waiting

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.

Sigh.

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.

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23 Responses to waiting

  1. Christine says:

    First, this post is wonderfully written. I love how you explained the process. I plan to “borrow” some of these exact lines when strangers comment on how the process shouldn’t take so long. (So, thanks!)

    Second, our whole process (from application to forever family) took 22 months. I know how long that is and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone… especially for the *waiting* part only. That said, I’ve seen agencies bump wait times up when government stuff is going on in the country… probably to set very realistic expectations, but then they often come back down as “stuff” shakes out. (Although, I’m not as familiar with Ethiopia of course) And, if WHFC is like our agency, the new numbers apply more to the newer families coming into the program than the families who have been waiting already. (There’s some hope to hang onto!)

    So, bottom line, don’t. Don’t go there with the wait. Think 18 months. Maximum.

    PS – YAY for Oct 2011 expirations!

  2. Holli says:

    Kelly – I’ve been quietly reading your blog for a while now and as another WHFC waiting family, I wanted to let you know that I gave out a pretty big “sigh” yesterday too. Seeing that 16-22 month wait time officially out there — well, yeah, that was hard. So, for what it’s worth — and it may not be much: I feel ya.

  3. Sarah says:

    Ugh. The additional months added sucks. Our agency also gave us some fairly long wait ranges and we ended up waiting less time than given. It was hard to look at that number, but I am grateful that they were so on top of managing our expectations. Hopefully this is what your agency is also doing. It did help me to see our progress – can your agency do that for you? Instead of measuring your wait in months, can you ask for your place on the list so you can see yourself progressing, or does it even work like that?

    You have totally identified what is important, though. That your agency is very reputable and has high standards for their processes for their adoptions. So waiting sucks on the front end, but once you’re done you can rest assured you did everything possible to make sure this adoption was done right – and that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

  4. inventingliz says:

    I expected to wait 6 months and ended up waiting 10 months and two weeks, I would SO much rather have known in advance that the wait would be longer…

    I’m sorry the estimated wait times have gone up so much, hope it’s still only 18 months for you!

  5. Meg says:

    Hang in there, I saw the update this week and thought of you… We chose a great agency that I feel is well worth the wait. I too saw on the Big Board the person who received her referral after 2 weeks. My heart just sunk — red flags flying. I wish people would make better decisions…

    We’re at the 7 month mark too…

  6. Leah says:

    As long as I’ve been reading your blog, I’ve often wondered why your wait time was so long. I think you are doing the waiting remarkably well though, and obviously the most important thing is a reputable agency, which you have definitely found. When I was looking for an agency, we decided to go a smaller route. Everything I’ve researched, they seem very reputable and have a great relationship with Ethiopia, yet their times on the waitlist average 4-6 months. And then there is gladney, which I believe averages approximately 7-9 months. It is CRAZY to me how different the timeframes are agency to agency. 2 weeks though. . . That does seem really a short timeframe. Wow. But at the same time, I do know reputable agencies who basically had no waittime for a period of time. . . perhaps just because of the different orphanages they use?

    Anyway, thinking of you during your time of wait, and I hope it doesn’t go anywhere beyond 18 months for you.

    • Kelly says:

      There are actually quite a few agencies with waits this long (or thereabouts). Who knows why it’s all over the map. I’m happy with our agency choice, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish the wait was shorter!

  7. 😦 I’m so sorry to hear about the wait extension. But I guess at some point, it could shorten again, right? It’s so wonderful that your agency is up front and honest with you b/c I fear that many agencies would lay low with the info just to avoid unhappy clients. It’s such a shame that this process is so long and difficult, but the reward is so great.
    You seem to have such a healthy outlook and I’m sure some days will be better than others.
    I am *so* excited to see you holding your baby some day πŸ™‚

  8. sue says:

    when i started reading your post, i had no idea the news that would come at the end. i gasped when i read it. so not what you wanted to hear. i’m hoping too that things will shorten up. you are so strong and your attitude about it is amazing.

    there is going to be some major celebrating when your referral call comes! you’ve got mamas all over the place rooting for you!

  9. Mary says:

    Sounds like you have exactly the right frame of mind surrounding the wait. While it sucks to have the time extended, it is much easier to deal with a wait that long if you weren’t expecting to wait only 6 months, as you put it.

    And I think that you and Craig have chosen the right agency and for the right reasons. For us, we wanted to be able to tell our boy that we know that his adoption was conducted by an ethical agency and that things were not misrepresented. We waited a bit longer for that reason (not as long as you will be waiting, but then our agency is smaller). But in the end it was totally worth it.

    As simplistic as it sounds, it’s also the case that the right kiddo will come along for you at the right time. I truly believe that. So while the waiting is tough it is easier to do when you know that your baby, your perfectly perfect for you baby, is coming along next spring. Without a doubt.

    Hang in there. I know it’s hard, but the day will come, I promise you!

    • Kelly says:

      I fully agree with all you said, Mary! The waiting is worth it for knowing that everything was done in an ethical and above-board manner.

  10. Kala says:

    I never knew that wait time was that long. Thanks for explaining it to me. I am hoping that they are being conservative and t that hey would love to surprise you with an earlier referral. I’m thinking of you!

  11. Kelly says:

    Oh, Kelly, you guys have been so patient with your long wait. Like Sue, I gasped when I read the updated time estimate. Ugh! So not what you wanted to hear. I’m hoping Christine is right that perhaps the new time only applies to people just coming into the system? Or is that wrong? You and I have talked about this before, but let me reiterate that I think you and Craig have been very smart to choose the agency you did. The waiting now sucks, but the piece of mind is priceless, both now and definitely in the future when you talk to your child about the process. Thinking about you …

    • Kelly says:

      Unfortunately, the timeframe applies to anyone waiting – whether you just started waiting today or you started waiting a year ago. Hanging on to 18 months…

  12. Jennifer says:

    We are one of the few agencies I have seen (are there others??) who have clients turn in everything before they get on the wait list. If a homestudy takes about l3 weeks from the date of application and the CIS office takes 90 days that means over seven months, and several pairs of stretch pants later from binge eating.. we finally get on the list.

    I tried, in vain, to explain to the local CIS that our agency is one of the few that will not let you on the wait list until you get your handy dandy l7lH. In Vain.. would be the two key words…

    However, on an upbeat note, I really think you will have about an 18 month wait. I remember on a recent phone in call someone asked about why it said l2-l8 months when it is always l8 months, and the reply was that that was still within the time frame.. which is true. Also, someone recently posted that they waited l8.5 months. I think they are extending it to be safe and keep everyone happy. That way when it is “only” l8 months it seems fast! Seriously.. That is my thinking……

    Maybe CIS should say l20 days and then 90 days will seem short… umm not with the power of the internet. πŸ˜‰

    Hang in there.

    • Kelly says:

      The only agency I know that allows people to get on the list prior to CIS approval is Holt, but given your comments, there must be more! That is interesting to know, Jennifer. And I agree – 18 months was within the previous timeframe and it’s also within the new timeframe. I still say 18 months it is!

  13. Zoe says:

    I think it’s wise to just keep thinking 18 mos, besides in the next six months, WHFC could revise the time again and it could be shorter. There are so many things that go into wait times. Peace of mind about your agency is number one, and it’s worth a few more months if need be because it will matter for a lifetime.

  14. Kim Young says:

    Yea – as another waiting for 0-12mo from eth I also let out a huge sigh. And weve only been “waiting” since May. LOL. But I am trying to see this wait time as an extended pregnancy with a nice chunk of time to prepare for a baby physically and mentally. it sucks tho.

  15. mkwewer says:

    Oh you are kidding? Really? Sigh. I’m just going to keep hoping for that lower number – send positive thoughts that your baby will come sooner rather than later. Sending you hugs.

  16. Evelyn says:

    Sigh. I know this mental game well. It is so, so hard. Wish it could be wiped away for you…

  17. Emily B. says:

    Ugh. The waiting is so hard. There is no other way to put it. But the 18 months is still within that 16-22 so I think that is a good timeframe to focus on. I am actually kinda surprised that the wait would increase given that Ethiopia is now a two trip country. I wondered if that would have an impact on the number of people able to adopt from Ethiopia. Maybe not? I think you are doing amazingly well with the wait! hugs!

  18. Janet says:

    This was a great post. It explained things so well. People just never understand why adoptive parents wait so long. People always asked us that…why it is so long?? They’d offer suggestions like requesting an older child, requesting a child with special needs or with something “wrong” with him/her (their words, not mine), etc… While these are practical ways to make the wait shorter, they were not what we were comfortable with…at least not at the time. (Quite frankly, it would always “irk” me when people would suggest these things…because they always came from people who were not adoptive parents and who had several completely healthy bio children of their own. Anyhoo…I won’t go there today!)

    I’m so sorry to hear the wait times sound like they are going up again. We experienced that kind of “news” twice during our wait…and it was so hard to swallow each time (first increased wait for referral and second increased wait to travel). I’d be sad about it for days after receiving the news…and then would just “chin up” and keep moving forward. It really does help to have others to talk to about it, which it sounds like you do…especially through this blog.

    The agency you are using does sound wonderful. Ethics above all…to ensure this is all done the right way…it is children’s lives, after all.

    Hugs to you…these waits are so hard.

  19. Leigh says:

    I wish I had something more helpful to say other than I’m sorry. Hang in there.

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