Sunday, January 31, 2010


There are a few words we'll be throwing around on a regular basis, especially in the next month or two, so I thought it would be helpful to give their definitions:

homestudy: a document prepared by a social worker who conducts interviews and home visits to establish whether or not a family is fit and prepared for adoption. The homestudy includes information about nearly every aspect of the family: marriage, finances, home, children, parenting, values, religion, occupation, upbringing, physical characteristics, personality traits, future plans, as well as letters of reference, medical reports, background checks, and employment verification. The most important part of the homestudy is the very last line: (Husband) and (wife) are fit to adopt. It is recommended that (parents) adopt (#, gender, age) child(ren).

: the file of documentation that all parents adopting internationally must compile and submit to the Department of State for authentication and approval. The documents vary depending on the country, but our dossier includes a positive homestudy, passports, photos, birth certificates, marriage certificates, a letter from our bank verifying our accounts, tax returns, and a formal letter requesting adoption from Ethiopia.

: this term refers to the child's documentation file. "Accepting a referral" is the terminology for when adoptive parents are formally matched with their soon-to-be-adopted child. A referral contains information about the child, which might include their family history, medical charts, developmental status, and personality, as well as a few pictures.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I read this yesterday and every word resonated. This is my prayer for us, as well as all other waiting adoptive parents:

That God may count us worthy of our calling.

That our good purposes and acts of faith will be fulfilled by His power.

That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

what if you were pregnant

In some ways, adoption feels like a completely natural path for our family. For the most part, we have felt very comfortable, excited, and confident throughout the process thus far.

But in other ways, adoption is just about the most unnatural thing that we can imagine. To explain what I mean, consider this scenario:

Imagine you are (or your wife is) pregnant. Then imagine the following circumstances with regard to the pregnancy:

*You have no idea when your baby is due. It could be 4 or 5 months from now, or it could be two years.

*Before the child can be born, you must sit down with your doctor and choose whether your child is a boy or a girl, whether he or she is healthy, and whether he or she will be born as a baby or come straight to you as a toddler or school-age child, along with a host of other characteristics about your child.

*Before your child can be born, you will see pictures and videos of children - one of whom might be your child, but you do not know which one is (or if any of them are) your child.

*While you are pregnant you are told that several other couples are interested in the child you are carrying. If their due date comes up first, they might end up being that child's parents and you will have to wait for another one to come along.

Can you imagine?

I can. This is where we are living right now. It is unnatural and difficult, but it is the good kind of difficulty. It is the labor that produces fruit in good time... and, in that sense, maybe not so different from pregnancy after all.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

two more prayer requests

* We are getting close to being ready to send our completed homestudy and accompanying documents to Homeland Security, but we just found out that our FBI fingerprint background check has not come back yet. This is an essential part of our homestudy paperwork and we can't move forward without it. The FBI confirms that they received our fingerprints 6 weeks ago, but says they need more time to process them. Please pray that this gets done quickly and doesn't hold up our progress!

* The Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) in Ethiopia has been closed for some time now for housekeeping and re-organizing. In order for a parent in Ethiopia to legally relinquish parental rights, MOWA must approve and process the paperwork. While they remain closed, no new children can be made "paper-ready" for adoption (with the exception of full orphans -i.e. both parents are known to be deceased). Please pray that MOWA will open soon, for the benefit of the waiting Ethiopian children as well as the families (like us) who are seeking to adopt them. [To clarify, the government is processing adoptions for children who are already paper-ready, so the MOWA closure may or may not affect our adoption, depending on what our child's paperwork status happens to be.]

This picture has nothing to do with this post... I just think it is sweet.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

welcome to our adoption blog!

This is the best place to find information about our adoption process and ongoing updates as we get closer to meeting our next child. Now you don't have to sift through all my other random ramblings at Carrying Ballast to follow our adoption progress. :)

I have copied all my previous adoption posts from my other blog onto this site so you can catch up on where we've been. Here is a brief update on where we currently stand:

Steps Completed:
Agency application & approval
Fingerprinting & background checks
Homestudy documentation (autobiographies, letters of reference, medical checks, etc)
Homestudy social worker visits
Dossier documentation (birth & marriage certificates, IRS info, letter from bank, passports, photos, etc)

Next Steps:
Social worker completes final homestudy document -->
Send documents to Homeland Security for further background checking -->
Send documents to Dept of State for authentication -->
Ready to accept a referral (in adoption-speak this means be matched up with a child!) -->
Accept referral -->
Wait 4-6 months for court date in Ethiopia -->
Our agency lawyer goes to court for us in Ethiopia -->
Pass court (child is legally ours!) -->
Wait 6 weeks for Embassy appointment -->
Travel to Ethiopia to finalize adoption with US Embassy and bring our child home!!

Prayer Requests:
-For all the paperwork to be processed smoothly
-For wisdom in the referral process. The way our agency works, we essentially choose our child from a pool of waiting children... not an easy task! Pray that God will make it clear to us who He has chosen for us.
-For our waiting child, whoever he or she may be -- for safety, provision, preparation, and loving care.
-For our children at home, Nate (4) & Dexter (2) - that we can prepare them well for this exciting time in our family's life.

12/29/09 looking at the one

Haregewoin Teferra, from the book There Is No Me Without You

I am beginning to wake up.

I wish I could say that, because God so loved the world, I have too. I wish I could say that statistics about genocide and child soldiers and poverty and hunger have motivated me to make real changes in my life -- to sacrificially love the suffering world. Sure, I've shed a tear, prayed some prayers, even sent monthly checks. I've talked about these things at dinner parties like a good socially-conscious Christian should. But mostly I have felt numb and powerless, overwhelmed by numbers I can't understand and concepts I have never experienced. In the end, these problems have been too big and too far removed from my comfortable suburban life to move me to authentic compassion.

Even our decision to adopt from Ethiopia hasn't felt like a reaction to the suffering world, necessarily, but more like a simple yielding to the way in which God has called us to build our family. We don't view it as rescuing a suffering orphan, but rather bringing home our son or daughter and fulfilling God's promise to care for him or her.

As part of our adoption preparation, I am reading a book called There Is No Me Without You, the story of an Ethiopian woman who accidentally starts an orphanage in her home. Much of the book centers on the problem of AIDS in Ethiopia and other developing countries, and the tidal wave of orphans it has created as an entire generation disappears from the disease. I have heard all this before. I have read the statistics, heard Bono's speeches, and seen pictures from friends' mission trips. So why was I completely shocked by this book? Why did I feel like I was hearing all of this for the first time? What made me suddenly care?

Mother Teresa called it "looking at the one." According to sociological research, when human beings are faced with massive problems on a global scale they experience what researcher Dr. Paul Slovic calls psychic numbing. They don't care, and they don't act - perhaps because they don't feel that they can make any difference. When faced with the problems of a single individual, humans are empathetic, compassionate, and willing to give sacrificially to the cause.

One of the children in this book is my child. AIDS is killing the generation that should have fed, clothed, and educated my child, and all this time I have not cared. We have not cared. Miracle-working drugs have made HIV manageable and AIDS almost invisible in America and that is good enough for us. Drug patents, international trade policy, and illogical, self-serving rhetoric are keeping Americans safe, healthy, and rich while children in Africa wake up between two dead parents. Am I over-stating? Over-simplifying?

I don't know. All I know is that an Ethiopian child I've never met is already teaching me, waking me up, shaking my shoulders, and asking me to move.

12/07/09 homestudy buddy

We've heard that adoption is a hurry-up-and-wait process. If that's true, we are definitely in the "hurry up" part! Our first contact with our social worker was Friday, December 4. We met with her 2 days later and have 2 more meetings on the calendar, so by Monday, December 21 we will be done with that part of the homestudy. Then there will be about 2-3 weeks of writing for both us and the social worker, after which we will be completely DONE with the homestudy!

We will then have a few more steps to take to make our dossier complete and authenticated, but it's possible that we will be ready for a referral as early as February. For those of you unfamiliar with adoption-speak, that means we find out who our child is -- name, gender, pictures, biographical information, etc. There is usually about a 4-6 month wait between accepting a referral and traveling to pick up the child, so we are still shooting for late summer or early fall for our travel. This could all change of course, as there are many unpredictable elements in the process of international adoption... but still... we're excited!

[By the way, I titled the post "homestudy buddy" because I love love love our social worker! She is so helpful and encouraging -- one of those people who you meet and feel like you've known forever. And she brought me incredible authentic Ethiopian coffee. I love her.]

P.S. Our agency director, Joy Casey, is currently in Ethiopia visiting the orphanages... she will probably hug & kiss our child on this trip without even knowing it -- crazy! If you want to read the reports she is sending back, check out the YWAM Ethiopia blog.

12/04/09 i feel you

Last night was our church's prayer service, a monthly gathering with prayer, silence, music, and communion. Toward the end of the evening we shared requests for ourselves and others and prayed for each other. I asked for prayer about our adoption process -- for God's guidance and provision throughout each step of our journey toward bringing our child home.

After all the requests were shared, we bowed our heads together. Forrest prayed for Bob. Vicki prayed for Lorraine. I prayed for Russell. And then Mary Jane began to pray for me and Jon and our child in Ethiopia. I have known for months now that we have a child waiting for us across the world. But last night, maybe for the first time, I felt it. All of a sudden I had strong and urgent desire to GO - to run across the mountains and oceans and cultures and red tape that separate me from my child. The child I love, but whose face I haven't seen.

Wait for me, my love. I'm coming.

11/24/09 another step closer

The Check-List Wall.

Today, for neither the first nor the last time, we will mail a fat packet of paperwork to our adoption agency. It contains all the necessary forms that need to be in place before the homestudy begins in earnest (i.e. social worker in-home visits), including:

-Supplemental Homestudy Form (asks hard questions like "Have you ever been convicted of child abuse?" Um... do convicted child abusers really try to adopt??)
-Medical Reports for both husband and wife (had to be notarized -- good thing I know a guy.)
-Employment Verification letter
-Autobiography for both husband and wife (over 25 pages of questions about every last little detail of our whole lives... incredibly time-consuming to fill out... but we did it!)

It feels good to check stuff off the list, knowing we are getting closer each day to meeting our next child.

10/01/09 shifting gears

Jennie Young with Besufekad, adopted from Ethiopia through Adoption Ministries of YWAM

I have noticed that sometimes when we ask God what He wants for us -- option A or option B -- He likes to respond with something along the lines of "Neither -- let's go for option C." Isn't that just like Him.

Over the past six months we have been asking God which adoption path he wants us to take -- birthmother or foster-to-adopt. Finally, after lots of prayer and discussion, we have our answer:


In addition to handling domestic adoptions, the agency we have been working with (Adoption Ministries of YWAM) also operates several orphanages in Ethiopia, out of which they arrange international adoptions. We heard about the option to adopt from Ethiopia at our first orientation meeting with our agency, but until a few weeks ago we had not given it any consideration. For one thing, it is A LOT more expensive and a bit more intense in terms of paperwork. But over the course of the last few weeks we have begun to pray seriously about it and now believe that it is the direction God is leading us. In anticipation of some of the questions you may have about this, here is a little Ballast Ethiopian Adoption FAQ:

How long will it take? The agency estimates 9-12 months from the time you begin your application to the time you bring home your child. They told us that this is a rather high estimate - it could be faster if we do our part quickly. Keep in mind that there is NO wait time to get a referral (in adoption-speak this means that there are currently children who would be a good match for our family ready and waiting to be adopted). The 9-12 months is basically just how long it usually takes to do all the paperwork.

How old will the child be? We are asking for a child younger than 18 months. Our agency believes they will be able to pair us up with a child that age right away.

Will you go to Ethiopia to pick up your child? Yes. One of the advantages of adopting from Ethiopia is that, due to the way their government handles adoption, families only need to spend about 5-7 days in the country to complete the adoption. We will probably stay longer though, so that we have an opportunity to travel to our child's birthplace and see the orphanage where he or she lived.

How can we support you? I'm so glad you asked!! First of all, we'd love your continued prayers as we move through this process. Please pray not only for us and the process, but also for our child. He or she is probably either in utero or already born today, and we would love nothing more than to cover him or her in prayer. Later on down the road we may post about other ways to support us, particularly as we plan for the financial aspect of the adoption. We recognize that when a child joins a family, no matter how it happens, this child becomes part of a larger community. We are not adopting alone -- our extended families, our neighborhood, our friends, and our church are all adopting this child too. And we absolutely could not do it without you. Thank you!

08/12/09 this came in the mail yesterday

07/30/09 decisions

Yesterday afternoon Jon and I sat down with the director of Adoption Ministry of YWAM. Joy is just about the most lovely individual you could meet and we had a great time chatting with her. Now that we have completed the agency interview, our next step is a 30 hour training course. We'll take the course in October and start the home study process immediately following its completion.

After talking with Joy, Jon and I realized that we have a big decision before we get too much further along in the process: birthmother adoption or foster-to-adopt? These two options are very different and will require different preparation and perspective for us, and even for our family and community. Naturally there are advantages and challenges to each option, and we need to weigh those things against our situation, our constitutions, and our calling. Ultimately we know that God's call on our lives will be the determining factor, and we are resting in that.

Please pray with us for God to make his will clear to us. Pray that God gives us the grace to discern together where He is leading us. Thank you!

07/08/09 step two: interview

Prayers of the Saints, by Glen LaMar

Today we got a call from our adoption agency. They have received and processed our application and we're ready to move on to the next step, which is a face-to-face interview with the agency staff. In about three weeks we will meet with the director and make sure this is a good fit for both us and the agency. We are so thankful for your continued prayer and support as we walk through this process!

06/22/09 hurry up and wait

After what has seemed like ages and ages of prayer, procrastination, and finally a burst of productivity... Jon and I completed and mailed in our application to become adoptive parents. We chose a local agency called Adoption Ministry of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) because of their focus on caring for both the birth mothers and the adoptive families throughout the entire process, and because their staff are incredible giants in the faith. They absolutely love their work, because they are doing exactly what God created them to do -- forming and growing families by the grace of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Jon and I have been talking about adopting since our first few weeks of marriage. While looking for a church in our new neighborhood, we heard a sermon on James 1:27 and both experienced the prompting of the Holy Spirit to make adoption part of our family story. Part of our desire to adopt comes from our understanding of our own status as adopted children in the family of God. God had his own perfectly good biological child, and yet he chose to adopt us. He knew the risks. He knew that we would bring our baggage, our history, our bloodline tracing back to Adam. But he extended his love and grace to us anyway, even going so far as to sacrifice the life of his own Son in order to seal our adoption, salvation, and eternal life with him. Therefore, we love (and adopt) because he first loved and adopted us.

We also believe that every life is valuable, from the very moment of conception. Women who are unable to parent need to have good, healthy options for themselves and their babies. Because we stand against abortion, we feel both an obligation and a desire to give women a better alternative. If people like us, who have been so richly blessed with resources, jobs, physical health, supportive families, a strong marriage, and good friendships, do not adopt... who will? And finally, we believe that the family of God should be first in line when it comes to taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Ultimately the responsibility to care for 'the least of these' does not rest on the government or social services -- it rests on the Church.

So... here we go! We know this adventure will be difficult, even risky. We don't enter into that lightly. But we also know the much greater risk and danger of living outside the call of God for our lives. This is where God is leading us, so no matter what we encounter on the way, it will be within the cover of his protection and care. We are hoping to complete our home study by the end of 2009 and (Lord willing) most likely welcome our new child sometime in 2010. Please pray for us!