I made my first trip to Haiti in 1998. Fell in love with my first orphan in 2000. Started a non-profit to help Haiti in 2003 and started taking teams down on short-term mission trips soon after. I fell in love with Wanna and Fritzon (and a lot of others in the same orphanage) in March of 2010 and had to wait over 2 years to start the adoption process due to the laws of Haiti and a process that is always changing. Our documents were finally submitted and accepted in the fall of 2012 and are currently moving through the court system. We are quickly (hopefully) approaching the end of our adoption. This is my blog to talk about all things related to our adoption and any thing else I think is relevant to it. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Real Adoption Story

Sadly my adoption story isn't going the way I had planned.  I've been lied to, taken advantage of and because of this my kids have been kept from their family longer than we hoped.  Sadly, I'm not alone in my experience.  It has come to a point for the safety of other families I had to step up and share my personal experience and story in an effort to help find a way to stop this and help the many families "stuck" because of it.  I've shared my story here were others are also sharing theirs.  Please pray for us all as we work to bring our kids home.

http://speakoutaboutgivinghoperescuemission.blogspot.com/

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To know or not to know, that is the question....

For those of you reading this and involved in Haiti adoptions - unless you are still processing an independent adoption (which are no longer allowed), you are currently with an agency or looking to connect to one so this question is really for you.

When it comes to Haiti adoptions, that phrase could really be applied in a lot of areas, however, I want to talk about how different Haiti adoptions are compared with most other countries and how knowing every detailed step of the process is not always the best thing.  Had I heard that even a few weeks ago I think I would have disagreed. As I always say with Haiti, nothing is always 100% for every one and every situation, but for me I am seeing more an more why "knowing less can relieve stress!"

As I've talked to families adopting from Haiti who have also adopted from other countries I have learned how vastly different Haiti is set up when it comes to adoptions.  Most countries do not have an atmosphere of "hands on" adoptions.  All countries with really good systems in place process the adoption without parents really having much involvement other than getting an email update maybe once a month, maybe less.  Parents don't know every gory detail of the process: they just know if they are accepted and they are notified when they are needed for the final trip home.  Haiti, however, (because it does not have a "good system") has had parents doing much of the leg work for their adoptions which leads to lots of information being shared with others in the process.   Even those who are working with agencies and don't need to know every step often find it out from others.  Unlike most other countries, Haiti doesn't have a streamlined process or a set timeline.  Often agencies say "2 years" but with some families completing adoptions faster, many families want to go with those timelines and outcomes and this leads to a lot of questions and frustration.

This leads me to the question:  To know or not to know?

Now, I am definitely one of those hands one people that like to help and know what's going on and help others too.  I helped start a FB group in the fall of 2011 with the intention of just finding others going through the Adoption process in Haiti so we could just encourage one another.  Since then we have grown to over 700 families all in some part of the process or considering adopting from Haiti.  It has become a group of many moms and some dads encouraging and praying for each other but also a group where those involved in independent adoptions get help each step of the way and also share the information they learn as they go.  Those with agencies also share each step and also obsess and compare their timelines with the independent adoptions and those with difference agencies.  I have found myself sucked into the obsession of timelines and comparisons, frantically checking online for information I can take and imagine and dream about applying to my own timeline or adoption process.  This obsession has recently come on since exiting IBESR and it hasn't been pretty.  The sad thing is, is that I KNOW that no two timelines are the same.  I KNOW that independent vs agency adoptions very often have different timelines due to the huge amounts of work agencies have dealing with multiple families vs someone dealing with a single family.  I KNOW that "This Is Haiti" and what happens today may not happen tomorrow and what couldn't happen today could very well be allowed to happen tomorrow.  I KNOW all those things and more but my heart just wanted to obsess and in doing so I have caused my own self unnecessary grief and wasted time and energy.

I have had to take a step back, take a breather, calm my heart, clear my head and seek God a lot in the past week.  I have had to apologize to my own agency (that I also work for) for questioning my timeline and becoming one of those parents that turned her eyes inward and began only seeing me, and MY adoption instead of focusing on my work of helping others with theirs, trusting God and trusting an agency that has recently and is currently flying kids home and completing many adoptions.  No, instead of looking at all of those positive things I started comparing myself to others... I started doubting, I started worrying about everything that could go wrong and it certainly didn't help my adoption.  It didn't help my family and it didn't help my relationship with my agency.

I've seen and dealt with a lot of scams in Haiti adoptions.  I worked for a director that I thought was spending thousands of dollars and countless hours reaching out and helping families that have been scammed in their own adoptions only to find out SHE was ALSO scamming many of them.  I have spent hours listening to, trying to find answers and praying for multiple families that reach out from the FB group for help.  It's hard sometimes not to think that every time something goes wrong that it's not a scam or a lie.  I read a post on FB the other night that really helped me understand that things happen to all of us in this process and that just because there is a snag, it doesn't always mean someone is lying.  One of the most trusted and longest working adoption directors posted:
We have had 3 dossiers lost at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office since September/October. They said that they weren't there. I sent our worker every couple of weeks. Finally today, we had a special meeting with the director of legalization and lo and behold, the staff walked out of all 3 lost dossiers!!! We are praising God right now and I know 3 families who are going to be so happy too!
It's not fair that this happened to those poor families but imagine if they had taken it upon themselves to go after this director and accused her of lying. What if one of the families went to MOI and was told their dossier wasn't there and they thought their director was lying to them... possibly frauding them?  What if they started telling other families that she was a fraud and made other families start questioning everything about their process.  What if that director then had to spend all her time on rumor patrol and fixing the damage caused?

That's what knowing every little detail leads people to do.  It leads people to question everything.  Had that scenario happened in China, chances are you would never know and if you did you would probably have more faith in your agency but Haiti is different.  It's hard.  It's hard to know when to push for truth and answers and when to trust that what is going on is legit.  I think you have to do your research and know the history of your agency and director and look at their successes.  Look at the families involved and see the entire picture, not just the corner of the picture frame where you are standing.  

I think that the future will be much clearer for new adopting families.  In the past anyone and everyone has been and still is processing adoptions.  So much can and has happened under this method.  I have seen families taken for tens of thousands of dollars and never able to adopt their children.  It happens.  BUT, if you are with a legitimate agency.  If you are working with a director or a lawyer that has a history of completed adoptions and many families that are happy with their experience then hold on to that truth.  It's not bad to have information as long as that information doesn't have you.  Don't let it rule your thoughts.  If something is or does go wrong then push for answers and a solution but push WITH your director/lawyer/agency first.  

I don't claim to have all the answers but I know I have experienced and learned a lot in the past 14 years of working in Haiti and in the last 3 years in the pursuit of adopting my own kids and more recently in teaming up to work with an agency.  I know when you think you know something as a parent, in the US, reading online (including my own FB group) that it may be a completely different on the ground in Haiti. 

So, I end with this thought.  If you must know about your adoption, your timeline, your progress... then prepare your heart every day for the disappointment of watching others pass you on the race to to homecoming day.  Prepare your heart for a deadline that gets passed over and over again.  Prepare you heart to celebrate with others even though you are grieving another day away from your child(ren).  Prepare yourself you know that knowing more will probably stress you out more and knowing less will leave you with fewer questions and anxiety attacks.  I didn't prepare my heart and dove in thinking that I could handle it.... I am after all a seasoned Haiti worker! :)  Totally started drowning in what I knew and thought I knew.  Hang in there and pray, meditate, read, prepare the house and your heart for them to be home but don't get sucked in and if you do... take time to step back, look at the entire picture and reach out to your agency/director if you really have something that the above doesn't resolve.  Peace is better than panic any day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shasta's Testimony - My heart for Haiti and adoption

I had the opportunity to share my testimony at Pine Level United Methodist on April 24, 2013.  A lot of what I've been through and experienced had given me the heart I have for orphans, for the outcasts, for those who think they don't matter....  I've learned that it doesn't matter who you are, what you've been through, or what you've done - God will use you if you're willing to be used.

Here is the audio to my testimony tonight. 
If you can't listen to it here on your cell phone try the one at
www.shastagrimes.com



Here is the video I showed of me over the past 14 years in Haiti:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Babies in the River....

I was talking with someone the other day on a topic that has become personal.  It's not an easy topic and there are no perfect answers for it but it demands discussion and requires action:  Orphans: Family Preservation and/or Adoption.  She shared this story with me and surprisingly, though it seems to be a pretty popular parable, I had never heard it before:

"There was a small village on the edge of a river.  One day a villager took a break from harvesting food and noticed a baby floating down the river toward the village. She couldn't believe her eyes! She heard crying in the distance and looked downstream to see that two babies had already floated by the village.
"Oh, this is terrible!" A woman who had been building a campfire shouted, "Look, there are even more upstream!" Indeed, there were three more babies coming around the bend.

They quickly organized themselves to rescue the babies. Watchtowers were built on both sides of the shore and swimmers were coordinated to maintain shifts of rescue teams that maintained 24-hour surveillance of the river. Ziplines with baskets attached were stretched across the river to get even more babies to safety quickly.
The number of babies floating down the river only seemed to increase. The villagers built orphanages and they taught even more children to make blankets and they increased the amount of food they grew to keep the babies housed, warm and fed. Life in the village carried on.
Then one day at a meeting of the Village Council, a villager asked, "But where are all these babies coming from?"
"No one knows," said another villager. "But I say we organize a team to go upstream and find how who's throwing these babies in the river."
Not everyone was in agreement. "But we need people to help us pull the babies out of the river," said one villager. "That's right!" said another villager. "And who will be here to cook for them and look after them if a bunch of people go upstream?"
So one group stayed while the other went to find the cause and search for a solution.

_----------

I have found myself in a position of pulling babies out of the stream.  I encourage those who want to, to go find who is throwing babies in the river and figure out solutions before it gets to that.  I don't think they will be able to stop every baby from floating down the river to us but if they can stop some then lives will be saved and changed.  I never jumped in the river to gain attention or glory.  I didn't grow up thinking that I would be trying to rescue orphans when I was an adult but that is what God put in my path and I can't walk away from that.  It is who I am and what is in me.  I am happy to encourage and support others who are on a similar mission but a different path.  Instead of being in the water they are on the shore, going upstream to stop the tide of children being washed away.

What I never expected to encounter were people standing on the shore yelling at me that I'm doing it all wrong.  I never expected people to attack me for choosing to step in the water, instead of go upstream, as those children drowned.  I didn't know I would be persecuted and told that I was part of the problem by rescuing those already in the water.  Part of me wants to yell back to these groups that are picketing my wet, mucky work and say, "Hey... why are you wasting your time yelling at me?  Take all that energy, go upstream and do something there.  I can't be there and be here so go if that's what you want."  As I search more into adoption, ethics, family preservation, the orphan crisis and so forth I am shocked at how often adoptive parents are told they are the problem and that Christians are fueling the problem.

You've never had that experience or heard of people saying that?  This is just one of many articles on the issue:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jillfilipovic/why-evangelical-christians-love-adopting-kids

I don't pretend to have the answers but I will say that I see way too much dissension in the adoption world and I just wish we could work together.  Adoptive parents are not the enemy.  They may not be educated or know there are ethical issues in adoptions.  I didn't know that until I started on my own journey but I will not spend my time and energy bashing and degrading those who didn't or don't know better.  Instead I will do my part to walk along side and educate these parents.  I will search for truth in between pulling kids out of the water.  I will send my support and encouragement to those who are not pulling out babies but searching for solutions upstream and I will not bash them for their efforts.  We are all in this together and the results in the adoption world and with the "orphan crisis" might be a lot better if we actually learned how to do this.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Changing the future of Orphanages

What if we could redefine orphan care and the future of institutionalized orphans?  What if we could keep families together and provide permanent families for children and foster homes for those awaiting adoption?  We can but it's going to take time, dedication, education and organizations willing to collaborate and cooperate with each other.  One of the biggest issues in ministry is the unwillingness for ministries to work together for the bigger picture out of fear that they may lose funding or recognition to another name they are helping.  We need to get over that... that discussion is for another day though.

What does orphan care currently look like?  It looks like big, concrete buildings with many bunk beds to a room and workers that take care of the children's needs but do not take the place of a mom and dad.  It often does not recreate a family structure and many times kids never get to experience the same life a child with a family would.  There are those that would argue that a nicely run orphanage isn't so bad if they are fed, clean, taken care of and given some love from those who work there.  To that I say, "Go ahead then, send your child off.  It's not that bad, right?  It would be just as good as living with you".  I'm sure you would never do that because you know in your heart it's not the same.  Nothing can take the place of the love and acceptance of parents and being a part of a family.  The spectrum of care in orphanages ranges from filthy with little to no affection to immaculate with lots of love and attention but in the end, children still long to be wanted and to have a family of their own.

So how can we change that?  There are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Haiti.  Every day hundreds of mission teams fly to Haiti for a variety of reasons and you will almost always meet a team on their way to do some type of orphan care, almost always with an orphanage or with the goal of building an orphanage.  I've read a few blogs that are completely against this type of mentality when going to Haiti and at first I thought that was a little harsh but I get where they are coming from.  So my goal is to find a way to start getting these new ideas out and educating churches, Christians, mission organizations so that there can be a new trend when going to Haiti.  Instead of going to build an orphanage or help the orphans, what if the new mission was to help families stay together or help kids find families.  What if we could change the face of Haiti from being a country of orphans to a country of families?  I know, I'm a dreamer and I dream big but it could happen and you could help it happen.

Imagine instead of building an orphanage you built a neighborhood.  What if a big concrete building you build several homes or an apartment type complex or duplexes?  What if when a mom came to you and wanted to give her child up because she had 2 other kids and she couldn't afford to feed them all and the baby would starve, instead of taking that baby and raising it, you took the family in and provided for them.  Whoa, now instead of 1 mouth, you have to feed 4?  How is that feasible?  Well, you provide her shelter and food and ask her to take in 1 more child whose parents died from cholera.  Then you give her a job in the neighborhood to help with the food and shelter she's getting and give her a small salary. So now your ministry has kept a family together, provided housing, given a child a family setting (possibly a forever family) and given the mom a job.  Or, you could just have your orphanage with another child without a family. 

But you already have an orphanage building?  Okay, so do some remodeling.  Or start with foster care.  If you've been in an area for any length of time, hopefully you've made friends with the community around you.  If so, start reaching out to the families you know are strong and ask them to take in one of the kids in your orphanage.  Offer them support with the food and schooling.  Provide free education or skills courses for parents willing to foster.  Invest in those parents and in others who are interested. 

Know someone who works in Haiti with orphanages?  Talk to them about the future of their orphanage and if they want to do more to help families.  Talk to your church or ministry who wants to go build another orphanage and think about putting kids in a place where they may never get to be with a family again or think about ways you can connect these orphans with families.  International adoption is not an option for most of the orphans in Haiti, even the true orphans.  The system, the quota, the sheer number of orphans to the number of adopting parents makes it an impossible goal to reach of getting every orphaned child into a home overseas, however, we can get them homes and families. 

Some have argued the church will never go for this because "Orphan" care and "orphanages" conjure up much more financial giving than "family restoration" or "building neighborhoods/communities".  I hope they are wrong.  I hope that Christian churches can let go of some of the stereotype behaviors and show that in the end the goal is for children to know the love of a forever family, even if it means doing something different, "unconventional" and something that is not traditional.

If you are interested in getting involved with organizations on the ground that are moving in this direction let me know and I can connect you with them.  If you are interested in helping your current ministry in Haiti transition from the traditional orphanage to a family based mission, let me know and I will work with you to develop a strategic plan to help move you in the right direction.  If you want to help change the future of orphan care in Haiti, help get the word out. Share this idea, these concepts and the new vision of change for the future of Haiti's most precious asset... their children.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Humbled....

There was a time in my life when I thought no one loved or cared about me and my thoughts were often about pain and suicide .  My reality was really warped but it was my reality and the feeling of loneliness was so painfully real.  I've come a long way since then and every day I am amazed at the OVERWHELMING outpouring of love and support I have in my life... a life in which I thought was worthless and would be off not lived.

I have always tried to be the giver in all my relationships and in life in general. Asking for help for our adoption has been very humbling and difficult (which I know is hard to believe as much as I'm on here fundraising but it's true... I HATE it).  While it's been hard to ask for help I've had people reach out and support us because at some point I helped them, and that is special to me.  Even more humbling and touching are the people that have come out to support and help that I haven't seen in years.... or people I barely know.... or people who have little to give but give all they can.  Most of them don't want to be recognized but they know who they are and I want them to know how very much it means to me.  What may seem like a small gift of time or donations is worth more than I can express.  You are helping bring my kids home to a family they have longed for their entire life. 

It's definitely crazy going from feeling like no one likes you or wants you to knowing that many people love and accept you and more than that, they believe in you and your dreams. I wish I could help transform every orphaned heart into being able to feel that change. 

No child should be without a family and while my heart aches daily for the orphans of the world, the pain I feel being separated from my kids is almost too much to bear some days.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us.  Seems so insignificant to just say Thank You but know it's such a deep, sincere, heartfelt, tear-filled eyes, THANK YOU!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wanna and Fritzon Grimes

Adoption Decree = Wanna and Fritzon Grimes.....

Yes, they are legally ours, in Haiti. Now to get them through Immigration so they can come home. It's not an overnight thing... and what should take 6-8 weeks could (and has for some) taken 6-8 months. 

A friend of mine at the end of her adoption journey posted this on my FB wall and I'm pasting it here to help you understand what I mean above:  
    "We received our adoption decree in September of last year ... Was always told everything is fine/great with our and his dossier ... never had any red flags that I'm aware. Things looked so good that we were told he should be home by Christmas ... now i "know" Haiti, and knew better than to count on that and even told myself and others, who were always asking me "when will he be here?"..."don't count on it, but it's a possibility, only a possibility he will be home for Christmas." My head knew this but my heart (which I have no control over evidently WAS counting on it and it was crushed ... his Christmas gifts that were under the tree, are now on his bed, waiting for him ... he just turned 13 April 1st ... I've loved him for over 2 years now.
We just received his passport (after it went back to be "corrected". which took 4 weeks just for that) last week. I am confident our crèche and agency has worked diligently and has done everything they know how to, to get our son home ASAP ... not to mention they've been like Jesus to him :0)
I hear your "head" knowing to be truth that when you say "what should take 6-8 weeks has taken some 6-8 months" ... prepare your heart, sweet friend ... If that is at all possible :0"


I honestly don't want to prepare my heart.  I want to just believe we are the exception and that there will be no hold-ups and that we will be one of those miracle cases that flies right though.  I think that and know it's probably not a reality.  I also know that it would be devastating for so many families who are STUCK to see that happen, to watch another family unite, while they continue to wait.  I am continuously reminded that adopting from Haiti isn't a fair race and it doesn't matter how fast or hard you can run, it's a team race and you are partnered with a "handicapped" player.  I'm talking about a player that probably doesn't want to run.  One who forgets they are running a race or forgets that you're their partner and walks away to team up with someone else.  There are also partners who will stop and start walking the other way demanding money to get them to turn around and do what they signed up to do. No, definitely not fair.  

So those are the thoughts that go through my head as I try to focus on the reality of having the adoption decree.  I think I'm still in shock as I realize that our kids are really ours. I've been too worried about the process, the issues that could come up, the bill and other behind the scenes things to really just sit and celebrate but that's what I'm going to do now.  I want to feel the excitement of knowing that this 3 year journey is almost over and that the kids God put in our lives are actually a part of our family. Please pray for us, this process and our documents. I have watched them grow up so much. I'm ready to have them home...we all are.

Sooooo.......Wanna and Fritzon are my kids!!!!! I am their mom!!!! AAAAHHHHH... Been waiting for this day for so long.... Okay... going to cry now!