Friday, August 30, 2013

Adoption Costs Part 2: Removing Distractions

Sometimes Jeremy and I feel like we're are faking it here where we live.  We're surrounded by lots of friends have very different financial situations than ours.  Since I quit my job to stay home with the kids, we've had to really cut back on how we spent.  With Sam's birth and then Allie's adoption, we had to cut back more.  With this adoption, we're having to cut back an already bare-bones budget. Luckily, we have no debt except for our house and we are very careful how we spend our money.

In my last post, I came clean about the nitty-gritty of adoption costs.  That's not because I want to discourage people from adopting. What I'd love to do is to help people realize that they can too adopt despite the high cost.  Here's an idea of how we do it.

What we live without:

  • smart phones (crazy, right?  never had one)
  • cable TV (i'm serious)
  • DS, Wii, etc. 
  • big vacations
  • an abundance of kids' activities-the kids each can do ONE activity at at time.  We don't have the time or the money to be constantly running from swimming to piano to Boy Scouts to tumblebees, etc. 
  • Starbucks coffee... we're not coffee drinkers anyway, but I couldn't justify spending that kind of money on a drink
  • most home improvements except what is absolutely necessary
  • new clothes (we rely mostly on hand-me-downs for kids, and only buy used clothes or greatly discounted when we have to!)
  • newer cars (our cars both have very high mileage and are paid off-luckily I know a great mechanic who keeps 'em running for us!)
  • new toys (I buy almost all our birthday and Christmas toys at garage sales and clearance.) 
  • eating out a lot (mostly reserved for special occasions)
  • big birthday parties
  • organic food
  • a bigger house (we have a 3 bedroom ranch; boys share a room and girls will share a room)

That's not to say we live with nothing.  Despite living frugally, we still have SO MUCH, thanks greatly to the generosity of others in our lives and to frugal spending.  There are toys everywhere and we feel like we are constantly busy with just school and soccer right now.  I can't imagine how full and crazy things would be if we spent more freely.   We have amazing family & friends who give us clothes and toys for the kids and great family gifts like Kings Island passes, zoo passes & even places to stay on vacation so we can have still experience these things even though we can't afford them on our own.  And we do splurge on some things like our pool membership each summer.

We're not asking for pity.  We're certainly not destitute.  We're just simply stating how it is that we adopt, by simply choosing to live without certain things.  If we hadn't adopted Allie, if we weren't bringing Maggie home, we could have and do a lot more.  That's just the simple truth.

Our church service this Sunday was about removing distractions from our lives so that we can see what God really wants us to do.  We really feel like the things above are distractions for our family, and we are happier without them.  Every family is different and it's not our place to judge people who do live with those things.  But for us, simpler is better, less is more.  Instead of our kids spending their weekends with their noses in a video game, we're riding bikes on the bike trail (kids bikes purchased at garage sales/Goodwill!).

Sometimes we wish we could just buy whatever we wanted.  But honestly, we're doing just fine without all those things!  We'd much rather have a small house full of kids than a big house full of stuff.  In fact, I much prefer it this way.  Our lives are simpler without the options of buying all that stuff.  We are not destitute; we're not poor.  We just have to be careful.  Despite having to stay on a tight budget, in comparison to the rest of the world, we are rich.  Our kids are fed and healthy and getting a great public school education.  We have a great house we love, we have wonderful friends and family.  We've just decided what our priorities are and they are not electronics, and fancy vacation and the things listed above.  They are here:

We're not trying to place judgement on all who choose to spend their money on things we don't have. We could give up even more.  I've heard of families downsizing their homes and most of their belongings in order to adopt more kids.   Wouldn't it be exciting if more of us (ourselves included) could give up more things so that more orphans could come home to their forever families?

There are kids dying of thirst and starvation and preventable disease every day. Kids who will never know what it means to have a family.  Knowing this, I'm finding myself more and more uncomfortable with our simple yet abundantly blessed lives.  We could cut back more.  We could do more.  All of us.  Here's to all of us removing the distractions and finding our way to what really matters.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adoption Costs Part 1: Worth the Cost

People tend to know that adoption is expensive, but are often to find out just how expensive.  Allie's Korean adoption in 2011 was about $32, 000.  This Chinese process we are thinking is going to add up to about $30, 000.  Shocking, I know.  HOWEVER, I'm always quick to follow that with the reminder that many people have new cars that cost at least that much and don't bat an eye at the cost.  We do not have this kind of money sitting in the bank.  We live on a one-income, tight budget.  We are walking by faith that somehow the money part of the process will work out. We refuse to say we can't adopt because of the cost.  We'll find a way.

What we've spent so far:

  • Home study Application  $250
  • Home study Fee $1250
  • BCI & FBI Fingerprints $140
  • Placement Agency Application $200
  • Placement Agency Program Fee #1 2250
  • Passports $300
  • Paperwork fees to complete Dossier paperwork (including birth and marriage certifcates, employment letters, notarization, certification and authentication of all documents, courier fees, copying, shipping)  $1083
  • International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital for Special Needs Checklist Review $400
  • I800A Application with USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services) $890
  • Placement Agency Fee #2 $2260
  • China Placement Fee $1150
  • Homestudy Transfer Fee Total (our homestudy agency closed mid-process, so we got to pay to transfer our homestudy) $518
  • Placement Agency Fee #3 (Referral!) $1508
  • Placement Agency Post Deposit $1000
  • Translation Fee $360 
  • International Adoption Clinic Referral Review $640
  • Grant Applications, copies and mailings $122
  • Letter of Approval overnight mailing $32
  • Grand total Paid as of August 28:  $14, 353

Fees to Come: 

  • Visas $140
  • Round Trip Flights $2600-$4000
  • In-China Travel and Accomodations $3300-4400  
  • Adoption Registration & Notarization $400-800
  • Child Passport $100-150
  • Orphanage Fee $5748
  • Food in China $700-800
  • Child Physical & Photo $90-120
  • Child US Entry Visa $230
  • Upcoming Total From Now Until We Get Her Home:  $13, 308-$16, 388 (I just had to pick my jaw up off the floor as I totaled that up)

*We still have $3200 of funds raised previously from the garage sale and other donations to put toward the remaining fees.
*That leaves us with between $10, 108 and $13, 188 to raise in the next couple of months.

TOTAL FOR PROCESS:  $27, 661 - $30, 741

After We're Home:

  • Post Adoption Services w/Home Study Agency (China requires 6 home visits once she's home over the course of 5 years) $1800
  • Child's Birth Certificate ?
  • Court Fee ?
  • Medical care provided by International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital as well as pediatrician, surgeries, therapies, medical/dental care ????  thousands!  We have a high deductible plan, so we'll have to pay at least the first $3000, and a percentage after that.  We're not sure yet what all her cleft lip/palate needs will entail.

Stay tuned for more on adoption costs, living frugally, grants, & fundraisers!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We're in the Third Trimester!

Our LOA finally came!  It has been 70 days since we send in our Letter of Intent (LOI) on June 18th for Maggie. Although it was pretty much a done deal at that point that she was ours, this LOA (Letter of Approval) is the icing on the cake!!  It's the BIG ONE in China adoption. It's the gateway to travel, the piece of paper that says she's ours and allows us to proceed to the next steps of paperwork that will lead us to bringing her home!

We got the "soft" LOA on Thursday Aug 22.  That means an electronic copy of the LOA come by email from China to our agency, then sent to us.  We signed it and overnighted it back to them.  They were then able to submit our next set of paperwork to the United States government on Friday.  That means that our official countdown to travel started on Friday, August 23.  They told us they are estimating will leave for China 10-14 weeks from Friday.  Ten weeks would be November 1, and 14 weeks would be Nov 22.  So hopefully sometime in November!!!  Of course, the adoption world is ALWAYS changing, so anything can happen and delay the process between now and then.  But we are SO hopeful to be home for Christmas.

Our official "hard" paper copy of LOA came yesterday, so Aug 27th is our official "LOA day",  which makes our official wait time for it 70 days. China has a new computer system that they are still figuring out.  Some folks wait well over 100 days for LOA.  Our wait was about average.  But some folks are now waiting only a matter of a couple of weeks for LOA.  Hopefully this will mean shorter wait times for future families so they can get their kiddos home quicker!

So we're officially in the "third trimester" of this adoption process.  My mind is swirling with so many things to do between now and then.  Stacks of paperwork to complete. Stacks of information to read on trip and what to expect.  What do we need to pack?  What do we need for HER once she's home?  We have to squeeze another crib into Allie's room.  We need a new carseat.  I want to do some little things to decorate her room, like get her name letters to hang on the wall, etc.  All the while we're in the chaos of the beginning of the school year.  I keep thinking about what it's going to be like to say goodbye to our 3 kiddos here and get on that plane.  Jeremy and I are both going, kiddos are staying here w/grandparents.  Lots to plan and figure out for them while we're gone those 2+ weeks too.  I know the important stuff will get done and the rest, well, oh well.  As with a pregnancy, the third trimester starts off pretty comfortable with lots of time to get things done, but near the end you just want that kiddo out!  I'm sure we'll feel the same way with this process.  Right now I'm in "get-it-done" mode, but the closer we get I'll just want her HOME.

Maggie will turn 1 on October 7th.  I'm so sad she won't be home with us to celebrate.  Allie made it home just in time for her first birthday.  But we're working on sending her a birthday care package to where she is at the orphanage, and celebrating here at home too.  It'll be her one and only birthday she'll celebrate without us.

We're kicking off a new fundraiser to help with the remaining costs of this adoption.  Stay tuned, info coming soon!

Friday, August 16, 2013

And her name is....

When we were tossing around name ideas for our new little one, we had a hard time deciding, but all 3 kids latched onto one name and wouldn't let go.  They were insistent, and we love it too, so here it is!

Officially she'll be Margaret Yu Fei (pronounced "You Fay").  We think it's pretty cute we'll be able to call her Maggie Fei.  :)  

We are on day 59 of our wait for LOA (Letter of Approval).  We've heard of them coming in less time than that, or much more time than that.  But average wait time for us in our situation is 3-4 months to get that approval.  Then the real mad dash to travel starts!!!

We know we're getting closer every day, and life is busy and crazy as we wait, but we sure can't wait for her to join our family!!!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Timeline: Where we've been & Where we're headed

Allie's adoption process took about 2.5 years.  This process is much quicker; the quicker pace is due to the fact that Allie's was a Korean healthy child adoption, while this is a Chinese special needs adoption.  

On the right side of our blog we keep a list of all the important dates and milestones of this process.  But here is a more general breakdown.  We broke the process into 2 parts.  The first part is "Before Referral", which is everything that has to happen to get a referral, or baby match.  Once you're matched, you begin another wait to be able to travel.  So this shows where we've been and where we're headed in the next few months.

Timeline to Yu Fei

August-November 2012:  Application and Home Study Process - 3.5 months
November 2012-Mar 2013:  Dossier (Paperwork) Preparation/Approval - 3. 5 months
March-June 2013:  Wait for Referral - 3 months

June 11 REFERRAL!!!  We saw Yu Fei's pictures for the first time.

AFTER REFERRAL - ??? months
June 2013-??? Wait for Letter of Acceptance from China (LOA)
Wait for Travel Approval (TA)
Leave for China

***We're told that the average wait to travel is 4-7 months from child match/referral.  We were matched in mid-June, so we're guessing we'll travel sometime between mid-October and mid-January.  We're hoping and praying we travel before Christmas, but it's completely out of our control and we'll make it work whenever it happens!!

Care Package #1 Sent!

We mailed our first care package to Yu Fei yesterday!  (No, we still haven't decided on her American name!)  We included 2 outfits (size 9 months based on her recent weight we were given,but it might be a little big), a rattle, a crinkle book, a lovey (which Allie helped pick out), a photo book with pictures of us in it (and with Chinese labels of who we all are), and 2  disposable cameras.  We're hopeful her caregivers will take lots of pictures of her for us until we come to get her! 

We tried to send similar things as we sent to Allie in her care package when she was still in Korea.  We weren't allowed to send clothes to Allie, but the other things are all pretty much the same.  With Allie, though, we were only allowed to send 1 care package; this time there is no limit.  We're hoping to send at least one more in time for her October 7th birthday.

We also bought/made duplicates of the toys/books/lovey because there is a good chance she won't come home with any of it.  We'll bring the duplicates with us to China when we go, that way she'll have some familiar things with us, then we can take that second set home forever with her.