Hey there Tuesday :).
Many of you have asked about how we got our sweet Madeley, so I thought today, I would explain. I’m grateful that you’re asking because I know for many of you that means you’re considering adoption which just blesses my soul more than you will ever know. Some very specific people adopted before me that I learned from, leaned on, questioned, and was loved by that encouraged us during our process…so I know how important it is to hear other people’s stories. Before we adopted Ashby, I couldn’t get enough adoption stories. So, here is a little glimpse at our journey.
(Before we begin, a disclaimer of sorts: this is only our experience with our two adoptions. I know every single adoption is completely different and experiences vary so much. I wish I could answer questions/explain more clearly all adoptions…but I can only speak from my personal experience. Please keep this in mind 🙂 ).
So before we begin, I’ll recap Ashby’s adoption process:
June 2013: We contacted an adoption agency and began the paperwork.
December 2013: We submitted our completed dossier (which is all of that paperwork including your home study) to China. At this point, we were waiting for a referral (a.k.a. a match with a kiddo).
July 2014: We received a referral on a precious little girl and just knew in our hearts that she was the one.
December 2014: We received our letter from China allowing us to travel and a consulate date was scheduled for the beginning of January.
January 4, 2015: We met sweet Ashby London.
January 15, 2015: We returned home with Ashby.
So, we arrived home with Ashby on January 15, 2015 and even though it sounded crazy, we really felt God telling us to move forward with the next adoption. Before going to get Ashby, we had always talked about getting a girl from China and a boy from India. There is one particular orphanage in India that we were interested in adopting from and had discussed it with them and just kind of saw ourselves with two boys and two girls. We kept thinking we should wait to adopt again, but really felt God prompting our hearts to move forward. So…
…in March 2015, we just set out to adopt a little boy from India. Listen, I know it sounds crazy but you know when God slams doors shut? Sometimes, he doesn’t make it obvious but then other times, you can almost hear the slam and feel the whoosh as it’s shutting…well that is what happened. Every time we attempted to move forward with this adoption, God shut the door. I was praying about it a lot and really felt God calling us back to China to get another girl. Early one morning, I mentioned this to Andrew and he was like “me too!”. (Which was weird because we had never discussed two girls from China before.) So, we kept praying about it and really felt a peace. We reached back out to our adoption agency and said we were ready to move forward with another Chinese girl. We had to start all over. From square one.
We submitted our completed dossier to China (again!) on October 1, 2015. And then we waited.
In January 2016, we got a referral on a beautiful little girl from China. We instantly fell in love with her…and bonus, she was from Ashby’s orphanage. I mean…people asked me all the time if we were going to try and get one from the same orphanage and I always said no. The odds aren’t very good unless you’re working with an agency that has a specific relationship with that orphanage and we weren’t. We really didn’t think much about it. But this little girl had been there when Ashby was there. We just knew God arranged this divine intervention. Unfortunately, things began unraveling faster than we could keep up. We had her secured but one thing after another kept happening and every time we thought we were moving forward, we moved back instead. On January 18, Smith’s birthday, we officially knew we weren’t going to be able to get this little girl. We had taken Smith and his friends to the Perot Museum for his birthday and even though we were trying to make it a fun day, it was really sad. In the car on the way down there, Erika called to check on me and said something that was very profound. She told me that God isn’t mean. He doesn’t tease us with things just to be mean about it. For some reason, God brought this little girl into our lives for a moment and it wasn’t for nothing. I clung to that nugget of wisdom as we moved forward.
Trying our darnedest to have a good time at the Perot Museum. Love this guy so much. I’m so thankful God has me walking down the road of life with him.
That little girl wasn’t meant to be ours…and I know that now. Andrew and I each keep a picture of her and pray for her. My prayer is that right now, she’s found her forever family and is as happy as can be.
So…we waited some more. And some more. And then in March 2016…we got another referral on another little girl. We were pumped! We signed our letter of intent and thought it was a done deal. And then…the next day, our agency called us to say that China had removed her from the list. What? Why? They said it was all very sketchy. They never really got a clear answer…someone told them it was because they thought she had a syndrome that they wanted tested (We offered to her her tested! We were totally open to this syndrome!)…and then someone else eluded to the fact that she was “too healthy”. For the most part, healthy Chinese kids aren’t allowed to be adopted out of country…so that was another reason. They might have pulled her because she was too healthy. We’ll never know. We never got a straight answer. She kind of just disappeared.
Boo. Adopting can wear you out friends.
So, at this point, I just couldn’t shake what Erika had said to me about the first little girl back in January. She was just on my heart and even though, I couldn’t have her…I felt so compelled by her referral that I started reaching out to people about finding another little girl from Ashby’s orphanage. I kept thinking, maybe that’s why she’s on my heart? Maybe we should adopt from that orphanage again? I just knew there was something about that referral we were supposed to act on. So…in the process of trying to figure out if there were any girls available from Ashby’s orphanage, Andrew came across a lady from another adoption agency who said that she could look into Ashby’s orphanage and one other one for us. She told us that even though she has a large adoption agency, she didn’t have any other clients wanting little Chinese girls with completed dossiers (and remember, at this point, ours has been completed for almost 7 months)…she said she had people working on their dossiers or they wanted boys, etc. She told us she was going to China and would be visiting both orphanages and would let us know if there were any girls available. So, we waited. First, she visited Ashby’s orphanage and told us no, there were not any girls there that were available. But then she traveled to a completely different part of China and visited another orphanage and she sent us a little video of a precious little girl and said, I think I might have found her. And friends, SHE DID! She was able to send us this little girl’s file along with two videos and we were completely smitten. So…
…this meant we had to pay a fee and change adoption agencies. And I cried.
I did not want to change agencies. I loved our agency and did not want to lose them. That being said, there really is no choice because this particular orphanage has a relationship with this other agency and well, that’s just how it works. After adoption, you still have five years of post-placement paperwork and visits to deal with, so I also knew that I didn’t want to burn any bridges with our current agency…because we had another four years of working with them with Ashby’s adoption. I was so torn. Andrew and I called our agency and they could not have been more gracious. They absolutely wanted us moving forward with this little girl and therefore switching agencies. They were so sweet about it. We had to pay fees to switch agencies and more paperwork had to be completed and approved by China, but in the end, we moved over to our new agency and our referral :).
So…we spent the summer waiting it out. We were waiting on China to grant us travel approval and all estimates pointed to September. On September 2, we received travel approval from China and then departed on the 8th.
The day before we departed.
And then on September 11…
…we finally met our girl :).
All of those months ago, Erika had been right. God gave us that referral not to be mean but to get us on a path we otherwise never would have gotten on. We needed to start searching in one direction in order to meet this other lady who got us to our Madeley. It was divine intervention.
Now, years ago when we started this process, I really felt God tell me to be discreet about our agency. I didn’t know why, but I always felt that our agency information should remain private and therefore, I do not share who our adoption agency is. But now…I think I understand. Now that I’ve worked with two agencies, I feel like I can say pros and cons about each and that might be helpful to you but at the same time, I am respecting each of them without naming names. Walking away from both adoptions, I enjoyed the process more with one agency than the other…but there were pros and cons to both:
1: Our original agency is smaller. I would consider it more of a boutique agency. I like this because everyone knows everyone and you always feel like when you call, they can help you, remember you, know all about you. Our newer agency is very large, and I don’t get the same kind of warm fuzzies when I call or email them. The other day, we needed to have a conference call with them and the lady started out with “now, you guys have twins in third grade, right?”. No. No, we don’t.
2: Our newer agency is larger so they have access to more kids. Plain and simple…the bigger the agency, typically, the more relationships they have with orphanages over in China. They have more resources and more relationships.
3: Our first agency did more of the paperwork for us after the dossier was submitted where our new agency did most of it…but not all of it. Now, this is a sliding scale. Some of my friends have agencies that do very little and require the parents to handle more paperwork (like applying for the I800 and submitting the dossier). You pay them all about the same amount of money…so, I liked that the first agency completed more paperwork on my behalf. Because let’s be real…that paperwork is tricky and you do not want to mess it up!
4: I just honestly had a very nice relationship, vibe going with the first agency. It felt very personal.
5: The second agency made us do stuff on top of what is actually required to adopt. I mean…the process is insane, so why they would pile more frivolous stuff on top of you (that means absolutely nothing!) is crazy to me.
6: The first agency was more organized with the travel and pick up process. Everything was so organized before we left to get Ashby and everything was not as neat and tidy when we left to get Madeley. Andrew actually got out our travel docs with Ashby and copied them exactly for Madeley. Our new agency did a fine job with travel, but I think our previous agency did a spectacular job.
Now, several random things to note:
1: Our social worker did not enjoy working with the first agency and loves the second one. She told me I was crazy and the second one was much better. So, clearly…it’s all very subjective.
2: We met another family in China who coincidentally also used our new agency and they switched to the new one because it was so much more personal than their original one. When I told them I had the exact opposite experience, they were shocked. So, you see…different perspectives, different experiences, and different agencies do it all differently.
3: Both of our agencies are outside of Texas. Your home study must be completed by your state but your adoption agency can be out of state.
4: We basically paid the exact same for each adoption (minus the fee to switch agencies…that added to the cost of Madeley’s adoption).
5: Speaking of money, one of the most asked questions is “how much does it cost?”. I always have a hard time wording this because I never want to discourage adoption in any way…but I know money is a huge factor. From my interactions now with two agencies, two adoptions, and a whole host of friends who have adopted from China, I would say anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000ish. The fees to adopt are a small portion of that. The two biggest things your money goes toward are your orphanage donation (they ask you to make a donation to the orphanage…but they tell you how much this donation is) and your travel expenses. Other than those two things, the rest of the cost is spread out over time and asked for in small increments.
When people ask me who they should use to adopt, I always say the same things: Ask around. Ask on Facebook (you’d be surprised how many of your FB friends can help you find a good adoption agency), call around and talk to the agencies. The process will be about the same for every agency, so look for one where you feel good talking to them on the phone BECAUSE YOU WILL TALK TO THEM A LOT! And pray. In my heart, I believe if you’re supposed to adopt, God will point you in the right direction whether you realize it or not. Many of my friends have set out with one thing in mind and ended up somewhere else because the path just went that way. I’m a big believer in moving and then letting God move the pieces around you (it’s harder for God to work if you’re just standing still! Not impossible, but geez, it must help God so much when we move.).
Whew! More information than you probably ever wanted to know. But…for those of you thinking about adopting from China, this was our experience. I also get asked a lot about why we chose China over say a domestic adoption? And my only answer is that God told us to. I’m a huge fan of both domestic and international adoptions and was (am) open to any of them…but for these two adoptions, God made it clear that we were to go to China and get two girls. Is Madeley our last? I don’t know. We’re most definitely done having biological kids, but I don’t know if we’re done adopting…we’re still waiting and listening to God’s direction for our family.
Okay…on a much lighter note…
…tomorrow is What’s Up Wednesday! If you’re linking up with up, our bonus question is: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FALL RECIPE? I have a few faves 😉 .
See you tomorrow!