Friday, November 02, 2007
As most of our friends and family know, we have been waiting for you for so long. In fact, this month marks the beginning of our third year, since we began our adoption process in October of 2005. And we would love nothing more than to bring you home sooner rather than later. There's only one thing we want more: to know that your adoption was 100 percent ethical, that your birthparents (new more correct language: "first parents") could not raise you and were not coerced in any way in making you available for adoption.
There is much talk about ethics in Vietnam adoptions right now, but this is not a new subject for us. When we decided to complete an adoption from Vietnam while waiting for our China adoption, we initially chose an agency that seemed to be offering the fastest referrals. A month or so into it, we saw several red flags, not the least being that the agency lied to us about who one of their in-country facilitators was--and it turns out she is someone who has been previously investigated by INS for irregular adoptions.
We immediately left that agency and began a several months-long search for the most ethical agency out there (that would allow concurrent adoptions--most don't now). I think we found an extremely ethical agency in Lutheran Social Services; however, that ethics has a price, and they have only made one referral in the past year as they've gotten their program up and running. And it doesn't look like things are going to speed up much soon.
It may be that we will get our referral for Sophie from China first (that's still 9-12 months away), and maybe we will never get a referral from Vietnam. But I know you're out there somewhere and you are already a part of our family in our hearts.
There are many prospective adoptive parents out there who are rightfully confused by all the conflicting information about ethics in Vietnam adoption. And, once they've plunked down money, are reluctant to see the red flags in their own agencies. Some are saying that many of the warnings are overreacting scare tactics that are unfair to prospective adoptive parents. My feeling is that too many adopting parents err on the other side of caution: they tend to prefer to stay somewhat ignorant so they don't have to face the fact that there is no quick, easy, ethical Vietnam adoption of a healthy infant girl. (And the U.S. Embassy agrees. See previous post.) But those parents will have their own demons to face, I believe, when their adult children learn that their agencies were sketchy. And of course they hurt the rest of us who then must face extra delays because of new rules, etc.
But I try not to focus on them so much. I focus on you: a little boy out there somewhere who really needs a home, who someday will be a man who wants and deserves to know that everything--everything--was done to make sure that there was no possibility of any coercion or baby-selling in his adoption. I want you to know that, even if we have to wait three more years for you, that's what we're doing.
Your mom (and dad)
For privacy reasons, the US Embassy in Hanoi can not discuss specific cases or comment on specific agencies. However, the Embassy believes it is important for people to have accurate information about the current situation in Vietnam and have kindly sent us this statement to share with our readers:
In recent months, the Embassy and USCIS have seen an increase in the number of irregularities appearing in orphan petitions and visa applications in Vietnam. This has resulted in a similar increase in the issuance of Notices of Intent to Deny.
We recognize that a decision to deny a petition is an extremely undesirable outcome for adopting parents and for children, who themselves may be the victims of unscrupulous agents. For this reason, we urge adoptive parents to be extremely diligent in reviewing qualifications and standards before selecting an adoption service provider. Unfortunately, as news stories and blogs often reveal, the glowing report of an adoptive parent who successfully “brought home” a child cannot be taken as evidence that the adoption was ethical or fully legal.
We at the Embassy have a legal responsibility to ensure the integrity of the adoption process when that process is part of the request for an immigrant visa. Moreover, we have an ethical responsibility to ensure that international adoptions include adequate safeguards for the rights of the children, birth parents, and adoptive parents throughout this process.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Intercountry adoptions signed by the U.S. and Vietnam in 2005 was the beginning of a step towards an intercountry adoption program that would meet international standards such as those established by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions. That convention contains a number or protections and safeguards currently lacking in Vietnam. For that reason, we are urging the Government of Vietnam to push forward with its efforts to become a Hague partner.
The MOU was designed to increase transparency and reduce corruption, and came after a period when adoptions had been suspended in Vietnam because of significant problems involving corruption and “Baby buying.”
The ongoing number of irregularities that we are currently seeing strongly indicates that the adoption process in Vietnam still lacks sufficient oversight and regulation. Specifically there is insufficient control of the so-called child finders and an inadequate regulation of the fees paid to individuals and institutions. Despite its stated intention to do so, Vietnam has yet to publish a schedule of fees. We are extremely concerned by reports of significant increases in the number of abandoned children since 2005, especially in the provinces of Phu Tho and Thai Nguyen.
We continue to encourage the DIA to work with provincial authorities in Vietnam to improve the integrity of the adoption system. We recognize there may be legitimate questions concerning the DIA authority in these cases. Whatever the cause, to date we have seen little remedial action to address the problems. Even more important, we have seen little if any action to identify and prosecute those responsible for fraudulently documenting the abandonment of children, offering monetary inducements to families for relinquishing children, and offering children for international adoption without the consent of the birth parents.
We strongly endorse international adoption as an important option for Vietnamese children who do not have permanent families. We are deeply concerned, however, by confirmed cases of child selling, and by evidence that children are being released for adoption without the consent of the birth parents.
We are continuing to work with the Government of Vietnam to find ways to strengthen and improve accountability in the adoption system. We continue to urge Vietnam to pass a new, responsible, comprehensive law regulating adoptions, one that puts in place a process that protects the interests of all parties involved in and adoption and one that meets the standards of the Hague Convention. We look forward to the day when both of our countries are full participants in that convention.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Bad news (from China): Rumors that the in-country fee for China has been raised from $3,000 to at least $4,000 and maybe $5,000. It's true that it hasn't been raised in years, and that higher fees might give an incentive to orphanges to make more children paper ready, but it still sucks that, because our wait got longer, we get stuck with the new, higher fee. Not to mention the extra $1,000 in I-171H renewal. Still, it's not official yet, and only some agencies/orphanages/provinces seem to be raising it so far.
Monday, June 25, 2007
It's Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr: A message we hope to instill in you early on!
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis: Very popular adoption board book.
Mommy Far, Mommy Near: An Adoption Story by Carol Antoinette Peacock: Another adoption book, focuses on birthmother questions.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The Dalai Lama, whom Tibetan Buddhists believe is the reincarnation of the Buddha, made a visit to Chicago last week to give a public talk on “Finding Inner Peace in Turmoil.” A friend was kind of enough to get us tickets to the sold-out event. That morning your Dad and I packed our blanket, lawn chairs, and some snacks and headed downtown, arriving early enough, we thought, to enjoy a picnic lunch before hearing the revered religious leader speak. We arrived at Grant Park to find extremely long lines snaking around the Millennium Park “bean” sculpture before winding down to Michigan Avenue. Apparently the organizers were requiring each person to go through metal detectors and have each bag searched.
After about fifteen minutes, we had moved a total of twenty feet. So I sent your Dad to see if he could find a shorter line. No luck. By this time the lawn chairs were getting heavy and I was getting hungry. I started to complain about how poorly managed the event was—then felt guilty since that wasn’t a very go-with-the-flow Buddhist attitude. Still, while your Dad chatted with the colorfully dressed Tibetan immigrants behind us, I decided to follow the line to the front to see just how long it was. Then I did the math: We had already been in line almost an hour, and at the rate we were moving, it would be another couple hours before we entered the park.
It wasn’t that hard to decide to give up. It was one of the first beautiful spring days in Chicago and neither of us wanted to spend it in line. We called our friends who had already made it inside (they arrived much earlier) and told them not to save us a spot. As we walked away from the line, I saw an Asian man taking a photo of his infant son, and I lost it.
I burst into tears, aching for the little boy from Vietnam we have been waiting for, overwhelmed with sadness and frustrated with all the waits in my life. Your Dad helped me sit down on the curb and gave me a big hug. “Let’s just go find a nice spot and enjoy our picnic,” he suggested. I agreed, saying we might as well make the best of a bad situation. We’re getting good at that.
Acceptance. Surrender. Moving on.
So we took our lawn chairs, found a shady spot just outside of the ampitheater area, and sat down under a big tree. We ate our chips and salsa, read the paper, and listened to the music that opened the event. A number of people without tickets had the same idea, but the little community that had formed there was quiet and respectful.
After an hour or so, I got up to find a restroom and discovered that the line was down to almost nothing. I convinced your Dad that we should try to get in. We grabbed our stuff, made it through the security checkpoint, and found one of the last grassy spots on the lawn. As we got situated, a man introduced the Dalai Lama.
“I believe life is meant for happiness,” he told us. But that happiness doesn’t have to come from our external situation. “If one were to try to control the entire environment in which one lives, it’s impossible. However, by taking care of one’s own mental state, one can deal with hostility in one’s environment.”
By training your mind to have compassion for others, including your enemies, and controlling anger, he said, we can find the inner peace that surpasses our circumstances, whether they are years in a Chinese prison or the suffering involved with waiting for our adopted children.
“Too much impatience!” he scolded light-heartedly. Our world has become used to instant gratification and constant distraction. If he gets delayed for several hours at the airport, or finds he can’t sleep one night, he gratefully considers the time an opportunity for meditation. “Good! Sit and think! It’s useful.”
Although I have spent a good part of our now 19-month wait for you numb, depressed, complaining, crying, and trying to distract myself from the pain and frustration, I recently was given the opportunity to reflect spiritually on it. A publisher has asked me to write a book of spiritual reflections for in-process adoptive parents.
I'm about a third of the way done, and already the process has been so beneficial and healing. I'm using our delay to sit and think, as the Dalia Lama instructed, and already I'm finding the compassion I need to surpass these external circumstances.
I sign the contract next week, but the book won't be out until next year. My plan is to finish it before Sam comes home. I've given the publisher a deadline for the manuscript of July 1. I hope to share more of my insights in the next month or so, but mostly I'll be busy writing the book. It's a distraction, but a deeper one. I can't wait to share it with all of you when it's done.
Monday, April 23, 2007
A very scary rumor about China possibly not allowing people who are trying to adopt from Vietnam during their China wait to complete their China adoptions. If true, this could be the end of our ability to adopt two children, including a daughter.
I really can't take any more bad news. C'mon, God, I'm hanging on by a thread here, to begin with.
I will be calling my agency tomorrow morning to get their read on this. I'm praying it's not as dire as it sounds. This is the suckiest part of adoption: Anyone can change all the rules on you halfway through, and you're just completely screwed.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
It's time you meet some of the family who will be loving you to death once you get here. This is Auntie Trish, your Dad's sister, who lives in Philadelphia. She is going to be the coolest aunt. Sophie, you especially will be lucky to be guided by her fashion sense, although, Sam, I'm sure she will help you be hip, too.
Last weekend the Butler siblings were in Kentucky for the baptism of your cousin, Elena. Auntie Trish brought a book as a gift, and I shouldn't have been surprised that she picked one of the best books ever: one by Richard Scarry. I love Lowly Worm! Doesn't Elena seem really interested in it?
Your Daddy was also very good at reading to Elena!
We can't wait for you to meet the whole Butler clan. This weekend we are in Philadelphia, celebrating your grandparents' 40th wedding anniversary. I will share some photos of that non-celebration later.
We are working on redoing our USCIS paperwork now, as it will expire June 11. We thought we were smart, trying to do this Vietnam adoption during our China wait and figured we would not have to pay the almost $1,000 extra to redo this paperwork. Wrong. Oh well, I guess we're getting used to it.
Seeing little Elena cheered us both up, though. As does Auntie Trish, who has the best of the Butler sense of humor. Here's a secret: tomorrow is her birthday.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
For the first time in my life, I bought "People" magazine. Well, actually it was "Us" magazine, and I didn't really buy it, but I did ask for my co-worker's copy. You see, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were on the cover for a story about their adopting a 3-year-old boy from Vietnam. His name is Paz. I've seen pictures of him, and boy is he cute. There's been a lot of controversy about how quickly her adoption may have happened, though none of us really knows how her adoption happened.
I found this really great article from Adoption Buzz about adoptions in Vietnam. It explains pretty well the whole timing issue. I'm reprinting it here, for all those family and friends who are trying to understand this whole process.
(This is Part I of a 2-part series. Though Angelina's adoption is drawing a lot of attention on the adoption process, I think it can help to highlight some of the developing trends in Vietnam Adoption and show us that legal, ethical, and quick isn't necessarily an oxymoron).
The news confirming Angelina's arrival in Ho Chi Minh City to finalize her adoption is raising questions among the Vietnam adoption community about timeline, ethics, and fairness. While I do not have any specific information about her adoption other than what I find online, I do feel that her situation is drawing attention to relevant issues in Vietnam adoptions.
First, even though adoptive families are facing varying wait times before being invited to travel to Vietnam to finish their adoption, the adoption timeline in Vietnam is fairly clear cut. The legal process, as set out in Decree 68, takes up to 120 days (Art 40, Part I). This includes 30 days for approval of the adoptive family dossier and up to 90 days (Art 43, 44, 45, 46) for compilation and review of the adoptive child dossier (birth certificate, medical evaluation, abandonment verification, search for the birthmother, public notification, or verification of birth parents' relinquishment).
The most notable exclusion in this timeline is that it does not include time for identification of a child who may be available for adoption. For the process to be completed within the prescribed 120 days, it requires for an orphan child to be available and in the orphanage on the day that the Department of International Adoptions requests the orphanage to begin compiling the adoptive child dossier. If a child is not available on that day the timeline will be increased by as many days as it takes for a child to become available. (Note: This is not necessarily the only reason for an increased timeline, but it is one of the primary factors affecting increased waiting times).
Sometimes I think this can be a difficult concept to fully understand. We hear about poverty. We see pictures of orphan children and the orphanages where they live. We read the UNICEF statistics that more than 2 million children are orphaned in Vietnam. Yet we hear that we may have to wait for a child to become available? How can this be? The quick answer is that not all "orphans" living in orphanages are eligible for adoption and legal entrance into the United States. When it comes to international adoption for American citizens hoping to bring their adopted child back to the U.S., the only definition of "orphan" that matters is the definition that is laid out in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).
In addition to the possibility of the adoption timeline being increased because some of the children in the orphanage may not meet the definition of orphan under 101(b)(1)(F), some adoptive families may face longer timelines because of individual adoption agency logistics. Because each of the U.S. adoption agencies licensed in Vietnam is responsible for entering into humanitarian support agreements with specific orphanages before they are permitted to operate in a province, each agency is responsible for the number of orphanages and number of provinces in which they may place orphan children for adoption. And, of course, each adoption agency has a choice of how many adoptive parents they will accept into their Vietnam Adoption Program. When the balance becomes disproportionate one way or the other, the wait time will be impacted.
This brings us back to Angelina Jolie and my first point: though wait times vary, the legal process is straight forward. If a child is available for placement and an agency is working in enough orphanages to maintain the number of adoptive families in process, there are few reasons why the legal process in Vietenam should extend beyond 120 days. If her process began on or around Thanksgiving when she was in Vietnam to visit the orphanage, we are within a few days of 120.Another important Vietnam adoption trend highlighted in her adoption is the timing of when the 120 day legal process begins. Most of us understand the process to include the following: 1) our dossiers are sent to Vietnam, 2) our dossiers are submitted to DIA, 3) we wait for a referral, 4) we receive our referral and wait to travel.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Today we learned that the Vietnamese government has approved our dossier. Actually it happened last week sometime, but our agency wanted to make sure it was confirmed. So we got the unconfirmed news while we were on vacation in Phoenix with your Grandma and Grandpa.
What that means is that now we are just waiting for you to be approved for adoption. Or you may already have gone through the 127-day process, which include searching for a birth relative, trying to place you with an adoptive family in Vietnam, and being approved by the province where your orphanage is.
So, the question is how long before we learn who you are? Well, that could happen in the next month or so, or it could take another 2-3 months. Either way, we are pretty sure you have been born by now. (Of course, we thought that about Sophie over a year ago and were wrong).
There has been some hard news around here lately, mostly problems with both of our jobs and with your dad's school. So we were really excited to get some good news about you. Hopefully it won't be long before we'll be announcing who you are!
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Today is a kind of sad anniversary. One year ago our dossier for you was logged in at the CCAA in China. At that time they were predicting that we would learn about you in 6-8 months and bring you home in 8-10 months. After working so hard to quickly complete our paperwork, we were so excited.
Obviously, you didn't come home in 8-10 months, and you probably won't be home 8-10 months from now, especially since we are now adopting your brother before you. Still, we think about you every day and can't wait until the day--whenever it is--when we finally meet you.
Your Mom and Dad
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I'm sorry I haven't written much about your adoption process lately. Your Dad and I have been having a hard time with all the disappointments. One way I have dealt with that is to try not to think about it, and obviously that means blogging about it, too. Not to mention that there really hasn't been anything to report.
But there is some slightly positive news from Vietnam this week. Apparently the dossiers of the three LSS families that are ahead of us learned on Monday that their dossiers have been approved by the DIA (central Department of International Adoption). They will now go to the province for approval. This is the first step toward a referral. Previously we had been told that our dossiers were sitting on some official's desk while the DIA waded through the backlog with the new procedures. So this means the movement has begun.
These three families have weathered the wait for LSS's license just as we have, maybe even longer, and have had their dossiers in Vietnam since late November. So I am very happy for them, but I had a twinge of sadness, since we had hoped we might move up into this first travel group. I have since learned that that is still a possibility, as LSS is hoping our (and another families') dossier will be approved by the DIA in week or so.
Of course, these estimates are always just guesses and something can always come up to slow things down. In a best-case scenario, we could be approved next week and a referral could come in the next month (with travel 2-3 months later). So my heart is opening up to the possibility of summer, though it still could be fall or winter.
Your Dad and I went back and forth on how or whether to celebrate the Asian New Year this year. Last year we had a party with the expectation that we would have Sophie home before this New Year. This year it was hard to come up with any celebratory spirit. But then I learned it is the extra lucky Year of the Boar, so I talked your Dad into going to the Tet celebration sponsored by the local organization of adoptive parents with children from Vietnam. Then there was a snowstorm and we weren't able to make it after all, since we had other dinner plans that night, too.
Maybe the lucky boar is going to help us bring you home this year after all.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Although a miracle is possible, it is not likely that we will get our son anytime soon. Even by June is now 50/50 at best. I am so upset, I spent the whole day crying yesterday. I no longer believe we are ever going to be parents and it hurts so much.
I truly thank God I have loving, supportive husband who is still keeping the faith, but even he's pretty sad today. I'm going to need to check out for a few weeks till I can even deal with this news. Please pray for us.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
To those of you who check this little blog regularly, hoping for news of our adoption, I apologize for my long absence. As you know from my last hiatus, when I am struggling with bad news about all this, I begin to get depressed. That in turn makes me want to think about anything but this, so the last thing I want to do is chronicle the bad news and my depression here. This has become my way of coping: to try not to think about it. So far, it's been working. I haven't jumped out the window or killed my husband in a fit of anxious rage.
Last night, a good friend who asked how our adoption is going got my standard "not well" reply and then an explanation of why I feel the need to not think about it and try to build a little protective shell around my heart so it doesn't get smashed to smithereens. She tried to argue that that strategy, while helpful in the short term (and maybe even necessary for my mental health), could be counterproductive in the long term, since if you're closed rather than open to love, pain, etc., you tend to bring bad energy to yourself (which I believe) and this bad energy could be prolonging the wait.
For over an hour, I argued with her that she didn't know how bad this was, and that I couldn't open myself up anymore even if I wanted to. My body and psyche seem to have gone into protective mode, and the little voice inside me, which I trust to be the Spirit, is saying, "Just hold on. That's all you need to do." The problem is, and I think this friend (you know who are) was saying that staying in that mode (just holding on, not risking vulnerability, building a little protective wall around yourself) may be OK and necessary in the short term, but it's not a mode you want to be in for any length of time. And I've been there for too many months now (with only a short break at the end of October when our agency got licensed, but which unfortunately was followed with more not-so-good news).
Now, I'm not ready to knock down my protective wall, but I know there is wisdom in my friend's advice. Not to mention that she was echoing something my best friend (you know who you are) said to me several months ago. So, in some small concession to the need to be a wee bit more open, I am going to commit to blogging about this once again. It's a tiny "opening" that I feel comfortable taking on at this point.
So, here I am. And here's the news:
Our paperwork for Sam's adoption was finally logged in on January 2. We finished it before Thanksgiving, but it took almost three weeks to be authenticated in Washington D.C. (this is with our agency paying extra for expiditing), which is insane. The file was sent to Vietnam on December 15, but because of the meetings there, it couldn't get logged in before Christmas, then couldn't get logged in during Christmas, then couldn't get logged in after Christmas because people weren't there. So something that should have taken two weeks max took almost two months. This is the story of our Vietnam adoption in a nutshell. It's no one's fault necessarily, but we just can't seem to cut a break.
This late login combined with the changes in Vietnam adoptions (more about that in a later post) means that our referral and travel dates are very much a crapshoot. Normally, we would expect to have our referral in less than two months and to travel two months after that. Now, who knows? It could be quick or it could be quite long. And I won't even get into how this may affect our China adoption. (That's a whole 'nother post, too.)
I'm no longer making predictions, but I will venture this: If we went to Vietnam before late March/early April, it would be a miracle. It's still in the realm of possiblity, but not very probable. We will know more after a conversaton with our agency that is supposed to happen next week sometime.
Meanwhile, thanks to Kate and Karen for their tough love, and to all of you who read this and who pray that Ed and I will become parents someday. I'll end with this piece of inspiration I found on someone else's email (can't remember who). I included it with our Christmas letter this year: "We go through what we go through to help others go through what we went through." I am trying to believe that there is some meaning in all this. I just haven't figured it out yet. And I'm not really ready to go there yet. Baby steps...