Saturday, August 22, 2009

A New Vision of Our Family

I can't believe it's been a year since we started this process -- how time flies!  When we first started on this journey to China, we thought we wanted a baby, boy or girl, as young as possible.  We wanted to experience as much of parenthood we possibly could and had heard it's best to get the youngest child in the hopes of  minimizing the effects of life in an orphanage.  And who doesn't love a baby!  As we've made our way through the paper chase, the home study, getting logged in with China and now in the Waiting Child program, the "idea" of what our family will look like has evolved a bit.

As we followed along with families adopting children and started to review files, it became more about the actual child who was right for us and less about a child that fit a specific "profile".  We found ourselves drawn to toddlers and school-aged children.  We are both in our late thirties and most of our friends have children who are toddlers and school-aged.  And if we had a child when we first started trying to have a baby we would have a five year old now.  We have spent plenty of time with our nephews and niece and babies of friends, so we don't feel like we will be missing out on all the "baby stuff".  We thought a child we could take with us everywhere and we could cook with and garden with be a great fit for our family.

I participate in several forums for families who have adopted and/or waiting to adopt from China.  Many families share their stories and experiences, as well as provide support and advice.  I started following families who had brought home children who are a bit older than the norm -- older in the adoption world is considered older than three.  From what I have seen and heard from these families is these children do amazingly well in adapting to their new life.  Because they are a bit older, they are better able to understand that a family will be coming to get them and take them home and the orphanages and foster families do a pretty good job of preparing these kiddos for this transition.  You can also send care packages to them while you are waiting with photos of the family, pets, house, their room and include clothes, blankets, toys and treats.  We know it won't be an easy transition, but we don't think we have to adopt an infant so it will be easier.

Looking at files of different children of all different ages led to a conversation with our WC coordinator about the child we wish to find and what needs we would be comfortable with and amazingly, we have found it has changed quite a bit.  We are now hoping to find a little girl who is three to five years old who tugs at our heart and gives us that feeling of "knowing" she is meant to be our girl.

The Waiting Child Program

We knew when we decided to pursue an adoption from China we would apply for the Waiting Child (WC) program at our agency.  This program allows agencies to match their families with children who have medical needs.  These medical needs vary from minor and/or correctable to severe.  The minor needs can be a birthmark, extra toes, missing toes or fingers, scars, mild developmental delays etc.  The matching process for the WC program is much different that the regular program in that rather than the CCAA choosing a child for the family, children are matched by the agency based on a gender, age range and list of needs a family has indicated they are comfortable with.  This can happen one of two ways -- from a shared list that all agencies have access to or a list of children (individual list) that are assigned to a specific agency which only their clients can access.

The shared list currently contains more than 500 children with wide range of ages and medical needs.  The CCAA adds new children to the list about once per month.  The new list is usually released over a couple of nights here in the U.S. (there is a 14 hour time difference for us) and WC coordinators are notified prior to it's release so they can stay up and review the new additions in the hope they will have matches for their clients.  If an agency finds a child they think will be a fit for one of their families, they can "lock the file", which prevents another agency from viewing it.  In order to lock a file they have to assign it to a specific family and if that family does not accept the referral of the child within 48 hours, it is released back to the list and the agency cannot lock it again for two weeks. 

Our agency won't lock the file until you can take a look at it and agree to pursue adopting the child, which seems reasonable.  What has started to happen over the past several months is certain agencies will go in and lock all the files of the youngest children and those with the most minor needs before reviewing them with families.  This has led to a bit of competition and frustration among those who are waiting and a feeling of helplessness among those whose agencies are following the rules.

While all of this can be frustrating, we have decided that we will find our child when we are meant to and are not going to get wrapped up in the "drama' of the shared list.  Our WC coordinator has been great about sending out a list of children who weren't matched initially for those of us still waiting and we are free to review files of any children we think may be a good fit for us.  We have reviewed a few files and continue to keep an eye on our agency's individual list as well.  They have added new children to their list about once every two or three months.  We've already seen a little girl that we thought would fit perfectly in our family and know there are others out there who will be just a good of a fit, so we are optimistic it will happen soon.

As the wait for the regular program (NSN)  continued to increase, many families chose to switch to the Waiting Child (WC) program as other families were finding their children and bringing them home fairly quickly.  Interest in the WC program has increased quite dramatically in the past year or so and there are many families now going this route.  So, while we weren't initially concerned about the wait time for the NSN program, it has led to the bit of "competition" and an increased wait for those looking for a child with minor and/or correctible medical needs.  It seems the wait to be matched with a WC child varies by agency.    Some AP's are matched very quickly while others have been waiting several months and even over a year.  It depends how aggressive the agency is in locking files and how many families are waiting on the WC list for that agency.  We have been told to expect a wait of under a year for a boy under two with minor needs and much longer than that for a little girl.