how much does it cost? fundraising? why international adoption? – INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION Q&A

    I’ve been wanting to do an adoption Q & A for a long time and here it finally is!

    I have a feeling this will be part one of many but I am excited to answer some of your questions about our international adoption.

    Some of the questions I’m answer in this Q & A include:

    • why international adoption?
    • how much does it cost?
    • what about fundraising?
    • how do you choose an agency and country?
    • how long was the process?


    International Adoption Q & A - how much does it cost? how long was the process? and more!




    Five Years With Ephraim!

    Tomorrow marks five years since a South African judge ruled in favor of Ephraim joining our family.

    I cannot believe it has been five years already!

    That chubby eighteen month old has grown into a hilarious six and a half year old.

    When we first got our referral for him one of the words they used to describe his personality was “lively” and other than the first week of being with us where he was incredibly quiet the liveliness hasn’t stopped.

    He will do anything to make people laugh.


    Five Year Adoption Anniversary


    When I look back on our adoption timeline and the ups and downs, and apparent brick walls, I am just in awe that through it all God was directing us to this boy in particular.

    As a fairly Type A personality married to someone who is also quite Type A, it’s hard to imagine our genes ever producing a child with Ephraim’s personality.

    I can’t imagine life without him and his big smile.


    One year post-adoption

    Ephraim at two and a half – one year post-adoption.



    + numerous febrile seizures and a couple trips in the ambulance as a result of some of his being atypical.

    + eye surgery – I mean, it was very helpful and I glad he had it but watching your child go through surgery is never fun as a parent.

    + he had something like six bouts of tonsillitis in a year.

    + not being able to give him any information on his birth parents, I know I would be curious if I was him and I wish I could tell him about them.

    So yeah, most of the hard moments have pretty much all been medical related and his immune system seems to have improved quite a bit even in the last year so hopefully we can stay away from the doctor for awhile.


    Five Year Adoption Anniversary



    + snuggling with him each morning.

    + seeing his huge smile and infectious personality.

    + seeing his heart and compassion for our foster children.

    + watching him do things he was originally scared of and then loving it (like going down a water slide alone).

    + how he never meets a stranger, when I mentioned that to him one time he said, “Well, I just like everybody!”


    Five Year Adoption Anniversary


    Four years ago I made a video with a ton of pictures from his first year with us, if you want to see photos of us picking him up in South Africa and just photos of him as a chubby one and two year old, here you go:



    I am thankful for this fun loving boy each and every day!


    How Long Does Adoption Paperwork Take?

    Well, this adoption awareness series is slowly puttering along and I’m back today with another question that I got asked: How long does the paperwork take?


    In case you’ve missed it, here’s the series so far:

    You can also checkout the whole adoption awareness series here.


    How long does adoption paperwork take?




    Adoption paperwork is no joke, there’s a reason it’s been called “paper pregnancy”, the only problem is that there is no nine month expiry like there is with traditional pregnancy.

    So, how long does adoption paperwork take?

    Well, it really depends.

    Generally you will be getting your home study done while you are gathering country-specific paperwork (criminal record checks, medical checks, etc) so that can improve your efficiency when it comes to paperwork.

    Though, depending where you live you may not have someone available to complete your home study right away. I know that is often the case for one of the provinces here in Canada.


    Taking Time to Answer some Adoption FAQ's


    We started our paperwork by applying in November of 2011 with social services, applied to an agency in March 2012 and started our home study on April 4th. By May 17th we had completed our home study and the necessary paperwork. So, the bulk of our paperwork was done in about six weeks, but it was about six months from the start to finish.

    But, if you know our adoption story at all though you’ll know it wasn’t quite that smooth. You can take a look at our adoption timeline here.

    Another thing to take into consideration is that your paperwork may expire. We needed to update our home study, criminal record checks and our fingerprint checks a few times. This depends on the wait and the requirements from your agency, some may have different expiry dates for different pieces of paper.

    All in all, the gathering of the paperwork was not very long or very hard. It was the waiting that was the hardest part (and being in limbo when we couldn’t find an agency/country). Hmm, maybe I should add a post to this very-slow-series about the waiting period . . .

    Is there anything else adoption related you want me to share about this month?


    Where to Start When You Want to Adopt

    I wasn’t planning on having such a break after my previous post in this adoption awareness series but it turns out suddenly doubling the kids in your home can really affect one’s free time!

    Here’s an outline of what I have/hope to share about this month (more may get added or I may not get to them all, we’ll see what life brings!):


    Where to Start When You are Thinking About Adopting - domestic adoption and international adoption


    When we knew we wanted to start the adoption process it was hard for us to figure out how to actually get started. It involved a lot of searching the internet and doing our research. Because the adoption process is so different for every province/state/country I can’t give a complete step-by-step but I can try to give a general guide with some of our experiences thrown in that will hopefully be of help.


    Where to Start When You Want to Adopt



    The first step is to figure out if you want to go the domestic or international adoption route.

    For us, I knew I always wanted to adopt internationally so it was an easy decision. I also knew the traditional domestic adoption route was really long (around 10 years) and that helped to cross off that option.



    Now here’s where things can start to vary.

    At this point you’ll need to figure out locally if you need to apply to Social Services first or apply to an agency.

    Our province doesn’t have any adoption agencies so we started by applying to Social Services and researching agencies in different provinces that would work with us.

    If you are adopting internationally there are so many different country programs to look into, this may affect your decision as to which agency you use because most agencies only work with a few countries.


    Where to Start When You Want to Adopt



    So depending on where you live your home study will either be done through your agency or directly through Social Services. I know some places have crazy waiting times to get started with the home study. Thankfully there was no such wait here so we started pretty much as soon as we had our ducks in a row.

    The country you are adopting from will determine what papers you all need to compile. Over time we had been with four agencies and three different countries and needed things like tuberculosis tests, Interpol checks, etc.


    Where to Start When You Want to Adopt


    The difficult part here is that no place has the exact same process so you need to figure out what you need to do based on the location you live and where you are adopting from but I hope this was a bit helpful in pointing you in the right direction!

    You can also check out our adoption timeline to get the full picture on our adoption.

    If you are in Saskatchewan I wrote a post way back in 2012 with how to get started with adoption in Saskatchewan (it was intentional at all but it was on this exact day seven years ago that I wrote that post!)

    If you have a suggestion for topic or question you would like me to address in this adoption awareness series let me know!


    How Do You Know if You’ve Been Called to Adopt (or Foster)?

    It’s Adoption Awareness Month and I have a number of ideas of posts to share for this month. I got a few different questions asked and I plan on answering them all over the next few weeks.

    Here’s a peek into what I hope to share (and I’m sure I’ll come up with more):

    • how do you know if you’ve been called to adopt? (that’s this post!)
    • how to get started
    • how long does the paperwork take?
    • what if I don’t instantly love my adopted child?
    • how to talk about adoption with your adoptive child

    Let me know if you have other questions you would like answered or topics you want me to cover!


    Adoption Awareness Month - How Do You Know if You've Been Called to Adopt (or Foster)?


    Okay, on to today’s question!


    How Do You Know if God is Calling You to Adopt (or Foster)?

    I’m just going ahead and adding fostering in there because it is the same answer.

    I have two answers to this question: the long one and the short one.


    Adoption Awareness Month - How Do You Know if You've Been Called to Adopt (or Foster)?



    The short answer is: you usually don’t know if you’ve been called to it.



    The long answer is much more detailed.

    I pretty much covered this in a post about faithfulness earlier this year but I often go back this line that Francis Chan wrote in You & Me Forever:

    Err on the side of action.

    If you were to live until 80 and were looking back on your life do you think you would be more likely to say “I wish I wouldn’t have adopted (or fostered).” or “I wish I would have adopted (or fostered).”

    I think we often regret the things we didn’t do instead of the things we did do.

    And the truth is, if you are a Christian you have been called to help the orphaned and poor.

    We are not told exactly how we each are to do this but we are all supposed to be doing something.

    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
    James 1:27 (NLT)


    Adoption Awareness Month - How Do You Know if You've Been Called to Adopt (or Foster)?


    Some verses that have really stood out to me in the last few years are out of Ezekiel. If you are familiar with the Bible at all you probably know about the story of Sodom. It was a city that God destroyed (you may remember that Lot’s wife looked back while running away and turned to a pillar of salt, cause that’s not normal!). Sodom was a severely messed up city (you can read about it in Genesis 19). I mean, if you read the chapter you can kind of understand why God would want to destroy it.

    But, do you know why God actually wanted to destroy the city? It tells us in Ezekiel 16:49-50:

    Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needyThey were haughty and did an abomination before me. 


    That seems crazy. I mean, there were a whole host of guilts I feel like could have been listed against Sodom but what was actually mentioned? Having pride, excess food and prosperous ease and yet not helping the poor and needy.

    Does excess food and prosperous ease sound familiar? It should! If you are reading this now it means you have a lot more resources than many people in the world!


    What if, instead of waiting until we felt called to adopt we stepped out in faith and started the process and waited to see if God closed the door?

    What if we erred on the side of action?


    Adoption Awareness Month - How Do You Know if You've Been Called to Adopt (or Foster)?


    While some people will feel called to adopt, some will have it on their hearts from childhood, yet others will step out in faith because they believe all Christians are called to help the orphaned in some way and they know they can provide a home for a child who doesn’t have one.

    I don’t think everyone needs to adopt (though I would highly recommend it! 😀) but if you are finding yourself drawn to adoption or wondering if it something you are do or are called to I would suggest taking the next thirty days to intentionally pray about it and do some research on the topic.


    Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.
    Matthew 18:5


    If you want to read more verses about orphan care or even pray through them check out this post.

    If you would like prayers while you consider what your role should be in caring for the orphaned and poor feel free to leave a comment or email me and I’ll be praying for you!


    Monthly Scripture Writing Challenge: Orphan Care

    With November being Adoption Awareness Month and Ephraim’s adoption anniversary it seems like the perfect month for an orphan care Scripture writing challenge.

    I don’t think that every Christian needs to adopt or foster (but I’m not opposed to the idea either!) but we are all called to help the fatherless and needy.

    You’ll notice that the verses for this challenge are not all orphan specific, there are a lot of verses about doing good that don’t specifically point out orphan care. It plainly says in the Bible that people will know we are Christians by the way we treat those around us and one of the ways we can do this is by caring for the orphan.

    If you are interested in looking at previous Scripture Writing Challenges I’ve created a couple of others so far.


    The truth about adoption - life after international adoption


    You definitely don’t have to write out the verses every single day to take part in the challenge. I understand that life happens and we get behind.

    One of my pastors once used this illustration for daily Bible reading, he said something to the effect of: if you missed breakfast and lunch one day, you don’t need to first eat breakfast and lunch before you can have supper.

    The same thing applies to Bible reading and Scripture writing. Just continue on with where you should be, you don’t need to go back and do all the previous days.

    October was the first month since July that I didn’t stay on top of my Scripture writing, I got sick and still had good intentions, I got my Bible and notebook out and looked at the verses and my brain just couldn’t make sense of any of it so I had to wait a few days before starting back up, it happens. Then we got our first foster care placement and had to do two full days of first aid and CPR training on very little sleep, so I missed a few days there as well.

    Don’t focus on the missed days, focus on the days you got into the Word.


    Free Month-long Scripture Writing Challenge on orphan care, adoption, foster care and doing good


    I am really excited about the theme for this month because it is a topic I have felt very passionately about since I was fifteen.

    I am hoping to do some adoption awareness posts both on Instagram and here on the blog but am not really committing to anything specific at this time since life feels a little crazy at the moment though I do plan on concentrating most of my posts here (because I like blogging more than I like Instagram).

    If you are interested in reading more on topic you can check out our adoption timeline and adoption posts as well as our fostering timeline and fostering posts.


    Look at this flashback to a couple weeks after we adopted Ephraim! <3


    As with all my Scripture Writing Challenges I’ve left them just numbered with no days of the week and there are thirty-one verses/passages. I always feel the need on months where there aren’t thirty-one days to point out that yes, I do know there are not thirty-one days in the month, but I want to have that many verses in case people decided to do the challenge in a month where there is thirty-one days. See, I am (a little) smart.

    To get the printable Scripture writing challenge just sign up here and you’ll get an email with info on how to access all the freebies on this site:


    check to verify you want to receive the newsletter & freebies 



    I also wanted to try something different this month and include the actual verses here instead of just the printable. I like making the printable because you can use your preferred version of the Bible and actually go to each passage but for this month I wanted to try having the full verses here. These are all in the ESV unless otherwise noted.


    Bible Verses about Orphan Care, Adoption and Caring for Others


    James 1:27 (NLT)
    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

    Isaiah 1:17
    Learn to do good;
    seek justice,
        correct oppression;
    bring justice to the fatherless,
        plead the widow’s cause.

    Ezekiel 16:48-50
    As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. 

    Jeremiah 22:15-16
    Do you think you are a king
        because you compete in cedar?
    Did not your father eat and drink
        and do justice and righteousness?
        Then it was well with him.
    He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
        then it was well.
    Is not this to know me?
        declares the Lord.

    Psalm 68:5-6
    Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
        is God in his holy habitation.
    God settles the solitary in a home;
        he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
        but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

    1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
    Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

    John 14:18
    “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

    Galatians 2:10
    Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

    Luke 12:33-34
    Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

    Matthew 25:35-36
    For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.

    James 2:15-16
    If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

    Isaiah 58:6-10
    Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
    Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
    Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
    your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
    Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
    If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
    if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    then shall your light rise in the darkness
        and your gloom be as the noonday.

    Matthew 18:5
    Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.

    Proverbs 28:27
    Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
        but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.

    Psalm 82:3-4
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

    1 Samuel 2:8
    He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap
    to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
    For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s,
        and on them he has set the world.

    Matthew 19:21
    Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

    Psalm 146:9
    The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
        but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

    Deuteronomy 10:18
    He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

    Proverbs 31:8-9
    Open your mouth for the mute,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
    Open your mouth, judge righteously,
        defend the rights of the poor and needy.

    Matthew 25:40
    And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

    Philippians 2:4
    Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    Galatians 6:2
    Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

    Romans 12:10
    Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

    Proverbs 21:13
    Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
        will himself call out and not be answered.

    Ephesians 4:32
    Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

    Matthew 5:16
    In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

    Ephesians 5:1-2
    Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    Colossians 3:23-24
    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

    John 13:34-35
    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

    1 John 3:17-18
    But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.


    Why We Are Choosing to Foster (Instead of Adopting Again)

    We’ve had a number of people ask us in the last couple of months why we made the decision to start the process to become foster parents and specifically why foster care over another adoption, so, let’s chat about that!

    Next month marks five years since we adopted Ephraim! And while the journey to him was long and at times painful, we cannot imagine our lives without him, he has brought so much good into our lives, God really knew what he was doing by putting him in our family.

    So, obviously we are pretty pro-international adoption.

    And to be honest, we did look into international adoption again.


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again

    I mean, when you end up with a kid this cute, of course you look into adoption again!


    One thing to know about international adoption is that things are always changing. A program that is running smoothly one year (or even one month) may be completely shut down the next. Often due to corruption.

    The program that we adopted Ephraim through is in that stage. There is a waiting list for the waiting list and things are just not moving.


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again

    Bahaha, thank you Michael’s for this moment of comedic relief!


    So, we did some international adoption research and found all the programs that were open and available for us (due to our age and a ton of other factors different countries throw in there), plus we had to factor in the fact that our province doesn’t have any adoption agencies so we had to look in other provinces for ones that would work for us. Oh, and we had to make sure the program was actually moving.

    After all of that there was one program that we could go through.

    I talked on the phone with the agency that ran that program for quite a while and got all the details.

    The highlights from that conversation were: it would take about three years to get a referral, then we would go see the child, be there for two weeks, and then come back for at least a year while paperwork got done and then go back and pick them up.

    The process would take about five years and that’s if things went smoothly, which we know from personal experience that they hardly do.


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again


    We were looking into a sibling adoption which would end up pretty much doubling the price (it would end up being around $70,000). And really, it’s not about the money, if we needed it I am sure God would provide and the money would come in, but it made me stop and think, what else could we do with $70,000? And I don’t mean what kind of fancy vacation could we take (though, that is tempting!), but rather, how many lives could we positively influence?

    We had talked about foster care on and off over the years, always being fairly quick to dismiss it for a whole host of reasons (reasons I plan on sharing and unpacking over the next few weeks), but this time when the topic came up we found that the reasons we had been quick to dismiss it in the past were easily answered or remedied now.


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again

    Oh you know, just post-immunization waiting room antics.


    What it really comes down to is that there is a need for foster families in our province and we can help fill that need.

    We can accept children into our family and love them like our own while their parents get the help that they need.

    We can work with birth families and show them the love of Christ while they journey on the road to recovery.

    We will get attached and our hearts will probably get broken, possibly many times over, but we were never called to an easy life. We were called to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23).


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again


    One of the books of the Bible that I often find myself going back to is James, written by Jesus’ own brother this guy knows how to call me out and remind me that my life isn’t about me:

    But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
    James 1:22-25


    Did you catch that? It’s possible to deceive ourselves, we can’t just listen to the Word and agree with it, we need to take action! This will look different for different people at different times in life, right now our next step of action, an act of obedience is working on getting ourselves approved to be a foster family.


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again

    I’ve just started this study: Finding God Faithful by Kelly Minter and so far it has been really good!


    I hope that helps explain a little about why we are choosing/have been lead down the path to foster care and why we are not pursing international adoption.

    In the next few weeks I hope to share a little more about some of the reasons we had previously ruled out the idea of fostering and why those excuses no longer hold.

    If you have any questions about the process or anything feel free to ask!


    Why We are Choosing to Foster Instead of Adopting Again


    The Truth About Adoption – Life Post Adoption

    Tomorrow marks four years since Ephraim legally became part of our family.

    I am always blown away when I think about how long he’s been with us. On one hand it seems like just yesterday and on the other hand it feels like he’s always been here.

    I’ve been wanting to write a post-adoption post for a long time and the weekend of his adoption anniversary seems like the perfect time.

    When we were going through the adoption process I followed a lot of other couples in the process, both on social media and their blogs and I noticed an annoying trend: whenever they would complete the adoption process they would stop blogging. As our journey dragged on (you can read our whole journey here) we saw couple after couple complete the process while we were still in the middle of it. I would follow them online for months or even years and then when they finished their process it seemed like they were never to be heard from again.

    Then we completed Ephraim’s adoption and I totally became one of those people. I still posted to Instagram and still blogged, but not really about adoption.

    For me, it really felt like all my life God had given me the desire to adopt. It had always been on my heart and it had always been Africa. During the journey when we hit brick wall after brick wall and we came back to the drawing board to figure out which country we were going to pursue next it always had to be a country in Africa. From Ethiopia to the Democratic Republic of Congo (twice) and then South Africa, it was always Africa. Then, when we came home with Ephraim it honestly felt like that huge desire and love for the continent went away.

    I really can’t explain it, after loving Africa for half of my life it felt weird to feel so neutral about it. Honestly, it felt like God had given me that huge desire to make sure we adopted and after the process was complete it was like God was saying the purpose had been fulfilled, it felt like He took the desire away.

    With that gone it seemed as though a big part of my identity was gone. I had always had such a heart for the orphans in Africa, I spent time reading about it, advocating for them, doing all the things and then it all stopped.

    It was for that reason that I didn’t really blog after we brought Ephraim home. But, I feel like it’s not really fair for those who followed us through the journey to just leave them hanging like that. And while this post may be about four years late, it’s here anyway.

    For the rest of this post I’m going to interview myself, asking the questions I wanted answered from other families years ago. If you have any other questions after reading through, ask me in the comments at the bottom and I’ll do my best to answer them.

    Edited to add: apparently I wasn’t as terrible at blogging after the adoption as I initially thought. I did have share six month, nine month and one year updates.

    The truth about adoption - life after international adoption



    When we were filling out the paperwork and meeting with an adoption social worker they talk a lot about attachment. It’s something that is pretty much given when you birth a child – you are right there, you are bonding from the first minute they are born, in adoption you have a lot of time to make up for. Our adoption worker wanted us to be prepared as possible and I feel like we were given a lot of worst case scenarios, even my own online reading left me coming away with a lot of horror stories. I know it is good to be prepared but you also want some hope in the midst of your paperwork pregnancy!

    So, we prepared for the worst. And honestly, we got the best.

    From the second day we spent with Ephraim it was like he knew he belonged with us. We spent the second day with him at our B&B and when we brought him back to the home for night I remember him just sitting in Jared’s lap instead of playing with the kids.

    I’ve asked myself a lot about why attachment was so easy for us/him when it has been hard for so many others. He was 18 months old at the time, so he was young but not newborn. I think there are a few factors that helped: his love language is physical touch – which means a lot of snuggle time, great for bonding! I think his experience in the children’s home made a big difference too; it was a small home with only a couple caregivers, in a semi-remote area and they didn’t have a vehicle big enough for all the kids so the only time he ever left the home was for doctor’s appointments. Related to this: he was a preemie and very small when he went into the children’s home so he got some extra love and attention.

    To be honest, I don’t think the easy of attachment had anything to do with us and was more to do with Ephraim’s personality and experiences in his first year and a half.


    The truth about adoption - life after international adoption



    Adoption starts with loss. In an ideal world adoption wouldn’t be necessary, but we do not live in an ideal world.

    I think this question needs to be answered on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it is not the best route and other times it is.

    I often think about the alternative for Ephraim.

    In South Africa before a child can be adopted internationally they need to first make sure the family cannot be located. Then they make sure there is no one domestically that will adopt the child. International adoption is a third option.

    Had we not adopted Ephraim when he turned two he would have left the small children’s home he was in and gone into one for kids 2+. There he would have stayed with very little chance of ever being part of a forever family.

    I am fairly confident in saying that in this case, it really was the best option.


    The truth about adoption - life after international adoption



    Um, amazing. He fits in 100% and he is the silly light our otherwise fairly serious family needs.



    The journey! That was hands down the hardest part.

    Other than that, maybe just that we don’t have any family medical history. It’s information that would be helpful.


    The truth about adoption - life after international adoption



    Make sure the agency you are working with and their in-country workers have the child’s best interest in mind. We left an adoption agency because we found out that their in-country worker was trying to traffic their own niece and nephew. As a result we lost about $10,000 and about a year of time.

    Also, another thing I would want people to know is that it is worth it. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but don’t give up!

    Last thing: if you are adopting internationally: don’t let the cost scare you. At the beginning there was no way we had the money to complete the adoption. Actually, we had just used all our savings to take an unrelated trip to Uganda. So, we started with no money and it ended up all coming together. I know seeing the dollar signs can be overwhelming, but it’s worth it.


    I think that’s all I can think of for now – let me know if you have any other questions! Also, you can check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago where I answered some adoption FAQ’s.


    The truth about adoption - life after international adoption


    Our Adoption Story – The Journey to Ephraim

    In just three months we will be celebrating Ephraim’s fourth anniversary of being a part of our family. I have no idea how time has gone so quickly. How is he not still that chubby one and a half year old who refused to say anything other than “Mama”?

    Honestly, there are some days where I forget that he is adopted but then I see his cheeky smile and how positive and happy he is and it hits me; he has someone else’s genes, while that smile is meant for me, he probably inherited it from one of his birth parents. At that point I’m usually overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude that I get to be the one this boy calls Mama even though he now says a lot more words.

    I recently realized that while I had blogged through the adoption process I never took the time to sit down and write it all out after it was over. And while sharing about it while going through the process has it’s benefits, there is something different about being able to look back on the journey. It’s a lot easier to see God’s hand at work when you aren’t currently being stone walled by adoption agency after adoption agency.

    So, this post is to serve as our adoption story. I’ve titled it Our Adoption Story – The Journey to Ephraim as opposed to Ephraim’s Adoption Story because this is not from his point of view at all. The choice of words is deliberate.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    Since it’s been seven years since we started this journey *jaw drop* I’m glad I kept a timeline of the adoption process, I’ll definitely be using that as I write this post out. In addition, you can check out all the adoption posts I’ve written here.

    This story actually starts back when I was a teenager (yeah, it’s going to be a long one). As early as 14 or 15 I remember experiencing a lot of stomach pain (which I never told anyone about), when I was 30 I would end up finding out that I have Crohn’s disease and so that was the cause of the pain, but I did not know that then. I just remember telling God that I was okay with never having biological children, I knew I wanted to adopt and having biological children wasn’t a priority for me.

    Fast forward a couple of years and I was in high school dating a guy I had known forever but I had just realized how witty and cute he was (it also helps that he had a growth spurt and was now taller than me 😉 ), adoption was definitely mentioned as we were dating. I don’t know if he agreed thinking I would forget about it but either way, he agreed to it. (He also agreed to my idea of having 5 kids and I’m the one that flaked on that one.)



    Fast forward another few years to 2010 and I had been married to this witty guy for a few years when we were blessed with an adorable and strong willed little girl, Raeca. Within the the first few months after her birth we discovered she had what I guess would be considered a birth defect, she had saggital craniosynostosis, which means the soft spot on the top of her head grew closed too soon so her head was only growing lengthwise instead of round. I’ve shared a number of posts on this and the surgery she had where the surgeon cut open and removed a piece of her skull to reopen the soft spot and also flatted the back of her head which had grown quite long, you can read all those posts here.

    Raeca first saw the neurosurgeon when she was 5 months old and we spent the next few months getting some testing done before deciding to do the surgery. Her surgery occurred when she was 9 months old and it didn’t take long post-op for her to be back to her normal self.



    While we were in the process of figuring out Raeca’s medical stuff we made the decision to wait on baby #2, there was a lot going on already and adding pregnancy/another baby into the mix just felt too overwhelming.

    Shortly around the time that Raeca had her surgery I started finding some ladies online who were going through the adoption process. I spent hours reading their blogs and kept reading snippets to Jared. We hadn’t talked about adoption much in the previous few years but we made the decision to start the process when Raeca turned one.

    So, a month after her first birthday, November 2011, we filled out the application we needed to fill out in our province to get the ball rolling. We did a little bit of adoption agency research at this time but there were a number of local people we knew about (but didn’t really know) who had all used the same agency so we applied for that one and were accepted into their Ethiopia program!

    We had officially started our adoption journey!

    The high was short lived though, the next month we found out that our adoption agency had gone bankrupt. The case worker we had been assigned to was let go and since we were so new to the agency she didn’t even have us on her list so the agency didn’t even notify us to let us know, we found out after trying to reach out to them because we hadn’t heard anything from them after our initial acceptance.

    Our first road block in the adoption journey.

    December 2011 and January 2012 included a lot of adoption agency research. Our province does not have any adoption agencies so we can work with any other agency as long as they are Hague accredited.

    Curious about Hague accreditation? It signifies that the adoption agency meets the standards in the Convention, the Intercountry Adoption Act, and the Universal Accreditation Act. From my understand this was all put in place to ensure ethical adoption practices.

    So, we started really digging into adoption agencies, and specific country programs we looked at ones throughout Canada and the United States. Other than Hague accreditation we also needed to make sure the agency would work with us and that we met the requirements of the country program we wanted to enter.

    Some agencies were not willing to work with couples outside of their own province or country so that ruled quite a few out for us. We also crossed off a number of different countries as options generally because we were either too young or because we didn’t have infertility problems.

    After all that work we finally found an agency in the US that seemed like a really good fit for us, we loved how quick they were to respond to us and all of their adoption education was done online, the agency we had previously signed with was much closer but would have required us doing a few training sessions in Manitoba. (Think Eagleton to Pawnee in Parks and Rec or Wollerton to Dog River in Corner Gas. Manitoba is the one place Saskatchewanians feel like they can make fun of, but honestly, Saskatchewan is no better, well, I assume not anyway, I’ve never actually been to Manitoba.)

    We took a short break from adoption agency research and spent February 2012 in Uganda visiting my cousin and his wife who were missionaries. We had a great time and I remember thinking how at home Jared and Raeca seemed there.




    We spent less than a week at home and then went to California because Jared had a work conference there. And if you are from a the frozen tundra you take any chance of escape you have in the winter.

    The week after we got back from California we sent off our application to the amazing adoption agency and exactly a week later we were accepted!

    We were back on track!

    Over the next few weeks we told our family and friends that we were adopting. They were mostly surprised but supportive. Adoption wasn’t a very big thing in our community and generally the few that had adopted did so because of infertility.

    The next few months involved doing all the paperwork things that come along with an adoption; local criminal record checks, interpool criminal record checks, medical exams, home study reports, immigration pre-approval, etc, etc. It all went into one big file called a dossier. Once we had everything completed we sent a payment and the files to our agency where they translated the entire dossier into French (the language of the DRC) and then forwarded it on to the DRC.

    Over the next few months it was a lot of waiting. Our dossier made it to the DRC and we were officially waiting for a referral. We recieved our immigration pre-approval in the mail, did some online adoption training courses and just waited.

    At the beginning of 2013 we started thinking about changing our age range of acceptance and started speaking more with our social worker who did our home study. She ended up connecting us with another couple who was also working with the same adoption agency and we started hearing some concerns about the agency. A few emails also went out from the agency around that time that were some pretty big red flags.

    Based on the information we had we decided that rather than approaching the agency we would just terminate our contract with them. In the process we lost about $10,000 but that was better than the alternative; always wondering if our adoption was ethical.

    Pretty much while we were terminating all of that we signed up with a different agency out of the US, also with the DRC program. We were pre-approved via email and sent in the physical application. I don’t remember if we officially were accepted or not but just a couple of weeks later they phoned and told us that they foresaw the DRC closing to Canada (or Canada closing to the DRC? The details are a little fuzzy now.), so the door was also shut on adoption agency number three.

    April 2013 was a pretty low point. I felt like we had exhausted all our options but I still had this huge desire to adopt.

    We ended up putting things on hold for a few months, not really on purpose, just due to lack of options and some burn out.

    In July of the same year (2013) I started looking some agencies and programs up. The next month, August, I had coffee with a new friend. I had met her through the adoption world and she was telling me a little about the agency and program they had signed up with.

    Everything she told me about sounded really good. I had previously tried to contact this agency via email and they never got back to me, plus the program that we were semi-interested in, South Africa, was actually on hold at the moment and so it didn’t seem like the best option. From our experience to this point often when programs are put on hold they don’t end up opening back up. But this friend told us that the program had just opened up again so I decided to look into it.

    This time I called the agency and I got through to someone right away. A lot of what she told us checked a lot of our *adoption wishes* boxes: children were usually 18 months or older (call me weird but the newborn and baby stage is not my favorite), families usually travelling within six weeks (none of this waiting for years with infrequent photo updates), families only make one trip (none of this going to see them and then having to go home to wait for a court date while you know your child is sleeping in an orphanage), and the time in the country was usually six weeks while you wait for the paperwork to be completed (perfect for bonding, plus being in a new country!).

    An interesting feature for this program was that they didn’t give our referrals in order of acceptance, once your paperwork was in they put you in the “pool” of waiting families and then as a child was available for adoption the in-country worker looked through all the families and chose which one she thought would be best suited for that child. It was completely unlike anything we’d ever heard of before.

    So, in August (2013) we applied for adoption agency #4. On September 10, 2013 we were accepted into the program and started working on our dossier once again.

    It took us a few months but we updated all our paperwork and sent our dossier in October. Unfortunately, the timing was awful because it first had to go to our provincial social services and the one person they had working with international adoptions was on holidays for an entire month. So our paperwork just sat there.

    Our agency finally received our dossier in December but because of Christmas things didn’t go anywhere.

    Twenty-fourteen dawned with better news, our dossier reached South Africa in January! At that point there were 15 families in the “pool” waiting for referrals.

    In February and March we updated our medical paperwork and then it was just waiting around . . .

    Then, on September 19, 2014, one year and nine days from being accepted into to program, we got the call!


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    I don’t even remember if I knew that we would get the call from our provincial case worker and not our agency. I do know that I had been expecting to get the call, I had not been expecting Jared to get the call. So when Jared called me from work one afternoon I figured something was up because he never phones but I didn’t think it was about a referral! Our case worker was going to email us details and pictures (!!!) so Jared left work early and came home so we could look at the email together.

    After nearly three years in the adoption process we finally got to see the face of the little boy we would call our son.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    We got our referral on Friday and spent the weekend telling our families then on the Monday we officially accepted the referral. It was happening!

    One thing that appeared to be a downside in the moment but actually ended up being a blessing was that the in-country adoption worker was coming to Canada in a couple of weeks. It was great because we could meet her before going over but it meant that instead of travelling six weeks after our referral it would be eight weeks. When I write that now it doesn’t seem like a huge deal, it’s only two weeks difference, but when those two weeks keep you apart from your child, it’s a huge deal.

    We didn’t spend those eight weeks just waiting around though, just the month before (August) we moved into a rental for six weeks while our house was finished being built so a week and a half after our referral we moved into our new home.

    Then on October 2nd, Raeca’s fourth birthday, we travelling to a city three hours away to meet the in-country adoption worker.

    After that we had a number of paperwork that needed to be updated before traveling. Our updated fingerprints actually ended up getting lost in the mail and so that involved many phone calls and trying to get things figured out. This is where those two extra weeks we actually a blessing.

    During these weeks of waiting we got one updated photo, the intention was to show us the severity of Ephraim’s wandering eyes but I didn’t care, I was just excited to see another photo of my little boy! We put this picture in a frame and I remember Raeca setting it down on the table next to her one morning and “eating breakfast with my brother”.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    Then on November 12th, 2014 we flew out of Saskatchewan and took a 30-ish hour journey to South Africa!


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    We arrived in Durban, South Africa in the afternoon of the 13th and then in the morning of the 14th a jet lagged Jared drove us four hours (on the opposite side of the road) to the city where we would meet Ephraim!

    We were told by the in-country worker that we would wait until she arrived and then we would sit on the floor and they would bring Ephraim in and we would wait for him to come to us and we could play with him that way, with the initiation on his end.

    Well, apparently she didn’t relay this information to the ladies that worked at the children’s home because we got their before our social worker and the ladies woke Ephraim up, thrust him into our arms and then handed us his lunch for us to feed him. Ha, I think the poor boy was a little shocked. I think we all were!


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    We spent that day at the home, playing with him, just getting to know him. He was so quiet we wondered if we had the right boy. The word we had been given that described him was “lively”. This was not a lively child.

    The next day was Sunday and we took Ephraim back to our B&B for the day and just hung out. Raeca was pretty much the only person that could get a smile out of him, she could even get him to giggle. We played cars with him and he fell asleep in my arms.

    Then we took him back to the children’s home for night. We did have the option of keeping him with us for night but we were heading to court the next morning and we thought that messing up his schedule and routine right before court wouldn’t be a good thing.

    We spent a little bit of time at the home that evening and rather than going and playing with the other children Ephraim just sat in Jared’s lap. Honestly, it’s like he knew from the beginning that he was supposed to be with us.

    The next day, Monday, November 17th was court day. We picked up Ephraim from the children’s home. I remember I had planned on dressing him but by the time we go to the home we just wanted to get to the court as quickly as possible, the last thing we wanted was to be late. So, with Ephraim wearing this tacky orange Tiger sweater, which of course we kept and is now in our chest with all our other special momentos, to court we went.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    The social worker warned us that she had never worked with this court before. We were in a smaller city than she was used to working in and she tried to warn us that people may not like the idea of adoption. Plus, we had a judge she had never worked with before and he was black, according to her, in her experience black male judges did not always look too favorably on outsiders, especially white outsiders, coming in and adopting their children. To make matters worse, the other family that was there with us in court that day who were also adopting were a military couple, another thing not looked upon favorably.

    With all that information in our minds we entered the judges room pretty much completely terrified.

    But, all the warning before hand made our interaction with the judge that much sweeter, the dear man actually thanked us for looking after one of South Africa’s children. ❤️

    So yeah, we passed court.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    After that it was a quick stop at the store for some diapers and other things you need when you have a year and a half year old and then we drove the four hours back to Durban, the city where we would spend the next few weeks completing all the paperwork and waiting for Ephraim’s Canadian citizenship and passport to come through.

    The next few weeks were great. The quiet boy who hardly moved the first week soon broke out of his shell and became the “lively” boy we were told about.

    We had a great time hanging around our B&B, meeting up with other Canadians that were also adopting, seeing a bit of South Africa and just generally being a family of four.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    Our paperwork all came through on time and we flew out of South Africa on December 21st, got home in the evening of the 22nd and celebrated a fairly quiet Christmas. When we got home it was like Ephraim knew this was home. Opening his first Christmas presents . . . the look on his face . . . ❤️


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    Our family and friends continued to be amazingly supportive through the entire journey though there were many in the community (like in our church) who we found out via the gossip chain were not happy about our adoption plans. It still surprises me that we continued to attend that church through the whole adoption process. Thankfully a new church plant started up in our city the month after we got home with Ephraim and we immediately started attending, and without even realizing before hand we ended up in a community with a high percentage of adoptive families and homeschoolers, we found our people.


    Our Adoption Story - The Journey to Ephraim


    Now, nearly four years since passing court I’m so glad I took the time to write this story out. It had it’s ups and downs but had things worked out how we wanted we never would have been given this little boy. God knew we needed him.

    When people ask about Ephraim they often say something to the effect of “he’s a lucky boy you adopted him” and I always want to correct them, he’s not the lucky one, we are.

    (Also, I wouldn’t use the word “lucky” but you get the idea.)

    Wow, this ended up being a long story and yet it is still missing so many details. I hope to write a post-adoption blog post soon, if you have any questions you would like answered in that post just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.


    Our Story and Experience with South Africa International Adoption

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