Archive for April 2013

Another Fundraising Update: Thank You!

Since yesterday’s adoption fundraising post, we’ve already had another donation. We can’t believe it! Thank you so much! Arturo and I don’t feel like we’ve even started “hardcore fundraising” yet, and already the generosity of our community has overwhelmed us. Thank you. A million thank you’s!

Araya Adoption Photo Shoot


Arturo & Jennifer

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Adjusting to Life After Adoption

I’ve mentioned several times that Arturo and I know our path ahead as adoptive parents won’t be easy, but I think it’s also important that we, those who love us, and those who will love our children recognize that the path ahead for our children won’t be easy, either. Once we bring them home, they will have to adjust to a completely new culture and learn a new language, not to mention needing to learn all of the family skills they’ve missed by growing up in an orphanage, skills like trusting an adult to follow through on his word and trusting that their needs for food and shelter will be provided. Skills like resolving conflict and turning to a parent for comfort.

Adoption is unquestionably a wonderful thing. We have faith that God will help us teach our children all they need to know, but we also must prepare for the likelihood that the most basic, elementary relationship skills will be a struggle for our children.

Traci of “Like a City on a Hill” wrote a beautiful article about the adjustment required by adoption from the child’s perspective, which you can read here. I hope you find it as moving and helpful as we did.

With God’s help, we can overcome all of the adjustments required by adoption, but being prepared is the first step. Arturo and I are both thankful for this period of our lives as we wait to bring our children home. While we wish they were already here with us, we also know the study and preparation we are doing now will help us know how to handle the difficult situations that will undoubtedly arise.

Araya Adoption Fund

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Thank You!

As you may have noticed, our fundraising thermometer took a HUGE jump over the weekend. Thank you so much to those who gave! Donations came in from my parents, from my aunt and uncle, from good friends of my parents, and from an anonymous family in our church. We can’t thank you enough! You are truly an answer to our prayers. I’m not sure words can express just how much your generosity means to us. Thank you for helping us bring our children home!

Arturo & Jennifer

Thank you, and may God bless you!

– Jennifer & Arturo

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A Note About Seth and Our Second Adoptive Child

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!

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A Note About Our Future Daughter

All of our posts on this blog so far have been very parent-centered, by which I mean that they tell the adoption story from our point of view. There’s a pretty good reason for that, which is that Arturo and I haven’t yet met the children we are hoping to adopt. We don’t know what their point of view on adoption is because we haven’t yet had a chance to ask them. We won’t meet them until we arrive at their orphanage (hopefully) sometime this fall, and we’ll (hopefully) bring them home to Ohio with us just a few weeks later.

Araya Adoption Journey

taken September 2012

We may not have met our adoptive children yet, but we do know quite a lot about them already. We have about 20 photos, and we have two videos that are full of information. The older child we plan to adopt, whose photos are all over this blog, is an 11-year-old girl who loves to sing and dance. Her favorite activities are drawing, dancing, singing, sewing, and playing with dolls. She says she wants to have a family more than anything else, and her smile captured our hearts the moment we saw her photo.

Araya Adoption Journey

taken sometime in 2010

On this blog, we are calling our daughter “Shawna.” This is not her real name. The government of the Eastern European country from which we are adopting does allow us to post photos of our future adoptive daughter, but we are not allowed to publicize her real name or her exact birth date. Her real name is similar to Shawna, and this pseudonym will just have to do until we are officially her parents and can share her beautiful name (which we love) far and wide, as we proudly call her our daughter. (Just typing those words, “our daughter,” plasters a silly grin all over my face!)

Araya Adoption Journey

taken in August 2012

Shawna is a beautiful child, inside and out, but life has not been kind to her. She has been in an orphanage since at least 2010 and maybe much longer than that. Until last July, her younger brother was also in an orphanage with her. However, he doesn’t have any of the health issues that she has. As a result, he was deemed more “adoptable” and was placed into a foster care family in their country in July. I can’t imagine what possessed a social worker to split up these siblings. Their separation makes our hearts ache.

Araya Adoption Journey

From what we can tell, the children have not had any contact since he was taken from the orphanage, and the situation is understandably very hard for Shawna. One orphanage worker describes Shawna as doting on the younger children her brother’s age since his departure. Shawna worries about her brother, and her only outlet is to help take care of the younger children. She spends time with them and plays with them the same way she used to interact with her brother.

Araya Adoption Journey

Shawna may be missing her brother and grieving for their separation, but she’s still also a little girl who loves to play. She says she loves spending time with her friends, and her best friend is another girl in the orphanage named Karina. Shawna loves playing with dolls, and we have lots of photos and video of her carefully drawing and coloring in coloring books. Her favorite storybook character is Cinderella because Cinderella is so kind and generous despite the bad things that happened to her, something she tries to be and do as well. Shawna says that she wants to be a daycare teacher when she grows up so that she can care for children.

Araya Adoption Journey

Araya Adoption Journey

At the very end of the video we have of Shawna, the interviewer asks her what she dreams for. Shawna’s answer is very simple: she wants to not be sick, and she wants to have a family. She’s just like every child the world over. She wants nothing more than to be healthy and to be loved for who she is. The medical resources Arturo and I have available to us in Cincinnati will help her get to the “healthy” part, and Arturo and I already love her for who she is, a beautiful child who needs us.

Araya Adoption

We can’t wait to bring Shawna home and show her all the love that a family can give.

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Adopting Isn’t Easy, and That’s OK

When Arturo and I made the decision to adopt, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. When we then decided to not just pursue adoption but to pursue adoption of older children, who will come to us with their own personalities, likes and dislikes, and memories already formed, we really knew it wouldn’t be easy to raise adopted children. But we’re not doing this because it’s easy or simple. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. These kids need parents, and we want children. There’s a need that we can fulfill, and so we will.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think any parent chooses to have children because it’s “easy.” We choose to parent because we want a family, because we have love to share and to give. We become parents to experience the beauty of helping children grow and learn, to witness the wonder of a small human being growing into an adult.

Our path as adoptive parents will quite likely be a bit harder than that of many biological parents, but it certainly won’t be harder than a mother who watches her baby die of cancer or a parent who loses a child to senseless acts of violence. Parenting, regardless of how the child enters your family, is hard work. Adoption doesn’t change that. The truth is that adoptive parents aren’t anything special. Maybe they traveled a bit further than the local hospital and spent a bit more money than most to bring their children home, but at the end of the day, adoptive parents are really just parents.

All that said, Arturo and I are doing everything we can to prepare and learn how to handle the situations we will face. We’re reading books like The Connected Child and Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, both of which we HIGHLY recommend to anyone who spends time with adopted children. These books are appropriate for babysitters and extended family members, not just for parents. We are under no illusion that being adoptive parents will be easy, because adoption isn’t easy. And we’re ok with that. We’re ready to face the challenge.

With a child this beautiful and wonderful waiting for us, how could we possibly say no?

Araya Adoption

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