How it started:
In March 2014, Ivan and I went on a mission trip together to Iloilo, Philippines. That was the first time we had signed up and served on missions together. This was a medical mission trip, where we had to set up medical posts, blood pressure stations, consultation and dispensary at a few different locations.
On our visit to the slum areas, we met a very cute little girl and we both fell in love with her. I visited her home, which was a very small wooden house the size of our HDB study room, just enough for a queen sized bed with no walking space.
That was when the seed for adoption was first sown in our hearts. At that time, we were only married for two years and there were many things happening at home. My mother-in-law had cancer and we were not sure if we were emotionally able to fully give love and support to a child.
After the trip:
We decided to try for a baby, but things at home got worse when my father-in-law was also stricken with cancer that same year. Knowing that both my in-laws love children and desired to have grandchildren, the pressure on us was even greater, so much so that it became difficult for me to conceive naturally. We turned to medicine, TCM and various kinds of health checks.
I brought up the idea of adoption to my mother-in-law during one of her visits to the hospital. She was open to the idea but she wasn’t sure if my father-in-law would feel the same. With my in-laws extended family, I was apprehensive about what the relatives might think and how we were to answer their endless questioning.
Before my mother-in-law passed on, we had a conversion one day and she told me that both she and my father-in-law were open to the idea of us adopting and that we should just begin the process. But at that point, we were mentally and emotionally drained due to their sickness and we could not think about anything else.
It was really tough, especially towards the end, when they were in and out of the hospital and suffering in a lot of pain. That year, both my in-laws passed away in a span of two months.
One night, while having dinner with Ivan, I brought up the topic of adoption again. Initially, Ivan was not open and refused to talk about it. So I just told him to consider it and we could discuss it again.
In June 2016, I went back to Iloilo again for missions, this time, without Ivan. When I visited the same slum, I saw the little girl who had grown up to be a beautiful little girl. And she remembered me!
After sending Ivan a photo of us, he asked if the girl would like to come to Singapore. Although I would love to have her come and live with us, I felt that Ivan needed to think and pray about it before we decided.
During this trip, I visited many more houses in the slums. I saw the children living in cramped quarters and many of them were not going to school because their parents couldn’t afford an education for them. Many were left alone to fend for themselves and child trafficking was rampant. A desire rose within me to provide a home and a family for these children.
We began our research on how to go about adopting a child from these places. This process took some time as we were unsure of where to begin.
We did not want to rush into making a decision, so we took time to pray and talk it through. I spoke to my parents and my brother and they were very supportive of it. I also spoke to my spiritual mentor who encouraged me to go for it and got me to link up with a couple who have adopted. From there, we were referred to attend an adoption workshop to find out more and to see if we were really prepared for it.
As the process went on, the desire to adopt a child grew in us. It is not because our family is incomplete without a child and therefore we wanted to adopt one. Ivan and I were happy to babysit, play with and dote on our friends’ children. As a family, we were happy with the way we were. One very important point I learned from the workshop is that “if your family is incomplete and unhappy, having a baby will NOT complete the family and make it happy.” Adoption is really about giving the love, time and everything you have to love a child.
HOW TO GO ABOUT ADOPTING:
For those who are wondering what the adoption process is like, here is a brief rundown.
#1: Adoption critical
– For couples, both parties have to agree and give consent
– Can singles adopt? Yes, but if you are a male, you cannot adopt a girl.
– Adopter has to be at least 25 years old, or at least 21 years older than the child
#2: Sign up for the compulsory Pre-adoption workshop
If you have any uncertainty about adopting, this workshop will help you to better understand what to expect in an adoption, your responsibilities as adoptive parents and the needs of an adopted child. I strongly encourage the couple to attend this course together so that both will be on the same page in terms of expectations.
Equipped with the information you need, it will be easier for both of you to discuss and pray through together before making this lifelong commitment and decision.
Sign up via this link: https://app.adoption.gov.sg/WorkshopPARegistration.aspx
Note that there are also different workshops available, but be sure that you attend the “Pre-Adoption Workshop” first 🙂
Once you have attended the workshop and have decided to proceed, you are ready for the next step.
#3: Apply for Home Study
Home Study is a compulsory study required by MSF (Ministry of Social and Family Development). They are carried out by one of the accredited agencies of your choice:
– Touch Family Services
– Lutheran Community Care
– Fei Yue Community Services
– Apkim Centre for Social Services
*Each agency has their own waiting period according to the amount of cases they have on hand.
* If you are planning to adopt from China, note that home study report is different and the only accredited agency to do the home study are Touch Family Services and Fei Yue Community Services.
You can submit your online application via this link: https://app.adoption.gov.sg/ApplyForHomeStudy.aspx
#4: Submit hardcopy documents to agency
There is a checklist of documents you will need to prepare at the end of the form. Print out the checklist and be sure to get them ready. Once ready, submit the hardcopy of all the documents to the agency, and await your first interview.
#5: Start of Home Study
The Home Study is done over a period of five weeks from the day the first interview starts. The first interview is typically an office interview with someone from the agency. It will usually take an entire day so do keep the day free.
There’s a payment of $1,500 and this amount may vary according to the agency.
#6: Sign up for Disclosure Workshop
Around this time, you should start to sign up for the next Disclosure Workshop. This workshop is usually held by adoptive parents who share their experiences and advise others on how to disclose to your adoptive child about their birth.
Sign up via this link: https://app.adoption.gov.sg/WorkshopPARegistration.aspx
#7: Written interview of a selected friend and family member
Some of your family members and friends will receive a letter in their mailbox. They are required to answer the questions in the letter and mail it back as soon as possible as their response time will affect and may delay the completion of your Home Study.
#8: Home interview
This is where the agency will send someone to interview you in your home, to assess the environment and the people living in the home. When all these are done, you will then have to wait for the final report.
#9: Collect Home Study Report
This is important because you cannot already have a child living with you without this report. It is illegal.
#10: Look for placement agency
Talk to the people you meet in the workshops. Some may have successfully adopted a child and can advise on agency matters and more. There are online forums you can participate in where other adoptive parents will share their experience and advice on choosing the right agency.
My advise is not to go to multiple agencies because you do not want to be caught in between the agencies and do not know which to decide on. As we often say, adoption is not like going to the market to shop for a baby, so we are advised not to choose.
After much research and speaking to different authorities, at this point, we also found out that Singaporeans are not allowed to adopt from the Philippines due to inter-country regulations. We also cannot adopt from Korea and Japan and some other countries as well. So we were limited to China, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
At this juncture, I would like to share about our experience. The Malaysian baby girl we were waiting for turned out to be a boy after birth. As we were mentally prepared for a girl, we decided to wait for one. However, there was a Singaporean baby boy that was going to be born and we decided to adopt him so that we could apply for the cordlife bank for him. This is something we both felt was very important. After he was born, his parents decided to keep him. Although this was a setback, we were happy for them. That same weekend, a Malaysian baby girl had just been born and was arriving in Singapore. We arranged to see her even before any photograph was sent to us. We went there expecting and knowing that this was going to be our baby. And there, lay our baby Zara.
My advice is to pray and trust God that He will bring the right baby to you. Though we went through quite a bit of waiting, with many ups and downs, we knew that baby Zara was reserved for us in a very special way and I believe that God has also reserved the best for you.