Thursday, June 29, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions about the Wetzels' Adoption

Family and friends, many of you already know that Aaron and Wendy are hoping to be joined by a little Wetzel through the process of international adoption. Thank you for the support you’ve shown us so far! We know this process is foreign (er, no pun intended!) to many of you, as it was to us before we began. I (Wendy) plan to write here regularly as a way of letting you know what’s going on and learning with us more about adoption.

For those of you who haven’t had a chance to talk to us, and to answer some of those questions you may have wanted to know but been afraid to ask, I’m going to start with a little Frequently Asked Questions about the Wetzels’ Adoption.

1. When did you decide to adopt and why?

Why adopt? Wendy couldn’t survive as a freelancer if she had to give up coffee for 9 months. Just kidding!

We have been thinking about whether, when, and how to add children to our family for a long time. We have loved and still do love the many experiences we’ve shared with kids, especially teenagers—but they are not our family. It’s time for us to have a lifelong relationship with a child of our own. You may be wondering how our experiences with Marfan’s Syndrome factored into this decision. We won’t lie; it was a factor in this difficult decision—although we don’t consider adoption “second best” or a consolation prize. Yes, in a perfect world, we might have had biological children. But this sin-sick world is imperfect in many, many ways. It’s also true that in a perfect world, no children would need to be adopted in order to experience the love of a family. We are confident that God will work through adoption to bring us the child or children who are perfect for our family!

2. What kind of adoption are you doing?

We are pursuing international adoption for a variety of reasons. Some of the draws for us are the more structured nature of the process, more predictable costs and time frames (although delays can happen when dealing with two national governments!), the opportunity to learn about another culture and reflect more of God’s world by incorporating it into our family, and the great need for homes for children in many places.

3. What country will your child be from? How did you choose?
Although we have not decided on an adoption agency yet and so could conceivably change our minds, we are pretty sure we’ll adopt from Ethiopia. Although many people are more familiar with adoption from Asian countries, Ethiopia’s adoption programs are growing fast (thanks, Angelina?), making it the 7th most popular country in 2005 and likely to be in the top 5 in 2006 (given that some countries like Russia are making adoption much more difficult these days). The needs in Africa are great due to extreme poverty; malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases; war; and other factors. Ethiopia alone has an estimated 4 to 6 million children needing families. Despite these challenges, Ethiopian children are as healthy as any when adopted, and the country’s adoption system is now well established.

The fact that I (Wendy) am having trouble not including too much information about Africa here indicates the real reason we gravitated to Ethiopia: We have a love for Africa! We've long felt that if there were ever a place we wanted to visit or do missions work in, it would be somewhere in Africa more than anywhere else. The stories and needs capture our imaginations and tug at our hearts more than those of other places. I believe God gives different people an interest in different places and needs so that our attention and passion can be more focused and effective; He seems to have drawn us toward Africa. Who knew that God would allow us to one day not only visit Africa but also love one of His beautiful African people as part of our own family? We look forward to sharing with our child the miraculous story of how God planted the seeds in us long before one of their days came to be.

4. Does that mean your child will be black?
Yes, Ethiopians are generally quite dark-skinned. We will be facing many new experiences and challenges as a multi-racial (or transracial) adoptive family (many of which we also would have encountered had we decided on a different country, especially since we quickly ruled out Eastern European countries, although that also would have been cross-cultural). We hope you will join us in learning all we can about these issues and providing our child a safe place with loving family and friends in the midst of a society and world with messed-up, broken attitudes and history regarding race. We recognize that we have a lot to learn but trust that with your support and God’s empowerment, our family can be a beautiful reflection of love and understanding.

5. How long does the adoption process take and how much does it cost?
Timeframes vary widely between countries, but Ethiopia has one of the faster and simpler processes. We are told that from the time of applying to an agency (we are currently narrowing it down), the process could take only about 9 months. Sounds like about the right amount of time for a baby to arrive!

Costs can vary too, but let’s just say that international adoption is comparable to buying a new car. And yes, that depends on the kind of car! A significant portion of the costs are for travel, of course.

6. How old will your child be? Will it be a boy or a girl?
Ethiopia has healthy young infants available, and we’re requesting as young as possible to experience as much of that early time as we can [insert joke about young minds ripe for brainwashing here!]. Some Ethiopian babies are coming home as young as 4 months old, which was a definite draw for us.

Some agencies do not allow first-time parents to specify a preferred gender; others do. I’ve heard that this is because more people request girls than boys. Some people think it’s not fair to be able to request gender since with a natural birth you can’ttrue, but hey, for a natural birth you don't have to first discuss your history, religion, health, and finances with a complete stranger who holds your future plans in their hands. Adoption is difficult, so it should get to have its own perks too, I say! Nonetheless . . . we think we'll let God decide.

7. What are the steps to adopting?
With a lot of research behind us, our next step is to decide on and apply to an adoption agency. The agency performs a “homestudy” (or has a social worker in your state do it, if the agency is elsewhere). This involves providing information and talking to a social worker about how we’re preparing to adopt, our background, our parenting styles, etc. They will come to our house to terrify us that we are not anal-retentive enough in our cleaning—okay, that’s not the reason, although a lot of people worry about it! They write up a report which essentially approves us to adopt.

We then need to file adoption paperwork with the U.S. government and the government of the country from which we’re adopting; the paperwork for that country is called a dossier. Once they approve our dossier and file who knows how many papers on that end, we can receive a referral of a child. We will receive photos and as much medical and background information as is available, which varies. If we see a medical red flag, we can refuse the referral. Since the children are screened for major illnesses and given a medical exam before referral, hopefully at that point we would accept the referral and make travel plans!

We would travel to Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa and stay near or at the orphanage/care center. The stay required is about one week. Some paperwork there, some paperwork back here in the U.S., and we’re officially all one family! Then, of course, there’s the feeding, diapering, teething, crying, playing, spoiling . . .

8. Is there anything we can do to help?
Sure—we need everything anyone expecting a baby needs! We will need your excitement and encouragement, especially when the paperwork gets tedious and the waiting excruciating. We will need you to come to our garage sale and buy our junk (or help with whatever other ideas we come up with) to help pay for this process and baby gear. And as new parents, we’ll need wisdom and help especially when our baby arrives. We’re thankful to have all of you behind us!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to comment here or email us, and check back often for our updates and reflections. Blessings,

Wendy and Aaron