Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Whatever the Cost - The Chubb Family Adoption Story

Social media does a tremendous job of celebrating families who have adopted.  The coming home photos, videos of the first moments together, and new family pictures can portray beautiful picture of redemption and love. But, they often only tell one part of the story. 

The international adoption process rarely goes according to plan. Timelines shift and change, finances are stretched, and countries change their policies and laws. It's not always pretty, but it's a reality. 

For families who are adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo, this is all too familiar to them.  There are hundreds of children who have been legally adopted, yet have been stuck in an orphanage or foster home waiting to be allowed to leave the country and be united with their family. 

I've asked Jessica Chubb to share her family's story of the DRC adoption process. It's honest and raw and in the middle of a lot of unknowns.  They have been waiting for two years to bring their legally adopted son home.

Month after month, for the past two years, they have paid foster care fees for their son, advocated for his release, and prayed that one day he would be in their arms.  

Here is their story.  It's isn't wrapped up neatly in a bow, but it's a story of a family who won't stop fighting. 

1. What led your family to adopt? What specifically made you choose the DRC?

Since I was a teenager I felt a strong desire to adopt. My heart felt very broken by the idea that any child may grow up without a loving family. When my husband and I dated and eventually were engaged we discussed the idea and felt like it was something we would eventually do.

We began our family the traditional way (belly babies) and we were blessed with two girls within 4 years of being married. When our youngest daughter was a baby I had a dream that felt so real. In my dream, I was looking at an image that was like a sonogram. In the image, I saw a baby boy and I knew that baby was my son. In my dream, however, I did not get the sense that the belly he was growing in was my own. It seemed as though there was my son, growing in the womb of another woman. It felt so real and so intense.

Around the same time some friends of ours began the process of adopting two boys from Rwanda. I felt so intrigued by their story and followed them closely. My heart rejoiced when I saw their two children finally join their family. I began to read everything I could about adoption and follow many bloggers. My heart was so intensely broken by the stories many families would share of their children's lives before adoption.  One story in particular that haunted me was a mom saying they visited an orphanage where their child lived and she was devastated by the rows and rows of babies lying in cribs completely silent. I had two babies. I knew that babies were not supposed to do that all the time. That image would not leave me.  

I began to talk with my husband and ask if he would pray about beginning the adoption process. My husband jokingly told me, "I am not going to ask God if he wants us to adopt an orphan because he is going to say yes." It was at that point we began to pray and ask God what we should do. We felt at peace about adopting but we had no idea where to begin. We began to ask friends and family to pray for us to have clarity and direction from God. We emailed and called agencies and talked with a lot of families who had already gone through the adoption process.

We felt very drawn to Africa.  The mortality rate under the age of five was enough to break my heart. Some statistics say 1 out every 11 children under the age of five die in Sub-Saharan Africa every year. We initially began the process of adopting a little boy from Ethiopia in 2010. Just before we were completely ready to be matched with a child the Ethiopian government announced a shutdown that completely stalled international adoptions for that country. We remained in the Ethiopia program for two years before deciding to make the switch to DRC. We had been praying about whether or not to move to another program when you, Leslie, announced that you had just accepted a referral for a sweet little baby boy from DRC. I asked you a bunch of questions about your agency and the DRC. We prayed about it and finally decided to make the switch over to DRC in November of 2012. 

2. What has the process been like? How long have you been in process? 

We were paperwork ready in January of 2013. Shortly after we completed our dossier we received a phone call from our agency asking us if we would consider a little boy. We were told he was very young and possibly premature. He was sick, (most likely with malaria). We did not have a lot of information about him but immediately we felt as though we had to say yes. He was a child who needed a family, in our minds it did not matter if he was ill or not. He needed someone to fight for him and we were willing to be that family. We shared with some close family and friends and began to intercede for this little man. We begged God to heal him and make him well. February 13th we received a phone call that he was very ill and was expected to die. We were told that our agency would not allow us to go forward with adopting him any longer.

Our hearts were broken. I struggled to know how to go forward. We had believed God would heal him. We had hoped for a happy ending. We were asked at the same time to consider going forward with adopting another little child. His name was Eloinga and we struggled to know what to do. I did not want to give up on the first child, but we were not given a choice. We prayed for wisdom. We begged God to do a miracle and make him well anyway. Our hope was that we would be allowed to bring home two boys instead of one. We moved forward with the paperwork to begin the adoption of Eloinga.

The first photograph we saw of him, we fell in love. He was the sweetest baby boy dressed all in pink. We still prayed that God would do a miracle on behalf of the first child but we knew that if Eloinga needed a family we would be willing to give him one. In July 2013, we officially completed our adoption of Eloinga. He was now officially our son and we would name him Nehemiah.

We also found out, sadly, that the first child we had pursued died from his illness. I was broken hearted. I felt as though God gave me an image of that little boy. He was carried to the throne of God by the prayers of people who loved him. While I never was able to physically hold him, I know that God entrusted us with him because he needed people to intercede for him. He needed someone to love him. And even though it was not the way I wanted we provided him with what he needed for a short time.

Meanwhile, we moved ahead with all the paperwork for Nehemiah to come home. We were hopeful that he would be in our home by Christmas. August 2013 we sent out the last of our immigration paperwork and prepared to wait for our government to grant Nehemiah a visa to come home. One month later, in September 2013, I woke up to the news that the DRC government had just announced that they were stopping the exit of all adopted children from DRC. 

3. What is happening with DRC adoptions? Why are these children stuck? 

When the announcement was made in September of 2013 that they were going to cease to issue exit letters for adoptive children, I felt like I literally had the wind knocked out of me. We were so close to having Nehemiah home and now we were told they were not going to issue exit letters for at least another year.

That announcement was made almost 2 years ago.

And today, hundreds of children are still stuck. I have heard a lot of rumors that the DRC government did this because they were angry over some agencies who had broken their laws. I have also heard that they were afraid that adoptive families were being abusive to children once they are home. There have been a lot of rumors and many attempts by families to show DRC that these children are being well cared for and loved. In the end these children are still stuck.

In March of 2015, DRC officials said they would begin releasing the children. Five months later and hundreds are still stuck. We have been told there will be a resolution "soon,” over and over.  I am not sure when the children will ever be officially allowed to join their adoptive families.

In the meantime, several children have died from treatable illnesses.  Many families are struggling to make ends meet, as they are stuck paying foster care fees for their adoptive children for years longer than expected.  Children are growing up without families that have families waiting for them, and hundreds of families are walking out the heartbreak of spending another birthday, family vacation or Christmas without their child. 

4. What would advice would you give a family that is considering international adoption? 

I feel like we are the poster child for what could go wrong in adoption. So, I am not sure I should give anyone advice.

I have learned a lot, however, in our five years of being in process. The most important is that I know we could not have walked this road without our faith in Christ leading us. There were so many times I wanted to throw in the towel and be done. But I felt very strongly that God was leading us to this. There were times where just doing the next thing felt like an act of obedience. I would say if God is calling you to adoption that you should obey Him.

I don't know that we will ever have a happy ending to our story. We hope that one day, this child we have loved and watched grow up in photographs will be able to sleep in the bed we have made for him. But I just don't know if that will happen. I do think, however, that we have done what God called us to. And I believe that God is working out this situation for good. I truly believe adoption is a beautiful thing. I hope one day we get to see that full circle in our own lives. I think that hope is worth all the money, effort, time and heartbreak we have invested in the last 5 years.

Nehemiah is worth whatever it may cost us. He is worth fighting for. 

This month, I will be donating 20% of my Rodan + Fields profits to the Chubb family to help with foster care expenses.  If you'd like more information about what R+F can do for your skin, please contact me by commenting below with your email or email me at leslieharris77(at)gmail.com.

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