Monday, February 27, 2006

Take your kleenex

Tessa has written another story. Take your kleenex with you.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Precious Cargo


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Recently, my teenage daughter and I were driving in our truck on the highway, following my husband and the rest of our kids who were in the van. As I gazed at this van in front of us, it suddenly occurred to me what it held inside. This van carried irreplaceably precious cargo that meant more to me than any material goods in my life. Although our van is large, it was a bit overwhelming to realize the immensity of what was inside its relatively small area, traveling down the highway at 70 miles per hour. My earthly treasures were indeed inside that fifteen passenger van. Eleven souls that meant so much to me - my husband and ten of our kids. No price could be placed on the contents of that van - the cargo was much too precious for that.

As I was thinking of this, my thoughts traveled back over 19 years, to another vehicle that held all of my earthly treasure. In 1987, my husband and I were relocating from one state to another so that he could start his first professional level job. We had been married nine years at this point and had no children.

The moving was physically very difficult, as we encountered a heavy snowstorm on the way. One of us was driving a large U Haul truck, pulling a car behind, while the other drove a car. A 13 hour drive turned into a very stressful 25 hour drive.

I distinctly remember, as we came out of the hotel one morning, looking at the truck and realizing that all of our worldly goods were packed into it. That thought seemed overwhelming at the time, as I wondered what we would do if someone came by and stole the truck. At that time, this seemed like the worst thing that could have happened to us.

I am so thankful for how God has changed my perspective on life in these last 19 years. He has taken me and my husband around the world and through some very difficult times, but in the process I have discovered that having lost that truck of worldy goods might have actually been a healthy occurrence for me. At that point in my life, my treasures were ones which could have been easily destroyed. By God’s grace, the treasures in my life today are ones that I can take with me after this life! The load in that fifteen passenger van was indeed worth so very much more than the goods packed into that U Haul truck, so many years ago.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Financing Adoptions Part II

In the previous post I discussed the tax credit available for adoptions and showed how it can affect the overall cost of an adoption. In this post I want to discuss the costs involved in an adoption and show how they can vary greatly. This means that a wise person can greatly reduce the cost of adopting a child by choosing careful. Let's talk first about foreign adoptions.

In a foreign adoption there are four basic costs:

1) Home study. Home studies are common to both foreign and domestic adoptions. The requirements for a home studies vary by state. This means that the cost varies per state anywhere from more than a thousand dollars down to a few hundred. Generally the couple hires a social worker to do the home study, so some reduction can be gained by shopping around. However, in general this cost is pretty well fixed in a given state.

2) Governmental fees. These are the fees required to get a visa for the child and for yourselves. They run a few hundred dollars for the processing. It's the government, you cannot negotiate.

3) Travel costs. These will depend on the country the child is in and how many trips are required. In the case of some countries, there is no requirement to travel. However, in those cases, you are usually required to hire an escort to bring the child to you, which erases most of the benefit of not traveling. Another factor is that some countries do not give much notice on travel so that tickets must purchased on short notice and extra fees may be necessary to expedite visas for yourselves.

4) Agency fees. These are the fees used to hire the agency, they also pay for the in country facilitators and translators. These can vary from as little as $2,000 - $20,000. This varies by country, by how much work you are willing to do, by whether the agency is for profit or a non profit ministry, and a number of other factors. This is obviously where it is very important to shop around. Our Russian adoptions were done through a small agency that was run as a ministry by a doctor and his wife who had been medical missionaries in the area our kids are from. Their fee for each adoption was around $1,500, plus about $1,000 for the translator/facilitator, and $1,000 dontation to the orphanage in Russia. At the same time we have heard of a couple spending $20,000 just for the agency fee for adopting a single child. Depending on the nature of the agency, some will reduce fees for adopting multiple children, for special needs children, or older children because they are harder to adopt out. Some will also have grants available for some children.

For domestic adoptions the cost are basically the same, with some differences:

1) Home studies are pretty much the same. The requirements are slightly different so prices may vary, but not usually that much.

2) Governmental fees. These are usually court related costs and vary from state to state. In our domestic adoptions these have been minimal.

3) Travel costs. These can range from $0 for an adoption in the same city to the cost of a couple of week stay in a US city. In each of our three domestic adoptions, we were able to stay with friends of friends who reduced the cost to very little, except the one in Seattle where the cost of some plane tickets were involved.

4) Agency fees. We have never actually used an agency for our domestic adoptions, so I am not as familiar with the costs here. My understanding is that they are usually less than for a foreign adoption, though they can be rather large.

5) Lawyers fees. Depending on wether the adoption is in the same state or not, these generally run in the $2,000-$3,000 range based on our experience. There are probably some states where they are higher than this because of the number of regulations, but we have no experience with these.

So addiing all these together the cost of adoption can run anywhere from $40,000 to $2,500. Clearly a wise man can compelete an adoption for far less than the maximum. In our case our most expensive adoption was $17,000 for three children and, through God's providence, our cheapest was under $500!

In the final post in this series, I will discuss how we and others have raised the funds for adoptions.

Financing Adoptions.

Julie Lamey said...

I was wondering how one goes about financing an adoption since I have heard how expensive they are.

First the short answer God Provides.

Second, while it can be very expensive to adopt a child, it does not have to be. The total cost to us for adopting our eight children is about $21,000 total. This will drop to as low as about $8,000 over the next four years as the ongoing effect of the adoption tax credits have their effect on our tax bill. Most of that came from our first adoption which occured before the current tax laws went into affect. The last six children were essentially adopted for free once the ongoing tax credits are accounted for. Of course, I am not talking about the cost of raising them here only the cost of the actual adoption.

Because of its importance, let me talk first about the federal adoption tax credit. The federal government gives you up to $10,000 in tax credit per child to cover the cost of an adoption. This a credit not a deduction, which takes away from your taxes owed, not your income. It also will carry over for up to five years if you cannot ues it all the first year. As an example, let's look at the tax liability of a couple with no kids making $55,000 a year and taking the standard deduction. Before the adoption their taxes look like this:

Adjusted gross income$55,000
Standard/Itemized deductions$10,300
Personal exemptions$6,600
Taxable income$38,100
Tax liability before credits$4,960
Child tax credits$0
Estimated tax liability$4,960

As you can see, they would owe about $5,000 in taxes. However, after adopting a child and spending at least $10,000 their tax situation would look like this:

Adjusted gross income$55,000
Standard/Itemized deductions$10,300
Personal exemptions$6,600
Taxable income$38,100
Tax liability before credits$4,960
Adoption credit$4,960
Child tax credits$1,000
Estimated tax liability-$1,000

As you can see, they now get a $1,000 REFUND! That is because the adoption credit covered all of their tax liability, and they still get the $1,000 per child credit that everyone gets, and it is refundable. This will keep going, until the have used up the entire $10,000 of the adoption credit. Assuming their tax liability is high enough, they will get all of their money back from the government within five years. In addition, the states will often give you a deduction for adoption expenses.

Of course, this doesn't solve all of the financial issues. The adoption may cost more than $10,000 and you still need to get the money up front to do the adoption with. I will deal with reducing costs and getting money in the next couple of posts.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Your history

When you adopt a child as a teenager from a foreign country they come already knowing a good deal. One of the things they know is history. However, their history and your history may not quite agree.

For instance one of the "facts" of history that we had to deal with our Russians was that Stalin was considered a hero. Obviously, our history and theirs seems to differ in that assessment. Also, our Chinese daughter had been taught that the US wasn't in WWII.

It has been said that history belongs to the winners. I think these examples bare that out.

However, it makes you wonder what we have been taught in our history classes that may not be as true as we think.

Our homeschooling curriculum contains a number of original sources. I remember reading Stonewall Jackson's biography and reading his reasons for going to war for the South. I realized how much the history I had been taught was based on the fact that the North won and thus controlled the writing of history. There was more reason for the South going to war than simply to protect their owenership of slaves. Whether they were right or not, is not the issue. This side was never presented in our history books.

I wonder what else we haven't been told.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Go Ask Dad IV

This is our regular feature on this blog called Go Ask Dad. This is a place where people can ask us any question, and I, sheshe, or one of the kids will attempt to answer it. We will answer questions about us, or try to help you with what is going on in your family. We will answer just about any question that applies to home, family, homeschooling, or adoption. We will even say "I don't know" when we don't.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

We are NOT Super Christians

As I was listening to our Sunday School teacher talk this morning about how we as Christians should be involved in one another's lives, it reminded me of a conversation sheshe had with a woman whose family is much like ours, only bigger. She had been praying for God to send her a friend. Most of the people she knew simply did not know how to relate to her, because of her large family built through adoption.

This is all to common with families like ours. We seem to engender a kind of awe in people. You know that kind of awe that is reserved for Super Christians (SC's). Usually we are assigned a spot somewhere between choir director and pastor, but a few people have even placed us in those rarefied heights reserved for missionaries to cannibals living in the jungle. Unfortunatly, that usually means they will only talk to us in those tones reserved for heads of state and all star atheletes. Ok, so maybe I exaggrate a little.

The point though is that this often leaves us isolated. Too often we will ask someone a question, and they will look at us like "Why are you asking me? You are the expert." They feel that they have nothing to offer those such as us, or that we must be really busy and have no time for someone as simple as them.

None of this is true. We are people, just like everyone else. We are not SC's. The problem, I think, is that they fail to see God's picture of the church as a body. They may be a finger or a toe and think, "Oh there are plenty like me, I am not needed." Then the look at someome like us who there aren't many of and think we are some higher level of being, some SC. But just because the bladder is unique, doesn't mean that it is any grander or necessary than the hands and feet.

Ok, enough with the metaphors, what is my point?

My point is that we need people, normal people, to come along side us. Sure you may not be able to help us with the unqiue issues of parenting an older adopted child. But if you have parented any child, you may have insight to give. If you are a student of God's word, you have wisdom to share. You can still hold us accountable. You can still be our friends. You can treat us like normal people so that we don't develop spiritual pride by believing we are the SC's people treat us like.

In fact, folks like us often need folks like you to reach out to us. We can get so wrapped up in the battles of the day, with ministering to our children, with appearing to be a SC, that we don't recognize when we need to make connections to others. You don't have to invite us over, we know how hard that can be. But you can send us an email, or invite us to go to lunch, or give us a call, if nothing else, we will appreciate the fact that someone cares.

So let me suggest to all you normal people out there. Find someone that you put on a pedestal, like us or a pastor or whoever, and reach out to them. You may just find that they would enjoy having friends that they can feel normal with.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Chinese New Year

It was actually a few days ago. But we celebrated to day with the traditional dumplings (fried won ton) and hot and sour soup. Our three Asian girls spent most of the afternoon making the dumplings. Oh, and of course, the traditional cole slaw. Oh wait, maybe Grandma made that.

Anyway one of the great joys of adopting teenage girls is that they already know how to cook. That is one of the ways we get to share in their culture, by having them cook some of their native dishes. Yum.


This has been one of those busy weeks. The talks with teenagers ended about 11:30 tonight. The rest of the nights have been to about midnight. Very tiring and yet very enjoyable.

I spend a great deal of time talking to my kids, particularly my girls. So far this week we have talked about everything from how boys look at girls (talking to the girls) to biblical conflict resolution to how to handle money to the selling of girls as wives in China. In amoungst these we worked in various elements of the Gospel from the utter depravity of man to the substitutionary atonement of Christ. I even feel that one of my daughters may have moved a little closer to true faith in a better understanding of her inability to go to heaven by keeping the law.

The teenage years are a time when a person becomes more and more aware of the world around them. Suddenly others in the world matter to them. They start recognizing that there is a future that they need to prepare for. There is a big world out there that they have only seen a little of. And it is my great joy to be able to tell them about the God who made it all and How they can know Him.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Tessa's Blog

One of our fourteen year old daughters has started her own blog. Tessa is an excellent writer and I have posted some of her work here. She writes mostly in the fantasy genere. Check it out and see how you like it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Typical Day

Jonathon Moorehead asks, "I would like to know what a typical day looks like. How do you minister to your family?"

Ramona here, since Bob is usually gone during the days. A typical day? Well, I am still looking for that, too. Nothing seems to be typical around here - the one thing for sure is that nothing will be "normal" during a typical day in our home!

Our schedule is pretty loose, but the kids all know what their chores are and what they need to get done for schoolwork each day. They are free to do these things on their own schedule, within limitations. For instance, many of the kids get up at 6:00 to start their schoolwork, so that they will have extra time later in the day to do fun stuff. I personally don't have schoolwork, so I sleep in until about 8:00 most mornings. ;-)

Breakfast is informal - bagels, cereal, etc. and the kids take care of that on their own. Chores are done after breakfast, with a little bit of reminding here and there. Different groups of kids do laundry on particular days, so that gets started after breakfast, too. Schoolwork, such as learning vocabulary words, is often taken along with them as they do their chores.

On a "normal" day, I would sit down to check schoolwork after my own breakfast, and the kids would come and ask questions as they arose. Lately there have been lots of doctors visits and not many normal days, so I have had to find times to get caught up with the kids on the schoolwork!

Grandma starts lunch around 11:00, with Irina helping her. We eat at 12:00 or so, then the kids clean up the kitchen. All kids are supposed to be out of their pajamas by noon... Some of them take walks or ride their bikes to the library or store after lunch, and some of them continue with schoolwork.

A long standing tradition around our house as been "room time" in the afternoons. When our bio kids were younger, it was called "nap time", but I got so used to it that I am not willing to give it up! They all go into their rooms for two hours in the afternoons, to do their schoolwork or whatever else they like. Lately I have been giving in and letting some of them go hiking, rock climbing or to the library during this time, though.

Grandma starts supper around 4:30 or so, and the kids start coming out of their rooms. I answer more questions, talk to them, put "fires" out and generally take care of business for a while after that. Jennifer usually goes to work at Steak Out around 4:40.

School must be done by 5:00 pm, or there are consequences to be faced, depending on the child and the frequency with which this rule is broken. After supper we do various things, mostly just here at home. Bob and I sit in the sun room and read or work on our computers, while the kids play, read, make videos (a new pasttime) or do the next day's schoolwork. Exceptions are made when our church basketball team is playing, since Sergei and Zhenya are on the team. Choir also practices on Wed evenings and a number of the girls (and Dad) participate in that. Oh yes, and everyone knows that Monday evenings are grocery shopping times!

We gather at 8:30 for Bible Study and family time. Bob talks about what we have been reading in our daily Bible reading, takes questions, talks about particular issues that have come up, or we listen to particular seminars or sermons on the computer or CD. Annoucements are made for the upcoming days, current issues are discussed - then we pass around our prayer cards and take turns praying.

After that, the kids go to their rooms - some go on to bed and some stay up for a while. Inevitably, one or more come to talk to Mom or Dad about something that has been bothering them or a question they have had. Dad often stays up until midnight or later, talking to kids.

And then there are Friday evenings. We have "movie night" every Friday, complete with popcorn and sometimes other treats. On Saturday mornings, Dad takes what he calls a "bus route", where the big blue van goes around to the local stores, dropping kids off and then coming back around to pick them up. This way, they can get shopping and errands done that did not get done during the week.

Sundays are spent mostly at church, starting with Sunday School and ending with evening worship. The afternoons are lazy times, with most folks taking naps.

How do we minister to our family? Well, I am not sure I know the answer to that. Our family IS our ministry to the Lord, so we seek to follow Him in all that we do with our kids. We talk about everything to do with God and the Bible during our normal everyday conversations, and base all of our decision on biblical standards (well, when we are paying attention we do, but in our sinful states we do make mistakes). Our kids are free to talk to us about anything - and they often DO. We do our best to understand just WHO each of our kids are - their likes, dislikes, talents and abilities. When possible, we encourage and help them in the areas they are interested in.

I suppose discipline would be a big part of our ministering to them, also, as it is a picture of how God also takes care of us. We confront, rebuke, and encourage them on a daily basis. Or at least we try to.

OK, now that you know what a typical day would look like, I will admit that few days actually follow that pattern. There are many appointments to go to, errands to run, phone calls to be made/taken, projects to be worked on... We seek to work within certain parameters, though, and to keep stability and structure in our daily routine. When major times of disruption come (like Mom and Dad going out of town for a week), then everything is different, but we always come back to the same place when all is said and done. The kids seem to thrive on consistency and boundaries, even if they DO complain of boredom once in a while!

Does this answer your question, Jonathon? Or did I ramble and get way off base?