Monday, March 30, 2009

I Had A Dream!

I had a dream the other night that we adopted 3 kids. Not sure where that came from.

On another note, Scott used to say that he wanted two sisters. Now more recently he's been saying that he wants two sisters and two brothers.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Questions for prospective adoption agencies

[some more info I dug up from the yahoo group on Ghana Adoption. I have yet to read through these questions but will hopefully do that soon]

Orphanage operations:

  1. How are children supported by the home?
  2. Does the agency give a large donation "per child" to an orphanage that "gives" a child for adoption? Or does the agency give support to the orphanage that is not based on the adoption of a child?
  3. Do you know what your kids are eating each day? (Some homes have kids eating 5 times per day, others only once per day)
  4. What medical testing is done for each child?
  5. Does EVERY child in the home get the same care as those who are referred? How do the kids come to the orphanage?
  6. Does the Ghana staff know what age/gender/types of children that adoptive parents are waiting for? If so, it may turn into a scenario where Ghanaian folks start "looking" for kids according to which families are waiting.

Referring the child:

  1. How does the orphanage/agency determine which family gets which waiting child?
    Does the agency do a medical and THEN determine if the child will be referable through their program?
  2. What is required for me to receive a referral (home study, application, USCIS approval, or just money)?
  3. Regarding splitting siblings, has the agency PROVEN to you that they are committed to placing siblings together whenever possible?
  4. Do they place HIV+ and Hep B+ kids with the same enthusiasm as healthy kids?
    In the case of a baby, what has the agency done to insure that there is no other option but international adoption for that baby? Did they see if social welfare could place the baby domestically?
  5. When can I expect to see the medical testing of a child I am interested in adopting?
    What makes a child eligible to be referred to a family? For instance, what documentation is necessary to refer a child to a family?
  6. If you are offered a Ghanaian infant under 2 years old ... find out "why? " (It used to be that infants weren't available, because "there are Ghanaian families that want to adopt the younger children." Now, however, I hear of more and more babies being available. Could it be that the families are being offered financial incentives?)

Biological families:

  1. How do you, as the agency, counsel biological families when they say they want to give a child for adoption?
  2. Will you give a child back to their biological family if they change their minds? Is there any point in the process where your answer would change (for instance, after court)?
  3. Is the orphanage/agency providing financially for the families that are releasing their children for adoption? (While it seems "nice", it can also be construed as "buying children". When other families hear about the $ being given, they may also decide to "sell" their child to the orphanage.)
  4. Does the orphanage/agency require or suggest that the adopting family give financially to the releasing family? (Again ... could be construed as "buying babies".)
  5. Is the orphanage/agency making "deals" with families ... "you give me the child and I'll do ___ for you." ? ($ to start a business, etc.)

Agency details:

  1. Is the agency a recognized non-profit, with 501C3 status?
  2. Are they directed by licensed adoption professionals?
  3. Are they Hague Accredited (whether or not the sending country has ratified the Hague agreement)?
  4. Are they accessible throughout the "agency shopping" process?
  5. Are they willing to spend time working with you to ensure that you understand *their* particular process (every agency functions differently)?
  6. Are they willing to send you a sample copy of their placement contract for review? If so, will they review it with you and explain it to you?
  7. Does it have any blanket disclosure clauses? Is their refund policy clearly spelled out? Are there any *gag clauses* in the contract (if so, is this ok with you?)
  8. Will they provide references of past RECENT clients?
  9. How long have they been working in each of their countries?
  10. Is the program you are considering a pilot program? If so, is this spelled out clearly?
  11. Do they have the proper in-country credentials, or partner with an agency who has them
  12. If they partner with another agency - are they transparent about this?
  13. If your adoption stalls, who is responsible, your agency or the partner agency? Is this in your contract? What are their ground support policies?
  14. How many Ghana adoptions has your program completed?
  15. When the agency makes a mistake, do they admit it?
  16. Do they respond to your phone calls and e-mails rapidly and professionally?

Agency operations:

  1. Does the agency give ANY funds to a judge in order to say "thank you" for a court judgment?
  2. Does the agency "create" siblings?
  3. Does the orphanage/agency change the children's ages? This would also be known as falsifying legal documents. (This is done in order to make the children "more adoptable", but it is justified by saying that the children will "fit in better in America, since they are behind academically".)
  4. How many in-country staff does your agency have?
  5. Are the in-country staff employees, or independent contractors/facilitators that can work with several agencies?
  6. Do you, as the agency, take part in investigating the backgrounds of each child you refer, or do you trust an outside source to do this (orphanage director, facilitator, etc.)?
  7. In the history of your program, what is the median age of the children referred/adopted? Why do you think the age is higher/lower than ______ program that I’ve also talked to?
  8. How did you come to hire your staff in Ghana? What are their qualifications?
  9. How does the agency prepare the children for adoption?
  10. Are you given open access to your referred child when you travel to Ghana to visit? Is the agency secretive about what you may or may not do when you are around the children in the home?
  11. How many country staff are supporting the program you have chosen? Is it one guy doing it on a part time basis or is it a team of people dedicated full-time to your agency's work?
  12. If something goes wrong on the Ghana side, who takes responsibility? Will it be your agency or will they blame their country facilitator and then wash their hands of it?

General advice:

  1. Have you put an "all call" out on the adoption groups (and I would specify, NON-adoption agency owned) asking for references, good/bad/ugly, for specific agencies? Don't just consider the latest cases, go back a few years. Don't just consider the old cases. Consider how the agency will treat you when things go bad.
  2. If one agency has different children available than another agency- ask WHY that is.
  3. Choose an agency that spells out their fees CLEARLY. You are committing to an expensive process – ASK what is included in the agency fees. Some agencies appear very expensive, or inexpensive, ON PAPER. However, the expensive agency might include such services as drivers and translators in their fees, while the inexpensive one does not. Know exactly what you are paying for.
  4. Interview your placement agency!
  5. What would you say is an area you would like to improve on in your program?
    · What would you say is a reason someone might NOT choose your program?
    What makes your program unique to the other Ghana programs available?

Ghana Dossier Checklist:

As of February 2009 (subject to change)

· Approved International Homestudy (notarized)
· Original Certified Copy of Birth Certificates
· Original Certified Copy of Marriage Certificates (if any)
· Original Certified Copy of Divorce Decrees (if any)
· Power of Attorney (notarized)
· Photocopy of USCIS I-171h (no notarization required) NOTE – this is an agency requirement NOT a department of Social Welfare requirement. You may submit your dossier without the I171h.

The following are Forms purchased from the Department of Social Welfare. They cannot be photocopied from another adoptive parent. Check with your agency for specific instructions regarding the completion of the forms.
· Department of Social Welfare Children’s Act 560’ 98 – Formal Application for a Child (no notarization required). For those not affiliated with an agency - fill out the original, DON’T SIGN, make four photocopies, then sign each one.
· Department of Social Welfare Adoption Act 1962 – Medical Report on Prospective Adopter (one completed for each parent). Does not need to be notarized. If the doctor’s office has a stamp with their name and address, ask them to use this.
· Medical Certificate as to Health of Applicant (1/3 page medical – one completed for each parent). Again, try to have the doctor’s office use a stamp with their practice and address.

Not required but recommended:
· Photocopy of Passport Photo Page (no signatures required)
· Family Photo Page (no signatures required)
· Letter of Intent – this is a letter to the Dept of Social Welfare about your family. You might also include your intentions regarding the care of the adopted child(ren), and the
· Employment letter

The Ghana Adoption Process:

[taken from the yahoo groups site on ghana adoption]

Phase I: Collecting Paperwork!

· Family decides they would like to adopt from Ghana and contacts social worker to begin working on the homestudy.
· Family applies to and contracts with Ghana placement agency.
· Family files form I-600a with their local USCIS office.
· Family receives approved homestudy and sends it to local CIS office to complete I-600a file.
· Family receives approval of form I-600a (usually numbered I-171h)
· Prepare the Dossier for Ghana with your placement agency’s assistance.

Phase II: The Adoption Process

· Dossier is sent to Ghana.
· Dossier documents are prepared for court.
· Child referral is given to family (anytime after you receive I-600a approval)!
· Social Welfare conducts a medical and social investigation on the child to be adopted. This is when the child becomes legally (rather than informally) available for adoption.
· Dossier is filed in court and court date is requested.
· Court date! Either final adoption decree (usually) or 2 year interim adoption (very rarely) is ruled.
· With an adoption decree, your referred child now has your last name as his/her own!

Phase III: Before you can Travel

· Team in Ghana applies for your child’s new birth certificate.
· Team in Ghana applies for your child’s Ghanaian Passport.
· Form I-600 and supporting documents are filed with the US Embassy in Ghana by a representative.
· USCIS in Ghana determines whether or not a “field investigation” needs to be done in order to gain I-600 approval (this process could go as quickly as 1 week or take as long as 6 months).
· I-600 approval is awarded and the Embassy invites you to travel to Ghana for the visa interview!

Phase IV: Travel!

· Travel to Ghana to receive your child!
· Attend the Immigrant Visa Interview early in the week.
· Pick up your child’s Immigrant Visa (IR-4) on Friday.
· Travel home with your newest addition!

Phase V: Post-Adoption

· Complete 3 required post placement visits (6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months)
· Because your adoption was completed by proxy (you weren’t at the court date) you will need to readopt your child in your state of residence.
· File to receive your child’s US Passport and/or Certificate of Citizenship, and Social Security Number.
· Consider sending yearly reports to your child’s orphanage so that the staff and any living birth family can follow the progress of your child’s development.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This whole passport deal has been a fun little game. Back in February, I went to renew my passport but didn't have enough cash. I was in no hurry because we weren't travelling anytime soon considering we didn't even have an agency picked yet. Yesterday I read that your updated passport is part of your application for internation adoption. Yikes, I better get right on the passport update!


For a while now I've had the contract for AAC. I read it in its entirety but I'm not familiar with what it should look like let alone comparing it to anything else. I asked 3 people to give me their opinion on it:

Friend who adopted recently thought it was similar to theirs.
Social worker friend who does adoptions was not impressed with the typos. Likewise, she was not impressed that AAC doesn't own up to the care provided for the orphans which is likely due to the fact that AAC doesn't have their own care facility established.
Lawyer Aunt who sits on the board of a big name agency will be chatting with me tonight about her review of the agreement. I'm excited and nervous all at the same time.

Ryan has yet to read the contract. But I'm sure he'll do so before too long...

Money Matters

Maybe I've mentioned it before, maybe not. On our already very tight budget, I saw no room for saving for anything, let alone an adoption. I asked Ryan to stop investing in my Roth IRA to save for the adoption. He set up a seperate savings account for that. I was so excited and encouraged when I checked the account balance yesterday. Now I know that $700 doesn't go far in the world of adoption, but I didn't care about that, I was thrilled to see us investing in adoption beyond our paperwork and prayers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Let me take a moment to be real honest... while we save money to send in with our service agreement, I find myself questioning our decisions so far.

This time could prove to be a good time for God to reveal to us something different than we realize. This time could also prove to be a good time for the devil to get a foot hold.

Here's what has been going on in my mind:
  • I selfishly want to adopt from Ethiopia because of the connection we have there.
  • I haven't developed a love for Ghana yet.
  • How will our family and our community react to such a dark skinned child?
  • How will our community react to such a dark skinned young man/woman wanting to date their child?
  • What if I were to get pregnant?

Oh me of little faith. God, Your word says in Isaiah that the voice will come from behind, no matter which direction I go. Help me to walk in Your way! Thank you for just enough light for the step I'm on.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gotta Love God Moments

I had two God moments in the past two days:
  1. We met a couple a few weeks ago that was speaking at our church about going into missions in Guatamala after having adopted two kids from there. They were cool to talk with but it was good to make that connection with a family who's had their own kids and then adopted. We ran into them again Sunday. They were guest speaking/preaching at a church in Parkersburg where our friend is the Pastor. We'd stayed with Ryan and Renessa for the night and planned on hearing Ryan preach. It was much to my surprise when they said the McCauley's would be there. Thank you Lord for that moment!
  2. Our friend Kathy called out of the blue to borrow our truck. She is the one that Ryan wants to do our home study. We've not approached her about it yet so last night I took the opportunity to talk to her about it. She would be happy to provide the home study for us. I shared our idea of maybe foster adopting. Kathy would like to connect us with a nearby family who's done that very thing so that we can gather more information on it. Thank you Kathy. Thank you God for that moment!

I love how God shows up and puts people in our path to encourage us when we need it most.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not So Fast

If only the service agreement was that simple...

We didn't get the service agreement signed and returned for three reasons:
  1. I've asked a few friends/family to look over the agreement and give me their thoughts. One person is a lawyer and serves on the board of another adoption agency. One person is a social worker and does adoptions in CA, and the third person adopted recently from Korea through a different agency. I'm curious to see what they say before we sign the agreement.
  2. It doesn't exactly fit us. It mentions that adoptions in Iowa have to have their homestudy done through this agency. Although they've already said on the phone that we might be able to have another person do our homestudy since we're so far from West Des Moines. Should this be the case, we would need to have an addendum to the contract.
  3. Upon returning the service agreement (aka contract), we would need to send more money than we currently have saved up.

God, it continues to be our prayer that You would be glorified through this process. We want to love a child that needs a family!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Service Agreement

Woo hoo! I just saw that they gave me access to the service agreement. I started printing off the 26 pages and I'm headed to bible study. When I get home tonight, I hope to look it over.

Father, I excitedly and humbly come to you asking that you have your hand in this process. May you prepare the paperwork with us God while you prepare a child to become part of our family. Thank you for adopting us into your Kingdom!

I'm so excited

Yesterday I spoke on the phone with Victoria about adoption options through Russia. I was a bit nervous that I would be torn between multiple countries. Our conversation was perfect in that I knew that Russia wasn't the option for us. See, we're trying to do a debt-free adoption and Russia's country fee alone is $23k. Yeah, a little steep for our shallow pockets.

We're also getting ready to commit to About A Child for our adoption journey to Ghana Africa. In fact, I was just on their website to fill out the service agreement but couldn't access it. Maybe tomorrow.

Tired of warming up and ready to run,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


My precious friend, Bonnie, writes often about redemption. And I love reading about it. Today, I read about the Loux family and their adoption process. I hope its okay with them that I copied a portion of one of their posts to share with you. It speaks perfectly of God's redemption. I'm so excited and wanting to be obedient to the Father who did the unimagineable to save me. Here's what I copied from the Loux family blog:

On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We did an Application

Yikes, we kinda/sorta did an application. I was all set in my mind to go with Ghana for adoption through About a Child. They website doesn't mention Ghana but they're doing some cool work there through a Ghananian pastor. Ghana isn't big on adopting out infants but they have been known to do it. I asked the agency about adopting an infant through there and they think its possible, maybe just a slower process because they're not as likely to come through.

Today I talked to the agency about our application to find out if there was a fee since their website doesn't mention an application fee. They don't have one which is great news on our pocket book! She recommended that I talk to the head lady (its a small agency) about some eastern european countries because of my interest in an infant. I wasn't sure if she was just making me aware of the opportunities there or she was saying that an infant from Ghana might work out. I will try to call tonight and talk to the head lady. I'd also be okay with a Russian adoption but that country fee is $4500 more than Ghana.

Lord, we continue to ask that you would have favor on us and that whatever child we adopt will be in Your will and would glorify You. God, would you please surround us during this process - going ahead of us, bringing up the rear, and even giving us the words to communicate as we email back and forth. Thank you for adopting us!

About A Child Fee Info

$4,000 Case Management ($2k due with service agreement, $2k with dossier submission)
$ 900 Home Study ($250 fee if someone else provides)
$ 400 Post Placement Report ($200 ea. done at 30 days and 12 months)
Travel for Homestudy & PPR is $0.35/mile plus $10/hr travel time
$ 8,500 Ghana Program ($10k for siblings...c'mon twins. $2k at dossier submisison, $6,500 when travel arranged))
$ 830 USCIS I-600 (permission to adopt form) (670 + 80 per fingerprinting)
$ 300 Medical/police clearances, marriage license, birth cert, other dossier documents
$ 500 Authentication (notary and apostile/cert)
$ 400 DS-230 (child's immigrant visa)
$ 100 Child's medical eval for DS-230

Monday, March 2, 2009

Scott and Bethany

My kids love each other and for the most part, they are really sweet to each other. Last night I was filling Ryan in on a few details about our application and began asking the kids if they wanted a brother or sister. Scott answered the first time that he wanted a brother. Not suprising to me since he already has a sister. A few minutes later I asked him again assuming that his answer might change. This time he put two fingers up on his hand and said he wanted two sisters. That's my boy. Truly, I'd love to get a set of twins, or maybe even siblings that are real close in age so it was fun to see him counting his two fingers and requesting two siblings. Bethany, she likely didn't understand this whole idea of a "baby". I'm sure she was thinking I was asking her if she wanted a new baby doll.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Two Books in One Week

I'm reading my second book in one week about adoption. Those who know me, know that my life doesn't allow for time to sit and read a book. But I've been making the time. The kids are in bed early (aka on time) and I'm sitting down to read. I'm making sure that I'm also getting some time with God and reading His Word in addition to these books.

The first book was written by the woman who started All God's Children, an adoption agency we'd been considering. It was good to read. The second one is one that I started and almost finished several years ago. The book mark is still there but I thought a fresh reading of it would be good. Adopting for Good by Jorie Kincaid is a little dated (published in 1997) and likely many things have changed in the last 12 years but it still has valuable information.

I'm not the type that reads books to find out how to parent, how to be pregnant, etc. But in this case, I'm hungry to learn and to know what things to be praying for:

Today, right now God, I pray that you will be preparing the heart of the child you have for us. Specifically that the child will be able to attach and feel at home in our family if he/she looks different.