Today we had a home study follow-up report about how our adoption is going. It is conducted by the local government and is important documentation.
So they got a REAL insight to our world, because we FORGOT. Oops.
Yep, the house was in top chaos form, the kitchen was overloaded, the doors were hanging open, Jonas had taken Astrid to the doctor with Ming following along, and I was laying on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on a twisted ankle from the front yard when…
Ding-dong. I didn’t even recognize her.
Then I did. OH. NO.
Quick call to Jonas at the doctor’s office who promptly hangs up on me saying that they are just going in now. (Drop-in hours…how fun.)
So after washing my dining room table and pushing some chairs back up while hobbling around and offering something to drink, we started the interview. Of course, she wanted to see Ming’s room…which was also in prime form.
Jonas and the kids came 35 minutes later. And Ming…
Well, he was an absolute gentleman who shook our social worker’s hand. Wow!
So I guess we survived.
And in the end, it was simply hilarious.
Thanksgiving Day 2014 the President announces a moratorium on all international adoptions. Wow.
Just like that.
Amazing, isn’t it? How life just suddenly changes, stops, or surprises us…
Our adoption application to the National Adoption Committee was “next” so we were standing just outside the door.
So after some time (not much) and hopefully a bit of perspective, we decided to NOT give up… Not yet.
The adoption game is not over. We have until November 2015 to get a “referral” to adopt as Swedes. So we have decided to stay on our journey and not stop until our time is up.
However, we are changing our destination.
Next stop – China!
First, we fly back to Costa Rica for a bit more relaxation as our paperwork is processed for adoption from China. I need to surf a bit more and just escape.
Wish us luck. We need it.
Meanwhile, we begin this next chapter in life. Our family is now starting Project FlaMINGo.
We’ll keep you posted.
Nín hǎo China!
Choosing to adopt a child is choosing to have your entire family life and personal history evaluated, scrutinized and judged. You open yourself up completely to an authority figure who will determine IF THEY think YOU are worthy of a child.
It can be very humbling.
Additionally, you also must ask those around you for support during one of the most vulnerable times of your life.
It is a time when you humbly request permission to be a parent to an unknown child.
You request others to submit letters of recommendation, serve as guardians, testify to your worthiness, confirm your affiliations, prove your economic stability and more.
And you do it.
Because it is in the best interest of the child and not yours. It ensures that there are safety nets and people looking out for this defenseless small being who has already suffered great loss. That’s why. Because you give love before you have even met. You try to protect them…even from yourself.
So what is the Home Study? (Utredningsrapport)
It’s a LOT of paperwork. Ours was
around 100 137 pages (including the pages of stamps, stamps, and more stamps) when completed. I believe on average it is probably 60-80 pages depending on your family size, medical particulars, legal background, traveling history, etc.
To apply for adoption to Kenya, each document had to be in English (translated from Swedish), notarized, stamped by the Swedish Foreign Ministry, and then stamped a 3rd time by the Kenyan Embassy. Each stamp costs.
One of the wonderful things that happens during this process is that you do receive the support and love of those who truly want to see you succeed. You receive beautiful letters with accolades of your parenting abilities. You have people step forward and promise to care for your child in the unfortunate event of your death. You feel love from those around you. That can be very amazing, assuring and much needed during such a long and arduous process.
Additionally, you receive a formal report which outlines all the details of your home, family and marriage. I found it quite amazing that our Social Secretary could somehow weave together all the small details and events our lives in such a professional, positive and supportive manner. (Jonas and I met for the first time 25 years ago!) Needless to say, I was pleased with her report. And it felt good to see someone else’s perspective on our family.
(Mind you – this is Sweden. This service is provided by the government at NO CHARGE to us. Thus, it is an unbiased and truthful evaluation of our home. The Social Worker does not receive anything from us. She is working solely to protect the new child / Swedish citizen. Very cool!)
So I thought I would share it with you. Just the Home Study Report for now. Warning: It is long and can be repetitive as it attempts to answer all the necessary questions / areas of concern. Here is the translated English version:
The Social Board for Children and Youth
Individual Committee South
Regarding the application from Mr & Mrs Nordström, Erik JONAS born 690729-xxxx and JOELLEN Mae born 720104-xxxx, residing at XX Uppsala, requesting the individual committee’s consent to allow the couple to receive a child or twins from abroad for future adoption.
The undersigned has met with the Nordström couple, both jointly and with each individually at the Office for Legal Family Affairs in Uppsala County, and has also met the whole family at the Nordström’s household including the children, Sigrid, Ragna, Gunnar and Astrid. The couple also had a son, Kasper, who died eight days old in 2012.
Towards the end of the investigation period a final interview was held with the couple. Contact has also been made with Astrid’s preschool. During the various contacts, the following details have been gathered regarding the Nordström family.
Jonas Nordström was born in Johanneberg in Gothenburg, but the family moved to Stockholm when he was about one year old. His parents still live in Jonas’s childhood home in one of Stockholm’s western suburbs. Jonas’s father, born in 1943, worked before retirement as an engineer at Ericsson, and his mother, born in 1944, has worked as a special needs teacher within an elementary school. Jonas has a younger brother born in 1976 with whom he has good contact. The brother is married and lives with his family in Stockholm. Jonas describes a good and secure upbringing. He had many different interests that he followed. He (and his family) sailed, went skiing, played soccer and badminton, and enjoyed jogging. He excelled in school and he developed long, stable friendships during his childhood. His paternal grandparents who lived in Småland, as well as his maternal grandparents, were important people to him. During the summers, Jonas’s family visited his maternal grandparents’ summer cottage on the west coast.
When Jonas was nine years old, Jonas’s aunt died and he remembers this as a very tough period in the family’s life. Today Jonas has monthly contact with his parents and his older children regularly visit their grandparents on their own. The parents have a summer home on the east coast and the family members regularly meet there.
Jonas studied the Science Program during his three years in upper-secondary school. He then studied chemistry for four years with a specialization in Materials and Environmental Chemistry in which he received his degree. The studies were conducted first at Stockholm University and finalized at Uppsala University.
During and after completing his studies, Jonas has been involved in projects and programs within various international organizations regarding nonprofit and environmental issues and he has run his own business. From 1988-1992 he was involved with the organization PeaceQuest, an international educational program designed for educating leaders in public diplomacy. He was a member of the board, employed as a project manager and led courses and study tours. It was within these activities that the couple got to know each other in 1989. Between 1992 and 1995, Jonas worked on projects concerning environmental issues in the Swedish Association for the United Nations. From 1995-1998, he worked as an environmental consultant in a private business and from 1998-2008, he was founding partner of the business Wide Narrow, a company that, among other things dealt with business intelligence and IT research. In 2008 he began working in the company, Writing & Editing Services International AB, which Joellen started in the USA. It is an internet-based business within the editing and proofreading industry. Jonas’s present responsibility within the company is managing the technical aspects. Jonas splits his time between the company, his family and various charitable projects with Valsätra Church’s diaconal group. This group has been working with immigrant families to help them establish themselves in Sweden. Jonas has also run a lecture series for parents of teenagers. During two days / month, Jonas additionally acts as consultant in an architectural firm in Stockholm.
Joellen Nordström was born and raised in Salina, Kansas, USA. Father, born 1946 served in the Navy but was seriously injured at just over 20 years old in a fight with another soldier. He thereafter has had medical and psychological problems. Her mother, born in 1953, was young when Joellen was born. She was a stay-at-home mother until Joellen was 12 years old and is currently working in a supermarket. Joellen has a younger sister born in 1978, who lives alone with her two children. Joellen’s parents, sister and other relatives all live in Kansas. Joellen says she maintains very close contact with her mother, mostly by phone. The couple also frequently travels to the United States for family visits. Joellen says that her upbringing, which was influenced by her father’s lack of parenting skills and rather poor finances, was quite difficult. Nevertheless, she says that because of this challenge she grew up as a strong, independent person. After completing her upper-secondary school education, JoEllen studied at the Kansas State University. She studied anthropology and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology with a secondary degree in International Studies. She then worked as an instructor in various outdoor activities, for example at a summer camp in Minnesota. At this camp, she had responsibility for the group of six year olds. She says that for many years she worked extensively with children and young people, within the Big Sister / Big Brother organization, the Scout movement and other various organizations for children and youth. She has worked both as a leader and as an administrator. She has also gone through various training courses to be able to work in these areas, such as safety, hygiene, and nutrition. Since she worked as a leader she has also attended leadership training programs. For four years, she worked on cruise lines in the Caribbean and here she spent one year with the children’s club program and three years as an art auctioneer. She has also worked with children’s activities in the UK. For five years in the USA she ran her own company where she served as auctioneer for fundraising events within variouscharitable organizations. In 2006 she started up the business Writing & Editing Services International, where she has 25 employees. As mentioned above it is an internet-based company in the proofreading industry. Joellen says that she currently prioritizes her role as a mother for the family’s children more than her role as the company manager / CEO.
The couple runs their own private company. They say that because the business is internet-based they are not dependent on a fixed workplace but they are both flexible with where to work as well as the possibility for leave of absence. Both spouses say that they currently focus mostly on the children in the family.
The economy is based on Jonas’s monthly income at approximately SEK XX,000 and Joellen’s monthly income of approximately SEK XX,000. They have savings which will cover the adoption costs. They have adequate insurance coverage.
During and after the death of Kasper the spouses have been on sick-leave, first full-time and then part-time.
Their home consists of a three-level house with 175 m2 rooms, plus a kitchen and three bathrooms. Three of the rooms and one of the bathrooms are located in the basement level. The house gives a very pleasant impression. The house is situated on a plot of approximately 500 m2. The property has a value of about SEK X.X million and a mortgage of about SEK X.X million. Pre-schools and primary schools are located in the nearby area as well as natural recreational areas.
During their leisure time the family gladly socializes with friends and relatives. The couple likes to cook together and invite friends for dinner. The family travels to the USA and meets relatives and takes holidays abroad. On the west coast of Sweden there is a summer cottage which the family goes to. The cottage is owned by Jonas’s mom but it is Jonas and his brother who maintain the home. Jonas’s parents also have a summer cottage on the east coast where the families often get together. Both spouses are engaged in various activities in their church (Valsätra Church). They are both interested in nature and active in sports like sailing, swimming and diving, hiking out in nature, fishing, and Jonas likes to works in the garden. He’s a swimming teacher for children aged 1-6 at a swim school that is run by the parents. His older children have previously participated in the swim lessons and now it’s Astrid’s turn to learn swimming. Both spouses like to read. Jonas is interested in music, he plays the piano and together with a good friend, he plays jazz music. He explains that he is interested in political and environmental issues. Joellen meets her friends; she participates in a painting group at church; and she takes Astrid to various activities such as musical play sessions and various outdoor activities arranged for children.
After Kasper died, the family has been active in the Lost Kids Foundation (Spädbarnsfonden).
Religion and Outlook on Life
The couple are members of the Swedish Church and the Valsätra Church, an ecumenical church. They regularly attend church and are active in various groups there. Joellen is active in the church advisory committee and within a women’s group. Jonas is active in the diaconal group. Astrid participates in the church’s children’s club, and she will later join the church’s children’s choir and scouting club. If the spouses can adopt a child, that child will also take part in the church activities in the same way Astrid is doing.
During the years Joellen lived in the U.S., she was a member of church at the different places she lived in. She also attended volunteer work within the church.
Marriage and Networks
The spouses got to know each other in 1989 when they participated in the PeaceQuest program, an international exchange program in Stockholm; Jonas was the leader and Joellen was a participant. They maintained contact with each other thereafter and met once in the United States in the early 1990s but Joellen felt too young to enter a relationship. They both got married later to others, and they both also went through divorce. A few years later, they reconnected to each other via the Internet. They have now been a couple since 2005, they had very close letter contact for two years before Joellen moved to Sweden in 2007. They married in 2008 and in 2009 Astrid was born. In 2012 their son Kasper was born, but due to a birthing injury, he died eight days old.
The couple say that they have a great relationship. Jonas says that they have a foundation of big love, that they complement each other’s personality and that they have similar interests. They are older and have more life experience than when they first met. Joellen says that they are stronger as individuals, more mature and more independent today than when they were young. When it comes to the grief after losing a child, they say that they grieve in different ways but they have been able to and can support each other and also the children in mourning.
Both spouses have been married before. Jonas met his first wife early on. They had three children together born in 1993, 1994 and 1996. They had a relationship for some years and a marriage that lasted from 1996 to 1999. The marriage dissolved when Jonas’ wife met a new man. Jonas and his former wife have, because of their common children, made sure to maintain good contact with each other. The children have lived alternately with each respective parent. Joellen was married in the United States between 1993 and 1999. She and her former husband separated in 1997 but the divorce was not finalized until 1999 due to the state’s divorce laws. Joellen says that she and the former husband were young when they married and that the marriage ended due to the husband’s infidelity. The marriage was childless.
The couple has shared their adoption plans with their families and friends and only had positive reactions. The neighbor families are informed and positive, see references. Joellen says that the couple has a good network. When Kasper died it quickly became clear their friends were most supportive and remained close in their network. Their network of friends and relatives are both in Uppsala and Stockholm. Many of the couples’ friends in Stockholm live in the same neighborhood, and when the family visits Stockholm over the weekend, they meet several of their friends simultaneously.
Jonas describes himself as kind and caring, helpful and generous. It is difficult for him to become irritated. He likes children and has a lot of experience with children. He further says that he is intelligent, efficient and well-organized. Joellen speaks of him as a person who thinks of others and who cares about the world. He is stable and kind; he likes children and wants to spend time with them, listening to them and trying to understand them. He works well with children. He’s intelligent and he has a big network. She and Jonas are working together in their own business and she thinks they function well also as colleagues.
Joellen describes herself as a strong and independent person. She’s social and verbal, happy. She has many friends. She wants to be an inspiration for others; she has built up her business and she’s a good businesswoman. In the USA, she worked a lot with charity and raising funds for such purposes. When Kasper died, the couple organized a fund in his memory, where money, via Valsätra Church, is used to support an organization for foster families in a country in Southeast Asia. Jonas describes Joellen as kind and responsive, a person who is open with her feelings of both joy and sorrow. She communicates a lot and easily, and she thinks it’s important that you are clear in communication. She can easily read others and she is not afraid of conflicts. She cares greatly for her family, believing that family comes before anything else. Jonas says that Joellen is good at focusing on the present moment, while he himself is a long-term planner.
State of Health
Both spouses have a clean bill of health. Joellen’s medical certificate shows that she takes the medicine Levaxin.
At the time of the application’s submission, Jonas was 43 and Joellen 41 years old.
Reasons for Adoption
The couple says that they think it is important that Astrid grow up with siblings. She has several older siblings but it feels important to both spouses for her to have a sibling close to her age. Jonas says that it is sad if it is just Astrid who is the only young child in the family. He thinks it is important for a child to have siblings so they have an opportunity to learn consideration, to get more insight about themselves and above all, it provides security, he says. Joellen says that a home becomes more alive when there are children there.
The couple had thought about adoption even before Astrid was born. During the years between Astrid and Kasper’s birth, Joellen had two miscarriages. After Kasper died, both spouses returned their thoughts to adoption as an option to expand the family. They explain that they now have begun to look forward again, that they can handle their grief after their son’s death and that they both have love, time and financial resources to be able to take care of additional children in the family.
The couple has been talking a lot with their children about the adoption plans. The children have a positive attitude and look forward to getting a sibling through adoption. The older children have several younger siblings on their biological mother’s side and they think it will be fine with more young siblings on the father’s side. Astrid has already determined where in her room the new child can sleep.
There is adoption experience in the family, for example Jonas’s sister-in-law has an adopted sibling. There is also international experience, as Joellen comes from the USA and has her family there, and the aforementioned sister-in-law is from Mauritius. Everyone in the family is bi-lingual and English is spoken at home.
The couple hopes to adopt a child or twins who have not reached three years of age. The couple says that it is important to have an age difference between Astrid and any siblings so Astrid has the role of big sister.
Knowledge of Children; Insights and Preparedness Regarding an Adopted Child’s Needs
In the family there are four children. Sigrid was born in 1993; Ragna was born in 1994; Gunnar was born in 1997; and all three are Jonas’s children from a previous relationship. Astrid was born in 2009 as the couple’s own child. The couple’s son Kasper was born in November 2012 but died eight days old.
Sigrid, Ragna and Gunnar have over the years lived alternately with their father and mother respectively. Sigrid has now left her childhood homes and lives with her boyfriend, but before that she lived the longest time with Jonas and Joellen. Gunnar comes to Jonas and Joellen every day since his secondary school is close to the family’s home.
Sigrid will travel to Australia in autumn of 2013 for work there. In preparation to this, she has worked in a cafe and a restaurant in Uppsala. She would have traveled to Australia in the autumn of 2012 but chose to stay home because she wanted to be near her family after Kasper’s death. The couple describes her as social and extroverted, responsible both with her family and her friends. She is interested in human relationships and wants to become a psychologist eventually. She is thoughtful but also determined and strong-willed. She enjoys writing novels and at the age of 15, she published her first book.
Ragna graduated from school in 2013 and has thereafter been working at a cafe during the summer. In the autumn she will work as a tutor giving children help with their homework and thereafter continue her further education. She completed secondary high school with very good grades and has a desire to educate herself as an architect or engineer. She is described as more reserved than Sigrid and she puts very high demands on herself, something that she is well aware of and in different ways trying to overcome. Jonas says that he has periodically made sure to be at home full-time in order to give her support. Ragna also has a boyfriend and she shares her life respectively between her parents and her boyfriend.
Gunnar has just started his first year in the upper-secondary school’s social science program. The couple says that he’s very musical and he plays piano, guitar and drums. The couple describes him as a well-adjusted person, he is loving and helpful and he takes things lightly, i.e. he does not complicate things. He’s a very nice big brother to Astrid and likes to play with her.
Astrid is a happy and extroverted little girl. She is secure and peaceful, loving, independent and strong mentally. Both spouses say that she probably is a bit precocious given she has older siblings. She has well-developed language skills and talks a lot. She enjoys swimming, reading and counting, painting. She goes part-time to a daycare. Like her older sibling, she has always been involved in Kasper’s life and in the family’s grief, but at a level appropriate for her age.
Contact has been made with Astrid’s preschool and it is determined that Astrid is a happy and confident girl, who works well in the children’s group and with the educators. The contact between the parents and the school is good, and the parents are noted as being quite caring of the girl and her well-being. Jonas and Joellen are very interested and involved in the preschool and they are involved in the preschool parent council.
It was determined during the period of investigation that Joellen has embraced Jonas’s children in a good way. Jonas says she chose from the first moment to be involved in their children’s lives in both the positive and the negative. She has not stepped into the mother’s role for the children but instead has established herself as another important adult for them. She came into the family when the children were in, or en route into, adolescence and it has obviously been a big adjustment both for her and for the children to adapt to each other.
The spouses’ subsequent experience of children comes from relatives’, friends’ and neighbors’ children. These are children from toddlers up towards young adulthood. Jonas’s nephews’ were born in 2010 and 2012 and Joellen’s niece is thirteen and her nephew is eleven years old. Jonas has a cousin in Gothenburg who has three children from five to eight years old, including a pair of twins. Jonas explains that many of his friends, like him, have gone through divorce and later formed new families; thus, they share experiences and support each other. Jonas is currently working as a swimming instructor in his spare time. When his adult children were small, he worked for a total of 1½ years as a stay-at-home-dad to their own children and as childminder for another child. He has even regularly given lectures in different subjects in his childrens’ school and even in other classes. As is apparent from the above information, Joellen has worked extensively with children of various organizations in the United States and completed numerous different training programs focusing on activities for children.
In regards to the upbringing of children the couple mentions that it is important that children receive love and security; that as a parent one must be present for the child, care about them, and give them support so that they feel seen and understood. It is also important to have routines in everyday life and rules which allow the child to know what they may or may not do. The couple wants to pass on traditions to the children and teach them etiquette standards.
The couple has experience with children growing into teenagers and understands that children during this period may need professional assistance in different situations to support their development and to feel good. Thus, they are not afraid to ask for professional help if problems should arise during the adoptive child’s upbringing. When Kasper died the couple themselves sought support from a psychologist and also found help in the form of conversations with good friends.
In preparation, the couple has participated in a parent education class for aspiring adoptive parents. They have read several books on adoption and children’s developmental stages and they are members in various adoption forums on the internet. They plan to tell the adopted child about the adoption with the help of story books, photos and videos from the adoption journey. They will also be sure to keep the adopted child’s original culture present with food, books, movies and photos, music, and various memorabilia.
Three written references have been submitted and are attached to the investigation. The spouses present a clean police record.
Summary and Assessment by Case Worker
The spouses were born in 1969 and 1972. They have been a couple since 2005, have lived together since 2007 and were married in 2008. They have one daughter together, Astrid, born in 2009. In 2012 their son was born and died eight days old due to an injury during birth. The couple has known each other since the late 1980s, when they participated in a joint training course. They were young and Joellen did not feel ready for a relationship. They each married later to others. Jonas has from his previous marriage three children born in 1993, 1994 and 1997. Joellen’s previous marriage was childless. Both Jonas and Joellen separated from their respective first spouses in the late 1990s and a few years later found each other over the Internet.
Astrid has three older siblings, but the couple would like for her to grow up with a sibling similar in age. They therefore wish to expand their family through adoption. Thoughts of adoption were present with them before Astrid was born. They say that they now feel that they can begin to look forward again after Kasper’s death and they therefore would like to adopt. They say that they have love, time and financial resources to be able to take care of another child.
To prepare for possible parenthood, they have participated in a parent education course for prospective adoptive parents. They have also read numerous books about adoption and spoken extensively within the family about adoption and what this will mean for both the adopted child and for the family.
They hope to adopt a child or twins who have not yet reached 3 years of age so that there is an age difference between Astrid and the adoptive siblings. It is desired that Astrid feel she is the big sister. These requests comply fully with the undersigned’s assessment.
The couple runs their own business together. They explain that they have a lot of flexibility within their business work because it is an internet-based company which currently allows them to prioritize family life and children. The family lives in a detached house in one of Uppsala’s suburbs. Jonas’s older children have lived / live alternately with their respective parents. The Nordström family has good social and financial conditions, they have many hobbies, as well as a large network of friends and relatives. The network is positive and supportive of the couple’s adoption plans. The couple has presented a clean bill of health.
According to the “Adoption Guide for Social Services” published by the National Board of Health and Welfare in 2008 and the National Board’s Common Advice Publication SOSFS 2008:8, applicants should be no more than 42 years of age when the application for consent is submitted. Exemptions from age recommendations may apply only if one party in the joint application is slightly over 42 years. Jonas was 43 years and Joellen was 41 years old when their application was received, which means that the exemption for age recommendations may be applied in their case.
The undersigned finds the couple open and easy to communicate with, warm, mature and responsible, and they have many life experiences. The family’s children and young adults are open, friendly and frank. There is a large cultural competence in the family. The couple’s adoption plan seems well thought through.