Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Timing of Everything (Adoption timing, that is):

**newest info will always be at the top**

Next up... We will get our September update to our number on September 3 as many members of the Ethiopia team will be traveling. A few extra days wait shouldn't be too bad.

August 1 - 86!! We could hardly believe how much movement we had this month. 16 spots! We were so excited that we moved so much but also that 16 more families were referred to their soon to be adopted child(ren). 19 children were placed with families this month!

July 1 - 102! We moved 7 places this month. Praise the Lord. This was very encouraging.

June 1 - 109 is the new wait list number. We hoped for more movement than just two places, but any movement is good.

May 1 - We received our first wait list number. 113. It was higher than we hoped, but we know God is in control. See blog post "The Weight of the Wait"

April 22, 2013 - We are officially DTC! Dossier to Country!

Once West Sands receives our dossier, they will review it to ensure it meets the criteria necessary and then they will send it to be authenticated by the State of Utah (where West Sands is located) then onto the US Embassy and Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C. for final authentication. It will then be sent back to West Sands and they will mail it to Ethiopia. Sarah said this process usually takes 3-4 weeks so our dossier should be in Ethiopia by mid-April. We will then be on the wait list from West Sands. We will receive a monthly email (our first coming in May) with the number we are on the wait list.

Monday, March 18 - We got a call from Sarah (Ethiopia adoption caseworker in Kentucky) that they received our payment and documents and that she was taking our entire set of dossier documents to Fedex that day to be mailed to West Sands (agency that Lifeline partners with to place children from Ethiopia). She also asked for what our preference was that the agency will use when determining a referral for us as we are on the wait list. This is the wording we sent her: "We would like to adopt two children with the oldest not being more than 4 years old. We do not have a gender preference. We are interested in adopting twins under the age of 4 if available. If one child is available, we would want them to be 2 years or younger at the time of referral."

Thursday, March 14 - We received our I-171H which is the approval from USCIS for our I-600A application. This is the LAST document needed to complete and finalize our dossier!! We mailed this along with our last agency payment to Lifeline on Thursday as well.

Wednesday, February 27 - we both got our biometric fingerprinting completed!

Thursday, February 21 - Wichita was in the middle of a pretty large snow storm that ended up accumulating 14+ inches of snow, but we got up early so we could brave the weather and snow packed streets to get to the USCIS office prior to our appt at 8 am. With only getting stopped once and needing a push to get moving again, we made it down there to find out they weren't open due to the snow storm (there is no phone number that we could call to find this out... love government offices!). The sign on the door said we could come back on any Wednesday to get our finger printing done so our plan is to go this upcoming Wednesday to get this taken care of.

Wednesday, February 20 - mailed all of the dossier documents into Lifeline to be reviewed. Once we receive the approval from USCIS, this will complete the dossier and all the documents will be sent to Ethiopia via a few offices in the US for final approval.

Saturday, February 16 - received a notice from the USCIS that they could not continue to process our I-600A approval as there was a request for further evidence stating in our home study that we had neither been rejected for a previous adoption or had been given an unfavorable home study in the past. This was alarming to us, but once we were able to talk to Lifeline and our social worker we found out the request for evidence is not that uncommon. Our social worker has amended the home study and submitted the new home study to USCIS.

Early February- We received our biometric finger printing appointment scheduled for February 21st @ 8:00 at the USCIS office in Wichita. We were very grateful that our appointment was scheduled for the Wichita office and that we won't have to drive to Kansas City to get this done.

Friday, January 18 - mailed I-600A application with home study, copies of birth certificates, marriage license and application fee to USCIS for approval from immigration to make a petition to adopt an international orphan. 

Thursday, January 17 - received notarized and finalized home study in the mail.

Monday, January 7 - clearances from KBI and FBI came through.

Saturday, December 15 - we met with Sharon for our fourth and final home study meeting in Topeka as we were on our way to Philip's parents for Christmas that weekend. Sharon had sent us a draft of the home study document so we had proofread that and made a few slight tweaks. We also completed a checklist of medical and birth conditions that we were willing to accept in a referral of our adoptive child which Sharon will be adding to the home study document.

Monday, December 10 - Philip completed physical and blood work.

Wednesday, November 28 - Holly completed physical and blood work.

Saturday, November 17 - this was our third home study meeting. We discussed different aspects of the online training and readings we had completed. The main objective of this meeting was outlining the remaining pieces of paperwork that needed to be completed to wrap up our home study (financial worksheet, physicals with blood work, etc).

Friday, November 16 - went to the Police Training center to get our fingerprinting done for KBI and FBI clearances.

Monday, November 12 - Sharon came at 2 pm for our second home study appointment. We discussed different aspects from the training we had completed. Sharon also talked with both Philip and I individually. These individual conversations were mainly to determine if we were both on the same page in the adoption process as well as to get to know us better as individuals. She also gave us some more steps for us to pursue to check off the list. Some of these pieces are required for our home study and others are documents that will be included in our home study as well as the dossier.

We have both made appointments with our family doctor for physicals with lab work to ensure we are in good enough health to care for a child (these physicals have to be notarized). We have signed and mailed a clearance form to go to SRS/Child Abuse & Neglect Services to prove we have no criminal history related to child abuse. We will both go get fingerprints to be sent to KBI and FBI to receive clearance from those government agencies. We have contacted our employers to get a notarized letter verifying our employment and their expectation to keep us employed. We have contacted our insurance company to find out what percentage our insurance covers for any therapy (PT, OT, speech, etc) that our child may need as well as contacted the elementary in our neighborhood to see what services are offered there as well and all this info had to be filled out on a form for our home study. We also contacted the international adoption clinic at Children's Mercy in Kansas City for a form on what their fees are for an evaluation once we bring our child home. (The nurse I talked to was really nice!)

End of October - Early November - We have been working on completing the four pieces of our training for the education credits required as part of our home study. We have completed both online trainings as well as the online readings about the country of Ethiopia and now we are reading through the Connected Child book. All the training has been very beneficial. 

Saturday, October 21 - Sharon arrived around 10:15 and we spent the next 2+ hours sitting and chatting with her. This was not nerve wracking or stressful at all. We were not worried about it, but there was some anxiety about it being the first meeting and the first time we met with Sharon. However, we quickly warmed up to her and she to us and we all laughed often throughout our conversation.

Friday, October 19 - we spent about 2 1/2 hours getting our house picked up and cleaned up for our first home study appointment Saturday morning. I know this really isn't all that noteworthy, but we felt good about it and felt prepared to have our home judged as to its suitability to bring a child into it.

Monday, October 15 - talked on the phone with Sharon, our social worker from Topeka. She outlined a few details that we would be doing throughout the home study as well as scheduled our first home study appointment for the following Saturday at 10:30 am. She apparently has dealt with many families similar to us that want to keep the process moving and feel better if there are things we can be working to accomplish so she gave us the following list of education training and reading for us to begin working with that are required as part of the home study or required for the dossier. These included (1) buying and reading the book, The Connected Child, (we got it in the mail this weekend) (2) registering and paying for online training for 10 education credits from the National Council for Adoption (we both have to individually complete this and it involves about 10 modules that includes reading, articles and some video interviews with adoption experts, social workers and famillies who have previously adopted), (3) registering and paying for an online webinar training from Lifeline and (4) readings on the country of Ethiopia from the Department of State and Travel Authority websites.

We also both had to complete about a 7 page autobiography answering questions about our families, our childhood, our relationship, our values, etc. It was very detailed and somewhat time consuming, but we know that it too is part of the process for the agency and government of Ethiopia to find us suitable for adoption. BUT we both got it completed this week so that is checked off the list.

Monday, October 1 @ 8 PM - we had a phone orientation interview with Sarah (Ethiopia program caseworker). The phone interview consisted of brief questions for her to get to know us better, a quick run down of the timeline and requirements of the Ethiopia program (she called it drinking from a fire hose... but she did assure us that all the info would be shared with us more than once as we go through each step of the program) and then the required questions she had to ask each of us individually that thankfully we answered No to all the questions that needed a no response (I had to say Yes to the question on any traffic violations... Philip laughed at me!) and then we had the opportunity to ask any questions we had for her. 

The one thing she emphasized over and over again is that Lifeline is walking with us on this journey and they are there to serve us and answer our questions. This was reassuring to us and we are grateful for beginning to get to know Sarah and feel comfortable with the agency.

Our next step is to begin working with our Kansas social worker to set up the 4 appointments of our home study.

Thursday, September 27 - received a call from Sarah who is our Ethiopia caseworker that she had received our first set of documents and payment. 

Tuesday, September 25 - mailed in first set of documents to our Ethiopia program coordinator at the Lifeline office in Kentucky with the first agency payment. Once Lifeline receives these documents, they will schedule our orientation interview with our program coordinator that will be over the phone since she is in Kentucky and we are in Kansas. :)

Monday, September 17 - received email confirmation from Lifeline Children's Services that  we were accepted by them and will be contacted by one of their social workers to begin the process of the home study. Also, received two manuals (100 pages and 28 pages long) that outline the steps we will take to adopt. These were slightly overwhelming.

Friday, September 14 - received a call from Lifeline that they received our application in the mail.

Tuesday, September 11 - mailed Adoption Application, Doctrinal Statement & Christian Questionnaire and application fee to Lifeline Children's Services in Birmingham, AL. If you are curious what their application or doctrinal statement look like, you can find them here.

Late August - Early September - We narrowed down the agencies we were considering to three and chose Lifeline Children's Services because there is a branch office in Topeka which means they can also complete our home study. (If we chose an agency that was not in Kansas, we would have to find another Kansas agency to do the home study. We decided sticking with one agency for everything would be easier in the long run for us. However, many people use an agency outside of their home state and have no difficulty doing this.) The staff we contacted at Lifeline with questions was incredibly helpful and they returned our phone calls and emails very quickly. Their quick communication was a big plus for us.

Late July - August - We began researching international adoption as thoroughly as we knew how. We contacted friends who had gone through or are currently in the process of adopting internationally. We researched MANY agencies (Christian and not) that did international adoption from Africa. This website was a great starting point. We also contacted families who had used different agencies for their international adoption. (This was SO helpful!) We talked with family and close friends for feedback and advice.
      When we began our search, we were not sure about many things except we were sure we both wanted to adopt from Africa. We knew the cost to adopt internationally was immense so we also began researching supplemental funding options for adoption.

Late July 2012 - while driving home from dinner one night, I turned to Philip and said, "If we aren't pregnant by the end of this school, I think we should start the process to adopt."
Philip replied, "I think we should start now."
    As we talked about this further, we both realized we had been praying, researching and thinking A LOT about adoption and just had not talked with the other one yet. Philip did not want me to feel bad that we had yet to get pregnant and I was not sure if Philip was as ready as I was to begin the process. God was working in our hearts individually to bring us to a point where we were both ready to take the step together, as a couple... as a family.