Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Please Check out our Waiting Kids Page Updates!!!

The Difference Between an IR-3 and IR-4 Visa

Adopted children generally come to the US on one of these two types of visas. While both allow the families to bring their children to the US, there are significant practical differences. A child who comes to the US on an IR-3 visa will automatically be a citizen once they have reached US soil and legally entered the country. The family will receive their certificate of citizenship in the mail within a few weeks or months. A child coming to the US on an IR-4 visa is NOT automatically a citizen and must be “re-adopted” in their home state. This child will receive only an alien registration card (a “green card”) in the mail and while they are free to grow up and get a job, they are not automatically a citizen.

How does a child come to the US on an IR-3 visa? An IR -3 visa requires that the parents (both if a couple are adopting) meet the child before the court adoption process is completed in the child’s country of origin. Families traveling to China meet their child before they go to the Civil Affair’s Bureau office and complete the adoption. The first trip to Russia by the parents allows a Russian child who comes home on the parents’ second trip allows that child to come in on an IR-3 visa. Children up until recently from Ethiopia came home on IR-4 visas. Now that parents are traveling to court, most of these children will come to the US on an IR-3 visa. However, if ONLY ONE PARENT travels to court for some reason and the other parent has power of attorney, the child will still come home on an IR-4 visa. Both parents have to see the child before the adoption.

If both parents travel for court and for some reason only one parent returns to pick up the child, the child can still come home on an IR-3 visa, however, the traveling parent will have to produce documentation that both parents have previously seen the child and this can include copies of passport entries for the previous trip and photos of the parent with child when they traveled for court.

If the child comes home on an IR-4 visa, the parents are required by US immigration to “re-adopt” the child here in their home state and then send in the paperwork in order to obtain a certificate of citizenship for their child.

Sometimes families get their re-adoption completed and then just get a passport for their child. It is recommend that in ALL cases, a family obtain a certificate of citizenship for their child and not simply rely on a passport. Passports get lost and expire. Perhaps the child will have no difficulty, but should questions arise when the child is an adult and the parents have died or are incapacitated, the parents will not be available to explain the process, provide alternative paperwork and navigate the system for their child.

There is nothing better than an actual certificate of citizenship for the child to have available to produce at various times throughout their lives.

If a child is here and is not a citizen and they run afoul of the law, they risk being “deported” to a country they haven’t lived in for decades and do not know the language. It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that their children are completely and legally adopted and have their US citizenship as soon as possible after returning home. Sometimes parents are tired of paperwork when they get home and put it off. It is very important NOT to neglect this part of the process. You cannot see the future and your child will benefit from your diligence.

I had a client family years ago where within months of the adoption, the father was tragically killed. Fortunately he had already filed the initial re-adoption paperwork and although their initial court finalization date had ironically been cancelled because of a court holiday, the adoptive mother was able to complete the re-adoption with no difficulties. It was a very sad time, but his child was benefited by his lack of procrastination.

If your child comes to the US on an IR-4 visa and you obtain a social security card for your child, the child’s status with the Social Security administration will be a non-citizen. After you have done your readopt and gotten your certificate of citizenship, be sure to go back to Social Security and make sure that their “status” is changed to “citizen.”

In a few days I’ll add to this topic, why it is important to readopt regardless of whether your child comes in on an IR-3 or IR-4 visa.

Kathy L, MA

Monday, August 30, 2010

Artificial Twinning

“Artificial twinning” and a few other descriptors are used to describe families where adopted children are very close in age whether they are adopted at the same time or adopted at different times. Ultimately when this happens children are living “like twins” in a family without having the same genetic birth parents. If this is something you have considered, you might want to read a well-written article by adoption professional Patricia Irwin Johnson.


Kathy L

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Iron Dragons"

these children have all found their forever families
I can't get thoughts of our Iron Children out of my mind. The courage I have seen.  The will to live I have witnessed. I am speaking tonight as a parent, not as an adoption worker.

Running through my mind over and over tonight are the testaments to the human spirit I know about because I know these children and their parents. Some of whom I even am the parent. I marvel at the children who never let go. Who would not give up when they were:

Left IN a toilet after birth

Put on a coal train bound for the outer border of western China as a

newborn to be discovered at the first stop 2 days later

Thrown down a mine shaft after a premature birth

Found toddling abandoned next to an ice filled rapid moving river

Discovered in a dumpster or the local dump

Found with toes and/or fingers frostbitten and needing amputation from

being left in the freezing night

Scalded on 50% of their body and forsaken in a field at two days old

Required plastic surgery because their nose was bitten off by rats in

the night while waiting to be found

Having their throat slit and face slashed on their 7th birthday

Beaten to the point of losing an eye

Locked in a closet for hours or days

Left on a train when the parent went to "buy some candy" and never

returned and sat alone for a full day before the conductor or anyone noticed

Tied to a chair for so long the wrists and ankles were raw and now

permanently scarred with rope burns

this child has found his forever family
And you know what? These are not children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, unmanaged rage, mental illness or emotional distress. Each one of these children seems to be more calm, more compassionate, more wise than their peers. How can this be? Truly, how? I am in no way dismissing that these situations could cause lifelong emotional and physical damage and that some kids just don't rebound when faced with these horrors. But in THESE cases THESE children survived and now flourish. WHY? The human spirit is an amazing thing.

Stefani Ellison
China Waiting Child Advocate/Resource Coordinator

following is a repost from the CHIKids yahoo group:
this child has found her forever family
"Thank you for posting my "Iron Dragon" (as you so aptly called her, Stefani!) on the homepage. :) She is our "Good Earth" Xiaoxian, Anhui girl, Aeren Renae, who just recently turned 6 years old. She truly is a miracle, and never ceases to amaze us with her joy, observational skills, musical ability, and intelligence. Oh, and her will of "iron". She is the most strong willed of my 4 children from China, and my 4 bio kids put together, but that is what got her through her beginning, and first 3 years of life.

While we were waiting to travel to adopt her, and our son Trent, she was given a dire prognosis as "unadoptable" by some visiting American physicians. We were not swayed in our pursuit of adding her to our family, and now, a little over 3 years later, she is the thriving, gorgeous little girl pictured on the homepage, and is most certainly meant to be in our family. She may not be able to walk (YET) without her walker, but she is a child that has a true gift of laughter and joy. From a mother of some very musically talented children, I can honestly say that she shows more natural gifting in music than any of them. She also has "supersonic" hearing, and an almost photographic memory, with which she can recall almost verbatim a conversation that she has had (or overheard, YIKES!) with someone, even weeks later. However, she only uses it when she wants to, and not when I ask her to repeat something. lol She can tell me exaclty where to find almost anything in the house that I am searching for, and when I am on the phone with a friend, she can tell me who I am talking to just by hearing my onesided conversation, with no names ever mentioned on my part, just by the subject of what I am discussing.

So, in saying all of this (besides being a proud mom and wanting to brag on my amazing daughter), I want to encourage families to consdider the waiting children who have CP. By making them a part of a loving family, they have the ability to blossom into the creative, unique, and talented people that they are created to be, with no fear of an uncertain future outside of orphanage walls, on the streets of China, if they even make it that long. Cerebral Palsy is something that these children are born with, but it doesn't define who they are, or what they can achieve. With a loving, supportive family, there are no limits. "

 Kim Rutherford

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Focus on Special Needs...The Cleft Palate Baby

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when the developing baby’s mouth does not form properly. In the case of cleft lip, a split is left in the tissue of the upper lip that may extend up into the nasal cavity. In cleft palate, the growth plates that form the roof of the baby’s mouth (palate) fail to close, leaving a crack or a large opening. The child may have a single split on one side of the mouth that ranges in size from a small indentation to a crevice that extends into the nose. Sometimes a child will have a cleft on both sides of the upper lip that can extend into the nose, creating a large gap in the child’s facial tissue.

Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur separately or together

My first experience with Cleft Palate came when I was only four years old.  My mother brought home my baby brother from the hospital.  He was a whopping 12 lb baby and there was something unusual about him.  He had a cleft lip and palate.  I still remember my mother's frustrations in trying to get him to take his bottle.  The milk spilling back out his nose!  Several surgeries later and he was just my "little" brother more noted for his large size than his facial features. 

Through my volunteer work with the Medical Advocacy Team, I had the opportunity to help host a baby with cleft palate from Haiti.  Little "Lena" arrived on U.S. soil at 5 months of age weighing in at a mere 5 lbs.  I had never seen such a fierce and tiny child!  Her wrists were smaller than my thumb.  Lena's odd "cleft smile" was actually a bit endearing! 

Typically closing a cleft lip and palate is done in two phases by a plastic surgeon.  The first surgery is to close the exterior lip and the second closes the opening in the roof of the mouth and gum line.  I am positive I am oversimplifying the process to a great degree! 
Baby Lena Before Surgery

I had the honors of hospital duty for Lena for the second surgery.  Amazingly she came out of surgery eager to eat.  Liquids and then semi-liquids had to be syringed into her mouth for several weeks while her palate was healing.  The change in her eating was amazing! 

Many children wait for families internationally due to being born with a cleft lip, palate or more commonly both. 

Baby Lena Post Surgery
In developing countries the surgeries needed for these children to thrive are unavailable.  In more developed countries parents may give up these children due to social stigma. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two Little Boys...

We have two little brothers waiting patiently for referral to a new family!  They are two and three years old and were both born prematurely.  The older boy has made great strides in his development through good physical therapy that has been provided in his home country in Eastern Europe.  He enjoys painting and playing with molding clay.  He is now considered developmentally on track and is a healthy little boy! 

The younger brother is still showing motor skill delays but is making progress.  At two years of age he is standing and crawling, but cannot yet walk.  This boy also has poor vision that may be impacting his development.  The psychological evaluation describes both boys as "cheerful, joyful and have a great need for closeness and love."  If you are ready to open your heart to these two blond haired, blue eyed boys please email us for more information. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adoption Options for Single Women!

With the recent problems in Nepal and the closing of Kazakhstan to adoptions many unmarried women are wondering what countries they can look towards to fulfill their dreams of having children.  What are the options for single women looking to grow a family through adoption?  Here at Children's House we have programs in several countries that allow single women to adopt!  Single women looking to adopt an infant or toddler find a fit with our programs in Bulgaria, Haiti or Ethiopia.  If your heart yearns for a child over the age of two or one with special needs India and Poland can be added to this list.  If a mom meets the religious or ethnic requirements then Morocco and India can provide an option for infant referrals. 
For details on any of our programs you can go to our website at http://www.chiadopt.org/ for program summaries and detailed financial information. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Readopt in the US When You have Adopted Internationally?

One of my tasks at Children's House is to oversee the post placement phase of our clients adoptions.  Each country has it's own set of requirements for following a child adopted from their country.  Some countries require minimal reports sent back to them about the child, others follow the child into adulthood on a yearly basis!  It is very important for countries to have knowledge that the children they have placed are well and taken care of.  So, why do we recommend you readopt your child when you return to the U.S?  Check the following link for the facts!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Grant Opportunity for India Adoptions!

The M. Knight Shyamalan Foundation is offering a grant opportunity to US families wishing to adopt from India.  Families must show they are qualified to adopt from India and have a family income of less than $100,000.  You can follow the link below for more information.


Our India Program accepts married couples between the ages of 30 and 55 and single females under the age of  45 (slightly older for an older child).  Families can expect referral of a child 4 months and older if they hold OCI status, 18 months and older if they hold NRI status and over the age of 3 if they are of non Indian Heritage.  We welcome inquiries about our India program!

Our India Program is distinct from other programs because we work directly with the orphanages, attorneys and court systems in India.  WE handle your adoption personally from start to finish and maintain a stall in India working full time to bring you the best possible service and updates on your children! 

CHI is dedicated to helping the orphanages we work with and we support other projects in the country, providing economic, medical, and educational support programs.  This is a huge undertaking and is funded, in part, thanks to adoption fees and donations.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Currently there are 2,114 children listed on the Shared List for special needs children available for adoption in China!  656 are girls and the rest are boys.   China has made a plan to try to help find homes for the children who have been waiting the longest! 

From the CCAA:

In order to improve on our online special needs program and focus on the placement of special needs children who have been on the “shared list” for over two months, CCAA decides to group some of the special needs children as “special focus children” (with a tag of “Special Focus” on their names in the shared list) so that special attention would be drawn to these children by adoption agencies and adoptive families. This will come into effect since September 1. Here are some clarifications on relevant issues:

1.Adoption agencies will be able to search and retrieve information of special focus children through the online system, such as name, gender, age, province and welfare institute where they are from, and pathology categories. Agencies can also enquire children’s information based on their pathology and look for suitable families for them.

2.After locking the file of special focus children, adoptive families have six months to prepare application files and send to CCAA.

3.Adoption agencies may recruit families for special focus children according to families’ needs and the child’s health status. After getting the approval from CCAA, the file of special focus child will be posted on the individual list for the agency, who will be allowed three months to find families.

4.Children who take part in Journey of Hope will all be included in the Special Focus category. Name list of these children will be decided based on discussions between CCAA and adoption agencies, or proposed by agencies and approved by CCAA. Children taking part in Journey of Hope basically come from the same orphanage, sometimes several orphanages as needed. Each session of Journey of Hope includes no more than 40 children. CCAA will post files of these children on the individual list of the agency and allow six months for placement.

5.When the adoptive family is eligible for adoption, they are allowed to adopt two children within one year simultaneously or successively. They may apply to, as situations vary, adopt a healthy child and a special focus child, or a special needs child and a special focus child, or two special focus children, simultaneously or successively.

6.When a family intends to adopt special needs children, especially special focus children, adoption agencies shall convey the true information of the child to adoptive families, help families prepare for the adoption, keep close monitoring on the adoption procedure and provide better post-placement tracking services, so as to protect the interests of adopted children and avoid occurrence of tragedies.

(this child is not available for adoption)
I think this is a positive step to work towards helping the harder to place children find families. It is hard for an Agency to advocate for a child that may be simultaneously advocated for and then placed by another Agency!   CCAA is responding to this and Children's House is expecting a new list of children for us to place! 

How each Agency responds to allowing adoption of non-related children simultaneously will have to be seen.  If you reside in Washington, Utah or Florida and are interested in pursuing adoption from China, give us a call!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waiting Children

As I sit at my desk I can see our wall of photos of children we have waiting for families.  Some of them are waiting solely because they are over the age of three, some because they have health challenges or special needs.  To protect the privacy of these children I can't post their photos here!  If you know of anyone who would be willing to open their heart to one of these children, please have them call or email us! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alyssa's Story

The story of our Executive Director, Deborah Price's adoption journey....

In December 1989, I was busy making dinner when I heard on the news that the small country of Romania had reportedly just had an uprising. Many people had been shot and there was an information blackout.

I felt sorry for this little country, even though I didn’t know anyone there personally. It seemed a little strange to me that I would feel something almost personal about this news blurb since I had heard many similar newscasts in the past about other countries.

Less than a month later, more news informed us that this same country had recently executed their dictator and his wife. Suddenly, the Western world was discovering thousands of children living in Romanian orphanages. This stopped me in my tracks. My husband and I had always discussed adoption as something we wanted to do, especially since I had been adopted at birth. But we felt we had a slim chance of adoption domestically since we already had three sons and could have more children without a great deal of difficulty. But as we saw these children crying in crowded cribs, I couldn’t sleep at night. This seemed to be the answer to our adoption desire—go to Romania!

It took me a year to find out all of the steps to the adoption process, including the paperwork maze, without the help of an adoption agency. I talked to everyone who had adopted from Romania, or who knew someone who had. I made a journal of the dos and don’ts of traveling there and searching for a child. Amazingly, I found a Romanian family in our town that still had family in Bucharest who would agree to house my husband while he was there. We took out a loan in order to pay for the adoption costs—including travel, lodging, food and a guide. This was all an estimate as there were no absolutes and no referrals of known children available before my husband left. The entire trip would be on faith and good luck, with no guarantees. If we didn’t succeed with the first trip, there wouldn’t be time or money for another one. And, to add more drama to the trip, there were rumors that Romania was going to shut down their adoptions anytime.
It was Mother’s Day 1991, and the time had finally come for my husband to get on the plane and go get our daughter! He had two original sets of paperwork in English and Romanian, a list of 10 contact names and numbers and all the cash we had for the trip. In 1991, they only accepted hard cash—no traveler’s checks, credit cards or ATM’s at that time! He had to carry all the cash for the trip with him, so I got a jacket at Goodwill and opened up the lining of the jacket near the zipper so he could put his cash in the lining and then Velcro it back together. That way, if someone tried to pickpocket him, they couldn’t get the money. It worked great, but it made for an interesting frisking by the airport security!

To save money, he took a plane from the U.S. to Germany and then a train to Bucharest. What an experience! After arriving in Bucharest, he was met by our first guide. I would talk to him every night and hope that he would have some good news to tell me when I woke up in the morning.

They immediately went to a hospital that had a little girl that we thought might work out. He gave me her name and birth date and I immediately filled out an I-600 and FedExed it to Bucharest. Then I found out the next day that this little girl was not available for adoption because her mother had abandoned her and the address she left was false. There was no way to find the mother and we had to move on because time was running out. Without even seeing a picture of this child, I cried and felt a tremendous emotional loss.
The next child seemed a better possibility. The mother was not able to provide for the child and would relinquish her. So, my husband gave me her name and birth date and I sent another I-600 to Bucharest. The next day we realized that we couldn’t adopt her because our embassy would not issue a visa for a child with a father listed on the birth certificate. There were many Americans in the same situation, and the last thing we needed was to legally adopt a child who we couldn’t bring home—another emotional ending.

The third child was in an orphanage and her name was Daniela. I thought this was a sign because we were going to name our daughter Alyssa Daniele. But the day my husband went with the birthmother to take her out of the orphanage, the director refused to allow the birthmother to remove the child because she realized the mother was removing her only to relinquish her to an American.

When my husband talked to me that morning, he told me the bad news about Daniela. But the good news was that there was a baby girl, four days old, in a hospital in Buzau and the birthmother was going to leave her there the next day. From there the child would be transferred to an orphanage. The doctor and guide approached the birthmother about her plans for this child and she said she would like her to have a good home. She was young, unmarried and had no way to provide for her. There was no father listed on the birth certificate. The next day, my husband took our daughter to Bucharest and cared for her until the court date arrived three weeks later.

During that time, it was exciting, but we still hesitated to call her by the name we had chosen. We had to keep our hearts at arms-length because anything could happen—the birth mother could change her mind in the court or the country could shut down. I wasn’t even going to get her room ready until I knew she was absolutely coming home.

The day after Father’s Day 1991, the adoption was final, and by the next Sunday they were both on their way home. While he was flying home, I was busy getting her room done! In less than two weeks, the country shut down adoptions. We were very lucky.

In 1993, my husband took me back to see where hour daughter came from and I met her birthmother. Now I send her pictures twice a year along with drawings Alyssa has made and I occasionally get a letter from her written in Romanian.

For now, I keep these letters in a safe place. Alyssa has seen pictures of her birthmother and where she would have lived if her birthmother could have taken care of her. She knows very well that her heritage is Romanian.

When she is older I will show her the letters an let her know how to find her birthmother if she desires. I am not afraid for them to meet, as I also met my birthmother 13 years ago. I personally know that the person called “Mother” has a place in everyone’s heart that no one can take. Mother is the one who took care of you, wiped your tears and bandaged your knee, fed and hugged and disciplined you. Regardless of genes, that is a mother. I also know that the woman who gives birth to us also has a very special an honored place in our hearts. There needn’t be competition between the two. However, genes travel with you no matter where you go, and sometimes when Alyssa turns her head just so or cocks her mouth a certain way, I see a glimpse of her birthmother for a split second.

The most recent addition to this life history of my child happened two weeks ago when I received a picture of Alyssa’s sister, who I didn’t know existed. She is four years younger than Alyssa and when I saw the picture it took my breath away. The child in the picture looked identical to my daughter, only younger—they could almost be twins. Her birth mother is married now and they can provide for this child, and so her rightful place is in Romania with them.

Someday, I am sure Alyssa will meet her sister and compare their hands and feet and face, as I did when I met my birth family. But until then, we have many more wonderful life chapters to live!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where in the World is My Child?

One of the questions I often get asked when a family is considering international adoption is “where is the need greatest?” accompanied by “how do we decide where to adopt from?” My usual answer is another question – “where is your heart leading you?” The reason for this is because the “greatest need” is not really an issue. There are always multitudes of children in need around the world and families can only affect one or a couple of children at a time. Any child who is waiting for parents and a loving family could easily feel that their need is the greatest. Adopting is not about “rescuing” children, although that does happen in a strict interpretation of the word. Adopting is not temporary foster care or disaster relief where children are rescued from terrible situations but do not have a permanent relationship. Adopting is about creating and enlarging families and parenting and grand-parenting and great-grand-parenting those family members for generations.

The question about “where your heart is leading you” comes because every person has personal preferences. It is important to avoid trying to put a round peg in a square hole. The adoptive family becomes a trans-racial family or trans-cultural family (if the race is the same) forever. If members of a family, for example, love to eat Chinese food and are drawn to Asian art, adopting a child from China would make it easier for them to encourage their child’s appreciation of his or her ethnic and cultural background than if they hate Chinese food. A family who appreciates their own Orthodox Christian heritage may be eager to communicate to an Ethiopian child their appreciation of the history and culture of that land. Those are just a couple of small examples, but ultimately a family has to embrace the background of their child because this is now part of “their” background as well. This does not mean wearing rose colored glasses or editing out the negative aspects of a child’s historical heritage but it does require an overall positive perspective.

Why is this important? You, the parent, will be the prime information source for your child. A child of another race even adopted as an infant will notice racial differences fairly early and will notice that you look different from them. This is not only because comments from others will highlight it, but because they are smart and observant and can see the differences themselves. This will raise a variety of questions. It is the parents’ job to communicate that they too recognize the differences, but that those differences are appreciated. Different doesn’t mean better or worse, just different. It’s important that the child know that the parents like their child exactly as they are with their unique genetic heritage. It is the parents’ job to communicate that the birth family is a vital part of the child’s life and it is OK to miss and/or love them. Adoptive parents have to encourage their child to face the challenging parts of adoption conversations without themselves feeling threatened. Parents adopt a child, but the child brings with them their heritage.

No parent in America can duplicate what would have been their child’s original cultural experience. There is no expectation that they should do so. The child will be an American child raised in our Western culture. BUT the child will develop their own self awareness and internal image based on their experiences inside and outside of their family. What they need to know is that their parents value what they bring to the family and support them as they learn about their background. Children know when parents are comfortable and when they are not and that is why it is important that from the beginning the parents’ hearts lead them to the place from where they adopt.

Kathy L, MA

14 years experience in adoption
22 years as parent by domestic adoption

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ethiopia Gotcha Day 2010....

repost with consent from:(http://www.dawnofmotherhood.com/Index/Ethiopian_Adoption_Blog/Entries/2010/8/10_GOTCHA_DAY!.html)

Monday morning we woke early. Anxious to get my hands on my daughter. I got ready... took a quick cold shower. Got dressed. Went downstairs for breakfast (later I will tell you more about the food... this post is all about my GOTCHA DAY).

Kristan and I waited, and waited and waited. We sat on the sofa in the guest house just waiting. Leslie and Colin were there now - they are the other YWAM family picking up their daughter today. Colin is about Austin’s age.

Around 10 am, Abebe arrives. We greet each other... but we are beyond anxious to get going. So, we leave. We drive through the streets of Addis Ababa, dodging pedestrians and weaving around other vehicles.

Before we knew it... THERE IS THE GATE! QUICK, get the camera. Wait... the video camera, too. Shoot, I should have shown Kristan how to work these before now!

OMG! THERE SHE IS!!! I SEE HER! I’m not ready!!!!

I stumbled out of the van... while Kristan was trying to take pictures and video. Suddenly this little girl, who was scared and crying, was thrust into my arms. The woman who handed her to me turned and walked back into the Thomas Center with the other children. Oh my word... she’s actually in my arms. But what do I do? I don’t know her. How do I stop her from being scared? She’s crying. She’s so scared. Poor little baby... “Mommy’s here. Mommy’s here.” I keep repeating that over and over in her ear.

She’s still crying. I try to show her some things from the diaper bag. A silk. Still crying. A little lamb finger puppet. She takes it... but she’s still crying. Where is everyone? What do I do? I am so not ready for this. “Mommy’s here.” Wait... she looked at me. Is she checking me out? Does she realize how much I have wanted her? Does she know I am Mom? Does she recognize me from pictures?

Is she sick? Her nose is REALLY snotty. Poor girl. Oh, little girlie is having a hard time breathing. She sounds so congested. What are these knots on the back of her neck? What if she has some type of tumor on her skull. Wow, there are 4 of them, 2 behind each ear. They are hard, and big. Please stop crying, baby girl. It’s ok, I promise to take care of you. And love you. Forever.

Kristan reminds me that there are lymph nodes behind the ears. I have never felt those lymph nodes swollen, though, in any of my other kids. Kristan reminds me that Chaltu has been living with so many other kids, and she is probably really fighting some sickies. THANK GOD I brought Kristan... she’s my sane mind. She’s such an awesome adoption doula!

Please stop crying. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make it better. I know you are scared. Here, let me massage your eye brows, that always helped Adam when he was sad. OK, you keep looking at me, this is good. Oh poor baby, please don’t cry... that cry is like nothing I have ever heard. Oh poor, poor baby!

Thank goodness... a nanny has come to my rescue. “Chally,” she says. Over and over... Chally. Chally. Chally. That’s it. She is Chally. THAT is her name. Absolutely. Chally... please stop crying. The nanny is holding you, you know her, she is trying to tell you it’s ok.

The nanny hands her back to me... still crying. Still so so so sad. She knows everything is changing. Oh this poor girl! She just had her life uprooted a month ago when she was moved here... and now... this strange white lady is here saying she’s my Mama! WHAT?!

Kristin tells me that the nanny told her that Chally is always this way.
Oh man. What did I get myself into? She looked so happy in those pictures and in the videos. But - she was ‘home‘ in those videos. Even though home was an orphanage, it was her home. THIS is not her home. I am not her nanny. I am not the person she knows. I have no idea how to calm her.

We walk up 3 or 4 flights of marble stairs to see her room. Her crib is already moved out of the baby room. Her picture is there, though - photoshopped into the family picture we had taken in 2008. She’s still crying. The room is lined with cribs, babies in them. One is sobbing uncontrollably, rolling back and forth. Another is standing there just watching. A couple more are sitting in their cribs just looking around. It’s clean - very clean. She’s still crying.

We go back downstairs with a ball. Outside, we get down - and Chally kicks the ball. She’s still crying, but she’s trying to play. (she has an awesome kick, by the way) We walk around the driveway for a few minutes.

I pick her back up, she’s still crying. Kristan says that one of the nannies mentioned that they woke her up from a nap for this. sigh... I would have waited to hold her until she woke from her nap. Oh, this poor girl. sigh...

I sit against the wall of the Thomas Center outside. The other family is inside getting a tour. I’m needed right here, right now... THIS is what I am here for.

Chally, I’m your mama. I promise to love you forever. I will take care of you. I know what you need, it’s a mama. And I am here for you now. I am so sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner. I love you. I love you. I’m your mama. You just need a mama.

With that she let go... and fell asleep in my arms for the first time. Tears still in her eyes... but asleep. On me. Feeling my heart beat. Feeling me breathe. I can feel her breathe, congested. I can finally get a good look at her.

Her little face is chapped. Her cheeks are red. Her lips are chapped and bleeding. Those bumps on the back of her neck. She is so congested. And she’s still whimpering in her sleep.

Before long, we are ushered back to the van. To the Thomas Center offices, located in a different area. She wakes up as we get into the van. Little girl is so confused.

We get to the Thomas Center offices, and we climb 3 flights of marble stairs - they turn - and there is no hand rail. We get to the top, into the reception area, and we’re all completely out of breath. Addis Ababa is REALLY high altitude... and I didn’t think about that as I rushed up the stairs with 20+ pounds of toddler (and I’m not used to carrying this extra 20+ pounds yet!) plus the heavy diaper bag.

While here, we fill out paperwork that will be needed for the Embassy. There is a spread of Ethiopian food. I just want to get back to my daughter. All this time waiting - and I have to leave her with Kristan in that room. I want to hold her. I want to feed her. I want her to get to know me. I want her to NOT be scared of me. In time. In time.

After the paperwork is all in order, we head back to our guest house. I take Chally up to my room. I want to change her. As I change her, I note that she is wearing a sweatshirt that would fit Lauren, my 8 year old. It’s a big girl size small. The shorts she is wearing are a size 7, too big for Lauren, even. They are held on by the belt tied tight. Her undershirt is a newborn size shorts romper. And she has on Gymboree slip on shoes that are a size 5 - they fit her. In her hair, they have pulled the crown area back into a pony tail, held with a broken bubble hair tie.

I put lotion on her. I put fresh clean clothes on her. I cleaned up her face. I gave her some medicine for her congestion. I washed her face. Her nose is all runny. Poor baby.

We go downstairs and eat dinner with the other families. Wow. What a day. After dinner we head back upstairs and I put Chally in her new pjs. Ready for bed.

We turn in early. I give Chally her baby doll that I made for her over a year before and a bottle of milk as I hold her - she falls asleep in my arms again. I lay her in my bed, and she doesn’t move at all the entire night.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The BEST stories are REAL....

Memories of Gotcha Day….17 years ago.

As cliché as it sounds…it really does seem like yesterday. I first met my future children in an orphanage in La Paz, Bolivia in June of 1993. I had traveled a few weeks before the process was to begin. There was no agency involved so I was totally on my own. All I had received was a photo and nothing else.

The person in Bolivia who was helping me through part of the process accompanied me that day. We waited outside the main building for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally a caregiver brought over a shy little girl with a boy’s haircut (4 ½ at the time) who was dressed in a rather worn out white dress. She looked at me like I was from another planet! The icebreaker was that she discovered the ham sandwich I had packed in my fanny pack for lunch. She was more excited about this than the little dolls and coloring book I had brought her. She ate it very quickly and those first signs of attachment began.

Next, I was brought a little boy (age 2) who had on so many diapers and layers of clothing, he could hardly walk. He, like his sister, figured I was from another planet, too…but a REALLY scary one! He quickly ran away from me screaming for his caregiver! So much for that “magic moment” that adoptive moms dream about.

I visited the orphanage every day for the next 2 weeks and little by little they both started warming up to me. I confess that I used food as bribery. Marri, who had a large birthmark on her face, would notice I was there and then disappear. She would return wearing the worn out dress. I found out later it was because the only time she was told she looked pretty was when she wore that dress at her baptism, long before I arrived. And she really wanted me to think she was pretty, especially since she didn’t feel that way due to lots of ridicule by the others because of her birthmark. As soon as I realized this, I was able to convince her that I thought she was beautiful no matter what she was wearing. And the dress disappeared.

I discovered that Alex was hopelessly in love with the little boxes that contain fruit juice. So I made sure my backpack was well stocked each day. I would put one away from me on the table in the play area…and then slowly keep moving them closer each time. He started to feel secure enough to play with the little toys I brought and eventually even let me hold him.

In my opinion, the message most important about Gotcha Days is that it is a unique and different experience for everyone. Through the years I’ve been helping adoptive families, I’ve noticed that it is extremely rare that the families see fireworks and hear angels singing when their little one is first placed in their arms. Gotcha Day is just the beginning of an incredible journey!

Katherine Holliday

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The FINAL First Day

I watched my little girl… no, I have to start calling her my daughter, leave home this morning for the first day of her Senior Year of High School. It hit me that this is our last first day. Devi and I have had many first days together, starting with the day I adopted her. I remember her tiny hand in mine as she cried, then as she blew bubbles and then painted my fingernails. I remember her very first day of school like it was yesterday, her first piano recital, her first swimming competition. Devi was seven years old when I adopted her. I was always grateful for the wonderful daughter that India had given me, but now, on one of our “last first days,” I wish we could go back in time. I had to call Debbie Price, our Executive Director and apologize for secretly thinking she was a little nuts last year when she told us it was her youngest child's last first day. Now I know what she meant.

Students here must do a senior project in order to graduate. Devi is doing her project on International Adoption. She has many questions that she wants answered. She asks me things like “Why are there so many children in orphanages? Why do children have to wait so long? Why wasn't I adopted in India? She started doing some research and discovered that there just aren't any acceptable answers.

Take care,

Lisa Anderson

International Specialist

Children's House International

Monday, August 9, 2010

When Working Hours are RELATIVE

When you work with so many different international adoption programs, in so many different international time zones, working 9 to 5 is not a reality! China starts their work week while we are still on our weekend. Sunday evening is the start of their business week. When I arrived at the office today I could tell that Heidi (our China Specialist) had a busy night. Her computer was still on and paperwork was piled high! She got notice at 6 o’clock last night that a family has travel approval to pick up their child in China! FINALLY after 51 months of waiting! This family will be traveling next weekend!
Welcome to Children's House International...The Blog. I am very excited about this opportunity to share with you all from "the trenches" of an international adoption agency. I am the newest member of the Children's House team and am currently case manager for the Eastern European and India programs. My interest in adoption probably started when I was only eight years old. At that time my dearest Aunt was struggling with infertility (well, ok, I just knew she wanted a baby and wasn't having much success getting one!) and decided to adopt. She subsequently brought home two lovely cousins for me to play with.  They were from a different culture and didn't really look like me, but boy did we have fun! 

My fascination with adoption was born!

I am a law school graduate who has an award of distinction in Family Law. Working at Children's House International is a great fit for me. I get to do a job that ultimately brings joy (though there can be many frustrations along the way). So stay tuned for informative updates from me and from Kathy Looser our Child Placement Supervisor.   So stay tuned!