment we want to give to him because he is precious and valuable. But making that happen through the process of international adoption is costly.

We’ve been so grateful for the ways that many of you have contributed in this journey – making meals, purchasing tickets, donating items for sale, or making a financial donation. All of that has meant so much to us. We would not have been able to come this far without you. More importantly, James would not be this much closer to being part of a family without you.

We’re humbly asking you to consider being part of this final leg of the journey with us, either for the first time or with a second contribution. You can make a tax deductible donation of any amount to our fund at adopttogether.orgChanging the life of a very special boy, waiting in China for a family, is an amazing thing to be part of. We can’t do it alone, and we know that while not everyone is called to adopt, many people are looking for a way to help a hurting child. Maybe this is one of those ways for you. Thank you for hearing our hearts and supporting our family in any way that you can.

“God places the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:6

FAQs #6 and 7

We’re expecting our LOA in the next 2 – 3 weeks and can’t wait to share his pictures with everyone! Please keep us in prayer as we work towards the remaining funds for our next bill of $5,660! If you live in the Scranton, PA area you can click here to learn about the fundraiser garage sale happening this Saturday, August 8th! Our freezer pleaser fundraiser ticket sales end this Friday, August 7th! Or, you can make a tax deductible donation at adopttogether.org/hamiltons.

#6 – Does he know about you guys yet?

The answer is that we don’t know, but probably not. When a child founds out that a family is in process to adopt him or her varies greatly throughout China. We know families whose children were told months before and others who were told a week before, while others were literally told the day of. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency among factors like age, or foster care vs. swi/orphanage. So, we really don’t know what to expect, but it’s highly likely that at this point he does not know. And, we are okay with that. He’s only three and a half so he doesn’t have a good sense of time and could likely feel forgotten or rejected if told that a family is coming for him and then we don’t show up for months. On the other hand, we are praying they will show him the photo book from our care package that we will send at the end of this month, and start preparing him for this change as we get closer to the travel time. We have to go into it with no expectations though, and be prepared for the possibility that he will have only just been told. This is one of the hardest parts of this whole process – anticipating the grief and trauma he will experience as he has to leave behind everything he’s ever known, and build new trust with us.

#7 – Are you taking his big brother and sister with you to China?

The reality is that this trip to China is not a vacation and it’s full of challenges. From the 14-15 hour flight, to the 12 hour time difference, to living out of a hotel for 2+ weeks, sitting in many government offices doing paperwork and having appointments, to adjusting to different foods – there’s a lot to deal with. Add into that the primary focus of the trip – bringing James into our family and starting to get to know him, understand his needs, build trust in our relationship, introducing him to so very many new things, dealing with the trauma and grief he will be experiencing, and there is just a whole lot going on in every way. Our daughter wants to go very badly. And, we think she would do great. It would be tough on her but we know she would rise to the challenge and be amazing with her new little brother. However, she is in school at the time we’ll be traveling and the reality is that when we get home the jet lag is really brutal and many times folks come back sick in one way or another. Either from something they picked up in country or the pure exhaustion and strain of it all. We also know that as a family we need time to ourselves to recover and adjust quietly, in our home together. So that would mean even more time off from school. Andrew, on the other hand, being just six and having some different challenges of his own, would not do well in this scenario and it really wouldn’t be fair to put him through all of that and then be ready to be in the right frame of mind and spirit to start off on the right foot in bonding with his new brother. So as we considered the whole picture, we felt it best to keep the kids at home, continuing in school, being cared for by family and friends, and then we’ll take them out of school for a week when we return.

 

FAQ #5 – So how are things going with the adoption?

Yesterday was a big day as we officially reached the milestone of Dossier TChina!!

What does this mean anyway? Well it means that the many, many documents we’ve been working at authenticating through numerous government offices has been put together with our approved home study and sent to China for translation and review which will ultimately result in us receiving our Letter OAcceptance!

Our complete timeline is spelled out over on this page, but in a nutshell here is what we know…if current processing timeframes continue, we are looking at getting the LOA in 8 weeks, and traveling 6-8 weeks later!! This means that if all things go as planned, we are looking at an October trip to China!

Of course we are thrilled to know that we’ll be able to be with James sooner than expected, but it also means that we have to climb what feels like a gigantic financial mountain in a very short amount of time. I wrote about this in our last post, but the bottom line is that we’ve got a $5200 bill due in 8 weeks (our agency can’t move forward on any other paperwork after LOA until that bill is paid) and then we have about $11,000 more to go to pay the remaining fees and travel costs.

Between now and our trip is a busy summer that will include putting together our first care package for James, our next round of immigration papers, fundraising efforts, the kids changing rooms (and us re-painting!) to get ready for James and Andrew to share a room, learning some Cantonese, and continuing to prepare and learn as much as we can for all that will be coming our way post-adoption.

We’re sending an update request/list of questions to the orphanage this week and are eagerly anticipating word from the families that are visiting in the next few weeks who’ve said they will try to get pictures of him and give us a report back.

On a more personal note…I had my first dream about James last week. It was so vivid. We were at a table, eating a meal, talking and laughing. I woke up with a start and suddenly realized he wasn’t there and I just wanted to cry. I am ready to have our boy home. I don’t know how so many others have endured waits that lasted years. It’s hard to believe that a year from now we’ll likely be talking about James’ first time having s’mores, swimming and running in the sprinkler. Can’t wait!!