Monday night Jon and I had the opportunity to talk with the president and vice president of Anido, our Bulgarian agency! This evening was just what I needed at this stage of the adoption. I don't feel any less eager to get things moving with the adoption but the anxiety I was feeling has been relieved... for the moment any way :) The information was first hand and complete. I got a lot of the rumors I'd been hearing cleared up and some reasons behind things cleared up. It was invaluable and I'm so glad we got to go.
International adoption is ever changing, very political, and quite based on relationships between agencies. People who think adoption is the "easy" way out are very mistaken. Our Canadian agency, Sunrise, had gone to Bulgaria a few years ago to start developing their relationship with Anido and it was their turn to come check things out here. They started the evening by giving us a bit of a synopsis of how things looked in Bulgaria as it related to adoption. It was a lot of info to take in so I'm just going to write out some of the more pertinent parts that relate to our developmental special needs adoption... which is DEFINITELY not the norm for Anido.
- There are four types of orphanages in Bulgaria...Ages 0-3, 4-7, 7-18, and severe special needs orphanages. Down Syndrome is classified as a severe special need. (Sadly so is deaf and blindness, even if they are developmentally typical.) In the typical orphanages the children have all their needs met (aside from the obvious downsides of orphanage life). The special needs orphanages are not so lucky and "are not is as good a shape" as the vice president put it.
- 90% of the orphans are given up because of poverty. Their parents do not have the resources to care for them.10% are given up because they have health issues. It is the 10% that we are interested in :)
- Children are available for international adoption after one year of age.
- An interesting cultural difference in looking at ages is if you say in your home study that you want child "under 3", you will get a proposal for a 2 year old. If you are open to a 3 year old you have to say "under 4 years old."
- Another rumor that was cleared up for me was the 2 month proposal thing. I, along with a lot of other people, understood that the agencies shuffle files of children between them every two months. This had me really worried about correct timing for finding our child and frustrated with how inefficient that process was. Thankfully, this is misinformation. There is a centralized registry of all the children. When an agency does take a file of a child to propose to a family, they can only hold on to it for two months to make sure no other agencies take it and propose it to another family. This ensures families don't get attached to one child only to have it be adopted before they finish up their own paper work. That does happen in many other countries.
- Once our Dossier is accepted Anido registers us in the Adoptive Parent Registry and we are put on the list. The Ministry of Justice then looks at their list of children and starts going down the list of parents to see if any of the kids meet their criteria. Special needs kids are prioritized. The wait time for a typical, healthy child under three is 3 years... the wait time for a kid with DS is 3 days - 3 weeks!!! Can we all say YAY!!!!
I had a hard time relating to the other potential parents in the room. We were the only people in the meeting interested in adopting a child with special needs. We were the youngest couple in there. We are not looking at a long wait. One woman I talked to has been waiting 4 years already! We (thankfully) don't have grief issues around not being able to have a biological child. I can't imagine the grief that this causes but I get frustrated at the idea that adoption is a way to guarantee parents get a "perfect" child. One woman was frustrated with the fact that there was no way to ensure the birth mother hadn't drank during the pregnancy. This is Europe we are dealing with here... everyone drinks! Perfectly "imperfect" children are the way to go!
So what's the hold up with our Dossier? Well, Bulgaria has a lot of National holidays, like stats in Canada, so their vacation days add up. They don't need to use them because they have so many long weekends. So, the government forced people with too much vacation banked up to take a vacation... which was everyone. Everything stopped and there is at least an extra month added on to everything. We were told between 2-3 months for our Dossier to be approved. It now looks like it will be closer to 4 months. We are almost at the 3 month mark for our wait. Once we are approved though, our waiting should be almost over! I do have to remember that international adoption is very unpredictable and tons of different things could happen or go wrong.
One really exciting thing that Anido told us is that we could probably get a video of our daughter with, or shortly after, our proposal! That will be so fabulous to see her moving and maybe hear her voice and her laugh. How incredible! I just have to detach myself from thinking of her in an orphanage that doesn't have enough of the bare essentials for all the children. I don't know how I'm going to cope with leaving her there after the first trip. I cry just thinking about it. Our friends had a really great experience with the orphanage that they picked up their son from. Hopefully ours isn't as bad as I'm imagining. I need to stop imagining.
I think this evening was really good for Jon too. When we started this adoption process Jon had just started a new job. Most of his attention was going to that and I was in charge of all the particulars with the adoption. I find all the info, get all the paper work and just keep Jon up to date and involved where he needs to be. He knows he wants to adopt but has not begun the attachment process like I have. I think it takes some guys a little longer than moms. It took Jon until after Livi was born to be attached to her, where as I was in the process of attaching since the first time I felt her move in my belly. I think this evening made it a lot more real for him. He couldn't sleep that night because he was "too excited about the adoption!"