Monthly Archives: April 2016

August, Three Months Home

Now that August has been home for three months, things feel like they are more settled. August is generally happy, bossy, and playful. He is strongly attached to me, to the point that he expresses separation anxiety if I move too far away from him.  However, he is starting to show an attachment to Matt. Unlike Leo’s experience with me, August never disliked Matt. He was simply indifferent to him. Now he asks about Papa when he is at work and will interact with him once he’s home. August loves his siblings and has definite preferences there, too. He will often chant “Vincent, Gregor, Max,” his three favorites. He will play with Leo, but as Leo is closest in age, he is the competition. He holds Mary Evelyn at a distance. Perhaps because she likes to mother the youngest boys, he sees her as trying to take my place.

IMG_6199August’s activity level has calmed down somewhat. His first two months, he was constantly climbing up on furniture to jump down, running everywhere, and non-stop action. With the warmer weather, we have been making regular visits to the playground. I think that the nannies must have tried to restrain him from exploring because of his leg, so we were getting a bit of the animal-let-out-of-a-cage effect. It’s also possible that he’s understanding our house rules a little better. I try to make sure he has a little bit of outside time daily and give him ways to let out some energy. His tantrums have really tapered off. He is still short-tempered, but feeling secure and being able to express himself has really made things more peaceful around here. Well, not actually anywhere near peaceful, but there’s a lot less screaming.

August’s verbal development has really exploded this month. He is in the stage where he parrots anything anyone says. This can be comical when he repeats Leo, who still cannot say most consonants. Leo has taught August to say “uh uh uh uh oo oo” (chugga chugga choo choo) when he sees a train. He is now putting together three and four word sentences independently, instead of only using phrases that we say to him regularly. His Chinese is now mostly gone. The last hold outs are “hen hao” for very good, and “guo guo” for doggy or any animal. He is equally likely to call any dog or animal Pudgy, after our pug. Max has been practicing the Imperial March from Star Wars for a band concert. It seems to have gotten stuck in August’s head, because he wanders around humming it for a good portion of every day.

We have been out and about more this past month. Some good friends came up to visit. IMG_6253August was outgoing and friendly with them, but still showed a preferential attachment to us. We visited the local children’s science museum where he enjoyed playing in the water and riding on a car. Last week we went to the zoo for the first time. He thought it was the greatest thing. August was happy to look at every animal we stopped to see. When we moved on, he would clap and say “More guo-guo! More Pudgy!” When we stopped to see the gorillas, he was thrilled to see one drinking water. “Ma, Pudgy drink wa-der!” Our zoo is really large, so we only saw a fraction of the offerings. We’re looking forward to taking more trips over the summer since loved it so much.

We have finally finished making the rounds of medical visits. There were no surprises–his health is the same as was represented in his file. He is a very healthy boy with a complex leg malformation. While August has been walking fine on his own, he recently stopped walking. It seems likely that his recent growth spurt has caused his shorter leg to now be too short for him to comfortably walk on. His leg issues will eventually be corrected surgically, but for now we have gotten him a walker to help him maintain his mobility. Ever uncooperative, August refused to stand up at the medical equipment supply store but once we got him home, he took to the walker immediately. We have a lot of stairs in our house, so he still does a lot of scooting. It will be very useful as he grows too heavy for us to carry and as he gets older and more independent.

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Boy or Girl? Talking about the adoptive parent preference for girls

Welcome to my 100th post! This is chapter seven in the Mine In China book, an updated version of this previous controversial blog post. You might also want to read Why You Should Adopt A Boy.

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When you and your spouse started discussing adoption, I’ll bet there is one thing you agreed on right away– that a little girl would be perfect for your family. Wondering how I know? Because 90% of adoptive families feel the same way. Although everyone has their own personal reason for choosing to adopt a girl, they are usually surprised to hear that everyone else wants to adopt a girl, too. Adoptive parents overwhelming prefer girls to boys to the extent that 75% of the children in China waiting to be matched with a family are boys. One major agency shared that for every forty dossiers they have logged in for families wanting to adopt a girl they will have only one family open to a boy. That’s a huge imbalance! Another agency shared that when they post a girl to their photo listing they will receive an average of twenty-five inquiries about her while most boys on their photo listing receive zero to one inquiries. It takes a boy three times as long to find a family as it does a girl. For this reason, there is a saying among advocates and agency personnel that “boys wait for families while families wait for girls.”

Maybe you are thinking “But everyone thinks that girls are abandoned in China, so that’s probably why people who adopt from China are thinking girl.” Nope. This preference holds true whether you are talking domestic infant adoption, adoption from foster care, or adopting internationally from any country in the world. A few countries have tried to counter the girl preference problem by setting criteria for requesting a girl. If you are a European parent, you aren’t allowed to choose the gender of the child you adopt. But for the most part, if you are an American couple who wants to adopt, you can choose to say that you will only adopt a girl, and most will do so.

Why is it that adoptive families prefer girls? I have been active on adoption groups and reading blogs for quite a while now, and the one theme that really keeps popping up is that women really want to have a daughter. Because women are usually the one in the couple who suggests adding to the family, they will often drive the adoption discussion. Don’t men want sons? Well, maybe, but perhaps they feel some inward reluctance to have a son who isn’t genetically related pass on the family name. Or it is also possible that men feel if they adopt a girl they get to take a pass on more of the responsibilities. One woman shared that her husband felt that by adopting a girl he wouldn’t have to worry about getting a call that his teenage son was in jail, until a neighbor pointed out that a daughter might tell him that she’s pregnant! And of course, if you are adopting as a single mom, you probably feel better equipped to parent a girl than a boy.

Perhaps the two most common reasons given are that a woman has one or more boys but has always wanted a daughter, or has a single daughter who really wants a sister. These are perfectly reasonable desires, and adoption can certainly be a way to fulfill those desires while giving a family to a girl who doesn’t have one, as long as you keep in mind that you will be adopting a girl who is a unique individual and may or may not meet your expectations. After all, sometimes sisters are best friends and sometimes they are worst enemies. Not all daughters have any interest in wearing skirts accessorized with bows as large as their head and taking ballet lessons. These sorts of family dynamic issues are faced by all families, biological or adoptive.

I’m not at all surprised when women who have two or three boys decide to pursue adoption to have a daughter. What surprises me is how persistently people will choose a girl regardless of their family composition. While everyone has their own reason for deciding to adopt, people give the same justifications over and over. Here is my attempt at a chart so you can see the trends:

 

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It really makes me scratch my head. Why are bedrooms and hand-me-downs an issue if you have girls at home but not boys? Why is it so important for a girl to have a sister but not a boy to have a brother? Why do families with several girls say that they wouldn’t know what to do with a boy, while families with several boys don’t seem to worry about the learning curve for a girl? It’s easier for me to think that the reason no one dreamed of adopting a little boy from China, or adopts because they want a son, is because the general perception is that there are far more girls available for adoption than boys. When you see all the adoptive families with girls, you assume that’s what is available and maybe more families with only daughters would adopt a boy if they knew that boys need families too.

girlMany people share that a major motivation for them to adopt was an awareness of the discrimination against women in other countries. People who are adopting now grew up hearing news stories about China’s one child policy and the widespread abandonment of unwanted girls. They feel they can make a difference in one girl’s life by adopting one of those “unwanted” baby girls and letting her know that she is wanted and loved. I’ve heard women say “I’ve known I wanted to adopt a little girl from China since I was six (or nine or eleven) years old!” They feel that girls raised in China will face discrimination and a life of hardship if they are not adopted. This is usually based on an outdated view of attitudes in China. In fact, an agency representative shared that one of their partnership orphanages has a waiting list of over two hundred Chinese couples who want to adopt a healthy baby girl.

While I can understand this point of view, I am uncomfortable with how much adoptive parents discriminate against boys in their desire to make up for the discrimination against girls. In countries where there is a preference for boys, it is unlikely that a boy raised in an orphanage will have any advantages in life. For many of these boys, their lack of education and family connections will cause them to always struggle. They very well may not be able to have their own family because they cannot hope to be well off or well-connected enough to attract a wife. Any orphan is at a disadvantage and all of them need homes.

To make things yet more uncomfortable, let’s look at another reason no one would dream of listing as motivation–race. Let’s assume that a woman dreams of a daughter. Little dresses and giant bows, tea parties and dolls. But what about when she grows up? Well, there’s always the big white wedding dress. The one thing you can count on is that children will grow up. What do you think of when your internationally adopted child grows to adulthood? Let’s look at the most broad stereotypes out there. The sort of two-dimensional characterizations that show up on TV shows and comedy routines.

Eastern Europe:
Men- tall, alcoholic

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Women- tall, great supermodels

Africa:
Men- tall, violent, uneducated
Women- tall, dignified, gorgeous, smart

Asia:
Men- short, nerdy, effeminate
Women- petite, sexy, submissive, smart

Latin America:
Men- short, lazy, sexist, uneducated
Women- sexy, fiery personality

Caribbean:
Men- lazy, druggies, uneducated
Women- sexy, bikinis

How can so many negative stereotypes of men compete with the attractiveness (pun intended) of the women? And even leaving aside the topic of race, boys are perceived as more violent, more impulsive, not as good in school, and more likely to have autism. Perhaps these fears keep people away from boys while the thought that girls would be more compliant (a loud ha ha from those of us who have girls) makes a girl sound safer. I heard one adoptive parent say that they were afraid a boy would be more likely to sexually abuse one of their biological children, even though they wanted to adopt a child under the age of two! Girls can also act out sexually if they have been abused, behave violently, not perform as well in school–really any of those negative stereotypes. I understand that adoption can be scary because of the unknowns, but choosing a girl over a boy will not rule out any of the possible negative outcomes. The idea that girls are somehow easier than boys is just wrong. There is no easy way out in parenting!

Okay, so the gender preference begins to become understandable. But then I become confused yet again when you start to bring in the religious angle. While the media has recently discovered the Christian adoption movement and several controversial articles have been written on the subject, it is impossible to deny that many people cite religious reasons for adopting. Over and over again people say that they felt called to adoption in light of James 1:27, which reads “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” One might assume that those adopting out of religious motivation would be less biased against adopting a boy. To the contrary, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone say “God called us to adopt a little girl”, I’d have enough money to fund another adoption!

Now, I should say upfront that in my religious tradition, we talk a lot about discernment, but it is less common than in the evangelical churches to discern a clear specific message from God. My husband and I felt that God was calling us to adopt, but we did not get a lightning bolt message regarding race, age, or gender. I do believe that God calls people to specific tasks, but when I look at the sheer number of people called to adopt a little girl, I have to wonder why God isn’t calling more people to adopt boys or older children or children with big special needs? The cynical side of me thinks that some of these people are reading their own desires into God’s message because it is hard for me to understand why God would call families with three, four or five girls to wait in line for months to adopt a girl when there are so many boys waiting for families. When Jesus said to welcome the children in His name, I’m sure that included boys, who are “the least of these” in the world of adoption.

boyBut in charity, I remind myself that it is always easy to obey God’s call when it aligns with your desires. Perhaps the families being called to adopt boys, older children, and children with big special needs are trying to ignore their calling. I know that when we first considered adoption, a girl is exactly what sprang to mind for us. And with three boys and a lone daughter, who could blame us? But when we learned how long the boys wait for families, it tugged at our hearts because we love our boys so much. Yes, we wanted a daughter, but we already have one. Was having another really so important? After a lot of prayer and discussion (both between ourselves and our children), and yet more discernment, we decided that we couldn’t choose when we had biological children, so why should it matter when you adopt? Adoption, for us, was about welcoming a child into our family, not about trying to create our personal idea of the perfect family.

I don’t expect all families to make the same decision as us, or to come to the same conclusions. I’m not trying to berate those who adopted or hope to adopt a girl, nor am I trying to make you feel bad. This is not about asking people to justify their choice or to choose a boy out of guilt. It’s about asking people to take a moment to consider their reasons for marking only the girl box. I hope that families, and especially women, who are usually the driving force behind the adoption decision, will take a good look at their motivations. Maybe a few more people will realize that they have a place in their homes and hearts for a boy after all. Perhaps after consideration more people will be open to either gender. Why limit yourself? Check both boxes and see what referral you receive. If you are adopting because you hear God’s call, then try leaving that opening to see if he is using this tug on your heart to lead you to your son. Consider the CHILD, not the gender. You can always decline a referral, so you’ve really got nothing to lose. If you take a chance, you might realize all of the fun that a boy can bring to your life!

Additional Resources

Snips & Snails v. Sugar & Spice: Gender Preferences in Adoption

New York Times: Black babies, boys less likely to be adopted

Love Without Boundaries: The adoption of boys

Love Without Boundaries: What about the boys?

Personal experience- A family with two boys writes about deciding to be open to either gender

Personal experience- A family with three girls writes about deciding to be open to either gender

Considering Genetic Testing for Your Child

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When most parents start down the special needs adoption path, they are thinking of a straightforward medical condition. However, it has become very common for adoptive parents to end up consulting with a geneticist regarding their child once the child is home. This could come from a referral from one of their medical providers, usually because the child has more than one medical diagnosis such as a cleft palate with heart murmur. At other times, the genetics consultation is the result of months or years of the parent advocating for their child through multiple doctors because they have the feeling that there is something more to their child’s condition than their current diagnosis. Even known diagnoses, such as dwarfism (skeletal dysplasia) or muscular dystrophy, can lead to a genetics consultation because the diagnosis has multiple types. Genetic testing to determine exactly which type your child has can be helpful for knowing what sort of health concerns to expect in the future.

When you have an appointment with a geneticist, you will be asked an extensive amount of questions about your child’s family history. This part of the appointment is typically very short if you have adopted from China. The geneticist will look over your child’s medical file and give your child an exam. The geneticist will be familiar with physical markers for syndromes or conditions so the physical exam will include things like looking for pitting behind the ears, measuring the spacing between their eyes, and examining the length of fingers and toes. This webpage from a hospital gives a general overview of what to expect.

At the end of the exam, the geneticist will probably recommend genetic testing if he or she feels the medical history and exam give enough indication of a genetic anomaly to warrant it. Here are some of the benefits of moving forward with genetic testing:

  • Being eligible for additional services for your child because of having a diagnosis.
  • Knowing to run additional tests or be on the look out for other conditions which are associated with the genetic anomaly which your child was diagnosed with.
  • Understanding exactly which type of a known medical condition your child has to better provide care or know how the condition will progress.
  • The feeling of peace from knowing that your child has a genetic anomaly which explains odd symptoms which did not seem to be related to known medical conditions.
  • Knowing the odds of the condition being passed on to your child’s children so that can be taken under consideration in the future when your child begins a family.

Questions you might want to ask as you make this decision:

  • How would having a documented diagnosis help my child?
  • Are there any ways having a diagnosis would not be beneficial?
  • If the reason for suggesting testing is to look for additional organs or systems which might be affected (i.e., additional testing for kidney involvement), could the other organs or systems be tested without a genetic testing result?
  • Take some time to consider your feelings about the results of the testing. What are your feelings when you imagine being told that your child does have a chromosomal anomaly?
  • If the testing would not change any treatment or therapies which your child is receiving, would it be better to wait until your child is old enough to be a part of the decision to test?
  • Check with your insurance to see exactly what will and will not be covered. If comprehensive testing is not covered, is there a cheaper test which would be more affordable out of pocket? Be aware that sometimes the testing is covered but not the genetic counseling that comes at the appointment where you are given the result.

There are two main types of testing which the geneticist might recommend: the FISH and CMA.

FISH is fluorescence in situ hybridization, a test which probes a specific region of a chromosome. This test would be used if there is a strong indicator of a particular medical condition. It does not detect all variations. To give an example, if your child has a cleft palate and heart condition the FISH test might be given to see if there is a microdeletion at 22q11.2, known as DiGeorge Syndrome. If your child actually has a microduplication, the FISH test would not find it, so you would only have ruled out DeGeorge but still not have an accurate diagnosis. However, because insurance coverage for genetic testing is hit or miss, many people will choose the FISH test over CMA because it is much less expensive.

CMA is chromosomal microarray testing, and it is comprehensive chromosomal testing which detects most microduplications and microdeletions. While FISH testing will cost a couple hundred dollars, microarray testing will run well over $1000, so it is vital that you check your insurance coverage before choosing which test, if any, to run. One parent recommended Courtagen for genetic testing and Enlis Genomics for interpretation as an affordable alternative to testing through your local hospital.

CBP_chemist_reads_a_DNA_profileSo are there any negative aspects to genetic testing which you should consider before moving forward? While the parents I asked overwhelming found their experience to be positive, I did speak with one mother, who wished to remain anonymous, who regretted the decision to get genetic testing for their son. I feel that her story contained three general negative aspects which could happen to anyone, so I will break it down into those elements.

Pressure Tactics– The mother I spoke with said that she and her husband were skeptical that genetic testing would gain any benefit for their son. They felt that his needs were being met through his current therapies and that an additional label would change anything. The geneticist pushed for testing, saying that if a microdeletion was found, they would do additional heart and kidney testing because defects were associated with the most likely microdeletion. When asked if they could simply do the additional noninvasive tests now, the geneticist said that no referrals would be made without genetic testing results. However, once the testing came back indicating a microduplication, the geneticist said that since the boy was generally healthy and had no indications that other organs were involved there was no need for additional testing. As this was the sole reason testing was agreed to, the mother was understandable angry at how the geneticist had manipulated them.

Labeling– While most parents find that having a confirmed diagnosis opens the door to more therapies for their child, sometimes the opposite can be true. The anonymous mother told me that when they had a referral for a possible minor issue for her son, the specialist refused to order a simple test, saying that her son’s microdeletion explained everything, therefore there was no need to pursue the issue further. Many parents will face similar battles if they advocate for therapies for their child which professionals characterize as pointless because they think the child will not progress any further due to the limitations of their diagnosis. The positive side to this is that for parents who have been exhausted by constant therapy sessions, a diagnosis can give them permission to feel that it is okay to stop or take a break from therapies which did not seem to help their child progress.

Another important piece of information to keep in mind is that this testing is relatively new. You might be informed that your child’s microdeletion or microduplication is “rare” but no one really knows how often it is found within the general population. This article from the Guardian looks at how common genetic mutations are. Testing is recommended for children who have markers for chromosomal anomalies but when testing turns up a result, the biological parents will be tested as well. Almost always one of the biological parents will have the same chromosomal anomaly but with few or no symptoms. The Unique foundation is a good source of information for you to learn exactly what is known and what is unknown about your child’s diagnosis. Remember that your child is not limited because of a label. It only identifies some challenges your child might face.

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The Eugenics Talk– After being given some useful information explaining her son’s genetic test results, the anonymous mom reports that she was given what basically amounted to an eugenics decree. The geneticist told her that her son “must understand there can be no unplanned pregnancy” and that “when he and his partner decide to start a family they MUST come and see us in genetics first. They will have to use IVF and implant only pre-screened embryos so that there is no chance this will be passed on.” The mother wanted to make it clear that this was not a recommendation by the geneticist. The geneticist had used absolute language making it clear that this was not optional. Characterizing her son’s diagnosis as relatively mild, the mother said she was horrified and saddened when she realized that the geneticist felt the worst thing that could happen is that her son might have a child like himself.

I would like to point out that this mother’s geneticist was not acting in accord with the National Society of Genetic Counselors Code of Ethics. A geneticist is supposed to merely give you information, not coerce parents into a decision or make decisions for them. It would be normal for a genetic counselor to inform you that your child can choose to use assisted fertility techniques to avoid having a child with the same genetic anomaly, but it should only be presented as an option, not a requirement. While the parents I spoke to overwhelmingly found their genetics consultation to be a positive experience, it probably isn’t unusual to run into at least one of the negative aspects I mentioned above. Being aware of that possibility before your appointment can help you be prepared so that you can be the best advocate for your child if you encounter one of them.

In the end, the decision to have a genetics consultation and to possibly have genetic testing done is a very personal one. I hope that this post has given you the information needed to know what to expect as well as to make these serious decisions with confidence that you are making the right choice for your child and your family.

When You’re Asking the Internet About Adoption

This is the updated version of my previous blog post of the same name, which appears as the third chapter in the Mine In China book. The pictures do not appear in the book.

This book is a compilation of all the things I wish I’d known when I was starting out. Much of it is the collected wisdom I’ve learned from other adoptive parents on the internet. The internet is absolutely one of the best and most educational tools you have as you start your adoption journey. Anything I include in this book will quickly become dated, as China is constantly tinkering with their process. Processing times slow down or speed up. Social network sites and online groups are probably the number one way people get their information. While you can adopt without being involved in these online groups, choosing to participate will guarantee that you are getting the most up-to-date information and even access to tips for speeding up the adoption process. If you aren’t on Facebook, I suggest you consider starting an anonymous account specifically for participating in adoption groups. If you are on Facebook but hesitate to join adoption groups for privacy reasons, be aware that any group you join which is “closed” or “secret” will not show on your profile, nor will friends see posts that you make in the groups. Because I will refer you to these online resources throughout the book, I wanted to give you some guidelines to keep in mind when you sit down to ask the internet a question.

Are you in the same time zone?

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.33.38 PMInternational adoption has been around for decades. In a Facebook group for people who have adopted through my adoption agency we have people who adopted 30 years ago. You can ask a question about meeting your child for the first time and one of them might pipe up with “Well, when we got to the airport to meet the flight . . .” Interesting, and maybe you feel a tiny bit jealous, but not really relevant to your situation. For some of the questions you want to ask, you need to try to figure out which responses are currently accurate. Include qualifiers with your question. You want to specifically ask “Has anyone recently gotten a waiver for this situation?” or “How much did you pay for your home study within the past year?”

This is especially important to keep in mind when you are looking at resources on the China adoption program. Many people watch National Geographic’s China’s Lost Girls or read Silent Tears by Kay Bratt or The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans. These are excellent resources as long as you keep in mind that they do not reflect the current state of adoption in China. The gender and special needs of the orphan population have changed, as has the care the children receive in institutions.

Sometimes it’s better to suck it up and ask

I have a theory that the internet is populated by introverts. It is SO MUCH easier to ask a question anonymously or at least without making eye contact, from the comfort of your computer chair. But sometimes you need to ask yourself if the internet is the best source to be asking. This is particularly true for those who are choosing an agency and have a question about agency policies. For example, you might ask which agencies will allow you to adopt out of birth order. Someone will say “Not agency X! I really wanted to use them but they told me they don’t allow it.” But I happen to know that agency X has changed their policy on adopting out of birth order, so I ask when this situation occurred. “Oh, it was three or four years ago” is the response. Agencies change policies all the time–sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. If you want to know what an agency’s current policy is for adopting out of birth order, two at once, pregnancy while adopting, refunds, or anything else, the best thing to do is call or e-mail the agency directly. You wouldn’t want to miss out on working with a great agency because you got outdated information.

You should keep this in mind during the adoption process, too. On my agency group, people constantly ask questions such as “How do I fill out this form?” or “What hotel will we stay at?” during business hours all the time. This is what you are paying these people money for, don’t be afraid to ask them questions! Even if someone has adopted from your agency within the past year, they might be unaware of policy changes. It is best to contact your agency directly regarding wait times for a match, how to complete necessary forms, travel arrangements, and many other important aspects of your adoption.

Don’t compare apples to oranges
When you are asking questions, make sure you aren’t being too broad. A common question to ask is “How long did it take to get your referral?” Answers will be all over the board from “We were matched before we started” to “We’ve been logged in for over a year and still waiting.” Do you mean how long did it take to get your referral for a boy or for girl? Are you open only to Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.55.13 PMminor needs or to a variety of needs? Even the agency you use will make a difference because the wait time for a match can be months longer at some agencies.

Similarly, another common broad question is “How much did your adoption cost?” It is normal to try to compare prices to see how expensive other agencies are. People will name off numbers, but some include travel costs while others don’t. Even if you’re just comparing travel costs, how many people went on the trip and what time of year? Before you make major decisions based on general responses, you’ll want to make sure your comparisons are valid.

Remember that your data pool is skewed

If you have concerns about big topics such as the challenges of attachment or special adoption situations like adopting an older child, it is great to learn from the wisdom of the adoptive parents in these groups. However, keep in mind that most of the people in these groups are there because they love their adoption experience and they want to help you to decide that you should adopt, too! One common question many people ask is “Should I adopt out of birth order?” and usually there are 10 to 20 responses, all glowingly positive. In a recent discussion, I brought up the issue of adoption dissolution in conjunction with adopting out of birth order. I was very surprised that multiple people chimed in saying that they had adopted a child from a dissolution and it was because the child had disrupted birth order in the original adoptive family. Th0se parents who had adopted from an adoption dissolution shared that they thought disrupting birth order was a major factor in failed adoptions. Where were these people in every discussion on adopting out of birth order I’d seen before?!

The fact is, it can be hard to bring up the negative aspects of adoption. It can be hard to be the one to speak up and say “That didn’t work out for our family” when you see that it seems to have worked out beautifully for everyone else who is participating in the discussion. While it is possible to have difficult and honest discussions about the hard parts of adopting, it doesn’t come easily. Many people will gloss over the hard parts so they don’t scare others away from adopting. While you shouldn’t discount the positive responses, keep in mind that the negative responses will be underrepresented. Particularly for discussing some of those special adoption situations, remember that your social worker and/or agency can also be a great resource on the pros and cons, and will likely be a more impartial resource than the adoptive parents in online support groups.

Be wary of the cheerleader & the naysayer

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.18.55 PMThis one mostly relates to choosing an agency. People can get very personally invested in the agencies they use. You give this organization thousands of dollars and trust them to bring a child into your life during a very stressful and emotional time. When someone doesn’t like your agency, it’s easy to feel personally insulted. When you ask people opinions on agencies you will get TONS. And usually the longer the comments go on the more pressure people start to apply. “I’ve adopted through Awesome Agency five times and I would NEVER use anyone else! They have never had a dossier declined from China and I wouldn’t trust anyone but their guides!”

It is wonderful that the cheerleader has had such a great experience that she has nothing but good things to say about her agency, but remember that most agencies will get you through this in one piece and with a new son or daughter (or two) at the end. I’ve seen a cheerleader tell a story about a rough trip in-country where the agency saved the day by moving heaven and earth to get last minute medical tests/providing middle of the night translation/talking China out of canceling an adoption. Actually, I’ve seen this story told multiple times and about different agencies. You know what? It turns out there are MANY different agencies who will go the extra mile for your family and that is WONDERFUL! So count the cheerleader’s vote as a positive but be a little skeptical that you will be in trouble if you don’t use Awesome Agency.

A little less common but still surfacing at times is the naysayer, who had a bad experience and wants to let you know it. There are some lousy agencies out there, and it’s good to be forewarned. There are also times that agencies have changed policies or personnel that caused negative feedback, but they are still stuck with the negative perception. This can work in reverse when an agency might be skating along on an outdated good reputation while they really aren’t that great anymore due to policy or staffing changes. I’ve found that sometimes the loudest naysayer doesn’t even have personal experience with the agency they really dislike. They only know that “everybody knows” the agency is in it for the money or whatever. It can be really tricky to sort out inaccurate information versus an agency that consistently provides lousy service. Good luck on that, but remember not to make your decision based on one person’s bad experience.

Don’t believe everything you read

I know this should be self-evident, but it bears including in the list. People can sound so authoritative when they share information on the internet that it is easy to believe them. It is very important to try and verify information or use someone’s comment as a jumping off point for additional research. For example, I have seen countless posts advising that you do not have to declare the cash you carry out of the country as long as you and your spouse are not carrying more than $5000 each. However, when I researched this I found it was not true. I included a link to the form you must complete if you will jointly be carrying more than $10,000 out of the country in the travel chapter. It is especially important to consult with a medical professional in addition to anecdotal information given by adoptive parents when you are considering special needs. Adoptive parents have the tendency to emphasize how easy a need is because they love their child and want other children with the same need to have families too. However, people being unprepared for the care that a special need will require is sometimes a risk factor for adoption disruption.

Watch out for the wishful thinking fairy

Humans don’t deal well with uncertainty. We want desperately for someone to tell us that everything will work out exactly the way we want it to in the end. Hearing the experiences of others can be really helpful in gaining understanding of the range of possibilities. However, it can never give us guarantees. You can ask how long everyone else’s adoption took from start to finish, but that doesn’t mean yours won’t take twice as long. You can ask how long it took for everyone else’s school-aged child to gain English fluency, but that doesn’t mean it won’t take your child longer.

This is especially important to keep in mind when you are in love with a child’s photo and are Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 2.36.21 PMasking other parents for medical information. Other parents can only tell you about their child’s situation. They can’t tell you how often your child will need a transfusion, or how many surgeries he will need, or if she will need a transplant. They can tell you how quickly their child overcame orphanage delays, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that your child’s delays are truly developmental rather than orphanage related. Try to be honest with yourself–are you asking a question because you’re looking for reassurance that everything will be fine and you’re going to end up with the best case scenario?

As long as you keep that in mind, the adoptive parent community can be a wonderful resource. Many of the medical needs you will encounter in the China program are relatively rare. There might not be anyone else in your community with dwarfism or thalassemia but your child. You can learn which doctors or hospitals are most knowledgeable about your child’s medical condition. You can get honest opinions on whether or not you should disclose your child’s Hep B or HIV status to their school. Being able to connect with other parents will give you support and help you to ensure that your child is getting the best medical care possible. It can be an especially wonderful place for the opposite of wishful thinking–gaining support. If you ask “Is anyone else struggling with this?”, you will find that you aren’t alone. When things aren’t going as expected, you can ask others who have dealt with the same struggles how they got through the difficult times.

You can find a DTC group composed of other families adopting within the same timeframe as yourself by typing “DTC” into the Facebook search bar. I suggest many other online adoption groups for specific situations in the Additional Resources section found at the end of a chapter.
Acronyms and Terminology List

If you wade into the online adoption community you will encounter a specialized vocabulary. Here is your guide to the acronyms most commonly used in China adoption groups.

A5- Article 5, a document issued by the US Consulate in Guangzhou which verifies to China that your paperwork is in order. It takes 10 business days for the document to be prepared by the US consulate. Once this document has been sent to the CCCWA your travel approval will be issued.

CA- Consulate Appointment, your appointment at the US Consulate in Guangzhou where your child’s visa will be processed.

CCCWA- Chinese Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption, the agency which oversees China’s adoption program.

CWI- Children’s Welfare Institute, the name China gives an orphanage which houses only children.

DS260- This is the online application for your child’s immigrant visa.

DTC- Dossier to China, when your dossier is mailed to China.

GUZ number- Applications for immigration visas are assigned a number which replaces the SIM number you had with USCIS. Those visas, which will be issued from the US Consulate in Guangzhou, are issued a number which begin GUZ. This is a small step in the immigration process which requires no action on your part.

Hague- An international treaty governing international adoption which was signed on April 1, 2008. Because adoptions from China operate in accordance with this treaty, your home study agency must be Hague accredited.

HS- Home study, the first step in any adoption.

I800A- The first immigration document you must file asking permission to adopt from China. Your I800A approval grants you general permission to adopt a child or children from China.

I800- The second immigration document you must file. Your I800 approval grants you permission to adopt a specific child or children.

LID- Log in Date, the date when your dossier is logged into China’s system.

LID only file- A file which is reserved for families who have a dossier already in China’s system.

Lockbox- Both I800 forms are sent to a USCIS lockbox facility in Texas. The lockbox facility will open the forms, make sure your payment is included, and mail the forms to the USCIS branch in Kansas which handles adoption.

LOI- Letter of Intent, a letter you send to China petitioning to adopt a particular child.

LOA- Commonly referred to as the Letter of Approval, this is a Letter of Action sent by China to confirm that you are approved to adopt the child you are matched with and seeking confirmation that you wish to proceed with the adoption.

LSC- Letter Seeking Confirmation, alternate acronym for the LOA. See above definition.

MCC- Medical Conditions Checklist. A form which tells your agency which special needs you are open to adopting.

NBC- National Benefits Center, the branch office of USCIS in Kansas which deals with adoption immigration benefits.

NVC- National Visa Center, processes the visa your child will be issued to enter the US after the adoption is completed in China. Your child will fly home on a Chinese passport; the visa will verify that they will become a US citizen once their paperwork is processed by immigration at your port of entry.

PA- Provisional Approval or pre-approval, an initial approval granted by China after you have sent a Letter of Intent to adopt a particular child.

Partnership- When a specific agency is paired with a specific orphanage. The agency will provide material aid and training to the orphanage in exchange for being the first agency to receive all the files prepared by the orphanage. They will advocate for the children at the institution and sometimes bear the cost of preparing the files.

Partnership files- The files an agency receives from a partner orphanage. The agency agrees to place at least 80% of the files or they might not be able to keep the partnership. LID files will be designated to the agency for only three weeks, but special focus files are designated for three months to give the agency a longer amount of time to advocate and find a family.

Referral- Your agency will refer a child’s file for you to review. When someone says “We have a referral!” it means that they have been matched with a child.

RTF- This is an acronym for rich text format. You will request an e-mail version of your NVC approval letter and they will send it to you in RTF.

SIM number- The number assigned to your immigration application by USCIS.

SF file- Special Focus file, a file which does not require a dossier to be in China for a match. Special focus files are those which China considers to be more difficult to place or they were LID files who remained unmatched after a certain number of weeks. You do not need to have started the adoption process in order to send a Letter of Intent.

SWI- Social Welfare Institute, the name China gives an orphanage which might also be home to elderly or adults who are unable to live independently.

TA- Travel Approval, a letter issued by China inviting you to enter the country to finalize the adoption. You have 90 days after the TA is issued to complete the adoption.

USCIS- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the American government agency which approves the Chinese adoption and grants citizenship status to your child.

Giveaway winners!

Today is the day that my book is released! It is now available for purchase and immediate download from Amazon. I suggest clicking through the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link so that their programs receive the benefits of your downloads or you can click through the link on the sidebar. I don’t have an Amazon affiliate account, so no one gets any additional benefit from that. It is also available to read for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported me through purchasing the book or sharing information about it to spread the word. I hope you all find it helpful during your adoption journey.

The winners of the first contest are:

  1. Stephanie Maxwell
  2. Jan Stuart
  3. Emily Grantham
  4. Tori Schmidt

The winner of the pre-order giveaway is LeeAnn Niemiec.

Congratulations! I will be contacting you for your address. Thanks again everyone for celebrating the book release with me. I had the excitement of seeing it appear on Amazon’s Hot New Releases chart in the Parenting and Relationships>Adoption subcategory.

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