Our Journey to Virginia Grace

We are thrilled to announce that we are adopting a little girl from China! While many of you already know this news, I have recently been finding that I hadn't told others, simply by accident. I've talked about wanting to adopt for years, so I forget who we've told and who we haven't that we've actually moved forward in the process. Since we will most likely not be traveling to China to bring our daughter-to-be home for 3-4 years (that is the estimated wait time), we hadn't thought to share the news yet in any sort of formal way. But because the process has consumed so much of our time and has become such an important part of our lives, not to mention one of the biggest topics of our prayers, we decided to share our journey with you here.

I can't really pinpoint when God first gave me the desire to adopt. I think it might have been in November of 2003 when I joined a mission team to Romania. We visited several orphanages, and I remember feeling so strongly that whether I could have biological children or not, I wanted to provide a family for a child who needed one. Just months before our trip, the Romanian government had closed adoption from their country. The next country I felt a connection to was China. Having always had an unexplainable love for the people of China and a desire to go there, and having friends who've served and continue to serve in that country as missionaries, I developed a strong conviction that the child I would eventually adopt would be from that nation.

The two hardest parts of the next few years were (1) waiting until I turned 30, as the Chinese gov't requires both parents to be 30 or older, and (2) waiting for Scott to be on board. He naturally dealt with the questions that I'm sure any adoptive parent asks: Will I love this child as much as my biological children? Will I be okay not knowing anything about her parents' health history or genetics? What will be involved in raising a family of blended races and nationalities? What if Carter is all we can handle? Should we see how we do parenting just one child first?

In November 2008, after reading Jeff Gammages' autobiographical book China Ghosts, and seeing how the author moved through these doubts and fears into joy and unconditional love for his two adopted Chinese daughters, Scott shared with me that he felt ready to move forward. I was stunned! I had literally been praying for over 5 years that God would give him the same desire to adopt. I also felt an inexplicable joy and giddiness when he shared his news with me - the same emotions I've felt with each positive pregnancy test.

Since December 2008, we've been moving through the homestudy process with Lifeline Children's Services (in Birmingham). We haven't gotten it done as quickly as I'd hoped, but we also had two miscarriages during the last 8 months. It is amazing to me that anyone can decide to have a child, but the process of adopting is intensive and involved! Interviews, home tours, 8-hour online training modules, required reading, physical exams, personal biographies, fingerprints, FBI background checks, reference letters, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork!!! And that's not even all of it. But I know every step will be worth it when we hold our little girl in our arms.

What's next? Our homestudy report will be sent this week to the Alabama DHR and then on to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. This step of waiting for approval can take up to 5 months! So it will be very difficult to wait during this period. We're praying that the approvals will come in much faster than expected. Once we receive our CIS approval, we will send our dossier (collection of documents required) to China and wait for our log-in date (LID). Our LID means we're officially on the waiting list, and we will then wait, potentially 3-4 years, until the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs matches us with a child.

To answer some FAQ:
- How do we know we'll adopt a girl? (this quote comes directly from our Lifeline manual...) "In order to control population growth, China implemented a 'one-child policy' which has resulted in children being abandoned. China does not allow families to give their children for adoption, so if a family cannot care for a child they may have no choice but to abandon the child in a place where the baby will hopefully be found quickly and placed in an orphanage." Due to China's strong cultural preference for a son to carry on a family's name, baby girls are frequently abandoned in the hopes that the mother will birth a baby boy the next time. Almost all available healthy children in the orphanages are girls, and we've specifically requested a girl. (There are some boys with special needs who are also waiting for a family and home.)
-How old will she be? She will be between 6-18 months old.
- Why is the wait so long? Due to various reasons, including the pause of business during last summer's Olympics in Beijing, the China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) has fallen behind in the matching process. There has also been a rise in applicants over the last couple of years as Americans (and citizens of other countries) have found China to run a very stable, reliable, and legit adoption process. (Some countries' adoption processes have been shut down due to babies being stolen from their families only to be sold as "orphans.") If we calculate the wait by the rate at which the CCAA is processing dossiers, we actually have a 7-8 year wait!!! But the rumor is that they're speeding up. Many couples who can't have biological children at all have switched to other countries or have opted to adopt a special needs child (shorter wait), so the list is also decreasing. We feel so certain that we're supposed to adopt from China, so we are moving forward with hope and prayers that the wait will surely not be that long.
-What about special needs children? I actually have a very strong interest in adopting a special needs child, independent from the wait being as short as 6 months. Some needs can be easily corrected or cared for in the US. Cleft palates, a club foot, a slight deformity, a minor heart defect...these are some of the less serious needs. However, I want to be sure Carter is old enough that I can give the time needed to any necessary surgeries or doctors' visits. We also want to keep birth order, and many of the special needs children are a bit older. However, if we, God-willing, get pregnant again but miscarry a 5th time, we'll most likely move forward with adopting a special needs girl (younger than Carter) and give my body a break for a while. I certainly can't control everything, but I'd really love for Carter to have a sibling before he turns 4. My ultimate plan (or should I say desire) is to have two more biological children and adopt two children from China - a healthy baby girl and a special needs little boy. I am not sure when I decided that I could eventually handle five children... Scott says to take it one child at a time. :)

At last, you're probably wondering, "So who's Virginia Grace?" After much prayer and thought, we've decided to name our little girl who is most likely not even yet born. Many adopting families make this step to personalize the process and identify the child they so anxiously wait to meet. I like being able to presently pray for Virginia Grace's mom, and using her name makes her imminent presence in our home more like a reality. We love the idea of crowning her with a family name, truly making her our own as our flesh and blood. We're not sure if we'll call her by a double name, by Virginia, or by Grace (I love all 3 options), but we'll definitely add a third name using a part of her given Chinese name.

This may seem crazy, but I also already have Virginia Grace's bedding! I know....but if any of you shop Pottery Barn Kids, you KNOW that their patterns are gone once they're out of stock. No carrying over from season to season. This bedding caught my attention immediately! I love that this pretty toile features gardens, parasols, and temple-like structures that seem to give a nod to Chinese culture. (You may have to click to enlarge the photos in order to see the pattern.) I bought it for her crib as well as her "big girl" bed. I hope that our little girl will always be aware of her cultural roots and nationality while feeling at home nowhere more strongly than under an American roof with her parents and brother, Carter. We can't wait for her to join us!

We will soon have a site specifically dedicated to our journey to Virginia Grace. If you're at all interested in learning more or following other families' journeys, check out the China Adoption Stories on the MyAdoptionWebsite. The pictures will make you melt!!

I'd love to answer any questions if adoption is something your family is interested in pursuing as well. We appreciate you following this journey with us, and we anxiously await the day we introduce our little girl to you!

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Natalie said...

kelley! i dont even know what to say...you truly are an amazing soul. i just told the entire story to stephen and he was in awe. so wonderful what you are doing and we will definitely be keeping the entire process, and everyone involved, in our prayers.

God Bless!!!

Andrea Young said...

Ni hao pengyou! What an exciting post to read! Saw your status on FB and had to mosey to your blog to read:). So exciting to read that you have started the process...Richard and I also have a heart for adoption but we haven't felt the "go for it" yet with our #3 wee one in the home. It's exciting to read your post as I know we will one day be there too and I would love to keep up with your journey...praying its sooner and shorter!!! Love that your heart is to adopt 2 as we feel the same way and can't wait to one day be there as well!!!

Beth Goff said...

HOW EXCITING!!!!! I will be praying for your family during this fun but long process. I think her name is beautiful! I also love the bedding... espeically since that's what I got for my Karoline's room. I LOVE IT! It never gets old. God Bless, Beth

Katy Agnew said...

Congratulations Kelley!! I'm so excited for y'all! This little girl is going to have wonderful parents, and she will be a wonderful blessing to your lives. Love you all!!

Sarah Armstrong said...

You are now my third friend to be in the midst of the adoption process! I know from listening to others that the international process is tedious...but I know it will be worth all the hard work! I am so proud for you and wish you all the best! Looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

JJ said...

I love reading more details about the process...I pray for continued patience as you pursue and wait on God's perfect timing! We are officially out of our house, sure wish you were the ones in it :)
Hope to see you soon Kelley, oh and Carter is SOOO adorably cute!

By God's Design said...

Love this post! Hoping our precious Chinese daughters will be playing together one day!

Katie said...

Congratulations! I am thrilled for you. what a blessing. and although that seems like a long wait, it will fly by - i can't wait for you to meet your baby girl! we have some good friends that are on month 18 of their waiting and they are overjoyed. they can't have babies and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first born!!

Shannon said...

Even though we have talked about this numerous times, I loved hearing about all the details! I had tears in my eyes by the end. What a sweet process and I am excited to hear all about this journey. CLint and I will be praying for sweet Virginia Grace :)

Lindsey said...

Oh, wow. How exciting! I'm so glad that you shared this with this us so early in the process.

As I read through the post, I couldn't help to cry. Virginia Grace is going to be one blessed little girl.

Lifting you and the whole Brown family up in prayer.

Praise be to God for His blessings!

Melissa said...

man! i can't wait to talk to you in person about this!! how exciting.

see you soon. i love you!

Elaina M. said...

Hi Kelley! What a wonderful journey the Lord has placed in your life. I know (through my job as a social worker) that the process is grouling and very challenging, but it is SO worth it to have a forever family! I will keep your family in my prayers during your season of preparing for Virginia Grace.
I don't think that I have ever commented on how handsome Carter is--I can see his personality shining right through the picture!

The Fokens Family said...

So thrilling reading all about this new little girl, Virginia Grace. This is such an exciting adventure for your family! Keep us posted.

Emily Chappell said...

Kelley! I am so excited for you!! We have several families at our church who have adopted little girls from China (one with a cleft palate) and they are all just precious!! And the parents have been very complimentary of the process. I just hope you don't have to wait so long. You are incredibly patient. We are praying for you during this crazy journey! LOVE LOVE!!

Ericka B. Jackson said...

Kelley- I just found your blog from facebook. This is INCREDIBLE NEWS! How wonderful for you guys!!! Rusty and I already have money in the bank to adopt from overseas someday...it's not much, but it's a start! We'd love to be kept in the loop about your sweet Virginia Grace. BLESSINGS as you wait!

The Scott family said...

Kelley, I'm so excited for your family and Virginia Grace! I'm praying that everything goes smoothly! Love you! Rebecca