How does she do it?

I've been trying to remember to take more video lately.  I keep thinking that I want to share how Jovia does some of the every day things I often take for granted.  Also, I know several families who are adopting children with limb differences who are anxious to see how she figures out how to do things.  I remember looking anxiously for videos and photos before Jovia came home.     

This is Jovia coloring at a restaurant.  She's quite the pro now.  Sometimes she uses a foam piece to make the crayon longer/thicker so they are easier to hold.  But we often forget it at home and she has to use the crayon as it is.  Sometimes while going out to eat the host or hostess will bring crayons and a coloring page for everyone except Jovia, assuming she can't use them.  :(  She notices this and it makes her sad.  I say, always assume someone can do more than it looks like they can!  



Lilly is home!

We are so excited to announce that Lillian is finally (finally!) home! 

Here's the story:

We were originally told that Lilly's medical file would be cleared on February 19.   When we inquired if it was ready they told us that it wouldn't be ready until after the 27th.    We were disappointed but trying to wait patiently.  On February 25 I woke up and found an email from the medical clinic stating that her file was complete and that we could come get Lilly!  I was so excited I jumped out of bed and started dancing around the room.  I called Keith at work and was so excited I could hardly tell him what was going on.   He said "are you ok?!?!" because I was so out of breath.  :)  My next email was to our travel agent to book tickets!

Getting ready to head to the Embassy. 

Getting ready to head to the Embassy. 

I spent the next day packing and getting things ready to head back to Uganda.   I left on Thursday night.  After two very long days of travel I was reunited with Lilly on Sunday morning.  When I pulled into the compound I saw her on the balcony and heard her squeal with delight when she saw us.  It was so wonderful to see her after a month away! 

We had three more appointments at the US Embassy before I could take Lilly home - a paperwork check, a visa interview and to pick up the visa.   My goal was to have the paperwork check on Monday, visa appointment on Wednesday, pick up the visa on Friday and come home that weekend.   We were all praying that this timing would work out so that I wouldn't be gone longer two weeks.  

Monday morning we got up bright and early to make it to an 8am appointment at the Embassy. Our driver was stuck in traffic and running late but we thought we were going to make it.  At 7:30 we were stuck in traffic again and we realized that we weren't going to make it to the Embassy in time via car.  Lilly and I jumped out of the car and flagged down a Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) and took an exhilarating 20 minute ride to the Embassy.  We made it!   They called us in promptly and confirmed that all of our paperwork looked good.  I asked them if we could have a Wednesday visa appointment and she said "can you come back this afternoon at 2?"   Of course, I said yes! 

We got on another boda and went to spend a few hours with one of my adoptive families at the court house and then have lunch.   We were happily eating Chinese but I forgot to keep track of the time.  At 1:40 our friend pointed out the time so Lilly and I jumped up and ran out the door.  We didn't have time to get back to the car and drive so we got another boda and back to the Embassy we went.  

Our visa appointment went very well.  They told us that our case was very solid and "cut and dry".   They told us we normally would be able to pick up the visa on Wednesday but there might be a complication.

Lake Victoria while we wait for news. 

Lake Victoria while we wait for news. 

She was not sure if our case should fall under the new universal accreditation act rules.  I pointed out that we clearly were grandfathered in based on information provided on the USCIS website.  She said she wanted to double check with Washington.   She told us that if she heard from Washington that we do indeed fall under the new rules that  I would have to go back home and have our homestudy re-done.  :(   They said "if you don't hear from us by Tuesday afternoon, you won't be able to get the visa on Wednesday and will have to wait until Friday to hear something."     

Monday night and all of Tuesday was spent sending emails back and forth, first to the Embassy, then to advocates in Washington who might be able to help.  We were praying for a miracle,  I just couldn't imagine having to leave Lilly again and go home for several months to re-do our homestudy.  

Wednesday morning I checked my email.   When I saw the email from the Embassy I held my breath as I read it.   When I saw this:  "we have finally determined that your case is grandfathered in to the pre-UAA regulations.  The visa and travel packet will be ready today (Wednesday) at 4:00pm" I screamed and started dancing around the living room.   Lilly came running.  I told her "we can get your visa today!" and she started jumping up and down.  Prayers answered!  Thank you Jesus! 

Lilly can go home!

Lilly can go home!

We spent the day packing and running errands.   I kept waiting for it be morning time in the US so that I could call our travel agent and see if there was any way to get us tickets home that same night.  It didn't seem likely but we wanted to be prepared so we loaded our bags up in the car just in case.  

While we were pulling up to the Embassy the travel agent called me back and said that yes, indeed, we could fly home that night.  Another prayer answered!  

We were handed the visa around 4:30pm.  It felt so surreal.  I was really, truly going to be able to take my daughter home! 

We spent the next few hours putting necessary paperwork together, packing last minute items, and saying goodbye to friends.  After a quick stop for dinner we left town around 7pm and headed to the airport.   

This moment felt so surreal. 

This moment felt so surreal. 

Lilly was so, so excited.  I don't think the big grin on her face left for hours. 

Our flight left Uganda at midnight.   Lilly slept most of the flight to Brussels.  We arrived in Belgium very early in the morning and I made a beeline for Starbucks.  :)

We spent a couple of hours hanging out in Brussels waiting for our next flight.  Lilly was tired and cold but still smiling.  Everything was so big and new.  Automatic toilets and sinks were a shock, as were moving walkways.   Our next flight was uneventful but felt long.  Lilly slept for a few hours and watched some movies.   We were ready to get to America and she kept asking how much longer until we arrived.  

Starbucks breakfast. 

Starbucks breakfast. 

 

Our point of entry in the US was Newark.   Immigration in the US always makes me a little nervous but it was painless (took less than 15 minutes) and soon we were going through customs with our bags.  Lilly laughed and said "goodbye again, suitcases!" as we turned them back over to the airline.  One more flight, I promised her.  A short one.   She smiled but at this point was clearly getting very, very tired and overwhelmed.  

Our flight home was less than 2 hours.   Lilly and I both fell asleep immediately.  I woke up as we were landing.  I had a hard time getting her to wake up to get off the airplane.  At this point we'd been traveling more than 24 hours, 18 of those in airplanes.  

We were met by Keith and the kids at the airport.   Everyone got hugs but we were anxious to beeline out of there.  We bundled Lilly up in her new coat and hat, got our bags and piled into the van.  Another first, a car with a TV.  She was amazed.   We made a pit-stop at a restaurant to meet up with my mom, the rest of the kids, my sister and her kids.  After a few more hugs and some dinner we headed home.  Lilly was in a daze the entire time, she was exhausted. 

We got home around 8pm Thursday night.   The kids were so excited to show Lilly her new home and room.  She walked around the house with a big smile on her face.  We let the kids play for a few minutes but soon got everyone in pajamas and in bed.   I couldn't believe it.  We were all home, under one roof.  

Lilly has now been home for 3 days.   She is doing remarkably well.  I know we are honeymooning right now and that at some point it's all going to hit her how much her life has changed and everything that has happened.  But for now, we're enjoying this time.  She is an amazingly strong, resilient and sweet young lady.  The other kids have been very happy and excited.  Keith joked that she is like a new toy, they just can't leave her alone!  Every second of the day we're hearing "Lilly, come here!  Lilly, look at me!  Lilly, come with me!"   We're trying to give her some down time and keep the other kids from overwhelming her with their enthusiasm.  :)  We've seen each of the other kids acting a bit more emotional and needy since we've been home.  There have been tears.  But we know that is all normal.  Everyone has been getting along well and  we are feeling very blessed and happy.   

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We want to thank all of you....everyone who prayed, cheered us on, fund-raised, donated money, shared our story and sent encouraging words.  You have helped us provide this amazing little girl with a family. We are so, so grateful for you all.  

Can you believe it? Lilly is home!!! 

Party of Six

Party of Six


Special Needs Adoption Resources {Part 2}

My adorable baby boy with his posterior walker.  Benjamin's diagnosis's include cerebral palsy, microcephaly, Pierre Robin Sequence, cleft palate, epilepsy, micotia, VSD, global developmental delays and oral aversion.  He is the the sweetest little boy and brings so much joy to our family.  

My adorable baby boy with his posterior walker.  Benjamin's diagnosis's include cerebral palsy, microcephaly, Pierre Robin Sequence, cleft palate, epilepsy, micotia, VSD, global developmental delays and oral aversion.  He is the the sweetest little boy and brings so much joy to our family.  

Part 2 of my notes from the Special Needs Adoption breakout session I led at T4A.   Find Part 1 HERE.  

In Part 2 I'm going to talk about setting up therapy and medical care post adoption.  I'm going share how to find state assistance programs that can help with the cost of medical care post-adoption.   I'm going to spotlight a specific special need and share some information for researching that condition.  

I'm also going to provide some links that I find helpful or I think are worth reading.  A couple of those links will be about funding your adoption. 

What else do you want to know about Special Needs adoption?  Send me a question in the form below and I'll try my best to answer it!  (You can share your name or make it anonymous!  But if you'd like a private reply be sure to include your email). 

Setting Up Medical Care Post Adoption

1.  Contact specialists related to your child's diagnosis at your local children's hospital.  You can find your local hospitals by going to the Children's Hospital Association  website and searching for your state/area.  If you go "additional criteria" you can search for specialists related to specific diagnosis's.  

 If your hospital has an International Adoption Clinic these are often a great place to start as they can make referrals to all the specialists you may need to see.   The first couple of months after your child comes home is often crazy with medical appointments and and evaluations.   Don't freak out, things level out and slow down eventually.  The first couple of months tend to be the hardest! 

2.  Make contact with the pediatrician you plan to use prior to the child's homecoming to make sure they will see the child.  Some pediatricians aren't comfortable seeing children will significant special needs, so find one who is.  

Setting up Therapy (Physical, Occupational, Speech, Feeding, etc)

  1. Children birth to 3 - Early Intervention. Contact your local board of Developmental Disabilities for more information.  Early Intervention is a national program and is available in every state.  Exact services offered vary by state/city.  Evaluation is always free.  If your child qualifies for services after evaluation, Early Intervention can provide therapies, auditory/hearing services, assistance with feeding, counseling, medical assistance, adaptive equipment, etc.  In some states/cities these services are free.  Other times fees are based on a sliding scale.  You cannot be denied assistance based on inability to pay.

  2. Children over 3. School district services.  At age 3, the school district can take over with assistance for your child with special needs.  In some states, you are eligible for itinerant services (you just take your child in for therapies) even if you homeschool.  Contact your local board of developmental disabilities and/or school district for information on what is  available in your area.

  3. Children of all ages.  Private therapies/services.  If you have insurance you may be able to have therapy and services provided by a private provider.  Contact your insurance to find out what services are covered in your plan.  

A beautiful little girl waiting for a family in West Africa.  

A beautiful little girl waiting for a family in West Africa.  

State Programs for Assistance with Medical Costs

Some (many) states offer programs to assist with the cost of medical care, medication and equipment for families who qualify.   This is typically called a program for children with special healthcare needs.  

In Ohio this program is called Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps (BCMH).  In California it is called California Children's Services.   Each state has their own name/program.  You can search different states at this link.  

In addition to state programs certain special needs may have other programs devoted to financial assistance.  For example there are programs like Ryan White and co-pay assistance organizations for children who are HIV+.  

Interesting Links:

Giving Up Retirement - Older Adults Adopting Children

Abe's Story (Adopted Child with CP)

My Child Without Limits

Helpful Websites for Families with Children with Special Healthcare Needs

Children with Special Needs

Top 100 Special Needs Resources on the Internet 

Empowered to Connect

Adoption Grants & Loans and the Ultimate List of Adoption Fundraisers

How Ordinary Families Afford Adoption

Adopting a Child with Downs Syndrome

Downs Syndrome is a common special need seen in children waiting for families.  Most of the children are waiting in Eastern Europe but occasionally you also see a waiting child in other countries with DS.  Older children with DS are sometimes waiting here in the US fostercare system.  Young, otherwise healthy babies with DS are often placed relatively quickly with families.  But for children past infancy or in less popular adoption programs these children often wait a long time to be chosen for adoption.

Downs Syndrome comes with several physical traits:   low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm.  Children with Downs Syndrome almost always have an intellectual disability as well, but the severity varies greatly.  Some children have a near normal IQ, others are significantly mentally disabled. 

Maybe now you’re asking, what is like parenting a child with Downs Syndrome?  I don’t think there is any better way to know than to hear it right from the lips (or in this case, the fingertips!) of those who are doing it. 

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To be honest, parenting a child with Down syndrome really isn't much different than parenting any other child. There are certain health issues that can go along with Down syndrome, but thankfully with correct therapy, the right medical care, and lots of love, people with Down syndrome can live productive, full lives. I have a sister who was born with Down syndrome ten years ago. The best piece of advice we were given by her therapists were to never treat her differently. Expect the same things from her that we would expect from any other child, just expect it to take a little longer for her to get. Now, parenting our daughter who happens to have an extra chromosome as well, we live by that advice. Due to low muscle tone that goes along with Down syndrome, it will take her a bit longer to hit milestones such as sitting up, crawling, walking, and talking. We know, though, that all of those things are things she is capable of. At the same time we are teaching her, she is teaching us as well. She is teaching us to slow down. She is teaching us joy in the little things we usually take for granted. She is teaching us what a blessing Down syndrome truly is.”  - Bridgette Boswell  

Adeye Salem has a great blog series started where families who are parenting children with various special needs share their blogs and stories.  You can find the Downs Syndrome page here: http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/2013/06/adoption-awareness-down-syndrome.html

Here are some other helpful links to jump start your research:

Myths & Truths about Downs Syndrome  http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/Myths-Truths/

National Downs Syndrome Adoption Network http://www.ndsan.org/

Reece’s Rainbow http://reecesrainbow.org/

National Association for Downs Syndrome http://www.nads.org/

Special Needs Adoption Resources {Part 1}

My beautiful daughter on her first day of school.  

My beautiful daughter on her first day of school.  

I promised months ago that I would share my notes from the T4A breakout session I did on special needs adoption.  Things got a little bit crazy...we traveled to get Lilly shortly after and it's been a rollercoaster ever since!   So, I apologize for not posting this sooner.   

Maybe you're just starting to research special needs adoption and don't know where to start.  I want to help!  In Part 1 I'm going to go over some suggestions for how to get started.  I'm going to talk a little bit about financial concerns post adoption since I hear questions about that constantly.  I'm also going to answer a few other questions I hear regularly. (I'll answer more questions in part 2)  What else do you want to know about Special Needs adoption?  Send me a question in the form below and I'll try my best to answer it!  (You can share your name or make it anonymous!  But if you'd like a private reply be sure to include your email). 

OK, here we go.  Special Needs Adoption Resources.  Part 1.

A precious baby boy with special needs waiting for a family.   He is blind and has other special needs. Send me a message if you'd like more information. 

A precious baby boy with special needs waiting for a family.   He is blind and has other special needs. Send me a message if you'd like more information. 

Getting Started

1.  Pray for God’s direction! But this huge undertaking isn't something you should be doing alone.  Your church & pastor should be praying with you.  Ask the Lord for guidance on the special needs you are best suited to. 

2.  Research and research some more!  Join forums devoted to various special needs and ask for families to contact you to give you an idea of what parenting a child with that particular special need looks like.  Watch online videos.  There are lots!  Many disabilities have their own advocacy organizations and the websites often have family stories or ways to contact other parents.  

3.  Consider the countries from which you are qualified to adopt.  Rainbow Kids lists most adoption programs and has qualifications for each country.  http://www.rainbowkids.com/countries/

4.  Start looking at photolistings if you are hoping to adopt a waiting child.  If you see a child you're interested in, contact the agency for more information. (A list of photolistings will be posted below.)

5.  Choose your agency very carefully.   Research the reputation of that agency.  There are review organizations that can help you get non-biased information.  Join forums and Yahoo! groups devoted to that country and ask for experiences with that agency.   Transparency is key.  Any hint of secrecy or gag clauses are reasons to run-not-walk away from that program!  While the chances of adopting a trafficked child are less when you are adopting a older waiting/special needs child, you still need to make sure that the child is a true orphan and do your homework!  

6.  Contact your insurance to discuss what is covered in your plan.  Do they cover therapies?  If so, how many per month/year?  What are your co-pays for doctors visits, hospitalizations, medications? 

Financial Concerns - Paying for your child's medical care post adoption

Not every special needs child requires expensive medical care.  I'd be happy to talk to you more about what kinds of special needs might require more extensive medical care/treatment if this is a concern for you.  Believe it or not we have very little out of pocket costs directly related to our children's special needs.  Please don't let fears about finances be the reason you say no to a child with special needs who needs a family.

1. All families who adopt are required to have insurance.  For the most part, your insurance is required by law to accept your adopted children as if that child was born to you with no pre-existing conditions. 

2. State assistance programs:  Some states have a program that offers financial assistance to families of children with special healthcare needs.  These are often a “payor of last resort” and may cover costs/co-pays not covered by insurance.  If you search for “Children with Special Healthcare Needs” in your state, you may find a program like this.  You can also ask your Department of Developmental Disabilities for information.  There are income requirements with these programs. 

3. Medicaid/CHIP:  Free insurance for those who qualify.  http://www.medicaid.gov

4. Suplemental Security Income (SSI) for children with disabilities: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10026.pdf

Some Interesting Links

Best States to Live For Special Needs Children (opinion piece, Ohio isn’t listed here and it’s widely known as having great support for families of children with special needs, so may not be comprehensive).

No Hands but Ours (focus on China but good SN adoption information for all)

Family Voices - Health Care Financing Information

A very sweet and adorable 5 year old boy with cerebral palsy who has waited too long for a family.  He has so much potential and is such a sweet little boy! 

A very sweet and adorable 5 year old boy with cerebral palsy who has waited too long for a family.  He has so much potential and is such a sweet little boy! 

Some FAQ/Concerns

Question: My husband and I both work, do you think we'll be able to give a special needs child what he/she needs? 

Answer:  First of all, think of where many/most of these children are coming from.  A loving two parent family where both parents work is more than likely going to be a far superior situation than the one they were in before.  If the child had a choice between an orphanage/institution or a loving family where they had a babysitter, I would guess that the child would choose a loving family. :) The other thought, we see many children with special needs over age 5 in need of families.  These children can go to school just like your other kiddos, they can even get their therapies during school hours!  Schools are required to provide an appropriate education for your child with special needs.  More information at the IDEA website. 

Question: Can we adopt a child if we are a part of a Christian healthcare sharing program like Medi-Share or Samaritan Ministries?   

Answer:  Maybe.  Some agencies will allow this and others will not.  Check with your placing and homestudy agency for more information.  A bigger problem is that many of these programs will not add an adopted special needs child to your plan so you will need to talk to the healthcare program you are working with to make sure your child can be added. 

Photolistings 

Reece’s Rainbow 

 Rainbow Kids  

Precious.org   

 Adopt US Kids  

Shepherd’s Crook  

Positively Orphaned (HIV+)  

Project Hopeful  

Ordinary Hero   

In addition to the above, many agencies have their own photolistings.   **Many times you have to request a password to view waiting children. 

Still waiting for Lilly

7,500 miles away Lilly is still waiting to come home. 

We are tired. 

We are so, so ready for this journey to be over and for her to be home forever. 

We miss her.  She misses us. 

The countdown is on.  We have somewhere between 10 - 20 days before we expect hear that she's cleared to come home.  

I'll be on an airplane as soon as I get the OK to go get her!

She's doing OK, all things considered.  Staying with people we love, playing with babies, hanging out with friends.   

Keep praying for our sweet girl.  We're all very ready to start our lives as a family of six.  

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The homestretch....

Two months ago this beautiful little girl ran into our arms. 

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Lilly is a different child today.   She's sitting on the couch beside me, signing a song and looking at pictures on my phone.  She's so outgoing and silly now.  Cracking jokes and making her opinion known.    She has been through more in her 11 years than most adults go through in their entire lives.  And yet she is still so sweet, so joyful.   

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Lilly will be cleared to come home at the end of February or early March.   We are so very ready for our entire family to be reunited.   She is very ready as well.  Every day she asks me when we can go home.   We look at the calendar and talk about each step in the process, I try to explain why things take so long.  We pray and ask God to clear the way home for her.  She is anxious but waiting patiently now.   

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We covet your prayers  as we enter the homestretch of this adoption.  Thank you for being with us so far.  For your support, love and prayers.   We are believing that Lilly will be home soon and our lives as a family of six can really begin.  

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Christmas 2013

Being in the adoption process during Christmas time is hard.

Someone is missing.  Our sweet Lilly isn't home yet.   

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She spent her Christmas with wonderful friends of ours in-country.  We miss her so much and are hoping and praying that she is home very soon. 

The rest of our family was able to be together for Christmas.  That was an unexpected gift, we thought the rest of us would be separated this year as well.   I'm so grateful we were together. 

We had a wonderful (and busy!) Christmas.   On Christmas eve we got together with my parents and the kids to exchange gifts.  Christmas morning, we were awake before the kids!   As everyone got up we read the Christmas story from the Bible and opened gifts. The kids were ecstatic about their presents.   We ate breakfast, got dressed and headed to Keith's moms house to have lunch with his family.  The kids always get SO excited about going to Grandmas.  :)   We had a yummy meal with family and then headed home.  

Keith is still quite jetlagged so he went to nap while the kids and I made rolls and finished the cookies for our last get together of the day.   That evening we went to my aunt and uncles house to have Christmas dinner with my side of the family.   The kids had fun running around with their cousins and eating some more yummy food.   One of my relatives made a Happy Birthday cake and someone asked "who's birthday is it?" - Mayer yelled out "It's Jesus' birthday!!"  :)  

The kids favorite gifts:  Millen:  Black boots  Kensia:  polaroid camera  Finn:  BB gun  Mayer:  Beyblade set  Jovia:  Rollerskating Dora & Boots  Benjamin:  Play kitchen 

After dinner my sister CJ and I did our annual Christmas night movie, this year some of the "big kids" joined us (and CJ's boyfriend) to see the Hobbit.  

We had a busy and wonderful day.  I head back to Lilly next week.  Please keep praying with us that she can come home soon so that we can all be reunited.   Merry Christmas friends! 

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5 weeks ago today....

Five weeks ago today, we boarded an airplane and headed off to Africa to bring "LK" into our family. 

After five long week, a lot of prayer and a lot of waiting, we are thrilled to share that the judge said yes and we have another daughter!!  Lilly is 11 years old and is an amazing little girl.  We are in love. 

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Now, the big question.  "When is she coming home?! 

The answer to that is we don't know yet.  We hope she'll be home at the end of February or beginning of March.  This is a long, drawn out process but we are trusting and believing that our Lord knows when Lilly should come home and we're striving to be content with His timing.  We know that someday soon our family of six will all be united under one roof. 

Thank you, friends, for all of your prayers and support during this adoption.  We ask that you continue praying while we work to bring Lilly home.  I can't wait to share the news that we are all home together.  

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