Sunday, October 21, 2012

And We're Off!

Thanks for the many prayers and words of encouragement so many of you offered us as we went into our first meeting with our social worker to officially start our home study on Saturday. We definitely felt God's peace throughout the meeting and continue to see his hand work out the details for us.

I won't go into a lot of details about everything we talked about with Sharon on Saturday, but if I were to summarize what the goal of our first meeting with her was it would be that she get to know us and we get to know her. It sounds simple. And it really was. If anyone reading this is considering adoption, but you are hesitant because of all the details and all the people who seem to be scrutinizing you... have no fear... it isn't as scary as it might seem. Maybe God's even nudging you to begin this incredible journey to expand your family through adoption.

The big questions she asked us were why we decided to adopt and why we decided to adopt now, how we met, what fears or concerns we have about adoption, what is our marriage like and what do we as a couple disagree about and how do we resolve disagreements and how do we make big decisions. Those might sound like daunting questions, but many of them we had already written out answers to in our application or autobiographies and talking with Sharon was not intimidating at all.

She asked us if we wanted her to do the official "walk through" of our house or if we wanted to do it another time. We of course wanted her to do it Saturday since we had spent 2 1/2 hours cleaning the night before and honestly, our house was probably the cleanest it had been since we moved in. The questions she asked us about our house (square footage, number of bedrooms, how old, etc) took longer than her actually walking through our house. Part of me wanted her to open the shower curtain so she could see the bathtub that I had scrubbed as clean as possible the night before. :)  But the other part of me was relieved to know that she was not evaluating how good we could clean our house, but instead was evaluating if our home was safe to bring a child into and if our home had room to bring a child into. She spent more time admiring the quilt my mom and I had made for our bed than anything else. Really, it took probably 2 minutes and I'm not exaggerating. She did say this part of the home study for foster care is a much more detailed process so for those of you who have been approved for foster care I greatly admire you and appreciate what you do.

Before she left, we scheduled the second meeting with her that will be this upcoming Friday (October 26th) at 5 pm and we scheduled the third meeting that will be on our day off on November 12th at 2 pm. She said more than once that she does not see anything in our application or in the info we shared with her that will cause any hiccups in the home study and we might even be able to complete the home study early. When she said this, I think I had to wrap my fingers around the church pew I was sitting on  in our living room so I would not leap for joy. When we initially applied, I had a pie in the sky hope that we could complete the home study by the end of the year. Now, I know there is still no guarantee, but just knowing it is a possibility that one thing in this process might go faster than expected is encouraging to this task-oriented, Type A, number-crunching, detail-driven math nerd. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What We Know about the Details

Lots of people have been asking about what the process of international adoption involves, how long it takes, etc. One thing we know for sure is every adoption is different and every agency handles things slightly differently, but we want our journey through this process to help others possibly considering adoption to know some of the details and steps.

So read on if you are interested in some of the nitty, gritty details...

Sarah, our Ethiopia caseworker, outlined the overall process for us last week in our orientation phone interview. Here is what we know....

The Home Study as defined in the Ethiopia Program Manual is a "series of interviews and supporting documentation put together by a licensed social worker in a report for the purpose of adoption."

The Home Study involves four "visits". I place visits in quotes because at least one will be in our home and the others may be in the office at Topeka or might possibly be over the phone. We aren't entirely sure. None of the visits are unannounced.

The main goal of the home study is for us to build a relationship with the agency and social worker as well as to get any questions we have answered. The home study is NOT about the agency looking in every drawer and closet to see if our home is spotless and clean. The main purpose of the visit that will be in our home is to ensure that our home is a safe place to bring a child into as well as ensure we have room for a child to join our family.

During the home study, we will also clarify any specifications we have for the child we want to adopt (age, gender, etc) and also if we decide we want to adopt two children at once, our home study has to be written and approved for two children for the ages we specify. (More to come on our journey to this decision in a later blog post....)

The home study typically takes 4-10 months to complete. (If you know me well, you know what end of that timeframe I am shooting for!).

Once the home study is complete, a notarized copy is filed with the government in order to get our I 600-A. According to the program manual, the I 600-A is "the applications families file with CIS in order to be approved to adopt internationally.  The I 600 A is for non-Hague countries."

It usually takes 3 months to receive approval of the I 600-A. While we are waiting on this approval, we will begin to gather other documents that will be submitted with the Dossier. The Home Study and the I 600-A are two of the twenty documents. The Dossier is "pronounced “doss-ee-ay.” A collection of paperwork submitted to the Ethiopian Courts and MOWYCA for permission to adopt a child from Ethiopia." Sarah told us that the Dossier is essentially who we are and why we want to adopt in the form of 20 different documents. Our birth certificates and marriage license are a part of the Dossier as well.

After the finalized Dossier is sent to the country, the wait time is typically 12-14 months for the referral of a child younger than six months. The referral will include a picture and date of birth, but Sarah did emphasize that birth dates are sometimes not exact. We will also receive as much of the medical history of the child as they have, but the medical info is often not fully reliable. 

Lifeline partners with West Sands Adoption Agency for the placement and referral and West Sands also handles everything in-country when we travel to Ethiopia. The orphanages in Ethiopia are government run so West Sands works with a couple of those in order to place children. On our first trip to Ethiopia "is to meet your child, and to ensure the child matches the information you were provided and that you are satisfied with your referral.  You will also have an  appointment at the Ethiopian Court House to give your consent for the adoption.  It is highly recommended that BOTH parents travel for the court appointment."

During our first trip, we will stay at a guest house on near the transition home ran by West Sands. Our child will move from the orphanage to the transition home for the time between the first and second trip. We will get to interact with our child daily on the first trip that is typically 5-7 days in Ethiopia.

We then have to return home and the child stays in Ethiopia until all their paperwork, passport, and visa   are processed and finalized. It can be 3-4 months between the first and second trip when we travel to bring the child home. The second trip is also about 5-7 days spent in Ethiopia. Both parents are not required to travel on the second trip.

Whew... is anyone still reading??? That's all Folks! (For now... well that's what we know for now.)