Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Home Study

Talk about a whirlwind!  The last couple of weeks have been just that for our family.  In addition to the traditional holiday madness that always ensues, we've been working like crazy to finish our paperwork and prepare our house for our home study.  While this post may be a bit technical and lengthy, I want to ensure anyone who is considering adoption has all the facts as sometimes the idea of a home study may seem scary and overwhelming.  But for us, it's been just the opposite.

So, let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).
An approved home study needs to be completed before a child can be placed in your home.  Home study requirements vary, based on the state, but most require the following pieces of information from the adoptive parents in order to even qualify:
     1. Proof that you are who you say you are, economically and financially
     2. Proof that you have thought about this process and are emotionally ready to parent
     3. Proof that your background, history, and home life do not raise any red flags as a potential parent

Now this is all very broad, so what it really boils down to is lots and LOTS of paperwork and answering LOTS of questions as well as:
  • Doctor's statements on our health (some states require a physical)
  • W2s, Tax Statements, Check Stubs and official documentation on education and employment
  • Letters of reference
  • Address and Work history (Ours asked for 15 years of history on both and let me tell you, remembering every place I lived while in college was a brain teaser that took 3 days to solve)
  • Answering questions about our parenting skills, filling in the blanks that usually started with, "What would you do if___" and discussing our parenting styles, thoughts on discipline, goals for our child future plans regarding activities and education.
  • Discussing our marriage in detail, it's successes and failures, our individual strengths and the possible parenting strengths of our partner. (this happens when the couple is interviewed individually and together)
  • Writing a letter to our birth  mother (more on this in later posts as it was one of the most emotional things I've ever had to do).
  • Submitting to background checks in EVERY STATE WE'VE EVER LIVED IN (this goes in all caps to give you a sense of the amount of paperwork some states require when filling out background forms- it was not pleasant)
  • Proofing our home for the safety and security of our child
This is just a brief list but I hope you get the picture.  It's detailed.  It's time consuming.  It's filling out LOTS of paperwork with LOTS of questions.  It's something I really wanted to pass off or hire out for, but so important for the adoptive parents to fill out and turn in themselves. It's also important that BOTH parents take part in filling out the information and not just one parent who is impatient and just wants to get it done (I'll give you one guess as to who the impatient one was in this scenario).  Only then can we schedule interviews and visits with our social worker.  Then, they put everything together and approve us per state requirements.

For the our state, they also required a 4-page checklist to be completed on any safety and health issues on our house.  This included securing outlets with the childproof covers, getting our heating system checked, and installing a fire extinguisher that is visible in the kitchen.  No, it couldn't go underneath in a cabinet.  It had to be seen out in plain view.
Can everybody see it?!!?

Here's the interesting thing.  While it was hard to pull everything together, fill out additional paperwork and ready our house, it really forced Mr. A and I to answer questions that I'm not sure we'd be talking about now if I had gotten pregnant and we were preparing for baby in that way.  To even be able to meet with the social worker, we have to discuss how we view discipline, we have to talk about what we want our child to learn from us, and we have to be open about what from our own childhood we want to bring to our parenting skills as well as some differences in parenting we'd like to make from our own parents.  This has been SO valuable and such a blessing!

So, we turned in our paperwork right before Christmas, and I honestly didn't think we'd hear from anyone before the new year.  But, everyone seemed to be jumping to finish our file as we got a call from the social worker and had our home visit YESTERDAY!

Thank goodness the house was already in decent shape, as I'm not sure what husband really wanted to spend the Christmas and the day after deep in cleaning supplies.  Still, Mr. A was a trooper and accommodated my OCD as I was convinced that our worth would be tied to the vacuum cleaner lines in the carpet and the spotless, fingerprint-free appliances.

I think there are probably horror stories about social workers coming and "judging" your ability to parent in situations like this.  I was nervous.  I mean, this complete stranger was going to show up and use her checklist as a measuring stick for us.  I'm happy to say that my fears were COMPLETELY unfounded.  Our person was completely warm and friendly and said repeatedly that she was there to advocate FOR us, which was such a relief!
Us right before the doorbell rang!

Our visit consisted of a review of our paperwork, tour of the house and check of our safety features (yes, she looked at the fire extinguisher!) and just like that, in 3 hours it was over!

Full disclosure- I also made muffins.... it couldn't hurt, right?!?!

I think that the agency is still waiting on some background forms to come back (hint, if you've lived in multiple states in the last 5 years you have to have cleared background information from each state so it takes a little longer) but other than that we are DONE!  Once our profile is live (hopefully this week), there will be NOTHING stopping us from getting picked or matched by an expectant mama.

Here's the thing about adoption and the way it works.  It's a process.  There are steps and until those steps are taken, you can't take the next steps.  It's also different from what you thought your process might look like.  But what's so rewarding and thrilling are the positive and encouraging people who WANT to advocate for you and your future family that come along the way.  God showed me that with this home visit.  I complained (a bunch) about this part of the process, but now that we've seen the social worker and she's seen our house and seen us interact as a couple, I see how this all fits in as a piece of the bigger puzzle.

If you would like to pray, share or invest in our journey, you can do so here:
www.youcaring.com/carradoptionfund

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Hoops and Hurtles of Adoption...Our Profile

I haven't talked about the details of our process too much, so for those of you who may be considering adoption, I hope you will find this post helpful.

I was binge-watching Fuller House Season 2 the other night (**SPOILER ALERTS**) and was so happy to see an adoption story featured on there!  I won't tell you who, but 3 episodes had dedicated story lines pertaining to this couple's journey, ending with a Season Ending featuring a brand new cast member!

Ah, if only life could be as simple as it looks on TV (and if only my hair could do what Candace Cameron's hair is doing in Season 2- it looks so amazing!)

On the show, during the Thanksgiving episode, the couple in question decided they wanted to adopt... fast forward 2 episodes later where the social worker visited their workplace and hilarious sketch comedy ensues...fast forward to New Years where the new couple welcomes in the year with a baby.

While I'm sure there's some basis for that timeline, in the real world, 6 weeks doesn't quite work as there are several things that have to be done.

Take our story, for example.  We've been working hard for the past 6 weeks on just a couple of the pieces needed in order to move forward:  our Home Study docs and our Media Profile.  I'll talk more about the home study later- but here's the skinny on the profile.

The profile is a virtual way adoptive parents display their lives and their information for perspective birth parents.  This can include photos, videos, letters, statements and general Q&A.  Profiles are uploaded onto websites where birthmothers search for perspective parents, and are also sent out electronically to hospitals, pregnancy centers, and other agencies throughout the US.

Now, if you've ever posed for engagement pictures, wedding pictures, Glamour Shots or participated in any type of photo shoot, you may feel the pain I have felt putting this together.  Our agency wanted a series of photos of Mr. A and I:

  • Together, close up, formal shots
  • Together, informal
  • Together, action
  • Individual action
I'll admit, this was one of the things I dreaded the most.  I really don't like having my picture made unless it's a cheesy selfie or a theatre pic.  Also, we weren't allowed to turn in selfies.  So, even finding action and together shots of us that don't have the selfie extended arm was a hard challenge. Then, we had to spend a couple of weeks taking photos that looked "authentic" but were actually pretty staged.

Here are some of the photos that did NOT make the cut... can you see the awkwardness in my expressions?!?

Selfie Arm.  Not acceptable

Fake Laughter

He's pointing into thin air.  And the post-it with my instructions to him is visible

He wasn't ready for his close-up

My secret is out

One thing that struck me in doing these photos, is that Mr. A. definitely comes across as the "more fun" of the two of us and I have to say, I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Check out the evidence yourself:



He's the poster boy for awesome!!!  Unlike me...


Yardwork and cooking?!  Boo.

Yes, Mr. A is more fun, but that's good, right?!  You need a nice mix of personality and activity between the two parents (I'm trying to convince myself!).

As uncomfortable as this experience was, I'm happy to say it's over.  On Sunday, we sent in 200+ photos, letters and statements in to our agency to choose from and I'm excited because this will mean our profile should be LIVE for all birthmothers to see by the new year!

If you'd like share, pray or invest in our journey, you may do so here:
www.youcaring.com/carradoptionfund



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Adoption Fundraising Projects

We've had so many friends and family jump on board with this journey as we try to save/raise the $40K estimated costs for our adoption.  As you may know, we have our youcaring.com site, which we are two-thirds of the way to our $30K goal.  The additional $10K needed is money we really wanted to contribute ourselves so we've been saving and selling to try to get to this number.

We've also done some great fundraisers and will continue to do so through next year.  Here are a couple of highlights:

My sweet cousin Lindsay, her mom Kathy and her daughter Kathryn have been working hard since we first announced on their "Cousins 4 Baby Carr" initiative.
In November, Lindsay hosted a live Facebook event to sell Minecraft ornaments and original paintings by her 6 year old daughter Kathryn.


Lindsay is like a sister to me.  She let me boss her around as the "older" cousin when we were younger, we've been each other's weddings, and just last May we met up with our husbands and her newest little one in New Orleans.  

Even though I'm the older one, I look up to her and her amazing mothering skills so much- I hope I can be the kind of mom she is to her kids.  She's the appointed CFO of our adoption project and has been such a huge help!!!


My other cousin Bethany, who's been one of my prayer partners throughout this journey, also hosted a Mary Kay fundraiser on Facebook last month.  

Bethany is a total rockstar.  She lives in Florida with her husband and 2 boys and I also really look up to her as she manages a busy household but has raised such sweet children. She's a MK expert, so please visit her site when you can.

We also headed to my hometown of Macon, GA during the family reunion weekend for a fundraiser my friend Natasha agreed to host at Monkey Joe's she and her husband own.  
This was a tough one as it was COLD and RAINY that day, but we still had some sweet families attend and people called ahead to purchase tix which helped us a bunch.  We even had a special appearance from Monkey Joe himself!


Natasha has had such a heart for our journey and I'm so appreciative of her and all of our friends who participated.

One of the worries I had when we started this whole journey was how in the world we would be able to manage the financial pieces in order to adopt.  The support from our friends and family in their individual gifts as well as the gifts of their time, energy and service has overwhelmed me and has gotten us so much closer to our goal.

There are still some fun things planned for 2017 so stay on the lookout.  In the meantime, please continue to pray and share our journey.  One thing that's come up time and time again is the connection with other couples out there who are also struggling with their inability to get pregnant naturally, so I hope my journey can be a source of comfort and hope.  There are options and there is light at the end of the tunnel.  When you share, you don't know who may be impacted in a positive way, so thank you for that.

To pray, share or invest in our journey, visit our site:
www.youcaring.com/carradoptionfund

Monday, December 12, 2016

Really Long Post about a Really Great Family Reunion

Well, December has been off to a CRAZY start.

We spent the first weekend of December back home in Georgia for my family reunion.

Over 50 adults and 20 children represented!  Can you find my face?!?!  Hint, it's hidden partially behind a toddler.

It was great.  I got to play with my nephews, my cousins kids, catch up with the grownups and celebrate 4 generations of my family in one place.  It's always a little bittersweet because not everyone can come, but it was amazing just the same.  My 3 little ring bearers are now these tall good looking high school students, and my cousins, who I used to boss around as the "oldest" growing up now have kids of their own!
My ringbearers.  Too cool to pose.

My baby brother with his baby- I just melt.

My grandmother with her great-grands.

We also had a special appearance by Santa Clause (Mr. A) who posed with just about everybody.
Santa and my parents.

Santa and my grandmama.

The reunion was great because for whatever reason, we had a slew of kids ranging from 2-4 years old running around and their reactions to each other were priceless.  Here are these kids meeting other kids they've never met and probably will only see once a year, but they recognized each other and just started playing and hanging out like family does.
Cousins Milo and Henry meeting for the first time.  They were best buds the rest of the day!

Babies everywhere!

My Nephew and Mr. A. deep in conversation

Girl talk

It's not a party til you throw leaves in your hair.

It got me thinking about Baby Carr.  Would we bring in the newest family member next year?  Would B.C. just jump into the mix with everyone else?  Before we ate, we had a sweet prayer time and my Uncle David mentioned our adoption journey.  Wow.  Not only do we now feel that love and support from our immediate family- we really feel it from the extended one as well.

We also took the opportunity at the family reunion to have my sweet cousin Bethany take some adoption profile pics for us.  It felt a little bit like engagement photos all over again, but it was fun.  Here are some of our favorites:





Every year, our family participates in this 10K to honor my grandfather but this is the first year we've gotten to go, so we registered and completed our very first 10K!   No, that is not a joke, I ran/walked a 10K.  I'm still not ready to talk about whether or not I'll EVER do one again, but here are some of the memories of that 2 hour experience:

A few of the runners (I really thought doing the race was a mandatory thing for the reunion)

Mr. A and I jumped on the podium pre-race since we figured we wouldn't place :)  And that's my aunt, who finished WAY before me.  Great job Aunt Kathy!

We didn't come in first, but we didn't come in last, so I consider that a WIN!

Thanks family, for the best weekend and thanks for praying and sharing in our journey!

If you would like to pray, share or invest in our adoption journey, you can do so here:
www.youcaring.com/carradoptionfund