Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Burgess ~ Party of Seven

We're excited to share that our family is growing by two!  Katie and I are leaving bright and early tomorrow to bring home our kiddos.  Our family was matched with siblings a few months ago through out of state foster care adoption. 

This joyous moment in our lives -- is going to take a village!  We ask for your prayers during this transition...
  • Pray for our new children's healing and comfort.  He is in first grade and is 7 years old.  She is 4 years old. We've nicknamed them Happy Feet and Sassypants.  He loves to dance and she's sweet and a little sassy :)  This month marks THREE years that they have been in foster care.  They are African American and were born in the United States (only sharing this factoid because we had previously tried to adopt from two African countries).  Please understand that their story is their story - and our family will ALWAYS protect their privacy.   
  • Pray for Adeline, Christian, and Paxton - this is huge change for them! 
  • Pray for our marriage -- we've got a strong one, so I know we can do this.  Definitely lots of changes for us this Spring though.  Chuck made a career change a few weeks ago too.      
  • Pray for Princess Elsa and her family.  After over a year in our home, she is transitioning full-time to her mommy today.  Her mommy has worked so hard and our family is so happy for them.  They are doing wonderful!  Elsa and Mommy will forever be a part of our family -- and we hope to be a part of theirs.
  • Pray for the funding for our final adoption fees.  Local foster care adoption is 100% FREE, but foster care adoption across state lines ... is NOT, unfortunately.  This is because we had to hire an agency for all the paperwork that is required (see adoption costs).  Thankfully, PJ/ Bighorn Design, Sara, and Jessie has stepped to help us with a t-shirt fundraiser --- more on that next week!
Abbey has started a meal train that she will be sharing soon.  We are good on "stuff" for now.  Thank you to our Meadowlark family of teachers for loving on our kids so well as always.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Worth It

Anything worth doing is hard.  Like, real hard.  There are always blessings in the journey, however.

We completed our first homestudy in 2013, since then we have updated it two times.  We are coming up on our THIRD update to our homestudy this next month.  Over the past 3+ years, we have been tested for HIV, STDs, tuberculosis, and drugs.  We have been finger printed and screened.  Filled out mountains of paperwork.  All of this, not once, but multiple times.  Chuck and I have also completed many hours of training.  Part of our lives has been essentially on hold… prayerfully waiting.  First, there was our failed adoption in Uganda.  And, now Ghana has essentially stopped processing international adoptions.  It has been emotionally and financially draining. 

Based on advice from our agency, we made the difficult decision this week to not update our homestudy for international adoption from Ghana.  Our family will remain in the Ghana program, but our agency simply does not expect to have any referrals of children aged 0-8 years old in the foreseeable future.  We submitted our dossier in March 2015 and the last referral was May 2015.  We believe that God is in charge of the details and that He will continue to show Himself to us through this journey.

Our prayer still remains that someday we will be able to adopt a child that needs a family, but for now we feel like we have done everything we can do in regards to international adoption.  We plan to continue fostering children from within our community and explore foster care adoption in states where there are waiting children.  Over the past year, we have had four children in our home through foster care.  A four year old girl for one day.  A four year old boy for four months.  We currently have a three year old girl who has been with us for three months, plus a nine year old girl who is with us only for a few weeks.  Loving these children has been one of the biggest blessings in our adoption journey.  Something we almost missed out on because it seemed "too scary.”

The first thing many people ask when they find out we do foster care is, “isn’t it hard to let them go?”  Yes, yes… it really is.  However, Jason Johnson said it perfectly…

"Yet, as we weigh in balance what we stand to lose against what they stand to gain, the answer is simple - not always easy to do - but simple to see as worth it in the end. We can't let the fear of loving a child who might leave deter us; we must let the fear of a child never knowing love drive us."

Please join us in praying for children that are waiting for their forever family.  Blessings, Nicki

Friday, March 18, 2016

Adoption Update

It's been a long time since I last posted.  Unfortunately, there has not been much movement in our international adoption.  Our dossier was submitted to Ghana in March 2015.  The most recent referral in the Bethany Ghana Program was shortly after that.  We have not given up hope and will continue prayerfully waiting.  I'm not going to lie - the wait is so hard :(  However, we keep telling ourselves - God always has perfect timing!

We were blessed to have two children stay with us through foster care in the past 6 months.  A four year old girl for just 24 hours.  Then, a four year old boy for 4 months (he is 9 days younger than our youngest!).  We learned a lot about parenting a child who has been through trauma and also about ourselves.  Undoubtedly, there is still more to learn.  I've come away from this experience knowing in my heart... this is one of my life's true callings.  Yes, it is hard.  There are things I would do different, better next time.  But, loving a child through a very difficult time in their lives is one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had in my life.  Growing as a family in our faith.  Seeing our children make sacrifices to make someone else feel comfortable.  Making a difference.  Our daughter prays all the time that a child who needs a family will soon become a permanent part of ours. 
A sweet friend who recently adopted a child told me yesterday that God works in amazing ways when it comes to adoption.  She assured me that God will bring us through this in a way we'd never dream of.  So, today... I am clinging to this truth and His promises.
Blessings, Nicki

Friday, July 31, 2015

Because He Listens

Graphic design by  Glory Designs

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary.  I can't believe how fast it has gone - 13 years together, 11 years married, and 3 amazing kids.  We've had some stressful times (um, hello... adoption!), but I can honestly say that we are very happily married.  Looking forward to many, many more anniversaries together!

Not much new going on with our adoption journey, so this is sort of an update without really update!  We just found out we have to update our homestudy for the THIRD time due to the fact that our I-600A approval from USCIS is about to expire.  Updating our homestudy is very time consuming and a little discouraging, but we are hopeful that this could be the last time we have to do this.  Currently, we are 1 of 9 families with dossiers submitted in the Bethany Ghana program who are waiting to be matched with a child.  Only one other family other than ours that is open to an older child.  We were told it would be approximately 12-24 months after dossier submission for our family to be matched with a child.  We submitted our dossier in March 2015, so we have not even been waiting for 12 months yet.  With our failed adoption, feels like it has been forever!  I try not to let myself think it could be sooner, because in reality it could also be so much longer.  I have really enjoyed meeting a few new adoptive families in Bethany's Ghana program.  The little girl featured in this article just came home last week.  Her sweet mama has been a huge encouragement to me. 

This past week, we started working on our spare bedroom to get it ready for a little person to join our family!  Along with international adoption, our family is also in process of completing the last steps of being able to foster a child from our community if needed.  We started this process almost a year ago and are now far enough along that we could bring a child into our home.  Hoping to finish up the last few trainings this fall.

Please be praying for all the kiddos worldwide who are waiting for their forever families.  Blessings to you and your family. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Adoption Announcement: Ghana

We are excited to share that we have decided to further pursue international adoption.  We have changed placing agencies and countries. While it wasn't a difficult choice AT ALL to change placing agencies, it was a very difficult decision to change countries.  To read about our experience with our prior agency, click here.  Uganda is an amazing country with beautiful people!  However, the corruption in international adoption with many cases is rampant there.  I do know of a few cases that are ethical, but they are definitely not the norm.

We have a great relationship with our caseworker from our homestudy agency (Bethany Christian Services).  We had kept in touch with her after our adoption fell apart last summer.  When Bethany opened up a few spots in their Ghana program, she invited us to an information call.  Chuck and I took some time to pray about the decision and felt that the program was a good fit for us.  There are only approximately 20 families in this program.

Our dossier was officially received in Ghana on March 4, 2015 (see timeline).  Our family has requested to be matched with a child aged approximately 2-6 years old at time of referral.  We have been told that the expected wait time is 12-24 months for referral.  After referral, we would travel within 1-3 months.  The child *could* be home within 6 months after referral.  These are all just estimates we have been given.  However, we have learned first hand that international adoption is very unpredictable.  We are just praying for God's perfect timing.

Bethany is the only U.S. adoption agency accredited by the government of Ghana to complete international adoptions.  They have had an an office in the city of Accra since 2011. In 2013, the government placed a moratorium on international adoptions in an effort to centralize and strengthen their social service system.  Despite the moratorium, Bethany has been able to place children with families by seeking waivers to the moratorium. The government is open to providing waivers under certain circumstances—for older children and those with special placement needs.

The waiver must be secured by Bethany from the Government prior to referral given to a family, so this provides a level of comfort for us that the child matched with our family will truly need to be adopted.  The process will be slow, but we feel confident that things will be done ethically and that is very important to us.

To see where we are with adoption funds, please view our details provided in Adoption Expenses.  We appreciate your prayers as we continue our adoption journey!  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

And More Truth...

I've already gotten a few emails and responses from people regarding "The Truth" and I want to clarify a few things.  Every adoption journey has a different story.  I encourage people to NOT judge anyone's adoption journey - it is very personal.  Furthermore, I am in no way saying that every adoption has corruption in it.  There are SO MANY kids out there that need a family, which makes our experience that much more frustrating.  

Why did you share your story?  A few reasons.  First of all, we did NOT share it to discourage anyone from adopting internationally.  We are still very much considering trying again.  We had someone tell us that adoption isn't easy and God made it that way for a reason.  He will stretch you to see if this is really what he calling you to do.  We believe that.
We are sharing our story because so many people partnered with us and we have chosen to be open in all aspects of this journey - the good, bad & ugly.  We also don't want other prospective adoptive parents to experience what we did (see below for what we would have done differently). 

Is there a need for international adoption?  There are kids of all ages who need families all over the world.  We feel strongly that adoptive families are not "rescuing" the children to give them a "better" life.  If a child can stay with their parents or biological relatives with some training and support, then that is what should happen!  International adoption should be the last resort.

What cases should a child be adopted internationally?
-  Unfortunately, parents get sick and often times die. 
-  Sadly, some parents chose not to raise their children.  They don't want to put in the effort to provide love, shelter, and food.  Despite being offered parenting training and financial assistance, they just don't want to parent for one reason or another.  In some cultures, when parents get divorced it is the man's right to take his children.  Then, he gets remarried and his new wife rejects his children from his first marriage.  Those kids are then forced out of the home. 
-  There are also kids who are born with special needs.  For instance, I recently connected with a woman who is adopting a deaf child.  This little girl is amazingly beautiful, but rejected by her own parents.  They see her deafness as a curse.  Her father abused her to the point that her mother took her to an orphanage and begged them to take her because she feared that her husband would kill their daughter.  They abandoned her when she was 2 years old.  Now at age 7, she has a family who is eagerly waiting to bring her home (please pray for them!).  Furthermore, there are children who have diseases that are a death sentence if they remain in their country.  However, if they come to America, receive the right treatment, they will live a full life.  Another example of a "special need," is a sibling group.  Relatives sometimes cannot take in 3-6 kids, but the kids all want to stay together.  So, the kids go into an orphanage or live on the street.
-  Extended family and people in their own country should be given a chance to take the kids in FIRST.  If all else fails, they deserve a family that will LOVE and CARE for them - that is where international adoption comes in.

What would we have done different?
Unfortunately, we just worked with the wrong people. 
If we start all over again...
-  We will chose a placing agency that had experience in the country we were adopting from.  We thought that it was enough that the agency had experience in other international countries, but it wasn't.  At least not for us.  We considered using a large agency, but worried we wouldn't receive personalized attention.  We have been extremely happy with the "large" agency that did our homestudy.
-  We wish we would have done third party orphan investigation right away.  A Child's Voice in Uganda is amazing.  It is possible to do this without even asking your agency.  BUT, do you want to work with an agency that wouldn't allow you to advocate on your own behalf?
-  We would do research on the in-country coordinators.  We would get recent references for the attorney the agency uses, plus the orphanage.
-  There are discussion groups on Facebook that I would recommend anyone considering adopting from Uganda join.  I did not know about them until the end of June.  The groups are called Truth in UG and Uganda Adoption.  The people in these groups provide tons of valuable info, but it is important to note that you have to sort out the info and decide for yourself.  What is right for them, might not be right for you. 

What is going to happen to the agency & orphanage? 
This question will be answered when we can.  We don't want to compromise the ongoing investigation.

What are we grateful for that came out of this process?
-  All of the people who have come along side us!  We are so blessed.
-  Our family has grown in our faith.  We feel called to serve orphans.  Maybe God is calling us to adopt a different child?  One who is has been over looked because of their age or a special need?  Maybe He is calling us to partner with an organization that helps families stay together?  Help provide education to those living in poverty? 
-  I'd like to think that because of what happened it may have prevented Nora from going into the orphanage.  Her family thought that she was going to be sponsored by us for school.  They were deceived into signing papers that they didn't understand.  What if we would have taken her from her family that wanted her?  I'm glad that now they know what could have happened and hopefully they can continue successfully caring for her..

In closing, there are very complicated emotions with this whole process.  We're getting through it the best we can and appreciate your support.  Things happen in life that we wish we didn't have to experience.  One thing is for certain - God is good all the time.  We take comfort in knowing that He is in charge of all the details of our lives.   

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Truth

It has been an interesting summer to say the least.  I've tried to start this post about 10 times and I cannot even find the right words.  I want to start out by saying that even after what we have been through we still firmly believe that there is a need for adoption.  There are great agencies and orphanages out there - trying to do the right thing for the child AND families on both sides of the ocean.  There are parents who cannot raise their children for whatever reason.  There are children who need families to love them.

Update on Sweet "Nora" 

*Nora is not her real name, but instead what we had lovingly named her.

Good news first!  We are delighted to report that Nora is doing really well.  She lives with her aunt and cousin of the same age.  She just finished her semester at her private nursery school.  Nora turns 5 years old this fall.  Wait... what?!  I thought she had no family that could care for her and she was living in an orphanage?!  Yep, that is what we thought too.  Unfortunately, we have learned and experienced first hand that International Adoption in some countries can be full of unethical practices. 

The Story

As you know, we first contacted our agency last fall after seeing a child from Uganda represented by them as a Waiting Child on the Rainbow Kids website.  Rainbow Kids defines a Waiting Child as "real" and "available for adoption."  Furthermore, the site highlights that the agencies who have chosen to profile a Waiting Child have "invested incredible amounts of time and resources to advocate for these particular children."  We were told that the four year old little girl was in desperate need.  She was a double orphan living at Shared Hope Orphanage since May 2013 and that surviving biological relatives could not care for her.  We relied upon these specific and concrete representations made by the agency and began the process to adopt Nora. 

Despite the fact that we had not started our homestudy process, we went through the screening process with the agency.  Our application was delivered and we were selected as a prospective adoption family to be paired with Nora pending homestudy approval and dossier delivery.  We learned that the agency had an in-country facilitator on the ground in Uganda who was working on getting all of the paperwork and documentation needed as backup for the Uganda court and U.S. Embassy approval processes.  The agency provided a medical report, plus relinquishments from maternal grandmother and paternal uncle for Nora. 

After completing our homestudy and dossier paperwork, we submitted our dossier in April 2014.  We were told that we would be traveling very soon to meet Nora, so we started purchasing necessary items for her and planning our trip to Uganda. 

On June 12th, we found out that we would not be able to adopt Nora.  Our family was told that unbeknownst to anyone involved in our adoption, Nora was born into a Muslim family.  The Muslim cleric protested her adoption into an American family and her maternal grandmother withdrew her consent.  The agency advised that there was nothing else we could do.  We were also informed that a Muslim family was going to adopt Nora.

On July 8th, we received information on a few waiting children.  We decided that although it was very painful to go through a “failed” adoption, we still very much wanted to adopt a child who needed a family. 

On July 16th, we had a phone conversation with the agency to discuss our desire to hire a third party private orphan investigator (request was initially made a month prior with no clear response from the agency).  We provided many examples of stories of corruption we had recently heard about from talking with families who had used the same attorney and/or orphanage that the agency has partnered with.  We were reassured that all of the agency’s in-country facilitators were extremely trustworthy.   

On July 21st, we received an email saying that the agency would not allow us to do an orphan investigation.  The next day we responded saying that we had no choice, but to mutually agree to resolve the relationship with the agency and peacefully dissolve financial matters.   

On July 23rd, we received a phone call saying that we could in fact do an orphan investigation.  However, we were informed that the investigator would have to report directly to and work with the agency's facilitators.  Oddly, the waiting child that we had received information on the week before – was no longer available.  As a result of these conversations with agency personnel, we became increasingly uneasy with our relationship.  Therefore, on July 28th, we hired A Child’s Voice to do an orphan investigation in hopes of discovering the truth behind our “failed” adoption.  In less than a week, the orphan investigation proved that many of the details the agency told us about our “failed” adoption of Nora were blatantly false.

These are the facts stated below: 

  1. First of all, the agency did in fact have a case before that had failed.  We actually have spoken to this family many times over the past month.  The agency had proof that information provided to them by the in-country coordinator in this case was fraudulent and still did nothing to improve the process.  Instead, the agency discouraged us from doing a third party orphan investigation.   
  2.  Nora’s family did not ask for help; instead the director for Shared Hope Orphanage approached her family.  Her grandmother was told that an American family wanted to “sponsor her” to attend his school.  Luckily, Nora had a semester left in the private nursery school that her aunt had paid for and her family wanted her to finish it. 
  3.  We were told that Nora arrived at the orphanage in May 2013, but the truth is she has never stayed at the orphanage.  The orphanage director himself admitted this fact to us.  Nora is a double orphan, but she lives with her maternal aunt.  They live in a proper house that the aunt is renting.  The family is sustaining itself well.  They are more than happy to care for Nora and never knowingly consented to her adoption as they don’t see a need for it.   
  4. When our dossier was submitted, the agency’s in-country representatives tried to take Nora from her family to go to the orphanage.  She still had a week left in her other school.  It was at this time that the family was told in order for Nora to attend the school they were required to consent to adoption.  All of Nora’s extended family strongly objected and the adoption fell apart.  
  5. The agency's in-country coordinator was fully aware of these details and helped orchestrate the deception.  He met with Nora’s family, provided us with pictures, took her to the doctor, etc.  The agency's in country coordinator obviously failed to adequately explain our family’s intentions when he provided Nora’s family the information and pictures that we sent January 2014.  The agency told us at that time that we had the grandmother’s blessing to adopt Nora.  Obviously, that was not the case. 
The agency failed in its required industry standard for due diligence.  If the agency had
taken the time for their own investigation, our family could have been saved from insurmountable heartache.  Instead, the agency acted in a grossly negligent (and potentially fraudulent) manner and repeatedly ignored red flags.  Based on the facts provided above, this was not international adoption, it was child trafficking for the financial gain of a few individuals.  Nora never met the definition of a “Waiting Child” as represented, and it is clear that the agency’s facilitators are engaging in severely suspect and questionable behavior in Uganda.  

Placing Agency

After researching international adoption for 3 years, we chose a small agency because they had a "waiting child" that needed a family.  This choice was made after doing extensive research - interviewing the agency, contacting families who had used them for international adoptions in other countries, our homestudy agency did a background check, we reviewed their tax return to see if they were involved in re-uniting families and financially stable, etc.

The Director of this agency is an adoptive parent and started the agency 25 years ago.  Our caseworker has worked for the agency for 20 years.  We were reassured that the agency had done over 3,200 domestic and international adoptions and that in-country partners were very experienced in Ugandan adoptions.  We conveyed our desire to ensure that everything in our adoption was done ethically through numerous phone calls and emails with the agency.  The agency told us that they had no reason not to trust the in-country coordinator, attorney, or orphanage.  Our family was to be one of the “pioneers” for the agency’s Uganda program.  There was just one case ahead of us that was progressing successfully.  We were also told many times that the agency did not have any referrals or adoptions in Uganda that had “failed.”   

It all sounds legit doesn't it?  We thought so!  It turned out to be far from that.  We have dissolved our relationship with our placing agency and thankfully received reimbursement for the money paid to them.  Honestly, we are not sure what all the agency knew about the lies their in-country coordinator was telling them.  But, ignorance is no excuse.  This agency should not be facilitating adoptions in Uganda.  They are not willing to take the necessary steps to protect the children or their clients.  They made absolutely no apologies for what they put our family through.  

How We Are Doing

We have great peace in knowing that Nora is where she belongs - with her first family, the ones God chose for her.  They love her, want to raise her, and have the ability to do so.  We offered to help with her education costs and they graciously declined.  Our family firmly believes that children should be raised by their biological relatives in their culture if possible.  When that is not possible, adoption is an amazingly beautiful blessing.  Children deserve a mom and dad that love them, a safe place to live, and enough food to eat.  They definitely should not grow up in orphanages.  

We plan to take as much time as we need to pray about what our next steps should be.  Chuck and I are so cautious.  We keep asking ourselves - how could this have happened?  Undoubtedly, we have and will continue to grow from this journey.  Maybe this happened because God has something else in store for us?  The money we raised for our adoption is in our savings account.  We will either use it to bring a different child into our family or will donate it to a worthy cause that serving orphans.  

Thank you for your continued prayers.