Tuesday, September 30, 2008

and the paperwork saga continues...

Tuesday and no approval yet. The nice CIS lady received the paperwork from our adoption agency yesterday but not the paperwork from our social worker. I had asked our social worker to overnight the documents as soon as she had them done. She had them completed on Friday but thought that sending everything via a 3 day guaranteed delivery date would be fine since no one would be in the office until Monday anyway. Well, in theory, that is fine. But we're dealing with a large government agency and fine turns into a longer wait time, of course. The CIS lady didn't have the homestudy documents in her hand as of yesterday afternoon. She said they were likely in the mailroom and it could take a day or two to get to her desk. She said she would call me when she received everything. I actually do believe her b/c she has called several times already. I'll wait until Thursday and then I'll be calling to check on things. So, she potentially has two whole days without getting a phone call from me! I'm sure she won't miss me!!

And here we sit. Still waiting. On silly paperwork. I wanted to post an update yesterday but had nothing to share. So, I spent an hour adding some of my favorite songs to my playlist. Just what you all were waiting for, huh?!! It actually made my day quite enjoyable. I plugged my computer into an outlet in my kitchen and listened to all of my favorite songs while making dinner. Oh, I LOVE good Christian music. And then I made my family listen to all the songs while we played a bored (!!)... I mean board game last night. Every time I heard a song I would say, "Oh, this is my all time favorite song." And then the next one would play and I'd say, "No, it is totally this one." And so it went...over and over. I just have too many favorites to have a REAL favorite. And it kept me awake and happy during a very long game.

So, off to make dinner. It will be a bit more enjoyable since Steven Curtis Chapman and Natalie Grant and Fernando Ortega and Cindy Morgan and a few others will be joining me too...

Happy listening! julia.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

so very close to being approved!

Last week was a whirlwind of phone calls to and from the nice CIS lady. She reviewed our homestudy Monday afternoon and tried to call us Tuesday. I finally spoke to her on Wednesday and found out there were a few minor details missing in the homestudy. I spent Wednesday afternoon emailing our adoption agency and social worker about the changes that needed to be made to our homestudy. They both acted super fast and had the needed documents in the mail as of Friday afternoon. We are expecting to have an approval issued on Monday or Tuesday this week. And in between the whole CIS/adoption agency/social worker communication stuff going on, I made four trips to our family doctor to get medical paperwork updated (since we are way past our expected time frame of getting our documents to China, a lot of our documents are expiring). I made two trips downtown to get our criminal check/fingerprints updated. And Andy had to re-do several other documents that all need to be re-notarized this week as well. All in all, we've both been very busy with paper-shuffling, emails, and phone calls. I tried to get info on the health of Caleb and his orphanage in general, but didn't find anything out. I guess no news is good news at this point.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and we are finally seeing all kinds of Christmas decorations in the stores now. How does that relate to Caleb and adoption, you may wonder?! Well, at the beginning of this process in March, we estimated that we would likely be in China to get Caleb sometime between December and February. We were, of course, hoping it would be closer to December. So, to make the wait seem a little quicker, I told the kids that the summer would go fast b/c it always does. Then the excitement of back to school stuff would make August and September go by quickly (which it totally has, I might add! And even though our kids don't "go back to school" in the traditional sense, we still get all excited about going to Target and buying all the fun school supplies and having new books to start and new lesson plans to fill in, etc). Then we would finally start to see Christmas things in the store and that would mean we were really close to seeing Caleb. So, although December is still a few months away, it seems right around the corner to us. Or at least that is my way of trying to make this whole waiting process go quicker. Does it sound too far-fetched?!! The hard part will be the wait time after Christmas. I didn't have a plan for making that wait seem quick, b/c I was really thinking we would have had our documents in China by now. Nothing in Indiana is fast in January or February. That time of the year always seem to drag on and feel dreary and l-o-n-g even when you aren't waiting for something big like a letter from China! So, if you have any ideas for making January and February seem like they are "just around the corner", let me know!!
And since I have no new photos of Caleb to post, here is a picture of all of us in Colorado last month. We were there for Andy's brother's wedding. Isn't it beautiful?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today and May

No updates on the immigration paperwork we are waiting on. I called the lady who is going to review it and she hadn't looked at it as of 4:00 today. She said she would indeed review it today. It was only 3:00 in Iowa, so she still had time. I'll call tomorrow again. I think her niceness may run out pretty soon. She didn't sound that thrilled to hear from me again today.

And, just as I thought, the newest numbers from tonight's news about the bad milk products in China is significantly worse. They now say over 50,000 children have been sickened. Several children have had severe kidney problems/failure. I have peace about Caleb being ok. I will try to find out about him through our adoption agency tomorrow.

Now, on to other things. I had planned on recapping the info and details we had about the earthquake that ocurred in May very near to Caleb's city. The following excerpts are what we heard and saw during the first few days after the earthquake. All of this info came from an organization called Half the Sky. They provide nurturing and education programs and services to orphanages in China. They were the only source of info we had about what was going on in and around Caleb's home. As you might imagine, I was desperate to hear any and all information I could get about the area. Just so you know, Sichuan is the province where Caleb is and Chengdu Children's Welfare Institute is his orphanage (CWI). Here are bits and pieces of the emails we had access to during this time. I've boldfaced the info that is specifically about his orphanage.

May 12, 2008
We have received many emails and calls about the terrible earthquake that struck Sichuan and Chongqing yesterday. We have reached the three orphanages where Half the Sky operates programs: Chengdu, Chongqing and Yibin. All is well. At each place, the children were all evacuated until the tremors passed. The buildings suffered no great damage. And no child was injured.
We will reach out to other welfare institutions in the province today. Should we learn of any problems or earthquake-related needs, I’ll post another note.
Some of you have also written regarding the EV71 hand-foot-mouth virus that has affected many, particularly young children, in several provinces. The orphanages are taking special precautions and no child in an institution has been reported infected. We are monitoring this also.
While Half the Sky exists first and foremost to provide nurturing care and education to orphaned children, we are pleased to be in a position to be the eyes and ears on the ground in China for all of you who have such concern for all aspects of the children’s welfare. We are so grateful to those of you who make our presence in China possible.

May 13, 2008
Hello again,
During the past several hours Half the Sky has been working hard to get more information about the children impacted by the Sichuan and Chongqing earthquake. We know that it is not only children in welfare institutions who are in trouble. We know that hundreds of children have been separated from their families, have lost their parents, are hurt, traumatized and in pain. We know we must help; we have been working to figure how best to do so.
We have just a little bit of news. There have been hundreds of aftershocks, one reported to be as strong as 6.0. Children have again been evacuated from the Chengdu institution. Relief workers have arrived in the epicenter, Wenchuan. The Ministry of Civil Affairs (this is the ministry that HTS works with and also the agency responsible for disasterrelief) has been unable to reach orphanages in the most affected areas: Mianyang, Zitong, Deyang and Aba. There are other welfare institutions in the affected areas but no others that house children. Each of the four institutions above houses about 100 children. We believe they will need help. We will continue to watch and wait.

May 14, 2008
I know you have been waiting eagerly for more news of how the children are faring during the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan.
When something terrible like this happens, confusion is everywhere and rumors spread. All of us are so worried about the children. We are trying to be scrupulously careful to pass along only information that we’ve been able to verify.
We have now set up a procedure whereby we can get an update from the Ministry of Civil affairs each day. They are supervising all relief efforts so have the most complete and accurate information available. We also now have contact information for all affected welfare institutions and have begun the process of reaching out to them directly to see if they need help.
I will write daily with any new information that has been given to us.
Again, please do not contact us to inquire about individual institutions.
We will give you all of the information we have. If you do not hear from us about a particular place, it likely is not affected. At any rate, we don’t have any information beyond what I am passing along to you.
As of now, Wednesday afternoon in China, there are 12,012 people dead and
7,841 missing in Sichuan alone, and the numbers continue to rise. 26,206 people are living in temporary shelters. Only 30 children of 900 have been rescued from the collapsed high school in Dujiangyan, Sichuan. At least 20 children were buried in the collapse of a primary school in Liangping, Chongqing.
What follows are the welfare institutions closest to the epicenter:

An update on the Chengdu CWI: There has been some foundation damage to the rehab building and some cracked walls in other buildings, which are being carefully inspected. The children’s building is in the best shape and all children have been moved to the first floor but spend most of the day outside, weather permitting – or in the institution buses if there is rain. All institution staff and HTS staff are working around the clock to care for the children and keep them safe.

Dear Friends,
As word comes of the hundreds, maybe thousands of children lost in the earthquake, I am finding these emails almost too painful to write. When I think of so many parents who have lost their only child - so many children newly orphaned - so many families destroyed - there are no words….
As of now, Thursday afternoon in China, there are 14,866 people confirmed dead, 14,463 in Sichuan Province. There are 22,438 people reported missing – 21,020 of them in Deyang alone. There have been 3,300 aftershocks and they continue.
Here is the confirmed information we have regarding children in welfare
Chengdu: The city continues to experience aftershocks and the institution director is afraid the water supply will be cut off again, so has requested disposable diapers. They are having trouble finding sufficient supplies of milk and formula. All children in foster care have been located and are fine. The institution has structural cracks but was built to current earthquake standards and is fundamentally solid. All the children remain on the first floor of the children’s building, mostly in the cafeteria, and, weather-permitting, outside while awake. We’ve posted a few photos on our website.

May 16, 2008
Dear Friends,
I dearly wish I had more good news to report. The very best thing I can tell you is that we have not had a single report of injuries from the welfare institutions.
As of this morning (Friday) there were 19,509 people confirmed dead. The State Council today said there will likely be more than 50,000. Today’s government report describes one terrible scene after another: thousands homeless, thousands missing, thousands injured, thousands trapped or buried alive. Hope for survivors is dimming. There is an urgent call for body bags to prevent the spread of disease. There have been over 4,400 aftershocks.
HTS Director, Child Development, Ma Lang has arrived in Chengdu and sends this note:
I am deeply touched by your moral and emotional support. I only slept two of the past thirty hours. The first thing I did after landing was to donate some medicine to the Chengdu Red Cross. It was very much appreciated – exactly what was needed. They gave me a wish list for further donations: antibiotics for children and adults, medicine for diarrhea, cold capsules (not instant medicines that must be mixed in water), bandages, gauze, tape, iodine, cotton swabs, herbal medicine to stop bleeding and some for pain relief. Other much-needed donations include tents, tarpaulins, warm clothes and shoes. People in Chengdu are doing everything they can to help with the earthquake rescue. I saw all sorts of vehicles carrying things to the donation centers. I registered for blood donation and was put on the waiting list – the blood center was overloaded with donated blood and it’s difficult to transport the blood to the hardest-hit areas. More to come… Lang

May 17, 2008
As you have heard, this tragic event has both killed children and created orphans. A group of new orphans has been transported to Chengdu. We expect to have more information soon.
Meanwhile, the orphanage in Chengdu experienced a magnitude 5.9 aftershock yesterday (there have been 23 major aftershocks ranging from 5-6.9 on the Richter Scale!) and is preparing, if necessary, to move the children completely out of what was considered to be the most solid building. They have requested tents, which we are providing immediately.

May 22, 2008
Chengdu CWI has been notified to prepare to receive 100 children; they expect that more may follow. At the same time, the orphanage has moved the children out-of-doors out of concern for safety. (photos on our website http://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php) Half the Sky is working with local government and erecting a giant tent that can serve as shelter for orphaned and displaced children for as long as necessary.

May 25, 2008
Provincial CAB (Civil Affairs Bureau) has begun the process of sending displaced children to structurally-sound colleges, military bases, welfare institutions, and other facilities. In less-stable areas, where there are fears of flooding and environmental issues, children housed in some temporary facilities are being transferred, yet again. Almost every orphanage has been advised that they should prepare for new arrivals. We met a few sad little faces yesterday at the Chengdu CWI; they are told to expect at least 100 more. The director at Zitong CWI told me the same thing. And so did the director at Guiyang CWI in Guizhou! The truth is, I believe, nobody yet knows.

May 28, 2008
Dear Friends, First, an update on the airlift to remote Aba Prefecture. No less than 40 uniformed soldiers arrived at the Chengdu CWI yesterday to load two big trucks with emergency goods for the 1,000 stranded children of Aba. We’re waiting now for confirmation of the air drop.
This week HTS also erected a giant BigTop at the Chengdu CWI to aid with intake and shelter for new arrivals.

Below are a few photos taken during this time. This first picture was one of the first we saw. Apparently, it is when they had to move all the children to the lowest level of the building for easy exit routes when the aftershocks came. They tried to keep the kids outside as much as possible (2nd photo). Then the tent photos came and I completely lost it emotionally. To imagine Caleb and all the other children living in tents was too much for me to bear. The last three are of the military loading and unloading the supplies that were being stored in the orphanage building.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

tainted milk and a few lessons I've learned

I mentioned briefly in the last post about the tainted milk and deaths related to it in China. The lastest numbers I have are that 3 infants have died and 6,000 children have become ill. Now, those are the official numbers from China...so it is likely that these are understated numbers. Here is a link to a short news clip on the situation in China. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article4773716.ece
It is a topic of discussion on a yahoo group that I am a part of that is for families that have adopted or are adopting from Chengdu. A few minutes ago I just left a response to a question about the safety of the milk that is served in the orphange there. Here is some of what I wrote and how I feel about all of this right now...

Several months ago there was a massive earthquake just 60 miles from the orphanage in Chengdu. Now, there is a country-wide recall of milk products. It has all made me reflect on a few things. One is that I couldn't help but see the significance in the fact that just a few weeks after we see the face of our son and decide to bring him into our family that there is an earthquake in his city...the only city in China that I could actually locate on a map...a city that I didn't even know existed before this spring...a city that I probably wouldn't have even cared about had a little orphan boy not been there. Now, the country that our son lives in is in the news again. And I can't help but think that I really wouldn't have even cared about hearing of tainted milk in China just a few months ago. I would have likely been making dinner and just glanced at the story and thought, well, I probably would have thought nothing. Except maybe something like, "what did they say the weather was going to be like tomorrow?" But now, I hear the word "China" and "babies" and "tainted milk" and my heart sinks. Not again. Why China? Why the one country that I really care about at all? And then it hits me. I really haven't cared about much of anyone else in the world until now. Not until it somehow affects me. And that is a tragedy. A sad statement on what I spend my time worrying about and thinking about and planning for.

But things are different now. Now I have a face to think of when I see little Chinese babies waiting in line to get tested for sickness. I think of our little Caleb. I think that he doesn't even have a mom to stand in line for him at a doctor's office right now. He doesn't have a dad to take his temperature and sleep with him at night if he isn't feeling well. He does have our prayers though, and that is sufficient. But I keep thinking of all the other orphans who are nameless to me. Who prays for them? Who even cares that they may have had a drink of poisoned milk? Does anyone care? Well, I am starting to. Things are so different now that I know faces and names of waiting children in China, one of them being our son. I feel like my eyes and heart have been opened to people throughout the world that I normally wouldn't think twice about. Especially children that don't have the gift of a mom and dad to protect them like only a mom or dad can do.

So, this process of waiting on paperwork and praying for the safety and health of our son has been a much bigger thing in my life than just "waiting on paperwork." I truly feel blessed to have a softer heart for the Chinese people in particular. I feel like they are part of my family and I ache when I hear of the suffering they go through. I don't even have my son in my arms, but I feel so connected to the people he lives with and the country he will call his birthland. And I pray that I won't forget the feeling I have when I hear of tragic things happening in China. Because I think that it is a tiny bit of what God feels when he sees the whole thing too. He doesn't just think about a country with an earthquake, or a city with tainted milk. He hears the cries of the babies, He comforts the weary mom, and He knows every one of their names. I am privileged to know the name of one small boy. Ji Ru Ping. Our little Caleb.

Please continue to pray for Caleb and all the orphans who have a name and a face that is lovely to our God. julia...still waiting and learning lessons on the way

Friday, September 19, 2008

Finally, some good news!

Well, this week I decided to call the CIS number more than just on Fridays. I started on Tuesday and spoke to a really nice lady. I asked her if she could please, please, please get someone at least assigned to our case. She said she would ask her supervisor about it at the end of the day. I waited for her to call on Wednesday and she never did. I called on Thursday and had to leave a message on her voicemail. I decided I would just call every day until someone got sick of me and flagged our file to get reviewed so they wouldn't have to talk to me every day!

I was telling a friend how I was waiting to hear from the lady and that I was hoping the supervisor would call someone to take action on our paperwork. My friend said I needed to pray specifically that God would show favor on us. Well, guess what?... The end of the story is that I called the nice lady again today and she put me on hold for a long time. She got back on the phone and literally says, "well, since you asked to have your file reviewed, I will do it." You've got to be kidding me! I was so thrilled. I was a bit flabbergasted that the letter we attached to our form begging for them to review our file quickly, and the weekly phone calls didn't work but today one lady heard my plea and said yes. So today is yet another day that I can point to and say, yes, God is still moving in the this process, has everything under control and has a perfect timeline. Bummer that I still tend to think my timing is pretty good and need this lesson again. I am working on that daily.

One other thing to mention, I saw that China is in the news yet again. Not good news. Apparently there is a huge recall of baby formula and milk products. At first, I thought it wouldn't affect Caleb, but it very likely could. And even if it doesn't, I have a heart for all the Chinese children in orphanages and foster care. Please pray for the health and safety of not only Caleb, but all the orphans. julia.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

and the wait goes on

I was the one to call the immigration department (CIS) this week. I didn't loose it emotionally and cry on the phone. I had good reason to, but I didn't (!). Our fingerprints are apparently "in the system" and I was told we will hear something in less than 90 days (from when they received our paperwork). That means we should have an answer no later than October 6th. I've marked it on our family calendar. However, the man I talked to continued to remind me that the form we turned in is so new that everything is varying as far as timelines and he really had no idea what I should expect because "nothing is normal right now since we have only had five months of working with this new form." Uggh. Not too promising. I get a 90 days or less answer with a huge, "but really we don't know much about what we're doing right now" added at the end. Not the best news to hear.
While we wait, I'm going to go back and document the details we received about the major earthquake that was near Chengdu in May. It was a terrible tragedy and affected Caleb for several weeks after. I will post the photos and the information we had during that time. So, until then, please pray that someone is assigned to our case at CIS and that we get approval this month. julia.