Erika and I decided to do something a little different today. Since last Thursday was World Adoption Day and this past Sunday was Orphan Sunday, we thought we’d dedicate our posts today to adoption. I know we both talk about adoption a lot…but friends, it’s on our hearts. We want to encourage and support any of you who are considering opening your home to a kiddo that doesn’t have one. Erika and I didn’t want to be repetitious today, so she’s sharing some sermon links, some quotes and other info about adoption while I’m going to answer some frequently asked questions. This way, you can get a little bit of adoption love in two different places today.
This is one of my very favorite pictures. Brooke took this pic on July 4th this year. The coolest part? One year before that, all three of these sweet little girls were in orphanages. All of them. And now, they’re all with forever families. Isn’t that beautiful?
Okay, before I post some of my frequently asked questions, a disclaimer or two…first, of course this is all just my opinion based on my two adoption experiences. I’m not speaking for everyone, just myself. I have so many friends who have adopted from all over the world (domestically, Russia, Korea, Philippines, Bolivia, Uganda and Ethiopia just to name a few), and their experiences have been similar to mine and different too. Every adoption is unique. Even though ours were similar, they were also different. I don’t think you can replicate any adoption. They’re all one of a kind experiences. The purpose of days like World Adoption Day and Orphan Sunday is to spread awareness, so I hope that’s what we’re accomplishing today. I never in a million years thought I’d be a mom to kids I didn’t give birth to. I never once imagined that…but it has been so cool to see how God has opened our eyes, hearts and homes to these girls. We have been blessed more than them. It has been the most amazing thing we’ve ever done.
Now…on to your questions. I get your sweet emails daily about adoption and always want to point you in the right direction and help you as much as possible. I ran these questions by Erika and she said she too receives similar ones…so that tells me many of you have the same questions. Here are my most frequently asked questions and the answers…
1: Why did you pick China?
Honestly, our kids were there. We were not partial to any particular place, but both times, we felt God tell us that our kids were in China, so we went. Adoption is beautiful no matter where it originates…ours just happened to be in China.
2: How long did your adoption take?
Both times our adoptions took 18 months from start to finish. We were told when we first started out that it could take anywhere from 12 to 24 months and it took us almost exactly 18 both times from the day we submitted our agency applications to the day we met our girls (July 2013 to January 2015 and then again March 2015 to September 2016).
3: Do I have to get a kid with special needs?
Well, this depends on where you’re adopting from. For us, we went to China to get our kids and yes, you’re expected to adopt a kid with a special need. The severity of the need varies, but you are applying to adopt a child that has some sort of physical/emotional/behavioral/developmental problem or delay.
4: Do I get to pick the special need?
You do get to have a say in this. When you’re filling out all of your paperwork for Chinese adoptions, you will answer questions about certain special needs and whether or not you would be interested in a child with that need. In my opinion, you should be open to a wide variety of needs, so that you can see more files. Some people might be hesitant to check certain boxes, but once you see a child with that need and read her history/talk to a medical professional, you might decide it’s something you can manage. In my opinion, it’s not going to hurt you to be more open, but it might hurt you to be more closed off. I wanted to have the opportunity to look at more files.
5: What if I don’t think I can handle caring for a kid with the special need they give me in a file?
Your agency is giving you files of kids they think have a potential to be in your family…that does not mean you have to accept that file. There are many reasons one might pass on a file (the special need isn’t something you’re able to care for/the child is too old/too young/you don’t feel you are close enough to adequate medical care for that particular need/etc). I love what my social worker told me once, she said people feel bad about passing on files, but they shouldn’t…it’s not their kid, it’s someone else’s. I just love that.
6: How long did you know you were getting your child before you actually got to go over there and get her?
We got our referral (meaning the kiddo was matched with us) for Ashby in July and then actually got her on January 4. For Madeley, we got the referral at the very end of April and met her on September 11. I laid out our timelines for both adoptions in THIS post. This amount of time varies. You are waiting for certain documents to be processed and issued on China’s side and honestly, that takes a while. For Ashby, we had to wait through the holidays. The Chinese government stopped issuing travel approvals and consulate appointments mid-December that year, so we got the very first one issued in Xi’an province for 2015, so government schedules delayed her process a bit.
7: How long were you in China? Did you have to go more than once?
For Chinese adoptions, you only make the trip once (for so many international adoptions, you are required to go twice). For Ashby’s adoption, we were in China for three weeks and for Madeley’s a little over two. You receive your kiddo right off the bat, so you’re with your child the whole time you’re there (which is such a blessing!!).
8: Why did you take your kids? Would you do it again?
We made the decision to take our kiddos with us both times. I get this question A LOT! I completely understand why people wouldn’t take their other kids. For one, it’s expensive. Second, it’s just complicated to transport that many people everywhere. Also, not only are you and your spouse dealing with jet lag/cultural differences/etc, your kids are too. I TOTALLY understand why people don’t take their other kids. All of that being said, for Andrew and me, it was the BEST decision we made during the adoption process. Our girls got to bond with us as a family unit right off the bat. I believe that in both instances (but especially with Ashby), my girls opened up faster and trusted us easier because they saw us caring for other kids. I think bringing our kids bonded us in a way we could never have done at home. If you can, I strongly suggest you do bring your other kids. It was also a life changing experience for my big kids. They know what it’s like inside an orphanage now. They now exactly where their sisters came from/what the culture was like/what the people were like…they have such a deep understanding and that is invaluable. So, yes, I’m so happy we brought them and I would totally bring them again.
9: How much do these adoptions cost?
I get this one a lot too. Each adoption is different…but I’ve asked my friends who have adopted from other countries and everyone says roughly the same range…it’s anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000ish. This amount covers everything from legal fees to documents that are being processed, orphanage donations and your travel expenses…everything. You do not pay everything up front, but over a period of time as you make your way through the process. I absolutely hate that it’s so expensive because I know it discourages so many from the process. Domestic adoptions through the foster care system cost very little (from what I hear, they’re basically free), but international adoptions are expensive. My prayer is that if you really feel called to adopt internationally that the Lord can work it our financially for you. He is way bigger than our bank accounts, and I’ve heard story after story of people who didn’t have the money, but somehow, God provided. That is my prayer this morning for so many of you.
10: Which adoption agencies did you use?
For a variety of reasons, I don’t share which agencies we used. We used two different ones and had two different experiences. You can read more about that HERE. Let me be really honest here…if we were to adopt again, I don’t think we’d use either agency. In my opinion, the agency really doesn’t matter all that much. One minute, one agency has a lot of kids and no one waiting and then the next, it has no kids and 15 people on a waiting list. It is constantly changing. Here are the questions I would ask when interviewing an agency:
- How many children did you place last year in China? What was the wait time for each of those families?
- How many people are currently waiting on kids through your agency? Are they looking for boys/girls/what age? (See if they’re all waiting on what you’re looking for.)
- How many people do you have actively working on their dossiers right now?
- What do you say is your average wait time from start to finish?
- How much of the paperwork do you file for us? (Get one that files everything!!! Or if not everything, close to everything! That’s what you’re paying for, right? It surprises me how so many do not file everything.)
11: How old are these kids that are up for adoption?
Their ages vary. You can get some as young as one and you can also adopt a teen too. There are millions of kids of a variety of ages that need a forever home.
12: What did your kids think about you adopting?
My kids have always been on board with us adopting. I’m sure it’s due to the fact that we’ve been talking about it since they were 1 and 2…but there has never once been a moment of hesitation in either of them.
13: What was it like when you wanted to adopt but Andrew didn’t?
That was very hard. God placed adoption on my heart long before he did Andrew’s, and that’s something as a couple, we had to work through. Andrew blogged about his change of heart on adoption HERE several years ago.
14: What do you do to make sure your girls grow up knowing their culture and heritage?
This is always a balance for us. I have received so many comments shaming me for not encouraging my girls to speak Mandarin. Here is the thing…first of all, neither of my girls spoke Mandarin when we received them. As sad as it is to think about, neither were verbal. I’m sure we would have encouraged them to keep their native language if they had it when we received them, but they didn’t. The second thing is, my number one goal for these girls is to feel part of a family. I want them to feel like they belong. I want them to feel like they’re just one of the Shulls. I want them to feel like they’re a normal kid in our family just like the two older ones. I have spent the last almost three years pouring myself into them so that they feel like they belong here with us. That has been my number one priority. All of that being said, we talk about them being Chinese, we point out and honor other strong Chinese women in this world, we encourage them to talk about their heritage and culture at every organic opportunity. We do not shy away from the topic at home…but right now, they’re just not that interested. They’re interested in Barbies and Peppa Pig. They’re interested in what we’re baking that day. They want to know when Kensington is going to be home from school and if she’ll let them borrow her princess costumes. They’re interested in that. So, even though we try and talk about it in spurts around the house…we always want it to be a natural conversation and nothing forced because they’re just little girls trying to be little girls.
15: What if I work full time?
So many people want to know if they can adopt even though they work full time. The answer is YES. I strongly encourage you to find a social worker who has worked with other working families post-adoption to give you ideas and tips on how to bond/create trust and security when you’re not home all day long. Those first few weeks and months are crucial, but with the right support and tools, you can do it! Do not let working full time make you think you can’t bring home a kiddo. You just need the right support system to help you when you head back to work.
16: Were your girls health histories correct once you received them?
Nope. We received medical documents from China on both girls before we selected them as our referrals and both were incorrect. As much as you think you know about your kiddo before you head over to get them, you just don’t know until you get them. They had Ashby’s health listed as less critical than it was and Madeley’s was just altogether wrong. No matter how many documents and test results they send, you just don’t know until you’re there.
17: What are the rules about adopting from China?
Uggg. There are so many. You can read the updated rules for adopting from China HERE.
18: Are these kids in actual orphanages or foster homes?
Both! My girls were in actual orphanages, but I have some friends whose kids were in foster homes. The last six months, Ashby lived in a foster home setting inside her orphanage. Ashby’s orphanage was really big (over 850 kids).
19: How do you actually get matched with your child?
After your dossier is completed and China accepts it, your agency will start trying to find you a match. You can also look online at certain websites and find a child that way and then kind of work backwards (I have friends who have done that too). For us, we used an agency and allowed them to match us.
20: How have your girls been coping since they’ve been home?
My girls have done outstanding. I praise the Lord every single day for how well and how quickly they have both adjusted. Unfortunately, I think we all tend to hear the worst case scenario stories about adoptions (the really sad ones), but I know so many people who have had positive experiences. I hope that my family’s story is an encouragement to you. I do not think we are the exception…I think more adoptions than not are just wonderful little experiences (we just tend to hear more about the really hard ones). We need more people with positive experiences advocating for adoption.
21: Were you scared about attachment issues?
TO DEATH. Attachment issues are real and so many people struggle with them. I prayed and prayed over this. I was so scared. I think it is totally normal for that to be one of your fears.
22: What book about adoption do you like the most?
My VERY favorite book on adoption is Forever Mom by Mary Ostyn.
23: What’s the one thing you would do differently?
I wish I would have documented the process more in a journal. I wish I would have done that. It would have been really special for my girls and me to look at later in life.
24: What’s the best thing you did?
Besides pray heavily over both adoptions? Take my kids with me.
25: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about adoption?
If it’s on your heart, it’s there for a reason and not going to go away. God doesn’t put adoption on everyone’s heart…but if it’s on yours, it’s there for a reason. Don’t think time will make it go away. It won’t.
26: How will you talk to your girls about adoption moving forward?
We have always talked openly about adoption. Again, it’s that balance of talking about it organically and not making them feel singled out and different than the big two kids. They know they’re adopted. We pray for their birth mamas, we talk about them when the time feels right. We want them to love and respect these women who loved them so much that they carried their pregnancies to completion and then left them places where they would be found. We tell them their mamas were brave. We also tell them that we hope one day in heaven, we’ll all get to meet.
27: Are you going to adopt again?
I don’t know? Maybe? I don’t know what feeling you’re supposed to have when you’re done having kids. I feel very much at peace right now…but that doesn’t mean we’re done. We’re waiting. Waiting for God to show us next steps. Maybe we stay a family of six forever, maybe we don’t?
These two girls of mine sure are cute…but we didn’t want them to be the only faces of orphans you see. THERE ARE MILLIONS OF KIDS JUST LIKE THEM IN THIS WORLD WAITING ON FOREVER HOMES RIGHT NOW. We really wanted you to see more than just our kids. So, Erika and I asked our precious friend, Meredith, who is the orphanage director at Morning Star Foundation in China to share a few pics of her kiddos. You can follow Meredith and these kids on Instagram HERE and learn more about Morning Star HERE. She is the most selfless human being I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I cannot even begin to explain to you the things she’s doing over there at that orphanage. The hard, sacrificial, devastating, but yet beautiful and hopeful things. Here are a few of “her kids”…
Aren’t they precious? They are only a few of the over 150 million kids in this world waiting on forever homes. Is one of them waiting on you?
Erika and I would love to pray for those of you in the process of adoption or who are really considering it. Please feel free to comment today, so that we (and others) can pray for you.
Adoption is beautiful. Adoption makes families. Adoption is love. I’m hoping that if it’s on your heart, you take the step of faith. xo
To see some other post adoption posts, just look below…
To see more about our journey to adopt Ashby, see below: