Amy and I often are asked a ton of different questions about the adoption, our life before, and our life after. Since I’m so transparently open with…well….just about everything, often to my wife’s chagrin, I try to answer these questions. I get it. Adoption is not a usual path for most people, so our story is kind of a human interest, fascinating slice of life people are curious about. This is all good to me. Since many of my readers never interact with me, I thought I’d throw out some questions we are most often asked. I’ll do ten for now (in two posts), but I’ll encourage anyone out there with any other questions to comment or email me and I’ll see about doing another post answering just those questions, if any come in. So…here we go!
- Are These All Your Children?
Most of the time we are asked this by unsuspecting strangers when we venture out and about. Families of ten with eight kids are a little unusual and Duggar-ish. What they’re really asking is, “did you give birth to all of these kids??” We smile and say YES they’re all ours! But, I usually set people at ease by telling them Amy didn’t have to birth them all since four are adopted. I’ve learned there are basically two philosophies about this. Some adoptive parents NEVER want to talk about their kids being adopted. They work very hard to hind this fact and pretend everyone is biological. I understand that….unless of course they’re a different color or nationality with opposite features than their parents. Like, your kids know they don’t look like you!! The other philosophy, and the one to which we subscribe, is to be honest about who our kids are and where they came from. Now our kids remember, so it’s not a shock to them. So when asked this question, we answer YES they all belong to us. They are siblings (don’t we know it!) and we are parents to all of them. We don’t treat any of them different than any other – other than trying to work within each personality, etc. I get why other parents choose the other philosophy and I’m not saying one is better than the other. This is just what we’ve chosen and it works for us.
- How Long Did The Adoption Take?
People generally lead with this question because it’s not super personal. The answer is we found the kids in June of 2014 and came home with them in July of 2015. There were a couple of delays we experienced with Poland’s process or we would have been home sooner. Originally, we thought we would be home around April of 2015. But the timing was actually perfect for us to be later in the year. Poland required a 6 week stay in country. For us it ended up being closer to seven weeks, plus the one week we spent for our first trip to meet the children in April of 2015. So all in all, we spent over 50 days in Poland.
Now the process differs greatly country to country – even in Eastern Europe. Poland has one of the more stringent processes and they are very careful with their orphans. We appreciated this and understand the thoughts behind it. There is A LOT of waiting in the adoption process. News comes slowly and there is much space between reports/contact or fresh information. We stayed busy writing grant applications, preparing (like you would for a newborn) to have eight kids instead of four, and trying to learn as much as we could about Poland.
Truthfully, I wish I had slowed down and enjoyed the journey a little more than I did. I was anxious and wanted to get going. But even when things moved, I wish I had relaxed and taken in the full experience. I now encourage adoptive parents to relax, let it be what it is, and enjoy every second of the journey. You only get to do it once!!
- Was It Expensive? OR How Much Did They Cost?
This is the question many people want to ask but feel awkward asking! If you ask this question of an adoptive family in the wrong way, you may get backlash! We did not purchase our children. They are not a commodity. We are not traffickers. We paid fees to our agency, the US Government, and the Polish Government to cover adoption costs, administrative costs, and more in the care of orphans. We also paid for airfare, food, lodging, passports, visas, doctor visits, and a million other things we’ve already forgotten about – like the delicious ice cream in Gdansk, or the carriage ride in Krakow. The actual adoption fees were around $25,000 paid to our agency and the Polish Government (paid through the agency). Probably another $1500-$2500 in immigration fees to bring our children back to the US as citizens. The rest was travel. Two trips, one of those for six people going and ten returning can be very expensive! Plus lodging, food, and transportation for seven weeks adds up, even though Poland is quite a reasonably priced country in which to live. The exchange rate was/is 4 zloty to 1 dollar so your money stretches pretty far. Our cost of living in Poland was around $3500 per month for everything. Altogether we spent between $45K and $50K.
The VERY BEST money spent was through our agency to provide the liaison who worked with us in Poland. Grace was an absolute gem!! She worked tirelessly before we arrived and throughout our whole time in country. We simply could not have done it without her. We are honored to maintain a relationship with her. My daughter and I were able to connect with her again in Krakow last summer as we flew through for a mission’s trip. We are glad to count Grace as a friend!!
- What Do You Drive? A Bus?
Well, kinda. We drive a church van.
For the first year we drove a 2008 GMC Yukon. We found a company in California which makes a seat for the cargo space of SUVs and Minivans. We purchased one of theses seats for our Yukon. It worked fine for us, but it took all of our cargo space. We used a hitch rack for luggage and we did all the grocery shopping separately. This did not work for us. Driving home from vacation last fall, with stuff piled literally everywhere on everyone we decided we needed to look into a new solution. There are only a few options when looking for something which seats 10 people but still has space for luggage and cargo. We ended up with a 2016 Ford Transit. Ford makes several different models of this van from 8 passenger to 15 passenger. We really liked the 10 passenger. Lots of interior space for my long-legged children and cargo space in the back for groceries and luggage. It’s a little utilitarian and doesn’t have the bells and whistles of my Yukon, but it works for what we need. Honestly, though, Amy and I are looking forward to going back to a Yukon or the like in about 10 years!
There are a couple other options we looked at….the Nissan NVP and the Mercedes Sprinter. Both of these are more expensive and ultimately that was the determining factor. If money had not been a factor (and the Transits are still pretty expensive), we probably would have bought a Nissan NVP. More SUV like, more creature comforts, but a little less interior space. There’s always a trade off.
- Why Poland?
This is probably the second most asked question after “are these all yours?” The short answer is, this is where the kids were located. When we found the kids on Rainbow Kids website, they just happened to be in Poland. Had they been in Bulgaria, or Ukraine, or Hungary, we would have adopted from there. I think this is kind of how the Lord does it. He matches adoptive families with the children. Where they’re located isn’t as important – at least it wasn’t to us.
The long(er) answer is this. Amy and I had traveled to Eastern Europe to work with the Roma people the two previous summers. We fell in love with these people and continue to work with missionaries to bring the Gospel to them in Eastern Europe today. When we began to really look into adopting, we decided Eastern Europe was the place. No specific country, just Eastern Europe. We honestly thought we’d adopt a couple of Roma children. They are by far the most available race in Europe. In October of 2013 we seriously considered a brother and sister from Bulgaria, but it just wasn’t right. It made sense but we knew this wasn’t the plan of the Lord. His ways are different than ours. When we found the children and began inquiring about them, they just happened to be from Poland. Now, we love Poland and follow the happenings there.
There you have part one! I’ll post part two in a couple of days. If you have questions you’ve always wanted to ask, please don’t hesitate to send them along. I’ll answer them either in a blog post or privately depending on the nature of the question. Just know, if you’re in process, we’re glad to share with you and provide any info we can!!!
A. R. said:
My favorite question about our adopted children has always been; are they siblings? To which I love to reply, they are now!
I get it. I understand they are asking; were they a sibling group adoption but it’s fun to respond in a way that helps them see how little that matters. God put us together and we are a family.
Joy Meadows said:
I really enjoyed reading your post! Thanks for sharing! We brought home our 3 girls from Poland just this past November giving us now 7 children-3 boys and 4 girls. We also chose the second option of telling others that 3 of our children are adopted. It is a great conversation starter to get people thinking about adoption, but the one thing I hate to hear is people tell us that we are a saint for doing it as if we have it perfectly figured out. We love our girls, but there are times when adoption is difficult. It’s not just a beautiful fairytale, but hard work trying to teach manners, discipline (which seems to be a constant thing around here, but getting better all the time), and to just try to make us truly become one family. The other comment I hate is, “I just don’t know how you do it”. Instead of thinking that I am super mom, I wish people would sincerely let me know that they are keeping us in their prayers and think to encourage us to keep going when we feel wore out. Adoptive parents aren’t perfect and we don’t have parenting completely figured out. We are just people who chose to sacrifice to give children a home and family. So for everyone out there who may be guilty of this, please stop looking at us as superheroes and just keep us and the children in your prayers. Adoption is a wonderful blessing, but it is also hard.
Great thoughts!! I’m planning to write a little about the “hero” complex in the next one.