Thursday, February 22, 2018

Treading water...with fingers and toes crossed.

First of all, I appreciated a text I received from Chareyl (our adoption facilitator) last week. She explained that while the fee increases for accreditation do seem exorbitant, that it doesn't look like agencies will be required to pay the collective fees upfront and they aren't in danger of closing. While I still take issue with the amount of increase in fees (as does she), as well as some of the other new accreditation requirements...I was very relieved to know that the potential impact on adoptions and our agency specifically won't be what my worst case scenario feared.

So, we'll continue slogging on through the unpredictable process like we have for over 5 years. Hoping for the murky waters to begin to clear for us as we approach the next stage of this journey. We may not be able to reach the ground right now (we're still wearily treading water)...but we know that any moment now our toes will touch sand beneath them and we'll be able to stand up in the water. While we'll still have much to wade through - the water there will be more clear and the shore will be in site. For now I'm holding on to that hope.

Chareyl is in Haiti right now. She does both humanitarian work with Haitian Roots and adoption work while she is there. Every time she is there I get extra hopeful and sentimental. Hopeful that we'll see movement as she follows up on our file. Sentimental that perhaps she (or one of the volunteers) might be holding or loving on our little girl, even unknowingly. I love watching their updates come across social media. I've grown to already love the country and people of Haiti so much over the years and long for my chance to go there...of course primarily to meet our child, but also to experience Haiti first hand.

I've written before about loving this child that we haven't met or even seen a picture of yet...I've also grown to love Haiti even though I haven't visited her yet. I've loved looking at pictures of her, trying to understand her struggles, reading about her history, admiring the strength and resilience of her people, and feeling excited about the potential brewing inside her. I have felt passionate about my ways to help her (through supporting education of her children). I've begun to try and understand her tongue and taste her food. I love her. And I can't wait to meet her.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Weary, worried, and wishing

Weary. We're well over 3 years into this Haitian adoption. It's been 30 months since we officially entered IBESR (the Haitian government entity that officially issues referrals/matches). And we're over 5 years since starting the adoption process (2 years were spent pursuing adoption from Ethiopia before that failed). It saddens me to know that once we finally meet our daughter that we still have up to another year before she can come home and complete our family. And knowing how far we still have to go after all these years, I am simply aching to move on to the next step of this journey. To see her face. To know how old she is. To find out anything about her. To hold her. I'm simply weary of waiting.

Worried. I could spend hours listing out all the things I've worried about regarding our adoption over the last 5 years and 4 months (not to mention all the worry and research that went into it prior to actually pulling the trigger and starting the process)! I'll just write about my worry right now though. 

The U.S. Department of State has implemented several new accreditation requirements (some of which are foolhardy in my opinion) for adoption agencies. The current accrediting entity were unable/unwilling to fulfill them. That accrediting entity has now been replaced by a new one that has implemented huge fee increases to agencies. There is a lot of fine print, and many things that simply haven't been explained. No contracts to agencies have been provided...yet they will be required to pay the new fee structure starting February 15th (yes, next week). From what I hear some smaller agencies will be able to pass the fees on to their clients and pay as they go, but larger agencies (like mine, apparently) would be required to estimate their number of adoptions based on the last 2 years and pay that amount up front...at a fee increase of 1,000%! Yes, that's not a typo. I read that they will require fees for 4 years at a time. Currently 4 years of accreditation costs our agency $24,000...with fee increases it will be around $240,000. How is this even possible?? 

Our agency did let us know about this and encouraged us to contact our representative and senators. In the process of drafting what I was going to say I called our agency's office to get specific numbers. I asked them if things aren't restructured with this fee what would happen, and they said that they wouldn't be able to continue facilitating international adoptions. It wouldn't be financially plausible. For them or many other agencies. Of course there is worry and concern about what that would mean for the big picture of international adoptions (and most importantly the children that would affect), but on a personal note...the idea of another huge hiccup in our adoption potentially looming in the near future. Possibly changing agencies again. Being so close (I sure hope!) to a referral and then being relegated to another agency, along with heavens knows how many other families, and lost in the mix...and waiting even longer. Or worse. I just can't. It's just so much worry. So many variables. 

I'm trying hard to focus on doing what I can do instead of idly worrying. I did a bunch of reading up on things, contacted my representative and both senators and really tried to plead my case and pass on information. I tried to put it out there on social media. I contacted a friend who is a reporter on one of the major news stations here to see if they would pick it up. I called a couple people that I knew would be personally invested in doing the same things that I am. And that's as much as I can do. Now I wait. And try not to let the worry eat me alive.

Wishing. I would be lying if I didn't admit that alongside the worry I also hold on to hope that good news could still squeak-in our way soon. Our adoption facilitator will be traveling to Haiti in 10 days. Good things always seem to happen after she travels there and follows up on things. I am hoping and praying that she comes back with news of our final payment request and that our referral will be only weeks behind that in March. 

I seem to always get my heart set on a hopeful date that we'll travel. So far they have always come and gone, but they help me keep looking forward. Like a runner that just has to make it to the stop sign down the street...and once they get to the stop sign they choose a new landmark that they focus on to keep running until...and on it goes. Right now my landmark is April. I am really hoping that we'll get a referral in March and be able to travel in April. Mark & I are so blessed to have a big trip in March (to celebrate by 40th birthday) with some good friends, and then I'm taking a cruise with my mom and grandma in Europe in May (and we're taking a family trip in June)...so April would squeeze right between those. It would be hectic, but at least the kids would still be in school so it would be less of a time burden for my mom and any others that help watch the boys while we're gone those 15 days.

So, my wish is for a referral next month and travel in April. That's my landmark that I feel like I'm running breathlessly for.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Remembering 8 years ago

My heart is heavy and I'm not in much of a writing mood, but I felt compelled to at least acknowledge that today marks 8 years since the big earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and misplaced millions. I wrote a more wordy post on this day last year, but for today I will just say that my heart goes out to all the Haitians that are remembering today with pain. While Haitians resilience is remarkable, this really was a horrific day in their history. I will be honoring the victims as well as the survivors with a minute of silence (and prayers in my case) at 4:53 as requested by the Haitian Embassy, which is the time that the earthquake struck. I also am looking forward to watching a live Facebook broadcast tonight by Williamson (with Arise Project for Humanity) as he recounts his experiences that day. You can't leave an interaction with him without feeling encouraged, so I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

No adoption news or feelings to share. Not today.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Next time

December was a difficult month. Several personal and family struggles made the already busy month physically and emotionally very challenging. For a good part of the month I hoped for a ray of hope to come from Haiti (in the form of good news). It did not. However with all the difficulties occupying our hearts and minds it did leave less time for sadness about not being able to finally hang an additional stocking on our mantle and worry about if our little girl was being held or fed on Christmas Day.

I am grateful that the holidays did offer glimpses of joy and magic that is only found at Christmastime. I truly am grateful for my family and for the memories we were able to create together over the holidays.

Today as I updated the kids photos in the entryway I looked at the spot reserved for our daughter by this Haiti print and realized that before the next time I replace these pictures a photo of her should already be there. That made me smile. Also, as a sidetone...I bought the metal trees you can see a little bit of in the corner of this photo a couple Christmases ago and they were made in Haiti. Metal art is popular there and I love my little trio of trees...

Another bright spot over the holidays was getting this card in the mail...
This cutie is Nelie Chery. We have the honor of sponsoring her education through Haitian Roots. The last 3 years we have been excited to receive a card around the holidays from her with an updated picture. She is so adorable and I look forward to when I will be able to meet her when we travel to Haiti someday. I'm sure her family is so proud of her!

Also, something else from Haitian Roots...they did a fundraiser where you could sponsor the painting of a flower on a mural the kids would paint at the school and put someone's name on it. We purchased a flower for each of kids and also one for Nelie. We liked the idea of her being able to see her name on the mural at school over the years as she attends there...and we thought it would be a fun gift idea for our boys to see their name on the mural's flowers too! You can see Noah's name on the orange flower in the bottom, center of this picture...

Obviously Max & Lincoln here...

And cute little Nelie...

I also opted to purchase many of our Christmas gifts this year from Haiti. I was so pleased with how beautiful they were and I love the idea of supporting artists there who are receiving a fair wage and helping to stimulate the economy in this country that I have yet to visit, but that my heart has already grown to love.

I am really hopeful that we will receive good news from Haiti soon. Somehow the passing of the holidays and the beginning of a new year has refreshed a bit of my optimism. Perhaps it is my conviction in being able to say that I am quite confident that this is the year we will meet our daughter...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holding out hope

We received our approval letter for our I800a on November 20th. Glad that there were no RFE's - or errors this time! I emailed Chareyl the next day and she had already received their notification and sent it off to Haiti (wahoo for that). I have been particularly emotional about not having a referral going into the holidays. I remember last year at this time feeling really hopeful that we might get a referral anytime. *sigh*

For some reason I had really been hoping to see our little girl's face (at least in a picture with our referral) before my 40th birthday which is in less than 3 weeks. I've given up hope for that happening, but am still hoping that maybe we'll get a final payment request by the end of the year??...which would mean that a referral would follow soon thereafter.

Sometimes I feel foolish continuing to hope for something to happy by a certain time (because it's been blown out of the water time and time again). I do trust that it will happen when it is supposed to, and that the Lord's timing is perfect. I also just need to hold out hope for something to keep my spirits up. So, for now I'm hoping for SOME sort of news to be my Christmas miracle this year.

On another note! A couple days before we received our I800a approval letter we had the chance to attend a nice dinner prepared by a Haitian chef! We were able to enjoy it with another couple that is also adopting from Haiti. They are at the very beginning of the process, still receiving their initial approvals. It was really nice to get to know Brooke and Greg. They were a lot to fun to chat with and enjoy this special meal with together.

A little bit about the meal...Chef Roody Salvator of Makaya Catering lived in Haiti until he was about 21. He shared with us about his humble upbringing and introduction to cooking. When each course was served he gave a bit of information about what Haitian influence was involved with that dish...if it was based on something in Haiti, if Haitian spices were used, etc. I got the chicken (on polenta) which was super tasty...

I didn't take a picture of the soup or salad (both were good)...but I especially LOVED the soup. Mmmm. Here is a picture of the dessert though. It was caramelized plantains and ice cream with a special sauce to pour over it. Delicious!...

I regret that I don't have a better photo, but entertainment was provided by the lovely Marj Desuis. She had a fabulous percussionist also, but I don't remember his name. I remember Marj's name because I have followed a bit about her online over the last nearly 2 years. She, also being Haitian, was the entertainment for the formal gala fundraiser I was heavily involved with for Haitian roots in the spring of 2016. Because I was running the auction that had just closed I wasn't able to be over by the entertainment when she performed though and didn't get to hear her at all (which I was really sad about). So! This was a great, more intimate setting to be able to relax and enjoy her talent! Her music can be purchase on iTunes also :)


Lastly, here is a picture of Chef Roody Salvator. He was quite charming and has an amazing culinary talent. Here's to hoping we can attend another pop-up dinner of his soon! Because his business is a catering service he doesn't own his own restaurant, so this dinner was held at Eggs in the City (normally only open during the daytime, so it was perfect). Looking forward to see what Roody creates for us next time!! Maybe by then I'll have happy news of my own from Haiti. I'm holding out hope.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kind-of updates

On October 12th I received an email that our I800a application had been received on the 6th (which I knew because of my tracking info). All it really said is that an official letter stating the same thing would be received in 7-10 days. I got that letter yesterday (the 17th) and am now just crossing my fingers that our fingerprint appointment is here very soon. Our I800a expires in 2 weeks and fingerprint appointments are often scheduled that far out or more. I just am dying to know if there will be any lapse in our I800a which is what allows us to accept a referral.

We don't have any reason to believe that our referral is pending any day, but I think I'm extra on edge knowing that Chareyl (our adoption facilitator) is in Haiti now. I wonder if she's finding anything out about our file? Will she have news for us? Will she (knowingly or unknowingly) see/hold our child?

AAAAARGH. I just want to know the things. I want to move on from this stuck stage of waiting and wondering and want to see our child's face and know anything about her. So, when I'm feeling that way extra - I feel extra protective about making sure that I do everything I can to be sure that an expired document won't stand between that and us.

You know what...I'm going to call USCIS now and see if our file has been passed on to a case worker yet. The letter said they would receive it 10-14 days after our application was initially received. Today is 13 days. I'm calling. Maybe we'll get lucky and get to "refresh" our fingerprints this time instead of needing an appointment, and maybe they'll be able to give me any information. ANYTHING!...calling now.

Done calling. Well, I got a helpful person on the phone but not great news. She said that they have our file, but that our file hasn't been assigned to a case worker yet and that once it has they anticipate 4-6 weeks for approval if everything is perfectly in order. So, we'll likely have at least a month of lapse in coverage.

She said that they only refresh fingerprints on the 1st free extension (which we've already done) or if we have an approved I800 (which happens after we are matched). So, we'll definitely have to go in and do fingerprinting...and she said those are scheduling out 2-3 weeks. I said that hopefully everything is in order with our application, but asked if there was a need for an RFE do they wait to schedule the fingerprinting appointment until that is satisfied (so we aren't waiting another month after the RFE is fulfilled) and she said sometimes, but not always. She said that depends on how the caseworker likes to handle it. The reasoning behind that is that if it takes 2 months to satisfy the RFE then that is 2 months of time "lost" on fingerprints, so it's seen as a favor to the applicant not to go ahead and run those before approval is ready.

It looks like I'll want to call again in a few days and talk to our assigned case worker and feel things out. Best case scenario if he/she says that everything is in order and that our approval will be complete upon receipt of fingerprints...and that she'll be sending out fingerprint appointments right away...that would be next week at the earliest before I'd get our appointment, then at least 2 weeks later to do our fingerprints. So at least a month from now at the SOONEST before we could get approval. Possibly longer even if things go smoothly, and definitely longer if they issue an RFE for current background checks. I'm so frustrated and sad. Sounds like a minimum 2-4 week period where we will be ineligible to receive a referral for the first time in several years of waiting. And of course this happens at a time where it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that a referral could come in the near future.

I guess there is nothing else that I can do right now. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fingers crossed

That's me right after handing over our I800a renewal application (and home study) to the FedEx lady. I overnighted that sucker to arrive by 10am tomorrow. Let's get this show on the road!

So, there are back-logs for the background check process (which we need in order to complete our home study...so we could mail it off with our I800a renewal). We have to do state, federal and child abuse registry annually. Normally it takes 2 weeks and it is taking 9+ weeks currently. The delays would have put us getting those background checks finished after our I800a would have expired. Leaving a lapse in approval the entire time we applied with USCIS and redid our fingerprinting.

My agency agreed to go ahead and finalize our home study so we could send it off to apply for our I800a since our background checks are actually currently valid until December. Our new background checks will be in well before that so our agency is still complying with keeping those current. The question is whether USCIS will look at our home study (submitted with our renewal application) and say, "Uh...no, your background checks expire too soon" and submit an RFE (request for evidence). We would be able to satisfy that RFE, but that would result in a period of lapse for our I800a approval and therefor a period where we are ineligible to accept a referral of a child.

Sidenote - we applied to have our background checks expedited and were denied (since they don't expire until December), but they reconsidered based on our circumstances...however with them being expedited they were estimating them being done in 3 weeks. At least if we get an RFE we'll have quick turn around being able to satisfy it I guess. Hopefully if that happens USCIS is still willing to submit our fingerprint appointment while they wait for that to be satisfied so we aren't waiting on that afterward too. *sigh*

So!! The fingers are crossed that they don't care about the upcoming fingerprint expiration that is written in the home study and that they go ahead and submit our fingerprinting appointment (I'll never understand why we have to physically go in and re-do those)...and that we get our I800a renewed before November 2nd when it expires.

I'm also crossing my fingers that we get our referral SOON dang it! We're nearly 26 months officially registered with IBESR in Haiti, and almost 3 years into the Haitian adoption process (not 2 mention the 2 years with Ethiopia before that). We are ready to see her face!!