Thursday, October 31, 2013

We're not so different in the end

This is a little post to all of you who perhaps didn't view adoption as their #1 choice. To those of you who dreamed about a houseful of little babies that came from your tummy. To those of you who put pillows up your shirt when you played house. To those of you who begged your mom for the Cabbage Patch doll that looked just like you...

Last Saturday night I had a brief phone conversation with a dear friend from college. Life has taken its toll on us and we’ve gotten busy and lost touch. But on Saturday my brother ran into her at a wedding and while he was talking with me, passed the phone to her. The conversation went something like this.

Friend: “Congratulations on your adoption! It’s so awesome. You are getting everything you ever wanted! I’ve been praying for you and your daughter. I’m truly happy for you.”

Sweet friend. Thank you for praying for us. What a kind soul. I appreciate you Anna!

And she is right. It is awesome. Being an adoptive mom is something I have always wanted. And it’s been a cool journey that has been bringing me even closer to my faith, which is ultimately what I have always hoped for too. So it’s really really awesome.

But people, let’s get real, I wouldn’t say the Nikki of Baker University, circa 2003, would have chosen this. If the Nikki of 2003 got what she always dreamed about, what she always thought she wanted, Nikki would have adopted a Chinese baby. A healthy, Chinese, baby. The Nikki of 2003 would have also planned a lot longer for this adoption of this child. The Nikki of 2003 would have thought that she would have had all $32,000 sitting in a bank account marked “Adoption” to just start using and never had to worry about money. The Nikki of 2003 would have thought that she would have had a little more time as a newlywed before she had a 10-year-old sleeping a mere 8 feet away. The Nikki of 2003 would be all caught up on her work so she could finish her last home study and get on a plane and not have to think about work for a month.  The Nikki of 2003 would have wanted her husband to be more set with his work too so they could leave for two-weeks so he could be completely mentally present during the adoption trip.  

But dear ones, this isn’t the Nikki of 2003. This is the Nikki of 2013. 10 years has passed.  And Nikki now isn’t just a Nikki, she’s now a Nikki and Brian. And she’s sharing her life with another person and now about to devote her life to the vocation of mom as well. And so we find the Nikki of 2013 is working through adoption paperwork on top of her already busy work schedule with five jobs at four not-for-profit-agencies. The Nikki of 2013 does not have a fully funded adoption bank account. The Nikki of 2013 is learning how to fundraise and grant write her fool head off. And the Nikki of 2013 has successfully put off (for one full month now) a visit to because she’s too afraid to see what that will offer to her family (and because the website is jankety and she doesn’t have time to sit and wait for it, but mainly because she’s afraid).

And the Nikki of 2013 is learning more about what it means to walk with Jesus and to be humble and submit to plans that are not her own.    

Yes, we chose our child! We know this is God’s plan and we fully embrace it. And we wouldn’t want it any other way. Now I can’t even imagine my life if I was adopting a healthy baby. I don’t want that anymore! I want Yan Yiyi. She is my daughter! 

                                                       So happy for updated photos!

I’m really enjoying learning about blind resources and have loved being in the Empowered to Connect class. We’ve got a meeting coming up in November with the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI) and I can’t wait to have our first appointment with the International Adoption Clinic at The Children’s Mercy Hospital. Although fundraising isn’t natural for me, I am just in complete awe of the generosity of our friends and family members and even some strangers who have come out of the woodwork to support us on our adoption journey. Although a ton of work, I can say that I’ve enjoyed learning more about the grant writing process. I’m a social worker, so that’s just a good idea to know and a good skill to have. Though all of this, I’m becoming a better social worker and advocate for the children from hard places. I love learning about resources and I love sharing it too. This journey has been amazing and our daughter isn’t even home yet.      

I wouldn’t have gotten any of this if the Nikki of 2003 was still here today. I wouldn’t have gotten any of this if we adopted the way I thought we would.  I would have missed all of this gold. This is life changing. This is faith. This is growing. And I’ve learned how to tame the frizz in my hair too. So, I’m pretty grateful for this decade.     

I don’t know why, but I thought my path would look different. And then it occurred to me, I’m not walking my path, I’m walking down our path. And while that path may look to some like I am getting everything I ever wanted on the surface, look deeper, and see that I’m not so different from you.

We haven’t struggled with infertility. I have always wanted to adopt, this is true. But in the end, our families will look similar and our journeys will too.    


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Its about fundraising and a Negative Nancy

Fundraising and grant writing is something many adoptive families will have to go through. It’s something most of my clients have to do. Oh sure, I’ve helped here and there over the years as I’ve been needed. I’ve helped complete verifications of fees paid, I’ve written letters of support for my clients, I’ve shared my opinion of their needs through needs assessment forms and I’ve given them ideas about great fundraiser ideas.

However, through all of this, I can now see (over here, on the other side) that I truly never had a clue. I had no idea how much time went into one grant application. I had no clue as to how much work went into one fundraiser. I had no grid for the fact that fundraising and grant writing is truly more work than the home study and dossier put together. People, you’ve been holding out on me! Remember, we’re in a truth nest now. Share!  

But lots of us do it. Why? Because $32,000 is an outrageous sum of money. Because there is no reason that you should spend the good bulk of your annual salary to adopt a child. Because after the actual adoption fees you have an entire lifetime of paying to raise this child. Because many are adopting special needs children these days, and while it’s great that you’ll not be denied health insurance coverage now, your monthly premiums are outrageous. Because you are going to need to pay for “non-medically necessary” surgeries, tutoring, therapy (emotional, occupational, physical). Because you never want to be in a position that you tell your child who you recently adopted that she can’t live her dream of taking ballet classes because you blew your nest egg on paying for the adoption, which brought her here in the first place, which is the only reason she can even conceive of taking ballet class, which you can’t afford, because you used all your nest egg to pay for the adoption.

So you pony up and Frugal Frannie it and get creative about making dinner with things you pull out of the freezer.     

But, you also shouldn’t put yourselves into a position that you haven’t turned the furnace on because you’re afraid it isn’t going to come on because it’s 18 years old and if it doesn’t come on you’re going to have to spend some of your adoption savings on a new furnace. So you put your hoodies on and throw an extra blanket on and look ahead at the weather report to see how long you can do this.

Adopting parents should not have to live this way.

So what do you do? You apply for grants and pray. And you turn to your friends and family members for their contributions and help. And you are so grateful for their prayers, donations, and love. And they rejoice with you as you walk this journey. And they are all part of the child’s story now. And they love it. And you are grateful and rejoice with them right back.  

And yes, there is a big part of you that feels bad for asking. Asking for money isn’t comfortable for most people. But you have to remember that many people are just looking for a cause to contribute to, one for which they really believe in and can get behind. And perhaps that’s your adoption, but if you never asked, you would never know how much they wanted to be involved. And at the end of the day you have the financial blessings, and they have the blessing of knowing that they helped a good cause that they truly believe in. And everyone leaves with warm fuzzies.

But, my friends, I must warn you. Your reception will not always be warm. And this cool reception will come in the midst of 99 warm receptions. And that cool reception can have the power to sadly overshadow all the warm ones. Please don’t let it get you down! Relent and come back even more positive than before.

For Brian that one cool reception was through an email that came last week. He had sent an email notifying people of an adoption fundraiser. Some of those people chose to share it with others and broaden the net of people we were reaching out to. Dozens of positive emails came back. We were added to a ton of prayer group lists and received a lot of incredibly sweet email responses. Many blessings, prayers, poems, and love were shared. But one person did not take kindly to the email forwarded to him. And the email went just like this.

“You should be ashamed. Pay your own expenses. We adopted 2 children and never asked anyone for money. Don't be a cheap###.” (expletive deleted).

Brian was downtrodden and upset. We don’t know this person. That’s just unkind and quite uncalled for. And, to be honest, totally untrue. It is not being cheap to ask people for donations for an adoption. It’s not being cheap to encourage people to bring a meal after you get out of the hospital after birthing your newborn. It’s not cheap to have a wedding or baby shower. It’s not being cheap to ask for some gift cards for gas or tooth paste if your 3-year-old gets leukemia and you have to take crazy time off work to stay with him in the hospital. That’s just called compassion and kindness.

I have had this man on my heart this past week since we got the email.  To this man, I say, I’m so glad you have been blessed by amazing financial resources. I’m so glad you are great managing your money. And what I’m most glad about is that your family has been richly blessed by two children through adoption. I hope those kids will grow up with a dad who teaches them compassionate giving. I hope they will grow up knowing what it is to give to those in need, whether that’s through service work or financial contributions. And I hope, for your sake, that you never get into a position where you are humbled in having to ask for some help. You might not bounce back from that!

We’ve learned a lot of lessons through this. And we’re going to keep learning. And to you folks who are in the grant writing and fundraising process, bless your hearts! Keep up the great work, and remember it’s all going to be good in the end. Just think about this as the first of many times that you are going to have to advocate for your family and hang on.

Parenting is a bumpy ride. Ask anyone. Well, maybe don’t ask email guy. But anyone else should do.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dear Reuters

Dear Reuters,

Thank you. On behalf of the the adoption community, I want to sincerely thank you for what you did in uncovering so much ugly in your piece The Child Exchange. It was legitimately good journalism. In 2013, we’re not accustomed to news agencies “breaking” stories anymore. Boy, did you surprise us with that piece! Seriously. I am an adoption social worker and I had no idea these things happened. I’ve assisted in some agency involved disillusioned adoptions, as well as disruptions, and I just ignorantly thought everyone handled it the right way (through an agency and using attorneys). I didn’t know there was another way. You have opened my eyes to something so horrific, so ugly, and somewhat widespread, and I want to sincerely thank you for that. That was quality information and we are so incredibly grateful for bringing something so horrible to the forefront. I’m just going to ignore some of the not-so-adoption-friendly language in the article, so you’re good.

And now a section I like to call “REALLY, Reuters?” with Nikki.

Really Reuters…

Did you think through this before printing it? Did you stop and think about the possible repercussions that may arise from that? Did you really think that the government officials of every adoption sending country would just overlook something like that? Really? You’re Reuters. People respect and admire you and don’t just overlook those things.  

Reuters, is your aim to shut down international adoption? Really? I don’t want to this is true, but perhaps it is. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I really don’t think so. You seem like good people. Really. I’m sure you are moms and dads just like everyone else out there. I’m sure you love your babies and love getting home to fix them dinner and tuck them into bed at night. I’m sure some of you have adopted your own children, yourself been adopted, placed a baby for adoption, or know someone close to you who has been involved with an adoption. I’m sure you are not anti-adoption in general, or probably you wouldn’t have picked up this piece. Really.  

But really Reuters, you put out this story and within days we have yet one more country to add to our list of countries closed to adoption. And then we’ve got another country, giving us two hours to prepare for a conference call that occurred a week and a half ago, telling us this story opened their eyes to some new things and about how we might have to spend longer time in country and possibly do post-adoption reports until the child is 18 years old. It was nearly two hours of call and an 11 point plan outlined within just a few days as response to the horrors of your article that, let’s face it, is going to affect everyone. I’m happy to spend more time in country but Reuters, were you were planning pay for my extra travel fees and time off work?       

I understand this is part of a series of pieces about adoption. I hope the next segment is good, because Reuters, really, there is a lot of good information out there about adoption. Hey, maybe you could interview me! I can tell you stories until the cows come home. If you sat and talked with me, I could tell you about kids on my caseload from all around the world. I could tell you about Claire*, a child with a heart condition adopted from China at age 13, who just six months after being adopted was her school’s freshman homecoming princess. Or I could tell you about the Jackson* family who adopted a perfectly healthy girl from China, only for her to have a near death seizure five months after arriving home and never to walk again. Oh, but they love that child to the ends of the earth and back! The truth is, she probably wouldn’t be alive today if that seizure occurred when she was still in the orphanage.  Or I could tell you about Justin* and Meredith*, the sweet parents who adopted Elizabeth* from Ethiopia, a child with medical needs so profound, upon arrival in the United States, they drove straight to the hospital, no stopping at home, to spend their next two full weeks there just keeping her alive. Elizabeth just enjoyed a European vacay, catching the eye of tourists all around Europe with her cuteness! Or I could tell you about Matthew Jones*, who, adopted at age 14 from China, is living out two of his dreams that involve playing baseball and playing the piano. And might I say, he’s quite gifted at both even though he didn’t start either until age 15.  

Do you need me to keep going? I really can you know. 9 full years of these stories and I can have them at the ready in a mere moments notice for you. And I would be happy to do that for you, cause you know, you’re Reuters and I would be honored to help.

Just really think about what you’re doing next time before you uncover something this outrageous. And perhaps, you can print the good bit or bits next. We might need a little pick-me-up from you right about now.

Thanks bunches,


*names changed for confidentiality. But if you were one of the stories and you know who you are, thanks for having an awesome story that I can share!