Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So, You Want to Adopt a Little Kid?

Recently, Ukraine released new information regarding the 2008 quota for foreign adoptions. If you will recall, back in Dec. 2007, they issued the infamous Decree #4939, which limited all foreign adoptions to 1,453 dossiers, or families. The exact number of children this represents is unknown, but probably close to that number. By March of this year, the backlog of dossiers to submit by foreigners reached this limit, and no amount of pleading by those that didn't make it in would make them budge. That's why we got stuck all year. Now, as the end of 2008 nears, they have tallied up the number of dossiers they have processed so far, and have observed that they will actually end up under the quota. Therefore, they are allowing more dossiers to be submitted at this time. The exact number they will allow is unclear, but estimates range from 200-400. It is clear, however, that they will cease accepting dossiers on Nov. 27, regardless of whether the quota is reached. Also, if the quota is reached prior to Nov. 27, all submissions will cease.

The Ukrainian government also provided statistics of how many children are available for adoption to foreigners. You must realize that not all children in orphanages are available for adoptions. In fact, I have seen estimates that only 10% are available for adoption. There are several reasons for this. First of all, Ukrainians get first dibs on the children. When a child enters an orphanage, for the first 14 months they are available to Ukrainians only. Healthy babies are the most likely to be adopted by Ukrainians. Second, many, many children are in the orphanages for economic reasons, and still have family that loves them and visits them. Third, the Ukrainian government is having some success with their foster care system recently, especially for the younger children. Fourth, siblings will rarely be adopted separately. If an older sibling refuses to be adopted, or no one has any interest in him or her, then the younger ones will very likely not be adoptable. So, just keep this is mind when you see orphanage pictures with all those cute little kiddies.

The new official statistics presented the data broken down by age and health. There are 4 age groups, and healthy or unhealthy. The original document can be found on this US Embassy page. I have made a graph so that you can see the data visually.

The first thing you will notice is that there are about 25x more older children available than younger ones. Second, they claim that there are no children under 3 yo available for foreign adoption without "serious health problems". I have often been amazed at the blogs of people who went over there and then were told that there were NO healthy children. See for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

If you are going into your SDA appt. blind, looking for a very young child, then you can see for yourself the chances of getting a healthy child, if that is your desire. It's not impossible, just difficult. You must be prepared emotionally before you go, and both spouses need to be on the same page regarding what kinds of health problems are manageable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Hunting Pic's

While we have a lull in the adoption action, I'll post a couple more pictures from hunting last Fri. There were four of us and a yellow lab named Bud. A 14 and 13 y.o. with shotguns!

Friday, October 24, 2008

There's Fury in a Pheasant's Wings

Here in South Dakota, it is pheasant season. Mark and I went on our first pheasant hunt today. The weather today was overcast and rainy. Not ideal conditions for pheasant hunting. When it's like this they like to hunker down and they're not very active, so we only saw one, and the two of us with guns missed him! Anyway, you go for the experience, and if you get a few birds that's a bonus.

Here on the prairies of South Dakota, you won't find many people. Truth be known, we like it that way. Those of you that have never been to pheasant country maybe have never seen a pheasant in flight before... It is a magnificent bird. I'm a little pensive this evening, and I'm thinking about this Rich Mullin song. Enjoy.

Calling Out Your Name - Rich Mullins

Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob’s stairs
Yeah they danced on Jacob’s stairs
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer
The whisper of a prayer

And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant’s wings
There’s fury in a pheasant’s wings
It tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I’ve seen love make heaven ring

Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains
I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope

The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
And I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name

Adoptions for Free

For Americans:

OK, well, you know nothing's free. But here's how you can spend as little as possible on your Ukraine adoptions: Adopt multiple kids.

Why? Because, at this time there is an $11,650 tax credit per child. This is not a tax deduction, but a tax credit. Money that is subtracted directly off the tax amount you owe. If your taxes are less than the amount, you can carry the credit forward up to five years until it's gone.

Facilitator fees for 2 children are most likely not 2 times the cost for one child, and 3 children would not be 3 times the cost. For example, with our faciliator, the fee is about 50% more for two, but the tax credit is fully double. And the fees are less for older children.

If you're using an adoption agency, then you're paying extra for... I'm not sure what. We are going independent - it is cheaper. I know that in Canada an agency is required. And maybe your state requires one.

The point I'm trying to make is that if money is an issue for you, then consider more than one child, especially older ones. That is good for you and them.

Note: I'm not a tax advisor. Please consult your tax attorney or accountant.

For more info see:
How to claim the adoption credit
Official IRS info

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Would Like $20,000 Please

Thanks to all who gave advice about paper money that we will be needing for our trip. As it turns out, since it sounds like we will have a December appointment, I went ahead and ordered brand new bills from our bank. It will be in after Thanksgiving. Apparently, when it comes, I will have to sign something that says that it is not for drugs or terrorism!


I am happy to report that Oleg submitted our dossier today. We received the email ½ hr. ago. Oleg thinks we will have an SDA appointment in December.

We did have a false alarm, though. Oleg sent us an email at 11:13 AM Kiev time to tell us that he was not able to submit our dossier because of a new requirement for the Letter of Obligation. Those of you working on your dossier, or waiting to submit be warned: You should contact your facilitator immediately to find out the new document you need and get it over there.

We do have concerns about a Dec. appointment, though. Around the middle of Dec. through early Jan., the Ukrainian government kind of shuts down for the holiday season. That could cause huge delays if we're in-country when that happens. It wouldn't be so bad before we have possession of the kids. We could just come home and go back in Jan. But what if the kids are ours and the whole country shuts down and we're unable to get the paperwork we need to bring them home? I'm not going to worry about that right now.

UPDATE: I had emailed Oleg right away to ask him if we'll be getting a letter from the SDA to inform us of our appointment or if he'll be telling us when it is. He said it would be him. "Be ready for December."

It'll Never Be the Same

I scheduled this entry to post to the blog at 9:00 AM Kiev time.

9:00 on Thursday.

The day that Oleg said he would be submitting our dossier.

Today is our day.

Some time from 9-11.

Can it actually be happening? Will he truly submit it today? These documents we worked on since July of 2007? When the lawyers at the SDA peruse it, will they find it acceptable?

And what if they do?

Do we find out our appointment soon? Do we have to be there soon? Are we ready? I mean REALLY ready?

Up until today, we could have told Oleg no. Don't do it. But now... there's no turning back.

This could be the day where 5 people will look back and say... That was the day that changed our lives forever.

Monday, October 20, 2008


How do you love God? Or what does it even mean to love God? I'll address that later.

I mentioned in my last post that I would blog about the concert that was held as part of Greg Christy's inaguration as the new president at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA, a couple of weekends ago. I had meant to blog about it right away, but man, sometimes it is hard to find time to do it. And this post has taken a little more thought than usual.

The concert was the Art*Music*Justice tour and it was on campus Saturday night. The AMJ tour features 5 recording artists: Sara Groves, Charlie Peacock, Brandon Heath, Derek Webb, and his (pregnant) wife Sandra McCracken. You can follow the AMJ link to learn more about these musicians. There is a press release here.

The cost of admission to the concert was food items for the local food pantry.

I've been a fan of Sara's for awhile now. I love her songwriting. A couple of years ago we and the Christy's saw Sara in concert in a coffee house in Sioux Falls. It was a great venue where we could really be up-close with her. Since the Christy's were organizing the whole inauguration weekend, they were able to get us backstage to meet the artists.

Michelle Christy started the evening by explaining what Art*Music*Justice is all about. It is about proximate justice. Knowing that someday, Jesus will bring ultimate justice, and finally deal with evil. But in the meantime, we are to help bring justice to people and society, even if the victims don't truly perceive Christ's hand in it or understand our motivations. We do it regardless, because it is the right thing to do. Because God demands it. Stand up for the weak. Defend the widows and fatherless. We don't merely say be warm, be filled. We act. When God's people mobilize out of love, we bear witness to His love and mercy, and ultimately, He receives the glory. Backstage, Charlie Peacock and Michelle were talking, and he mentioned that he was surprised to hear her bring up proximate justice. The term is not real well known outside of theological circles. See for example here and here.

I was happy to hear Michelle's introduction mention this blog. She noted how we are adopting from Ukraine and that she saw my post from last April with Sara Grove's I Saw What I Saw video. How adopting orphans is a way of helping to bring justice to the world. I didn't know it until this concert that the video came out of an International Justice Mission (IJM) trip that Sara took to Kenya. IJM is an organization of volunteers that uses legal means to help bring social justice to the opressed. They showed a couple of IJM videos during the concert, one where slaves in a Banglesheshi brick factory had been freed and now one of them was starting his own brick factory, and another where a young Cambodian girl held captive as a sex slave was rescued. By the way, have you ever taken a look at Tony and Kimberly's blog that we link to? They are working on a Ukrainian adoption and they have posted about IJM topics here and here. Tony is on a trip to Asia now doing something related to IJM.

At one point in the concert, Sara's husband Troy came out to tell the audience that if they would commit to sponsoring a child that evening, they would get a free Sara Groves CD on the spot. They also brought two of their young sons out, but my camera batteries died so I didn't get a picture of them.

Surprisingly to me, the only time everyone was together on stage was at the very beginning and end of the concert. The majority of the time it was the individual artists performing their own material.

Here are Charlie, Brandon, and Sara.

Here are Sandra and Derek. Derek played a 12-string Taylor, which I was very interested in. During the last song of the night, he a broke a G string. On the guitar that is! I play guitar as well, and if you have to break a string, the last song is a great one to do it on.

At one point, Charlie Peacock gave a long message, even a sermon if you want to call it that, about following after God. You know, when you listen to a sermon, or a speech, or a presidential debate, even if it is a very good one, maybe only one thing sticks with you. I call that the take-away. What do I take away with me afterward? What is the most memorable? For me, it was something Charlie said. This is where I will answer the question at the top of the post. He said,

"What does it mean to love God? It means to love the things that God loves. Be interested in the things that He is interested in. And if you don't know what that is, you need to spend the rest of your life finding out."

He had the Bible open and quoted a lot of verses. I don't remember if he mentioned this one, but I think of Micah 6:8,

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
The evening closed out with a time of worship. They had the words on the screen so everyone could sing along. It was a great way to finish off a great evening.

If the Art*Music*Justice tour comes to your area, I recommend that you go see it, but not with small children. There is a tour schedule here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Today Is Sergey's Birthday

Sergey turns 13 today. Here is a picture of him and Sparkle from when he was with us in August. We sent him a birthday package, we hope he enjoys it. But I think we will have an even better birthday present for him soon. And Valya.

I am officially freaking out today.

Inna, one of the followers of our blog, mentions in her latest post More News! that their dossier will also be submitted next Thu., and her source tells her that they will learn their appt. date within a week and maybe travel in November.
"She also told us that the SDA told her that they will give us a travel date within a week after submitting, because the age of the children we are adopting and because we already know them. So she is estimating that our travel date will be sometime in the middle of November 2008!"
You can never be sure about anything with Ukrainian adoptions. But since our situations are so similar, I will glom onto that info and pretend that it applies to us, too! Thanks Inna!

So... today I called the bank about getting cash for the trip. I'm talking serious cash here: $20,000. Payments to our facilitator and money for in-country expenses require new or like-new bills. There can be no tears, markings, or wear on them. So the bank asks, how soon do you need it? They can't get any brand new bills until after Thanksgiving. Mulling now about what to do. Any advice from experienced people would be appreciated about now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Latest tidbits of info from Oleg today.

  • 150-200 dossiers will be accepted.

  • Submission hours at SDA are from 9-11 AM, Mon-Thu.
    Mon: Kids under 6 y.o.
    Tue: Kids 6-8 y.o.
    Wed: Kids 8-12 y.o.
    Thu: Kids 13 y.o. and over

  • 15-20 dossiers per day accepted.

  • One dossier per person accepted.

  • Facilitator teams can submit more than one dossier if the POA's specify more than one person.
The best news: Oleg will submit our dossier next Thu. Yay!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Red Raider-in-Chief

This past weekend we had a whirlwind trip to Orange City, IA and Minneapolis. I'll blog about the Minneapolis trip in another post.

Our friends, the Christy family, moved from Mitchell to Orange City last December, where Greg became the new president of Northwestern College. Though he had been the acting president since January, it was just this last Friday that he was formally inaugurated.

Their oldest son, Ryan, is one of Mark's best friends. They attended school together since kindergarten. Though we hated to see the Christy's go, it was harder on Mark. They remain buds today and we try to get them together when we can.

Greg's wife, Michelle, and Nancy are very close bud-ettes.

Former US Senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern is a Mitchell native and he makes it his home. One of Greg's big projects at Dakota Wesleyan University was overseeing the fundraising of the McGovern Library on campus. He and George traveled and spent a lot of time together during those years. Sen. McGovern was on campus at Northwestern during the week to lend his support to Greg.

While there were many festivities going on, we were only there for the president's luncheon, the inauguration ceremony, and the concert. I'll blog about the concert in a separate post.

One of Greg's gifts is he's so personable. He already has a fan club among the students called PGC (President Greg Christy). Here's a few of them.

It was funny, there were some of the PGC's sitting behind us in the chapel, and they had hand-drawn portraits of Greg on their T-shirts (like in the picture).

Northwestern College has found a fine man in President Christy. Blessings to you, Christy's, in this new ministry from your friends, the Pretre's. Deus est lux!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Certain Uncertaincy

Well, our 2nd dossier is in Ukraine, translated, and now, apparently, gathering dust again.

Information out of there always seems to be conflicting. Here's my latest dialog with Oleg:

Q: [D]o you think you will be able to submit our dossier to the SDA on October 14?

A: Time will show[.] I know that SDA will accept dossier that not in line start from 16 October, but who know when will my line. I sign your dossier to this list.
Hmmm... not too sure what to make of it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Just got an email from Oleg. He got the dossier at 1:00 PM local time and has already given it to his translator. Thanks for all who prayed for it. Now my palms are getting sweaty as I consider what could this mean for us? Last week at church during prayer time we asked the congregation to pray for a successful submission, but not too successful if you know what I mean. We would like more than 1 week's notice that we have to be there. I'm freaking out!


Yep, our dossier hasn't been delivered yet. It is sitting in a status called Exception. I asked Oleg what that means and he didn't know either. Overnight delivery to Ukraine really means within a month.

Last night I emailed scans of our dossier to him so he can start on whatever translating is needed. The dossier was translated last March and not much has changed in it except for dates and notaries' names, so I wouldn't think translating is too big of a deal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


If you've been following our blog, you may know that we've been trying to reach Valya directly. Last June we made arrangements for someone to visit Valya and to let her know that we want to adopt her. To make a long story short, this person was not able to meet directly with her, but rather with some ladies from the orphanage. The meeting went well, but we never got any answer back to the question. The reason he was not able to meet with her was because we don't have an appointment yet.

Now that we believe we are getting closer to an appointment, we are making new arrangements for someone to go see her.

If you will, pray that the orphanage director will allow it this time and that God's will be done regarding her joining our family. And also that we would get an appointment soon. As I type this, our dossier is in Kiev but has not been delivered to Oleg yet. Pray that it does not get held up in a delivery exception. That happened last time. It took over a week to be delivered. Thanks.