Archive for June 2013

The Kids Don’t Know

Today I want to talk about something that has often come up in conversation when talking about our adoption process. Whenever anybody talks to us about Shawna and Seth, they get about as excited about them as we are. Naturally people then want to know to what extent this feeling is reciprocated by our kids. The answer is as simple as it is unexpected and therefore requires some explanation.

At the moment, Shawna and Seth know nothing about us.


“How can that be?” or some variation thereof is the natural reaction we get from people. I say natural because we as humans instinctively understand that relationships are bi-directional: people are in relationship to each other, with both parties reciprocating to some degree. Our culture in particular takes it as a given that a relationship cannot exist if effort and affection are not extended in roughly equal amounts in both directions. Relationships between adults do and by and large should operate this way, but where adoption is concerned this is not often the case, and it starts this way from before the adoption is finalized.

The principal reason Shawna and Seth know nothing about us is the Eastern European government is very strict about protecting the emotions of their children, as they should be. Children who are available for adoption are not told of a prospective adoptive family until that family is in-country to get them. This protects the children from being hurt by an adoption that may fall through, for whatever reason.


As tough as this is conceptually and emotionally, we wholeheartedly agree with this policy. Children living in orphanages are often so desperate for a family and can have such a difficult time attaching to adults anyway that anything that further disrupts their ability to attach to others can set a child back many years developmentally and psychologically. Protecting children from failed attachments pre-adoption as much as possible is absolutely the right thing to do.

This protection is especially important for Shawna and Seth. Several years ago, an Italian family pursued adoption of the siblings. The adoption process got to the point that the family had met the children and began bonding with them. A medical test during the final stages of the adoption process, however, revealed Shawna’s medical condition, and the family declined the adoption and walked away. While we have every intention of following through on this adoption and have already completed most of the paperwork hurdles, such that very little at this point could or would prevent our adoption, the last thing Shawna or Seth need is to have their hopes raised only to have the adoption fall through yet again, especially with Shawna being three years closer to aging out. So, we won’t meet the children until after we have signed “intent to adopt” papers at our appointment with the adoption regulators in Eastern Europe.

The important thing to realize at this juncture is that neither Jennifer nor I are in any way worried about the kids not knowing about us right now. As parents we naturally want our kids to love us and to attach to us; we want that two-way relationship I talked about earlier. The fact of the matter is this kind of attachment and two-way relationship could take years to establish with our children. We have missed out on their early childhood and never had the chance to establish the crucial bond that develops between parent and child from infancy, even from the womb. As far as the kids are concerned they will be, at least for a while, no better than strangers in a strange land. So in a way this is an appropriate way to begin, a good way to dispel any illusions and fantasies of having a warm fuzzy relationship with our children at the start. That will come, but it will take work and it will take time. For now, we know about them and we love them.

And at least for now, that is enough.

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Faith in the Process

The following is a brief excerpt from the FAQ document we included in our adoption announcement packet. Now that our homestudy is complete and most of our official paperwork has been submitted, much of my time is being spent organizing fundraising efforts. Perhaps this article will reassure anyone who has considered donating to help us bring our children home that your donation is going to be used for maximum effectiveness in the life of our children. If you want a detailed breakdown of the estimated cost of our adoption, refer to our Nuts & Bolts post, and visit our Get Involved! page to learn how you can help. Thanks!


After people learn about the huge cost of international adoption, their next question usually goes something like this: aren’t we afraid we’re going to get scammed? We understand where this question is coming from, and we’re thankful for the concern of those who ask this. While we can’t say that being scammed isn’t a concern for us, we can say that it’s much less of a concern than most people might think. First of all, we’re working with a nationally recognized non-profit adoption facilitation team to handle the American side of our adoption. We personally know many families who have adopted from Eastern Europe through this organization, and we respect the work this organization does. We have complete faith in their 7-year record of adoption successes.

The facilitation team helping us with the Eastern European part of our adoption is widely recognized as the best and most experienced facilitation team in this Eastern European country. We researched the process thoroughly and only made our decision after knowing all the facts. We are part of a large network of families from around the United States who are adopting or have in the past adopted children using this facilitation team, and we are completely comfortable working with them based on their reputation and on these families’ experiences and testimonials. The team has already gone above and beyond their call of duty in helping us figure out the intricacies of our unusual adoption situation. We consider ourselves blessed to be working with them.


Even after this explanation, many people still can’t wrap their minds around spending $30,000 on an uncertain and uncontrollable process. It certainly is a lot of money to spend. Just handing over $30,000 for a child is absurd! However, this is not what we are doing. We are not “buying” two children for $30,000. Rather, we are spending the money that is required to pay the legal, governmental, and travel expenses incurred during an international adoption. The $30,000 that we’re going to pay for this adoption does not go to any single agency or organization. On the contrary, that total is the sum of all the fees required by the many organizations and governments that have a role in our adoption process. The “Adoption Cost Breakdown” sheet included in this packet has the details of where the money for our adoption will go, but here are a few highlights:

  • In excess of $4,000 will go directly to American state and federal agencies to pay for immigration filing fees, adoption finalization fees, and certification fees. These fees and forms are required by the Ohio and the United States governments for every international adoption.
  • Over $8,000 of the total will pay for (1) our travel to and from Eastern Europe, (2) our travel within the country once we arrive, (3) our living expenses for 5-7 weeks while we are finalizing the adoptions, and (4) our children’s plane tickets home to the US. These expenses are basic travel expenses required by any family traveling to complete an international adoption.
  • Our homestudy, which is being prepared by a state-licensed adoption agency in Cincinnati, and our parenting training, which is required by our homestudy, together cost nearly $2,000. A homestudy is necessary for any adoption, whether domestic or international. This expense is not unique or increased because we are adopting internationally, and this cost is about average for a homestudy.

Just these three categories of adoption expenses total up to over $14,000 – nearly half of the cost of our adoption! Not a cent of that will go to our adoption facilitators, the people who are actually doing legal work on our behalf to make our adoption possible. International adoptions are expensive, but the expense is mostly because the legal fees and travel costs are so high, not because the adoption agencies or facilitators charge an exorbitant amount of money. In fact, for the amount of work our facilitators have committed to do for us, their fees are remarkably low!

This photo of Shawna, taken sometime in 2010, may be an old one, but I still love it. I can't wait to bring this girlie home!

This photo of Shawna, taken sometime in 2010, may be an old one, but I still love it. I can’t wait to bring this girlie home!

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A Huge “Thank You!” to our Church Family

Arturo and I attend Cheviot United Methodist Church on the west side of Cincinnati, the same church where we got married 5 years ago, and we have the most incredible church family ever. We’ve known that on some level for years. After all, our church is full of the people we socialize with, the people we call in emergency situations, the people who challenge us on a weekly basis to grow spiritually in our walk with God. How could we help but be grateful for them?


A quick snapshot of a few members of the CUMC congregation

But the magnitude of the blessing we receive from our church family has hit us anew in this adoption process. As soon as we announced that we were adopting, our church family rallied around us to support us, encourage us, and fundraise for us. Over the weekend, Arturo and I worked the KidZone at WestFest, a neighborhood fair where our church sponsors the childrens’ games and staffs the ticket booth every year. All of the proceeds from our church’s booths have been donated to the Cheviot UMC Adoption Ministry Fund, which is supporting our adoption. We’re floored … the generosity of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ just overwhelms me.

I also got an update at the end of last week with the latest total for the Cheviot UMC Adoption Ministry Fund. I couldn’t believe it. Our church family have given and given and given some more. Words are completely inadequate to express just how touched we are by the generosity we are experiencing.

Our church's small orchestra. Arturo is on the far right.

Our church’s small orchestra. Arturo is on the far right.

If you have donated to the Cheviot UMC Adoption Ministry Fund, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you. All donations made through our church are anonymous, so we have no way of knowing who has donated to this fund unless you have told us so. But although we can’t thank you individually, please know that it is because of you, because of your generosity, that we are going to be able to give two precious children a loving home.

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Thoughts on a “Special Need” Adoption

Those who know that we are adopting a waiting child we found on Reece’s Rainbow also know that our adoption must by definition be a “special need” adoption. After all, Reece’s Rainbow only posts profiles of waiting children with special needs. But when you look at the photos of our precious future daughter, no special need is obvious. Her eyes twinkle with energy, and her smile lights up her face. She looks like a typical little girl (which she is). I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me, “So what’s wrong with her?”

How could we not fall in love with this child?

How could we not fall in love with this child?

I sometimes want to scream and jump up and down and throw a fit at this reaction, even though I know it’s rarely asked with malice. I want to scream, “There’s nothing wrong with our future daughter!” Shawna may not have a readily apparent special need, but even children who have visually obvious special needs have nothing “wrong” with them. Shawna, like every child on Reece’s Rainbow, is a child with special needs, not a “special needs child.” There’s a big distinction there. The special need of these children is not something that defines who they are or who they can become. The “special needs” label seems to jump out at everyone we tell about our adoption, and it’s something I hope we can nip in the bud before our daughter comes home.

Araya Adoption

Shawna’s special need is of a purely medical nature, and fortunately, Shawna’s medical issues will not be much of a concern for us once we get her home and get her medication set. The nature of her condition is that it is completely manageable with daily medication, much like my migraines or Arturo’s high cholesterol. While Shawna’s condition is more serious than either of our medical issues, Shawna’s health problems will have no effect on her daily life, now or as an adult. She is of normal intelligence, can live a normal, happy life, and has a normal life expectancy. In every way that matters, Shawna is a typical little girl who needs a home and a family to love her. Her condition would be fatal without medication, which is part of the reason her need for an adoptive family is so great and so urgent, but it is not something we are worried about.

Shawna with puppy

At times, our discussion with others about Shawna’s medical condition sounds like we’re talking “around” something, which I guess we are. Most people treat their medical history as a private matter and so we are choosing not to share the exact nature of her diagnosis with anyone except for our very closest friends and immediate family. We have made this decision for many reasons, the most important of which is that it is not our diagnosis to share; it is Shawna’s. She is old enough to make that decision for herself. She can share the exact nature of her condition when and with whom she feels comfortable doing so. Rest assured, we have done our research. Shawna is a healthy, lovely little girl who happens to need daily medication. For all purposes, that is the extent to which any of us need to be concerned about it. We hope everyone who meets our new daughter will accept and love her for who she is – a child in need of a home – rather than worrying about her special need.


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A Mother’s Love

One of the nice things about having an adoption blog is that it allows you to thank in a very public manner all those people who walk the path of adoption with you. Although it is impossible to appropriately thank all the amazing souls who have been helping us, occasionally we feel compelled to call out a specific person in particular due to the unique way in which they have contributed to our cause.

This particular thank you is very special to me, not only because of who I’m thanking but also because this particular contribution was so unexpected at the time.

When Jennifer and I told my parents that we were choosing to start our family through adoption I know they were initially shocked and surprised. This is something I understand. Although it was probably clear to them and to everyone around us that we were gearing up to start a family, we kept our ponderings about adoption largely to ourselves. It must then have seemed so out of the blue to them that all of a sudden we wanted to adopt!
Since that day when we told them about our intentions, my mom has started learning Russian all on her own so she could better communicate with Shawna and Seth. My parents have both shown their desire to help and protect us in our endeavors.

Then it was our turn to be surprised: out of the blue one day, my mom called and she told us that she is gifting us a substantial amount of money toward our adoption. We were both so floored, we didn’t know what to say!

Of course, it’s really not about the money at all. Like we keep telling people, yes we need help with the funding and every dollar we get is a God-send, but what we really need is support and prayers. Getting our kids is not going to be easy. Once we have them, things are likely going to be even more difficult, depending on how deeply they have been hurt by the traumas they have experienced in their orphanhood. What was most important to us about this gesture was the support and the love with which it was offered. My mother could have stopped at being excited about our kids and teaching herself Russian and I would have felt loved and supported. Her desire to help even more has been just that much more touching.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Mom.

Arturo's family and Jenn

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Homestudy, One Meter at a Time Deerfield 5K, and a Birthday

I wrote most of this post on Sunday but barely had time to breathe on Monday or Tuesday … definitely no time to actually publish it. I didn’t intend to delay blogging about our most recent 5K in our “One Meter at a Time” fundraiser, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. 🙂

This past weekend was an eventful and wonderful one. The weekend bliss started early: at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, I got a phone call from our social worker that our homestudy was complete, signed, notarized, and ready for me to pick up. Oh what rejoicing! Oh what ecstasy! Words are completely inadequate to describe our joy at finally completing this step of our adoption. The homestudy process seemed to drag on and on, and its completion came with a HUGE sense of accomplishment. The first major hurdle in our adoption journey has passed! Hooray!

After the phone call, I rushed to our adoption agency to pick up our papers and then immediately drove to UPS to overnight the hot-off-the-presses homestudy docs to USCIS. The next step in our process is to obtain approval from the United States Customs and Immigration Service to bring two immigrant children into the United States. This process can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months, and we are obviously hoping for the shorter end of that time span. With the submission of our homestudy, our USCIS application is now complete. We’re praying for smooth and speedy processing of our documents. On Monday afternoon, I got an email confirmation from USCIS that our case has been received, so the process is officially underway. Woohoo!

USCIS confirmation

The homestudy bliss was just the start to our weekend. Saturday, we hopped crawled out of bed bright and early so we could be ready and waiting for the starting gun in Deerfield’s Cottrell Park at 8 am sharp. That’s right – this past weekend was our 2nd 5K run of our “One Meter at a Time” fundraiser! As they did for our last 5K, Rory, Suzanne, and Erica ran the Deerfield Honors Veterans 5K with us. We have such amazing, supportive friends!




We’ve all made huge strides since we ran the Paige’s Princess Run 5K 4 weeks ago. Rory and Suzanne both finished second in their age/gender division. Good job guys!



Erica, Arturo, and I weren’t as speedy as they were, but we all ran virtually the entire race, which wasn’t true of the Paige’s Princess Run in May. (Full disclosure: we walked a few steps at the water break. None of us are any good at running and drinking at the same time.) Arturo and I in particular were quite happy with our improvement. Plus, every 5K we run means our children are $5,000 closer to home! Thank you all SO much for your donations, support, and prayers. This adoption will only be possible because of you!


The park had a playground, and once the race was over, we took advantage of the swings. :)

The park had a playground, and once the race was over, we took advantage of the swings. 🙂




Once we were home from the race, it was time to continue with our Saturday activities. Saturday was a great day and not just because of the 5K. Saturday was Suzanne’s birthday. I love birthdays anyway, and Suzanne has been my closest, dearest, bestest friend for years. Needless to say, Saturday was a pretty special day. Arturo and I made funfetti cupcakes (the absolute best kind!) after the race and then spent all Saturday afternoon at Rory & Suzanne’s house enjoying the company of great friends at Suzanne’s birthday party.



Happy Birthday, Suzanne! I’m so glad you’re my friend. 🙂



The weekend ended Sunday evening with a fun outdoor concert in Springfield, OH with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Arturo and I are both members of the cello section and always look forward to SSO concerts. Our last 2 summer concerts were rained out, and the weather forecast for this Sunday wasn’t lookin’ good. But against all odds, fair weather prevailed, and we were able to play the full program.


Have a great Wednesday. I hope your weekend was a good one!

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