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Read about one family’s heart wrenching decision to turn down a referral from Guatemala.

Adopting from Guatemala

Hallie Clare. We have four children by birth, but international adoption was something that we had always considered. When our youngest was about to turn three, we decided to take the “plunge.”

Choosing a Country
We did not have a specific plan when choosing a country from which to adopt. We chose Guatemala mostly because we just kept coming back to it. We considered adopting from China and Russia, and each time, we would come back to adopting from Guatemala. The length of time needed to stay in the country was appealing since it was very short compared to most other countries. We also joked with each other, because we knew ourselves, and it was best not to give us an opportunity to have to choose just one from an orphanage full of beautiful children that needed homes and forever families...well, let's just say that we knew that if we went to Russia that we would come home with 18 children.

Choosing an International Adoption Agency
One of the factors that was important to us when choosing an international adoption agency was a payment plan. We chose an agency that would allow us pay in "chunks" as we went along. Some adoption agencies that we considered wanted $10K before we could even get started on the dossier. With the adoption agency we used, we were able to pay cash for most of our adoption, and not take out a loan, which was very helpful. Another reason we chose them was because of their reputation as an ethical agency. It also helped that they told us that we would probably have our child within a year, which turned out not to be true, but that influenced our decision at the beginning.

The Dossier
All international adoptions require prospective parents submit paperwork, called a dossier. An international adoption agency can be very helpful in preparing this dossier. The adoption agency we choose had a detailed paperwork planner on line. Since we did not live near our agency, this online resource was extremely helpful. It had everything that international adoptive parents need to know. The instructions were very concise and easy to understand. We referred to that site a lot when we were doing our dossier. We didn't have to re-do anything due to errors, send something that we "forgot" or "didn't know about", or any other unexpected surprises. The planner had it was all right there. As a result, our paperchase was fairly easy and uneventful.

The Wait
We knew we wanted another girl, since we already had one girl and three boys. In December we were added to the “girl list.” International adoption always has its challenges, but we were confident that the Lord would have His hand over our adoption. As soon as we got on ”the list”, things started to slow way down in Guatemala. Intermediaries were demanding more money for girls than boys. Thankfully, our Guatemalan attorney and our adoption agency were ethical and refused to pay more money for a girl than a boy. (It doesn’t cost anymore money to process an adoption for a girl than a boy). As a result, intermediaries stopped giving our adoption agency girls for referrals. The wait was on! But, when something is in God’s will, nothing will ever stop His plan. Eventually, the doors opened up again, and the girl list began to move. Finally, in September, after being on the wait list for nearly 10 months (with10 of those weeks at #1), we got our referral of a seven month old baby girl.

Turning Down a Referral
We were thrilled to finally have our referral and sent packages down to her with other families going to Guatemala to adopt. One month later, we were devastated to learn a medical condition was discovered at her 8th month check up that would require extensive medical treatments. Even with treatment, this special need would last a lifetime and might be life threatening. We reluctantly made the decision to turn down this referral. We already had four kids and we didn't feel that it would be fair to them (or to her) to adopt a child with such extensive special needs.
The decision to turn down this referral was heart wrenching to say the least. It was not an easy decision. It is still sometimes hard to talk about, because we will probably never know what became of her. We never thought in a million years that we would end up saying "no" to a child. We had all wrapped our hearts around this child waiting for us to bring her home. Our kids were mad at us for deciding to reject the referral. Actually, they were mad at me, not my husband. To this day, they still talk about her, and they continually surprise us by their devotion. Every night without any prompting from my husband, Denny, or me, they pray for her. They insist that her picture stay up at our house as well. So, we still have a small photo of her in a frame in our living room.
We were told that she was placed with another agency that handles special needs adoptions, and we hope she has been adopted by a family that can give her the love and care that she needs. Denny says, "Now two babies have been given a home, instead of just one." That is how we choose to look at it. We also believe that God had another little girl in mind for us.
The little girl He had chosen wasn’t born until the end of October. We received Hallie’s referral packet right before Thanksgiving. What a great gift! We had pictures of her at eight days old! We broke the news to the kids about the first referral at this time. We thought that having a new referral for them to see would be easier for them. As only God could do, our new referral looked so much like our four biological children. In each photo of the referral packet (and later, the updated photos), she looked just like each one of the kids. I would hold up a photo of her and one of each of them and say, “Look, she is making the same expression you are!” That, along with prayer, helped them become excited for their new little sister.

More Waiting
Surviving the international adoption wait is a story in itself. I think I went through about every emotion possible during our wait. Some days I felt really good, other days I felt like I would fall apart at any moment. One thing I had to always hold on to (and still do) is: What He says through the did not‘s and the no's is "I have a Greater Plan." Boy, did Denny and I learn this through our journey to Hallie!
Knowing that Easter was coming and that things slow way down in Guatemala during this time, we mentally "settled in" to wait through this next round. Surprisingly, we got “the call" late one evening (10PM), via a voice message on my cell phone, saying that our embassy appointment had been granted for that Friday! We literally threw some things in a bag, and about 24 hours later, we were on a flight to Guatemala. (A miracle since it was Easter and nearly every flight was completely booked!)

Meeting Hallie
As we were flying to Guatemala, I was preparing myself, saying to my heart: “OK, you will love this child because you love children. You will care for her, and over time you will learn to truly love her.” I was so wrong! The minute they brought her to us, I knew that I loved her as much as I did each of our four biological children the first time I saw them. We had prayed for her before she was even born, and now here she was! A perfect and absolutely beautiful five month old baby and she was ours. She was officially now a forever part of our family.
Hallie was instantly smiling and “talking” to us. We quickly discovered that she was very happy, healthy, secure, and content. We credit that to not only her disposition, but also to the foster care that she received while in Guatemala. Her foster mother was wonderful! When they brought Hallie to us in the hotel, we had the opportunity to meet with her, take pictures of her holding Hallie, and ask her questions about what Hallie’s life had been like up until now. Hallie had been so loved by her foster mother and foster family, and we could tell that it was hard for her foster mother to say goodbye to the baby that she had loved since she was two days old. We will forever be grateful to Hallie’s foster family.

The Transition Home
Hallie fits so perfectly into our family that I know that God specifically gave her to us. She has had no adjustment periods. Our four biological children were so excited to finally have her home. They have all done great, and we can honestly say that there hasn’t been one second of adjustment for anyone in our family; it’s been that easy of a transition. Just think, if we had been just one family in front of or behind on the list, we wouldn't have her. Wow, it's a little surreal actually.

Reflections on the International Adoption Process
I do remember every agonizing moment of the international adoption process, and I am humbled to say that I did fall many times, especially during the long wait and turning down the first referral. My faith was tested in a very real way. We waited almost one year for a referral. That is an incredibility long time for an adoption from Guatemala. I went through such a range of emotions that I never expected to have while we were waiting to bring Hallie home. One day I was up and optimistic, the next day, I was just trying to hang on to any bit of hope.
It was hard to understand why we had to go through the things we did, but as I look back now, I can see God's hand in every step. He was with us, leading us, comforting us, giving us just enough strength to get through to the next day. Watching how God has used us is so humbling. Even though we didn’t understand the why’s along the way; even though we didn’t see or know about every detail, orchestration, or how it all was truly woven together, we know that He does. He is always faithful to those who love and serve Him, and He will give us the desires of our hearts. We are honored, blessed, thankful, and privileged to be Hallie Clare’s chosen family.

-Denny and Mindy
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