Our Adoption Story
I first heard this verse when our youngest daughter was about two and a half (2004). I know I'd heard it many times before, but this was the first time I really thought about what it meant. We were at a Baptist camp being spiritually refreshed, while enjoying a week of relaxation and sunshine before embarking on our first year of homeschooling. I was nervous. Were we doing the right thing? Was this really what God had called us to do? The words of this verse calmed me and gave me a hopeful heart.
Fast forward through five years of homeschooling and we found ourselves in the middle of more of God's marvelous plans for us.
Our adoption story is not a typical story. We are blessed with four wonderful children. Most people see us as having our quiver full, and it is -- or was anyway. What many people don't know though is that in among those four healthy happy children were three miscarriages and a postpartum hemorrhage requiring a hospital stay and surgery after baby number three. After a possible prognosis of no more children, our precious fourth child (daughter number three) arrived almost three years after our third. We were thrilled! Life was full and very busy. As the children grew a little bigger, and a little older, my thoughts were often drawn to adoption websites, and eventually adoption blogs. The stories of waiting, of heartbreak, of waiting some more, and then indescribable joy had me riveted, but then what drew me even more was the realization how many children do not have a home, do not have families who love them for who they are and who they would become if given the opportunity.
The first time I cautiously approached Murray (the Engineer) with thoughts of adoption, he stopped me dead in my tracks. We were busy and our lives were full. I did not ask again, but I did often tell him of things I had seen and read on a particular day. Then one day in about October of 2008, Murray asked me if I was still interested in adopting. Once again, he stopped me dead in my tracks. Was I? I did much soul searching, reading, praying, and finally handed it all over to God.
Time and again during my time of prayer and soul searching Jeremiah 29:11 was revealed to me in different ways. In December, I began the first steps of looking at countries and agencies. I made inquiries with several agencies and waited. We heard back from very few which enabled us to narrow it down a bit further. Our hearts were drawn to the Philippines. Not only did we already sponsor two Compassion children from the Philippines and knew two missionary families who were serving there, but after reading a bit more about the country and its people, we were already falling in love with a child(ren) we hadn't even met yet.
In early January, I called what would become our adoption agency and we made a decision on a social worker too. We couldn't meet with our social worker until Feb. 4. In the meantime, our agency and our social worker sent us paperwork to get us started. Paperwork seemed to become part of the routine of our lives for what seemed like months. At the same time, things simply fell neatly into place. There were little bumps in the road like getting fingerprinting done twice because after finding out that it could take up to three months to receive the snail mail style, we learned that the digital results would come back in about 72 hours. We opted to pay for fingerprinting again and got the digitals done. We also saw a psychologist whom we didn't need to see. As part of the Philippines requirements, we had to have psychometric testing done and realized after we had been to a local psychologist, that we had to see one of the few in Canada that were approved by the Philippines. Soooo, off to Stratford we went for more brain picking :o). The nice thing was, this time we didn't have to bring the kids, so we enjoyed a day away -- well sort of :o).
Prior to our psychologist visits, we took what every adoptive parent in Canada is required to take in order to be able to foster or adopt a child. PRIDE training. Parent Resource Information Development and Education. It is two full (and I mean full!) weekends that covers the very large spectrum of fostering and adoption. On one hand it's very emotionally draining. It's incredible what some children go through just to survive -- and we wonder why they're such a mess?! On the other hand, it is very realistic! Adoption is NOT a walk in the park where a family, once bringing their child home, lives happily ever after. The training prepares you both mentally and emotionally for the sorrows (oh yes there are) and the joys that lie ahead. You will be your child's strongest advocate -- and the PRIDE training enables you to be the best parent you can be to that child through preparation and resources outside of the family when needed.
We signed off on our homestudy on July 22, 2009. It took longer than we had planned because of Imagine Adoption's fiasco and the introduction of a new style of writing documents for homestudy submissions. Our awesome social worker put in long hours and many rewrites before our homestudy was considered acceptable, but on August 27, 2009, we received word that it was now sitting with the Ontario government.
We settled in for the first wait. We were told it would be minimum six months, but to our surprise, we received our Ontario approval for one child or a sibling group of two children with minor correctable special needs, age six and under on Jan 5, 2010. Now our dossier had to be sent off to the Philippines to be approved by the ICAB (Inter Country Adoption Board). It left Canada on January 14 and ICAB approved it on February 27, 2010. We were excited to have it approved so quickly! Now it was time to settle in for the 18 month to two year wait. The Philippines is very careful and very thorough with their matching process as they are a member of the Hague Adoption Convention, thus the looooong wait.
So while our dossier sat in the pile waiting to be matched, we were keeping busy on the home front, praying, planning, dreaming... On June 22nd, our adoption director called us to ask us if we would consider a sibling group of three girls.
Whoa! This was a surprise and a shock all around! We learned that these three little girls were on a waiting children's list (also called the Special Homes Finding list) that goes out occasionally to all the countries who do adoptions from the PI. They were healthy, it's just that they were a sibling group of three girls. Murray and I had a few minor concerns that we talked over with our adoption director. In the end we agreed to think and pray about it.
The next day we called our adoption director at our agency to let them know they could pursue it further for us. We had seen God's hand throughout this entire process so far, so who were we to say no to God now? We stepped out in faith believing that if God had planned these girls for us, he would work it out, but at the same time, we were thinking that there would be enough other people indicating an interest in them that would likely be a better match. We didn't hear anything for almost three weeks, and had pretty much figured that the girls were going to another family, but on July 9, our director called to tell us the ICAB was holding the girls for us! Wow! Were we excited!! Even our only boy was pumped to know that he was going to be the only boy in a house full of girls.
We were able to get a little more information on the girls and even some more photos. We were smitten!! We sent the girls' medicals off to a staff of doctors in Minnesota who specialize in international adoption medicals. Dr. J's report was back in less than 24 hrs. She was pleased with their health and how well they were doing considering their history. (Please note: the girls history is theirs alone and not ours to tell). She made some recommendations for us to pursue not only before, but after they come home.
Next our documents were reviewed by the girls' social worker. After a few initial questions by her, she approved them, and we received the official approval from ICAB. It was the next step where we faced a big bump in the road.
Our official document to the Ontario government stated that we were approved (by our social worker here) to adopt a child or sibling group of two children with minor correctable specials needs, age six and under. We now needed to make some changes to our document. The first changes were deemed unacceptable by the Ontario government worker as she felt the girls had more than minor special needs. One, they were a sibling group of three, and two, based on their history and the medical history of our middle daughter (cannot disclose), they should be considered special needs. She wanted to know how we would deal with all these things, so we answered a whole list of questions, only to be presented with another list of questions, and some more arguments that the girls were considered special needs. Eventually our responses answered everything she wanted to know, but then an issue of age was raised. In Ontario, there must be eighteen months between your youngest biological child and your oldest adopted child, and you may not adopt out of birth order. There is only one year and ten days between our youngest biological daughter and our oldest adopted daughter. She wanted to know how we would manage that. Hmmmm, let's see. One, they're not babies, and two, last time we checked a woman can give birth to children less than a year apart. Apparently there were no more arguments from her because on November 1, 2010, we received our new Ontario approval.
Finally, on November 19, 2010, we signed the consent form to enable us to bring our daughters home! We had hoped they would have their medicals in mid-January, so that we would be flying to the Philippines sometime in late February, early March. However, God's timing is not our timing, and their medicals were not scheduled until March 21, 2011. In the end their medicals each took longer than planned as each one of them needed some extra testing on certain things. Over two more months went by. Our house was looking like it would be finished before we would ever get the call, but finally on May 19, 2011 the phone rang with the great news that we could travel!! Things were a flurry of activity after that and barely one week later, on May 26, we were boarding a plane bound for Manila. We arrived in Manila on the 27th. Tried to catch up on some sleep and boarded another plane on the 28th headed for our girls' island. When we landed at the airport they were there to meet us.
We spent about an hour and a half with them and their caregivers at our hotel. From there they went back to the orphanage, and we tried to catch up on some more sleep. We met them at church again on Sunday. Enjoyed some time with their orphanage family at the founder's home and then brought them to the hotel with us. From that time on they were ours. All that had to happen was that we and their social worker had to sign off on documents stating that they were legally ours. That happened on Monday May 30th.
We spent the next 12 days getting to know them at a resort in Boracay. We left the Philippines on June 11, 2011 and arrived back in Canada on June 11. Then began the fun times of becoming a family of nine.
If we've learned anything through this process of growing our family, it's patience and perseverance. And most importantly that Jeremiah 29:11 is very true and very much an integral part of our lives.
The following are the links from the early days after our first meeting through the first week at home:
The First Night
At the Orphanage and Signing Off
Fun in the Sun
At the Ocean
One Week Ago