Remember last month when I said I felt like we were on the verge of greatness? Well, it turns out we certainly are. But that greatness looks a whole lot different than I had expected! It turns out that instead of continuing on to Ethiopia, we'll be turning towards South Africa instead.
Yep, that's right. South Africa. We are switching programs! I know you're probably shaking your head right now, thinking "Will they ever make up their minds?" or "Is this adoption ever really going to happen?" And it's okay, I don't blame you for having those thoughts (we have them sometimes, too!) But I can confidently say that I think this is the wisest decision we've made since starting this crazy journey.
As you may have gathered from my previous posts, international adoptions in Ethiopia are not looking good right now. Ethical concerns are high, and therefore referrals have slowed waaay down. Some agencies have been shut down. Others have closed due to financial strain. From the beginning of this journey, adoption ethics have been hugely important to Ryan and I. The last thing we want is to unknowingly participate in or contribute to any process that commodifies orphans. Our current placing agency- who we trust and love dearly- shares that same viewpoint. They continue to advocate for ethical adoptions for the orphans in their care in Ethiopia, but even they seem concerned as to whether or not they'll be able to continue placing children in the months ahead.
For all of these reasons, we've known for awhile now that we wouldn't be able to continue on with Ethiopia. And yet, to walk away entirely from adoption is not the answer for us either. To do so would be to forget about Lulu, and all the other little boys and girls like her who continue to wait for a family.
As luck would have it, I recently stumbled upon a small program run by Spence-Chapin, a New York based nonprofit, in partnership with Johannesburg Child Welfare in South Africa. The goal of the program is to find families for special needs children ranging from 2 to 8 years old who haven't been able to be adopted domestically (you can go here to learn more). South Africa is a Hague Convention country, which means the adoptions are governed by strict Hague adoption procedures. We scheduled a call with the program director last Monday. After hanging up the phone, neither of us could wipe the smiles off our faces. It just felt right. We quickly called her back and said "WE'RE DOING IT!" then stayed up until 2AM that morning filling out our application.
Unfortunately this means we're pretty much starting over at square one. We're going to redo our home study with Spence-Chapin, so that we can be approved for a sibling pair (yep, we're going for SIBLINGS!) Then of course we'll also have to complete an entirely new dossier..but I've heard they're a little easier the second time around ;) Our hope is that we'll have everything sent off to South Africa by June. After that, we've been told to expect a referral within about 6 months, and to travel about 3-4 months later to take custody of the children.
It would be easy to look at this past year as a big waste - the time we spent chasing paperwork, the time we spent waiting, and the thousands of dollars that we paid towards an adoption that will never happen - but, strangely, I don't feel bitter at all. I think this last year was about us getting here, to this very point.
And so, we're settling back into the wait again. And yet, the wait is so different this time, because now we know it will come to an end. And when it does, we'll be a family of four.