One of the most exciting parts of the adoption process is determining which child will be referred to you, well, besides when the new child gets to join your family and home. Jillian Michaels is in the midst of that moment, announcing that she has accepted a referral for a little girl in Haiti. I wonder if this is behind her seemingly sudden departure from the Doctors, although there has been no confirmation of that. From what I am reading she is still pursuing an adoption in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but she was concerned about the viability of the pilot program with the agency she has chosen.
While Jillian is not working with MLJ Adoptions, Inc. where I am Director of Adoption Preparation and Support Services, we have an active program in DRC and have worked in Haiti in the past.
Following acceptance of a referral, several things must occur with some variation based on the country program and the agency who is facilitating an adoption. Jillian has stated that her adoption in Haiti could take a year before her new daughter is able to join her home. Historically, Haiti has had a wide time variance in the time that it takes to complete an adoption. Until Hague becomes a reality for Haiti that variance is likely to continue. Jillian can count on specific steps that must occur prior to the finalization of her adoption, even if she does not know exactly how long they will take.
There is a legal process in country, an application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for a visa for the child, and the passport must be obtained. Many times there is also an investigation to ensure the child is an orphan and additional exit approvals that must be obtained. Those few basic milestones are very detailed and can require several appointments, signatures, and months for each.
While it is the most exciting point in an adoption journey, it also introduces a new stressor as parents start to attach to the photo they have received anticipating this child joining their family. Waiting is hard enough, but there are very few guarantees in adoption. Jillian has already been vocal about the stress that the paperwork has caused her. Somehow people with full time jobs are able to do it all the time. There is a bit more paperwork to do and lots of waiting; Jillian, like most adoptive parents, will likely be experiencing a lot of stress for a while. As I tell our waiting parents, the stress of the adoption process is likely to cause weight gain, problems with sleep, a greater risk of illness, and conflict with loved ones. Jillian’s healthy habits will help her keep distress at bay, but it is essential that she continues to eat well and exercise
I know many of our Diets In Review readers are fans of Jillian Michaels and wish her well on her journey to motherhood. Although I am very cautious about sharing information about an adoption online for several reasons, mostly for the protection of the child, I appreciate that, as a celebrity, Jillian is sharing limited updates about the major milestones in her adoption process. I appreciate that she is not very detailed so as not to unintentionally endanger the child or children she hopes to adopt, and I appreciate that, as a celebrity, she is sharing that she really does have to complete all the same steps that everyone else does. When celebrities adopt, but do not announce it until the child is home, many begin to speculate that it was easier for them. I also wish Jillian well, and I hope that she continues to be a positive spokesperson for adoption.
January 12th, 2012