Milestones Abound

Drumroll please! It's time for the sentence we've been waiting to say for six months: Our paperwork is done.

Well, almost.

Last week, we met with our favorite notary (and good friend!) and notarized a stack of documents that would put any mortgage paperwork to shame.

The next day, Fernando took a few of the forms to the Secretary of State's office in Phoenix and returned with some lovely authentication forms bearing beautiful seals. Maybe they were just beautiful because we have been wanting to see them for so long. Regardless, they are the final pieces to our dossier.

Today we sent copies of our dossier to our case manager with other miscellaneous forms. If there are changes to be made, we'll most likely know within the week. After those changes are made, we will have the original document sent via courier to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC where everything will get authenticated one more time. (Just for fun!) Then on to Ethiopia.

It feel so real suddenly... to be nearly past this part of the process feels impossible, especially after so much of our time and energy has been devoted to assembling the necessary documents.

Our goal was to be here before Christmas - so far, we're right on track!


Dear Ethiopia

This letter is part of our dossier. It is our chance to speak from our hearts directly to the country of Ethiopia, and to explain our reasons for adopting.

December 10, 2008

To the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia:

Thank you for your consideration of our family in this application for international adoption. We appreciate and respect your time and effort.

We know without question that God placed the desire in our hearts to adopt internationally. After extensive research into various programs and countries, we decided on what our hearts had known from the beginning: Ethiopia was the birth country of our next child.

Ethiopia captured our hearts for many reasons. As Christians, we were already aware of the rich history of Ethiopia, and its Biblical ties and references. The ancient culture, like the rock structures in Lalibela and the natural history, like the impressive Tis Essat falls, serve to remind us of our place in a much larger world than we dare imagine. No amount of poverty can mask the inherit beauty of the people, and the very land itself.

Our family is a happy one - we have one very healthy biological child, and could have conceived again. Our decision to adopt from Ethiopia was not driven by medical reasons. Our decision came from an overwhelming desire to take into our family a child who desperately needed a home. A child that would add to the celebrated cultural diversity already present in our home.

Our hearts break daily for the economic hardships facing Ethiopia. We are already committed to her as a country – financially and prayerfully supporting the efforts and charities that will make a difference in the lives of struggling Ethiopians. Now we long for the opportunity to profoundly impact the life of just one Ethiopian child by committing to him or her our lives and love. We long to follow God’s model of family – his divine plan of adoption. We are all, after all, adopted into His family.

We are committed to the significance of birthplace ties. We understand the need each of us has to stay connected to our culture and homeland. We know why it’s imperative that adoptive parents faithfully encourage adopted kids to participate and grow in their relationship with their own homeland, through education and travel. We are committed to that decision and lifestyle.

Thank you again for your consideration.


Fernando & Carrie Fay Amaro


A Good Family

Last week we packed up, headed for Texas and spent nearly a week with my entire family. With four generations sitting around the table, I could not keep my mind off of our future child.

We aren't the perfect family - we all have our idiosyncrasies and annoyances - but we are a good family. Full of love and laughter. And sometimes petty fights and stressful situations... but I suspect that's every family.

All of our kids, whether adopted or biological, are very fortunate indeed.

I know they will love their time spent in Texas, on the farm. They will love the doting attention by extended family members and the late night movies and popcorn. They will love playing in the dirt and mud and with the cows and chickens. They will love crafts and projects, and learning to quilt and use power tools. They'll love learning to play Canasta and do huge puzzles. They will love hearing the trains and counting the cabooses!

That farm holds some of my dearest childhood memories and I am so excited to see my kids develop their own traditions and adventures.

And it's fun to think that some unsuspecting child in Ethiopia has a future playing with cow patties and barbed wire! :)


The Elephant in the Room

It's naive to think that everyone will immediately be supportive of an adoption. The truth is, to everyone but the adopting parents, it comes as somewhat of a shock. We have expected questions and concerns from the beginning, but it's still a little disheartening to me when they come up.

Family members want to know why you aren't having more biological kids - they want the blood line to continue. People ask why you aren't adopting domestically. They wonder about the finances, if you're rushing into things, how you can be sure that the child is healthy and wasn't conceived from rape or drug use. And the elephant in the room is usually the issue of race - this child won't look like me. (To which I usually say, "Neither does my biological child!")

It's normal for family and friends to have these questions and concerns, but it's important to get past them. To have honest conversations and discuss your reasons for adopting and the answers to their questions: A continuing blood line isn't the only way to build a family. Kids everywhere need homes - the USA has a domestic adoption program and Ethiopia doesn't. Trusting God on finances and timing is the only way to survive an adoption. You can't guarantee the health of a biological child - this is no different. Babies born from rape or drug use didn't ask for that fate and they need/deserve a family too.

And regarding the elephant in the room... it only remains an elephant until we call a spade a spade and acknowledge the racism all around us. Racism is a disease that is culturally transmitted and embedded. It isn't an evil act to recognize the disease in each of us - after all, we don't choose to be taught what we're taught. But it absolutely IS a problem to let it co-habitate peacefully in our subconscious. We have to be intentional and active in rooting it out of our psyche and multi-racial families and communities are a (big) step in the right direction.

God has provided a strong network of support for us - we have nothing to complain about. And the truth is, once friends and family members meet the new child, all worries and concerns will fly right out the window. Race disappears when a personal relationship begins - of that, I am 100% confident.

It's just a matter of surviving these few months until that time.


Red Tape

When you decide to adopt internationally, everyone tells you to expect red tape, mountains of paperwork and all kinds of hoops to jump through... and they aren't kidding. This picture is what our dining room table looks like right now.

Yesterday our whole process got effectively bumped back another month by one tiny change in the paperwork process we're wading through. For those of you who don't mind boring tidbits, here's what happened...

The dossier consists of about 25 documents (per parent) that need to be created in a very specific way, notarized in a very specific way, and in a few cases, authenticated by the state (with a fancy seal) AFTER they are notarized in a very specific way.

Basically, you are supposed to start by having 2 of those forms notarized and sent to the Secretary of State's office for authentication. While you wait approximately 4 weeks to get it back, you gather the remaining documents and are ready to rock by the end of that month. (And by "ready to rock" I mean ready to proceed to step 15 of 30 in the entire process...!)

One of our good friends also happens to be a notary and is helping us by notarizing her way through our heap of paperwork. Yesterday we all sat down for round 1 of notary fun. WHILE we were sitting there, I received an email from our case manager explaining a change in the process... regarding the form that was being notarized at that very moment. Now we have to send one of the forms to the state AFTER the other forms are created, completed and notarized. So now we have a few weeks of paperwork followed by an additional 4 weeks of waiting on the state.

I'm just venting... we're ok with everything - this is a normal part of the process. But just when I think I have my head around everything, something changes.

By the way... if we adopt a girl, we're going to decorate her room with purple.


Timely History

Last night, we elected an African-American president. By a landslide.

I sat on the couch after Daniel fell asleep, wrapped up in a blanket with my jaw in my lap at what I was witnessing. It was one of those "I'm watching a history textbook get written" moments, and I could imagine telling my great-grandchildren about the first black president. The energy... the freshness... the united voice of our country. The nearly million people crammed into Grant Park in front of my favorite backdrop in the world - the Chicago skyline. The unbelievably gracious concession speech by John McCain moved me to tears - he pledged his support to his new president and urged his followers to do the same.

The sheer enormity the decision our country made is almost too big to get my head around. I am proud of what that represents, and excited to see what Barack Obama does in office. I have reservations too, as we all do every four years on November 5th. What his presidency will be known for has yet to play out - but what his election stands for is crystal clear.

I am excited for our Ethiopian child... proud that they will become citizens of our country under the leadership of a man with Africa in his veins. I can't think of a better time in history to adopt internationally, or a better time to embrace a multi-ethnic family.

"Honey, you might not look like Mommy or Daddy, but you DO look like the president."

I couldn't be prouder or happier about what happened last night.


Fun Photo

Our agency is wonderful! The Ethiopia department sends updates constantly about the program, the status of the adoption, and even the not-so-fun stuff like the growing tension between adoption agencies and the locals in Addis Ababa. It's sad to hear that culture clash is so prominent, and rooted in so much misunderstanding (on both sides). We'll see how this develops over the next few months, but in the meantime, I'm glad they're keeping us informed.

Last week, however, we got a fun email with this picture attached. The email read:

"While you wait for your child from Ethiopia , our staff thought you would enjoy and appreciate a photograph of a typical Ethiopian house, from the Awassa and Wolaitta regions of Ethiopia . The houses across the country of Ethiopia are very similar."



Heart Break

This has been bothering me for weeks. The whole premise of international adoption is strange and sad -at it's basest level, it's steeped in grief and loss. Adoption in general is rooted in loss, but international adoption adds the culture shock/loss and disorientation that can make a painful situation even more excrutiating for a child - even an infant.

So, why are we doing it? Why does my heart ache every time I think of taking a child from their birth country, culture, and family? Doesn't that mean we should stop the process? Why Ethiopia? Why transracial adoption?

Today, I finally understood. We committed to this months ago, and knew in our hearts this was the right thing for our family to do, even without understanding why. But the unanswered questions in my heart finally found their answers today.

In my conversation with our social worker, she used an example to illustrate a point where she described Daniel being ripped from our arms, taken to a new culture, country and home. I began crying at the thought of losing him (even in this hypothetical situation). And then I couldn't stop crying, thinking about how our future child doesn't have what Daniel has. The orphans of the world don't have parents to worry about them, dote on them, and cry at the mere thought of losing them forever. The devastation of their situation hit me like a ton of bricks.

Today I realized something crucial to our adoption process: It's ok to hate this situation. I hate the fact that there are kids everywhere who are relying on adoption. I hate the fact that our future child won't have her birth parents and family to envelop her in love and support. I hate the fact that the word "orphan" even needs to exist.

But it does. And this situation is real.

I know it isn't ideal to remove a child from their birth country. Trust me, I know. But right now, for an Ethiopian orphan, domestic adoption isn't an option. We think our country is in economic distress, but it's nothing compared to daily life in a third world country. After being abandoned by their birth family, our child will have two options: 1) to "age out" of an orphanage and live on the streets, or 2) to be adopted internationally.

It's a profoundly sad situation, but we have made this decision in order to bring as much beauty as possible to a painful situation. Out of the loss and grief, a family can be made complete and a heart can begin to heal.

Home Study

We are officially done with our home study - our part, at least. We had our second appointment today with Terri. Last week, she spent a few hours with us at home to chat with us there, meet Daniel, see the house, and get an idea of what our daily life is like. Today, we met at her office in Phoenix for individual interviews.

Interviews are always a little nerve-wrecking. Terri was very sweet and professional, and did her best to make it easy on us. Still, by the end of my 90 minute interview, I was a sweaty mess and had broken down in tears while talking about the grieving process our child would go through. Fernando, however (who was initially the most nervous) came out with a huge smile saying "That wasn't bad at all!"

It's a little strange to think of someone capturing your entire personality, life, parenting style and history in just a few hours of conversation. Especially when that person potentially has the power to facilitate your adoption, or to stop it dead in it's tracks. Fortunately for us, God placed Terri in our lives as someone who understands God's model of adoption, has experienced international adoption (twice) and can not only facilitate our home study but offer us valuable insight and advice.

The next steps are 1) re-filing our I600A (apparently they stopped accepting personal checks just a few weeks ago!), 2) waiting a few weeks/months for the home study to be finished, 3) begin preparing our dossier paperwork, and 4) complete our online education required by CWA - a Hague Treaty compliance class. Lots to do!


Raising Funds & Overcoming Fear

Money is awkward. That's just the way it is. People get weird when you talk about money, no matter if it's the economy, their corporate budget, their personal spending habits, or who's picking up the tab for lunch.

And babies cost money - no matter HOW you have them. Hospital bills. Supplies. Doctors appointment. Legal issues. The list goes on! With an adoption, there are a few additional fees like travel expenses, visas, lawyers, and fees unique to Ethiopia. It basically adds up to money that we don't have just sitting around!

But every time I start to stress, Fernando reminds me... God is in this thing, and we need to have total confidence that He will not let us down. Even now, He has provided every step of the way. Before each payment is due, we've received just the right amount in a donation, a photo session payment, or a hidden "extra" in our own personal budget.

We're working hard to save our own money and funnel as much as possible into our adoption account. We've just started the fund-raising efforts, even though a few dear friends have already made (very generous!) donations. As humbling as this process is, it's equally exhilarating to know we're petitioning for such an incredible opportunity to profoundly change a life!


Baby Steps

Well, we are off and running. Our adoption journey officially began in June 2008, with a tug on our hearts and a free seminar put on by our agency (CWA) one fateful Saturday morning.

We met another prospective adoptive family, a family who had already adopted from Russia, and a family who had adopted (twice) from Ethiopia. This family brought their kids with them - an 18 month old girl and a 6 month old boy. In meeting those beautiful kids, God confirmed what was already in our heart: We were supposed to adopt from Africa.

Within a day or two, we applied online and even video-taped the moment we pressed "send". We even sat on the bed to do it, much like a biological "conception"! We received word that we had been accepted, and needed to fill out another application. And then yet another one. We joked that we had to apply for the application to apply... I've heard the paper trail for an adoption is long, so it's fitting that it would begin this way.

Now, one month later, we are set to have our required doctor appointments in two weeks. (It's been a nightmare trying to find a doctors office who'd take 2 new patients quickly... but Fernando sweet talked a receptionist into doing us a favor!) All the paperwork has been filled out for our home study agency, and once we get our medical forms completed, we'll begin working with a social worker.

One funny side note - when we dropped the form off for Daniel's doctor to fill out, they called back within 24 hours to say the doctor wouldn't sign anything until he understood the intent - they thought we were putting DANIEL up for adoption! Yikes!

We're excited about Daniel's role in this adoption too... we're teaching him to say "sister", and working on the concept of sharing (ha!). At the initial home study meeting, he was an absolute angel, sitting on the floor and reading quietly until we were done. His grandmother has two little black baby dolls that Daniel adores - he carries them around, hugging and kissing them (and occasionally throwing them across the room...!)

Well, we better get back to the paperwork. In addition to the forms to fill out, we have 90 days to read a textbook on adoption (unfortunately, the reading is not as exciting as the topic...) and then take a test online.

The Start of Something New

Welcome to our blog! This collection of pictures, videos, links, words and stories is designed to do a few things.

1) Keep all of our friends and family updated on our newest adventure: an adoption from Ethiopia. We believe God is calling us to add to our family through international adoption, in spite of the expense and uncertainty. We have no doubt that His hand is in this.

2) Provide ways that you can get involved with the adoption - easy ways that you can help us make an indescribable change in one precious life. It's as simple as downloading a song, booking a photo session, or donating a few dollars online. Every act of kindness adds up!

3) Serve as a record of our sweet baby's life from day one - from "conception", when we committed ourselves to her/his precious life, whatever the cost. When our son Daniel was born, I began a blog about his little life - his earliest experiences, my earliest parenting lessons, and memories he is too young to retain now but will value in the future. Our second baby deserves no less, and her/his story begins even earlier than Daniel's.

No matter your age, being uprooted from your culture and your biological family is devastatingly difficult. As our child grows up, we want them to be able to read about their history with us. About our strong committment to that little life - our constant prayers for him/her. They belonged with us before they were even conceived - and we're starting down the path that God has already ordained - the path to bring our baby home.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure - stay tuned - this next year promises to be one of the most exciting, challenging, exhausting and amazing ones we've ever experienced!