The Dreaded Birthday

What did you do for your 14th birthday?
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Did you have a party, cake, gifts? A singing family surrounding you with love on your special day?
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Honestly, I don’t remember my 14th birthday (I must be getting old!), however I do know without a doubt that I was enveloped with love, support, and most assuredly a chocolate cake and ice cream on my special day.
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I know this isn’t the case for everyone and I am very blessed to have a loving family who has always been there for me. There are so many precious souls who go year after year without their special day being celebrated. And some, like those sweet ones in China, view birthdays with fear. Each year brings them closer to that dreaded birthday: fourteen. If they do not have a forever family by age fourteen, then they can no longer be adopted.
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They are forever alone.
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Maybe, my friend, the Lord is moving in your heart to bring one of these precious children home before they reach their dreaded birthday and become alone forever. But how do you go from wanting to take that first step of faith to meeting your sweet child face-to-face? Well, I’m glad you asked!
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A few disclaimers first...By the time I publish this, something in the adoption world probably has changed. Like I said previously, the Chinese adoption program is considered one of the most stable programs in the world. However, small steps within the program are changing since the new rules were published last year. Also, the American government is changing (or at least trying to change) how the process works on this side as well. So this is a general guideline and purposely left vague. I would highly recommend you to check out your agency’s website for more up-to-date timelines. (And here’s a shameless plug for our amazing agency, who has been with us through thick and thin: CCAI! We can’t recommend them enough!)
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Secondly, I am not, not, NOT the one who should be writing about the steps in the adoption process! I have never been a paperwork kind of person, but thankfully married one. In our ten plus years of marriage, I literally know nothing about our personal paperwork, except were it is located in our house. That’s it! I was and still am sometimes overwhelmed by the small details and precision in the paperwork needed for this process. The acronyms alone are enough to make your head swim! 
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All this to say, do not be overwhelmed (or at least not seriously, paralyzingly overwhelmed) by this process. You don’t have to do it all at once. If you make a mistake, it’s OK. (Believe me, I’ve made a few!) You can ask for help and clarification each step of the way. (You should see all my e-mails that begin, “I just want to make sure I’m doing this right...”) And our agency always gives us line by line instructions what to do and has literally held our hand through the process. (Which might include us calling them while we were at the notary’s office a time or two!
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Personally, this is were I started: check to make sure you qualify to adopt from China, as the qualifications are very specific and changed as of July 2017. If you have questions, please let me know and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned about them. The list seems a little daunting at first, but be honest with your agency and they will let you know if you qualify or not.
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On a side note, if you don’t feel like you “qualify” to adopt from China because you’ve never been to China, never left the country, never left the state, etc., let me tell you...you are the perfect person to adopt, granted that this is what the Lord is calling you to do! From a paperwork standpoint, if you were born, married, and lived in one place your whole life, you will make your life and the life of your adoption agency so much easier! People like us, who fill up the “previous addresses in the last ten years” space and then need to add five more lines, are the ones who make things a little more challenging, but not impossible.
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I completely understand how intimidating it might feel to welcome a child into your home from a place which is so foreign to you. That is why I believe resources like “No Hands but Ours” is so crucial, as online communities assist and equip parents to better understand parts of their child’s story. There are many adoption, and specifically China adoption, groups around the country, so you are never alone in this. CCAI has a great network of groups and resources post adoption, ministering to the families and their adopted children.
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2. Choose an agency, request information, and/or fill out the initial application
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I won’t go into the details now about how to choose an agency, since I already wrote a post about this, however I will say that the beginning application might seem overwhelming in itself. You literally have to give them your life story, finances, and family history! It might feel like a bit much, but they just want to make sure you qualify for a China adoption as much as possible before getting knee-deep into the process. And hint, hint, save all that information because you’ll need it later!
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3. Gathering dossier paperwork
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You have six months to gather a list of paperwork that will be submitted to the Chinese government. Within this list of paperwork are pieces needed for your home study of your state and meeting with your social worker. This period was probably the most overwhelming for me, since it was hard to know which paperwork to start tracking down first. Request your birth certificate or book a doctor’s appointment? Work on your adoption petition or write every detail of your life for your home study?
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But the good news is that our agency would literally give me a weekly list of paperwork I should be working on and let me know which ones would take longer than others. Like I said, they hold your hand when needed! And you have six months to get these papers together, which is an incredibly long time if you diligent. My goal was to do one small thing each day, even if it was just write one e-mail to ask for clarification or go to the post office to mail one letter.
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3. Being matched to your child
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As per some new rules, you now must have your home study completed before being matched with a child. Once your home study is approved, you can actively seek out children on your agency’s or other websites (check out some adorable faces on CCAI’s website!) to be matched with or wait until after you are LID (submit your dossier to China) and then be matched by your agency. Depending on how you are matched, you can have a couple of days up to one week once you receive a child’s information to decide if you want to accept the child’s file.
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Honestly, this was one of the hardest weeks for us, wrestling with all of the unknowns of Titus’s medical files and deciding whether we were the family who could best support and take care of his needs. However, God’s hand was completely with us that week, bringing so many medical professionals who gave us different perspectives on his files and none noted any huge red flags. In the end, it was God’s peace in our hearts that gave us the assurance to say a huge “YES!” to our son, knowing that the Lord is in control and will continue to provide all that we need to care for Titus. If you want to read a little more about our journey in being matched with Titus, see here.
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4. LID (log in date dossier) to Article 5 Pick Up (final approval of dossier)
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From the date that China logs in your dossier until you receive your travel approval and are able to meet your new son or daughter, the time frame is 4-6 months. Right now, the time line is about four months if everything goes smoothly. During this time, there is some more paperwork involved (of course!), but it’s an anthill in comparison to the dossier. Really, it’s more of a time to take a step back, breathe, and prepare for your son or daughter to come home. Yes, time to start decoration his or her room, gathering supplies, and reading all those great adoption books you haven’t had time to read yet! It’s also a time to think about travel and plan as much as you can. During this time, I enjoyed putting a book together for Titus with all the information we have about his life, as well as researching his city and learning more about where he grew up. Honestly, there’s a lot of acronyms and steps during this time (that I don’t even remember even though they were a few months ago!), but for us, it has felt like a time of rest and preparation.
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5. Travel!!!
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Once your Article 5 has been picked up in Guangzhou, you will travel in about 7-21 days later. Yes, you won’t know your actual travel date until 1-3 weeks beforehand! This might seem very overwhelming, but because timelines are usually very dependable, you probably will know your approximate date all the back when you received your LID. For us, we knew we'd probably be traveling mid-November for months before the actual date, so we were been able to plan as much as we can. You have to be in China for about two weeks and most people fly with the agency’s group to Beijing or Hong Kong first for a few days of sight-seeing before going to your child’s city/province.
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You need to be in you child’s city/province for about one week to complete all the paperwork. For us, our "Family Day" (day we met our son) was the Monday after  we arrived and he was officially ours two days later. Then, we traveled to Guangzhou, where the American consulate is, to complete the rest of the paperwork. CCAI families stay together in the hotels with a Chinese guide at all times, so you are never alone and you have the support of others around you.
During both weeks, there is a lot of “down time” when you are not at meetings or appointments, so it is a great time to either stay in the hotel room and bond with your child and/or explore your child’s birth country as much as you and they are able. Once you have your Consulate Appointment in Guangzhou, you are on your way back home and real life adjusting as a new family begins!
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This is an extremely simplified explanation of the adoption process for China, however I hope it is an encouragement for those whose hearts God is tugging at, but they aren’t sure where to begin or what it all entails. At each major step, I remember thinking, “This is it. We’re going to get stuck here. I can’t do this. It’s too hard, too much, too overwhelming.” But it isn’t, it truly isn’t. You are not alone and with God, as well as your family, friends, and adoption agency, it’s a long journey, but definitely a do-able one. If you are even the least bit overwhelmed, just know it is very feasible, with lots of prayer, hard work, a supportive team, and most importantly, a God who infinitely loves you and your child.
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When people that we haven’t seen in a while ask how long our adoption process took for our son, they are always shocked at our "one year to the day" response. “Wow, that was fast!” Yes, in many ways it went by fast! The date that our initial paperwork was logged into CCAI was November 28, 2017 and we were standing in the US Consulate for our final appointment November 28, 2018. If we hadn’t run into issues (which we are now thankful for the Lord’s timing in all of that!), we could have easily been home with Titus in ten months. Our timeline is not a guarantee for anyone, but if people are diligent with paperwork and have no major issues, the adoption process can take about a year. The longest period can be waiting for a match, depending on the family’s preference of gender, age, and medical needs. To find more about those sweet little and not-so-little ones who are right now waiting for forever families, please see here.
For quite some time, our daughter’s favorite song playing on the radio is “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns. She only has to hear the first few strands of the music before she screams, “It’s ‘Oh My Soul!’ Turn it up!” She will belt out the words “Oh my soul, you are not alone...” at the top of her lungs and we’ve sat with the car running countless times in our garage or the grocery store parking lot so she can finish listen to it. I am truly thankful each time for this loud reminder that we are not alone in this journey. With God, as well as our wonderful tribe around the world, we can face each fear, each piece of paperwork, each decision, each unknown.
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However, the song also brings tears to my eyes as it reminds me that there are so many precious souls who are alone. They don’t know of our Father’s great love for them, as well as the love of a forever family. Each day, as we kiss our sweet Titus, we pray for all of these ones who are so fearfully and wonderfully made by our Father. We pray that they will know they are not alone and that forever families will push their fears aside to bring them home before it is too late. Yes, being an adoptive parent is scary. Jumping into completely unchartered territory is frightening.
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However, can you imagine how scared they are, knowing each day they wake up they are one more day closer to their dreaded birthday, where they will be alone forever? I will leave you with the words of a boy who has already aged out and lost his hope of a forever family...“It’s so hard to be alone. I would rather 
be dead than an orphan.” The Heart of an Orphan by Amy Eldridge (pg. 119)

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