I’ll be writing a lot more to catalog our journey and I wanted to start today by giving a lot of background on how exactly we got to the place of starting our adoption from Burundi.
To go way back, if you don’t know us, Joel and I met in high school. I’d say we quickly knew that this was it. We dated for 5.5 years and were married in 2004.
Somewhere in there we talked about how many kids we wanted (2) and also how if we were unable to have children we would adopt rather than using medical intervention. Neither of us had much interest in sinking tons of money or emotion into fighting infertility that way. In time we didn’t have to cross that bridge as we were blessed with the birth of our two sons, Nate and Cole, within 21 months.
Last fall it became clear that adoption for us wasn’t “if” but rather “when.”
When you start looking at adoption it can be overwhelming to say the least. Domestic, International, What age child would you prefer, where do you qualify, how long will it take….
For us we knew a few things for certain-
We want an ethical adoption. A child that truly needs a home and that bringing him into our home happens in an ethical manner.
We did not desire a baby, but we would like him to fall into birth order (i.e. younger than Cole)
Ideally we could complete the adoption in 2-3 years. (This would capitalize on the “Lover Years” (years in which they are more compassionate) in our older boys-ages 5-8 as described in the book Wild Things–another takeaway from dotMom!)
We started with Africa because that is where we had always talked about adopting from. There is a great need and while many adoptive couples/families would like a child that looks like them, having a racially diverse family just isn’t an issue for us.
The first agency we met with works in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa and a few other countries that are currently closed. As we had this meeting the outlook in both Ethiopia and Uganda was beginning to look bleak. Along with wait times of 3-4 years the governments in these countries are unstable.
Next we moved on to talking with agencies that work in Congo.
Let me stop here for a second to say that even though Joel and I feel strongly called to adoption we agreed that we would not pursue this past the point of it seeming like a good idea for the stability of our family. While ultimately this will change our family forever in many positive ways, it is also not without a good bit of sacrifice as well.
So, in speaking with an agency regarding Congo I began to really understand how adoption can go very wrong, very fast. Specifically in Congo they are currently not issuing “exit letters” for families that have in every other way completed their adoption. Meaning that they have been matched with a child, paid all the fees, traveled to the country and are waiting on a piece of paper to return home. Some families are just having to walk away with broken hearts AND also out a significant amount of money.
That is not the level of sacrifice that our family is willing to take on.
It was then that I understood the importance, from our perspective, of working with a Hague country. You can read about the Hague Convention here, but essentially it means that the country will have a central authority in place for the handling of adoptions and that they will follow certain procedures to ensure that children are in fact eligible for adoption. This leaves less room for corruption, anything that in any way might resemble child trafficking and very unlikely that our adoption would fail due to the system.
So the obvious next question was- are there any Hague countries in Africa?
There are a few. Some are currently closed, some didn’t fit the things we were looking for. Burundi seemed like a good place to start.
Burundi- A very tiny, beautiful, landlocked country in south central Africa.
There are only a handful of agencies that Burundi has agreed to work with and I believe the agency we are using is the only one actively working there now. I spoke with the agency and program directors as they laid out the process for me (which at this point I was very familiar with after going through this talk with 4 other agencies.) Quickly one detail stood out and is different from the process in every other country I had heard about.
We will travel to Burundi, hand deliver our dossier (paperwork) and meet with the Central Authority before we are matched with a child.
In most other countries you complete your paperwork, send it to the country and wait. Your paperwork gets put in a stack with all the others and you’re kind of just a number in a line. Once you are matched you can accept the referral and then you would travel for court dates and to bring them home.
This difference in Burundi is what really sealed the deal for us and allowed us to view our adoption journey as a two-part process.
We’re calling part one our “mission trip.” We will prepare our paperwork and then we will GO to Africa! We hope to be able to take some funds to help purchase some things for the orphanages when we get there. We will meet with the Central Authority, orphanages, see the country, meet their people and show how we are truly interested in giving a loving home to one of their children.
We pray that ultimately our trip will result in part two- being matched with a child and then bringing him home.
It has brought us so much peace in knowing that in all of this there will be something done for good. We WILL go to Burundi and make some kind of impact, however small. We are accepting that while we believe that bringing a child into our family is what we have been called to do, it may not actually happen. Or it might not happen in the way that we expect. But for now this is how we have discerned our path and are thrilled to begin!