The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A comment response

I thought that this comment I received yesterday (see bottom of this post) was interesting enough, and well enough written, to respond to. I guess it is obvious from this comment that I haven't shared all that many details about our situation here on the blog.

I know I don't have to do so for friends and family.

But because I do write about adoption ethics I thought I'd go ahead and address this comment by saying the following:

1. AJ has legally been our son for an entire year now. We were pronounced his parents and given an adoption decree in the fall of 2012. Legally we are 100% responsible for him.

2. We have already blogged here about our multitude of concerns regarding his care, the agency we found out was unlicensed, the lies, etc that led us to remove AJ from the orphanage he was living in. We removed him fully knowing that we should and would need to investigate everything.

3. We partnered with another agency and their lawyer to completely readopt AJ in Haiti to ensure that each step of his adoption process was done with full transparency. Prior to doing this we explored all options for reuniting AJ with what was left of his family of origin. What I have just written in two sentences actually consumed 6 full months of 2013. It was not made any easier by the fact that our former agency would not give us all of AJ's original documents. We didn't even have a social history for him. So many things that could have been relatively easy were made more difficult.

4. Our ongoing delay has to do with obtaining a Haitian passport and delivering it to the embassy so that AJ can receive a visa for immigration. Obtaining a passport is not as easy as one would hope (there appear to be about 17 steps the adoption paperwork has to go through to get the passport and someone is always on vacation, there is a demonstration in the streets, the office is being relocated, the stamp was placed wrong, etc etc.) We have found that when we are there in person things move a bit more smoothly.

One of the reasons I am so very angry is because we paid for this passport and supposedly had one last February. The agency either cancelled it, destroyed it or had never applied for it. The jury is still out on what happened exactly. No matter what, no matter how everything played out, I would have liked to be holding that passport all along.

This dear child is our son. He is living in the same home he has been in since last February. His foster family (his godparents) are on a sabbatical to the U.S. So while he is in the same home and with the same Haitians who live in their home and help to care for him, he is without his foster family for a period of time. We visit him regularly to BE THERE. He needs family. We can't relocate there (in large part due to Ariam's healthcare needs) but we try to take turns to be there as much as we can to a. be present for this ongoing attempt to obtain a passport b. connect with a child who will at some point be getting on an airplane and flying across the United States to live with us (we do not want to be strangers to him) and c. learn more about AJ in a place where he is comfortable, see more of his culture and create more memories in Haiti.

I will not be able to go into any detail about the "why" of AJ being adopted and the details of our investigation of and connection with his family of origin. Doing that would not serve him, them or us. It may serve you and your curiosity and I get that completely. It would be interesting to write about particularly from a bigger picture adoption ethics standpoint. But it is not appropriate.

What I want to say though is that it would have been far easier to walk away from AJ last February. It really would have. We are neither doing something altruistic by bringing him to the US nor are we doing something easy and fun for our family. The cost - financially, emotionally, physically and to our family life and careers has been outrageous. It is not the easy thing to do. But it is the right thing. We are sure of that.

So AJ waits and we wait. And yes, we are angry. We watch as dozens of families walk behind us in this complicated process of determining if the children they hoped to adopt through this agency and orphanage are adoptable. We equally cheer when a child's adoption turns out to be legitimate and we also cheer for those families who have been able to reunite the child they hoped to adopt with their birth families. We have seen some heartbreaking resolutions and I have also been present in Haiti for some amazing child-birthmother reunions.

There is absolutely no one size fits all solution for the families and kids affected by this entire situation. I am so very inspired to watch as people strive to do the right thing even when it is the hardest thing they have ever done. This is an incredibly complicated situation for people who went in to adoption believing it was going to be a way to grow their family. It requires layers and layers of understanding, knowledge, effort, love, and patience. Presuming the worst of each other is the last thing we need.


You're trying to adopt a kid who doesn't appear to be available for international adoption after 12+ months of doing so via unlicensed adoption agency and unlicensed lawyer -- and continue to do sans said agency/lawyer. Losing the agency/lawyer is the morally/ethically correct thing to do -- continuing to pursue the adoption of a not-adoptable kid (whom you clearly love and adore) from a country with a barely functioning government and huge human trafficking within the context of international adoption problem that you are fully aware of? Not so much.

I get that you love AJ and got screwed over - its horrible and that darling boy suffers as a result. But you pursuing an unadoptable kid is so very far from an ethical adoption so as to be on another planet. In another galaxy.

It's so ironic that you blog about the importance of adoption ethics, not supporting corruption, the need for PAPs to be responsible as they have so much power in the adoption triad in developing countries, particularly ones with weak governance like Haiti... Yet love AJ so much you want him, ethics be damned.

You also break that poor boys heart by having him call you mommy, stay with you in Haiti WELL BEFORE that is a legal fact, ie a court declares you legally AJ's mom, officially.

You love AJ, have wonderful intentions and they are very possible making you take reprehensible and ethically horrific actions. The ends doesn't always justify the means.

Friday, October 25, 2013

In my dreams

I can't live in Haiti with AJ. Each time I try I'm pulled back to Denver by the force of Ariam missing me and vice versa. A nightly skype call just does not cut it. Jeremy and Ariam cannot live in Haiti for medical reasons right now. They both have live-giving medications that are not accessible in Haiti and not easily sent down if an emergency arose.) Each time I'm there we think we are just a few weeks from bringing him home only to find out that that day is nowhere near. Back and forth I go.

I often think that we actually have it so good. Most adoptive parents wait 2 years while their child lives in an orphanage with little to no contact. AJ is in a great home with people we trust and we can see him as often as possible. But still.

This last visit took place over the first part of October. Two weeks is exactly enough time to begin to deeply connect and to make saying goodbye incredibly hard. A two year old needs his mom. And so does a four year old. This situation is so entirely unfair to both children.

So in my dreams I am back in Haiti and AJ is calling for me "mama..."and running through the house to me. I wake up feeling sick. Who leaves their two year old with a nanny in a foreign country??

And what can I do except regroup and then buy tickets on the credit card to go back down and keep trying?

At the end of this last trip, the night I arrived home, I had a raging fever. The sickness that overtook my body was out of this world. I was in the hospital for part of last week. The doctors aren't sure what happened to me. Today is the first day in two weeks that I feel some energy to get up and move.

It scares me to think that I could have been this sick, alone with a 2 year old, in Haiti. What then? You know what is even scarier? Thinking the what-if of AJ being that sick alone without his parents.

Because I am still recovering, Jeremy will need to go to Haiti next. The only time he has off of work is over Thanksgiving. The result is that we will divide for the holiday. Jeremy and AJ in Haiti together and Ariam and I together in the U.S.

In my dreams AJ was home for Thanksgiving this year and we would be together at our hideaway with friends up in the mountains. (A tradition that is only one year old but that we are trying to make lifelong.) The bonfire, the visit to Santa, the frost on our noses while the kids ride bikes along the one road in town. Hot chocolate and games and good food. It was supposed to happen last year. It was supposed to happen this year....

But I am trying to face reality. We have to live with the cards we've been dealt and find a way still to make the holiday and time together with each child special.

I need to admit this though.
I am not feeling very gracious.
I don't know how to overcome these feelings and not let them rub off on Ariam and AJ.
I am so deeply angry.
Furious really.
There are people, Americans, who are responsible for this situation. Specifically for the withholding of our dossier, the fraudulent wording in our documents and the destruction of our passport.
And on my kids' behalf I am completely disgusted and sickened.
I've had 36 years of holidays. But at age 4 and age 2 each holiday is so special and so important. Ariam is the queen of planning for, decorating for and discussing holidays. We haven't told her yet that Daddy will be gone for Thanksgiving. Or that AJ may not be home for Christmas.

In September we received a nasty note from our former agency's lawyer complaining about our blogging. We had made a personal offer, in mediation in June, to not blog here about the "situation" regarding our former agency. And we held to that commitment. But apparently we offended them enough somehow to be worthy of that note.

Here's the thing. Participating in mediation cost us $10,000 in legal and mediation fees. It was just a game to them though. We began the day by signing a confidentiality agreement and then found out that our former facilitator was texting details of the mediation to her friends and staff all day. We have proof of this. We just sit on it marveling at the level of deceit. Who does that?

We held to the mediation confidentiality agreement through thick and thin. Through a lot of pressure. But quite honestly I don't see why we need to stop blogging. We made the offer in good faith that there would be specific follow up happening. They cancelled the follow up. And they broke confidentiality.

And to rub salt in the wound they demand our continued silence, even on our own family blog. For WHAT??

Our family and our children have been deeply deeply wounded. It is not our fault. Not J's and not mine and not the children's. So....why are we supposed to be quiet and hold it all in?

I'm so entirely deeply tired of feeling threatened and bullied.
Those that do the bullying should try dividing their family in two for their holidays and see how they enjoy that.

Blogging is the only way we have to update our larger circle of friends and family on our adoption. And beyond that it has been my family scrap book and emotional release for the last four years.

I guess this is my way of saying no. No. I have thought about it. I was very gracious all summer. I hoped to see some massive change for the better and have yet to see it. I am done being so gracious. I have righteous anger for my family and for my children. And if blogging is an outlet that helps then it is my right to keep blogging.

In my dreams this is over. All over. AJ is home and our family is together. When that day comes then maybe my anger will abate somewhat. But until then I will blog.


My boy who waits...and waits....and waits.

Adoption Truth Part V: Eyes Wide Open

Last January I knew something was wrong. It's that prickly hair on the back of your neck feeling.
Food turning to dust in our mouths.
Waking up at 3am feeling intense dread, darkness, anxiety, nightmares.
J and I were both having these symptoms of fear.

It began with an email from our American adoption facilitator, who we rarely heard from, stating that our 17 month old son AJ might have cholera. And it escalated with the sudden onset of communication with other families experiencing the same fear and lack of health care follow up from the agency. Then it went a notch higher when these families shared with us "stories" that this woman had been telling people about us since April 2012.

The lies that had been told to us and about us were unraveling and we began to feel sickened.

I cannot describe to you the concern it produces in a parent to find out that not only is your son possibly sick with a life threatening illness but your adoption facilitator who is wholly responsible for his care has been lying about your family to the people around her. In my paradigm, if you lie about small things you are probably capable of lying about big things.

We had been in the adoption process since March of the previous year. And had determined to not let the adoption waiting impact our family. We had kept up with the happenings on our agency's closed group for adoptive families. And we rejoiced when there was movement in our adoption, despite that fact that it sometimes seemed contradictory.

Then came the cholera.
AJ was referred to us with an immune disorder. And children with this immune disorder are particularly susceptible to secondary infection and disease.
On top of the disorder and cholera, we had been told that since June AJ had been pulling his hair out.

We tried frantically to get ahold of the facilitator. We asked her by email again to move him to foster care where he could get better medical access (she had denied this request the previous summer while simultaneously telling us that the clinic in the area was closing and she was worried about his health.) We set up multiple appointments to talk by phone. She had changed her number and wouldn't respond to requests for her new number. We tried to get ahold of her through her assistant. Nothing worked. In front of other families on the agency group she would say she was looking forward to talking to us on a specific day and then would not call or respond to emails that day.

And then we learned about a healthy child's death.
This was not the first time a child had died at the Giving Hope Rescue Mission creche.

J and I began making calls and googling to find out exactly who we were working with and how experienced this adoption program was. We began to seek out people we had previously been told were "crazy" to find out their experiences with the American adoption facilitator.

What we found was so at odds with what we had been told, in writing, that I lay in my bed and just cried and cried and cried.

We knew that we needed to go to Haiti to search for some answers.

To be continued...

Sara Groves:

oh I'm gonna find the truth
even if it kills me
oh I gotta get a new view
the only way I know to
oh I gotta keep my eyes wide open
keep my eyes wide open

diggin in the dirt till it hurts
won't come up for air don't care
how long it takes me

I get tired want to just get by can't I get by
but I can't cuz there's a
fire in my bones, fire in my bones
burnin in my bones

when the lights come up on this town
when the thing goes down wanna be found
when the lights come up on this
when the lights come up on this town
when the thing goes down
wanna be found tryin
when the lights come up
wanna be telling the truth

Thursday, August 15, 2013

You say goodbye and I say hello

J and  I just arrived home from spending a very extended period of time with AJ in Haiti.

When I arrived in Haiti in July I had every intention of staying until I crossed through the immigration line in the U.S. with him, proudly wearing our Colorado t-shirts, hopefully by end of this month.

But things don't always turn out the way we have planned. It became clear that AJ's passport and visa would not be ready in July or August.

J left Haiti first. So it was up to me on Tuesday afternoon to haul my 55 pound suitcase out to the van and wrap my arms around my distracted little boy with the frown on his face. I told him I would be back.

I didn't think I would cry. I honestly thought that I've cried every tear available to me since January and have not a single drop left.

But when he started crying I cried. I cried for him and for us. So many hellos and goodbyes. So much time passed since we first met. So many hurdles we've had to overcome and so many still to go. Confusing for a 2 year old.

I cried for the pure unfairness of life. And for what he will think when I am gone. And how he will view me when I show up again, randomly, in his life at a future date.

If I'm honest I am still crying. Something happened today that just set me off. It's interesting isn't it how when you are holding back one big set of tears, something can sneak in and trigger them from an unrelated angle?

I wonder sometimes how many times we can all pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and keep going forward. How many times can I wipe away the tears in the shower and keep a stoic face when friends ask how the adoption is going. How many times can we go to Haiti and not bring AJ home?

I wonder how long Ariam can deal with this - the tension, the anxiety, the not knowing and waiting. I wonder how many more midnight phone calls I can field from other adoptive families using our former organization who are terrified for their children. How long can I keep up the strength to listen and support and encourage?

I guess we just keep walking forward. Putting one foot in front of the other. I'm going to try to blog more. It helps. Most of the time it is easier to write about all of this than it is to talk about it. Thanks for being here with me.


AJ the morning before I left. He's getting so big.

(I put him in the Colorado t-shirt that was meant for his homecoming.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

For Alex

One year ago J's best friend died. In the way of things that are very sudden, it was totally unexpected and extremely painful.

We wrestle because it feels so unnecessary. One minute he was the very healthiest and fittest person we knew, the next minute his heart failed him.

I didn't blog about it at the time. It was incredibly overwhelming, shocking and it terrified me that a loved one could be gone in just the blink of an eye.

I will never forget the phone call. J went to the front porch and sat in silence, crying. I knew when he came to me that it must be some of the worst news a person could receive. We both cried all day. We dug through our shoeboxes of high school, college and wedding pictures to find old memories of Alex.

We started making immediate plans for J to fly home to California for the wake and funeral and came to the sad realization that Ariam and I just couldn't go along. We knew the schedule would be long nights and days filled with tears and at age 3 she just wasn't ready for that.

There is something very hard about being the one who stayed behind, who didn't go to the funeral. I lack a level of closure. Almost like I have spent this last year in disbelief that Alex is gone....

Dear Friend,

You were the first "important" person that J introduced me to after we started dating. You know he's an introvert. So meeting his very closest friend in the world was a big deal.

He brought me home to meet you a few months after we started dating.
Alex. My rival. Unexpected to J, the two most important extroverts in his life did not hit it off!

We both wanted his full attention, time and coveted his laughs at our antics. We hadn't learned how to team up yet you and I. You were full of inside jokes and memories shared, full of time playing hockey and locker room stories and nicknames. All. BOY.

I was a sheltered girly girl straight from my first year at Christian college. I was falling in love with J and wanted all of him. I felt like you were my competition. We clashed, we rolled our eyes at each other. We made some passive agressive attempts to avoid hanging out. I am surprised that J didn't ditch us both!

But we wormed our way into each other's hearts. Do you remember when? I don't. But it happened and I'm so thankful for that.

YOU were the only person who could help me navigate J's family. When I was on the brink of biting my tongue in half it was you who would kick me under the table and whisper jokes to me. Do you remember that ridiculous wedding shower? And the hilarious gifts we received?! You caught my eye behind the scenes in tense times and let me know I had an ally. You were like a brother to me. The brother that always made me do things that got me in trouble! But I loved you for it.

As the years passed I noticed how much you loved my boyfriend and then husband. You called him regularly. You were the only friend he shared everything with.

I remember you in your tuxedo at our wedding walking down the aisle with my best friend. She falling apart at the emotional day and you holding her steady and teasing her to crack a smile.

As the years passed you grew and matured. You became closer to God. You dreamed of a family. When J spent years not wanting kids you were the only friend he listened to when you told him he could do it and would be an amazing dad. You and I conspired to time our children together and raise them together.

Every time you called you said "Hey! Manda hug n' kiss!" You had a nickname for everyone you loved.

The last time we saw each other it was summer. You and J spent hours in the mall helping me pick a dress for a friend's wedding. Just like anything we did together we had fun. You had a way of making people feel good about themselves. You were doing personal training and I asked your advice. You told me not to eat that second piece of pizza and I laughed at you and did it anyway. But you never made me feel bad.

Alex, we never ever imagined a life without you. We should have come back to CA a lot sooner to spend time with you. You know why we didn't. And I know you understand. But we should have and we missed watching you grow to know Ariam.

We named our little guy after you. He has some big shoes to fill. But it was the only name J could even consider and I agreed, it only seemed right. Our little AJ is so much like you - a comedian, a love bug, and he lights up a room like you did with his smile. I hope you approve.

We miss you. Our hearts grieve tonight that you will never meet AJ. That you never got to be a father.
We know that you are watching over us and watching over little Alex.

Until we meet again.
Our love always,

~ A


Sunglasses lover

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Thank you for your prayers last Friday. We all felt them!
I know that a lot of loving friends and family are hoping for details but we have agreed that we will not respond to any inquiries about mediation.

Project Hopeful has just sent us our final total, which after the donation made back to PH and Paypal fees came to $8,253.05.

Here's how your donations are being used:

$5,000 to reproduce our dossier (already spent!)

$1,000 for expedited passport (we hope this is all it will cost but we'll see)

$2,253 for my relocation to Haiti in July (and for the final cost of our visa, etc.)

We thank you so much for all that you have given. The fundraising is now closed. Project Hopeful has SO MANY families in need. For example, our good friends the Boultons are adopting a beautiful little boy with Down Syndrome. Please consider giving to them or to the other families on the waiting family page.


Thursday, June 6, 2013


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Alex cheering us on. June 6, 2013

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats. (1 Peter 3:13)

"You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best you have to give." (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Today is the day friends.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's Next

I want to thank you. THANK YOU. Each of you. For reading, for praying with us, for supporting us, and for donating. Most donations through Project Hopeful are kept anonymous. Since we can't thank you individually please accept our collective thank you!

We met our fundraising goal of $8,500 and we have moved on to reproducing the dossier ourselves. We can breathe now. We can smile again. We aren't going to bed feeling sick every night. Food isn't turning to ashes in our mouths anymore.

The fundraising link is still open and if anything else comes in we will use it towards our legal fees.

We will be going to mediation with the "agency" shortly. And I will not be able to share what takes place in that mediation. I think this is reasonable. It is a space where we will come together in person hopefully with the truth present. We have been asking for a date for mediation since April but we felt like it would only be successful if the existence of the dossier could be confirmed first. I am so thankful to each of you for making it possible for us to go to this meeting without the dossier as a condition.

I will continue to write in the Adoption Truth series because I think that our four years of adoption experience will continue to, hopefully, assist prospective adoptive parents. But I want to be honest and let you know that I won't be talking further about the events of mediation or the outcome.

At the same time, we will continue to share our thoughts on Adoption Truths in a way that honors and respects this adoptive community and does not seek to protect anyone who profits from silence.

With much love to all of you for helping us make a giant leap forward in bringing AJ home...


Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. (1 Peter 3:13, 14 NLT)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Love Compels Us

"The situations that grow me the most are those in which I feel the most helpless, 
but in which love compels me to keep trying." ~ Greg Boyd*

Last month I took Ariam to spend a week with AJ in Haiti. There's a big difference between fantasizing about a "baby" brother who lives thousands of miles away and the reality of a toddler brother in person.

After a year of statements like: "I will hold my baby brother to my heart" and "I will feed my baby brother his bottles" I was a little nervous that reality would not live up to her fantasy.

But I had underestimated the power of love.
Both Ariam and AJ are children who are filled with joy and love just brimming over. Within minutes of meeting they were running through the house laughing, tickling, and playing.

There was not a bit of "holding brother to her heart" or even feeding him his bottle.
But there was sharing of sunglasses, wrestling, bath taking, block stacking, and sharing snacks.


Not everyone has been happy that we are talking about the truth in our adoptions.
Not everyone feels we should continue fighting for change.

It is simple. Love compels us.


Thank you for sharing your time and resources as we work to bring AJ home.
We are getting closer to our fundraising goal and will update soon.


* I was about 10 years old when Greg Boyd moved into the office next to my dad's in the theology department of Bethel College. A fascinating person whose speaking and writing has influenced my faith from childhood to adulthood.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bring the wind and bring the thunder

Thursday afternoon: I'm waiting for our final total and will update here just as soon as I get it!

I came here to ask for your help and you have given of your time, love, prayers, "shares" on facebook, positive messages and resources.

We are getting there! We made it to $6,000 from Monday-Friday of this past week. Just another $2,500 to raise. I'm not someone who has ever asked for money before. Watching this miracle take place has been completely inspiring.

Sometimes when I just can't find the right words to pray, to thank, to ask, or to answer, I turn to what others have written.

Bring the wind and bring the thunder, when its over bring me stillness....

so much hurt and preservation
like a tendril round my soul
so much painful information
no clear way on how to hold it
when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache

I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

standing at this waters edge
looking in at God's own heart
I've no idea where to begin
to swallow up the way things are
everything in me is drawing in
closing in around this pain

I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

bring the wind and bring the thunder
bring the rain till I am tried
when it's over bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can't fake

wide open like a lake

everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I am fighting to stay open
I am fighting to stay open
open open oh wide open
open like a lake

"Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galations 6:2

Thank you for helping us to bear this burden.

~ A

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adoption Truths Part V: Sometimes things fall apart and you have to ask for help

Update - we made our goal of $8,500. Anything given over that amount will be put towards the cost of mediation and our legal fes. Thank you!

When our friends at Project Hopeful asked last week if they could intervene and help us raise the funds we need to bring AJ home from Haiti, I was nervous.

I don't want anyone to think for a minute that I write this blog as a lead up to asking for money.

But truthfully we need your help.

We need to reproduce all of our adoption documents and our son's passport in Haiti.

"WHAT's that?" you ask. You've never heard of this situation?! Neither had we. How could a family be completely done with their adoption, legal parents of a child, adoption fully paid for and yet unable to bring him home?

If you are like me, you probably need the long story before you make a decision about donating your money. And that is completely legitimate. There are a lot of fundraisers out there and a lot of people in need asking you to fund their cause.

You can read more of the story HERE under our Fundraising Tab.

We hope that, after reading our story, you will support us for this simple reason: we will not sign a gag order to protect our former adoption "agency" and their facilitator in return for the easy release of our documents.

We feel that signing a gag order would NOT protect other children, Haitian first families or prospective adoptive parents in the future. 

We have decided that our discomfort asking for financial help, the work of reproducing AJ's adoption documents and the extended time it is taking to get him home is worth the freedom to tell the truth.

Our full story will be part of the Adoption Truth series which you can find here. Please keep coming back to check for updates. It is taking time to write and requiring significant prayer and mentorship from close friends and family.

Thank you for anything you can give. 

Our first meeting...March 2012.

Together again after a year, March 2013


* "Agency" is in quotes because it turns out that the group we signed a contract with was unlicensed to operate as an adoption agency. We did not know this when we signed on. It was put in writing to us that the "agency" was licensed.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adoption Truth Part IV: Pressed on every side

we were pressed on every side
full of fear and troubled thoughts
for good reason we carried heavy hearts... (Sara Groves)

For good reason we carried heavy hearts.
That is how I feel. Heavy.
But also free.
The juxtaposition of heavy and free don't sit well with me.
Shouldn't free feel light?

This post is my attempt to shed some of the weight.


Adoption Truths Part IV: Pressed on every side

We are in a situation where it is impossible to please everyone.
I love to make people happy and to please others. But the older I get the more I have come to realize that being a people pleaser is at unfortunate odds with being a truth-teller.

Watershed moment... I can only tell our truth with as much wisdom and sincerity as possible. But I cannot be responsible for how it lands in other people's hearts and whether or not it is "pleasing."

This post is my attempt to put to words the ways I feel pressed, pressed to please. Hoping to find personal freedom from this pressure simply by recognizing it. "Hello pressure, I see you. And now I write this to release you."

When an adoptive parent finds herself telling hard truths about her adoption several things seem to happen. (Generalizing here from a very unscientific observation of the adoption blogging community over the last 4 years.)

1. Close friends and family rally. They pray and cheer and hold you close. But you worry about their longevity. They see you changing. They may suggest that you are putting yourself in danger for a "cause." Can they hold on and stick with you long term? Nobody really wants to be left hanging without resolution forever. Family and friends don't really know what to do or say. You find yourself tucking in, hiding out. Because it is hard. You are not fun. Truth telling sucks a lot of the fun and life out of you.

2. Adoptive families who have been through hard times and lived their own hard stories quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) share your blog, press like, and leave long comments sharing their pain, frustration, and fear. They want you to to press forward. Say it all. Call people out. They hope to God that you can accomplish something that they couldn't. Maybe you will finally be the family that doesn't sign the gag order offered by the agency. You feel responsible as this group's newest vocal representative.

3. Families in process or families who have not experienced difficult stories feel awkward. Sometimes they feel attacked. Sometimes they feel like you are saying they should not have adopted or should not be adopting. Sometimes they extrapolate that your warnings and concerns are actually sweeping anti-adoption statements. Not all, but some, pull away. Some scramble to reduce your credibility. (In our case we've had people say that we are "not real Christians", "frauds", and that we are "crazy.")

"Families that speak out against agencies and tell stories of fraud in their processes and want to warn other families looking to adopt or who are in process are consistently shut down. They are shunned. They are told they are mood killers. They lose real life friends and Facebook friends. They are kicked off of support groups. They are asked to stop talking because they could ruin adoption for everyone else.
But I want it to be clear: families who beg for someone, anyone to listen to their story are not ruining anyone's adoption. It may feel like they are threatening something dear to the heart. Something prayed about, stressed about and let's not talk about the savings and check writing. But really, they are not threatening adoption. The agencies they are trying to chuck a stone at, like David against Goliath, who participate in child trafficking, or forge documents, or don't investigate "abandoned" children's history, or turn a blind eye to poor practices, they are the ones that are ruining adoption." (Staci from Scooping it Up)

4. Adult adoptees. Some, not all, begin to read your blog. Maybe they have read along from the beginning but many are new to you. They are reading because a post went viral. They cheer that someone is standing in their camp. That an adoptive family is advocating for truth, reform, first families and giving voice to adopted children who will grow into adults.

You begin to feel that you owe it to them, almost as projections of your current children's future adult selves, to stay the course. You don't want to let them down. You become scared that they will be disappointed in you. You wonder if they will still be cheering if you end up completing your adoption.

5. The folks who just think adoption is a load of crap. They are out there and they have some valid reasons. They often also have extremely hard stories. They may love one post of yours but hate another. They are often anonymous and while their comments have truths they bite so hard that you have no idea how to engage with them.

6. The faith community. I am part of this community and maybe you are as well. Many in this community do not like public strife and do not want to see anyone question a Christian adoption agency. Some feel that any problems between professed "Christians" should be worked out behind closed doors. Some do not want to recognize that there are people who masquerade under religious "Christian" language but have bad intentions and/or poor practices. You need this community more than ever but it no longer feels safe.

Recently on a Haitian adoption forum filled with Christian adoptive parents someone demanded that I provide "proof/evidence" of my concerns. And then I was kicked off.

"Here is the biggest problem with proof and details: adoption lies and fraud and corruption don't just involve adoptive parents. At the heart is a child or children. And having major or heck, even minor ethical issues in an adoption story is a little like having your child be abused. If you come out against the perpetrator (who may be popular, powerful and big or even really nice) your child's story, the details of their pain is now fodder for the Internets to criticize, dismiss. To seek justice, to warn others, to appease people and convince them "it's true" you essentially must throw your family under the bus and expose yourself and your child to ugliness.

That is the reason most families stay silent. That is the reason many people don't report abuse: it is hard to prove, it can feel like shame, it can harm our kids more than they've already been harmed.... How do you prove to people that fraud happens and that agencies are either complicit or know about it/suspect it but have personal philosophies that justify the fraud? How do you convince people without specifics that throw a kid's privacy in the garbage?" (Staci from Scooping it up) 

What to do? Pressed on every side. There is no way to win and absolutely no way to please everyone.

"There's redemption in confession and there's freedom in the light. I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid...."

I'm going to keep saying that until I feel it. And I am going to keep writing until there is nothing left to hide. I am going to do my best. Thank you to those who choose to stay with me in this Adoption Truths series. I know it isn't light reading. But thank you.

go on and ask me anything
what do you need to know
I'm not holding on to anything
I'm not willing to let go of
to be free, to be free

it's a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very insides
sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
helping each other come clean
secrets and cyphers
there's no good way to hide
there's redemption in confession
and freedom in the light
I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid
(Sara Groves)


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Adoption Truth Part III: Adopting Again

Let's get this show on the road, yes?
I'm sorry for the long delay in posting. I was in Haiti. Again.

Thank you for reading, commenting and reposting parts I and II. Your comments, even when questioning, were so full of grace. I try to remember to give more grace when I am the recipient of so much.

Thank you for recognizing that the stories I'm telling here are glimpses. Snapshots. Thoughts in time. They can never be our full story and will never reveal more about our daughter or son than we think is acceptable to share publicly (which we recognize is walking a very fine line.) It is a thin line that I'm walking only because I believe with my whole heart that truth and light can dispel darkness and create change.


Adoption Truths Part III: Adopting Again

If we were so concerned with Ariam's mother's story, why on earth did we start a second adoption?

In fall of 2011, while we were still putting together puzzle pieces of Ariam's story and wondering if this story was an anomaly, we began to discuss a second adoption. We sorted through our desires, a potential second child's needs, Ariam's needs, and all of the options for expanding our family.

I think that whether you have adopted or not you will probably resonate with our reasons for adding a second child to our family.

Reason 1 - we wanted children, plural. We wanted to be a family and we wanted Ariam to have a brother or sister. We did not want to rescue a child, be "saviors" in the eyes of our community, or do some act of charity. It is a selfish reason to adopt - wanting a child. But if done right, there is actually no better reason, in my opinion, to adopt than *wanting* a child. Wanting to be family for and with a child.

Reason 2 - We didn't want Ariam to be the only person of color in our entire family. We were reading more writings from teen and adult adoptees and unanimously they felt that being the "only one" (adopted, with special needs, different ethnicity, whatever the case) was hard. Uncomfortable. An extra burden.

I won't forget the day we were with our extended family in a restaurant, all of us white as white can be, and I realized that all eyes in the restaurant were on Ariam. Talking, laughing, animated. She didn't seem to notice. But I did. And I don't want that for her. I want her to have siblings with whom she can share this unique experience of being adopted in a transracial family.

The day we told Ariam that she would be a big sister to a little boy she asked "will he be chocolate like me?" (She was 2.5 and still thinking of skin as a color not a race or ethnicity yet.) I know her well enough to know that she would love any baby. But her reaction to the knowledge that yes, her brother would look like her, was confirmation to me that we had made the right decision for our family. And for our children.

Throughout the year she has checked in on this with us. "Will he be brown like me mom?" "Is he definitely going to have black hair like me?" "He and I will be the same just like Mia and her sister are the same and like Roan and her brother are the same!"

She has never wavered in her love for this little brother. Across time and space, across more than a year of her young life, through confusion and delays and questions he has been the dream she holds most dearly.

(Transcribed by her preschool teacher. We have dozens of these type of letters.)

There have been moments in recent months when we have thought we would need to break it to Ariam that this little brother of hers, held so close to her heart, would not be coming to live with us.

We made the hardest decision I think any adoptive parent has to make (and yet at the same time this seems like something so very basic and obvious to anyone who is not adopting!) We needed to find out if this little boy's living birth parent had been coerced to relinquish him for adoption.

We are waiting for the end of this story. It is not quite finished yet. (Sometimes truth, when dealing with cross cultural communication, requires the allowance of time and patience.)

I hope to share more of this journey with you at some point in the near future. Not because I have any interest in exposing our most personal fears, stories, or our child's life details with the internet community at large. But because this entire story sheds light on aspects of adoption, agencies that masquerade as "Christian" and the dangers of group think that we all need to be more diligent in discussing and working to change.

And because we have come to this exhausting but liberating realization..
until we can lay down our hopes, dreams, desires, image of our family, and even the child we hope will be ours on the alter of truth, we will never actually be capable of fully seeing truth or acting on it. (This is the hardest realization I have ever come to. Ever. It should be so simple, but it is not.)


“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” -- Bonhoeffer

We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality. -Dallas Willard

For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are. ~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Friday, April 12, 2013

Adoption Truth Part II: Where do babies come from?

Ariam likes to talk about where babies come from. Specific questions have included "is the belly button like an exit door?" and  "how does the baby get in there?"

She does a lot of thinking about babies. How they get in there, where they were before they were in there, and what they like to do in a uterus. She is 3. Sometimes she pulls down her shirt and pretends to breastfeed. She says she plans to be a baby doctor. She believes this means she will have a lot of babies and play doctor on them.

Not having ever carried or delivered a baby myself our conversations are usual very theoretical. If I'm being entirely honest, Ariam probably knows more anatomical names for lady parts and baby birthing than I do.

Until this happened recently...

This brave first time mama let me be a part of her 3 hour labor and delivery.

After delivery she struggled with bleeding. I was scared. I am sure she was scared. But she came through it and is doing okay. Raising her sweet boy.

This entire experience made me think.

Maybe, along with our adoption training, every adoptive parent should be required to attend a real life labor and delivery. Complete with pushing and vomit and tears and sweat. The ring of fire and tearing. Placenta and umbilical cord and more tears. Relief and more relief when the baby finally proves he won't be staying inside forever.

A new perspective:

Look at the strength it takes to bring forth life.
Look at the power of the female body and mind.
Look at the love and connection that rushes through those first few minutes - mother still connected to baby through their umbilical cord. (I had no idea what that would look like!)

I have been filled with a sense of awe ever since. It was so redemptive to see a mother struggle through delivery and to know that she will be supported and cared for as she learns how to mother for the first time.

Where do babies come from? Every baby comes from his or her mother. They are not created out of thin air. They are brought into this world in a flood of blood and pain and joy and sometimes sorrow. But they do not appear magically and they are not created in a womb as a mechanism to supply children for adoption.

I knew this logically and rationally. And I know you do too. But our hearts and our actions need to reflect this. All choices made around a child's care and future needs to reflect this reality.

My important adoption truth - babies come from mothers.

Thanks for taking this journey into the truth with me. Your supportive comments and privately shared stories meant a lot yesterday. I have never clicked refresh on my inbox that many times in one day.

~ A

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Adoption Truth Part I: I have changed

Thanks for joining my recap of 2012. It was necessary for me to post. A reminder that in the dark and hard places of our life there is also light and beauty and so much love.

And now, to start the story. I need to ask for your grace. This blog is about to get a lot less rainbows and unicorns and pretty photos. I am not perfect and certainly don't have all the answers. What I have to share is deeply personal and it scares me to put it all out here in this way. Please be gentle with me. And with yourself. More than anything I am aware that adoptive parents read this blog and that words have a powerful way of touching places in our lives that we didn't want to disturb or consider too closely.

Thank you for coming back after I've been gone so long. Thank you for caring.

Part I

I am not the same woman I was when this blog was born. Our adoption of Ariam has deeply impacted and forever changed the way I see the world. Reading my blog from inception to present, in preparation for reopening it, was so eye opening.

The most significant change I see is in my perception of the adoption triad (in our case, to keep it simple)– birthmother, adoptive mother, daughter. Daughter to two mothers. Mothers sharing daughter. Across time, space and beyond all comprehension, we are sharing.

We became parents to the most amazing, fantastic, joyful, loving, funny, animated little girl on planet earth in June of 2010.

And at least once each week I look at this little girl of mine and think about the girl who gave her life.

And Ariam asks about that girl-woman regularly. We talk about how we’ve heard that her nose was so similar to Ariam’s. How she also had light coffee colored skin. We talk about how sparkly her eyes must have been. I am deeply moved by this woman who connects us and I know that Ariam is as well.

We searched for her and that search turned upside down everything I thought previously about adoption. It is very clear to us that adoption was not Ariam’s birthmother’s plan. It has ended up as Ariam’s best second option. But it was not predestined, it was not “meant to be” and it most definitely damaged an inherent human right. The right her mother should have had to be involved in decision making about her daughter’s care. 

I am going to share something here that has forever damaged something in my soul and for which I hope Ariam forgives me someday for sharing. Because it will change you too. And you need to hear this before I can move on to part II of our story.

We learned that when Ariam’s girl-woman birthmother learned she was gone from the place she had entrusted her and gone from Ethiopia. She lay on the floor and cried. She cried for ‘days’.  

that is not ok. That image of her haunts me. It will not be ok with Ariam. It is not acceptable in our book and we don't think it is in God's plan for his creation. It was the consequence of a choice her birthmother made. But it was not the logical linear consequence. It was not a consequence that would have occurred if the local orphanage had taken the time to investigate. In the same situation, it was not a consequence I would have had to pay for a youthful mistake. And it was a harsh penalty a young woman paid for some poor decisions - made with very few alternative options.

I am changed. I am humbled. I am seared to the core. And I can never go back and be the same person I used to be. She can never be the same person she was growing to be.

As for Ariam. She doesn't know all of this story yet. So we won’t share more here. But she is a deeply thoughtful, caring, and empathetic little girl. She is the girl who rubs her friends’ backs at preschool when they are sad. She is the one who tells me she will hold her little brother to her heart when he is scared. She is the one full of love, hope and trust. She writes us love letters and brings them home from preschool daily.

Someday her heart will break when she learns her complete story. How could it not? 

This experience has shaped our family. It has shaped the way we view adoption. It has profoundly impacted our view of birth families and our appreciation for the difficult choices they make. And the ridiculously unfair and unjust "options" available (or forced) upon them.

We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt based on our experience, that orphanages can create “orphans” and that adoption can create orphanages. And if neither existed many children would remain in some form of family care either with their parents or extended family.

And yet we also know that, without adoption as an option on the spectrum of care, many children would grow up alone, in institutions, without a family.

HOW to reconcile these two?

We are complicit in this system. A system that provides families for some children who are very much in need and that creates “orphans” out of others who have living, caring, and with some support entirely capable birthparents.

We are complicit because we want to be a family. We want to be parents. We want to bring Ariam’s little brother home from Haiti. As adoptive parents, it is incredibly hard to overrule wants/emotions with sense, logic, justice, big picture thinking. I know it is excruciatingly hard because I live this.

Let’s start here. Let’s start this blog over with the premise that we have arrived at the awareness of this tangled complexity. And that we have come to some conclusions based on our ongoing experience with adoption. 

We as a family are awakened to the knowledge that we are complicit in a system that does not always serve those who most need it.
We have been complicit. But no more.  
Done with the group think.
Done with feeling emotionally held hostage.
Done thinking of our wants and needs and placing the highest priority on those.
Done turning a blind eye to red flags.
Done stepping on egg shells with agencies and their leadership.
Done worrying about the public opinion of other adoptive parents. 

We are in no way “anti-adoption” but we are fully awake to the fraud, injustice, and perpetuated cruelties of the “system.”

On February 26, 2013, with final adoption decree in hand, we removed our son from the agency and orphanage that had been overseeing his care in Haiti. Putting our own adoption (our ability to get a US visa to bring him home) on the line and in jeopardy for the sake of the truth. 

I began this blog by wanting to add something to the story. When it seemed our adoption in Haiti could be on the line and we had to make some big choices, I was too scared to continue writing.

But no more.
For Ariam. For AJ.  I love you both. This work is my gift to you – your past present and future. This is our new beginning at the Watershed.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Year, Fresh Start

You know its been a while when...

you have to type in your entire blog URL because your new computer (the one you bought months ago) doesn't automatically start to load it with the first few words

you can't remember your blogger id or password

you can't even remember how to start a new post!

Today is day 1 of a new year. January 1, 2013.

Last night I held Ariam close and looked in her eyes telling her that she made 2012 the best year of our lives. She laughed. And maybe it was a bit dramatic. But it was true. Through the ups and downs, Ariam brings a light, a fire, a sparkle and a huge sense of happiness, peace and optimism to our home.

So that we won't forget, here are the biggies of 2012:

- Both of us changed jobs early in 2012. I left a job I had been working on for the past five years and began a new long-term consultancy. J settled into his life as a college professor and has never been happier.

Who we pretend to be...

Who we really are...
- At the end of March we traveled to Haiti for a week during J's spring break to meet our son, "Mr. Dimple." It was a very special time with a special baby.

- Travel. We did some. It wasn't up to our pre-parenting level of fun, relaxation or adventure. But it was memorable:

I took Ariam to California in May. (I was facilitator for a workshop at the Christian Alliance for Orphan Summit.)

Aya and Papa (my parents) joined us

We reunited with friends from Ethiopia!

Our small Ethiopia friends taught us to run naked on the beach (this was right before she stripped)!

We had a mommy/daughter beach day and made precious memories.

Ariam received and lost at least 4 pairs of sunglasses in the summer of 2012

J flew home in July to the small city he grew up in on the West Coast. It was an unplanned trip. He was back in his hometown for the funeral of his best friend, Alex. Alex's death was so sudden, so unexpected. It marks the heartbreaking mid-point of our 2012. We miss him every day.

Our best man.
J, Ariam and I went to Minnesota for a week in late summer to see old friends. It was supposed to be a girl's only trip but after Alex's death we decided not to miss opportunities to be together as a family and to see the people we love in person.

Met and fell in love here.
In late summer we celebrated baby brother's first birthday with cupcakes and a song. Ariam added to the growing stack of presents, cards and other artwork she is diligently creating for his arrival home.

Grandpa Jack made Ariam this awesome go cart. She spent late summer/early fall riding it as often as possible.

Gordon the preschool class mascot spent a weekend with us!
I went to London for work and spent a weekend with a dear friend in York. Prayed for miracles at Yorkminster Cathedral. We giggled our evenings away and walked/shopped with diligence during the day.

Was pampered, cocooned and completely loved and taken care of (and laughed until my stomach hurt and I couldn't walk) with this old friend and her hubby in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Friendship that has taken us from  flip flops and stray dogs in rural Thailand to high heels and scones in England.
The fall was filled with pumpkins and trick or treating and sunshine.

I wish I could freeze them this way/this moment in time forever.

A light up princess crown from England (from Jackie and Ollie) was just the perfect accessory.
We drove to Santa Fe for a beautiful last warm fall weekend in early November.

Our solace. Our place of peace and escape. Closer to nature and closer to God.
Spent Thanksgiving in a small mountain town with wonderful friends and kids who plan to marry and make us beautiful babies. ;)

 - We ended 2012 the way we began it, with an epic 16 hour, 2 dogs, one restless preschooler, road trip to stay with family in Texas. This year it was much improved by the spacious used minivan we were rocking and the wonders of the ipad.


And now I am watching the Rose Bowl parade. Specifically the part where a man coming home from overseas military duty surprises his wife and child on the parade route. My tears dripping on the keyboard.

I think it's safe to say that 2012 has made me hold what I have closer than ever while at the same time reminding me that our human earthly lives are so incredibly fragile and fleeting.

As a family, we have 2 goals for 2013.

1. Be even more diligent about making memories together and spending time with the people we love.

2. Bring home baby brother from Haiti. This girl of ours is so ready to be a big sister.

~ A