Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tax Deductions!

Hi everyone! We just wanted to let you all know that we have started a new way of inviting you to join us on our adoption journey! We have joined a non-profit organization called Adopt Together that allows you to donate online, keep track of how much we have raised, how much more we need to raise and your donations are tax deductible! I know this comes a little late for those of you who have already donated, but any donations from here forward that go through Adopt Together are tax deductible. All of the money goes straight there and then we request those funds to be sent to our agency or attorney. Also, if you give $10 or more, you and your family will get a puzzle piece with your name on the back so that our child will be able to read names of everyone that helped bring him/her home! We would love to have every piece filled with names of everyone who has supported us on our journey! Thank you so much for your love and support! Here is the link to our page, please feel free to share it with anyone who you might think is interested in following our story.

(The amount does not reflect funds already raised, but is a rough estimate of how much we still need to raise)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Keeping adoption ethical

I am part of a group on Facebook that shares information and acts as an adoption support group. Recently it seems as though there has been a lot regarding making sure that adoption stays ethical. As much as I hate to say it, adoption has a business side to it. I wish it didn't have to, I wish that expectant parents could simply say that they would like to place their baby for adoption, adoptive parents would be notified, some papers would be signed and that would be it (I'm sure this would lead to other unethical practices as well, but just bear with me). However, there is way more to it than that. Adoptive parents have to be evaluated to make sure that they are fit to adopt, they have to be cleared through the state, and then there is a whole slew of legalities that must take place for the adoption to be legal. For all of this to happen there needs to be people who are willing to work in this field and know adoption law inside and out for each state and each country. There need to be people that will help expectant parents locate adoptive parents and vice versa both here in the US and in various countries. With this, like any business, comes wonderful, ethical organizations and lawyers, but that also means that there are just as many not so wonderful unethical organizations and lawyers.

How these ethics manifest from international adoption to domestic adoption are different. With international, one has to be very careful in researching how the children became available for adoption. Has every effort been made to make sure that they are truly classified as orphans or abandoned? Has every effort been made to find them a home in that country? Were they actually abandoned or orphaned, or where their parents lied to and offered money? These are difficult questions, but they have to be asked especially with human trafficking in today's world. If all of these things check out, then you have to look at the finances and ask yourself whether you think that their fees are reasonable and realistic.

With domestic adoption, the ethics tend to come with the finances. Yes, there could be other issues like what we find in international, but these would be less common. Adoption is expensive as there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be taken care of and the workers put a lot of time and energy into the process. I was once told by someone that he and his wife would love to adopt, but they don't agree with paying ransom for a child. I thought that this was sad that a child may never have a forever home because they didn't fully understand why adoption has to cost at least a certain amount and that, while our government may charge more than we agree with, the process (for the most part) is in the best interest of the child. I have to admit though that I probably would pay ransom if it meant saving a child's life or at least providing a life that he/she wouldn't have otherwise. However, how expensive adoption is where the issue lies. One can adopt for less than $10,000 if the adoption is private and the expectant parent approaches them. This does happen, but it's not as common. Once you decide to use an agency or attorney to help you in the process the cost will go up because they have to put more time and energy into the process. I'm sure there are those out there that would love to work for free, but if we are realistic, there are not many that can. We have made it our goal to only sign on with an attorney or agency that will keep fees at $20,000 or less (hopefully less). Our agency's baseline is $15,000, but there are other expenses that can come up and we need to budget for them. Our attorney is also very reasonable, but after all is said and done we need to prepare for around $20,000, which is why she recommended us to this agency. This may seem like a big jump, but in the world of adoption agencies it's actually very reasonable. These fees tell us that this agency is not in the business to make huge profits off of adoptive parents, but they are in it because they are passionate about adoption. This is not always the case however. There are large agencies and facilitators (which are illegal in NY), that I have seen charge over $50,000! This to me is outrageous. They are not in this business for the right reasons and they are making huge profits off of the desires of adoptive parents.

The sad thing is, there are people that can and will pay these fees. As adoptive parents, we need to make it known that this is wrong and not sign on with organizations like these. It is our job to make sure that adoption practices stay ethical and that it doesn't become "paying ransom". It makes me so sad that organizations would take advantage of the emotions that adoptive parents feel throughout this process and it makes me angry that they can take advantage and that there are people supporting them, possibly because they don't know that there are other options. Please understand, that adoptive parents are in this because we truly want to do something good. Some have children already, some don't, but all want to offer a child a life that his/her expectant parents don't feel that they can offer. Please join us in supporting ethical agencies and attorney's whether it be through education, supporting adopting couples through love and prayer or choosing to adopt through an ethical agency or attorney yourself.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I have been struggling with how to write this post. I want to make sure that it honors my husband, who has been living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) his whole life. I want to honor his family who have been affected by CF for longer than I've been alive. They have their own stories and they are not mine to tell.   I am also aware that expectant parents could come across our blog, read my posts and be scared off by this one, but I still feel it's a story that needs to be told. If you are an expectant parent, please don't be scared, just keep reading. My story is a different one, I have only been affected by CF for a short period of time. Elias and I have been together for over 9 years now, but only married for 4 and the real impact of him having CF didn't really happen until we were married. In this post I want to portray how our life together is with Elias having CF. It is different from others that have CF, but it is ours and I think that it's important to share and help make others aware of how CF affects lives.

So, I guess the best place to start is with the basics. CF is a chronic genetic condition that affects only about 30,000 in the US and 70,000 worldwide. It causes the body to produce unusually thick and sticky mucus that builds up in the lungs and prevents the pancreatic enzymes from properly digesting food and absorbing nutrients. It ranges from extremely mild where the lungs aren't even affected (so I've read) to extremely severe resulting in either a double lung transplant or death at a young age. In Elias' case CF affects his respiratory system, digestive system (making it difficult for him to gain weight), his liver and his reproductive system. Elias was diagnosed as an infant and all newborns today are screened at birth. For one to be born with CF, both parents have to be carriers of the gene, if both parents are carriers then there is a 50% chance that their child will be born with CF. We often get the question of whether our children would be born with CF and the answer to that is no. Elias is a carrier because he has CF, I am not a carrier which means that all of our biological children would be carriers, but none could be born with CF. If you have ever pursued fertility treatments, you have been tested for the gene, and if you were both carriers your doctor would make sure you knew.

The average lifespan today is 35 years which is a huge increase from a few years ago. Please remember that this is the average, there are children that are born with this disease that die very young and others who are still living in their 70's and beyond.

Throughout the adoption process and before when we were getting ready to serve in Africa for a year, we often got the question, "how does CF affect your daily life?". We have both often times replied that it really doesn't, other than Elias having to take medications and do nebulizers daily. I think that we have answered this way because this is our normal, but when I really think about it CF really does affect our lives. I have to say that I was not at all prepared for the medical bills that came with CF and for insurance to not cover his meds. For those of you that have gotten married young (like we did) imagine paying around $1000 in prescription medications every couple of months. Thankfully NYS has a reimbursement plan that reimburses up to 7% of our income. They are not always prompt, but they have improved greatly in the past couple of years and that check always seems to come when we need it most. However, they have requirements regarding what kind of insurance coverage Elias has to have. It cannot have caps or annual maximums. Now I know that many of you do not like Obamacare, but it has removed these caps and for the first time we have prescription drugs, that have no generic brand, covered and it has been a huge blessing. More and more drug companies are also offering assistance which is awesome and incredibly helpful.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that CF affects our finances, it affects Elias' life when he has to take 2 hours out of his day to do his nebulizers and therapies, which then affects our life together because it is 2 hours that we can't do something else together. We have to travel to Albany every 3 months for clinic check-ups that last 2-3 hours; we have to always be looking for ways to make sure that Elias gets enough calories (he should be consuming over 3,000 a day) to at least maintain his weight. It affects our travel as we have to be someplace with electricity and refrigeration or at least access to a cooler and ice for Elias' medications. And obviously is has affected our ability to become parents. Please don't get me wrong, we don't NOT play the blame game in our house when it comes to infertility, but there is the reality that 98% of men with CF infertile without the help of advanced reproductive technologies. Before, they were just considered sterile and that was that. There was also a long period of time where it wasn't a concern since most never lived long enough to marry and have children, but thankfully due to modern medicine, that is not the case anymore and more and more men with CF are having children. We have no way of knowing if we would be able to have children easily if Elias didn't have CF and honestly, it's not important because this is where we are and God will use this situation.

So, yes, CF does affect our lives and I don't know what the future holds. Could Elias die young? Yes, but so could I. Most of you interacting with us on a daily basis would not think that our lives are any different because we do live a fairly normal life. Elias will be an amazing father that will be active with our children coaching them and teaching them sports. Our normal will be their normal and they won't know any different until they are older. And who knows, by then there just may be a cure. If you are still reading, then congratulations! I know this was a long post and thank you for bearing with me. I hope you found it educational. I did not write this to make anyone think, "oh poor them", I wrote it because I want to spread awareness of how CF affects lives. Thankfully Elias has a mild-moderate case, has never had to have been hospitalized and can live a fairly normal life. I actually can't imagine him without CF and I know that God has used it for good.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goodbye 2012

We have now entered into a new year and it couldn't be more welcome. Usually I get a little sentimental about leaving one year behind and transitioning into a new year, but this year I really don't feel much of that. 2012 was hard. In fact, it has been the hardest year of my life and the hardest year of our marriage, which is saying a lot as our year in The Gambia wasn't always easy. Everyone says that the first year is the hardest, I completely disagree. The first year was full of bliss and newness, by now (we have been married 4 years) we have faced some of the tough issues. I know that's nothing in comparison to many of you, but we have also had to face issues that many couples don't have in their first 4 years. Our marriage has had to withstand, frustration, anger, grief and disappointment to name a few. It hasn't always been easy, but we are still strong and in love, it's just a different love than our first year. It's been tested and our vows have held true.  At this time last year we were still dealing with the disappointment of our failed IVF, but I was convinced that by this time this year we would parents. I had no idea of the pain and darkness that was ahead. The first half of this past year was a really dark time for me. The second half was better, but there were still days of sadness as there will continue to be.   For those of you who have only known me since this journey began, I'm sorry. Hopefully some day you will know the old, happier me.

But we have begun a different journey, an exciting journey. A journey we are still trying to figure out and unsure of where it will lead, but it is a journey of hope, of good things that God has in store for us. We are still healing and returning to the relationships we once had with God after our times of anger, hurt and darkness, but the fact is we are returning.

We don't know what this next year will bring or what it will look like, but it has to be easier than this past year. Now don't get me wrong, 2012 wasn't all bad, and God blessed us more than we can imagine when it came to meeting our basic needs and more. We never went hungry, we always had shelter, clothing, heat, and work. We have wonderful families that we were able to to have beautiful time with. But 2013 is full of new possibilities. Elias is returning to school this month to get his computer network technician degree. We are so excited about the doors that this path will open. We are beginning this year in the waiting stage of adoption, which means we could meet our child this year. We have already raised some funds, which means we have a head start on that process, which we will continue throughout this year. Undoubtedly we will face challenges this year, but this year is starting in a much more positive place than last year and we enter it with hope. Thank you for your continued love and prayers and please keep praying as we face a new year and new unknowns, but also new hope.