We attended one of our every-other-month Ethiopian dinner gatherings on Saturday. As usual, we had a great time talking with other families who have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) from Ethiopia. It was a smaller group this time (about 6 families), which was actually nice because we were able to talk with everyone.
When asked how long we had been waiting, we’d say, “Seven months,” and then people would say, “Oh, so you must be getting close!” and we’d say, “No, we have an estimated 12-18 month wait, and we expect our wait to be closer to the 18-month end.” I was surprised that some of these other families – who are all obviously with different agencies – weren’t aware of the long wait times of some agencies working in Ethiopia.
[I should also note that with most Ethiopian adoptions and definitely with our agency, the wait time starts on the day of USCIS approval (ours was on 10/31/09). This approval comes after the home study is completed and the dossier is prepared. So, really, by the time we started to officially wait, we were about 8 months into the process. Those 8 months don’t factor into the waiting times I reference here.]
Some at the dinner asked us how we were handling the wait. Honestly, I think we’ve been handling it quite well. We’ve known from the beginning that it would be a long process, and so that has helped. It’s not like we started thinking it would be six months to a referral only to find out that it would be more like 18 months. That would be terrible. So, we’ve continued to live our lives and keep our eye on the prize, which would hopefully be a referral by spring 2011.
Many people ask us why the wait is so long. WHFC is a bigger agency, and also, it is one of the most highly regarded agencies working in Ethiopia (as well as one of the agencies that has worked in Ethiopia the longest). As such, many prospective adoptive parents choose to work with WHFC. Additionally, the simple fact of the matter is that while Ethiopia has millions of orphans, only a fraction of them end up in the system available for adoption. And most people – like Craig and me – want to adopt healthy infants. So, we’re actually in a situation where there are more adoptive parents than there are healthy infants available to adopt. It comes down to a basic supply and demand theory, as crass as that sounds when talking about adoption. (And that’s why it’s really scary when we hear about people (with other agencies) getting referrals of healthy infants after a wait of only TWO WEEKS as I recently saw on one of the email lists.)
We wouldn’t have to wait as long if we were open to adopting older children. We are simply not open to that at this point. Maybe we’ll think about it for adoption #2, when we have some parenting experience under our belts.
We receive weekly updates from our agency that show how many referrals were given out that week and how long the families had been waiting when they received their referrals. Over the past several months, the wait times have been consistently in the 17-18 month range. So, 18 months seems to be a pretty solid goal.
The estimated wait time was on my mind yesterday when the mailman delivered a gift certificate from Charm City Cakes (Ace of Cakes on TV!) that we won in a silent auction last week. I was excited to see that it doesn’t expire until October 2011. This means that we should be able to use it for an Ethiopian-themed cake perhaps for a first birthday party or a welcome home party for our little one (when he or she is ready for such an event, that is). I actually said to Craig, “We should definitely have our child home by then.”
Not 30 minutes later, I checked my email and saw that WHFC has changed its waiting time (for 0-24 months age at time of referral) from 12-18 months to 16-22 months.
Now, I have to say, I was pretty much expecting this. 12-18 months is obviously not a very accurate estimate right now, when for months the referrals have been coming at 17 or 18 months of waiting time. WHFC tries very hard to give realistic information, and that’s one of many things we really like about them. They don’t sugarcoat and they want us to be prepared.
But it’s really hard to see that 22 number in the timeframe.
I’m not ready to contemplate a 22-month wait, even if we already have seven months down. I’m just not. That would take us to September 2011, which is still well over a year away.
So, I’m going to stick with my idea of an 18-month wait as long as I reasonably can. I’m a realist and I try not to think in unrealistic terms, but I just can’t let my mind go to 22 months. I just can’t.