Sunday, May 19, 2013

There is an End in Sight

I have some surprising news to share. There is a real chance we may be travelling to Congo to bring our son home this summer. This is very exciting for us and also a bit stressful. We thought we had at least another six months to prepare for the 2-3 week trip to Africa and parenthood in general, but now we may have as little as 1-3 months. I have been in a list- writing frenzy all day: I have lists of things to do before we go, lists of things to buy, lists of vaccinations to get, lists of random information on travelling with a baby. (Did you like my list of lists?)

We have to get shots. We have to decide what kind and how many diapers, formula, bottles, clothes, toys, etc. to bring with us. We have to turn an empty bedroom into a nursery. We have to baby- proof the house (does that mean Matt can't leave his guns laying on the dining room table anymore?). We have to get travel insurance and fresh, new cash from the bank (DRC is picky about cash). Matt has to tell his boss he will probably be missing for several weeks this summer (the busy season for crime). We have to really clean the house and car. And, probably most importantly, we have to learn how to take care of a baby. We have done plenty of reading about adoption parenting, attachment issues and transracial families, but we haven't done much on basic baby care. We never thought we would be bringing home a baby this young. So we have a lot of reading to catch up on.

Besides realizing how very busy we will be this next month, we are so happy at the thought of meeting our son so soon.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Immigration Paperwork....Done!

I am happy to announce that I mailed out our immigration packet today. I think/ hope that is the last big stack of paperwork we have to do for the adoption. While filling out the forms was not fun, the idea of them was pretty exciting. This paperwork was the first we filled out that referred to us as the legal parents of our baby. It made the adoption feel very real. Our agency will send our paperwork to USCIS and it takes them about 5-6 weeks to approve it. Things are moving along.

An update on the exit permits: They say that they will start issuing them again by the end of May. We shall see.


Since I am lucky enough to live in Beautiful Idaho, I was able to take a lovely evening walk to clear my head from staring at forms all afternoon. I foresee spending many summer evenings on this ridgetop with our son.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Police Officer Week

This is National Police Officer Week, a time set aside to remember those officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect their communities. An average of 154 officers die each year in the line of duty. In addition, there is an average of 58, 261 assaults against law enforcement officers each year, resulting in over 15,000 injuries.

While it is important to remember the fallen in our hearts and minds, it is equally important to consider the state of our current police officers, working day in and day out so we can live our lives in relative peace and security. Last year 120 officers died in the line of duty and an additional 126 committed suicide. They are killing themselves at the same rate as their job is. That is concerning. Studies show that law enforcement officers tend to have higher rates of depression, anxiety, domestic violence and divorce than other groups of people. One third of officers suffer from PTSD (and most are not being treated for it because they don't even know they have it).

There are many factors that cause this high rate of depression and suicide in police officers (crazy schedules, feeling unappreciated, city and department politics, lack of faith in the judicial system), but I think one of the biggest contributing factors is the lack of balance. There are many other stressful careers out there, but most of them have a balance of good and bad in them. For instance, medical professionals see people die, but they also watch people heal.  Police officers generally only see the dark side of humanity. When a person is being kind to others, the police are not called to witness it. When they come in contact with people on duty, it is because those people are drunk, violent, selfish or are accident victims. In the role that police play in our communities, they do not often get to see people turn their lives around, families being reunited, or victims on the mend. Being immersed in negativity every day is bound to make even the most cheerful person a little melancholy.

I have posted a story below that kind of shows what it is like to be a police officer. Let's take a moment this week and say an extra prayer for the physical, mental, and spiritual health of our law enforcement officers.

When God Made Police Officers

When the Lord was creating Police Officers, He was into His sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And the Lord said, “Have you read the requirements on this order? A police officer has to be able to run five miles through alleys in the dark, scale walls, enter homes the health inspector wouldn’t touch, and not wrinkle their uniform. They have to be able to sit in an undercover car all day on a stakeout, cover a homicide scene that night, canvas the neighborhood for witnesses, and testify in court the next day. They have to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half-eaten meals, and they have to have six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands…no way!” “It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord, “it’s the three pairs of eyes an officer has to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees through a bulge in a pocket before they ask, ‘May I see what’s in there, sir?’ (When they already know and wish they’d taken that accounting job), another pair here on the side of the head for their partner’s safety, and another pair of eyes here in front so they can look reassuringly at a bleeding victim and say, ‘You’ll be all right, ma’am,’ when they know it isn’t so.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching His sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.” “I can’t”, said the Lord, “I already have a model that can talk a 250 pound drunk into a patrol car without incident and feed a family of five on a civil service paycheck.”

The angel circled the model of the Police Officer very slowly. “Can it think?” she asked. “You bet”, said the Lord, “it can tell you the elements of a hundred crimes, recite Miranda warnings in its sleep, detain, investigate, search, and arrest a gang member on the street in less time that it takes five learned judges to debate the legality of the stop…and still it keeps its sense of humor.

This officer also has phenomenal personal control. They can deal with crime scenes painted in hell, coax a confession from a child abuser, comfort a murder victim’s family, and then read in the daily paper how law enforcement isn’t sensitive to the rights of criminal suspects.”

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the Police Officer. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced, “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.” “That’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.” “What’s the tear for?” asked the angel. “It’s for bottledup emotions, for fallen comrades, for commitment to that funny piece of cloth called the American flag, for justice.” “You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.
(author unknown)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It is a Long and Bumpy Road

The long, winding road to adoption is full of bumps and dips and mud and quicksand and boulders and downed trees and....and....

It's not too bad travelling down this road when you know you will eventually arrive at your destination. Although, some of these obstacles make you doubt if you will ever successfully make it to the end.

The first big scare I had was last November. While everybody in the U.S. was busy preparing their Thanksgiving meals, a rebel group in Congo completely took over a city in the eastern part of the country. The Congolese military had retreated and it seemed as if the Congolese government had no control over the eastern half of it's nation. I was really nervous that adoptions would be suspended during all this turmoil. That incident actually did not affect adoptions because the cities that people adopt from are usually in the western, more stable part of the DRC. But, it is still hard to have faith in an adoption program from a country that is barely holding itself together.

In the beginning of this year we received some more bad news. The US Embassy changed their orphan investigation timelines from two months to up to six months. A few years ago there were only 50 adoptions from the DRC; this year it is expected to have 500 adoptions. The US Embassy has not hired any new employees to keep up with the piling workload. For the investigation, they need to travel to the child's birthplace to interview family members. The worst part is that they are only doing investigations for children from Kinshasa. They do not have the resources to travel to other parts of the country to conduct investigations. The US Embassy currently does not have a plan as to how they will conduct the required investigations in the city where my son is from. Without the Embassy investigation, my son will not be able to immigrate to the United States. Until they hire new people and get a real plan in place, it is easy to believe that the investigations for children from outside Kinshasa will take longer than the six month estimate.

Last week we received even more bad news. The Congolese government has  "temporarily suspended issuance of exit permits to adopted Congolese children seeking to depart the country with their adoptive parents". This basically means they have suspended adoptions since you can't bring your child home without the exit permit. This suspension is in response to a Canadian adoption that was not complying to their rules. While they investigate that adoption and others, nobody else can bring their children home. The exit permit is the very last step of the process, so it is not affecting our adoption yet. Our agency does not seem overly concerned and I am hoping that it will all get worked out before we get to that step. The word "temporary" makes me nervous. It could mean two weeks or a year or it could be a stepping stone to "permanent".

When we first started this adoption, adopting from the DRC was supposed to be a relatively easy, one year process. It seems to me that Congo is on it's way to eventually shutting adoptions down. This goes along with the general trend of most countries. When a country's international adoption program becomes popular, they become uneasy about other countries taking all their orphans. They shut down adoption programs and blame it on "unethical adoptions". (Child trafficking and other unethical adoptions are serious issues, but completely shutting down adoptions permanently is not the answer).  It really seems that throughout the world, many countries are closing their doors to international adoption, even if their own domestic adoption is not improving. I don't know if it is a pride thing or an anti- America thing, but I know so many children are going to miss out on being a part of a loving family because of it. I will not be surprised if the DRC eventually shuts down its adoption program. I just really hope we can bring our baby home before they do.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Six Months

This past week our Baby Boy turned six months old. While most parents see this as a fairly major milestone for their biological children, and some even celebrate it, for us it was kind of a sad day. It was a very distinctive reminder that we have missed the first half of the first year of our son's life. It is also a reminder that our son has spent SIX MONTHS without a loving family of his own. Studies have shown that there is roughly a one month developmental delay for every three months a child lives in an orphanage- type setting. Every month that goes by that he is not with us, he will be sicker, more delayed, and have a harder time forming meaningful attachments in relationships.

In an attempt to "celebrate" his 6- month birthday, I made him a sign and took a picture of us holding it while we were out on a hike. Unfortunately, we were standing too far from the camera to actually read the sign in the picture. Oh well- we tried. Hopefully when he is older, he will look at these pictures and know that his parents were thinking of and caring about him during all these months that we were apart.

view from our hike

the dogs enjoying refreshment from a miniature waterfall

another view from our hike