Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Julie: An Urgent Situation

(Note: If some of my facts are skewed, please let me know, by either posting a comment or by using the “contact” form on the right sidebar, and I will make appropriate corrections.)

This situation is a dilemma for us poor humans, but it is NOT a dilemma for GOD!!

Michelle, who blogs from the perspective of a very recent older-child adoption, agreed to help me "spread the word" about Julie. (She has a lot more blog readers than I do.) She posted the first two paragraphs of this post here, along with a perspective that I can't come even close to matching.

If you came from her site, skip the first two paragraphs below. If you didn't come from her site, please go read it first, before reading the rest of this post.

Julie lives in an orphanage in an Eastern European country.  Her Reece’s Rainbow profile says she “was placed in an orphanage a few years ago.” (“A few years ago” means “a few years before December of 2010," as her profile has not changed since I first read it then. She would have been no more than 12 when it was written, possibly younger).

That means she spent at least the first few years of her life living somewhere other than an orphanage. With her parents? With grandparents or some other family member? Were they happy years? Were they sad years? What traumatic event landed her in the orphanage? I really don’t know. One thing I do know: Transition to an orphanage = loss to the child. Loss of family. (Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and possibly older and / or younger siblings.) Loss of home. At the age she might have been, loss of friends. Loss of familiar surroundings. Loss of any kind of stability.

I also know that her orphanage days are rapidly nearing their end. Adopted or not, she will soon leave the orphanage behind forever. If she isn't adopted, her days there are numbered. It might be as soon as her birthday in April, or she might be allowed to finish out the school year, and remain there until summer – orphanage “graduation.”

If she has done well in school, she could “graduate” to a “trade school,” which does have a “dorm” for the students to live in – but (if I have my facts straight), those “dorms” are rife with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Given that she was “about 3 years behind her agemates” in school 3 years ago (which has probably not improved since then) she might not “qualify” for trade school.

As I understand it, “not qualifying” for trade school puts her out on the streets. No job (and an “orphan” label that makes it hard to get one, even if she had the appropriate skills, which she probably doesn’t.) No money. No place to live. (It gets very cold in her country in the winter!!) No way to buy food. No one to turn to for help or advice. Sound bleak? It is. A very high percentage of young people who “graduate” from the orphanage do not live to the age of 20. The majority of them turn to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and / or crime, in a desperate attempt to survive. (I've read these statistics somewhere; I'd link to them if I could find a source. If you know one, please let me know. Thanks!)

Julie does have a window of hope, albeit a small (and, at this point, rapidly shrinking) one: International adoption. Parents who are willing to take a leap of faith, and invite this teen to be part of their family. Her clock (see the countdown ticker at the top of this page) is rapidly ticking towards “doomsday,” so the process needs to be started ASAP. Like, NOW. (After you take time to pray about it, that is.)

While there is still time for a family brand new to adoption to rescue her, the sooner you can get the process started, the smoother it will be. There is a "best order" for doing things, and making sure nothing is overlooked.

The full adoption process for her country can take 6-8 months, or longer, from the first contact with your social worker until the plane with her on board touches down on US soil. Obviously there isn't that much time left between now and April first. (Not knowing which day in April she was born, the only “safe” assumption is April 1.) Fortunately, the entire process doesn't need to be finished by her birthday. Since it is a US law (not a law of her country) that sets the “age 16 cutoff date,” the adoption can be finalized after her birthday, as long as appropriate paperwork is filed with the USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Service) before then. The folks at Reece’s Rainbow (RR) can walk you through the process. (Please read this page carefully  before you contact them, though.)

Finances. Yes, International Adoption is expensive. Like around $25,000 (yes, that’s 25 grand) from Julie’s country. And that’s just airfare and “in country” costs (housing, transportation, food, facilitator fees. That kind of stuff.) Even families who are fully capable of financially supporting a child once the child is home rarely have that kind of cash just hanging around in their closet collecting dust.

Remember, though, that unwilling human hearts are a far bigger problem to the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills than a few pieces of human currency.

Before you read farther, please go back to the top of this post and re-read that sentence in red and green type. Remember that God is not bound by what looks impossible to us.

This is where the “dilemma” comes in. If you look at different children’s profiles on the RR website, you’ll notice that most of them have an adoption grant fund at the bottom. Julie’s does not, and there is a reason: It has been a long time since RR has had any kind of updated information on Julie. Like (probably) none since whatever was written when she was first listed, at least three years ago. The assumption is that she is still there, and still available, but RR doesn't know for sure. Because of this, they are not comfortable raising funds for her until they either get updated information or a family steps forward to adopt her. (This last bit of info is based on recent direct communication between me and an RR staff member, specifically discussing Julie’s lack of a grant fund.) 

RR may not have any “up-to-date” information on Julie, but GOD does!!!! He has the hairs on her head numbered, and monitors every breath she takes.  HE has a thousand ways of figuring this situation out that we poor mortals have never even thought of

Before you start throwing stones at RR for not keeping their records up-to-date, though, please consider that none of the US-based RR office staff (the ones who post updates to a child’s online profile) actually live in Julie’s country. I don’t know how many, if any, of them have ever even visited it before.
  •  They have little or no direct access to any kind of (official) records, other than what they received when the child was first listed, and getting additional information can be next to impossible in some situations. (Some institutional directors are very anti-adoption, and deliberately sit on unfinished paperwork, to keep the children in their care from being adopted.)
  •  For the most part, RR office staff has to depend on in-country facilitators (local people who work with adopting families while they are physically there), missionaries, and / or families who are adopting another child out of the same orphanage, for any additional information.
  • Sometimes adopting families get to mingle with other children in an orphanage, sometimes not.  Some orphanages confine prospective families to a small area with only the child they are adopting, and give them little or no access to any of the other children living there. (This would prevent them from having additional information about other RR-listed children in that institution to forward on to the home office.)
  •  Facilitators probably keep so busy working with currently-in-country adopting families that they don’t have time (or finances) to go running around the country keeping up with all the kids listed on RR’s site.
  •  Many of these orphanages are in very remote locations, and I can tell you from seven months (2004-2005, and I doubt it's improved) in an Eastern European country not too far from Julie’s that gas is outrageously expensive in that part of the world. Expensive enough to make our highest US prices look (to them) like 99 cents a gallon would look to us.
  •  Not all facilities have missionaries close enough to work with them. Some directors want no part of missionaries or anyone else entering “their” institution, and refuse to grant them access even if they are close enough. 
Again, this presents a real dilemma to us humans. A dilemma that could easily send a potential family looking for “easier” kids – kids with frequently (or at least recently) updated information in their profiles, and lots of money in their grant funds. (I am sure there are people “out there” who would be glad to chip into Julie’s fund, once it is established.)

But then – none of this is Julie’s fault. None of this halts the clock, or puts one extra second of time between now and her 16th birthday. None of this changes her desperate need for a family to take a (larger-than-normal) leap of faith, and step forward immediately.

We do need to keep in mind that God sees a bigger picture than we do, and He may have reasons that go beyond our limited comprehension for keeping Julie’s information unavailable to RR, reasons we will never understand this side of heaven.

Is this is a complicated situation? Yes. (As I suspect dozens of adoptive families will testify, any International adoption is complicated!) Is it an impossible situation? NO. Is Julie worth whatever it takes to bring her home (or to at least give her the opportunity to come home)? Absolutely! We need to go forward on our knees, and, with every “roadblock,” first submitting our wills to God, and second, checking our lives against the blessing of His written word, to make sure there is nothing in us that would prevent Him from working in our behalf. After we have done this, we can rest in His wisdom, trusting Him to work things out however He sees is best. 

 God is bigger than this problem!

A family would also need to keep in mind, and be mentally and emotionally prepared for, the possibility that Julie might not be still available (for any one of many reasons outside Reece's Rainbow's control or knowledge), and that she might (as other older children have done), say "No" to adoption after a family does everything they can do, and actually meets her.

If you are even remotely considering inviting Julie, or any other "older child" to become part of your family, I would like to encourage you to visit Christie at Parenting that Heals. Christie and her husband, Mike have four adult sons. They have also adopted 4 older girls, one from US foster care (if I remember right), one directly from Eastern Europe, and two already in the US from disrupted International adoptions, one of whom was disrupted twice. I have read Christie's entire blog, start to finish, and I have been blessed. While every situation is different (and, with no personal adoption experience, I am definitely "on the outside looking in"), I believe she offers insights into the "whys" of behaviors that so often crop up in International adoptions, as well as some very practical "how to's" for dealing with them, to help you see that, with God's help, this is "doable."

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