the journey, part 1

sometimes i forget that our family is a bit different.   in all honestly, i oftentimes forget that my little girls look different than me.  it isn't until it is just me and them walking somewhere and we are getting "the look" from people that i realize it is not the norm.  it is not a bad look, just one of "i can't figure that out...."  or the look of  "hmmm, i wonder what their story is..."

it's true, there is a story.  and i forget that too.  i fail to remember that we have been on two huge adventures and by golly, not everyone has done what we have done!  it seems so normal to me.  i don't think about the fact that we are an anamoly.  that people look at our family and have lots of questions.  that we are THE face of adoption for lots of the people we come into contact with.

and so with that comes a decent number of people who ask me questions about the process.  some of them are asking just out of curiosity but others out of a genuine desire to know how it all works.  and most of the time, i fall all over my words trying to explain.  i can't get it out, i say stupid things like, "it's no big deal."  (uh, hello sherlock, it's a big deal.)  and in general walk away thinking i did a horrible job of introducing adoption.  and what if, just maybe, that was a family who really and truly were pondering adoption.   probably not, just going with the odds.  but that is not for me to decide.  it is for me to be an advocate and to tell our story.

so....i finally got smart and decided to put it on the blog!  i know, i'm slow.  but i am seriously pushing 40 so there's my excuse.  and with no further ado...here's part 1 of the journey

there are a number of foundational decisions that you have to make before walking more than 3 steps into the adoption process.  for starters, domestic vs. international.  i am not going to get into the pros and cons of that discussion.  i am just going with what i know and that is obviously international.  so there you have it.  let's talk overseas adoption.

the second decision is the country.  there are many, many countries that are open to adoption.  historically, asia has been the hotbed for international adoptions.  but then came the eastern european countries and most recently the african countries.  south america has been in and out of the adoption scene along with some newcomers like haiti and a few others.  choosing a country is a huge decision. you are deciding on a second culture that will be part of your family.  and probably most of all, you are potentially deciding on a race that you will be introducing into your family and that has all sorts of things that go along with it.

oftentimes a family is particularly drawn to a certain country.  other times it is more of a heady decision.  either way, it is a biggie.   if you don't have a specific heart calling to a certain country than i would suggest you do some research.  every country has different guidelines.  of course, we know china the best.  and in order to adopt from china there are guidelines that must be met regarding your age, your marriage, your finanical status, your weight (yep!), your family size and on and on.  that particular country has oodles of hoops.  other countries, not so much. but you need to know if you even qualify for a particular country before getting your heart set.

another thing to investigate is the length of travel needed.  for many eastern european countries at least one parent is required to stay there for up to 3 months.  there are some families where this would not even be an option (like ours).  other countries, like china, require one 2 week stay.  in addition there are countries that have a set time (china) and other countries (african nations in general) that have no set time.  you go over and you have only a loose guess as to when you are coming home with your child.  again, things to consider.   there are many, many families who adopt from all over the world, but chances are your family will have certain needs that will rule out specific countries.

also a decision is that of the age of the child you want to adopt.   you will need to give a range that you are interested in.  for example, for our two adoptions we said 20 - 36 months.  we knew we didn't want a baby but we also knew we didn't want an older child.  one major factor in this decision is the kids you currently have in your family.  for us, we did not want to interrupt the birth order and so always requested children younger than our youngest.  but other families like to 'fill in the gap' or are generally drawn to older children.   it is a completely personal decision and each age range of children has various pros and  cons.

boy or girl.  generally families have a leaning one way of the other.  but if you don't, then you can simply request an age range and leave the gender out of the equation.  oftentimes countries will have more of one gender than another based on deep cultural mentalities that influence child abandonment.  most well known is probably that of china's girls.  so if you have a particular gender in mind, this may influence your country of choice.

and last but not least is the number of kids you are interested in adopting.  more often that not, this is a simple answer.  one.  : )  but more and more common is families adopting whole sibling groups, particularly from african nations where an entire family of children is available for adoption because of AIDS related deaths of both of their parents.  if you have a heart for a sibling group than certainly this will influence your country.

so there you have it...the foundational decisions that must be made before moving forward.  if you are in the process of these decisions i would suggest researching online and if you can, talking to other families who have adopted from your potential country(ies) of choice.  they will know best the nuances of adoption for that particular country and more importantly what it is like to raise a child from that country in america, specifically if another race is involved.

tomorrow's post...choosing your adoption agency.