I’ve been getting a lot of questions about our adoption and thought it would be easiest just to make a post about it and send it to everyone. I’ve been working on this for a while now so it is turning out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be. If I missed anything, just send your questions my way! I love talking about my soon to be baby!
Why are you adopting?
The answer to this question is tied in very closely with the answer to the next question, so read them together. No, we do not have any fertility issues or risk of having a high-risk pregnancy. We are choosing to use adoption as a way to help complete our family, just as having a “home-grown” child would. I’ve never really understood the idea that having a birth child was better than having an adopted child. I hate the common, but wrong, assumption that adoption is a “second choice”.
Adoption was always in the plans for Jon and I, even when we were first dating. We wanted to have the experience of having an adopted child, just as much as we wanted the experience of having a birth child.
There are so many children of different ages, sexes, and developmental abilities and challenges needing to be loved and appreciated for who they are. We believe that we are good parents and can provide that home for at least one of those children. We believe that our family will be blessed beyond imagination with having this child in our lives.
Why are you choosing to adopt a child with Down Syndrome?
We have a strong belief in the value of living in community. Community, to us, is not distinct from different races, religions, age, sexual preferences, socio-economic status, or developmental abilities or challenges. We want to maintain this value in a very real way with our family. In my experience, the blessings a person receives are indescribable when they are in community with a person with different abilities, particularly Down Syndrome. I am a better person today because Maggy, my sister with DS, came in to my life.
We chose DS as the developmental “challenge” for practical reasons. Each developmental ability has its own set of blessings and challenges. Jon and I both have a lot of experience with people with DS and feel the most confident in our ability to parent a child with DS over a child with a different diagnosis.
Where are you adopting from and why?
We are wanting to adopt from Eastern Europe. Probably from Bulgaria, because the agency we have chosen has a good relationship with Bulgaria, but possibly Serbia.
We have chosen to do an international adoption from Eastern Europe instead of a domestic adoption for a few reasons. I have heard and held the belief that people should help fix the problems in their own communities and countries before going out to help others. It is true that there are lots of waiting children in Canada who have various developmental special needs that we could adopt. It would be A LOT cheaper for us too. We also believe that there are a lot more opportunities for Canada’s waiting children, whether they get adopted or not. They will be in a family setting with foster care and we have systems in place to ensure that their needs are being met.
Orphanages are used to care for unwanted children in a lot of other countries. Orphanages are essentially flawed. The system they run on does not provide a good atmosphere for children to flourish in. There is minimal stimulation for a child’s brain to develop, there are not enough workers per child which leaves the children neglected, and they are frequently rampant with abuse. We have the opportunity to save a child from this life and we can not turn our back on that opportunity.
Children with special needs in countries that have seen years of war and political unrest, or lack resources suffer the most. There is barely enough energy to take care of the people that can advocate for themselves, which leave the people with out voices lost. People with special needs are frequently a reminder of a societies vulnerability and hidden away from the public eye. Cultures, along with doctors, urge birth parents to institutionalize their developmentally challenged children. Frequently, once a child with special needs reaches a certain age they are sent to an institution. Life in an institution is eerily comparable to life in a concentration camp. Their pride, dignity, respect, and lives are stripped away from them. Many do not reach adulthood. Some people who do are the size of children with their limbs tightly twisted because they have never been taken out of their cribs. Abuse from overworked, and sometimes uncaring, staff is a daily occurrence. They have no opportunity to thrive and have never experienced love or joy. Eastern Europe is rampant with this kind of treatment of people with developmental special needs.
I have seen, first hand, the damage that Woodlands (the institution in Coquitlam that was finally shut down in the ’90s) has done to people. It makes me sick to think that people still believe people with developmental disabilities are not valuable and that societies still use these barbaric institutions to deal with their “problems”.
We want to do what we can to save a child from that life and help them, and others, realize how valuable they really are.
Do you know who you are adopting already?
No, we don’t know who we are adopting yet. We were given a profile of a little girl before we even started our home-study, but we decided to say no to committing to her right away. Our decision was hard to make but I feel we made the right one. She was older than Livi, which we had not really wanted. There are a whole bunch of different things to consider with adopting out of birth order, that we felt unprepared for. Mostly, though, it was to early in the process. Usually, a profile is not presented until after you have finished your home-study. We felt like we still had a lot to learn and a lot to consider before we made such an important decision.
We do know that we want to adopt a little girl about Livi’s age. The plan is for them to share a room and become best friends and never fight 😉 Yeah, right! I do hope they are friends but I am under no allusions that they are not going to fight. We have chosen a little girl so they could share a room, even when they are older.
We want to maintain birth order if possible, but we are willing to rethink that if a child is proposed to us that seems to be a good fit… that’s why we say “around Livi’s age”. Most children are not eligible for international adoption until after they are at least 6 months old. We are not attached to the idea of adopting an infant. Most people want infants for attachment reasons, I assume, but an older child needs a loving family just as much as a baby. A bonus for adopting an older child with a developmental disability is that we may have a better idea as to his or her developmental potential and behavioral needs. That is not a deal breaker for us but definitely a plus in preparing to bring her home.
What is the process and how much does it cost?
The process for a special needs child international adoption in BC is the exact same as any other international adoption, minus the long wait for a proposal…
1. First you need to contact one of the five approved adoption agencies and fill out the preliminary application.
2. Pay for and begin your home-study. Under BC law this needs to take a minimum of 3 months and consist of 5-7 visits, 1-2 hours each, with a social worker so that he/she can get an accurate picture of whether you are fit to be parents of an adopted child. You will get asked LOTS of personal questions. The home-study includes A LOT of paper work, medical forms, questionnaires, reference checks, etc. It also includes an education portion, which each agency may do a little differently. Some have you go to classes, others have it all online, and others do a combination of both. Our agency does the education online, with a big essay due at the end, but because we are adopting a child with special needs, they are probably going to refer us to a class specific to special needs children through the Ministry.
We are in the home-study portion right now. We are one month in, have completed all the paper work, except any that is involved with the education, and have our second meeting with the social worker this Friday.
3. Once our social worker deems us good potential adoptive parents, we pay the agency to help us compile and send our dossier. Our dossier, basically, is us on paper. It is a complete report from the social worker and another whole round of paper work that gets translated and sent to the other country as our application to adopt from them. This takes just a few months, depending on how in depth the country requires and how quickly we get all the paper work in.
4. We then find out if we are approved by the country and then wait for a proposal of a child. Now, with this being a special needs adoption, some countries may fast track the adoption. Since we already received one proposal, we are hoping that we will not have to do any waiting and actually find out who our daughter is before our home-study is completely over.
5. The next steps differ between countries. What we are expecting to happen, at this point if we are adopting from Bulgaria, is for Jon and I to travel to meet the child and give the final okay to take her, sign some papers, then have to leave her in the orphanage! That is going to be really hard for me. Another few months for all the documents to go through court, receive her visas and any other documents we’ll need. Then, I will return, probably alone in order to save money, to go and bring her home forever! There are a lot of legal fees and travel costs in this step too.
The cost will depend on the country, but an adoption from Bulgaria costs about $25,000 $28,000. The total time frame we are looking at is 12-18months, depending on how quickly we get all the paperwork in and how backed up the courts are.
You may be wondering how we are going to afford this too. Well, we are going to go in to debt. We had enough money to pay for the home-study, so that is where we started. We are looking in to different ways of saving and coming up with the money. There are some low interest adoption loans and other small grants that we can apply for too. It won’t cover everything, but we are trusting that we will find the money some how. Our baby girl will be coming home to us soon. I can’t wait to meet her!