Colin & Noelle

Colin & Noelle


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Friday, November 30, 2012

World AIDS Day.

This Saturday marks "World AIDS Day". In 1988, the World Health Organization declared December 1st as the annual date to recognize the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It has continued to be observed globally in places like the U.K., South Africa, Ethiopia, and the United States, to name just a few. As I've browsed the web over the past few days in an attempt to refresh my knowledge, I have come to the realization that so many people don't understand HIV or AIDS. And I'm not talking about those affected in third-world countries. I'm talking about Americans. I'm talking about people within societies that are considered "well-educated" and have great access to public schooling -- that theoretically cover topics like this in basic middle/high school health classes! And even though I feel that I was raised in a school district that talked about HIV and AIDS constantly, some of the statistics were still quite shocking.

So why is this relevant to our Ethiopian Adoption Blog? Because HIV is relevant. To Ethiopia. To Africa. And especially to some fellow adoptive-parents and children within our community -- and quite possibly, yours. Due to a variety of reasons, children with HIV are often overlooked by potential adoptive parents. And while some of the time that decision is thoughtfully made, at others, it is undoubtedly due to lack of understanding -- a decision deriving out of fear of the unknown.

Then, some children who are  adopted may find themselves coming home to communities that are apprehensive towards them. Parents who have just endured the long journey to welcoming this new child, and who are doing the best they can to love and provide for this child, may find themselves feeling alone and without the support they need. Adoption is a beautiful thing, but a challenging thing. It's worth every second, but that doesn't mean there aren't moments of loneliness where it feels as if nobody understands (perhaps aside from other adoptive parents). And although a lot of adoptive parents genuinely love to talk about adoption, that doesn't mean they never get tired of being asked ignorant or overly-personal questions. Throw HIV into the mix, and I can only imagine how hard that must be...

Which is why all of us  need to be educated -- whether or not you ever adopt an HIV+ child. Your best friend might. Your sibling might. Your  child might. An HIV+ child could one day be your neighbor, your niece or nephew, or your grandchild. And that's okay. Do what you can to educate yourself. I imagine that it's one of the best ways you can offer support to a family with an HIV+ child.

Now, because I think being educated about HIV and AIDS is so important, here are a few basic facts and stats to get you started, if you happen to be one of the many people who know little to nothing about HIV/AIDS, or if you simply need a refresher...

  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Aquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) are NOT the same thing -- sort of. 
      • HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, similar to the common cold, but is too strong for the body to fight off. AIDS is the final stage of HIV, and occurs after too many cells have been destroyed and the immune system is already severely damaged. 
  • HIV can be managed! It doesn't have  to lead to AIDS. And it doesn't have  to lead to premature death. It used to be that HIV could progress to AIDS very rapidly. Now, individuals who are HIV+ can often expect to live full, happy lives, thanks to modern medicine. 
  • Without any medicinal treatment, upwards of 30% of babies born to mothers with HIV, will contract HIV themselves. An additional 5-20% of children who do not contract it by birth, may contract it through breast-feeding. Mothers with HIV who receive proper treatment and choose to formula-feed can reduce the risk of their child contracting HIV to less than 1 or 2%.
  • HIV can be passed via bodily fluids, such as through sexual contact, needle sharing, pregnancy/breast feeding, etc. It cannot be passed through general, daily activities, such as skin to skin contact, sitting on a toilet seat, swimming in the same pool, or simply by being around someone who is HIV+. (In 2011, roughly 15-25% of American's didn't know this).
  • Approximately 1 million Americans are living with HIV. And 1 in 5 don't know about it. (Imagine what those statistics must look like in countries with less resources!)
  • There are no symptoms of HIV. By the time any symptoms appear, the virus has usually advanced to the AIDS stage -- which is why it is important to make sure you are tested!

Now, check this out...

And this...

 (for an idea of what "Sub-Saharan Africa" 
looks like from a global perspective)

(The blue star is approx. the location of Ethiopia)


So as we enter this years' World AIDS Day, I hope each of you will consider how you can make a difference in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Educate yourself, get yourself tested (please, please, please!), spread the word and increase awareness, donate blood, donate money to an organization that provides medicine to HIV+ individuals in less-fortunate regions of the world, offer an encouraging word to an adoptive family with an HIV+ child, and/or pray for those around the world suffering from, or orphaned by, HIV/AIDS. 

For more information, please check out the following links... (United States)

      Monday, November 19, 2012

      November: A month for all things "Adoption"

      I admit, November is one of my favorite times of the year. It's always been a month full of family. Between Thanksgiving, my birthday, the birthdays of several family members, and all the yummy foods, smells, colors on the trees, and Christmas decorations starting to pop up... November is just all around pretty dang awesome, in my opinion.

      But until this year, I never knew that November also happens to be "National Adoption Month"! How amazing, right? And it's been a pretty exciting "adoption" month for us and some of our friends this November...

      We started out the month with our new wait list number -- we are #78 this month! Early November brought us another get-together with families from our agency, where we heard a story from another family that recently traveled over to Ethiopia for their first visit. Their story is their own, and I won't re-tell it publicly here, but I will say that throughout it, we laughed at some moments, almost cried at others, learned a little about what to expect when traveling, as well as being reminded of the idea that anything can happen in this process-- both in heartbreaking ways, as well as positive ones. At this meeting, we also learned that at that time, just a few short days into the month, at least a few families had already been given referrals for 6 different children in November! Amazing, right?! Overall, we left that meeting feeling really connected to other families, inspired, excited, and just ready to see where this month takes us...

      Another noteworthy event came on November 4th, which has become known as Orphan Sunday, as coined by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Unfortunately, we have been so busy, we didn't get the chance to attend any local Orphan Sunday events. The goal of Orphan Sunday is for Christians, often through the church setting, to bring awareness to the orphan crisis in our world today, and to encourage Christians to consider how they might be able to "defend the cause of the fatherless" (Isaiah 1:17). This doesn't have to mean adoption specifically, but rather all kinds of caring for orphans. We hope to be a part of this next year, and we hope you'll consider looking into this as well. Perhaps you could attend an event or encourage your church or group to hold an Orphan Sunday event?

      Then, this past Saturday, the 17th was National Adoption Day (primarily focusing on Foster Care Adoption) and a pretty big day for those within our adoption community! It was our 2-months-down mark on the waiting list -- as well as for our new friends who are 1 number behind us (because our dossiers arrived in Ethiopia at the same time)! We're not-so-secretly hoping to get referrals at the same time so we can travel together and officially meet, since they live in a different state. ;)

      Saturday was also a big day for my friend Shayna (who so generously organized our Jewelry fundraiser with her friend Lena earlier this year). Well, Shayna's family has been fostering a little boy for the past couple of years, and his adoption was finalized Saturday -- such an exciting way to celebrate National Adoption Day! Also, let me just say that long before we even considered adoption for our family, I remember Shayna often sharing her love for foster care/adoption. Her heart towards the fatherless is inspiring and amazing to witness. She has been an incredible source of encouragement throughout this process. Thank you for that, Shayna!!

      But wait! There's even more! Remember our friends Ashley & Patrick Gollasch? A while back we wrote this blog post about them. They began their domestic adoption process this year. They wrote up a "Dear Birthmother" letter, submitted it, and officially began waiting at the end of August. By the end of September they were matched!! It is UNBELIEVABLY quick. This past weekend was their baby shower, which we unfortunately could not attend due to living so far away.. but it sounds like it was a wonderful day! Their little one (gender still unknown) is due to arrive in just a couple weeks!! So a big CONGRATULATIONS to the Gollasch Family!!

      And a big Thank You to whoever has found the time to finish reading my novel of a blog post today!!


      Thursday, November 1, 2012

      USCIS Approval!

      We are very happy to announce that last weekend we received a letter in the mail from USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) informing us that our fingerprints had been processed and that our I-600A application had come back favorable! And very quickly - with only a month between the filing date and completion date! We were told to expect up to 90 days, so we are ecstatic about this!

      We'll need to update this paperwork over time, but it states that we are provisionally pre-approved to adopt 1-2 child(ren), either gender, 0-3 years of age from Ethiopia and bring them into the United States upon their adoption (more or less - that's the condensed version).

      We're feel so blessed that God has brought us on this journey. Even in the moments where I felt overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork, and when I've been unsure of how things would come together, He has been faithful in His perfect timing, and this approval is just one more thing we can check off our "to-do" list and praise Him for! Thank you Lord, for being with us every step of the way! :)