Famous Last Words

Our Adoption Journey to Haiti

Intervention May 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 4:02 pm

I am a pretty competitive person. I don’t know how my laid back husband tolerates me. We have probably played 500 games of gin rummy over the course of our relationship -he has never won. One might think I would show some mercy and let him win one game. Nope – I can’t do it. He pretty much won’t watch Jeopardy with me anymore because I insist on shouting out the answers before he even has a chance to read the question.

I blame my dad for this streak of ugliness. He’s pretty hard core when it comes to playing games as well.  Although he keeps his competitive spirit hidden well – mine bubbles right at the surface.

The adoption process in Haiti brings out the worst in me.  When Haiti announced that they were going through the steps to become part of the Hague Convention, they set a quota for the number of dossiers (paperwork) they would accept from the United States. They identified 19 US adoption agencies they would partner with – and of those 19 agencies, they would only accept one dossier per agency/per month (so a total of 228 dossiers per year from the US).

That essentially meant that there is a line of people waiting to send their dossiers to Haiti. And when there is a line, my competitive nature is to GET IN THE FRONT OF THE LINE.

So as to not drive my husband and myself crazy, I intentionally decided not to ask my adoption agency how many people are in line in front of us.  I’ve already been a mad-woman trying to complete all of our required paperwork.  I did not want any added pressure.

And then God intervened. For some reason, Haiti opened its doors last week and accepted more dossiers than its quota allowed. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for this – maybe insiders know more than I do. I’m calling it a Holy intervention. Essentially, the entire line at our adoption agency was wiped out. Haiti accepted 11 dossiers from our agency alone. That means as soon as we finish our paperwork, it is being sent to Haiti (as of now), instead of sitting on the desk of our adoption coordinator for a year while we “wait in line.”

This gives this neurotic person great peace.

Here is what we know about the Haitian adoption process today.  It could change at any point.  We are trying not to have any expectations about timing.

Step 1: Gathering all of the paperwork necessary for the adoption.  We have been doing this since March 1 and should be finished by August.  Side note: Everyone told us this process would take 3-6 months and I did not believe them because I think I am sooo efficient. Once we gather all of our paperwork, our adoption coordinator sends it to the Haitian Consulate in Chicago to be translated and authenticated.

Step 2: Our papers get sent to Haiti to be legalized.  This takes up to 8 weeks to complete.

Step 3: A Haitian lawyer collects our legalized paperwork and sends it to the Haitian departments that oversees adoptions – IBESR (they are kind of a big deal in this whole process).

Step 4: IBESR contacts our adoption agency with information (a referral) about our child. We have no idea how long this will take or what the matching process is.

Step 5:  Plan a 2 week bonding trip to visit our referred child at an orphanage and be evaluated by a social worker from the IBESR.

Step 6:  The IBESR approves the family and dossier exits the IBESR.

Step 7:  Orphanage sends our paperwork through Parquet (pre-court legalization), the court system, Ministry of Interior, Passport and Visa. This process takes 6-8 months.

Step 8: We travel to Haiti and do some legal stuff and bring our child home.

We are only on Step 1 in this marathon. I am going to need some serious Holy intervention to make it to the end of journey. I also might need a hypothetical slap in the face when I start treating adoption like a race.


Ruckus May 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 4:57 pm

Patrick and I are newcomers to the international adoption arena. Every family has a unique path to the decision to adopt. People adopt for different reasons. I don’t think I am making a huge leap to say that in every case, the path to international adoption is well-intentioned.  In our case, we simply want to grow our family by adoption. We are Christians who are convicted by Isaiah 1:17 – “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”

There is a ruckus going on right now in the international adoption community. It is causing a big stir. As newcomers, we are paying very close attention.

A well-known author, Kathryn Joyce, recently released a book called, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, And the New Gospel of Adoption”. In her book, she characterizes where the orphan movement is going wrong and puts forth some pretty tough accusations about Christians adopting internationally.  She writes, ““Despite the varied but largely altruistic motivations of evangelical adoption advocates, as a movement it is directing hundreds of millions of dollars into a system that already responds acutely to Western demand—demand that can’t be filled, at least not ethically or under current law.  What it can mean for tens of thousands of loving but impoverished parents in the developing world is that they become the supply side of a multi-billion dollar global industry driven not just by infertility but now also by pulpit commands.”

Well that certainly is a punch in the gut for this well-intentioned hope-to-be adoptive mother.

There has been an outcry from the adoption community. A lot of people are trying to dismiss the book. I am still trying to process all of this, but I don’t think we can ignore any system that is so clearly broke. You don’t have to be very seasoned in international adoption to recognize this. I think we need to honestly tackle the issues Joyce raises head on. While I don’t agree with everything she says, I think the book has generated a critical conversation. And as newcomers, I am grateful that we are learning about these issues early and what we need to know as we navigate this very complicated system.

I don’t think anyone would argue that corruption exists in international adoption. Mothers are coerced and manipulated to give up their babies. Documents are falsified. Babies are being sold. When we bring our big bucks into developing countries, are we actually increasing the demand for orphans? Are we contributing to the problem? How can this very well-intentioned attempt to adopt be twisted into something so corrupt?

Everyone is gently reminding those of us early in the adoption process that this corruption takes place in some adoptions, not all. There are highly ethical adoption agencies and orphans who truly cannot be reunited with their families. We are clinging to this.

I say this cautiously with my finger pointed at myself, but I think we maybe have an incorrect perception of international adoption. The perception is that developing countries cannot possibly take care of all of their children given their state of poverty, poor health conditions, and lack of educational access. They NEED us Americans to save their children.

Additionally, I am guilty of shades of this type of thinking (as written by Jen Hatmaker in a recent blog post http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/14/examining-adoption-ethics-part-one) – “There is this silent belief that kids are better off with us, period. We say, “God chose this child for me. She is mine. She was always meant to be mine.” No. Our children were meant for their birth families, the way every child ever born is. God did not intend these children for my wealthy home and accidentally put them in Ethiopian wombs. Does God not weep for birth moms who were tricked? Who were coerced? Who were so vulnerable? Were their children gifts for us and not them? “

There is an outcry for people to turn their attention and resources to family preservation. Children really belong with their birth parents or families, right? That makes sense. We should concentrate our efforts on supporting communities so that families can raise their children.

What we have learned in our very short education is that we really need both. Yes, let’s prevent orphans. Let’s invest in job training, maternal health, and parenting tools in developing countries. Let’s spend our money on locally-led initiatives that will keep Haitian kids with their Haitian mommies. But while we are investing resources into family preservation, shouldn’t we also take care of children who really are orphans, in the most ethical way possible?

As I mentioned early, we are still so new to the adoption world.  We certainly don’t want to do harm. So for now, all we can do is move forward, pay attention, be intentional, and listen to the people who know what they are talking about – those that are actually on the ground doing the work. And pray. Pray for the children of Haiti; pray for their moms; and pray for the American families in the adoption community.


Shout Outs May 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 2:24 pm

We were so blessed this weekend by our bake sale. Despite the rain, it went incredibly well and we raised $350 for our
adoption. Our cup ran full all weekend. We had so many people supporting this little bitty bake sale.


Here are a few shout outs:

Rex and Kristie Stover – They hosted the bake sale at their home (plus baked delicious muffins). Their beautiful neighborhood in Leesburg was holding a community yard sale, so we had a lot of traffic. Here they are:


My mom – she single-handedly made four coffee cakes and two dozen cookies. Additionally, she rallied her friends and church community to bake, including: Kristen Lowery (mother of two small kids who works and goes to school, yet she somehow found the time to make us cookies?!!); Kris Radcliffe (who has a broken ankle, yet she still baked); Connie Stover; Becky Buczynski; Debbie Dunn; and Linda Girten.

My sister – My sister is not someone I would consider a baker. But she pulled out three different kinds of cookies to support us-we love her.

And our friends Michele Ament (who has a newborn baby and found time to make peanut butter rice krispie treats), Dacia Kacala, Vicki Ryan, and Jill Vinson (the Vinson family did a drive-by as well to load their kids up on sugar. Jill also made our beautiful signs). Here they are:

bs5 bs4

Danielle Mead – who all the way from Cheyenne, Wyoming supported our bake sale in a big way!

Our final shout-out goes to Steve Finney. Patrick and I did not have a rain plan. We didn’t even consider rain. As we were driving to Leesburg on Saturday morning at 7 am to go to the bake sale, we realized that a storm was brewing and we needed a plan. We remembered that Steve has a 10X10 canopy tent.  So we called and woke Steve up at 7 am. Not only did we wake him up, but we then asked him to get out of bed and bring us his canopy tent 30 minutes away. And he did it and we love him for it – here he is under his VT tent:


And we had so many others who offered to help (we’ll take you up on it for our June 22 garage sale)! We are so encouraged by your support.


Mom Love May 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 6:30 pm

I am not really a “kid” person. You couldn’t pay me enough money to babysit other people’s kids when I was a teenager. I don’t particularly think babies are cute and refuse to change diapers (except my own kids). But somehow, I adore being a mother.

I love the way Brady calls me “mama” and how Noah still kisses me in front of his friends. I love holding their hands and making them breakfast in the morning. Secretly, I like it when they are mildly sick and just want to snuggle and lie in bed with me all day. There is so much joy in being a mother. You know what I am talking about – the depth of “mom love” is unreal!

Every kid deserves a mom. And if for whatever reason a child cannot be with his birth mom, he should have someone to tuck him into bed every night; someone to hold him close when he is scared; and someone to make an obscenely big deal about his birthday.  Every child should have a mom to call his own.

I was abundantly blessed in the mom department. This is my mom –


She is very cool. Well, she wears mom jeans, fanny packs, and really bad swimsuit covers, but other than that, she is cool. She taught me how to be a mom. As a kid, I assumed everyone had a mom who made them breakfast every morning and took them to soccer/dance lessons/swim lessons/piano practice/track meets for years. Of course my mom and dad drove three hours to see me run a 5k cross country race, of which they really only saw me run approximately 30 seconds. Doesn’t every 30-year-old still get an Easter basket?

Growing up, your way of life is your perspective of reality. I had no idea that every child did not have access to this kind of mom. In fact, I often gave my mom a hard time about a few areas where I thought she was deficient: 1) She could not French braid my hair (the nerve of her) 2) She could not sew a homemade Halloween costume for me (so I had to resort to trash bags the year I went as a California raisin) and 3) She would not drive in the snow, so I was forced to stay home on snow days (gasp).

Never mind the fact that she was a military wife, moving two kids around the country, having to find new doctors, enroll in new schools, and be a single parent while my dad was on TDY trips. Or the fact that while she often had a job to contribute financially to our family, she always made sure she was home before we got out of school. Or that she taught us really important things like acceptance, patience, humor, and love.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am so incredibly humbled by all of the “mom love” I have received my entire life. Thanks mom.


Fingerprints May 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rgraham100 @ 5:02 pm

Here are a couple of pictures of Patrick and me getting our fingerprints taken at the Herndon Police Department. So many people told us about the atrocity of paperwork that accompanies adoption.  I didn’t believe them – now I do!photo photo1 photo2


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