If you know us, you’ve heard us talk about how much we have loved visiting this country or that country. How we loved the food, the people, the museums, the culture, etc. etc. But there is a country that has been pressed so hard onto our hearts, a country we love so much…and we have never even been there. There is no particular reason why we would be drawn to this country, but sometimes God tells you something so clearly that you know it could only be from Him.
What is it about India that I couldn’t get out of my head? The bright colors of the Holi Festival? The way it lights up at Diwali? The marigold flower chains? I mean, I’ve pinned the same photo of the Pink Palace in Jaipur on my India & Nepal Pinterest Board more than once. Wait, why do I even know about Holi, Diwali, marigold flower chains, or the Pink Palace? Why do I have a Pinterest board JUST for India and Nepal?
Well, God spoke India into our hearts, and this where Nichols #4 will be from.
Years and years ago, we felt that we were called to international adoption. I actually can pinpoint it, for me at least, specifically to meeting the Hooten family, who had 2 biological sons followed by several adopted children. I just thought it was one of the most beautiful, Godly things I had ever witnessed.
We were married almost 6 years before Evie came into the picture, and had been saying for years that when our biological child turned 1, we would begin the adoption process. Well, God has a way of shooting down your plans in a way only He can. He knows timing better than we do, so we’ve learned to just trust Him and go with it. When Evie turned 1 (March 2014), we were literally in the midst of moving into a new home and of course the financial burden that came with it. We knew it wasn’t the right time, but we had a peace about that. Not to mention, the adoption agency we wanted to go through didn’t have a program for India at that time, so we just waited and prayed for God to make his timing super obvious. (Fun fact: we closed on this home one year ago to this very day! Almost to the minute that I’m typing this even. And Evie turns two this Monday!)
Last fall, I told Zack that I wanted to go to an informational meeting at Lifeline, the agency we knew we wanted for this. We expressed to them our interest in India, knowing full well that there wasn’t a chance of us being accepted into their non-existent program. But what do you know, there was a program.
It’s what called a pilot program. One family here in Alabama was pursuing their second Indian adoption. The first was with the only other agency in Alabama that does India adoptions, but this second one was through Lifeline. We left the informational meeting that night affirmed more than ever that Lifeline was the agency, excited that India was on their radar. But we also knew it would be a while, because they didn’t even officially have an Indian program. (Like, years.) We even decided try for another biological child sometime in 2015 and then hopefully when s/he was a year or so, India would be open through Lifeline, and what’s more, we’d have a couple years to get some finances in order before jumping in. Heck y’all, we even cashed in our airline miles and booked a vacation. HA! Let’s not talk about that right now, because I gave up stress/worry/anxiety for Lent, and I’m not going to hold to that if I talk about what we have planned for next month.
Anyway, imagine my surprise when I got a call from a gal at Lifeline just before Christmas wanting to talk more about our interest in India. Wait, what? I kind of felt like maybe she just wanted to have a casual convo, so when we had a hard time linking up around the holidays, I didn’t think too much about it.
Last month, the conversations went from informational to hypothetical to realistic. And on January 30, 2014, at 10:13 am, as I was sitting in the car with my mom driving up to the Summit, Meredith, the program director at Lifeline said “our group has been praying, and under my direction, we would like to accept you as the pilot family for India. We are so excited for you.”
WHAT?! I cried, obvi. Because I wear my heart of my sleeve and I couldn’t help it. We had a full conversation before she even said those words, those words I will NEVER forget…and wasn’t even expecting. My mom heard them too and grabbed my hand and squeezed it, how awesome she was there to hear the news! And I’m not even sure what I said next except for some version of “we’ll be praying about it.”
We had so much to process: we still want another biological child, when is that supposed to happen? How long will this take? How much will this cost? Weren’t we supposed to begin this process a few years from now? Isn’t that what God was saying? What happened to the other family in their pilot program? Is this timing right? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a lot that night. (BTW, I have connected with the first pilot family through the wonders of social media and her blog, and she is amazing. They are now pursuing a waiting child from China, and we are so happy for our new friends!)
Two days later, never so sure of anything in my life, I emailed our social worker with a “YES!” Two days after that we began the application process. And now here we are:
We are the Nichols, and we are actively in the process of pursuing an adoption from India.
We’ve been fielding some questions already from people who know, so here is a little FAQ section for you. We LOVE talking about this, because each person who hears our story also hears the story of the orphan crisis in India, a country that has meant so much to us, but now means even more.
Why are you adopting? And why India?
As Christians, why do we pursue anything of substance? Because God tugs our heart in certain directions and gives each of His children a calling. Quite simply, God has called us to India. Our entire married lives we have felt called to advocate for the unheard voices of the marginalized and impoverished (and the International Justice Mission is one of our favorite charities for this reason). Every Christian is called to orphan care in some capacity, and we feel this is the capacity to which we have been called.
While social injustices are rampant throughout the world (including here in America), in underdeveloped countries, human life just isn’t valued the way it is in the developed world. I’m not comfortable sharing some of this here on this blog, but please ask us about it, because we would love to share with you the specifics of this. Although this video will give you an idea of the direction this conversation will go in. (Warning, it’s not easy to watch).
So what about THIS child? YOUR child?
We don’t know yet, of course, if it will be a boy or girl, what part of India he or she will be from, or anything much more than that. But, we do know that it most likely will be a little girl, as almost 70% of the estimated 25 million orphans in India are girls.
We also know that our child will have a special need. The only children available to non-Indian nationals are waiting children, which means that Indian parents or those with Indian citizenship get (and this is hard to type) “first pick” of “healthy” babies. What “special needs” means can vary WIDELY…it can be something totally correctable, and you might never even know that at one point in his or her life, s/he was considered “special needs.” Or it is very possible that there will be some extra considerations we’ll have to make for our child during his/her life. We have a lot to pray about for this aspect of our adoption process, and we would covet your prayers too.
We also know that our little one will be, in fact, a little one! From the information our agency has gathered, India prefers for their adoptive families to maintain natural birth order. Evie will be 2 on March 2nd, so we have set “parameters” for birth to 2 years. We would be perfectly ok with a older child, but we feel that we need to “play it safe” and request what India wants. And we are totally fine with bringing home a tiny, sweet li’l bit!
How long will this process take?
If you know, please tell us! We could get a referral before the year is up, or it could be 4 years from now before we’re home with our newest Nichols. It’s not a secret that I’m not the most patient of people, so we’d love it if you could join us in praying for a quick process. There is even a small chance that s/he is already born, which means that everyday that we spend in-process is another day that our family is missing a member, and another day that s/he has to go without his/her mommy, daddy, and big sister. I can hardly stomach the thought.
Also, there are certain steps that can only move forward when we can pay for it. And that’s a nice segway to…
How much does it cost to adopt from India?
A pretty penny, folks. Here’s a rough breakdown, and much of this info I gathered from another family here in Bham who is adopting from India. (Thanks Abby!)
US Adoption Agency Fees
$250: Application Fee
3 equal payments of $2,640 (includes home study, two post-adoption reports, our dossier, and virtually everything else logistical between us and the Indian agencies). Usually there is a 4th payment of $2640, but we get a scholarship for this because we are the pilot family.
Out of Pocket US Adoption Expenses
Fingerprint Fee $108
Citizenship and Immigration services $890
Citizenship services for status change $360
Birth Certificates (2) $104
Marriage License (2) $52
International Courier Services $108
Medical review of referral $450
Citizenship Certificate $550
Fixed India Adoption Expenses
Official Fees $5000
Child’s Medical $150
Child’s Visa $400
Bond posted for child $1000
Estimated In-Country Expenses
International Flights $4000
Hotel Accommodations (varies) $100
In-country flights (varies) $1500
Food (varies) $500
Guide/Driver Tips $500
Court fees, Adjudicator, In-country Guide (varies) $5000
Crossings Conference $100
kNOw More Orphans Intensive (tomorrow!) $60
Books and other misc education expenses $50
And Other Stuff
Our Program Director gave us a number of about $38,000 to prepare ourselves for (imagine me trying not to break down into wails and sobs) so I’m just going throw the number of $8,900 here into this category.
Estimated Total: $38,000
And how are you going to come up with $38K exactly?
This is a scary number. I can’t even tell you how much this makes me want to look at heaven and scream “Are you KIDDING ME God?!” But we know for a fact that God will not let this stand in the way, because our God values all life, and He honors orphan care and adoption. God is the one who told us to do this, and He’s not going to let some dollar amount stand in our way.
Our goal is ambitious: to do this adoption debt-free. In addition to being the most budget-conscious people on the planet for the next while (no offense if we don’t go out to dinner with you, we got a kid to get home), we also plan on doing lots of fundraisers. FUN fundraisers. Funraisers? We don’t want to sit here and ask for hand-outs, but rather we hope to provide ways that benefit both us and you! Birmingham Craft Night will be a big one, my cupcake/cake orders will completely be going to the adoption fund. I also do substitute teaching here in Shelby County, we have a really awesome t-shirt in the works, and we are planning a huge multi-family garage sale with the help of our friends at House Peace. There are some great grants out there, and who knows what else? There was a point in time that M. Night Shyamalan had a grant for US families pursuing India adoptions, but I don’t think that exists anymore. Too bad, because I’d love to tell our kiddo that a super awesome director helped bring him/her home!
Please stay tuned to this blog and follow us on social media for the ways you can get involved if you want to!
So what can I do?
Pray for us. Love us. Encourage us. There will be times during this process that we will struggle hard. We will have roadblocks that will discourage us and try to break us. There will be times that it will feel like it’s taking so frustratingly long to get our child home, knowing that we are helpless over here in our comfy house will our child rocks herself to sleep in an orphanage an entire world away. After we have our referral (which is when we are matched and see his/her face), it will be months before we meet him/her. I can’t imagine what I would do if someone took Evie away from us for months, and I can’t help but feel that this will give me the same gut-wrenching feeling. This child is no less our son or daughter than Evie after all! After we are all home together, the process of bonding as a family will be tough. Nothing can be done in any point of this process without prayers, love, and encouragement.
And please pray for our child. A LOT. That s/he is being loved, held, fed, taken care of. If s/he hasn’t been born yet, please pray that the birth will be safe. Please pray for the birth parents who will not experience the joy of seeing him/her grow up. Adoption is an amazing way of showing God’s love, but it’s not natural. It’s not how families were meant to be. (That is a whole blog post on its own.)
Also, if you feel like you are led to support us in bringing our child to his/her forever home, there are so many ways. Donating items to our garage sale, buying a fundraising t-shirt from us, ordering some cupcakes from Malinda, babysit Evie while we work through our mountain of paperwork, sponsoring a fundraising event…like, whatever. We’re open to whatever blessings people want to bless us with, and are appreciative and humble beyond words!
Our application is submitted and approved (if you’ve ever adopted before, you know that’s a milestone in its own right), and now we come up with $2640 and start to put our dossier together. A dossier is a huge file of paperwork regarding every detail of our lives: fingerprints, birth certificates, marriage license, result of our home studies, etc., which then ships to India for translation and approval. There are three agencies in India who will either approve us or reject us, so please pray with us that not only will this process go quickly, but that it will also just…go. It’s terrifying to think “what if someone over there just stamps a ‘NO!’ across our application?” so please be praying specifically for those people in India who hold the fate of our family in their hands. (Also, this is about the most simplified I can make this. It’s way more complicated than this.)
Also, we’ll be hitting up fundraising pretty hard here pretty soon. But again, we hope this will be a lot of fun, a great way to expand our community, bring awareness to adoption and orphan advocacy, and more. Got a donation to make to our garage sale? Let us know, we’ll come get it from you!
Thank you all for taking the time to read a little more about us and our family…our growing family! And thank you for the love, prayers, and support we already feel around us. We couldn’t have made it through these last 2 years of parenthood without the love our people, and there’s no way we’ll be able to make it through this process without you either.
-Zack, Malinda, and Evie June Nichols