Awaiting travel dates! Almost there!

Since our last update, our dossier underwent several checks by various staff at our agency, a few documents were redone as they were expiring, and our dossier was translated, re-notarized in Ukraine and submitted to the Ministry of Social Policy!

Travel dates are a little bit of an adventure. We have a pretty good estimate that we’ll be traveling at the end of October or in early November, but our official travel dates will only give us 1-2 weeks of head’s up notice before we need to meet with the Ukrainian government. It’s a little of “Guess what? You’re traveling! In 5 days!”

We’ve been covering our bases so far, in preparation. We’ve been working with a travel agency that specialized in last-minute travel dates (and has dealt with many many overseas adoptions) that will help to bring our travel costs down and help to make certain that we get there on-time. Steve has kept his office abreast of potential timelines and has saved up over a year and a half of leave time (he’s used just one day of leave since he went active duty in March 2016). We’ve also found a wonderful wonderful friend that has agreed to look after our house, our cats and our mail during our time away. And, the packing process has definitely begun to make sure that we’re not leaving anything important behind (like necessary documents, power converters, etc). After all, I (Audrey) will be in Ukraine from the start of this until we can officially come home — that’s 6-9 weeks in a foreign country!

In any regards, it’s getting very exciting!

Also, with more good news: all of the hard work that has been put into the grant process has finally been paying off in our favor. Through this process, we’ve met some truly magnanimous people along the way. Some of these people have come from enormous foundations and others represented smaller family foundations consisting of people that just wanted to promote adoption. We’ve been very fortunate so far and after the months of effort that have gone into grant applications, it’s been quite validating to see some progress there.

So where does that leave us?

As of right now, we currently have enough to pay our foreign program fee (the big one) and get TO Ukraine! YAY! However, we’ll still be working to get HOME from Ukraine and to get the kids’ passports and visas. Our financial gap is closing quickly, but in all honesty, we still could use some help.

How, you might ask?

Well, there are two routes: the first helps in the immediate term (but comes without tax benefits) and the second, in the longer term (and comes with tax benefits). While the first would help a little faster than the second, both would help these kids get home and adjusted.

So, first, we still have a YouCaring page up and running. We can’t thank you enough for helping us get this far and not have to delay timelines due to finances. That link is: https://www.youcaring.com/adoptedryderchildren-731436

Secondly, we have been awarded a $1000 matching grant through God’s Grace Adoption Ministry. This means that up to $1000 is matched by the foundation, granting $2000 total. Additional funds beyond the $1000 matching limit can be donated through GGAM to our fund and will still receive a tax benefit. That link is https://ggam.org/support/families-received-grants/ To follow this link, click on “Help Support a Family’s Adoption” and make sure to choose our name in the drop down menu on the following page.

While we still have a little longer to wait, we’re speeding towards the finish line.  Until then, we’ll be prepping, continuing to apply for further grants, and awaiting the official dates. We can’t wait to share their sweet faces with you all!

For now, enjoy this photo of our “quality control,” testing to make sure that the twins’ beds are up to standard.

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The Paper Chase is Finally Over!

The last several months of work culminated in finally sending off our dossier this past week! The paperwork is OUT of our hands and will be received in translated form by Ukraine. Now… we wait for travel dates!

These last few weeks were about as insanely busy as can be. It’s been a race to complete this as quickly as possible, because some of the documents have a 6-month expiration date (until they need to be received by Ukraine’s government), and we were coming up on a few of those quickly. Back and forth and back and forth to the Dept. of Administration and Governor’s complex this past week, getting apostilles and certificates of authentication for each paper was truly tiring. On the bright side though, it was at least within driving distance of home! Fortunately, we hit the deadlines! We’re sending one back-up medical file (the only document we were truly concerned about) this week straight to Ukraine, just in case they have an issue with our current ones. Hopefully, it isn’t needed, but we’ve learned that it’s better to be safe than sorry and run into any more delays.

To be honest, sending off our dossier came with a  mix of emotions. On one hand, we’re trying to get paperwork there as quickly as possible and sending the dossier off was a huge step! On the other hand, it means no longer having any control over the paperwork and it’s a little anxiety-inducing to let go of it! Praying everything reaches its final destination without issue!

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Each of the above apostilles is attached to a notarized packet of pages. And these are only the Guam apostilles!

So what’s next on the docket? We’re preparing our home, our hearts, and our finances for their arrival! We should be hearing back from several grants shortly and hoping that a few of those come through. We’re also going to continue to actively fundraise, especially as we received news that we can only have one international layover coming back to the States. Since the shorter route home has no less than two international layovers, we need to take the long way around the world (approx 17,000 miles of traveling) across two oceans to get home. Ouch!!!

Stay tuned for future updates! We’re one BIG step closer to having the Ryder family together!

One Step Closer! Now what?

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This past Friday, we got in touch with USCIS (immigration), who informed us that our packet had been reviewed and as of July 19th, we have officially been APPROVED!! The official (and final) paperwork will be arriving within a few days.

This was a huge hurdle that we’ve been waiting on for almost two months and we’re so excited to have the final pages coming together.

So now what? What’s next?

Now, we’re double, triple and quadruple checking each and every piece of paper, making certain that every notarization is up to snuff and every document is perfect. Finally,  we can get the last lot of documents apostilled.

In the next couple of weeks, we will officially be submitting our finalized dossier to Ukraine. All of the work that has gone into these last several months will be compiled together, in one box, and get shipped off. The feeling is both exciting and a bit anxiety-inducing.

Currently, due to the new anti-corruption committee that was put in place this year, the timeline from dossier submission to travel has been extended from about 6 weeks to roughly three months. At this rate, we will likely be traveling around the beginning of November.

Until we travel, we’re working on grant writing and fundraising, as we can see a bit of a looming wall of bills ahead. Hoping to have these kids home by Christmas!

An Interesting Turn of Events

Since we began our journey to adopt back in December, we’ve learned that a lot that this process has been a lesson in faith. When we heard the Lord’s call to adopt, we selfishly wanted what assumed would be easiest. We were hoping we would get the healthiest, youngest children available because we assumed that the healthiest and youngest would somehow be better fits in our family than any alternative. This plan seemed to work in our favor, as the first “match” we pursued was a little boy just under the age of 1 year. He was beautiful. While he had a few special needs listed, that gut feeling hit us with the force of a speeding truck. This is our son.

This feeling helped to sustain us and empower us as we proceeded through the home study process. At that time, we were approved to pursue two children. We opened our mind to the idea that the second child (while statistically more likely to be a boy) could also be a girl. We trusted that the second match was out there and we were willing to enter into it blindly and wait until the very end (at our meeting with the Ministry in Ukraine) to make a decision. When we were shown pictures and offered little A, a boy about a month older than M, it seemed like it could be a good fit. They were close in age. “A” only had a couple of listed needs on his health profile that made him a logical choice for our family. But admittedly, we didn’t get that same punch-in-the-gut feeling. I assumed that my love for him would grow over time, and we put pictures of both of them in frames and around the house to help our hearts and minds prepare for the changes that would develop. Yet even still, A just didn’t feel like OUR son.

In the end, we didn’t want either of them to be a second-best fit in our family, and chose not to accept “A’s” match. We trusted that there was still another little one out there that we would know from the very beginning that they were meant to be ours too.

By the strangest turn of events, I saw a video listing of a boy (N) that was aging out of the “baby house,” where kids under the age of 5-7 (depending on the orphanage) reside. He had the cutest little voice and most earnest expression that our hearts couldn’t help but melt a little. While we weren’t certain if he was meant to be ours, we reached out to the person who was  referenced as the point of contact to ask for more information. We had mentioned that we were in the process of adopting two children and were home study approved for two. When she asked if we had already been pursuing another and asked to see their picture, we sent her M’s picture.

“[M’s name here]!” she exclaimed! “I know him!! Did they tell you he has siblings?

The air felt stagnant. In that moment, you could have heard a pin drop. The feeling of sheer shock hung thick in the air. Siblings…? Multiple siblings??

We came to find out that M’s three biological siblings resided in the same orphanage with him, but they were legally separated due to a differentiation in special needs. M’s special needs were greater than those of his siblings, so he was legally separated from them in order to be more adoptable, while his siblings stayed part of a set. His file, alone, was sent to our agency and as many orphans often have siblings that they’ve never met, our agency assumed that little M must have had siblings that were either already adopted, far older, or in another orphanage.

In reality, his older brother (H), aged 2, had a crib that was side-by-side with M’s. His fraternal twin sisters (S and H), aged 4, were in a different group for older kids in the same orphanage, but the staff members tried to get them together every now and then. There was even a video shoot of all four of them in the hope that they could, one day, be adopted all together. The more we dug to get more information, the more we found out. We saw their official Ukrainian profiles with the government, videos and photos of them shot by various Ukrainian charities, and photos from an American-based charity that works with orphans in Ukraine.

It is thanks to our new friend, a very kind woman who works with the aforementioned American-based charity, that dedicated so much of her time to help us. She was able to direct us towards resources, answers and offer assistance every step of the way. We owe her so much in helping us get our family together!

Before immediately jumping to conclusions and making snap decisions, we looked at the feasibility. COULD we take on four kids? Could we give each of them the proper care, attention and education that they need? How would we balance time, finances, and our future goals?

We took some time to think and get over the initial shock of the news. When you believe that your future son is an only child for four whole months, it really is surprising to find out that he is the youngest of FOUR. But after this initial surprise left us, we began to smile.

Looking back on the beginning of this, we fell completely in love with this little boy. Had we known that he was one of four a year ago, I not certain that we could have gotten over that initial shock and jumped off that cliff at the beginning of our adoption journey. It would have just been so new and so out of our comfort zone. But instead, by the time we learned of M’s older siblings, our hearts had already been prepped and softened. We had already discussed going back in the future and for older kids with more severe needs. Looking at each of M’s siblings, we were able to look at  them and think “Yes… that is our child.” That punched-in-the-gut feeling was there too.

As of now, our home study has been updated and published to reflect the approval for up to four children. We worked and met the additional standards needed to bring in two more children. We sent off our immigration paperwork with our updated home study and are on the cusp of receiving immigration approval… for four orphaned siblings.

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These kids have already endured more than most of us ever will, and yet, they continue to be so resilient and still so hopeful. We’ve been blessed to have spoken with a family who was recently at the kids’ orphanage. They met the girls and spoke of how they stood out as two of the sweetest kids they saw on their seven-week trip in Ukraine.

We know the road ahead will be filled with many challenges and bumps. The process to bring four children home isn’t easy, and the road after that won’t be a piece of cake either. Fortunately, we are preparing and setting up structures in place to help everyone get adjusted — ourselves included.

Our new goal is to get all the kids home by Christmas. We pray that this is a possibility and are praying for the safety and security of these four until we arrive. Sorry to surprise you all! The journey of adoption always comes with many twists and turns and this is pretty big twist! But we’re so SO excited to be their parents, and so SO excited to get them home.

Thank you so much, family and friends, for sticking by us this far. We can’t wait to show you these precious kids! Miss S, Miss H, Mister H and Mister M will all be Ryders soon.*

*Note: full names cannot be posted publicly, so please bear with us as we must resort to using initials. With two of our kids having names that will start with “H,” we’ll be using “Mister” and “Miss” to refer to whom we’re speaking about. Again, please bear with us. This is part of our contract and is to protect our kids’ identities until the adoption is finalized.

Onward and forward… FINALLY!

Paperwork

One thing I’ve definitely realized from living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean — you can’t expect things to work as they do on the mainland. When we had first asked about timelines, we had heard that the home study process only takes about a month (if you’re working really quickly) or two. I remember thinking at the time, “wow, that’s a while! I guess we can wait for a few weeks!” We scrambled to get paperwork as quickly as possible, shooting for the one-month timeline.

Little did I know that it would take a full four months to complete everything.

Don’t get me wrong. The home study process is enormous when you need to comply with all of the Hague Convention regulations. We had a total of four 3+ hour interview sessions, about 500 emails answering additional questions, two separate fingerprinting sessions, ordering a total of 242 pages of supplementary documentation (marriage licenses, birth certificates, copies of passports, FBI clearances, state criminal background checks, CPS background checks, letters of recommendation, employer’s letters, medical clearance, housing clearance, housing inspections, certificates from adoptive parenting courses that were taken, and the list continues). You get the point. There’s a lot to keep track of!

The main difficulty of trying to adopt while living on Guam is not the scarcity of resources nor the time difference between the mainland and here. It’s the sheer distance and the postal service.

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Guam is a little over 7000 miles from the East Coast and unless things are shipped by air mail, they are relegated to travel by barge across the Pacific. When they arrive in Richmond, California, they don’t immediately take off from port. Instead, several crates are filled with mail bound for Guam, which may take weeks. It’s only when the crates are full that the barge leaves for its 6-8 week journey to Guam. By the time it arrives, it could be 3-4 months from the time you’ve ordered what you were hoping to receive and even then, some things just get lost in the mail. We were unfortunate enough to be the victims of several lost pieces of mail, that had to be re-ordered.

By the time we had every notarized piece of supplementary documentation, it was already the end of May… four months after we began the home study process. Fortunately, we now have several copies of a published home study in hand. We sent off (finally) our USCIS I-600A immigration application on June 2, 2017. With any luck, we’ll be hearing back from them in 3-4 weeks with invitations to get our biometrics scanned.

And after that? We’ll be “paper chasing” the last several documents (which fortunately don’t have to be shipped here), notarizing everything and getting all documents apostilled (think, the notary of the notary. They check that your document was truly notarized and not fraudulent). This will be the last several papers of our dossier packet. Our translated dossier packet will get sent off to Ukraine and we’ll finally be in the last phase of adoption — travel!

As of right now, our current projection is to hopefully have our dossier sent by August 1st (we’ll see how that goes). With any luck and based on current estimates, we’ll be traveling around the end of October or beginning of November and returning shortly before Christmas.

While this first hurdle took considerably longer than I could have expected, I’m so so glad to have it behind us. It was a huge step done and we’re now so much closer to bringing our kiddos home.

For all of you that have been supporting us, praying for us, and keeping us in your thoughts, we really appreciate it. These kids are already so loved.

Discriminated at Every Turn: The Future of a Ukrainian Orphan

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While most of you have likely seen the statistics in our video, this hopefully answers one big question:

Can’t the kids just go to college or get stable jobs after they leave their orphanage?

NO! That option is not available to most orphans. Once a child has been placed in a state care-giving institution, they are viewed, socially, as having been effectively incarcerated. Children who have been wards of the state and are not adopted will have “ORPHAN” stamped on their national identifications papers for the rest of their life. This ensures that they are discriminated against at every single turn. They are not eligible to enter universities or apply for stable employment.

The best that orphan graduates can hope for is to pass the necessary tests to possibly enter a trade school (there’s no safety net after that) and try to avoid being pimped or trafficked while they survive without a support structure, and almost always living homeless.

This is one of many enormous differences between the US foster care system and the Ukraine institutionalized system.

 

The Adventure of Getting Fingerprinted!

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Note: Fingerprints and signatures blurred for privacy purposes.

When we moved to Guam, we had some idea that many things would be more difficult on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Everything is more expensive, as it has to travel such a long distance. Communication and technology may be considerably behind in comparison to the States. These were both obvious changes! It wasn’t until we tried doing the “simple” parts of our dossier packet did we realize just how difficult some of this could be and how many extra hoops we’d have to jump through.

Last week, I went into the police station to get finger printed. I had my fingerprint cards and identification in hand and I was ready to be in and out in less than half an hour.

Boy was I wrong!

As I approached the counter, I was immediately told “I don’t think your fingerprint cards are thick enough. These are sensitive documents! I just don’t feel comfortable having us do them on those cards you have.” I asked, “That’s ok! Do you have any fingerprint cards for sale?”

Naturally, they said “no…. BUT, this print store across town carries them!” I immediately hopped back in the car and drove across town to spend a measly couple of dollars on a fresh (and thicker) fingerprint card. I returned to the police station and they agreed to fingerprint me. Phew!

I breathed a sigh of relief too soon! Right near the very end, I was told that a couple of my fingerprints smudged incorrectly and that they’d need to take a whole new set of prints. I, of course, didn’t think to purchase multiple fingerprint cards so again, I had to hop back in the car to drive across town to purchase more fingerprint cards…again. I came better prepared this time and got an entire stack of them!

All the while, I thought to myself, “maybe these guys have an in at the print shop! This must be a way to drum up business! Why couldn’t they just have used the cards I brought?” This conspiracy theory spread to everywhere I had to stop along the way, like the gas station. “They must all be in on this! My $6 better be worth it!”

Fortunately, it finally got done… almost 3 hours later. I realize that this isn’t the most exciting story. However, this only one example of several of where things do not necessarily go according to plan and things taking considerably longer than expected!

On the bright side, nothing got held up on the FBI’s side and my report was expedited back to us!

So What Happens Now? What’s the Plan?

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When Steve and I first started investigating the process and making sure we were signing on with the right agency, we vetted them considerably. We looked them up in the Better Business Bureau and other places that review adoption agencies and we followed up on every single one of the references that they gave us (about 50 families that had gone through their Ukrainian adoption program).

The more we heard about this program and about Grace International, the more our fears were eased. Despite so many families making the leap into the great unknown and things often not going according to plan, they had glowing reports about the agency and about the level of care and communication they were given. Every single one of them also completed the adoption process in under a year.

So with that in mind, we signed and notarized the contract to work with Grace International on Steve’s 30th Birthday.

But now what? What is the timeline? What happens next? I’ll do my best to explain the process and how this will happen! Check marks will appear as steps are completed, and this post will get updated as we move through the process!

  1. The contract is signed, notarized and submitted. 
  2. A Hague-accredited home study is completed. This can take anywhere from 1-4 months, depending on how quickly the process gets started and how bogged down the social worker is to complete the necessary report and paperwork.
    1. This step proved extra challenging, as we are on the island of Guam, a US Territory. There isn’t a state-sponsored adoption program on the island and calling the government about a social worker with the proper accreditations to perform the home study came up with nothing. 
    2. Ukraine is actually not a part of the Hague convention, but our agency is Hague accredited and undergoing the extra steps of getting a Hague accredited home study only helps in the future with immigration.
    3. A family on base here recommended an independent social worker on the island who had done their Hague follow-up study. By Hague convention standards, since she wasn’t attached to a state-sponsored adoption program, she was prohibited from working with us, even though she is certified to do the study. 
      1. We thought we were going to have to fly out a social worker from the States who would do our home study, but that would tack on another 4-5 months of time and an additional $5000 or so. 
      2. Our agency went to bat for us and petitioned the Hague to contract the social worker who is currently living on Guam, offering to supervise and review the work. 
    4. The Hague accepted the petition and we officially got word that we can use a social worker on island! 
    5. This home study will cover background checks, interviews, training in international adoption and parenting, and a review of our home as well.
      1. Update 1: We finished 15 hours of international adoptive parenting courses, took tests and received certificates! 
      2. Update 2: We were told that the home study would be completed soon! We have already completed 2/3 of the home visits.
      3. Update 3: HOME STUDY IS COMPLETE AS OF 03/02/2017!!!
      4. Update 4: Our home study had to undergo an extensive review process to be compliant with Guam, the US federal government and Ukraine standards, in addition to wait on additional supporting documents to arrive by mail. The document was officially published 05/16/2017 
  3. Following the home study, we submit application paperwork to the US Department of Homeland Security- Immigration Section, to apply for citizenship on behalf of two children. This usually takes 4-8 weeks to get back proper documentation that they’ll be accepted into the country. They’ll also issue visas so that the kids can travel on Ukrainian passports and with their American visas. 
    1. Update: USCIS has been approved as of July 19th! 
  4. The dossier, which has been translated into Russian, and all supplemented paperwork gets submitted to Ukraine’s Ministry for Social Policy. It can take up to 4 weeks to hear back from them. 
  5. Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy extends an invitation for us to travel to Ukraine. Our appointment date can be anywhere from  a couple of weeks to a couple of months from then. Everyone at Steve’s job and family will be aware of the fact that we may be traveling at the last minute. We will have already packed some in advance to prep for this. We are also told to bring clothing, supplies, and carriers/strollers for the kids, especially if only one of us is returning home in the interim in between court appointments.
  6. We fly from Guam to Kyiv, Ukraine! From the flights we’ve seen so far, we can either stop over (after a stop in Taipei, Manila or Seoul) in Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt.
  7. A team from Grace International (the Ukraine team) tracks our flights and meets us in Kyiv! They’ll take us to our apartment and prep us for our meeting with the Ministry.
  8. We attend our Ministry appointment! The Ministry has usually reviewed our dossier by now makes certain that the waiting children that we’re pursuing fall within our home study and dossier approval. If we are still comfortable pursuing the “referrals,” (aka the children), the Ministry issues a letter of referral to allow us to travel to see them.
  9. We travel to the orphanage(s) where the kids are located and meet with them and review their medical records. We have 10 days to visit the children and decide if we still want to pursue adoption with them. We also have to log several hours in person with them before any court approves us as parents.
    1. While we visit with the kids, we can ask questions, take photos and talk with our doctors back in the states if we have questions about medical conditions. The 10 days are allotted to spend time with them and get a feel for what it might be like to have them in the family. If we are certain before the 10 days are up, we don’t have to wait until that timeline is over. But just in case we’re uncertain, we have time to mull it over, talk with doctors and interact with the kids.
    2. We make a choice on whether or not to adopt them.
      1. If YES — we sign papers and the court process starts. Court generally occurs about 2-6 weeks after we say “yes.”
      2. If NO — we attend appointment #2 with the Ministry, look at new profiles, and start the process (Steps 8 and 9) over again. The Ministry gives us up to 3 appointments to find the right fit.
  10. Steve flies back to Guam for a few weeks, and Audrey (provided that everything falls into place) stays in Ukraine and continues bonding with the children. It was advised that if one or both of us could stay, it really helps to reduce the children’s trauma of so much change. Since one-on-one time is almost unheard of in the orphanage, it can also help with development, since during the interim, you can visit the kids every day, read to them, play with them and work with them! We also get to learn about their habits — sleeping, eating, playing, bathing, and so on. We can also pick up a few last-minute supplies and clothes for them, now that we’ll know their exact sizes.
  11. Steve returns to Ukraine and we prep for court! The Grace International team has already prepped all the paperwork and gotten the Interpol clearances needed for court to proceed and they’ll be prepping us for what will happen once we’re IN court. As dress code is strictly enforced, we’ll make sure Steve has a suit and tie and Audrey has a modest dress.
  12. Time for court! Court will happen in the children’s birth city. Since the kids are biological siblings, it’ll just be one court date, rather than several court dates. We will have our lawyer and translator in court with us and a decree on adoption is issued. The decree is finalized after a 10-day waiting period, which may or may not be waived, depending on medical need. In the meantime, we’ll be prepping to get them a Ukrainian passport and records in order to file with the US government, upon our return. Our Grace International team will walk us through this process every step of the way.
  13. We attend two appointments with the US Embassy to get a medical exam for the children, and to receive the appropriate paperwork and visa from them.
  14. WE CAN FINALLY TRAVEL HOME, kids in tow. We’ll be keeping M as a lap child as he’ll be under 2 years of age, but the other kids will require their own seats.
    1. Yes, we realize that this is a long trip home.
    2. After all we’ve gone through to get them here through, we don’t want to let him go 🙂
  15. We submit post-adoption reports to the US Air Force, the US government and get the kids social security numbers, and fresh American passports. They are now the Ryder kids!

Why International Adoption/ Why Ukraine?

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When we made the announcement to family and friends that we were adopting little ones from Ukraine, many were surprised at the decision to adopt abroad and to adopt, specifically from Ukraine.

So today, we’ll address the questions of why — why international adoption, and why Ukraine specifically?

  1. Being stationed in Guam puts us in an interesting position when it comes to domestic adoption. In accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), we kept our Wisconsin IDs, which allowed us to keep certain rights like voting in a swing state (and in the national election) and not having our IDs scrutinized when we’re back in the States.
    1. Unfortunately, because we do not have a current Wisconsin address, it prohibits us from adopting in Wisconsin — both from foster care, and from the waiting child program.
    2. Because we are not technically Guam citizens and do not have Guam driver’s licenses, we cannot foster or adopt out of Guam’s foster program either. In addition, Guam really stresses placing the child with extended family so few adoptions are made to families outside of that circle. As military members who are not permanent Guam citizens, we were also told by their government that our priority level was so low that it may be more than a year or two before they get to us. There is no state-sponsored adoption agency either, like back in the States too. Just CPS.
  2. As we weren’t certain as to whether we would get stationed back in the States next, or if Steve would get an assignment from his “Dream Sheet” in Europe, we didn’t want to put off what we felt was our calling by 3-6 years while we worked through living in a remote location.
  3. The Ukraine sort of fell in our laps. We were browsing a site where various Christian, international agencies post photos of waiting children. Immediately, two just jumped out at us. We sent a pre-application to the agency and an email inquiring about the two kids we had dubbed “Max and L—.” Within only a couple of hours, the agency had gotten back to us. While L— was adopted by a Ukrainian family before our home study was completed, they had led us to an agency that really seemed like a perfect fit! By chance, they happened to work solely with Ukrainian adoptions!
  4. In addition, Steve’s family has a long history of working with orphans in Ukraine! In fact, his great aunt and uncle helped to establish the Eunice Brown Home for Children in Mukachevo, Ukraine, that primarily works with older children in Western Ukraine. Many others from his family have since visited Ukraine and are more than familiar with that orphanage.
  5. The more we learned about the situation in Ukraine, the more our hearts ached. Knowing the hundreds of thousands of orphans that needed a home and knowing the conditions they were currently living in meant that we couldn’t continue to live in blissful ignorance. We felt called to help. We wanted to help!
  6. Along those same lines, we realized something important — while there are a number of children in the US foster care system and a number of children without parents, there is a stark difference between the system in the USA and the system in Ukraine. In the US, almost all children being put up for adoption are either adopted as infants (with an extremely long waiting list for newborns), or placed into the foster care system and with a foster family. In Ukraine, almost all orphans are placed into Soviet-Era orphanages. The child to adult ratio is bordering dangerous and kids are not able to receive the attention and care that they need. In addition, the US has systems and laws in place protecting the disabled, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act. Such laws are not in place in Ukraine, and children with any kind of disability are given fewer resources, less food, and less care and attention, as they are not expected to live as long. They’re even segregated from the other “normal” children and the government continues to defend this practice.
  7. Lastly, and most importantly, we put it to prayer. We fasted and prayed and asked the Lord for His guidance and hand to be in the matter. The more we prayed, the less ambiguous our future seemed — this was the way forward.

We hope this will help to paint a clearer picture as to our adoption motives and what had brought us to this situation in particular! Again, we would love to answer any further questions you might have!

Why Adoption?

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We’re excited to announce that we’re adopting! As we embark on this new and exhilarating journey, we wanted to start by giving an answer to the most common question of “why?” We hope this will provide some insight on how we arrived at this decision and what led us to the path we’re on now.

  1. Adoption was placed on our hearts and we answered the call to adopt. It’s as simple as that. We had been praying for direction and guidance, and this was the direction we were led. We trust where the Lord leads us and in the path He sets before us. Even when it means leaping off a cliff into the great unknown, we’ve followed Him again and again — into faith, into marriage, into the Air Force, into Guam and now into parenthood. The more we have aligned our wills and actions with His plan and desire for our lives, the greater our faith has become and the greater the joy we’ve experienced (even in the difficult times).
  2. Adoption isn’t second best. In fact, it’s the option we’re pursuing first. It isn’t because I can’t get pregnant. I’m just not getting pregnant right now. We also aren’t ruling out biological kids in the future; that’s just not our plan currently. Most importantly, we want our adoptive children to know that they are our children — that they weren’t just an afterthought or a back-up plan, but that they were ALWAYS wanted and for us, that they were wanted first.
    1. We know that not every family has been called to adopt, and that’s okay! There are SO many ways that we can help the poor, the needy and the orphaned and adoption is simply the one we felt called to. Because of that, we don’t see it as a consolation prize of any kind.
    2. We eventually want biological children too!
  3. Adoption isn’t abnormal. In fact, we as Christians believe wholeheartedly that we are the adopted sons and daughters of God. Adoption, therefore, becomes one of the most natural things we can do.
    1. “In love, He predestined us to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.” – Ephesians 1:5
    2. “In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children,  but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” – Romans 9:8
    3. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we may receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child, since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” – Galatians 4:4-7
  4. When we knew there was such an issue as the orphan problem worldwide, we couldn’t just play ignorant and pretend it didn’t exist. Our hearts ached for those that would never have an opportunity to live a fruitful life and have a loving family. On top of which, we are also charged to aid the orphans, the widows, the sick, and the needy.
    1. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
    2. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
           is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5
    3. because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
          and the fatherless who had none to assist them.” – Job 29:12
    4. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” – John 14:18
    5. “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3
    6. Is it not to share your food with the hungry
          and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
      when you see the naked, to clothe them,
          and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” – Isaiah 58:7
  5. We look forward to all the new memories we will create as a larger family and to the growth of all types that this will bring. The two of us have lived happily and peacefully in our marriage and we know that kids will stretch us in many ways (but in good ways)! While our timeline of “firsts” and “milestones” may be a little nontraditional, we delight at the opportunity to create our own firsts too (like our first Christmas together) and enjoy new milestones.
  6. We know this is the path the Lord has set for us. This had to be reiterated again, as it’s the most important point to us. He hand-picked us for adoption, and we are obeying the call with joy and anticipation.

If you have any questions about this particular path we’ve embarked on or would like to comment on adoption, our journey, or anything else you feel is on your heart, please feel free to comment below or to message us!