Warning: Super-long, picture-less post is in store today. I apologize, but adoption is a complicated process. There are lots of ups and downs, and explaining our adoption journey isn’t easy. I hope you’ll take the time to read, even though there’s a lot of red-tape to sort through.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote in very specific terms about our future daughter, Shawna. We may not have met her yet, but thanks to the photos and videos we have of her, she is someone we feel like we know. We already love her very much.
However, we have said numerous times on this blog that we hope to adopt two children from Eastern Europe, not just one. Who is our second adoptive child, you might ask? We wish we could answer that question with a definite answer, but the truth is we simply don’t know.
When Arturo and I initially felt God calling us to adopt several months ago, we both believed He was calling us to adopt two children. That was easy to believe and to understand, since at that time we thought both Shawna and her younger brother, whose pseudonym is Seth, were available for international adoption. We have about twenty pictures of the two of them together, all taken sometime in 2010. The photos show them playing together lovingly, the best of friends and the best of playmates. We believed they were the two children God had planned for us, and so we decided to make inquiries about them. We hadn’t yet officially committed to adopt them, but mentally and emotionally, by the time we made inquiries we already thought of them as our children. At that point, virtually nothing we could have found out about them would have deterred us from pursuing their adoption.
However, the first report back from their orphanage contained something that definitely fit in the “virtually nothing” category. That email dropped a bombshell: Seth is no longer available for international adoption. Because Seth is healthy and does not have the medical issues Shawna has, he was considered more “desirable” by the powers that be, and the decision was made to separate the siblings. In July of 2012, Seth was removed from the orphanage and placed with a foster family, which means he can’t be adopted internationally.
This initial news, that Seth is not currently available for international adoption, started a huge roller coaster of emotions and strategizing that still continues. We would find out about new options available, causing us to hope and pray, only to have one door after another slammed in our face, leaving us to pick up the pieces and try to figure out how to move forward. In all of this, one thing has become clear: if we are able to adopt Seth, it will be only because of a miracle.
International adoption of a sibling out of foster care in this Eastern European country is possible and has been successfully completed by other families adopting special needs children and their sibling(s). However, in order for the adoption of the non-special-needs sibling who is in foster care to proceed, two things must happen. (1) The adoption regulators in this country must be willing to give our adoption facilitation team contact information for the foster family, and (2) the foster family must agree to release the sibling for adoption once they are contacted by the adoption facilitation team.
When we initially expressed interest in adopting both Seth and Shawna, an adoption facilitator in the country contacted the adoption regulators, got contact information for Seth’s foster family, and called them. Seth’s foster parents told this facilitator no, that they would not release Seth for international adoption.
They stated that they want to adopt Seth themselves. Without Shawna.
This leaves us with mixed feelings of despair and grief, coupled with happiness for Seth. Our despair and grief stem from the loss of Seth as our son, and for Shawna’s loss of Seth as a playmate, friend, and companion. We know that the grief we are experiencing pales in comparison to the loneliness Shawna experiences every day in the orphanage without her brother. However, our happiness stems from the fact that, while we may not be his ultimate family, Seth has found a family, and that is a joyous thing. He deserves a father and a mother who love him and care for him, and we are glad he has found that love in his foster family.
Additionally, we know that it would be best for Seth, and really also best for Shawna, to be adopted in their home country. The cultural and language adjustment required of our adoptive children will not be easy. Transitioning into a new family is hard enough without the added stress of not understanding the words of your new parents and not understanding the concepts in your new culture. We are prepared to help our adoptive children face that battle and handle those transitions, but we will also certainly admit that if Shawna and Seth could be adopted together in their country, that would be the ideal situation for both of them. It’s a wonderful thing that Seth has found the love he deserves in his home country.
However, the hard reality is that because of Shawna’s medical conditions, she will never be adopted in her home country. Her medical requirements are just too great for a family to be able to properly care for her in her country. If she is not adopted by the time she turns 16, she will age out of the orphanage system and will be put out on the streets without medication. She will die of her condition within a few years as a result. In-country adoption is simply not an option for Shawna. International adoption is her only hope for a life beyond the teenage years. Seth’s possible in-country adoption serves to highlight how dire Shawna’s need for a family is. While it breaks our hearts to think of taking Shawna half a world away from her younger brother, who is likely the only family she has ever known, we also know we can’t leave her in an orphanage while Seth grows and thrives in a family. She deserves a family just as much as he does.
(Because Seth is not currently available for adoption, we cannot post any photos of him on our blog without jeopardizing our adoption of Shawna. However, others have posted photos of the children together, and you can visit here to see one of those photos. This link includes several more photos of them together. Shawna and Seth are the first two children listed on this site.)
Despite the seemingly impossible obstacles, we have not given up hope that we may yet be able to adopt both Seth and Shawna together. Our adoption facilitation team is watching Seth’s status in the system and will alert us if anything changes. We also plan to ask for permission to adopt Seth at our appointment with the in-country adoption regulators, which will happen hopefully sometime this fall when we travel to the country to meet, adopt, and bring home our children. At that point, Seth’s foster family will be given a second chance to relinquish him for adoption with his sister. Perhaps they will change their minds once they know that a family is in the country ready to adopt Seth with Shawna together, ready to give both children a loving, nurturing home. We certainly believe that, barring in-country adoption of both children together, the next-best thing for them both would be international adoption together, since that would allow them to preserve the only family bond they’ve ever known. Individual adoption and separation from one another would be a distant third choice and, of the options available, would be the most emotionally difficult for the children to handle. We pray that if it is God’s will, in the months between now and when we travel to pick up the children, Seth’s foster family will have a change of heart and will have the courage to choose what is best for both children.
If our fears become reality and Seth’s foster family again says “no” when they are asked this fall, we have no intention of preventing contact between the children. In fact, we will encourage it. We are fairly certain that Seth and Shawna have had no contact since Seth was put into foster care last July. We want to do everything we can to allow the children to stay in touch, even if they don’t find an adoptive family together. We will ask for the mailing address of Seth’s foster family and pray that the adoption regulators agree to give it to us. If Seth’s foster parents agree, we also plan to purchase an inexpensive laptop like a Chromebook to give to Seth so that he and Shawna can Skype once she comes home to the US. Their sibling relationship is likely the closest bond either child has ever experienced, and we will do everything we can to keep that bond intact.
All that said, we still feel God calling us to adopt two children, and this calling (or shoving and pushing, since that’s what it feels like at times) confuses us. We will likely not be able to adopt Seth, the logical second child, so what are we to make of this pulling and prodding that we are still supposed to bring home two children? Is this God’s way of encouraging us that things will work out for our adoption of Seth? Or is there a second adoptive child out there that is destined to also have the last name of “Araya”?
That second idea, of adopting a younger child along with Shawna, has been our main focus since finding out that Seth’s foster family would like to adopt him themselves. Shawna is used to being an older sister, and it makes sense that the best family situation for her would be one in which she is still an older sister. But we’re not certain yet that this is the right choice for us. Adoption experts say it’s generally not a good idea to adopt two non-related children at the same time. Here’s how Trish Maskew puts it in her book, Our Own: Adopting and Parenting the Older Child:
“Most parents and professionals advise being very careful about adopting non-related kids at the same time…. In many cases, the kids feel intense competition for their parents’ time. They have to adjust to new siblings at the same time they are adjusting to new parents, and unlike the parents’ birthchildren, the other child doesn’t have a bond with the parents either. This friction can lead to a long-standing animosity between the kids and long, difficult adjustment for the whole family.”
Whew! Talk about scary words …. If the passage ended there, we’d forever write off the idea of adopting a second child other than Seth – too many possibilities for problems! – but that’s not where the advisement stops. Maskew continues:
“The effects of adopting unrelated kids may be lessened id you adopt children who have lived together most of their lives, or who shared a strong sibling-like bond in the orphanage.”
It is this final statement that gives us a bit of encouragement that perhaps we’re not completely crazy to adopt two children, even if that second child isn’t Seth. As I mentioned yesterday, Shawna has doted on the younger children in her orphanage since Seth was removed from the orphanage in July. It is likely that, in Seth’s absence, she has picked a favorite from among those younger children, someone with whom she has now bonded as a sister, even though they are not biologically related. If we are not able to adopt Seth, we hope to adopt a child with whom Shawna has bonded since his departure. If our assumption that she has bonded with another child is wrong, we will bring Shawna home on her own as an only child and just make sure she has plenty of play dates to interact with other children.
A missionary from an adoption agency in Massachusetts is going to visit Shawna’s orphanage sometime this summer, perhaps as soon as June. She will hopefully be able to observe the children and talk to the orphanage workers to find out if any of the other children from Shawna’s orphanage would be a suitable sibling for adoption with Shawna.
Goodness! This has been a long post, but it’s a complicated situation with lots of variables and “I don’t know”’s. My personality is definitely super-type-A, so these uncertainties are hard for me to handle. This whole situation has been a teaching moment for me. I am learning to trust that God is in control, even when we have more questions than answers. I’m not at the point of total trust just yet, but I’m getting there.
That said, we do have some specific prayer requests related to our possible second child. If you would like to help, prayer is actually one of the things we need most right now. (If you’d like to help financially, you can always visit our Get Involved page.)
- Please pray God provides clarity to us about whether we should plan to adopt one child or two.
- Please pray that God’s will may be done in Seth’s life, that if Seth will do best growing up in his foster family, that their adoption of him will proceed smoothly; but that if Seth will do best growing up alongside his sister in our family, that his foster parents will make the difficult decision to release him for international adoption sooner rather than later. Preparing for Seth’s arrival will be much easier if we know for sure in advance that he will be coming home with us!
- Please pray that Shawna is comforted in Seth’s absence and that the orphanage workers provide the help she needs to cope with her grief at losing contact with her brother.
- Please pray that the missionary visiting Shawna’s orphanage will have wisdom and discernment to determine what child will be a good sibling for Shawna. Please also pray that the orphanage workers will allow the missionary enough access to the children that she can make those determinations.
Thank you, dear blog readers, for being with us on this journey. And a double thank you for reading all the way to the end of this super-long post! I promise our next few posts will be short & sweet.
Happy Friday to you all!