Sunday, April 29, 2007

Meet Our New Friends!






Beth and Dries Coetzee returned home from Ethiopia with their two boys, Alazar, 9 and Endalkachew, 6 two weeks ago. They used the same adoption agency we are using and live right here in Bloomington about 10 minutes away. We were able to go meet them and their precious new sons who are adapting remarkably well. I was absolutely amazed at how well behaved and polite they are. They already look like part of the neighborhood gang riding their bikes. They call Beth and Dries Mommy and Daddy like they've never been apart. Apparently once your children receive your albums, the staff works with them on who Mommy and Daddy are. I feel like I got a wealth of knowledge in just a short time and a peek into what it will be like. Thank you Beth and Dries, we look forward to a long friendship!
On a sidenote, Annie liked the boys but really liked their dog.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

What to do in Monrovia


Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is one of the rainiest places in the world. But there are also a number of popular beaches and sights.
The city has suffered greatly as a result of the heavy fighting that has occurred here during the last few years. But it is not all pain and suffering. Monrovia has some magnificent sights. For example, there is Providence Island, which is a place with a long history. This is where the first liberated African slaves returned to their homeland. It is a site of great historical importance for the people of Liberia. Traditional dances and concerts are also frequently held there.
Other attractions include the Waterside Market and the National Museum. You can buy beautiful African batik goods and woodcarvings at the Waterside Market, which is held in an old area near the centre. The National Museum is known mainly for its collection of old Liberian art.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tentative Travel Plans


Tentatively we plan to travel from 6/28 returning 7/7, flying through Chicago and Brussels.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Our children are the most beautiful ones in the orphanage!







You don't hear that everyday, usually it's "my kid is in honor roll, my kid walked at a year.." but we received another DVD from Cheryl's trip and got to see what they looked like when she was there in March. We were totally wrong about who we thought Abigail was before, but in my maternal defense, the other girl did look about the same age and the picture was far away. The video had a great tour of the AFAA house and the kids were having gym class when Cheryl was filming. Emmanuel was of course playing with a toy truck that they had to take away from him so he could do his stretches! Abigail was jumping rope with another girl. Then she said her name very well in this clip and Cheryl said "Are you going to America soon?" And she said, yes.
Cheryl said "Are you sure?" teasing her. And she giggled and said, "yes." So they must have gotten our albums at that point. The house is very nice but as we knew and got to see for ourselves there is no running water and the new well water is still quite muddy so it can only be used to flush the toilet and wash clothes. All the cooking is done on what we would consider a primitive grill. (yes Dad even older than yours) There is no electricity so they rely on sunlight and have a generator that runs a couple hours at night. The kids seem happy, the foster moms seem very nurturing and all the kids seem well cared for. They had to build a pretty high wall around the house for security reasons which cuts off a lot of breeze and it did look quite hot.
Annie definitely knows she is getting a brother and sister. We showed her Abigail and she said, "I love you to the moon and back." Yes, Emmanuel is wearing a big bird shirt. In the video the foster Mom said he calls himself Eban for short, not Emman, but Eban. No one knows how he started doing that, seems like Emmanuel has quite a little personality! Maybe we'll get him to call himself Emman, but that of course is not that important. We started checking on airline tickets, we are still recovering from the heart attack it caused and will keep you posted on that. But today I said to Scott, "I think this just might happen."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Time Estimate

Cheryl is estimating we will be able travel in about two months, so that means about mid to late June.

We probably will travel sometime in June

Hi Sue,
I believe that both of your children DO have passports now so HURRAH HURRAH, HURRAH! You should not schedule flights until we KNOW we have 100% of 100% of the paperwork. Liberia processing is different from Ethiopian processing so you would be able to travel to Liberia about 2 weeks after 100% of everything is finished. Our super travel agent is:
Joann - MTS Travel
1-800-642-8315 but it is easiest to reach her by e-mail. Joanne's e-mail address is: JoannH@mtstravel.com
How many people will be traveling to Monrovia? Would you be receptive to taking in supplies for the foster home that we send to you?
Take care,
Cheryl

Yes, we are freaking out. It's like we've been trying to get pregnant for a almost two years, we just found out we are pregnant and we are giving birth in two weeks!!! Ok, I have a lot to do, rooms, oh my gosh!! Thank goodness mom organized the clothes. Speaking of mom she fell down the stairs and broke her ankle in 3 places on Thursday, had surgery on Friday, came home from the hospital on Sunday. Don't think she will be watching Annie if we are off to Africa in a month. I'll be heading to Rochester May 5th to help with care. We have thought of a back-up plan for Annie's care, that person doesn't know we'll be calling today though, surprise!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What's Next...

Here's whats ahead for Abigail and Emmanuel before we can bring them home:

Their birth certificate photos, passport photos and
Liberian government and AFAA file photos will be taken. Their birth certificate
processing will begin.

After the Liberian government case history is completed, typed, reviewed for
accuracy and signed by the proper Liberian government authorities, it will
be given to the AFAA rep, then the children's Liberian passports can be
started. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the right to ask to have the children
brought in to their office.

There is NO time estimate for the passports to be completed - the last time
passports took 3 months with daily visits to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
by an AFAA rep, to push the process along. Cheryl writes "I personally went to the MOF
office twice and met with at least 6 people. The 2nd time I refused to leave a
high level official's office until I had the remaining passport. The person
needed to sign the child's passport - she finally accepted that I would not
leave, signed the passport after I had spent 4 hours in her office and waiting
area. She reviewed the child's documentation while watching a video on her
office television and finally signed the passport at 7:30pm, thus allowing our
case worker and I to leave MOF so we could find an open restaurant."

When the field investigation is prepared and typed, 100% of the
documentation is completed and the US Embassy has your I-600A approvals, everything will
be brought to the consular officer at the Embassy by the AFAA country
representative. Over the next week the Embassy consular officer, when his or her
schedule permits, will review all of the documentation for each child and will
contact our AFAA rep and advise if the documentation is acceptable to him or
her. If anything needs to be changed or added to our Liberian country rep
will be advised of this. If all is okay the children are then able to be
brought to the Embassy for their official visa "interview" by you and/or your
husband and you will file the two, I-600 forms. You will need two I-600 forms,
two I-864 forms and two copies of your 2006 tax return and W-2's. If
everything is accepted by the Embassy the children will receive their US visas in one
to two days and they will be free to leave Liberia.

Sue adds, God Willing.

Friday, April 13, 2007

New Photos Have Arrived!



We just got these photos from Cheryl. There is one advantage to having a droopy left eye. You are easy to spot. The kids appear much more like orphans in these photos. They look hot and dusty. I am already feeling unfit because I could not pick out Abigail. I think I have picked her out but will wait to post her photo until I get confirmation. Emmanuel is obviously the little boy with the older boy in the picture. Stay tuned for information on who the older boy is, we are trying to find out.




Minivan Ready!


I know its been a while since we last updated this. My parents came in for a visit Tuesday and we have been busy organizing our house after a year of just trying to survive. We do have one piece of news, I was able to get in touch with Cheryl (adoption agency director) and she says they are working on our case in Liberia and they don't need anything else from us as this point. (We still have no estimate of a timeline) Also we learned she wasn't able to meet Abigail and Emmanuel's father. I suspect she ran out of time and I'm sure it would have been a job to track him down. My parents drove out to MN (from Washington, DC, 22 hours!!) so they could give us their mini-van. I guess we are really getting ready to be a bigger family. My car did not have long to live and needed a new engine, not worth it for a 98 Ford Escort. We have gotten some clothes already from very generous people for the kids. Mom and I organized all of it into bins by size and season. Hopefully it will get us off to a good start. A & E will not come home with any of their own clothes. They leave them for other kids at the AFAA Foster Home. We also got some great girl clothes from our neighbor, Alison Kmett and even some of Cecily's (Janie's daughter) clothes may fit her, we'll see. Thanks to everyone who is getting us started in this department and has kept Annie well supplied for three years now, (Auntie Caroline, Janie Peterson, Cindy Rynchek, Peg Ogea, Lisa Kiava, & Amy Kmett) We hope to have real photos soon. Cheryl is working on organizing her 26 rolls!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

What Annie Knows


I have often been asked, does Annie know she is getting siblings? My answer to that question is yes and no. When we talk about brothers and sisters she definitely knows what that is because all her friends have a brother or sister. But I don't think she can quite comprehend the way she will be getting her siblings. When we got our referral for Abigail and Emmanuel in January, I told her she was going to get an older brother and sister. I told her they were going to come live with us because they didn't have a Mommy and Daddy and little sister and we were going to be their family. She responded, "their Mommy went to news and didn't come home?" I said well, sort of since she knows one of the only times I'm away from her is when I'm "at the news." She helped draw pictures for their albums and watched as I put them together. Then she watched the DVD of the kids we got. I think she just likes being around other children and is more than ready to have playmates. As they were singing she played her drums along with them and followed their hand movements. Later she told me she didn't want a baby sister. I said good, cause you are getting an older sister. It might be a different story when BOTH Mommy and Daddy leave her for 10 days, but then whats better than Grandma all to yourself!

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Adoption Process


I am not a saver, I wouldn't save our tax returns if I didn't have too. I love to throw stuff out and have a house free of clutter and unnecessary receipts. But when you adopt you expand all your horizons. The paperwork we've had to fill out is unbelievable. I have a huge folder full of every copy of everything. We filled out the application for our agency in July of 2005. We did not complete our packet and have everything to Indiana until January of 2006. We now know multiple notaries if you ever need one. Everything must be notarized. You need a home study, which is extremely helpful actually. We met with a social worker twice who had adopted two children from Korea and answered every question you could imagine. She'll work with us again when the children arrive. We had to give two pictures of every main room of our home, a letter from our employers, bank, police department. Then you have to chose a guardian and know their financial information, where they live, how many rooms they have in their home. Oh and the immigration process, it would be easier to do your taxes. I had my fingerprints done four times before they did a sworn statement from me to prove I was not a felon. Apparently the lines on my fingers are too close together to get a good read, I guess it's all those years of swimming. The process has gone on so long we will be doing our fingerprints again a week from today. Immigration is lovely really. I can't believe people still want to come to this country after going through it. The first time we got there they told us it would be a two hour wait. We asked if we could call some morning to find out how busy they were, they told us they didn't have a phone. But then the next time we went, we saw a man (the same one who made me swear on a bible) talking on a phone. When both Scott and I actually got in to do our fingerprints, a woman looked at us like we had sat her lunch and then looked at Annie and said curtly, someones going to have to watch the child. Apparently fingerprinting is as harmful as x-raying. I'm thinking we are from this country, if you treat us this way how on earth do you treat the tired, the poor, the yearning to be free? Then they had the nerve to ask us to fill out surveys at the end. I'm like you need surveys for this experience? If you don't know how awful it is then you are just too dumb to get a real survey so I put a big happy face on the yellow card and told them to provide more magazines for those waiting. Little did I know, I'd have to fill out that card three more times!

This of course is all to protect the children. A few bad adoptions can ruin it for all of us. Child trafficking and child slaves are the main reasons most African countries don't want anything to do with international adoption, but while you're trying to write about your experience growing up as a child for your home study, the children you want home are suffering, it does seem ironic.

I have often thought, I could have had multiple biological children in the time its taken us to adopt, then I think of the pitocin. For those of you who don't know pitocin is one of those drugs they give you to speed up your labor when they think they might need your room. It doesn't speed up the labor for this pregnancy, lord 20 hours is not what I would call a quick childbirth, but it does make it so you never want to have another child and they have your room permanently. The nurses at the hospital where Annie was born gave out so much pitocin they are now know as the Midwest Scrapbooking Association, nothing to do with all those clean sterile rooms but organize the overpriced pictures of newborn babies. People have told me the second child is easier, who on earth would take that risk? Really the second time a tornado knocks down your house is much easier because you already know how to rebuild. I think those are the same people that say you forget about childbirth. I definitely didn't get the drug that induces that. I remember quite well the anesthesiologist having a "trauma" she had to attend to and unable to help me with the half of the epidural that didn't work.

The adoption process definitely has its own pains. I worry about my kids. I remember going to church on Christmas this year and all I could think of was "my kids." I didn't even know who they were yet, I just wondered if they were suffering, if they had any Christmas at all? I know time is of the essence to get them home, the longer it is, the more they will be without the comforts of a first world country. I pray for them every day and ask God to protect them and bring them home safely. It's true what they say, a biological child grows in your tummy, but and adoptive child grows in your heart.

What's the AFAA House?


The AFAA house is a foster care home run by our agency, (Americans For African Adoption). The children come to this home when they have met certain health criteria and our agency thinks they have a family they can match them with. Almost every child in this house will end up going to the United States. Every other summer, AFAA organizes reunions for families in the U.S. so all the kids can once again see each other. This house is supported by the families adopting. So right now we are already financially supporting Abigail and Emmanuel. We pay 175 dollars a month for each of them or 350 dollars total. But what we pay does not meet the operating expenses, the rest of the bill is covered by our agency and donations. Most families, including us, do not mind paying for them in foster care because where they are staying now, no matter how hot it is, is much better than many of the orphanages the kids have come from. Also, they are getting some education here from the house mothers, they are getting American vitamins, and have access to American movies and videos. The house just got a DVD player so they are able to watch DVD's. This, we hope will help with the transition.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Africa's Orphans


You've probably heard about the huge orphan crisis in Africa, mostly because of Aids. Worldwide there are 15 million orphans because of AIDS, 12.1 of those are in Africa. While AIDS is a huge problem all over the continent the biggest problem is in South Africa and Western Africa. Nigeria has 1.8 million orphans, South Africa has 1.1 million AIDS orphans. Liberia has 36,000 orphans from AIDS. Many of their 250,000 orphans is the result of poverty and the civil war. By 2010 Sub-Saharan Africa (includes 38 countries) is expected to have 18 million orphans just from AIDS.

ADOPTION CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE...but unfortunately;
In some African languages there is no word for adoption. It is a new concept. Although there is an increase of adoption by families in some African nations, such as South Africa and Kenya, there are still not enough adoptive families in these countries to take in all the AIDS orphans. It is also not uncommon to see adoptive families in these countries trying to pass off adoptive children as their biological children. They often will not tell their children that they are adopted. This is due mostly to the stigma the families and adopted child would face from other family members and community. There are many families in other countries that are interested in adopting AIDS orphans from Africa. This should only be an option when there are no adoptive families within a child’s birth country. Unfortunately, in many African nations international adoption is not allowed. There is also a fear in many African nations toward international adoption. It is hard for many people to understand why those in others countries would want to adopt African orphans. There are many misconceptions driven by fear surrounding international adoption. There is fear that internationally adopted children will be used as slaves, body part donors or worse.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Liberia's Orphans


With 3.5 million people in a country the size of Tennessee, there are 250-thousand orphans. UNICEF stats show the percent of the population that have either phones or internet is 0! The percentage of the population that has access to adequate sanitation services is 27 percent. Half the population, more than 1.7 million people are children under the age of 18. But in 2005 only 12 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys got passed the fifth grade. Access to health care has gotten tougher, in 1989 there were 400 doctors working for Liberia's Public Health Sector. Now there are only 25 in the whole country. The reason: the doctors make about 100 bucks a year. A private doctor can make between 75 and 85 dollars a month. The government does not have enough doctors to staff every hospital or clinic.

Liberia's Challenges

Liberia is situated on the West African coast and has borders with Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. With a population of approximately 3.5 million, Liberians have a life expectancy of 42 years and a GDP per capita of just US$131.

Liberia has come out of a brutal 23-year period marked by coups, general instability, violence and civil war. This has left the country devastated with its physical infrastructure destroyed and its population traumatised. Thousands of refugees, displaced people and demobilized youths are without education, jobs or hope for the future.

Liberia is rich in natural resources and has historically attracted much investment in shipping, mining of minerals, rubber and timber. The fruits of these resources have not been shared with the majority of the population and despite this natural wealth, 80% of the population live below the poverty line.

Regional stability

Liberia's location on the West African coast, places it at the center of an extremely volatile region, surrounded by countries where civil unrest and armed conflict has been the norm. Former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, currently being tried at the UN-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone for war crimes, still casts a shadow over the region.

Over the last fourteen years of civil conflict in Liberia, civilians have been forced to flee their homes and farms for internally displaced persons' camps, leaving behind farm inputs, abandoned harvests and seeds for future planting. Throughout Liberia, as security improves families are now returning from the displacement camps to their areas of origin without even the basic necessities to start their lives again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

About Liberia




Liberia was founded by Americans so that freed slaves could resettle back in Africa. Monrovia was named after U.S. President James Monroe, and was founded during his term by the American Colonization Society. The first town was established in 1822 on Providence Island. The settlers, or the Americo-Liberians, were engaged in a number of disputes with the indigenous population for many years. In recent years, Liberia has been recovering from fierce fighting lasting 14 years.

Under severe attacks of the liberation groups Lurd and Model, and after pressure from the International Community Liberian President Charles Taylor resigned as leader on August 11 2003. The day before Taylor delivered a defiant farewell speech in which he blamed the country's problems on the United States. At 6.15 p.m. he left Liberia to exile in Nigeria.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia at the November 2005 elections and becomes the first ever female president of Liberia and Africa. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, also known as the ‘Iron Lady’, announced her intention to stand as senatorial candidate in the 1985 elections during the military rule of Samuel Doe. For a brave speech heavily critical of Doe, she was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, of which she served two short periods of detention, one before and one after the 1985 election, before fleeing the country. The years in exile until returning for the presidential race as standard-bearer of the Unity Party in 1997, gave her considerable international experience at the Citibank in Nairobi, the UNDP and the World Bank. She held the post of Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa at the UNDP, formulating development strategies for African economies, and was Senior Loans Officer at the World Bank. Although initially giving support to Charles Taylor’s 1989 invasion to oust Samuel Doe, Johnson-Sirleaf has been an implacable opponent ever since. Her non-involvement in the war and her financial expertise were a mainstay of her campaign message and she endeavoured to put across the image of an untainted, maternal figure.