The Paperwork, Oh The Paperwork!

We made the decision. Our child(ren) were in Haiti. What now?

I’ve had people ask me, “How in the world did you handle the paperwork for adopting? Isn’t it ridiculous?”

Let me share a couple of thoughts on that front……

Yes, the amount of paperwork can be intimidating. There’s a LOT of it. I would equate it to doing three years of tax returns in a couple of months. While keeping the rest of life going as well.

Lists, lists, lists and more lists. About every three or four days, I’d sit down and get everything out and go over the lists and update them on what we need, what we’re waiting for, what we need to do and what we need to pay for yet.

Then I’d get one of the lists and my wife would get another one. We’d each have our part that we had to do.

(Repeat process every three or four days)

Why is there so much paperwork required? Two reasons, as I see it……

Government – not just one but two governments are involved. Any time you get government involved, you’re going to end up with more paperwork. When you get two governments involved, you’re going to get even more paperwork.

The importance of doing it right. I’ll say more about this later, but when you are dealing with the lives of two families and more importantly children, it is very important that things get done right. It’s important that the families the kids get placed in are reliable and trustworthy and that everything was done appropriately in the home country to verify that the children are adoptable and everything was done legally.

So, yes, there’s a lot of paperwork. But it’s worth it.

Why Haiti? The Short Story–is Not a Short Story

The short story is, “God told us to.” But this isn’t a short story.

We started by going to adoption agency informational meetings. We went to one that specializes in infant domestic adoptions. Does the phrase, “Been There Done That” mean anything to you? We had done the infant thing and felt that God was calling us to let other couples who hadn’t experienced that live through the diapers and the sleepless nights have that experience.

We went to another one that was based predominantly on adopting from the foster care system. I don’t know a nice way to say it, so I’m just going to say it. The foster care system scared us. At this point in our lives, we didn’t know enough about trauma, attachment, abuse and its effects to feel comfortable venturing down that path.

So then we went to an informational meeting about adopting internationally. We “kind of” felt that God was calling us in that direction, but didn’t feel a firm push in that direction. Colombia? Too long of a time in country. China? Too long of a wait. Eastern Europe? Too many concerns of RAD and FAS (Reactive Attachment Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).

And then it started happening – first it was a whisper.

A couple we met on a cruise and stayed in touch with, when told we were thinking of adopting told us, “My boss just adopted a little boy from Haiti.”

My brother (runs a youth camp) said, “Hey one of my counselors last year was a missionary kid in Haiti.”

My wife is a big Karen Kingsbury fan. Karen has adopted a number of her children. All from Haiti.

Then one day, our oldest came home from school and said, “Guess what I found out! Chelsea and Chloe’s parents are adopting! From Haiti!”

So we called them and asked if we could meet them for coffee and just talk about it all. They invited us over and we spent a very enjoyable night with them talking about adopting, about Haiti about who, where, how they got there and a multitude of other things.

The upshot of the conversation? A direct quote from the husband, “You need to work with Dixie Bickel and adopt from Haiti.”

And that’s the longer answer to the question of “Why Haiti?”

Through a couple from Montana, an employee of my brother, Karen Kingsbury and fellow classmates of my daughter, God told us that our kid(s) were waiting for us in Haiti.

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Christmas Letters – The Reaction

Once we had opened up all of the Christmas presents, my wife and I told them to sit down on the couch and I got three envelopes, handed one to each of our girls and told them to open it, read it and not respond until all three were done reading (they all read at different speeds).

It was the Gideon’s fleece moment. If they ran screaming to their rooms in sheer terror, then we’d have to reevaluate whether God was really calling us to do this.

We waited.

They finished reading. Their responses?

“I won’t have to be the baby of the family any more!”

“Cool except I don’t want a younger brother!”

“Can I have a younger brother?”

God opened a door and so we began to venture down that road. The path was fog filled and hard to see but we went one step at a time.

So we had decided we were going to do “something.” The girls were told and they were on board. How did we end up with Haiti?

Stay tuned……

Honey–How Do We Tell the Kids?

The next question that almost immediately came to mind was, “How do we tell the kids?”

How do we tell them that we’re going to add to the family – and we don’t know who, how, where from, what age? There’s a lot we don’t know.

We decided to tell them at Christmas time. So I wrote a letter addressed to all three of them.

In it, we told them how proud we are of them. How well they are doing and how much they have grown up. How grateful we are that they all love Jesus and are beautiful on the inside (and outside – but that’s not as important).

We also told them how we are feeling that God is telling us that we have more room – more room in our hearts, more room in our house and more room in our family. We said we didn’t know what that really meant. We didn’t know if God was calling us to:

Adopt an infant domestically.

Adopt from the foster care system.

Adopt internationally

Become a foster family

Do the “Heal the children” thing for a series of kids who need a host family while they are in the US for medical treatment.

But we were feeling God’s call and we wanted to share it with them upfront and right away because it was something that would have an impact on them as well.

The letter then finished with the StarFish Poem. You know the poem? The one where the kid is throwing starfish back into the ocean and an older gentleman says, “Why even bother, there are thousands? What’s the difference?”

It made a difference for that one.

How did they respond?  Stay tuned……

“Boy Was I Naïve! (How Haiti Changed My Story

As I told you before, this is the first installment in “My Story.”    I hope you remember that is my story from my perspective – and is not indicative of anyone else’s story.  Enjoy!

(How Haiti changed my story)

by Tom Vanderwell

I’ll never forget the day.

It was a Sunday afternoon in October of 2002 and the kids were off doing what they do on a Sunday afternoon, reading, playing, just relaxing. My wife and I were sitting in our four season porch reading the paper like we often do on Sunday afternoons.

She said to me, “Did you read the “Child of the Week” segment?” The local paper, in conjunction with some of the local adoption agencies, did a “Child of the Week” segment about kids in foster care waiting for families.

“I did.” I responded. We looked at each other and said, “We could do that.” Suddenly something that we had talked about “possibly” doing “some day” became now.

Our older kids were old enough and great kids. We had room. Room in our hearts and room in our house.

And just like that, a journey started.

And boy was I naive.