Monthly archives for April, 2020

How to Choose a Country for International Adoption: Five Questions to Ask Yourself

In my role at MAA, I talk with families who are just starting to look into adoption, and often trying to determine the right path forward. An important first step when considering international adoption is to see which programs you are eligible for. You can view general eligibility guidelines for each country on our Country Comparison Chart, but to confirm which programs you qualify for, please fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form so our program staff can review your information and clarify any potential issues in eligibility.

Sometimes you are only eligible for one program and so the choice is clear, but when there is more than one option, how does one choose? Here are some of the questions I ask families to help them think through which country is the best fit for their family:

1.What age, gender, and special needs are you open to?

While essentially all international programs today are considered “special needs,” each program varies slightly in what the common special needs are. This post goes more in depth about the types of special needs we see in each program. Most programs allow families to choose a gender, but families waiting for referral of a young child in the Philippines must be open to either gender. While we see children of all ages in all countries, in Bulgaria, young children in need of international adoption all have special needs that are usually considered more complex.

2. Do you want to adopt siblings?

We see siblings in four of our five international programs: Colombia, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. While we very rarely see twins in China, it is so rare that China is not a good option for a family who has their heart set on adopting siblings.

3. What is your travel availability?

The length of travel requirements ranges from just one week in the Philippines, to 4-6 months in the Dominican Republic, so how long your family is able to travel will impact your program options. Bulgaria requires two trips, while other programs are only one. While MAA always encourages both parents to travel in order to experience their child’s country and culture, for families where that isn’t possible there are countries that allow just one parent to travel, including China, Bulgaria, and the Philippines.

4. What are your cultural resources?

If you live in an area with a large Chinese community, but almost no Spanish speakers, it may make more sense to adopt from China than Colombia. This isn’t to say that you can’t adopt from a country if you don’t have people of that heritage in your area, but if you do so, you need to commit to providing those cultural opportunities for your child. It may mean long drives to other cities where there is more diversity, or paying for a tutor who can teach your child their native language via Skype lessons. You’ll need to consider if you’re prepared to make those greater efforts to keep your child and your family connected to their culture.  Remember, their culture is now your culture too!

5. What is most important to you?

Every country program is different, and the reality is there may not be a program that fits exactly what you are dreaming and hoping for, so you’ll have to consider what your priorities are. Is it adopting a child who is as physically healthy as possible? Then you may want to look at the Philippines, though the wait for a referral is around three years. Or is it more important to you to adopt a child more quickly? Then you may want to research special needs, find some you are open to considering, and adopt from a country like China or Colombia, where the process is often a year or less. Is it adopting from a country where there is a big need for adoptive families? Then you may want to consider the Dominican Republic, where the long travel requirement scares most potential families away.

These questions are personal, and the answers will be different for every family. It’s important to be honest with yourselves about your hopes and expectations so that you can choose a country where you are prepared for what the process will be like, and ultimately bring your child home.

Ready to get started considering international adoption? Call today or fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist and find the path for your family!

Common Special Needs by Country Program

Common Special Needs by Country Program

While nearly all international adoption is considered “special needs” these days, what needs we see varies widely country to country, depending on that country’s medical system, social services, and culture. Considering what special needs are common is one way to narrow down which adoption program is the right fit for your family, so read more below about each of MAA’s programs!

China

In the China program we see a wide range of medical needs. Typically medical care in China requires full payment up front before care is provided, so sadly many families place their child in institutional care so that they can receive the medical care they desperately need. There also continues to be cultural stigma around disabilities in China, especially visible disabilities, which plays a role in some children being abandoned. Thankfully, as resources grow more biological families are able to keep their children who have correctable conditions, and more and more domestic Chinese families are open to adopting young children with needs like heart defects and club foot, so there are fewer children with those needs in need of international adoption today.

Colombia

In Colombia, some children are relinquished by their birth family, sometimes because they aren’t able to care for their medical needs. Other children have been removed from their birth families due to neglect or abuse. As a result, we see many older children who may not have any diagnosed needs, but have experienced trauma. Because we often have information about birth families, it’s sometimes known if a child had prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol, or other risk factors in their background. Many young children referred for adoption have these risk factors and developmental delays, and need families who will help them meet their full potential, whatever that may be.

The Philippines

While the Philippines allows families to submit their dossier and request referral of a child considered “healthy,” families still need to be open to some concerns or risk factors in their child’s background, such as prematurity, speech delays, or corrected medical needs. There are also waiting children of all ages with a variety of medical needs, including many children who have developmental delays. We also see many older children, sibling pairs and groups who are medically healthy, but experienced neglect or abuse in their biological families.

Bulgaria

Since there is now a robust domestic adoption program in Bulgaria, there are very few young children with needs families consider “minor” in need of international adoption, as those children are usually adopted within Bulgaria. Children under eight years old typically have neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and epilepsy, or multiple diagnoses and risk factors in their background. There are also many older children and sibling groups who were removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect. Families who are open to Down syndrome can receive a referral very quickly after submitting their dossier.

The Dominican Republic

Since the Dominican Republic is a small country, it’s also a small adoption program, but there are still many children waiting for adoptive families! We see a range of different medical needs, as well as many young children with broad developmental delay diagnoses who need families prepared for whatever their future may be. Many of the children came into orphanage care very young when their biological families were unable to care for them. Since it is a small program, it is best for families who are open to a variety of different needs if they have not identified a specific waiting child.

Though these are the specific medical and developmental needs we see in each country program, it’s always important to keep in mind that every child in need of adoption has experienced loss and trauma, regardless of where they live. The behavioral, emotional and attachment needs that result from those experiences may be not be diagnoses in their file, but will be some of their biggest needs. We encourage all our families to research how to meet all of their child’s needs to be as prepared as possible for when you finally bring them home!

Interested in learning more about international adoption? Check out the Country Comparison Chart to view general info about each program, and fill out our free Prospective Adoptive Parent form to connect with an adoption specialist!

CANCELLED

CANCELLED

Cancelled.  A word we’ve all become far too familiar with this past month.  School – CANCELLED.  Non-essential office work – CANCELLED.  Wedding – CANCELLED.  Sports – CANCELLED.  The list goes on and on.  But we are adapting.  School and work is being done at home.  Guests are witnessing nuptials over zoom.  Coaches are holding virtual practices.  We are getting by.  We are surviving.  We are looking forward to the future envisioning, “This time next year, this will all be a memory.” 

But when I heard this morning that our 2020 Hosting has been CANCELLED, my heart sank.  You see, hosting isn’t just a moment in time.  Well, it is, but it isn’t.  Yes, it is three weeks.  But it is so much more than those three weeks.  Hosting is an opportunity for waiting children to find permanency.  To find the loving family they have been longing for for years.  It is an experience that will likely pave the way for a brighter future for that child.  So when I got the email with the subject line HOSTING CANCELLED, it took everything in me not to slam my laptop shut and pretend it wasn’t there.  This isn’t a vacation that is cancelled.  It isn’t something that can just easily be put off until next year.  Because that year is an eternity for a waiting child.  It might as well have said FUTURE CANCELLED.  Or DREAM CANCELLED.  Or FOREVER FAMILY – CANCELLED.    

It is devastating, and we are grieving with and for the kids.  The kids like Elise.  Elsie is a quiet girl who loves to sing and play basketball and volleyball.  She is also interested in drawing and writing.  Elise is 15, and this was her last chance to participate in hosting.  She will age out when she turns 16.  We are also grieving with the host families who were committed to the children.  We will allow ourselves this sadness on behalf of them all.  But only for a moment.  Because then we must dry our tears, regroup, and figure out a way to continue to stand by these children.  And we can’t do that without YOU. 

We will absolutely reschedule our hosting sessions the moment we can!  We will hit the ground running the instant we get the go-ahead.  But in the meantime, we urge you to act NOW.  Reach out to us.  Ask us all of your questions related to hosting and adoption.  Get the process started!  That way, the moment those doors open, we can all run through together! 

In honor of the host children who have lost this opportunity, we are humbled to offer MAA’s Holding Hope Grant of $1,500 for ALL qualified Prospective Adoptive Parents who apply and contract with MAA by May 31, 2020 for any of our international adoption programs.  Complete your Prospective Adoptive Parent form today to connect with an Adoption Specialist. 

Not in a position to adopt right now?  Donations like yours help allow us to continue to provide grants to families!  Please consider donating today, so the waiting children can have a chance at a tomorrow.

The Most Difficult Decision

The Most Difficult Decision

Guest post by Rich and Ginger Kruiswyk, MAA Colombia adoptive family

Buckle up … this is a long post, full of twists and turns. When we last updated you, we were facing a four-day mandatory lock-down, which we are now on the second day of. We are confined to our hotel room during this time. No one is allowed to be out in the city, with very few exceptions. Our hotel does not have cleaning staff or restaurant service. There are a few food services that are allowed to deliver food (restaurants and grocery stores). But, all in all, the city street we can see from our hotel room, that is usually crammed with people and vehicles (and lots and lots of motorcycles), is eerily quiet.

Thursday morning we had another little adventure as Naomi was complaining of pretty intense tooth pain. Naomi has some minor disabilities, including speech delays, and is not always easy to understand. Plus, she has some processing delays that make it harder for her to understand what we are asking. We understood the pain to be pretty bad (she had mentioned it to Rich the previous day when Ginger was not around), and, knowing the lock down went into affect the following day, we messaged our agency. These people are truly amazing!! One of our local contacts reached out to her dentist, who was only a 5 minute walk from here. Ginger zipped over there with Naomi (made sure they had their masks on) and we were in and out in about 20 minutes. Praise God it was nothing serious and she is doing just fine now.

But, while Ginger was there, she received truly devastating news … the Colombian president decided it was in the best interests of his people to close his borders to all incoming traffic beginning Monday, March 23rd … FOR 30 DAYS!!! This means no planes flying in for 30 days. So while there is no ban on leaving the country, there will not be any planes here to take people home.

We were put in a terrible position … do we stay with the girls, knowing we have no way home to our other children for 30 days at minimum, or do we return the girls to FANA (transition home) and fly home to our other children?

When we were together again, we had the one of the most difficult discussions (if not THE MOST difficult) we have ever had. At the end, after looking at how rapidly things have changed over the last week, we made the decision that it was best to return to the United States at this time. This was primarily influenced by several big factors: the thought that 30 days might turn into 60 or 90 days, or more (this seems a very real possibility when schools and universities are canceling activities 2 months out) and the fact that we know the girls will be very well cared for at FANA. They are truly the most amazing and loving people, and we know the girls are loved by the staff. They will get to be with friends, continue with some education, and will receive love and counseling. We will get to Skype with them weekly as well. Yes, we considered having one of us stay here while the other returned home, but rejected that option because 1) we didn’t feel living in an apartment for 30 or more days (with no opportunity for social interaction with peers or semi-formal education) would be a good outcome for the girls, and 2) we had not yet completed integration, which means the remaining parent would be able to do very little to advance the adoption process until we were both together again.

Next we had to tell the girls. We cannot tell you how absolutely horrible it was to have to tell them .. no words can adequately describe that conversation. So so so many tears cried by all four of us as we talked. We are all truly devastated at this turn of events. We tried to emphasize to the girls that we will be back AS SOON AS WE CAN, as soon as the borders are open, we will be back. Again, we are blessed because the girls have the BEST counselor at FANA who will help them understand, especially where our Spanish cannot get across to them all we really want to say.

Just when we were settling into the reality of leaving, we were given the news that we might not be allowed to leave. We are not going to go into the details of the reason behind that so that we can protect the privacy of our girls, but after preparing the girls to get picked up Thursday afternoon and making flight arrangements for Saturday, we were told to change our flights to Sunday, and then, that we might not be able to leave AT ALL….that we might have to remain in country indefinitely, until the travel ban is lifted. This was too much for Ginger, who basically had a meltdown (behind closed doors, so the girls did not see or know).

Our expectation was that we would find out for sure on Friday. After waiting all day, we received word that our agency made arrangements to be sure we could get out of the country on Sunday. We were simultaneously relieved and crushed. So, our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 7:30. The girls went back to FANA this afternoon. To say it was a difficult good bye would be an understatement.

The people at our agency have been absolutely amazing throughout all of this. They sent us groceries Thursday morning to help us get through the citywide lock down (before the travel ban was announced), they have kept in constant contact with us as we have waited for news, they answered all our questions, and have been a very understanding and sympathetic ear as we have struggled with (and continue to struggle with) the decisions we have had to make. Several of the local staff have even taken the time to talk to and reassure our girls. And, mind you, we are not the only family here! There are several others at various stages of the process that they are working with and we know are helping in similar and other ways throughout this nightmare. We are truly blessed by them! And, the psychologist at FANA has also been in contact and is very supportive.

Finally, a shout out to our kids at home!! We skyped with them yesterday, at the request of the girls, and filled them in with what was going on. We did not know the final outcome at that time, so we had to tell them we might not be home for 30 – or more – days. They are troopers. While they may also be struggling with the current situation, they understood and were willing and are very able to hold down the fort for as long as needed. We know we have several friends who have checked in on them while we’ve been gone this last week (so much has changed at home since we left, it is unbelievable), and we are beyond grateful for them, too. We hope to be pressing everyone back into service in a little over a month so we can come back down to Colombia and BRING OUR GIRLS HOME!!

In the meantime, we have a list of prayer requests:

1. Pray for the girls, for their peace and that they know in their hearts that they are loved, that we are coming back, that they are Kruiswyks now.

2. For our safe return home. We are flying through Houston, and we will immensely grateful to be back on US soil. We will be wearing masks, gloves, basically keeping our hand in our pockets, and taking every conceivable precaution.

3. That the measures being taken, by people all around the world, are enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 so we can get back to Colombia ASAP

4. That the 30-day ban is enough, so we can be back with our girls sometime in late April or early May

5. For peace for us – this has been incredibly difficult, we have questioned our decision more times than we can count as we have looked into the eyes of our daughters here in Colombia and into the future.

6. That we won’t be judged by others for our decisions. If only people could understand the agony experienced by us and others in similar (and different) positions, maybe there would be more empathy and less judgment. In fact, shouldn’t we always strive to leave judging up to God and instead just love? We’re pretty sure that is what God calls us to do.

This journey has not gone how we expected it to go in any way .. ANY WAY!! However, we know that God knew about this all along. While Ginger definitely struggled, she also stated that if we have to remain here, then God must know we need to be here in Colombia more than we need to be home. She would be lying if she didn’t admit that she is still very grateful that she gets to return home. Happy … no, not happy. Happy only if our daughters were coming with us. But grateful to know the girls are loved and safe here, and we can return home to make sure our other children stay safe as well.

Finally, one last little push – if you feel God is leading you to adoption … DO IT!!! These children are worth every bit of it. These last few weeks have been scary – including, no toilet paper!! We have eight (soon to be ten) people living in our house, so we need toilet paper! What we are facing is nothing compared to what many orphaned children around the world face. We miss and need toilet paper, they miss and need a home. We are blessed, and we should do something with all we have been blessed with.

Thank you for your prayers, and we ask you to pray us home. God willing, we should get home by 8:00 pm Sunday evening … hopefully we’ll be coming back to you in about 30 days to tell you our next departure date.

Blessings, Rich and Ginger

Interested in adoption?  Complete our Prospective Adoptive Parent form today, and an adoption specialist will be in touch with you to discuss potential adoption options.  Not in a position to adopt right now?  Please consider donating to Madison Adoption Associate’s general grant fund.  Every dollar goes directly to finding families for waiting children.

MAA Adoption Programs

Madison Adoption Associates currently offers international adoption programs in the countries of China, the Philippines, and Bulgaria. Our programs mostly focus on placing children who have special medical needs.
April 2020
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