Whew. Ugh. Okay. Here we go.
We decided to stop the Thai adoption process. Completely. Pulled our application. Beth and Alex are no longer adopting from Thailand.
In order to tell you why, I’m going to have to start at the very beginning because I can share things now that I wasn’t able to when we were still in the process. Here goes.
My sister and some friends went to work at an orphanage in the summer of 2011. It’s an orphanage specifically for kids that are HIV+ in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand). The children are all adorable, of course, but she felt particularly connected to this 8-year-old who we’ll call Jasmine. Her personality was so sweet that when the bully dumped porridge on her head during breakfast, she didn’t respond in anger, she just wiped it out of her eyes and kept on trucking. When I was skyping with Leah one day, she said, “You should adopt Jasmine!” I guffawed at her and told her that we weren’t going to have children but then I thought about it for a long time. Didn’t feel right and so I told her it wasn’t going to happen. Cut to nine months later and something snapped in me. The more I looked at Jasmine’s face, the more I thought about her in our family, the more I knew that I wanted to be her mom.
So, in April 2012, we emailed the orphanage about what agencies they work with and our very first question was, “Is she even available for adoption?” You see, Thailand is a part of the Hague convention, which happened when countries involved in international adoptions got together and tried to make rules that would ensure adoptions are ethical. International adoption is RIFE with trafficking and trickery. Hague convention countries want to alleviate some of that. One of the rules for Hague countries is that kids have to have paperwork signed terminating parental rights before they can be adopted. Someone has to sign something saying that they can’t take care of this kid anymore.
So, if Jasmine’s paperwork isn’t in order, then that would be an issue but we went ahead and found out what agency the orphanage used and started working through the process with an adoption agency in Washington state. I continued to email the orphanage and got a response about every six weeks. It was always, “We haven’t heard anything yet. We don’t know.” It was so frustrating.
Finally, one morning in November of 2012, we woke up with an email from the orphanage. They had news.
It wasn’t good. Jasmine’s paperwork was not in order (i.e. nobody had signed away rights). They said that if it could even be done, they would have to track down any remaining family members and that process could take 2 to 3 years (on top of the glacial speed of the regular Thai process), which means she would be 13 or 14 before she’d be ready to come home. The staff at the orphanage, who know and love Jasmine, felt that was too big of a transition for her to make at that age. The Hague convention, while having good intentions, often slows the adoption process down to a crawl, which means kids who have been matched with adoptive families can sit in institutions for years while the bureaucracy machine turns. The orphanage is slowly moving to a foster family system and Jasmine is in one of the foster homes, which is far better than growing up in an institutional setting. Basically, they told us we needed to go ahead and try to find another kid to adopt.
I want to say this- my interactions with the orphanage were mostly completely frustrating but I know that they were really thinking about her. I know this isn’t the case at all orphanages but she is well loved there.
That news hit us hard. Like really hard. Like we went to church and sat at the back and cried ugly tears hard. Like I cried for three days. I guess you could liken a failed adoption to a miscarriage. You plan your future life around this kid who you haven’t even met yet- picturing them with you at the tennis courts, cooking in the kitchen, curled up watching a movie- and then when it falls through, it crushes you. For the past x months, you’ve been calling this kids your daughter and now that’s not going to happen. (For the record, all of my friends who started the international adoption process about the same time have had a situation like this, so you’ve been warned.)
Briefly, I want to brag on my church. It’s about 90% Asian/Asian-American and Asian culture is typically a pretty stoic one. So when two gringos show up to church on Sunday morning bawling their eyes out, they didn’t get freaked out. They rallied. They prayed. They sat with us. Our pastor’s wife prayed that if we didn’t get to meet Jasmine here on Earth, that someday we could meet in heaven. I don’t know if heaven’s going to work that way but just the thought was deeply comforting. I wrote about this very day vaguely here.
So after getting over the first hurdle of mourning, Alex and I regrouped and looked at our options. Now we could either:
1) Wait for the Thai government to match us with a child, which would take about 96 years
2) Choose a child off our agency’s waiting list, which would take a little less than 96 years
We looked at our agency’s list and prayed and thought and discussed and hashed out. We just weren’t drawn to any of the kids. Many of them had special needs that we didn’t feel like we could properly take care of.
So, we were presented with option 3- wait until someone from our agency can travel to Thailand to get more kids on the waiting list. We kept moving forward. Fundraising, getting our home study done, going to an immigration office to have our fingerprints submitted. We actually sent our documents over to Thailand in January of 2013.
And we haven’t heard a peep out of them since. Not one word. Not even that they received our paperwork. For all we know, it could be sitting on someone’s desk in its original envelope, unopened.
We were told that the Thai process could be frustratingly long but we didn’t expect this. Our agency still doesn’t have travel dates for a trip over there. The Thai parliament was just dissolved, which our Thai friend hopes will lead to a government shutdown to curb the corruption that currently plagues the government. While it sounds like it could be good for the Thai people, a government shutdown would obviously bring all adoptions to a grinding halt. We also heard that Thailand is trying to move to a foster family model and so they’re finding more Thai foster families and adoptive families; they’ve actually started limiting the families that adopt internationally by tightening the qualifications. Thailand is trying to take care of its own kids and I applaud them for it.
I took this year long “waiting period” to really study up on adoption ethics and to listen to adoptees. I could write a whole different blog on adoption ethics, which I’m sure I will soon, but there are some really scary things that happen in international adoption. Scary like kids, whose parents love them and just needed some help in the interim, being adopted to Americans behind their parent’s back.
I am NOT making any accusations about our agency here, but we did not do our due diligence when it came to finding an international adoption agency because the orphanage Jasmine was at only works with one agency and that’s the one that we went with. Now that I’m more educated on the subject and we wouldn’t be able to adopt Jasmine anyway, it makes me uncomfortable how little research we did to ensure everything was ethical. Granted, the Hague convention, while slowing the process way down, should technically alleviate some of those concerns…but still.
So, we weren’t going to adopt the kiddo that we really wanted to, it was going to take forever (if it ever even happened), and we had some concerns about ethics. While I would say we’re still mourning the loss of a potential future with Jasmine, we are okay with letting the Thai adoption go.
The next little hurdle in making this decision-making process was…you, dear people.
Bought t-shirts. Prayed for us. Sold t-shirts. Made coasters. Sold coasters. Organized a Sonic fundraiser. Volunteered at Sonic fundraisers. Drove to said Sonic on a Saturday, even though it’s technically considered the northernmost Siberia of Dallas. Sent us cards. Sent us pictures of you in your adoption t-shirts. Made adoption videos. Taught us Thai. Brought us toys from Thailand. Prayed for us. Made and sold jewelry. Asked about the adoption. Donated money. Produced an adoption video. Found toys at garage sales. Donated furniture. Fund-raised for us. Gnashed your teeth with us. Run in half-marathons, for pete’s sake.
We have been utterly and ridiculously supported and so, quite possibly, the hardest part of this decision was not wanting to disappoint you. We certainly didn’t want you to feel like you had been led on or given your money to people who weren’t taking it seriously. I had several conversations with friends about this very topic and they all said the same thing- “We gave and volunteered because we want to support you.” They said that they’re invested in our family, whatever that looks like.
Dang. We are blessed.
So, there’s that tricky question of where all the money went. I know some of you don’t care, but some of you probably do and I think it’s a fair question. All in all, we spent about $10,000 on the adoption. From what we can gather, about $6500 of that went to our agency. The other money went to non-refundable things like the US immigration office and our home study.
We have requested a refund from our agency but we aren’t sure that it will happen. If we do get a refund, we’ll give it to this non-profit in Bangkok that has several initiatives that work towards family preservation (a different side of orphan care). They have job training programs for women. They have a daycare so that women who need to work to support their families (and keep their children) can. All in all, they’re working to alleviate poverty by “teaching a man to fish” and then supporting him until he can support himself. We hope that the money you donated can go towards keeping Thai children with their families.
If you feel strongly that something different should be done with the money that you donated, please let us know and we’d be happy to accommodate it as best we can.
I’m sad, still mourning. Both of us are, actually. Just a few weeks ago, we were laying in bed and Alex wondered aloud what was going to happen to Jasmine. Will she grow up happy? Will she have a family to come home to over the holidays? All that we can really do is pray for her and trust that God knew what He was doing when He made it impossible to adopt her.
Anyway, that’s the big news on the adoption front. We are trucking along on our adoption out of CPS. Who knows what that might bring? We are sincerely hoping that we will have kid(s) in our home in 2014.
Thank you, again, for all of your support.