Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hurry Up and Wait...Then Hurry Up Again

If you've ever been to Rome, you'll understand the comparison of this process we're going through to the wait to get into the Sistine Chapel. The anticipation is so great and you would do just about anything to see it, but you have no choice but to wait for hours...only to be ushered through in 15 minutes with few photo opps.

Needless to say, we traveled half way around the world for this once in a lifetime landmark, and then skipped it!

I haven't had anything exciting to post for a while, but the past few weeks have brought a lot of stress and excitement in the China adoption world.

For those unfamiliar with the process of adoption, it is very nit-picky. Even one toe over the misspelled signature in blue ink...can be deal breakers. If people had to go through all of this for biological children, we would have a lot fewer unwanted and abused children in the world...although a lot of deserving parents would also be left out in the cold over is very true in adoption.

So is now the case with China now more than ever before, to great extremes. The CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) is the government sector that mandates the rules and regulations surrounding adoptions of Chinese children. They have recently released new requirements for adopting a child from China which will directly impact us and many others waiting or considering the China program.

One of the reasons we decided to go through China was because the program is exacting and never varies... 1+1=2 every time regardless of agency. Wait times never fluctuate, regardless of the advocating agency. While researching Russia, we found that this is not always the case there, and we really wanted the peace of mind that a consistent country program had to offer.

In April, when we attended our first orientation, the presenter announced that the wait times (from the time paperwork is in China) had risen to 9-12 months. There were many gasps and mumblings among the crowd. At the time, we were there focused on Russia, so we didn't think anything of it. That was an average wait in Russia, so I couldn't imagine why the fuss.

Fast forward to our switch to China and our agency seminar weekend 5 months later, and the wait was up to 20-24 months and rising steadily. Although the wait times alone seem like they would easily scare people away, everyone but two couples in our 20 couple class were there for the China program. If that trend is the same for their monthly class, that means only about 24 couples out of 240 per year go through other programs...90% going through China. Wow. It's obvious even to the casual observer that change had to happen to remedy this huge demand for children from one country.

Since we are going through the Special Needs/Waiting Child program, our wait times don't really follow that traditional timeline, which did 2 things...1) It caused us to ignore the hullabaloo over wait times and 2) It caused us to purposely drag our feet on our homestudy and dossier paperwork (we don't want to travel until fall and through the Special Needs program, we could wind up needing to travel sooner if we hurried through our paperwork).

The new rules include many that won't affect us involving anti-depressant usage, criminal background, weight or age restrictions, or marital/divorce status, but the change that is a big deal is that both parents have to be in "perfect" health. As of now, we don't really know what "perfect" means (coming from a country with 3/4 of it's population smoking like there's no tomorrow), but we can't really wait around for specifics either. Those who don't get paperwork in to China by April 30th will have to adhere to the new rules. My genetic condition, Tuberous Sclerosis, as treated leaves me in completely normal health and fully capable to parent a child, except for the fact that it makes me susceptible to seizures if I were to stop taking my medication for a month or more. Although I have a very mild form of the condition, it could be viewed by the Chinese government as within the "epilepsy" definition, which is not allowed. Tuberous Sclerosis also causes skin pigment differences, which I also have, also to a minor degree. Thank goodness they just look like red freckles, because facial or physical differences are also being scrutinized (such as scars,deformities, skin malformations, wheel chair bound, deformed or missing digits/limbs).

While these things (along with obesity, prior incidence of cancer, single parentage, and lack of high school diploma)seem to be discrimination to many and have zero impact on a person's ability to parent, it is simply China requesting that people who adopt their children be held to the same cultural standards that they apply to themselves. Most everyone I've met online disagrees with this whole heartedly...I do too, however I can also see their side. There's no reason, just as with any other cultural or political topic, that the US standards or opinions need to be #1. They do in fact have the right to require anything they want of the international adoptive families. This will greatly reduce the number of people who qualify for the China program, thus lowering wait times.

With the background checks taking up to 3 months to process, we are racing against the clock right now to get everything in in time...That's as long as everything is perfect without anything coming up on background checks (anything is possible I guess). We're just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that everything falls in place. If not, we will consider going through Thailand, India, or Vietnam. In those countries, the waits, even for waiting kids, seem to be a little longer, but at this point, whatever happens will happen for a reason.