It's a bedtime tradition that began with Little Nutbrown Hare, and each night we try to outdo the last...I love you to the moon and the beach and the mountians...and one of my favorites, "to Jesus and the angels" and back...We never imagined we would be saying, I love you to Africa and seems like the furthest imaginable place, but yet in God's perfect timing, we plan to go.... to Africa and back!!! And when we get back, we will have another little cheek to kiss goodnight...please keep us in your prayers and enjoy this journey with us!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Looking Up - Part One

2trust verb \ˈtrəst\

: to believe that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. : to have confidence in (someone or something)
: to believe that something is true or correct
: to hope or expect that something is true or will happen

A blog post titled “Reflection" could be expected for the first post of the new year. But I'm not there yet, I'm not at the place where I look back to reflect. I'm still assessing the situation. I'm still right here in the middle of it. It's not yet time to reflect. When I reflect on the last year, I see confusion and heartache, if I look forward I see uncertainty. I am learning to realize that it is in Him, I must Trust. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses, Romans 5:3-5, "We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts." So I feel like we are here, learning patience, developing character, clinging to hope and learning what it really means to trust. 

In looking back I see confusion...It was almost a year ago that we saw the first glimpse of a little boy, who would change the way I look at the world. It was the first step in trust. There were so many unknowns. We deliberated and scrutinized looking at his picture, asking for any shred of information to help us have a better picture of who he was. We were told very little, assured that if any more information was gained, we would be told...

A month later, we were told that a little more information had been found out about our little boy. He was the oldest of four siblings at the orphanage. It was believed they had been brought in together and were living together prior to arriving at the orphanage. On our son’s intake form it stated he is loved by his brother and sister and that he was found without biological family (Mother). The information stated on this form was given by his biological mother. We were confused by this mix of information, but we trusted...We were told their mother's name is on the form because she was the one who brought them in and abandoned them. They assumed she just could not provide for them. We were told that the children had been referred to 3 different families, the staff didn't know they were siblings when they were first brought in. The middle 2 were twins and would be staying together and the youngest baby was referred to another family. Although they were being adopted by different families, we were told this was good information to have, so we could possibly keep in touch once they were all over here. This didn't sit right with us. We had been clear with the agency staff from the beginning that we would consider adopting siblings, if our child had known siblings. We asked if the other families had been informed of this and we were told if they hadn't been told, they would be informed soon.  We wanted to know what the siblings referred families were feeling. We continued to question...

Could the twins go to one family and the baby & oldest be kept together, to at least keep the children in pairs? The response was no, the baby was possibly a cousin, and was already referred to another family. Confused, we trusted this to be truth. We prayed. We offered to let the family of the twins have the referral of our son, if they would consider, in order for him to stay with the brother and sister that love him. We had already fallen in love with our little boy but we didn't feel that we could ask them to give up the referral of their children. We would offer to do what we felt was right. At almost midnight that night, I got an email from the director of our agency, that there actually was no "other family" and if we wanted to consider adopting the twins we could do so...we were confused, but hopeful. 

We prayed, we shared our story and we watched God bring the needed funds to be able to accept the referral of the twins. We had to pay fees as if the twins were not related to the oldest because we were told that although they shared the same biological mother, they had different biological fathers, therefore they would not be categorized as siblings, as far as fees. We were confused, we were not told they were half siblings until the question of fees came up, therefore we had a hard time understanding this new information. Why they had been presented to us as such, but could not be processed as siblings, requiring our agency fees to be higher. We were told this was because they would be processed separately.  As they all passed through court at the same time it was hard to understand why they had to be processed separately. We continued to ask that our information be shared with the family of our children's baby cousin, so if they chose to contact us, they would be able. We were told this could not be done. We know nothing about the family of our children's baby sister other than their last name and that they are Canadian. We originally wanted to be in contact with them to keep our kids in contact over the years, we now pray to make contact to help them maintain their sibling relationship. 

In July, when we reviewed our court paperwork, we noted that the abandonment document for our oldest son stated an address at which he had been found, and the twins document stated they had been abandoned, as opposed to being brought in by their mother. We were again confused…but we trusted.

As the summer drew to a close we awaited final documents to be able to file the I600. In order to have everything lined up and ready to file as soon as possible, I contacted USCIS to determine how we should file for the children. We knew that a new procedure was in place to file separately for each child, regardless of sibling status, but our understanding was that only one fee needed to be paid to process all of their I600's. We received a notice from our agency that we needed to pay separate fees for each of the children's I600's, keeping with the standing that they were not being processed as siblings. In an attempt to avoid paying an additional unnecessary $1400 to USCIS, I began a series of emails with someone from USCIS. They informed me that if the children were known siblings (regardless of paternity) only one fee was necessary. If there was any question of true sibling status, separate fees would be needed. If we attempted to process them as siblings and through their investigation it was determined they were not actually siblings, our case would incur delays. I questioned the agency, asking why they recommended filing separately. Did they question their sibling status? They had been presented to us as siblings and we had never been told otherwise. When we questioned this, we received the explanation that we would not be able to prove they were siblings since the children are abandoned. We were told that once a child is declared abandoned, the child is made a ward of the state and the parents names are no longer on the paperwork. Because of this, there is not enough evidence to satisfy USCIS of the biological relationship. We were confused. The intake form states the mother provided the information, so why were they declared abandoned and the mother's name removed from the paperwork? Wasn't her word, which was given on the intake form, enough? We were told the intake form is not an official document and cannot be used as evidence to support form I600. Often in abandonment cases there is not a document such as a parental authorization or an original birth certificate that could be used as evidence. Again confusion…we had not yet resolved how we would file the I600's when our son was hospitalized, leading to what we believed to be answers. Answers that we felt brought light to many things that had not made sense to us over the last year...

But did the information that we learned, as I recorded in my last blog post really bring answers, or just more confusion? For the first time since we learned about the children we felt like we had real answers as to who they really were, where they had come from and where they truly belonged. Two paths intersected, worlds meshed and we felt answers were found. We had a outpouring of support. Countless people began praying, not for us to be able to quickly bring our children home, but for us to be able to get our children home. We shared the discovered information with our agency and we were told that they would do their own investigation to determine what was in the best interest of the children. If it was determined the best situation would be to be for them to be placed with their biological family, they would help facilitate this. We were hopeful. We knew our friend’s sister had spent many hours, over several weeks, with the children's birthmother. Not only at the hospital at our sons bedside and in the waiting room while he was in surgery, but also at a restaurant where they went to lunch together. They had had the opportunity to have multiple, private and in-depth conversations in their native language, and we felt sure of the children's birthmother's desire to parent her children. We eagerly awaited the agency to complete their investigation so we could work together to help the children, whom we had considered to be our own for the past year. A month passed and we heard nothing from the agency, except for a request to take down my previous blog post. While we waited, we came in contact with some people who stated they were willing to help us find more answers. Through a sequence of events, they were able to visit the orphanage on our behalf. What they discovered brought more answers and more confusion...

(to be continued…)

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