Friday, January 30, 2009
Adopting a Child with HIV Surprising Insights
dopting a baby or child with HIV is becoming increasingly popular as potential adoptive parents are gaining more knowledge about the virus, and finding that it is one of the most easily managed of all special needs. Children with HIV are exactly the same as all other children with the addition of daily medication to keep their immune systems operating normally, and quarterly doctors' visits to check their blood which ensures the medications are working properly. In every other way, these kids are normal, healthy, intelligent kids, and they lead regular lifestyles including camps, sleepovers and athletics. Y
ou may be surprised to find out that children with HIV have close to normal life expectancy due to the excellent treatments that are currently available in the developed world. All of the tragic stories that we hear about children dying of AIDS are due to lack of medication in underdeveloped countries, although antiretroviral treatments are thankfully now becoming more widely available to impoverished nations. Treatment is so good now that people who are diligent about their meds are now living to old age without their HIV progressing to AIDS, and they are giving birth to healthy children.
The first question many potential adoptive parents have is often regarding transmission as they are nervous that a child with pediatric HIV might be contagious' to others. The reason these unfounded fears exist, is due to misinformation spread in the 1980s before medical professionals knew the facts about HIV transmission. Fortunately, now we know that HIV is not transmitted in a household or educational setting. The truth is that HIV is a part of our society and we all associate with people who have HIV, even though we may not know it. For example, HIV positive children are in schools and daycares with HIV negative children, and adults with HIV are preparing and serving food in supermarkets and restaurants. If this idea frightens you, it shouldn't, because HIV is not transmitted in any casual way. You cannot get HIV from sharing food and drinks, sharing a bathtub or pool, changing a diaper, hugging and kissing, or sharing a bed or toilet. You can get HIV through unprotected sex and intravenously by sharing needles. The only other way HIV is transmitted is from mother to child, which is how millions of orphans have innocently contracted the virus.
Children with HIV can be adopted from the United States, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, Haiti, India, Latvia, China, Ghana, Estonia and other countries. Beautiful, sweet, healthy HIV+ children of all ages are waiting for loving families. Adoption fees are often reduced making this an affordable option. Your existing health insurance covers adopted children regardless of pre-existing conditions, exactly the same as biological children.
HIV is no longer considered a terminal illness, but rather a chronic yet manageable condition and health care professionals now consider it easier to maintain than other long term conditions, such as diabetes. The only reason these facts are not widely known is due to the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds HIV. Almost any parent raising a child with HIV will tell you that disclosure is the biggest issue they have not health, not transmission, but disclosing their child's HIV status.
Fortunately, there are strict laws protecting people with HIV and disclosure is entirely optional. You are not required to tell the school, church, coaches, neighbors or anyone else. There are many orphaned children listed with adoption agencies. Others may be found by logging into your account on the RainbowKids.com Waiting Child area. An excellent source of information and waiting children links can be found at PositivelyOrphaned.com www.PositivelyOrphaned.com
One of the ladies on my webboard shared this thought. Our Ethiopian Children know MANY people who are HIV+. Here is America we can compare it to the number of people we know who have 2 cars... We can compare it to the number of people we know who go to college. EVERYONE in Ethiopia is affected by the AIDS epidemic one way or another.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Tonight I will pick Marti and some of ther team mates up and drive them to Richland for their game. This is Marti's second basketball game and she is MUCH LESS nervous this time! Phew! When she is nervous - she is not so sweet and kind! :) She did really well in her first game, expecially considering she is still learning the language and terms like rebound, , block, offense, block out, shot, defense, man-up... are still a bit new to her (and me). She did some great blocking and I can't wait to see how today goes!
The boys are supposed to have wrestling tonight but Ben has a school board meeting and we just can't figure out how to get everyone where they need to be! There's always next week! :)
Tomorrow is Indoor Olympics - the hair paint is purchased and the crazy outfits will be organized tonight... I will post pictures tomorrow!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Danny: This is great! I am watching HISTORY. America made HISTORY!
Danny: This is important. The first black president.
Lilly: (eyes wide) WOW! I've never been part of history before!
Friday, January 16, 2009
- How have the kids done learning English? Amazingly well! Jacob pointed to a truck yesterday and said, "Mom, that truck look like Grandpa new truck. It's shiny!" Marti also told Ben recently that she liked the bird on his face. Ben had a beard... not a bird. :) The kids conversational English has developed steadily and they understand about 90% of what is said in conversation. Their academic English is still developing and could take another year for them to be considered "bi-lingual".
- How have your "original kids" adjusted. Do you wish you had not disrupted your birth order? Danny, Lilly and Addy have adjusted really well. It was hardest on Danny and mostly because he didn't understand the boys and thought he would. Danny was also used to being the best soccer player in the family - a title he had to give up right away. We have seen a counselor twice to help our family adjust, it was a great experience and I am glad we went but do not feel like we need to go again now.
- Would you do it again? Absolutely! We have talked about our family and how God called us to these children, we wonder if he will call us to travel to Ethiopia again someday to add to our family.
- How was parenting teenagers for the first time? Parenting teenagers has taught me a lot and I have definately grown from it. Ben is better at giving the kids space - but I have learned to stop trying to hold Joseph's hand while crossing the street and that staying up late with mom means the world to Marti.
- How hard has it been - be honest? There are many many things I don't put in the blog. It is harder than you might see from the outside. I am a very upbeat person and it is rare that you will hear me share our struggles to the big blog world. But we do have struggles. They are not horrible. But they are very real and have definately caused a couple sleepless nights. Kids are kids and the saying that "A mom is only as happy as her most unhappy child" has never meant so much to me as it does now. The kids have had hard stages. The 5 oldest have gone through tough times that have each lasted about 6 weeks. But they have recovered and we are stronger from each tough time. Seperating the "adoption issues" from the "bratty kid issues" is also a daily conversation between Ben and I... but we are learning.
Some of my friends have called us their "guinea pigs" because they have wanted to adopt too and love watching and learning from our experiences. I never intended to be any kind of rodent - but I am so glad for the opportunity to share with friends and strangers the life I have. If you have any questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to talk with you.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Oh. My. Goodness. Waking up with my 3 "new kids" was like a dream. A dream I had played over in my head a hundred (maybe a thousand) times. We all woke slowly and a bit hesitantly. Would today be as amazing as yesterday? Would the kids still be so utterly and totally wonderful? Would they still like me? Thoughts swirled around my head as we got ready for the day. We practiced brushing teeth (the kids were experts already - thank you Nannies) and kept reminding the kids to not drink the water. We didn't want them to get sick from the parasites. It was 2 days before we realized that they did not need to worry about the water... they had lived with it their whole lives :). The kids had so much fun trying on their new clothes and picking things out to wear. Ben took them out to look at the view from our balcony and Jacob's heart was pounding like crazy.
Today was the day that we wanted to do some sight seeing and buy some balls for the orphanage. We also had our VERY IMPORTANT (we can’t leave without it) Embassy Appt. We started the morning with what we became to understand as “typical Jacob” because he was up and ready for the day at about 6am. He even spent a couple minutes with me on the patio of our hotel room making a phone call home. The first thing he did when we went outside was to put the phone way above his head and say, “Hello DANNY!” It was so cute and we still tease him about it today. After calling home the rest of the kids and Ben started to wake up too. We spent about two hours hanging out in the room and getting ready and then met Dawit our driver downstairs for our excursion. Ben, in his traditional laid back Ethioipian style, was the last one to the car. We decided to skip the big breakfast and brought along dabo (Amharic for bread) in the car. The bakery at the Hilton is fabulous and the kids loved it. Our first stop was the Ethnological Museum which is in the palace of the former Emporer of Ethiopia Haile Salasie. This is on the same compound (armed guards at the gate) as the Addis Ababa University. What I imagined we would see and what was actually there were 2 very different things. Addis Ababa University is the biggest in the country… and the Ethnalogical Museum is one of the only 3 museums in the country. So my expectations of lush gardens, beautiful exhibits, typical university/museum atmosphere was pretty much dead wrong. I quickly remembered that I was in a 5th world country and my American expectations were a bit shameful. The museum was wonderful. Right away we found an English speaking “guide” who was a graduate student at the university. He led us through the museum teaching us about the history of Ethiopia, traditions and cultures of the Wolaytan Region (where our kids are from) and translating information back and forth between us and the kids. It really was eye opening. My favorite part was the section on Fables for Children. The one about the husband and wife who couldn’t get pregnant makes me laugh still. Seriously, that is considered a fable for kids?
We then moved onto the palace portion of the museum and saw Haile Salasie’s bedroom. Haile was the dictator/emperor of Ethiopia for more than 25 years. He was pretty much terrible at his job and Ethiopia is still trying to recover from his reign. Despite this fact, many people still believe he was wonderful and celebrate his life. His palace not what I expected. It was falling apart and in a sad state. We learned a bit of history and then went to walk the grounds. The pictures above are from gardens between the university and the palace.
The Blue Top restaurant was our next stop. Ethipoia was occupied by the Italians for many years and with the exception of Ethiopian Food, Italian is the most available. We enjoyed a nice lunch at a nice little restaurant and again tried to explain to the kids that when we get back to America we don’t get pop with every meal. (They are still wanting pop with every meal) After our quick lunch we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our Embassy appointment.
With clean clothes, backpacks stocked and teeth brushed we headed downstairs to wait for the driver from our agency. We knew that there were 6 families with Embassy appointments and we all smooshed together to ride to the embassy. Yet again, my expectations were wrong. I imagined that the American embassy would be similar to the embassy’s that are in San Francisco and New York. Big beautiful buidings that were well guarded but still pretty. What I saw when we parked was a 1960’s cinder blockish mess surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. We could not park in front of the embassy so we had to walk about 300 yards to our appointment. This happened to be just when the kids were getting out of school and our group was surrounded by kids both young and old smiling at us and trying to touch our ferenji (white) skin. It was also raining slightly and one of the students held an umbrella up to cover one of the dads who was adopting a sweet little baby. They didn’t follow the group and for about 3 scary seconds they got lost in the crowd. Once we crossed the street we went through a preliminary security screening and then had to wait in the rain until there was room for us to be admitted into the embassy security room for another more thorough screening. Etch-a-sketches, cell phones, cameras, video recorders, calculators and anything else resembling anything remotely electronic is confiscated and then each person is individually sent through another metal detector. Trying to explain this to our kids was difficult but the experience was good practice for the airports on the way home.
The kids were all fantastic and it was fun to talk with the other parents as we waited for our appointment. Once our agency was called to present our cases we moved to another room that reminded me of a bank - glass walls separated the tellers from the customers. We watched as each group went to the “teller” was sworn in and then spent a couple minutes answering questions, submitting paperwork and filling out papers. The look of relief as they returned to their seats was beautiful. We began to get nervous as it became apparent that our family would be last. We were also nervous about Joseph because children his age were sometimes “grilled” by the embassy staff. I remember very little about our actual time at the window. Other than the fact that it was so easy and there were no surprises. The staff was very nice and it was over in less than 10 minutes. I think I remember (although this probably didn’t really happen) that when we turned around everyone clapped and cheered for us. I know both Ben and I had tears in our eyes as we walked back to our seats! We quickly headed out of the embassy, made plans to meet for dinner on Thursday and headed back to our hotels.
That afternoon we walked around the hotel grounds, played on the swings and then got ready for dinner. It was fun watching the kids play on the slides and swings...
We went to the Crown Hotel that night. It was on my list of MUST do's. The Crown Hotel offers a buffet of Ethiopian food and about 90 minutes of traditional singing and dancing representing the different regions of Ethiopia.
I was really excited to be there! Once we got seated and situated a waitress came to send us to the buffet. We walked over to the buffet and were just about to pick up our plates when a manager told us to go sit down. He explained that there was a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON and he and their group would need to go first. Just as we were returning to our seats this VIP came to us and INSISTED that we go first... all the while asking us about the kids, talking to the kids and thanking us for "saving Ethiopia's most precious gifts". It was really a special and humbling moment. We enjoyed the food. Except Ben who still teases Marti about her giving him cow stomach to eat. I was so glad to have the opportunity to see all the foods... now I know what ethiopian cheese/butter looks like.
I can't tell you much more about The Crown Hotel because we left soon after the dancing started. Our kids had NEVER listened to "not church music" before and were really uncomfortable with being there. When we go back to Ethiopia, I definately plan on trying it again!
That night as we got ready for bed and said our prayers the kids talked about Kaleab, their dad. Marti cried as she talked about him and remembered him. It was so wonderful to hear that they were loved so well by such a godly man. We gave thanks to God that night.
Monday, January 12, 2009
We celebrated "Ethiopian Christmas" on Epiphany. We made traditional Ethiopian food and played games! We had so much fun. The kids helped us cook doro wat, shiro, atiklt (my favorite) and green chicken. It was really good and our cooking is improving all the time! The outfits the boys are wearing are traditional clothes from Wolayta (their tribe). The girls clothes are all traditional Ethiopian clothes and the rest of us wore scarves to fit in...