Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We're Approved!

YAH! Not that I was concerned at all that they would not accept our application since it was just a preliminary, but this afternoon, we got our very first packet from Americans Adopting Orphans. It has the contract and some other information, with tips on what we can be doing now to speed the process along. Now, we have to rustle up our 700.00 for the program fee and sign the contracts and we will be on our way. The ball is definitely rolling though. I'm excited again. I read a really great post on one the of the adoption forums that I have been trolling on lately. One lady(I assume) was talking about how she was frustrated with the domestic adoption process and even had to give a baby back already once because the B/M came back into the picture. This was of course one the main reasons we opted not to be involved in a domestic adoption. Anyway, she was looking for advice about whether she should switch to an international adoption. One of the main differences in agency domestic adoptions and international adoptions is that domestically you generally are matched with the baby, by the mother, who chooses your family and you get the baby immediately. All you miss is the pregnancy. For an international adoption, you miss about the first year of the child's life. I have been giving that a lot of thought lately. So anyway, one of the people that responded talked about her experience when she adopted her daughter from China. I am just going to quote the comment since it was so good.

Our daughter was 11 and half months at referral and 13 and half at gotcha. Her first birthday was between referral and travel. That was difficult for me. Somehow, her first birthday seemed so symbolic. At the core of my fears, I worried that my daughter would be very independent. I worried that I'd miss out on that baby experience because a 12 month old would be less cuddly. I also worried how spending more time in the orphanage would impact on her. Well, my daughter has been home 9 months and I couldn't be more thrilled with the whole experience. As far as missing out on the baby experience, there is soooo much baby left in these girls. My daughter was like a sponge when she came home. She couldn't get enough closeness, holding, snuggling, rocking etc--and I was more than happy to meet those needs. Even at 14 months, she was very much a like a 6-9 month old baby. Not to scare, you she was alert, interactive, social etc. I definitely have had the opportunity to parent a young baby, baby/toddler mix and now 100% pure toddler (and she's still extremely sweet and cuddly). As far as attachment, it's so hard to predict how each child will respond. However, it's not so simple as younger child guarantees easier process. We were very fortunate as our daughter has attached very well to us.
I realize of course that our experience might be completely different, but it nice to know that it has worked out positively on that front for others out there. Reading through the contracts and the expectation sheet and the requirements tonight, I was thinking "it is more then a decision now", it is a process. We are moving forward towards being parents. It is scary and exciting all rolled into one. I imagine that people who find out that they are pregnant go through this, in a different way, and feel the same sense of reality smash into them every so often. We go through our day, and we talk about the adoption a lot, what we need to do and where we need to be by such and such date, where we are going to get the money for this or that, but the idea of being a parent only crops up every now and then, right now. Today I was talking to a friend of mine about computers, since my company just replaced my desktop with a SWEET new G5 ( you can read about that on my personal blog). Basically, I was telling her that I hoped that this would last me about 4 or 5 years, and she made the comment "about that time your daughter will be getting ready for kindergarten". Wow! That statement hit me upside the head. :-o It is alright though, that is at least 5 years from now.... -- Stephen

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Posted a few photos -- go look!

Why are you still here? There are photo's to be seen -- get to lookin'. Photos include : Oscar - our Rott Fozzie and maggie - our Austriallian Shepherd and Corgi. Me and Laura when we were dating. Way back in 1992. Me as a little boy. ahhhh. Ok I wasn't that cute, but go look anyway. Photo Blog -- Stephen

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It's all a little more real

Tonight Laura and I watched a National Geographic special called "The Lost Girls". WOW. It was really cool. I am probably going to watch it again. The documentary follows a family on their adoption trip to China. You see the orphanages and they talk about why the children are abandoned. You get to see the families "gotcha day". That was really neat. It took a lot of mysticism away from the process. I think that I have always thought that I would see my daughter and I would pick her up and she would instantly love me as much as I love her. (I am not really that niave, but it seems to be the picture that stayed in my head). In the show though, they hand the baby over and the baby is screaming, and really doesn't know what is going on. Oddly, You would think that that would make it more scary, but a few minutes later in the documentary they showed the family again and the baby was in a carrier and fast asleep on the dad's chest. I like my mental picture better, BUT it made it more real to me to see what it is really like. I like real more then I like fantasy... Anyway - it was a great documentary, and I am really glad that we watched it. If you are in the process or even thinking about it, I HIGHLY suggest that you view this documentary. -- Stephen

Monday, August 15, 2005

Home Studies -- ARRGH!

So now that we have chosen our adoption agency and "committed" by sending an application and, more importantly, money we are trying to find a good home study provider that we can use for the adoption. We are not going to be able to use the agency that we chose, since they are in Seattle, WA and we are in California... I am sure you see the dilemma. So we have looked into a couple and I spoke to a wonderful woman named Kathy B. today on the phone from Partners for Adoption. They have a really nicely designed web site. I know that does not mean much as far as the HS process goes, but since I am web programmer by trade, I notice these things. I will also generally overlook a agency that has a poor web site. Anyway, I requested a pack of information from thier site and less then an hour later my phone was ringing. (Also very impressive). She answered a lot of the lingering questions on my mind - dogs, health, religon, remodeling the house, etc. Also she was just very very nice. They are a bit more expensive then I had figured on - about double - but I imagine that is how this whole process will be. If you think your going to pay 1,000 for something, plan on it being 2,000. I am going to wait to decide on any particular agency until I have been assigned a case worker through the agency and discuss with them what my options are, and what they would expect and what they suggest. I think that webster should redefine adoption -- All consuming. -- Stephen

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Learning Process

There is so much to learn about the adoption process. Just when I think I know what to expect, I read an experience that someone else had that shoots down what I was thinking. I am pretty sure that I will learn something next each step of the process. There is a lot of great information out there though. I thought I would post up a couple of links for everyone to check out. China Adoption Forums. - This is a site put together by Mark - Mark adopted a little cutie named Kaylee. Now has a great forum for prospective adopting parents to discuss the processes. http://www.chinaadoptionforums.com/ also - check out his own adoption story -- His Adoption Blog The Adoption Forums at Adoption.com have also been a great resource. http://forums.adoption.com The agency that we are going to be using for our adoption has a GREAT web site, which is one of the reasons we chose to go through them. Americans Adopting Orphans They have a F.A.Q. that can answer most of the daunting questions that you have when you are starting the process. I just realized that all my other bookmarks are on my computer at the office, so I guess that is all I will post on this tonight. This weekend we pretty much opened the can to all our friends. We had told a few people and of course, there is always one or two that start the ball rolling. Now we have people coming up and asking us about it. It is great thought because they are all so supportive and happy for us. We are finding out how many of are friends have also thought about adoption as well. We have this friend of ours, he is a 75 year old chinese man, doesn't speak a word of english. Our chinese is still pretty limited but we can have small conversations with him. I was able to tell him in chinese that we were going to adopt. I didn't know if he would understand, but as soon as i said it his face lit up and he starting bouncing up and down and hugged us. He asked if we were going to adopt a girl or a boy. Where we were going to adopt from in China. He was so happy. I think his reaction was my favorite from all the people that we have told. I will have to try and find a picture of him, he is great... I find that every day that goes by I get more and more excited about the coming process. I know it is going to be hard, but I think that we will really be able to take a hard look at ourselves and get a good look at who the Johnson's really are. :-o We are still searching for a home study provider, so if you have any experience with one in the Southern California, specifically the LA County area, please let me know about your experience. You can just post it as a comment if you want. -- Stephen

Friday, August 12, 2005

Application Mailed

This is a milestone day... There will be many more, but because this is the first milestone, we will hold this one close to our heart. There was no fanfare, no celebration, no nothing. Just slipped the envelope into the mailbox. Milestone acheived.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

To Tell or Not To Tell

This has been the question of the week .... Do we tell our friends and family that we are starting the process of adoption? We have been figuring that we would wait until we got our referral, then we had something real to share with everyone. Of course, then we got to thinking that we would need a few letters of reference for the HS part of the process, so we were going to have to tell a few people. So we have. That got me thinking today though, what if my parents find out from someone else -- or god forbid stumble across this blog... That would suck. So I told my parents today. That was scary. They reacted better then I thought they would which made it easier. Before we started this, I came to grips with the fact that they may not be completely thrilled and that I wasn't going to let that sway our decision. I knew that they would be supportive, eventually, since they always have been. In a way, I am glad we made the decision to tell them, that way we can get all the weirdness out of the way before we really start getting into all the facets of this process. Laura told her mom and her sister today too. They both seemed... happy. I am not sure what I expected from anyone that we told. Pretty much what I got. Mixed reaction, concern over our "need to have our own children", and my favorite question of the day - "Will I ever get a real grandchild?". I know that when we get off the plane from China with our new daughter, that they will be there at LAX, waiting for us, and happy to have thier very first REAL granddaughter home. I think the reaction is mixed, because people don't really see the reality of everything yet.. I mean we don't even see it yet. We know that we are committed to making this happen, but really at this point, nothing has happened. Other then the decisions that have been made over the last month, nothing has really changed. We don't have a pink or purple or blue, or whatever color, line to look at on a pregnancy test, or a little heartbeat to listen to at the doctor's office, no sonogram pictures, no doctor's appt at all. We have an application, filled out, and a check for 100.00 dolllars in a envelope ready to mail. Tomorrow, we mail the application to the Adoption agency -- it will be a good day. -- Stephen

Just a Thought

Well I'm finally posting something. As Stephen said I am new at this so please hang in there with me. On the adoption, like Stephen said we had talked about adoption but I never thought we would be going through the process. I've been reading a lot from people who have been through the process. I think I know what to expect in actually getting a child but I find the idea of getting all the right papers is what I find daunting. To add to Stephen's comment on why there are so many children in the orphanages. I was reading one website that mentioned the fact that these children are in orphanages shows that their mothers loved them. If the child is their 2nd child and the government finds out about the pregnancy they can force the woman to have an abortion. It is also illegal to abandon a child. So a woman is risking a lot to save her baby. A lot of these woman are no different then woman here. They love their children. Women here leave their child in a garbage dumpster but that doesn't mean that every woman in this country does not love her children. So all countries have the same problems. Laura

So many new terms to learn

Being in the computer profession I am very used to the idea of Acronyms and Terms that mean nothing to people outside the profession, now I am realizing that I have to learn a whole new set to be able to read through the information that I find online. So here is a short list of the ones that I have run into and learned ... CCAA = Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs. This is the organization in China that handles the adoption process within China and referres waiting children to waiting parents. Your Dossier is submitted to these people. DTC = Dossier To China. This is a big step in the process. When you get here it means most of your stateside work is done. (Home Study, paper chasing, etc etc.) Now your dossier is sent to China and you wait and wait and wait. DOA = Date of Adoption. This one really confused me, and I must admit frightened me a little. :) SN = Special Needs. Children who are special needs have a physical or emotional problem that will require more time and effort. I.E. Downs Syndrome, Retardation, Deformities, Emotional abuse. Parents who are willing to take on a SN child will have the adoption process expedited. SW = Social Worker. HS = Home Study. This is where your life is put under a microscope by a SW to determine if you will make good parents and if the whole adoption thing is really for you. DOT = Date of Travel. LID = Log In Date. This is the date that the CCAA has officially logged in your dossier. From here you wait for your referral. I171H = Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Adoption for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. Obviously a government thing which basically US federal approval to adopt foreign-born child. This must be obtained before you can submit a dossier to China. Once you obtain one it is valid for 18 months and you must complete your adoption within that validity period. If you do not complete within that period then you have start over. USCIS = US Customs and Immigration Services. These are the people who play the role of the CCAA on the American side of things. They will handle the citizenship of your child and other issues related to bringing your baby home. WC = Waiting Child. These are all the thousands of babies and older children who are waiting for a forever family. Gotcha Date = The day your baby and you are united. This is the day every one looks for. There are A LOT more, but I can not think of them right now. I will try to be aware when I use one on a post to explain what it means. -- Stephen

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

So where to begin

We have been thinking and talking about adoption, as a concept, for a long time. In the last while we have really been getting serious about it. What we need to do, what we need get, who we should tell, etc. Funny thing is that, while we have this VERY public venue to post all this information to, we have chosen not to tell any of our friends or family. We are thinking that we will wait to tell any one until after we get the picture of our new baby. Then it is kind of like telling them that we are pregnant and showing them the sonogram picture. We have told my brother, but only cause I needed him to profread some of the areas of the site. We were talking about the whole thing at Starbucks this afternoon, and it occurred to me that our baby might actually be born right now, or at least conceived. That is an interesting thought, since when you're pregnant, you know. We don't. There is a level of excitement and some hope, a little strange though. I actually almost feel protective already. Let me explain, when I think that our baby may actually be in the womb, or already born, I think - they better be taking good care of her. The reality though is that our baby, is probably right now going through the worst part of her life. If she is in the womb, then her parents are probably going through the trauma of realizing that they can't keep the baby, since maybe they already have too many, or for whatever reason. I am aware that most girls are abandonded since the family wants a boy to carry on the line, or to help out with the family in the later years. So that gets me to thinking that in all likelyhood, the family will not know that they are abandoning the baby until after it is born. As horrible as it sounds, I kind of hope that this is the case for our baby. While I can not imagine the mentality of someone who could dump a child for no other reason then the gender, I have to believe that if they do not know that they are going to abandon the baby then at the very least during the 9 months that she is in the womb she can still experience good emotions from her mother. I am not sure that that makes any sense but that is what is going through my mind. It must be very difficult for the birth mother to give up the baby, especially if it is just to try for a boy... That makes me even more sad to think about all the babies born in the US to teenage girls, or to crack heads, or anyone else who doesn't realize what a treasure they have growing inside of them. -- Stephen

The long road ahead

First off I have to say that this is a little strange. My wife and I have been talking about adopting since we got married 13 years ago. However, it was really never a serious discussion until about 5 years ago. Since that time, I have been researching adoption online, what is involved, what it takes, what it costs. It is all a little daunting. So here we are, declaring our feelings to the world and letting you in and watch as we go through this process together. I feel a little like I'm starting a new reality show, and maybe that is true. I think that this is important though, even if there was no money involved. If I had been able to watch someone go through this, then maybe this would not seem so scary. There are a lot of places online where you can read a recounting of people's adoption stories, but this will be different. We, hopefully, will be posting to this alot. Certainly, at every stage of the process. You will be able to see all the up's and the down's. You will get to read about our feelings and emotions through each step of the process. You will probably hear more from me then Laura as I am the more "experienced" blogger, and I just like to talk more, but I will be on her to be active here and eventually she will be posting more. So anyway - sit back and enjoy the journey. -- Stephen