Friday, May 29, 2009

The Leaning Tower of Paper

"Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away."
-George Eliot

There's something intrinsically comforting about being around certain people in our lives, especially those who we are closest to, who provide what I call "safe place" comfort. I have found that inexpressible comfort in my marriage with Alan, and I think you'd agree with me that this sentiment is worth cherishing and celebrating! With this in mind, I've written the following story/update with much thankfulness for God's provision for us, even at the very start of this potentially long and tedious process.

What has been really encouraging and confirming to both Alan and myself about starting our adoption process is finding a similar (although obviously different) type of relational comfort with our social worker at Bethany Christian Services. When we initially met her back in November 2008, she impressed us from the start with her personable style of conversation, laid-back and yet really professional manner, honesty with which she presented both the joys and the challenges of adoption, and her passion for her work which naturally radiated from her. After three long hours of high-speed information downloaded to our brains during November's introductory meeting, I walked back to the car with Alan -- in silence at first -- dying to know what he thought about the evening. I wasn't sure what to expect, but hoped that my prayers for comfort, peace, and trust in God had been answered for Alan as well. As we processed our experience during the car ride home, we were pleasantly surprised to echo the exact same opinion: Our social worker had totally won us over, and if she was to be the one to walk us through the adoption process, we felt like we could really do this!

Now, six months later, we are encouraged to report that after meeting with our social worker this past Wednesday, which involved tons of paperwork and tons of additional information, we were not too overwhelmed, partly, we think, because she continues to exhibit such a comforting and inviting presence. (This is a miracle in and of itself, especially if you know the hate-hate relationship that Alan and I share with regards to paperwork!)

To break it down a little, Wednesday's two-hour meeting involved us receiving and being walked through a stack of papers (about an inch thick) that we will be completing over the course of the next several months.

This mysterious "paperwork" includes the following:
  • Medical reports
  • Child abuse and criminal background clearances (required by the state for all adoptions)
  • Financial statement
  • Personal questionnaires
  • A "homework"/required reading packet
  • Information and examples which will guide Alan and I to create our own family profile that will be shown to birthparents.

While this may be interesting info for some of you, and not so much to others, I figured since adoption process details are generally not widely known, it would be helpful and educational to share some of this here. (Honestly, Alan and I had no clue about the ins and outs of adoption until we started doing research and going to meetings). Also, who knows, maybe some of you will end up adopting a child in the future as well; all the more reason to learn some stuff now!

Our next steps from here include tackling all of this paperwork (mainly setting aside intentional time to do it) and then subsequently, setting up our three home study meetings with our social worker. These meetings are in place to counsel adoptive parents and also for the agency to ensure that we live in an environment that is emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually stable enough to welcome a child into our home. While, on one hand, this can feel very overwhelming and invasive, Alan and I view this series of meetings as a refreshing preparatory season in which we can look honestly at our lives and examine parts of ourselves that we might want to be aware of and/or work on before we become Mom & Dad!

We are excited that you are following along with us! Please continue to drop us notes of encouragement and pray for us. We are thankful for your involvement and friendship in our lives.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Beginning of the Story

Welcome to the Alan & Tara Atchison Adoption Story! Usually a story is a collection of information told in the past tense, however, this story has yet to be written...(well, except for this first entry). We hope that you will be willing to journey along with us as we begin this crazy, joyful, scary, hopeful, stressful, awesome process of becoming parents through adoption.

A Brief Overview:
We met in college and were married on July 29, 2006 in Hatboro, PA. Currently, we live in the city of Philadelphia along with our dog, Bailey. We are a part of Liberti Church. Alan works as the Online Editor at the Center for the Advanced Study of India, located at the University of Pennsylvania. Tara is the Director of Campus Ministry at Temple University and is employed by the CCO. Among other things, Alan enjoys reading, consuming chocolate milk, playing the guitar, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Tara enjoys coffeeshops, mentoring college students, the outdoors, and cooking.

As is the unfortunate case with millions of couples around the world, we are unable to conceive biological children. Over the past year or so, as we have begun to feel the strong desire to become parents, this sad fact has been an area of much grief, jealousy, and bitterness. Thankfully however, we've been able to be honest about our grief and turn to each other and to the Lord in these times, rather than grow distant from each other. Doing so has certainly strengthened the foundation of our marriage in ways we never thought possible.

Pursuing Adoption:
While working through our infertility grief, we have been growing more and more excited about becoming parents through the blessing of adoption. After much research and a few introductory meetings with different agencies, we decided to go forward with Bethany Christian Services, one of the world's most reputable and leading adoption agencies.

Bethany has various options for people looking to adopt (domestic infant, international, and older child). For our first child, we will be pursuing the domestic infant option, as we would like the opportunity to raise a newborn baby from birth.

Getting the Ball Rolling:
This past week, we submitted our official application to Bethany and attended an all-day informational class, along with a bunch of other adopting couples. The day involved participating in some great sessions led by Bethany's social workers, hearing from a panel of families who have recently adopted, and also hearing from a panel of birth-parents. These birth-parents are the unsung heroes who make the courageous and selfless choices to allow a better life for their children when they know they are not in a place in their lives in which they can provide proper care to their son or daughter. Our all-day session also included much discussion about the grief that results from infertility and the loss that birth-parents feel when placing their babies for adoption. The blunt reality of adoption is that it cannot take place without both parties experiencing different forms of loss. The honest dialogue we shared as a group about these difficult topics was extremely helpful and empathetic.

The Financial Costs of Adoption:
One of the difficult realities of adoption is the cost. In the case of domestic infant adoption, we will owe a little over $20,000 when all is said and done. Many people, like us, just don't have that kind of extra cash sitting around and to try to save up that amount would take an insane number of years.

To break down the total a little bit, certain amounts will be needed over the course of the process:

  • $2,000 (formal application fee and home study evaluation)
  • $4,000 (retainer fee; includes thorough background checks, creation of profile that will be showed to birth-parents as they choose adoptive couples)
  • $14,000+ (due when the baby is officially placed with us)

How Can You Practically Partner With Us?
While we will be paying a chunk of the $20,000 total ourselves through what we can afford at this time, we will also be seeking to raise the remaining amount by applying for adoption grants as well as through private donations from individuals and churches. The concept of asking people for money so that we can become parents is certainly a controversial one for some, and understandably so. After all, people get pregnant and have kids all the time and they are responsible for the cost of raising their children, not anyone else. However, when it comes to adoption, certain other factors are at work. Consider the following:

  • Having a biological child usually does not require spending $20,000 ahead of time. There are certainly some doctors appointments and various other expenses, but nothing near what is required to make another person's baby your own.
  • Asking for financial help towards adoption is not like asking for help towards the purchase of a household item or a vacation, but for help in changing the life of a human being.
  • Once the child comes home to us, the money that it will require to raise him/her from infancy to adulthood will certainly be our responsibility and no one else's. But without financial assistance ahead of time, having the opportunity to become parents will be more difficult and time-consuming.
This is where we humbly ask for you to consider donating an amount of your choice towards our adoption fund so that we can move onto the next phase of the process. Please see the "Donate" button at the top, in which you can make a secure online donation via PayPal.

For those who aren't interested in or comfortable with the online donation method, checks can be mailed directly to us which will then be deposited directly into an account we've created strictly for adoption expenses (email us to get our home address). One of our goals is to keep you up to date on exactly where we are financially and how much we need to raise at each incremental step.

We also ask that you would pray, not only for us, but also for our unborn child and his/her birth-parents who will be making the ultimate sacrifice. This is both a joyful and painful process and we need the Lord's peace and guidance throughout it all. If you are not someone who believes in prayer, please simply drop us an encouraging word here and there; doing so really builds us up in so many ways.

Another way you can really help us out is by forwarding this blog to as many people as you can. Our hope is to get our story out to as many people as possible. We hope that by sharing our story, we can help to encourage other couples who are struggling with infertility and are wondering what avenues might be right for them, as well as just anyone who would like to know more about adoption.

Feel free to ask us any and all questions you might have about our adoption experiences and/or needs. (Our email addresses are listed under the "BIOS" section at the top).

Thank you for reading this. We are extremely excited to begin this process towards becoming a Mom and Dad. We look forward to journeying with you.

Alan & Tara