Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Pick an Adoption Agency--A Message from the International Director

Pick an agency that is Hague accredited.
-This credential means that you are working with an agency that has been inspected, reviewed, approved and is monitored by agencies and groups that require legitimacy and ethical procedures.

Pick an agency that does not have open or unaddressed complaints with the Better Business Bureau or State licensure.
-You should call both entities and make sure the agency you choose to work with has an unblemished/clear record. If you are going to work with a Hague agency you should also check with the COA (Counsel for Accreditation) to make sure no complaints have been filed against the agency.

Pick an agency that has a successful track record of completing adoptions.
-Perspective adoptive parents should select an agency with seasoned international adoption experience. The international adoption process is extremely complex and you do not want to be an agency’s “guinea pig” If an agency does not have a long, successful history of completing adoptions, and if they can not offer you recent families for recommendation, consider crossing them off of your list.

Pick an agency that has personally traveled to the country you are adopting from.
-You want an agency that has personally met with the lawyer, facilitator, Central Authority for Adoption, the US Embassy, etc. The agency has verified and personally visited the orphanages and the orphaned children (the agency knows the children comply with USCIS "orphan" status immigration requirements - section 204.3) If an agency has not traveled to the country you are adopting from you should strongly consider crossing them off your list.

Pick an agency that has signed contractual agreements with their facilitators/lawyers.
-You should ask how the relationships with the facilitator/lawyer were established? Has the agency personally met the facilitator/lawyer? What is the background/experience of the facilitator/lawyer? Has any background checks/verifications been done on the facilitator/lawyer? What opinion/knowledge does the US Embassy have of the facilitator/lawyer? Has the US agency confirmed through the US Embassy how many immigrant visas the facilitator/lawyer has processed, how many were denied & why? If an agency is using a facilitator/lawyer without known experience/success and a good reputation I would consider crossing them off of your list.

Pick an agency that has successfully had all their perspective adoptive parents travel, go through court & granted an adoption decree.
-Ask the agency if any of their perspective adoptive parents (for the country you are interested in) have ever been denied an adoption visa (IR3) or permanent guardianship (IR4)? If the agency is not willing to provide this information to you in writing, cross them off your list.

Pick an agency that offers 24/7 support while you are in country.
-What is the agency's contingency plan for perspective adoptive parent support if a “worst case scenario” happens? By support we are talking about.. emotional, medical, mediation with the US Embassy, DOS, etc. If an agency cannot be reached 24/7 when there is a perspective adoptive family in crisis (meaning they are in-country or have just returned from country in a "worst case scenario") . . . cross them off your list. If an agency does not have a contingency plan or they say they don't need one or there is not such a plan in writing, and/ or it has never even been thought about.. run! Cross them off your list.

Pick an agency that clearly understands the ramifications of section 204.3 of the immigration requirements.
-Your agency should know what legally defines an “orphan”, how to file a petition for an orphan, and how perspective adoptive parent’s status is evaluated. If the agency cannot do this then you should seriously consider crossing them off your list!

Pick an agency that list all known fees and cost (not just the agency fees).
-Does the agency know the average cost of adoption within the specific country you are pursuing? What are the court costs, facilitation cost, documentation costs, translation costs, etc.? Are the fees for USCIS, etc. included? Are the specific fees charged by the agency reasonable in regards to the specific country's average? If not, consider crossing them off your list. NOTE: Is the agency charging you an "inter-country court fee" that matches the actual court cost? If the agency does not post all their fees in writing, cross them off your list.

Pick an agency that has an inter-country adoption attorney on staff/retained for issues relating to their adoption services.
-If the agency does not have a reputable inter-country adoption attorney with specific inter-country adoption experience at their fingertips (to help establish the programs so they are legit, ethical & successful, and also for when the process hits a serious snag!) I would highly suggest you cross them off your list!

Pick an agency that has a clearly written reimbursement policy.
-If the agency’s reimbursement policy is not detailed and specifically defined, in a reimbursement plan (where critical points in the process are specifically defined for amounts or % of reimbursement). . . cross them off you list. NOTE: Does the agency have a plan in place if the prospective mom becomes pregnant or the family decides to put their process on hold? Does the agency have a plan in place if the country you have selected closes or is delayed at some point in the process? If an agency does not have specific, well defined plan to protect their families in these scenarios.. strongly consider crossing them off your list.

Pick an agency that discusses (in writing) all risk and what party is responsible if the process is denied, delayed, or placed on hold.
-If you read in the agency’s adoption contract "Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) assume(s) all risk be very concerned! Does the contract state or imply "reasonable" risk such as the country’s government changing laws (things that are out of the control of the agency? A perspective adoptive parent should NOT be responsible for the illegal/criminal activity of the agency or partners there-of (inter-country facilitators/lawyers). This is not "reasonable" risk. If the agency is not willing to be specific in defining "risk", cross them off your list.

Pick an agency that understands the requirements of the US Embassy in a particular country.
-Obtaining a inter-country adoption decree (IR3) or permanent guardianship order (IR4) does not mean you are through the process! An immigrant visa MUST be issued for you to leave the country with you child and return to your home country. If you agency is not well versed in what documents are needed and how they can be verified in advance.. consider crossing them off your list.

Dave Wood
International Director

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Note from the Director - A Prayer for Families in the Process

This was my prayer for the hundreds of family at our church who are following the Lord's call to adopt or foster...

"'O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.  When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!' Psalm 8

Father we dedicate the families who are waiting to adopt or who are awaiting a foster care placement.  We thank you for their faithfulness to answer the call to foster or to adopt and now we come with confidence knowing the you will equip them for the journey ahead.

We pray for them as they prepare their homes, their families, their lives, and their resources.  We pray for them as they prepare to make disciples in their homes.  Lord give them hope as they wait, give them perseverance when what they have been called to seems to become a struggle, give them boldness to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel to all those who question the call you have placed on their lives, and give them wisdom when the adversary begins to tempt them to question you!

Lord, today I pray for the extended families of these families, that you would prepare their hearts for new family members who won't look like them, won't sound like them, or who won't come from a similar background.  Father, prepare these families for the roller coasters ahead, for the changes that will come, and for the possible disappointments.

Father give them a strong resolve to weather storms ahead; and, Lord to become more committed to the call today and tomorrow and the next day, more than they were the first day!  Lord, strengthen these families as you commission them to do your work and to be your hands and feet to the orphans and foster children.

Remind these families that your heart breaks more for the orphans, than theirs ever will!  Remind them that the hope is not in America, the hope is not in their state, the hope is not in their homes, the hope is not in their families, but that the hope is found only in you and your Son, Jesus Christ - the hope of glory.

Lord may your Gospel be made known to the children who will be placed in these homes, that little boys and girls who are adopted from Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, South and Central America, North America, and from foster care will one day be the greatest evangelist the world has ever known, spreading your fame to every corner of the earth.

May the implications of physical adoption remind these families daily through the wait, and daily through raising these kids, of their spiritual adoption in Christ.  May the help for these families come from you, a God that neither slumbers nor sleeps.  We lift our eyes to you.  Arise, O Lord, O God, lift up your hand, forget not the afflicted!  O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth."

Beloved, will you allow God to use you to impact the life of a child? Please do not hesitate to give Lifeline a call because we are here...

On behalf of the orphans.

Herbie Newell
Executive Director
Lifeline Children's Services
giving children a hope and a future
twitter: @hmnewell

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Uganda Update

We have been informed today that the Vice Consul in Uganda intends to begin issuing visas and taking appointments for those who abide by the requirements for an IR4 legal guardianship visa outlined in Department of State’s announcement of April 15. Again, no legal guardianship visas have been issued, but the Embassy in Kampala has given verbal confirmation that this announcement from the State Department is sufficient to resume visa issuance for families with the correct documentation and the appropriate wording in their court orders.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Uganda Update

On April 15, 2010, the United States Department of State issued a statement clarifying the requirements to be granted an IR4 visa to bring a child to the US under a legal guardianship. If a family has met the outlined qualifications for an IR4 legal guardianship visa, it can be assumed that the Consul will resume IR4 visa issuance in Uganda. No families have yet received an IR4 visa after this announcement; however no families have been denied after this announcement. When a family receives an IR4 immigrant visa, we can be sure that the issues have been completely resolved.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Glory!--A Message from our International Director

Why am I here? With over 6 billion people on the planet why one more.. why me? Discovering the answer to that question is the single most important thing you will ever accomplish in your life. If you figure it out it will reshape all of your thinking and literally transform you as a person. Unfortunately, I can flat out tell you that our churches are full of people who are still clueless when it comes to this grand question. I can say this because for a good amount of time I was one of the clueless ones and frankly those around me were clueless too. I just didn’t get the concept of GLORY. Honestly, when I heard the word, I thought of angels kind of floating around God and some really loud organ music.. and oh yeah robes, lots and lots of robes.

Those thoughts really weren’t the ones God wanted dancing in my head when I thought of the word GLORY. Let me share with you an awesome verse and then unlock this powerful word. In John 17:4 Jesus declares to the Father, “I have brought you GLORY on earth, completing all that you have called me to do!” The word GLORY literally means “to make heavy”. We have probably all heard the expression, “Don’t make light of what I am saying” To give God GLORY means to make Him, His Word, His Plans, and His Commands heavy. GLORY means to make much of God.. to make much of what He says and what He values. To put tremendous weight on the things that are significant to God.

Is there anything in this world more significant to God more than a precious child? When the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, Jesus quietly put a child on his knee and said, “Unless you become like this little child you won’t even see the Kingdom of God ” How starling that must have been for these disciples to hear. At that time in society children were looked on as little more than property. God was saying if you want to fulfill the purpose of your existence, to bring me GLORY, you have to make heavy my values. And now He was effectively communicating to the disciples the incredible value He places on Children. You bring God GLORY by looking at children differently.. you begin to see them as God sees them. You make much of Children!

I’m going to tell you right now that this completely went against their culture, their education, their experience.. it went against everything they knew. And much of what brings God GLORY goes against the drumbeat of our culture today. We attend church on Sunday but on Monday we exercise OUR values for business, relationships, etc. God is calling us to a higher way of living. A way that doesn’t naturally come to us.. the GLORY way!

So here is Jesus shortly after his horrific death and amazing resurrection, getting ready to leave earth and in his final moments he prays to the Father, “I have brought you GLORY on earth, completing all you have called me to do.” Jesus is saying, “God.. I made you heavy. I didn’t take your plans and commands lightly. I made much of your Word and I fulfilled it! I think one of the coolest lines in all of the Bible is when Jesus proceeds to say, “I completed all that you called me to do” ..That is how Jesus made much of God. He completed all that God had called HIM to do. Notice that Jesus DIDN’T do everything. Jesus didn’t save everyone, He didn’t feed everyone, and He didn’t heal everyone. In fact, Jesus tells the disciples that they will do even greater works than He did! Jesus brought GLORY to the Father by doing no less and no more than what God had called Him to do.

This is wonderful! Bring God GLORY by simply completing what He has specifically called you to do. Okay, I’m going to say it.. God doesn’t call everyone to adopt. Yeah, that’s true.. God doesn’t call everyone to adopt! He may not even call most to adopt. And if God isn’t calling you to adopt don’t ever let a preacher, a friend, an International Director at Lifeline, or anyone else put you on a guilt trip to do so. I know families that have adopted children out of guilt and the result isn’t pretty.. it cheats your family and it cheats a precious child. We don’t have to look any further than the tragic story plastered all over the news this week about the woman from Tennessee who recently abandoned her adopted seven year old child (sending him back to Russia on a plane with a note in his hand) to know that everyone is not called to adopt. Unfortunately, such sad situations always give adoption a bad name, and in this specific case, tragically closes an entire country to adoption.

Before I wrap this blog post, I want to challenge you with you something you are called to do. Each and everyone of us is called to care for orphans.(James 1:22-27) This call is repeated throughout the Old and New Testament. Somehow or someway you and I have to be engaged in orphan care. This is the very heart of God.. you cannot bring Him GLORY and ignore this call. Jesus could not have been more clear, “As you have done it to the least of these you have done it to me” There is no more "least" than an unloved, unknown, uncared for orphan!

Friends, 50 years from now our time on earth will be past. What we choose to do is significant. God has called and created us for the sole purpose of bringing GLORY to Him. Let’s do it! Let’s make His call to the orphan our call.. His passion our passion! Please check out our website at or call our office and allow us the joy of sharing how you can partner together with thousands of other families to touch the lives of precious orphaned children close to the heart of God. I promise.. you will never regret an investment you make in the least of these!

Dave Wood
International Director

Friday, April 9, 2010

Upcoming Adoption Training

On Tuesday, April 20th, Lifeline will be leading an adoption training titled, “How to Talk about Adoption,” for employees and volunteers of crisis pregnancy centers throughout the state. Lifeline’s partnership with these centers over the years has been an invaluable part of our ministry to birth mothers. Many times, young women who have gone to such centers for counseling have been referred to Lifeline to make an adoption plan. By offering adoption education to those who may be the birth mother’s first point of contact, we hope to diminish fears of discussing adoption with clients for whom parenting may not be the best choice.

“How to Talk about Adoption” will be held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Fellowship Hall C. Registration will begin at 9:45, and the training will last from 10:00 until 3:00. Lunch will be served. Social work and nursing CEUs are available. If interested in attending the training, please contact Traci Newell, Education Coordinator, at or 205-972-8467.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Heroes--A Message From the International Director

Today I want to pay tribute to the greatest heroes in the world. None of them has held public office, flown in space, invented a new product, or played on a professional ball club. No, their tireless and mostly unseen work is hammered out in somewhat over-crowed offices. The masterpiece they produce will never make it on a Best Seller List, but their diligently crafted works will allow some unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody orphan an opportunity to be loved and cherished by a forever mom and dad. Your cares, as adoptive parents, are their concerns. The team that I am blessed to work with isn’t motivated by a paycheck or even a pat on the back. They are committed to a grand cause that has arrested their passions, their talents, and their very lives.. to rescue orphans in their distress – James 1:27.

As the International Director for Lifeline Children’s Services I get the unique opportunity of seeing these heroes, my personal heroes, up close every day. From my front row seat I see their steady, confident leadership and wise counsel to families. All the while a swirl of activity is transpiring all around them. The number of plates that are being spun at any given moment leaves you breathless and somewhat in awe. Their ideas and ideals are stamped on every process and policy that makes Lifeline a truly special agency and ministry. At their core, these social workers are fierce and unrelenting advocates for “the least of these”, believing that each child is merely Jesus in disguise.

A great saint once said, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” At Lifeline we have a team whose love for children and families is both extraordinary and resilient.. I’m grateful! Because of this I believe our team can accomplish so many great things against an enormous array of the world’s most despicable ills. Just think.. it only took one young monk to begin the Protestant reformation, just one young explorer to discover the New World, just one young President, Thomas Jefferson, to proclaim that all men are created equal, and just one Shepard boy to slay an indomitable giant. What fantastic things have been done and will be done by my heroes who are equally committed!

The sun has long since faded into night as I pack up to leave the office. Making my rounds to turn off the lights I walk down hallways with pictures of hundreds of children, perhaps even thousands, each of them being embraced by their new mom’s and dad’s. For the numberless task that made each of these “miracles” a reality I salute my heroes. Your enduring cause for a hope that still lives and a dream that never dies makes this long day and all that will follow worth it.. thank you!

Dave Wood
International Director

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Note from the Director - Easter is not about comfort

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6

Comfort. That word has been a word that I have been ruminating on quite a bit lately. As I returned to the United States from our recent trips to Liberia and Hungary – I found myself captured once again with the comfort of home; the comfort of a country; the comfort of a language, a food, a people that you know; the comfort in a clean warm shower; the comfort in clean water…

As I think even now on “comfort” my mind goes not to my easy chair at home, but the lack of comfort of our brothers and sisters who will meet in secret in Asia in just mere hours to worship a risen savior – risking limb and life to gather in community, to gather in worship.

As I think of “comfort” my mind goes to my brothers and sisters in Liberia who will rise tomorrow from a slumber after a 110 heat indexed night in electricity-less homes, will drive on dirt roads to fan out and gather tomorrow in “comfortless” churches to worship a risen savior. I pray for the strength of Augustine, Wonderful, Destinee, Ben, Edwina, and all of the Youth for Christ Liberia staff as they praise God not for their “comforts”, but for their salvation and His glory.

As I think of “comfort” I think of the 143 million orphans in our world – whether in US foster care, in orphanages overseas, on the streets, or squatting in abandoned buildings. My mind is immediately drawn to the 3 year old little girl, the same age as my daughter, who reached out her dirty, dusty, and tiny hand to be held while I visited her orphanage in Liberia. Her belly was howling for food, her heart begging for loving touch, and her eyes were telling a story of rejection - far from "comfort."

If we are believers in Jesus Christ then why are we drawn to “comfort?” As we look to Easter, the most important time of the year for believers, we look to a God who sent His Son Jesus, not to be comfortable, but to seek and save that which was lost. As Isaiah says, “He was wounded… He was crushed… Upon Him was chastisement.” These words don’t necessarily indicate comfort; they aren’t words that give the connotation of “safety.”

To save, rescue, and reach orphans God does not call us to be comfortable, but to go through the lack of some comfort. I have spoken with several families over the years who were called to adopt older children. They have poured out their hearts as they detail the pain and hardship their families experience as their new child has wreaked havoc upon their home and their other children. While this process is usually short lived as the child acclimates to their home and tests the boundaries and depth of love, it is still not without its "lack" of comfort.

To save, rescue, and reach orphans many times means entering into hostile lands or parts of our world that know nothing but poverty, it many times means leaving behind the modern “comfort” of home, and many times if called to adopt it means risking the “comfort” of your family and spending the “comfort” of your vacation time to spend weeks in another land.

Rejoice today beloved that Jesus was willing to risk all “comfort” for our sake…

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

As ambassador for Christ, join Lifeline as we risk our “comfort” for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord and making him known to the more than 143 million orphans of the world. This Easter may we celebrate, not for ourselves, our salvation, nor our “comfort,” but in the power of salvation to reach the lost and lonely of our world. Will you be an ambassador of Christ for an orphan this Easter?
Partner with Lifeline today. Visit today to donate to the cause, to apply to adopt, to sign up for a trip through our ministry and visit orphans in need, to apply to be a foster parents for a child in US foster care, or to volunteer in one of many ways for the sake of orphans.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” Isaiah 6:8

Oh beloved, will you allow God to use you to impact the life of a child? Please do not hesitate to give Lifeline a call because we are here...

On behalf of the orphans.

Herbie Newell
Executive Director
Lifeline Children's Services
giving children a hope and a future
twitter: @hmnewell