In February, 2004, after many years of trying to grow our family, we began pursuing the possibility of adoption. As a result of much prayer and discussion we decided to adopt a healthy Chinese child, and began looking for an adoption agency to work with. Several agencies attracted our attention and we decided to contact Great Wall China Adoptions, located in Austin, TX. We signed a contract for adoption services with Great Wall in April, 2004. Then began….
The dossier paperchase is a very time-consuming and frustrating part of the adoption process. Mary attacked this part of the process with a dogged determination. Birth certificates, marriage certificate, criminal record checks, medical exams with physician letter of health status, home study, verification of employment, financial statements and guardianship statements all needed to be completed, notarized, certified by the secretary of state and authenticated by the Chinese consulate. Each step of the process required hand-carrying papers for signatures and Fed-Ex’ing them to various places for more signatures. When all was said and done, Caitlin and Grace wanted to know if it wouldn’t be easier to just get pregnant!
THE SPECIAL NEEDS “TUG”
During the home study process, we needed to answer the question: “Would you accept a special needs child?” We discussed the various “special needs” and agreed to consider children with some of these needs. Among the list of needs we agreed to consider was a correctable heart condition. With our medical backgrounds (John is a hospital pharmacist and Mary is a Registered Nurse with critical care experience), we felt that caring for a child with a congenital heart condition would be very much feasible.
MARY FINDS YI LI MAN
We had one more item to complete—fingerprints to be done in Des Moines, then await the the I-171H. It’s essentially the CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Service) “favorable determination letter” or FDL saying we could adopt and bring a child into the USA from China. After the CIS has our home study (done in June), application (done in April) and fingerprints, then we wait 30-90 days for the CIS to send out our FDL. We were in the final lap!
Monday morning Mary was reading posts on the WCC (waiting china children) yahoo message board—folks who have, are or desire to adopt a special needs child—used mostly for support. A message was posted by a friend of a friend who was advocating for a heart baby who needed a home ASAP—preferably a family who was near paper ready. Mary responded to the post for more info.
Tuesday morning at 5am, Mary couldn’t sleep (very rare!) and still had no response to the inquiry on the heart baby. She sipped hot tea and opened up a book another adoptive mother recommended, “The Strength of Mercy”. She read it in a couple hours (another rarity for Mary). It was essentially a family’s search for a Romanian child in 1992 and their eventual creation of an international adoption agency. Later on Tuesday, Mary received word that another family was found for the heart baby …. okay, Lord, whatever You want!
Wednesday, John, Mary and Jeriah were off to Des Moines to be fingerprinted. Mary opened her email that evening to find 3 new messages - all about the heart baby. The “other” family hadn’t even started their paper work and deferred to us—we have since found out that 9 other families inquired, but the advocate and the agency thought we would be the best match. We received our first pictures of Yi Li Man and some of her information AND what agency she was listed with. Remember the book Mary couldn’t put down? The agency formed by that family? You guessed it! All God’s Children International, (AGCI) out of Portland, Oregon. Mary got a quick chill and sighed out loud, “oh, my” - John was totally clueless about the book and a quick explanation was in order.
We began prayer and consideration over the next 4 days and decided, on Father’s Day, to forge ahead to adopt this Yi Li Man, now 10 months old in Jiangxi Province, China. Knowing Li Man had a very complicated congenital heart condition that may require 3 surgeries over the next few years, Caitlin, our 12 year old, timidly asked, “What if she comes home, has the surgery and doesn’t make it?” To which Mary responded, “That is a definite possibility, but Li Man is God’s child and He will give her to us to care for as long as He chooses to,” while praying, please, Lord, let that be a very long time!! Monday, June 21, Mary calls CIS to expedite our FDL - “no problem, you’ll have it by Thursday.” Wowwiee!! Another miracle— as those waiting the full 90 days to receive theirs can attest. I have nothing but great things to say about AGCI and their responsiveness, preparedness and Christian spirit in dealing with us.
TIME TABLE CRUNCH
We originally thought we would be receiving our referral of a child in January 2005 or so and traveling in February/March. Mary and Grace, our 10 year old, transformed the baby’s room and bath in a few days. Mary shopped and shopped (the fun part) for all the necessary baby things. We still needed to get some additional paperwork done for AGCI and it went smoothly for the most part—we trust God’s timing for those that didn’t. Our dossier was being translated in China and all the “hard copies” were sent to the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) on Monday, July 26. We gave our Li Man her American name, Juliana Marie. We received updates and new pictures. Juliana looks so frail at 11 months being only 13.8 lbs and 25.6 inches: a wee peanut of a child! AGCI is requesting 1/2 time turnaround on Juliana’s and our paperwork in China due to her medical need. We are hoping to hear some good news very soon about our approval and travel invitation.
Our intro to Juliana