Friday, 30 March 2012

Just another day

So no news yet.  It's Friday, and they are supposed to be reviewing our papers this week.  I was fine handling my anxiety Monday, Tuesday.  Wednesday I started checking the email.  Yesterday I checked it every hour.  Today...I'm just trying to breathe through it.  I know that not hearing doesn't mean anything.  But the email I receive could be a match - the name and a face of some little boy.  Proof that this is actually going to happen.  It could also be an email that tells us that the agency has changed its mind, that they decided against doing an adoption with us, because we're not with their agency, or because we're in the US, or because...well just because.  Or it could be an email saying they need more papers, or updated papers, or certified papers, which will mean more waiting. could just say they've been busy and they'll review our application next week. 
And if they've been busy - I know it's for a good reason.  Maybe they are investigating some little child's history.  Maybe they found someone who knows about one of the babies they've found.  Maybe finally someone has come forward to claim the child left in the market, the one left in the back of a taxi, or the one hung on a fence in a cloth bag.  Maybe the father of the baby who had hoped to come back and get his child after he has found a job and means to feed her has found that job.  Maybe there is some new little kid who has been dropped off at their gate, or another parent has died of AIDS.  Maybe they are in meetings to get certified to actually do adoptions with the US and therefore with us.  There are so many issues far greater than my anxiety that they are dealing with.  I'm grateful that I was there - that I saw how much the two directors are in charge of.  That I met the children who they are taking such great care of.

What's another day?

The orphanage is so nicely run.  It is a clean, friendly building, with a big backyard.  It is safely fenced & gated, with a security guard 24 hours.  There are 2 caretakers at all times, and there is a cook.  The social worker is usually out doing the required 5 weeks of research into the family of any possible orphan.  I am still surprised at how healthy the children seemed.  I know they are dropped off with many issues - AIDS & malnutrition being the most common obstacles.  The 10 children I met were well dressed, clean and content.  The younger children wore diapers - I had heard of orphanages that can't afford diapers and let the children run around bare-bottomed.  The cement floors are cleaned with a "pee mop" after accidents.  I was prepared for underweight and scared kids.  I know these children have seen misfortune, sickness, death and abandonment.  But they have also known love, care and compassion.  There will undoubtedly be issues that surface with any child we adopt.  But I feel so happy to know that they are being cared for in a warm environment - they are held and fed and cleaned and kissed.  They have crayons and books and their own beds.  Soon one of them will come to our home.  Please please please.

Friday, 23 March 2012

The ugly business of adoption

I finally got an email.  So I have a little more information.  The director has let me know that they will be reviewing our papers next week.  Hooray!  I am so excited, but also waiting with baited breath.  I am busy getting everything in order...every step is made up of multiple mini-steps.   Once they match us with a child, and we accept the match, they will send us all the information about him that they know at this point.  The home had such a small number of children that I do not doubt that I will remember the child when we are matched with a name.  If everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can, we will need to return to Kampala in about 3 months for the court date, and again - with luck - bring our son home soon after.  Holy cow.
I am thinking of how everything is so tentative - really, the whole process has nothing in writing!  Once again I am amazed when I realise that none of this would have been possible if I had not flown to the other side of the world.   In an age where email and communication is so easy, this crazy and complicated act of finding and bringing a new member into our family had to be done the old fashioned way. 
Uganda does not make it easy.  In fact, in many ways, I felt discouraged from adopting from there.  There are millions of orphans there, and their first priority is trying to find someone related, of course.  Then they attempt to find a Ugandan family.  International adoption is their final resort.  The court seems to demand that we prove our interest to them - why Uganda?   I keep wondering where are all those in need?  Those who make it to an orphanage in the capital city seem to already be lucky - for these orphanages have waiting lines ready to adopt them.  And those kids I saw in the street?  What happens to them?  Are they not orphans?  And all the children in the rural areas who have no living parents...are they taken care of by neighbors or relatives?  Does anyone keep an eye out on them?   Is it that difficult to get those children to a suitable home?  Are there even places they can go?
I do not doubt there is tremendous need.  As in all countries, there is a lack of a system to identify and help those who are really desperate.  The resources required to determine that each child is truly an orphan are clearly taxed.  The country requires 5 weeks of research done by a social worker - enquiries into the child's background and history.  Often parents temporarily abandon their child, hoping for the best, and assuming they will be able to return some later day when they are back on their feet and able to provide.  Unfortunately there are those who actively travel to rural areas to "recruit' orphans - encouraging parents to give up their child to an orphanage in exchange for a nominal fee.  So those children are not really orphaned, but passed off as such to Americans and other international adopters who have no way of knowing that the kids are technically being sold. 
I agree it should be difficult to adopt.  Through our journey, we have learned so much about the plight of kids in different countries.  And what happens to some who are taken in by families not really prepared to deal with issues that might surface.  But this waiting - this standing in line to "get the next child" - has such a horrible feeling of supply & demand.  I hate it.  The idea of adopting may originate or be in part due to some sense of global responsibility, doing the right thing, etc.  But that ideal will not carry anyone through the ups and downs of adopting or the demands a new child will place on us or our family.  It is hard to explain all the factors that have led us down this road.  I am so nervous for it to actually happen; and so nervous for it to not happen.  It is an emotional commitment either way.  At the bottom of it all is just this feeling that we have a son out there, and we just have to find him.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Remaining steps

I am back in Ohio now, and I can tell that I have not entirely gotten used to the time change, because I am up at 6am of my own volition!  So wonderful to be home, to be back with my family.  So interesting to realise what things are so easy here, and still there are many things that are harder - more complicated.
I sent the CARE directors an email before I left Uganda on Friday.  I expressed my gratitude for letting me come to the Babies' Home, and of my understanding of how we left things.  They have not finished getting accredited to do adoptions with the US.  They hope this will take a few weeks to complete.  In the meantime, we have to transfer our paperwork, this beastly paper the I-600A, from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Kampala Uganda.  This will probably take me several weeks.  I also have to finish their intake papers - the papers that they require of me.  Most are duplicates of things I had to assemble for the immigration papers - medical certificates, letters from employers, police clearances.  A few things are new - a letter from us of our intent to adopt, among others.  So hopefully all of these things can be accomplished this month.
I sent the email on Friday, and have not heard back yet - Tuesday morning.  If I hadn't been in Uganda myself, I would be going crazy.  But now I understand how things roll there.  I wouldn't be surprised if they check their email once a week.  Also between the power going out, and other random things like all yahoo mail being inaccessible as times - well, sometimes you just don't have a choice.  Also the 2 women who answer the email are the same 2 who spend hours at the Babies' Home, who meet with agencies about accreditation - they are the people who do it all.  Still, I am checking my email many times a day!
Once all the paperwork has been completed, then we will do the official match.  I was told to come to Uganda to "choose a child"- as crazy as that sounds.  But that's not how this will work.  They will match us with a child - one whose orphan history has been thoroughly investigated.  One whom they deem best suited for us and our family dynamics.  I cannot begin to imagine how lovely and concrete that will feel.
Then our lawyer will secure a court date.  The judges schedule them 2 months out.  So at the earliest, we will be returning in June.  Both parents need to be present for the court hearing.  We'll be able to plan on that date, and make arrangements for our children back home.  The most tricky part seems to be after - waiting for the judge to make his decision.  In the best of circumstances, he will approve our adoption within a few days.  But I don't know how often that happens.  It is up to the discretion of the judge, his schedule and anything else he may require upon our court date.  Some families wait a few weeks; some unfortunate families wait months to have their child approved for adoption.  Once it does go through, we apply for a visa at the US Embassy and take our kid home. 
This is the most insane thing, this international adoption.  I came into it blindly, thinking we would be filling a need, and therefore would bypass all those people waiting years for a healthy baby.  Ha!  It is almost discouraging, seeing how countries do not make this easy.  But then at the bottom of it all is the child.  Do you want them to be moved halfway across the world without investigating the backgrounds of the people involved?  How much precaution is too much?  When I look at those little faces, I am relieved that they feel it necessary to find out so much about me. 
Back to the waiting game. 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Hoping for Good Fortune...

What a crazy chaotic fickle place this Africa is! 
One of the most disheartening things about Monday's meeting was coming halfway around the world to find out something basic about the agency's adoption process.  And now...breath held...I think it's going to happen.  And it's BECAUSE I came halfway around the world.  There is no way this agency would be moving forward with me if they hadn't met me, if Paul hadn't given me street cred, if the lawyer hadn't decided to go to bat for us.  The randomness seems to go on and on. 
Wednesday afternoon I got a text - come and visit our Babies' Home at 11am tomorrow.
So barely containing myself, I went.  It was all on the condition of anonymity.  I was not there to pick out a child, but to see the facility, the caretakers, and I think for the directors to see the children with me.  I went still unsure if they had fully decided to work with me or not.  I had high hopes - why would they take me that close to the children if they were not going to move forward in the process?  It would only get more difficult for me, and this time for the children. 
So the kids did not know I was coming as a prospective adoptive parent.  I doubt they knew I was coming at all.  The Foundation was still in meetings - they are still finishing their accredidations.   I was taken to the backyard - where all the children were playing.  Immediately a boy and girl came running up to me - wanting to be picked up, hold my hands, sit on my lap.  So I picked them both up (thankful for my experience with twins - this was second nature).  But then 2 more came.  So I sat down and they all came onto my lap.  And I was in heaven.  They played with my sunglasses, examined my water bottle, pulled on my ring...but mostly cuddled and played and giggled. 
There were also 3 infants (maybe 4?) and an older girl who was shy of me. 
Because of their meetings, I was there for only an hour.  But as I left, I spoke to the director.  After their paperwork is finished, we will be their first American family!!  I have not finished their intake papers, and I have some other crazy immigration papers to transfer over from Ethiopia, so there is a part of me trying to hold back in the event that this just crumbles.  But honestly, it's too late.  She told me this would happen, and my heart cracked open.  I know better than to let myself go there, but I have been holding back this whole time and I just don't have the strength to anymore.  So, if it sadly does not happen - and I know this could be - then please be nice to me, for I might have a little piece of me crumble too. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Wait and See..

I suppose I should be used to waiting after 2 years of being in the process with Ethiopia.  But it is exponentially more difficult here - without the physical presence of my husband, children, family, friends.  And to be so close, and not know what is coming tomorrow...
Yesterday was a much better day.  I was very excited.  Today I am moving forward, but remain guarded.  I cannot help myself - I get ahead to emotionally, imagining what the next day can bring, that setbacks always seem to surprise me. 
Yesterday began with another visit with the Ugandan agency CARE.  We also met with the social worker, J., that I had been emailing and speaking with in the US.  While initially they had decided that they would not work with me because I was independant, the lawyer V. has encouraged them to continue to work with us.  She has agreed to be the one to research the agencies we have used in the States - to make sure they are certified and accredited (they are).  But really she has encouraged them based on our meeting - that she connected with me and with Paul over 2 small but very important things.  That she feels confident in our moral and ethical choices for wanting to adopt.  So while 2 days ago I felt very stupid for coming all the way to Africa without knowing some basic facts about this agency, by yesterday I felt that there is no way they would have even considered working with me had we not meet face to face.  The director of CARE even told me that she would like to work with me, but needed to make sure they were setting good precidents, etc.  Which I understand - although of course, I don't want that to apply to ME.  So because of some good feeling, our lawyer is investigating on our behalf and reccomending us to this agency.  So today I wait.  I will get a text message sometime today to let me know what they have decided.  I am trying to brace myself for the possibility that even though we check out, the agency may go back to their first decision of not working with independents.  Positive thoughts, people.
We went to another reputable Babies' Home (as they are called here) - but that orphanage has shut down its' waiting list completely. 
There is such a focus on the international adoption community right now.  The agency CARE had CNN cameras in its facilities just last week.  There are concerns about the children of Africa being swept away to other countries.  The first priority is to reconnect the orphans to some living family.  Then try to find them a home with a non-related Ugandan family.  The last option is International Adoption.  And yet, it seems to be more about the resources needed to find out the child's background than any lack of need.  So the agencies who are very good are being extra careful.  Those agencies who are truly selling orphans - well, let's all hope they get shut down.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Adoption Status Day 2

Since I came to Uganda to hopefully meet the little boy we would adopt, I want to fill you in on our adoption proceedings.  The good and the bad.  It has been a long road - this figuring out international adoption.   As Ethiopia slowly closed its options down, we began to re-investigate Uganda.  I never could have come this far without the support of my extended "family" who lives here in Kampala.  Truly.  Since our agency, Wide Horizons, doesn't do Ugandan adoptions, and I had learned about it so much on my own, Steve and I are going forward here as an independant adoption.  But I am learning, Uganda has its own tricky systems.
Back in the States, I found and communicated with a lawyer here in Kampala who had a reputation of being very ethical and specialized.  I set up a meeting with V. before coming to Africa, but was nervous about her since she was very terse and not forthcoming in her emails.  However, she has been amazing.  Paul (my brother-in-law's cousin) has been my escort here, and brought me to her office.  First she learned that he knows a fellow back in the US who had adopted 3 special needs children with her, and she remembered those cases well.  Immediately she opened up to us!  Then, she found out I was from Ohio - and of all the places in the world, she has family in Cincinnati and has been to Springfield.  The world just shrunk a bit.  So the ice was broken and her trust in us seemed to have a foundation.  I was sure that once she read our homestudy (like a small book about Steve & my life and family) she would love us and feel confident we would be great to raise a Ugandan child.  Because we are so amazing...right? right?  :)  She also spoke of confidence in our contact J., a social worker who had recently moved from a long standing Babies' Home to a recently new one.   (I am keeping some details confidential since V. relayed to me that the reason she is so terse in emails is there is a lack of security and she winds up reading things other people say about her on blogs, etc...).  I will call the new Babies' Home CARE.  V. also had many dealings with the women who ran CARE and reccomended it highly.  So I left her meeting feeling very confident about our status, about the estimated schedule, and was so excited to meet the social worker and directors of CARE. 

We had an appointment set for the following day, but the offices were directly next to one another so we "popped over" as they say.  Well, this turned out to be not what I was hoping for.  The women welcomed us in, and were very direct and straight forward.  But almost immediately they told us that they do not do independent international adoptions, and prefer to use a specific agency in North Carolina that they are associated with.  This was EXACTLY the type of information I tried to find out before coming and EXACTLY what I feared upon arriving here.  That there would be some obvious blockade to which there was no surmounting.  They told us their reasoning - all of which made sense, and even in some way made me appreciate their ethics.  The safety of the children is their primary concern (as it should be) and without using an agency that they know, they fear that any social worker I may hire in the States could just be bought off.  The other big factor is the idea that without a faithful contact in the States, they can't be assured that I will do the required follow-up with the government about the health and well-being of the child.  I actually asked her to allow me to argue with her.  I told her that her reasoning was sound, but that I HAD gone through a reputable agency, and have done all the requirements any agency would ask of me.   I kept it together throughout the meeting and presented a reasonably strong arguement.  Anyway, we left that she would investigate a little further, and we would meet again the next morning as planned, with the social worker J.  I left deflated, in tears, and quite disappointed.  I tried to hear Steve's voice in my head - don't get ahead of yourself,  wait to see what tomorrow's meeting will bring, it's not a dead end yet.  But I was already ahead of myself, and had been envisioning a visit to the Babies' Home, and maybe even a meeting with our son, and it was crushing. 
And that was the end of that day.  :(

Monday, 12 March 2012

Welcome to my new blog, and perhaps to a corner of my life.  I have so much to say, but as I've already been in Uganda 2 days and haven't sent much more than a hello, I'm going to start in the middle.

It has been amazing and difficult here.  Amazing country, people & trip.  Difficult learning the ins and outs of adoption here.  Since I've only had 2 meetings about the adoption and everything seems up in the air right now, I'll come back to that with hopefully more clarity tomorrow.  Sorry to keep anyone waiting.

But what I've seen here!  I am staying in a beautiful home of my sister Mary Kay's mother-in-law, Conche.  She introduces Mary Kay as her daughter, and now sometimes me too.  She is an incredible woman  - she runs Bega Kwa Bega, literally "Shoulder to Shoulder", a foundation for Uganda's orphans.  But it does not do anything for adoption - it targets nutrition, clean water, schooling, health.  I will get into that on its' own post as well.  Her home is on a road where many families who work in the US Embassy live.  So there are many Americans here - I am not the only "mzungu".  But she has the required barbed wire around her gated home.  Her doors all have bars and double locks, as does her gated entrance.  Her refrigerator has a lock! Her backyard is lovely - a tropical green patch with all sorts of lovely flowering bushes (bourganvillas!) and fruit trees - papayas (pawpaws), mangoes, avocados and oranges.  Things grow well here on the equator.

Today I traveled into the city of Kampala - the capital of Uganda.  It makes the traffic in NYC seem civilized.  There are many many cars on Entebbe Road - the main road to & through the city.  And there are more walkers than cars and many more "boda bodas" - motorcycle taxis - than walkers.  And the driving!  If I stuck my arm out the window, I'm sure it would have been bloody by the time we got to the city.  The boda bodas pile many people with their many things onto the moped like things.  1 or 2 people in addition to the driver get on, sitting straddle or side saddle.  Often they have all their things piled in too.  I saw a woman sitting side saddle, holding her sleeping baby on her shoulder with one hand, and the back of the bike with the other.  I saw a man with some sort of pipes - sticking straight up- definitely 20 feet in the air.  Another boda boda had some sort of small mattresses, stacked up behind him and over him - he looked like he was on the bottom of a double decker bus.  You could not even see the motorcycle under him.  Other boda bodas were broken down, walking to one of the many people along the road selling tyres (their spelling) or fixing them.  One man, crossing the busy 2 lane road with 4 lanes of traffic stuffed in it, didn't see a boda boda speeding between 2 rows of cars and got his ankle nipped.  Just in time the driver swerved and the man jumped off the road.  I saw him hobbling away.  Conche's sister was killed by a boda boda just last month. 

Now that I can blog, even though I cannot email, I will try to post.  I've been writing it all down, so I just need to transfer it here.
Love from Uganda.