Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"What can we do? How can we help?" Here is one way...

Governments shutting down their international adoption programs (or threatening to) for a variety of often politically charged reasons (ahem...Russia), is not new.  It has happened multiple times before, never resulting in a better situation for the most vulnerable section of our global society.  When there is corruption or unethical behavior in an adoption program should there be investigation, licenses revoked, perhaps even program slowdown while weeds are pulled?  Absolutely.  To throw the baby out with the bath water and simply shut down adoptions completely goes against exactly what is being professed - doing what is best to protect a country's children.  To quote Dave Thomas (adoptee), "Every child deserves a home and love.  Period."  I could go on and on with my rant about all the reasons why I view it a human rights violation to deny children the possibility of a family, and all the benefits that come with that...but let's move on to a couple of ways that something can be done about that:

Have you heard of CHIFF (Children in Families First Act)?

It is a congressional bill being sponsored with bipartisan support.  Here is a quote from their website:  

"The best protection for a child is a family. We protect children by preserving families, reunifying families or creating families through adoption.  And yet, no one in our foreign affairs agencies focuses on children in families."

CHIFF has several key goals, one of which is to establishe a bureau in the Department of State that will become the much needed foreign policy and diplomatic hub on international child welfare.  Also, "CHIFF brings the need for ethical, transparent and accountable child welfare systems to the forefront.  By ensuring systems are in place to help children remain in their family of birth, be reunited with family or be adopted locally or internationally, CHIFF promotes a holistic and preventative approach to strengthening child protections.  This strategy is critical to decreasing children’s exposure and vulnerability to trafficking, exploitation, violence and neglect.

So what can you do??  First, take just a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the bill.  Here is their website.  Take just 5 minutes to browse though it (I personally recommend taking a quick look at the FAQ tab, and if you are interested then the Stories tab), and then CONTACT YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE!

You can click here to see who are already sponsors and co-sponsors.  If your representative is already a sponsor please contact and thank them (let them know this is important to their constituents)!  If you don't see their names then call or email them (better yet both), even contact them via facebook or twitter to let them know it is important to you.  Surveys show it takes as little as 20 phone calls on an issue for an elected official to take notice of that issue.  Click here to even be provided with a sample script or template you can use when you contact them, as well as for a list of who your elected officials are!  Note to all my Utah friends...I don't see any of our Senators or Representatives sponsoring the bill yet!!

You do not have to have a soft spot in your heart for adoption or be an adoption advocate to see the wisdom in supporting this bill (although that's great if you do/are!)...this bill isn't solely about adoption.  This bill is about seeing children in families as a global priority.  If you believe in the important role of families, and their vital role for children and society then do something and stand up for what you believe!  Please.  It can help, and you will feel so good knowing you spoke up and helped make a difference.

That, my friends, is something you can do to help.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Heartbreak. Prayers needed.

I am extremely emotional as I write this post.  We received an email from our agency giving us a program update that we didn't want to hear.  Apparently on the day after Christmas the House Speaker & the directer of Women, Children & Youth Affairs (MOWA) in Ethiopia made a public statement stating their intent to put an end to all foreign adoptions from their country.  It went on to outline their desire to "give priority to use local means to raise orphaned children rather than giving them away to foreign families".

Now, let me say that in theory I think this is ideal.  I have always said that it is best to help families (in Ethiopia or elsewhere) stay intact when possible, and that the next best option is for the child to be cared for and raised by a family in their birth country. However, when neither of these options are possible (as so often is the case) foreign adoption is the best option for a child, not being raised in an institution or on the streets...or worse.

I am so upset that I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts and feelings in to words.  I am upset at what this could potentially mean for our family, but even more upset at what this will mean for so many children in Ethiopia.  With millions of orphaned children in their country and hardly the infrastructure to care for so many people suffering from disease and poverty already...how do they suppose that they will begin to be able to care for additional children - let alone that even if they can provide food and shelter for these children, that what they need is a home and family.  The studies are indisputable, children develop and thrive best in a family and home environment.  While the loss of country and culture is a real one, it is nothing compared to what a child loses by not being raised in a family.

This was an official and public statement, but there was no timeline given and no date outlined by when foreign adoptions will be cut off.  Rumors I am hearing online say possibly within one month.  Considering that we anticipate our adoption taking us another 3 years I can only assume that this will essentially put an end to our adoption from Ethiopia, but I don't know for sure yet.  We felt that this was the right avenue to pursue, so we will continue doing so until there is no possibility (not to mention that we are over $16,000 into things)...and if that happens I simply do not know what plan B is.  When it comes to your child there usually isn't simply a plan B in place.  I cannot picture anything else right now.  The one thing we do know from our past experiences (with both adoption and fertility treatments) is that things happen when and how they are supposed to.  I am trying to have faith in that and know that things will work out how they are meant to.

Right now though, I am simply indescribably saddened.  I have fallen in love with the beautiful country and culture of Ethiopia.  I know there are children there languishing in disease, poverty and who need homes and families - in a country without the infrastructure to care for them.

Please, please, please add your prayers to ours.  Of course we pray that we will be guided to make the decisions that will help us find our way to our daughter that we feel is out there...wherever and whenever that may be.  But more than that - please pray that government authorities in Ethiopia will find wisdom in keeping foreign adoptions open in their country (in some capacity) as they concurrently develop necessary programs to help care for children in their own country.  As broken as my heart is right now, it is nothing compared to the loss and heartbreak of so many children (who have already experienced trauma in their young little lives) as yet another country plans to close its doors to providing them permanent loving homes.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas gift.

Mark loves to make me cry.  In a good way.  He gauges how "good" a gift is that he gives me by if I cry (and how much).

One of my Christmas gifts was addressed to "My girls".  Right when I saw that I knew to prepare myself to fight tears (plus he had video rolling, and his family there while we opened gifts).  That was the first time he'd ever written that.  My girls.  I love the sound of that.

Inside the gift were two Barbie dolls to add to my baby girl stash.  One of the blond haired variety, and another (Princess Tiana) with beautiful dark hair and skin.  Just like this:

Even our boys were excited to see something for baby girl.  "One that looks like mommy, and one that looks like baby girl" Mark added.

I loved it.  I love how thoughtful Mark is, and I love stashing thing away for our precious baby girl someday.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Little updates

On December 17th we attended our assigned biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment at the Immigration office in Salt Lake City.  We had the first appointment of the day, so we were in and out pretty quickly.  It was kind of cool to watch the digital reading of our fingerprints (much more high-tech than the inked version we did at the police station for our local background checks).  These are transmitted electronically to pre-approve the immigration process for our child.

That day also happened to be my birthday, so after our appointment we picked up my birthday gift which was a signed print of Greg Olsen's painting Hand in Hand.  I've been so excited to put a copy of this up in our home.  First of all, I think it's beautiful...but also it reminds me that our Savior will watch over our daughter and guide her home to us.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Explaining this blog and FAQ!

I thought that I should do a blog post answering some of the questions most frequently asked by people when they learn of our adoption, but first I want to tell about why I did this blog.  If you’re not interested in this, then scroll way down to the FAQ section below.  This is a long post :)

I am not a person who is good at holding things in.  My best outlet for things I’m thinking or feeling is either talking or writing.  Since there were very few people who knew early on about our adoption (and I didn’t want to drive them crazy venting incessantly about it) I decided that I would start a blog and wait to publish it until I was ready.  Well!  Now that we are officially wait-listed, I think that now was the time! 
As for the title of our blog (One Miracle at a Time)…its meaning is two-fold.  First referencing the children in our family, and secondly referencing this adoption.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a serious planner.  I like to plan things out and know the details of plan A, B, C & D.  Therefore, the adoption and infertility roller coasters that we’ve taken during our marriage have been especially challenging for me in that way.  One has very little control of how or if/when things turn out.  We turned control of things over to others (case workers, birth parents or doctors/embryologist)…and also over to the Lord.  This relinquishment of control has always been one of the most challenging things for me. 
Even once we were blessed with Noah, I struggled with wanting to know how/when we would be able to provide a sibling for him.  Clear back at that time I started telling myself to take things “one miracle at a time”.  This of course reminded me to appreciate the miracle I had just been a part of and was blessed with at that moment (Noah)…and also reminded me that other children that were meant to join our family would do so in the way and the timing that the Lord intended.  Little did I know at that time that through the miracle of modern medicine we would be blessed with a biological child after in-vitro fertilization actually worked for us…and then with another child through IVF using frozen embryos!

Mark and I always knew that we would adopt a child internationally, but never knew for sure from where or exactly when that would happen.  Again – “one miracle at a time”, right?  Well, the season for yet another miracle in our family is approaching!  We are thrilled to be waiting to adopt a child from Ethiopia!  We recognize each one of our children, and the stories of how they came to our family, as miracles – and we are grateful to be part of this next miracle too.

As for the second meaning of the blog title – within the adoption process itself we recognize that there are countless numbers of miracles that occur, both seen and unseen.  While the adoption process is a rollercoaster that is not always fun (especially for one like me who likes to be in control, and continues to battle with patience)…it is full of miracles all along the process.  I wanted to remind myself also to recognize and appreciate those “little” miracles along the journey!

For example, one of the miracles we have already seen has involved timing.  I personally believe that the Lord spoke (loudly) to my heart as to the timing of when to start the official process of this adoption.  This (foreign adoption) wasn’t something that was new to my heart.  I’ve known since I was young that it would be something I would do, and Mark & I both knew it was something we were committed to once the time was right.  It wasn’t an exciting fad that I jumped on or an idea that just sounded fun to pursue.  However, after years of thought and research it was almost overnight that I felt a frantic urgency that now was the time to commit and move forward with things (see timeline to the right on this blog), and Mark was without hesitation on board.  Once we felt good about the agency we had chosen I compiled lists and lists of difficult questions for them, doing what I felt was my due diligence in assuring that they were an ethical agency.  We jumped head first into our commitment with this adoption and perhaps that is why it was so troubling for me when we started hitting roadblocks so early on.  In fact after we finally felt good about the timing of things and the agency we chose, we turned in our initial application and our application to use AGCI was surprisingly denied!  For any of their programs! 
The person reviewing our files said that we had too much debt (due to the $230,000 we took out in student loans to put Mark through medical school), and that we were not candidates for international adoption.  I was crushed.  We could have taken that as the end of our hopes for this adoption, but instead I began to get on all sorts of adoption message boards and reach out.  I looked up blogs of strangers that I could find that were in the medical profession who adopted and I contacted them asking questions…then I called the United States immigration office myself asking about debt limit requirements.  The conclusion I came to was that the denial should not be made on amount of debt, but rather one’s debt to income ratio.  So, I contacted our agency again and the director of the agency personally took a look at our file, looked into (and explained) where the misdirection had come from, and we were approved with flying colors!

So!  We turned in our official application and waited excitedly for acceptance when again we were told that there was a concern.  Any type of heart condition is flagged, and although mine is not life threatening I had to have a specific letter from my cardiologist stating that I was healthy enough to parent an adopted child.  And THEN we were told that we needed to provide documentation from our previous adoption agency that we complied with all post placement requirements after we adopted Noah.  This is in addition to all the other paperwork and documents that we had to provide simply for the initial application process just to sign on with AGCI.  This isn’t even starting the homestudy or dossier.  So!  From the time we turned in our initial inquiry to AGCI (Oct. 3, 2012) to when we were finally approved with them it was 4 months and two days.

I’m really not complaining…I’m getting to the point I was making earlier about timing.  I believe that the Lord knew about these snags that we would hit.  Many couples may turn in an application, are immediately approved, and proceed on to the lengthy homestudy/dossier process right away.  Since this wasn’t in the cards for us, and we were going to take a few extra months getting there, I believe that is why I felt a fire lit underneath me when I did…because 2 weeks after we were officially  accepted with AGCI they stopped accepting applications for adoptions of children (from Ethiopia) under 3 years of age, and shortly after that they stopped accepting all new applications for the program.  Timing.  In my opinion, the first of many miracles in this adoption process.

So, as we progress down the road of this adoption waiting for our next miracle (both as in our next child, as well as the next miracle within the adoption process itself)…lots of waiting, re-doing paperwork, regulation/program changes, etc...I hope that I will remember to recognize and focus on…”one miracle at a time”!

So, that is a long winded intro to this blog!  I indulge myself in long-windedness here because first and foremost I created it as a release for me.  I also write it to document things for myself and for our child, and then also to use as a way to keep people updated on where we are in the process.  We don’t mind anyone asking how things are going, however sometimes people are curious but hesitant to ask knowing that for a long time we won’t have anything of substance to share.  And speaking of curious…here are the list of FAQ I mentioned that I would include!

I am by no means an expert on all of this, and every adoptive couple will answer these questions differently according to their experiences and feelings...but these are my personal answers to these personal questions (that we just happen to be very open about)!

Why Ethiopia? Well, I could give the snarky response of “Why NOT Ethiopia?”  Rather, let’s just say this:  Because there are children there who need a home, and every child in this world deserves a home and family.  Also, our family does not feel complete, and of the various adoption programs that are currently open to residents of the U.S. - Ethiopia was the best fit for us (every countries procedures, criteria, parameters, etc are different).  Once we came to that conclusion and prayed about it we felt a unique pull toward the people, culture and land of that beautiful country.  Now, I want to say that statistics are not what persuaded us to pursue an adoption from Ethiopia, but they did educate us as to the need.  So, I’d like to share some of those.  First, there are 4,600,000 orphaned children in Ethiopia.  I wanted to put this into perspective, so I looked up some numbers: 
Using numbers from the 2010 US Census:  Imagine that we added up every single child under the age of 18 in the states of Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona…then tossed in another 4 thousand for good measure.  Imagine if all of those children were orphaned - all 4,600,000 of them.  That is how many children under the age of 18 are estimated to be orphaned in Ethiopia (state statistics from UNICEF, 2011).

There are also alarming statistics on the mortality rate of infants and children, literacy rate (especially for females), malnutrition, AIDS, severe poverty, and preventable illnesses.  Now, I don’t pretend to believe that adoption is the answer to this country’s struggles.  It’s not.  In fact, it would be ideal if every child could remain with an intact family.  And there is much that we can do to assist the people in this country as they combat these hardships.  Our family is committed to being part of that as well.  However, in the meantime, there is a profound need to provide homes to children NOW that need physical and emotional care and stability.  They need a family, not to be raised in an institution or on the streets.

How much does it cost/why is it so expensive?  This is a very common question and one that causes some people within the adoption community to bristle.  I personally am quite comfortable talking about this aspect (and most others) of adoption, unless there is an insinuation that something unethical (baby buying, bribery, etc) took place.  While tragically there are cases where this has taken place, this is not the norm and I know that most people who ask about costs are not insinuating that.

So, here’s the scoop:  There simply is a financial component to adopting children.  Just as there were bills to pay when having a biological child – hospital, doctor (in our case fertility cost also)…with adoption we pay social workers with nonprofit agencies (for time preparing our homestudy and for their experienced guidance throughout the adoption process), filing fees on both the U.S. and Ethiopian side, immigration costs, document translation fees, costs (food, clothing, medical, etc) for the first several months of our child’s life in an orphanage, court costs, and the very expensive component of travel  expenses (we will both travel 2 times to Ethiopia during the course of this adoption).

I feel strongly that transparency is important in every aspect of adoption, including this one.  So, I am happy to provide our agency’s estimated breakdown of what the costs will likely look like for our adoption.  Things vary from country to country, and even from family to family…but we anticipate our total cost to be right around $37,000 (including updates to our paperwork that will have to happen during our waiting period).  Yes, it’s expensive…but we are happy to pay for all of these necessary components required to adopt our child.

Why is the wait so long?  There are different reasons in different countries, but here's my insight into Ethiopia.  In recent years Ethiopia saw in increase in the number of applications for adoption in their country.  Enough so that, as has happened with other programs, corruption ensued.  Some agencies and orphanages became involved in unethical behavior.  In an effort to more closely monitor applications, and to put an end to this problem, MOWA (Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs) decreased the processing rate of applications by 90%.  Several licenses were revoked and orphanages closed.  Naturally this drastically changed the speed with which adoptions were able to be processed.  We are still seeing a trickle down affect of this, combined with other issues.  While it is unfortunate that there is not a speedier alternative to processing legitimate adoptions at this time, I believe that the changes that have taken place within the Ethiopian adoption process over the previous 2 years are for the best in the long run.  I won’t lie though…I’m the first to admit that I hope our projected timeline (from dossier submission to referral) of 3 to 3 ½ years will shrink to be less than that as time progresses.  Especially when you consider that we’ve spent a year before that doing paperwork, and we have several months after that to travel twice to Ethiopia and finalize the adoption (potentially adding up to a 5 year wait if projections are correct).  We know things are always fluctuating within international adoption (in fact the wait time increased from 2 years to 3 ½ just during our paperwork phase of our adoption).  So, the timeline could increase again…or it could decrease!  More likely than not we’ll see some of both over the next few years.  The bottom line is that we’ll wait.  We’ll wait to have our adoption done right, and bring the child home that is meant for our family.

Will you travel there?  Yes.  In 2011 Ethiopia also changed its adoption process to require 2 separate trips to Ethiopia in order to process an adoption.  After meeting our child, there will be a mandatory bonding period (which we’re thrilled about) where we will be able to spend time with our child, and observe her care there - mimicking some things we see there will help ease some off the overwhelming transition she will experience upon coming home with us later.  We will be assessed by a local social worker, and then our adoption will be finalized in court while we are there.  We do not look forward to leaving our child that is then legally ours until we are able to come back after all documentation has cleared immigration, but it’s a necessary requirement of the process.

Were you always ok with adopting a child of another race?  Yes.  In fact, when we submitted paperwork for our fist (domestic) adoption we put that we were open to a child of any race.  We were told that with that level of openness that we would likely be placed with an African American child since there were not as many couples open to that.  We were thrilled with the idea.  In fact, Mark’s aunt even made us a quilt which happens to have beautiful African women embroidered onto the quilt.  It is displayed in our living room.  We ended up being matched with our beautiful baby boy Noah (who looks more Caucasian than anything else), but the openness to becoming a multi-racial family (and in this case multi-cultural as well) was already firmly planted in our hearts.  So, when sorting through available adoption programs (countries), skin color wasn’t something we really took into consideration.  I have to admit now though that I have a hard time picturing anything else but that beautiful brown skin, dark brown curls, and big brown eyes.  We know that there will be struggles that our child will have growing up outside her country of birth, and we hope that we will be there to love and support her through them. 
How did you choose your adoption placement agency?  I spent a LONG time researching agencies.  I found a few that I liked, but continued coming back to AGCI.  I researched information online, on message boards, blogs, and emailed families I found online that had used them (or that used them for one adoption, but not another).  The only “negative” feedback I got was that their wait times were long and that they were very much a “hand holding” type of agency (which I actually want). 

When comparing agencies our main concerns weren’t as much money and time-frame of the adoption, as they were agency ethics and the agency’s involvement with other types of support in the country (family reunification efforts, schools, community support, etc).  Lastly, I compiled pages of questions which AGCI was happy to provide the answers to.  I may not have always been happy with their answer/stand on some things, but in the long run I came to understand why their policies are in place (and I now actually agree with most of them myself).  Those policies are there to protect both the Ethiopian children and parents adopting as well as to maintain the ethical integrity of the adoption process in Ethiopia.  I came to realize that our agency has a reputation for being meticulous and cautious (which I liked). 

One social worker that we contacted about potentially doing a homestudy for us said that AGCI went “overboard” making sure that things were done properly and by the book.  Having the personality I do, this was GOOD to hear!  While we’re anxious to get our child home, we care more about having things done properly on the front end so there aren’t unnecessary hold ups down the road…and that the adoption is ethical.  There are agencies out there who have shorter wait times (and some who claim shorter wait times, but they aren’t), but we felt good in our decision to partner with AGCI.  In the end, after doing as much research as we could, there is still an amount of trust that has to be involved with the agency one chooses.  So, we’ve put our trust in AGCI to safely help us bring our child home
Will you meet or know the story about her real mom?  First, prepare for a rant:  The term “real” mom is something I’ve been sensitive to since before we adopted Noah.  I can choose to correct the wording of this question defensively, with humor, or educationally.  Since I believe that most people mean well when asking the question, but just aren’t aware of appropriate adoption terminology, I tend to choose the last option (education).  So, here we go:  The term “real” means:  genuine; not artificial or imaginary.  When someone refers to my child’s birth parent as their “real” parent it insinuates that I am the opposite thereof.  Really both biological parents and adoptive parents are” real”.  So, if one is trying to distinguish between the two sets of parents, then use the terms that define them – biological parent (sometimes called birth parent) and adoptive parent.  Otherwise, I simply consider myself my child’s mom.  Very real indeed.  Now!  To answer the intended question…Will we meet or know the history of our child’s biological parents (or surviving family members)?  Simply put:  We don’t know.  Our agency will provide us with all information that they have on the child’s history (which frankly, sometimes is very limited in Ethiopia).  We put in our paperwork that if any family members are open to and interested in meeting us that we would very much like to facilitate that (not all adoptive parents are interested in/open to this for different reasons), but we understand that this is a very personal and often deeply painful thing for these birth families and we respect their privacy also.

Adoption has always held a special place in my heart, but I've never felt that adopting a child was right for my family (sometimes followed by reasons why).  Do you think I'm awful?  (You'd be surprised how often I hear this)  The direct answer to this question is NO!


While I do feel very passionate about adoption, and can vouch for what an immense blessing it has been in our lives, I certainly do not feel that adoption should ever be a burden that people take on out of obligation.  Any more than I think someone should get married out of duty/obligation, or have biological children out of obligation.  It should be something that feels right to both parents involved (or to the parent if there is not a spouse).


There are, however, a myriad of ways that one can be involved with assisting in an adoption or with helping an orphan in need.  This isn't a comprehensive list, but here are a few ways:


Pray.  Pray for the children in need of a home.  Pray for birth parents/families that brought these children into the world.  Pray for the adoptive couples navigating their way through the process to their child.  Pray for people heading up adoption agencies, orphanages, running government agencies that facilitate adoption.


Volunteer.  Whether you volunteer your time at an orphanage, or foster children that will be re-unified with their biological families or be adopted into a new family, or volunteer at a local adoption agency!


Make your voice heard.  There are always petitions to sign, stories to make people aware of, and children to advocate for. 


Donate money.  Adoption is expensive and many families struggle to raise the necessary funds to bring their child home.  Also, the often preventable tragedies preceding a child becoming an orphan in countries all around the world is even more expensive.  There are many reputable organizations providing relief to families in crisis, providing job training to widows looking for ways to keep their families intact, promoting education, making health care accessible, improving sanitation measures, feeding the malnourished, and providing direct care for orphans.  It takes money for all of these efforts.  Do your research and find an organization that facilitates these things...or ask me and I'm happy to give you a few suggestions! :)


You don't have to be Christian to have these things weigh heavily on your heart, but because I am I think of what we are taught in the Bible about what "pure religion" is.  We are told that pure religion is caring for the fatherless and the orphans in their afflictions (James 1:27).  We aren't told that everyone should adopt a child, but we are told that we should all find our own way to serve the orphan and the widow.  So if that is something you feel drawn to do, then I encourage you to look over the short list I just made and pick one thing, big or small -  and do it.  You will be glad that you did.


I don't know if anyone will really take the time to read this long blog post, but if you do (first of all, congratulations) then feel free to post a comment with any additional questions.  I may add to the FAQ list as time goes on.  Thanks for your interest in our adoption, and your support of us!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I just got off the phone with Toni.  Everything is in order and she has officially logged our dossier completion date as today!  November 20, 2013!

I knew this would be happening soon and when I saw her number on the caller ID I was pretty sure that is what I would hear (I hoped), but I somehow still got so emotional.  This is a real, concrete step toward bringing our baby girl home.  I have tears streaming down my face and am so happy.  With Thanksgiving approaching we have another something to be extra grateful for!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hurry up and wait

A lot of this process is exactly that.  Hurry up and wait.  So it is.

This is what was done over the last 24 hours or so:  I emailed back and forth a couple of times with Josh, our caseworker at WIA, and was able to get an update back on our homestudy.  We also downloaded the updated forms off the immigration website and I filled them out.  Then I went and had new cashier's checks issues since I noticed they stamped a longer title ("U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services") over what was already there.  I didn't want to take any chances with paperwork coming back because of that, so I just cut new checks with the name they stamped.  Today I drove up to Mark's work because I forgot to have him sign the new I-600A form.  He also made a copy of all the documents for our records and I took the packet to UPS and mailed it off!  It will arrive Friday. 

Also, the homestudy update was both faxed and emailed to Toni at AGCI.  That should be the last thing she is waiting on to approve our dossier, give us our official log in date, and finally place us on the waiting list!  And then the real waiting can begin.

Like I said, hurry up and wait.

Monday, November 18, 2013


It was less than 10 seconds after I hit post on my last blog post here before I got a call from Toni (our caseworker at AGCI).  She said that things looked great with our dossier, but there was one change that needed to be made.  Grrrr.

Apparently the asset amount in our financial statement was drastically different from what was listed in our homestudy.  It looks like our case worker with WIA didn't include our home in our asset amount when writing our homestudy.  So!  I just emailed him about changing it.  If he is able to do that without changing the layout of the page (no words are bumped to the next page) then he should be able to fax it to AGCI and they can just swap out that page in the homestudy (and then we'll have to do the same with the document we're sending to immigration and in our file).  Otherwise, we'll have to have all new copies of the full homestudy printed, re-notarized, and re-mailed out.

Honestly.  Lame.  If I wasn't feeling down earlier I sure am now.  I hope that Josh with WIA gets back to me soon with that quick update.


Not the news I was hoping for.

It's been 12 days since our agency received our dossier and I have STILL not heard if it was approved yet.  Since our case worker said that she would let us know as soon as she was able to review it, I've tried not to harass her, but I'm feeling so anxious.

So!  When I got a big envelope in the mail today I was hoping that perhaps she's sent us the good news via mail.  Nope.  It was our application to immigration being denied and sent back because we "filed an outdated version of the (I-600A) form".  Arrgh.  So, we have to re-do those forms and mail it with new cashiers checks and supporting documents.

It's just a speed-bump, not a crisis, yet it somehow stung worse since I was hoping to see the good news that we were waitlisted...and instead it was just more paperwork that needs to be done.  I feel so discouraged and sad right now.

I guess I'll drive up to Mark's work so he can print the new forms for me and I'll try to get everything done and back in the mail today.  *sigh*

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tic, toc...no news

Our dossier was received by our agency in Oregon one week ago today, but no news yet on if it was approved or if we need revisions.  I'm having a hard time teasing apart feelings of anxiousness and nervousness.  Either way, I've got nothing to tell.  I'm just sooo anxious to know that all our paperwork was good and that we're finally on the waitlist!


Lots of hurry up and wait.

Monday, November 11, 2013

No news yet.

Well, since I knew our caseworker reviews new dossiers on Fridays (and I paid extra to have ours arrive there by Thursday) I expected to hear from her Friday about if we'd been waitlisted or if we had revisions to complete.  I didn't.  So, I shot her off an email this morning and apparently she was out of the office Friday doing a homestudy visit, so she is doing Friday's paperwork today.  Fingers crossed that we get good news soon!...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dossier submitted today!!!

I'm not sure that I can explain how excited I am that after months of paperwork, we finally submitted our completed dossier today!  Our first application to AGCI was 13 months (and 2 days) ago, and from there began the paper chase.  Speed bumps getting accepted to the agency, wait time nearly doubling, homestudy documents and classes, concurrent with months of compiling documents for our dossier.  Here are the papers:

After getting our photos compiled, and triple checking that we had all our documents there and in order...I wrote a big fat check, put it in the envelope and took it to UPS.  I had the UPS lady take a picture of me with my packet before handing it over (luckily she was really nice about it):

Wahoo!!!  I sent it with 2 day delivery so it would be there before the weekly dossier review day (Friday).  It will actually arrive in Oregon at AGCI on the same day that our immigration paperwork will arrive in Texas with USCIS.  Anyway!  Our caseworker said that 98% of dossier packets require at least some revisions, but I'm crossing my fingers that we'll somehow fall into that 2% so we can get on that waitlist.  Either way...it's sent, it's sent!  Hurray!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Immigration papers submitted!

I just got back from mailing USCIS their paperwork (and the $890 in associated fees).  Wahoo!  I have to admit that it was a little strange having the teller make a cashier's check out to the 'Department of Homeland Securtiy'...but it felt good to make another concrete step!  Plus I found out that WAI submitted one notarized copy of our homestudy directly to AGCI, but just forgot to update the form cover letter - so we're all squared away with the homestudy too!

That means...as soon as we have our photos back to submit with our dossier, that we will send that in!  Once revisions (if any) are done then we will FINALLY be able to begin the waiting process.  After 13 months of doing the paper chase, we are sooo ready to start the waiting game.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's a Halloween Miracle!!!...almost.

Wahooooo!  Our notarized copies of our homestudy came in the mail today!  Well...mostly.  We were supposed to get 4 copies and they only sent 3.  I'm a bit nervous to send off the 3 copies that I have to the various places they need to go (immigration, with our dossier, to our placing agency) and not have my copy already in hand.  So, I sent off an email and hopefully I'll be able to get that tomorrow so we can get this ball rolling!  I feel like I should cackle with excitement or something (being that it's Halloween and all)!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Trying to wrap up the homestudy

So, our caseworker with WIA submitted our written homestudy to AGCI for approval (pending receipt of my BCI) two weeks ago today.  As far as that stinking BCI (background check) goes...apparently my first one was rejected because one of the fingerprints wasn't done properly.  So another set of fingerprints had to be submitted and we just have to wait for that official all clear to come in saying I'm not a criminal.  After AGCI received our reviewed it and sent revisions that need to be done.  Some of which included:
  • Our case worker needing to verify birth certificates for all of our children (and adoption decree for Noah).
  • A written statement from us including various specifics on discipline tactics we won't use.  (For punishment we will not withhold food, require strenuous excercise, use mechanical or chemical restrains...and all sorts of other awful things.  Sad they even have to include those things.)
  • State that our fire evacuation plan is posted somewhere in our home.
  • State that our firearm is located separate from ammunition (duh).
  • And verify my brother's income (since he and his wife are designated as guardians of our children should something happen to both Mark and I).  Asking your brothers income - that's not awkward.
ANYWAY!  We've got this list done except that we haven't posted our evacuation plan yet, and for the life of me I can't find Max's birth certificate.  I've got the rest together, but if I cannot find Max's then I'll have to order another one from Nevada.  Of course this is ironic because...I WAS JUST NOTIFIED A FEW MINUTES AGO THAT MY BCI JUST CAME IN!  I'm so happy to hear that!  However, that means the ball is back in our court and things will move super fast finishing up the homestudy, getting papers sent in to immigration, and finishing up the dossier as soon as I can prove that Max actually belongs to us.  *sigh*

We just want to get this paper chase done (for now) and actually start the waiting process!!  It's  been exactly one year and two weeks since we started this paperwork and we just want to get things moving closer to bringing our baby girl home.  Such a long wait ahead of us still...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thrown a bone.

I had my scheduled phone call with my case worker Toni on Monday (they are every other week).  Most of the conversation wasn't worth recounting, but one thing she told me helped me to feel a tad bit better.  I was worried about things taking so long to get this homestudy wrapped up with us still needing to get all of our things done with immigration (which can take up to 6 weeks, I believe) in order to hit our November 16th deadline with the agency.  She told me that once the homestudy is done that we can finalize the rest of the dossier and only have to show proof that we have send our paperwork in to USCIS in order to be waitlisted.  Whew!  I thought we had to have that back before we could finalize and submit our dossier.

So!  I do need to compile our photos and get passport pictures taken, but we're really just waiting on that BCI to get our homestudy complete and see if we need any revisions on it or our dossier and we're going to FINALLY be offically waiting! 

Sigh of relief.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Follow up.

Since I did some griping earlier, I have to give a bit of credit to our case worker at WAI.  While I am still frustrated to be waiting on our BCI (probably not their fault), and I am even more frustrated at being told that it was in when it wasn't...at least our case worker agreed to write up a draft of our homestudy pending the receipt of that last little document.  And instead of taking 2 weeks to write it up, he did it today.  Yup, I got it today (so why exactly was that going to take an additional 2 weeks after we receive our BCI?)  Anyway!  I spent the last couple of hours editing it and, taking some notes, and making a few changes.  I just sent him off those revisions now and will be curious what he has to say.  I am pleased that we're able to at least get things in place so we can go ahead and just quickly certify things when the documents we're waiting on arrive...so we can move on to the next technicality before submitting our dossier for translation.

Oh, how I want this paper chase to be done and to at least know that our wait has even BEGUN.  Hurry up and wait, right?

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I know that relative to other problems with international adoptions this is just a snag, but I'm feeling frustrated...and this is where I get to vent!  When Mark hand delivered all our remaining documents for our homestudy we were told that everything was in.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that (meaning that our BCI was in), but I emailed just to verify that was indeed true.  I got an email back stating that yes everything including our BCI was in.  I was later told that our homestudy should be complete within 2 weeks.  I was a little disappointed that it would take so long once everything was in, but I went with it.

Well, I just emailed to follow up on things and now I'm being told (this is all by WAI) that our BCI is actually not in!  What the what?!  Then I was told that whenever they get our BCI in that it will be 2 weeks after that before our homestudy will be done being written.  I wrote a civil, but firm email back explaining my frustrations and my concern about our pending deadline with our other agency.  Plus we still have to submit paperwork to USCIS (immigration) and request their federal fingerprinting - and that can't be done until we have a certified copy of our homestudy.  The latter process can take several weeks (up to 6 if I remember correctly).  Our deadline is November 16th...6 weeks from now.

So, I just barely got an email from our caseworker saying he double checked and our BCI is indeed not back yet (why was I told it was in the first place??), but that he'd work on a draft for the homestudy today anyway.  I guess that's good, but I'm feeling frustrated that we're just waiting on some stupid document stating that Mark and I aren't criminals.  And why is it taking so long.  It makes me wonder if our paperwork sat on a desk at the agency for a long time before they filed it.  Considering the recent mistakes I wouldn't be surprised.  I'm not feeling too impressed with this agency right now, but we're kind of bound to them at this point.  Not only with the homestudy, but we've already pre-paid for our three post placement assessments too.

Oh!  And I should mention that today marks exactly one year from the day that we turned in our application for adoption to AGCI and began this paper chase.  On that note, here's to hoping we get that document soon.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Woot woot!

We finished compiling the last of our homestudy papers, our last letter of recommendation arrived at the agency, and...our BCI is in!  Mark hand delivered everything to WAI today.  Everything is done on our part and we're just waiting for our case worker to finish writing up the homestudy so we can approve it!  Exciting stuff!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Progress with the paper chase (and a cute picture)

It's been just over a week since I posted an update.   We're making some nice progress.  As far as the homestudy goes...two more letters of recommendation are completed (we have fabulous family and friends), and Mark's employment verification is finished and notarized (thanks, Brandi!).

We've gotten a bunch of things done for our dossier this week too!  In fact, here's a list of documents we have completed and had notarized this week:
  • Post-adoption commitment letter (stating that we will provide the required follow up reports at 3, 6, and 12 months post adoption and annually thereafter)
  • Power of attorney (giving Mathewos Humbamo authority to represent us in Ethiopia in all things regarding the proceedings of this adoption)
  • Our application letter (giving brief history on us and our reasons for and intentions with this adoption)
  • Financial statement (pretty obvious what that is)
  • True and Accurate copy forms to accompany the copies of our passports
  • Local criminal background checks
Whew!  Now, we found out that the notary commission expires too soon for the papers on the city police papers we had done (and they only have that one notary), so we had letters done by the county police (with a 2016 expiration) that are ready for us to pick up.

Also!  On our way to Lincoln's eye doctor appointment we stopped at the state capitol to take in our now notarized power of attorney papers to have them state certified.  Here is a picture of Lincoln holding the papers on our way in!...

So we are making great progress with the paper chase!  We need to get additional passport photos taken, and we have family photos scheduled this Saturday so we can include those in the paperwork.  We also  need to photograph our home (inside and out), wait for a few more things to come in the mail, and then do all our immigration paperwork - but that last thing isn't turned in until our homestudy is finalized.

I think our case worker (Toni) will be pleased with our progress when we have our regularly scheduled phone call on Monday.  We have a standing appointment every 2 weeks.

I know that completing the paper chase just means starting an extremely long waiting game before anything else "real" happens, but the sooner we get started waiting the sooner our baby girl comes home!!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's been a few weeks.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.  Mark was gone for 9 days on a fishing trip to Alaska, home for a couple days and then off for a quick business trip to Arizona.  School started for Noah and Lincoln (with all the flurry of activity that accompanies that), and Max has kept me on my toes with some new antics of his (including taking off his diaper and smearing you-know-what all over the place when he's in his room or I'm not looking).  And amidst that we are still compiling paperwork for our homestudy and dossier.  With all the hectic-ness that life has been lately, I'm beginning to think that the bigger age gap between Max and baby girl is actually a blessing in disguise.  Of course we're anxious to find out who she is and get her home, but we have faith that God controls the timing of these things perfectly...and that age gap may just be one of many reasons why things are going to take so much longer than we would have chosen.

So!  As for any updates...
  • We were able to figure out the problem with Mark's birth certificates and received those in the mail. 
  • We were able to get our health insurance company to send a letter of coverage (which one would think I was asking something crazy with how many people I had to go through to get that to happen). 
  • Both Mark and I had our physicals and got our medical form notarized.  We just found out about additional information that we have to provide from our physician on each of their company letterhead, so we'll have to get that.  
  • I had my "employment" verification notarized (we're waiting on Mark's).  
  • We received the requested letter from our boys' pediatrician saying they are healthy and free of any communicable diseases.  
  • And...drumroll...we completed the last of the 7 required online education courses and tests, and received the last of our completion certificates today!

So!  For our homestudy to be complete we are basically waiting on Mark's employment verification letter, the letters from our physicians, receipt of 3 more letters of reference, and getting back our FBI background checks!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013


My social security card, and both of our "real" driver's licenses (we've had temporary ones), came in the mail!  So we finally were able to copy those and mail off our BCI forms today.  Hopefully the turnaround is quick and we don't end up waiting on those to turn in our homestudy.  I'm itching to move forward from doing all this homestudy stuff so we can attack the rest of the dossier and get it submitted.

After 10 months of doing this I guess I'm ready to be done with the paper chase and officially start the waiting part of the process!  Alas, we probably have another 2 months or so before that can happen...

Monday, July 29, 2013

A little here, a little there

I just got off the phone with Toni (our AGCI case worker).  We have standing phone call appointment every 2 weeks to answer questions and keep us on track with our paperwork process.  Nothing too interesting from the phone call, but here are a few of the things I've gotten done over the last week:
  • We had the application notarized and mailed in for certified copies of Mark's birth certificate ($69).
  • I received certified copies of our marriage license ($15).
  • I applied for a new social security card (since I lost mine).
  • I found out while at the social security office that years ago when records were made electronic that when my records were entered in that I was marked as a male.  I'm quite sure that I'm not.  My birth certificate even states female on it, but because they couldn't read the numbers on it (it was an original certificate) they couldn't open the system to amend it.  So!  I got to go home, find another certified copy of my birth certificate (which luckily I had) and then I went back another day (to wait over an hour in line again) in order to fix their clerical error.  I didn't want something causing a problem down the road (at immigration or something) when they see that the computer says I'm a male.  So, that got fixed!  The error, not me....I had to correct the worker when he said (loud enough for others to hear) that I needed to get my gender changed.  "Ummm...I'm not changing my gender, but we need to amend the paperwork mistake"  He smirked.
  • I filled out all papers for our FBI background screenings (but I can't submit mine until I have a photocopy of my social security card that I'm waiting on).  I also got the two certified checks ($36.50 each) that we have to submit with our applications.
  • After difficulty being able to print the application with Chinese characters on it, I filled out, notarized, and submitted an application to Taiwan for a background check on me.
  • We had submitted background check information for Iowa and Arizona and have already received back word from Iowa.
  • I spent over an hour on the phone with our health insurance company requesting a letter that states that our adopted child will be covered under our current plan as soon as we take custody of them.  For whatever reason this request blew several people's minds and I got bounced from person to person and placed on hold several times.  Hopefully the letter shows up in the mail.
  • I typed up a letter to distribute with our 4 letter of recommendation requests.
  • We completed our first 2 chapters (and homework) of our first online parent education module.
 So, nothing exciting to shout from the rooftops...but we are making progress a little at a time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More than boxes to check

When we adopted our oldest (domestically) there was a giant list of conditions that we had to accept or decline - whether or not we would be open to a child with those traits/conditions.  At the time we thought that was difficult...working our way thoughtfully through the list analyzing what we were equipped to handle, what we had the resources to deal with.  Eventually we checked all the boxes we felt were appropriate for us and felt comfortable with our choices.  And we ended being placed with a healthy baby boy.

This time around (doing international adoption) things are different.  And they are different with each country.  With some countries there are still check lists.  With Ethiopia however, it is more of a sweeping statement of being open to special needs or not.  You can limit it by defining the severity (minor correctable, moderate, severe)...but what falls into those categories can be somewhat subjective.  Mark and I are in agreement about which special needs we are open to, and would be a good fit for our family...but there are some that we don't feel comfortable taking on, and feel that another family may be a better fit for. 

Our struggle right now, is this: 

We do not want to open ourselves up to being in a position where we feel like we need to decline a referral (if we were matched with child with a SN out of our spectrum of things we are open to)...or that because we would want to, that we would step outside of what we logically know is the best fit for our family and take on a child with a special need that requires more attention that we can provide considering the needs of the 3 children we already have.

On the flip side, we are concerned about listing that we are only open to a healthy child when there are special needs that we are open to - that we would take on gladly.

So, we are spending a lot of time not only researching various conditions (especially specific heart defects)...but also pondering what we feel most comfortable putting on our paperwork.  I contacted our caseworker for advice amidst all of this and she responded yesterday that we can include specific conditions that we are open to in the homestudy wording.  Now, that would preclude us from the previously mentioned concern of possibly being presented with a special need that we aren't comfortable with, but it does give some guidance to our agency prior to the match process about the type of special needs that we definitely are open to. 

Initially Mark was very closed to the idea of listing that we were open to special needs.  I think this was because he is educated in the many "worst case scenarios" of each disease or condition.  He also knows what kind of long term care some require and what kind of limitations they provide for the child.  There is also always the concern of adding this worst case scenerio to the inherent risk of undiagnosed problems that will come up for the child down the road due to malnutrition and institutionalization.

As we have discussed things though, Mark realized that because of that same medical background that he is also aware of some conditions that would scare some people away, but that we feel are truly very manageable.  Because of this I believe that we are slowly getting to a meeting place about how to approach things, and how to guide our caseworker in the wording for our homestudy.

When people ask why our paperwork is taking so long...it is things like this that require research, thought, discussion, and lots of reflection that add to how long each step takes.  (Yes, in addition to the mounds of paperwork that must be collected, filled out and submitted)  Would it be "easier" (and at least with us, faster) to just submit that we are only open to a healthy child - of course.  And if that is the best fit for a family then I think that's great, but I believe that even most families that put that they are only open to a healthy child put time and thought into that decision.  In the end we (as prospective adoptive parents) all want to help a child that is in need of a home and family, and providing the best care for any child includes finding the family that is the best match for them.  I want to make the best decisions that I can right now to help the right child for our family find their way to us. 

And, by way of sidenote - last night I dreamed (for the first time) about a beautiful girl with lovely dark brown skin, eyes, and hair.  In my dream she had been part of our family for a while and fit in beautifully.  Since I only woke up a few hours ago I can still feel what it was like in my dream to wrap my arms around her.  I feel like I love her already, and she is not even born yet.  Thank goodness I have three beautiful little boys to pour out my affection on while we wait.  That wait as a first time parent was nearly unbearable.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Baby steps

So I was up until almost 2 am last night working on paperwork, then I was up at 6:30 to get myself showered and all 3 boys ready and out the door before 9:00 when we needed to be to the police station getting my fingerprints done.  It's sad when you feel like you've just run a marathon by the time you leave the house at 9:00 am...and things are just starting.

Mark met me at the police station to do fingerprints.  He had already gone into work that morning to do paperwork.  He had actually blocked out the first half of this day as an administrative day to catch up on paperwork, so that was the only reason we were able to pack all of these business-hour-only items in today.  Anyway!  I must say that the best part of the fingerprinting was the scrub we got to use to wash the ink off our hands afterwards.  My hands are feeling pretty darn smooth now.

Then we rushed to Ogden to WIA for a meeting with our caseworker.  He talked with the boys, did our couple interview, and then scheduled a time for Mark to come in and do his individual interview.  The boys were pretty good - it was cute to see them answer questions and chat with Josh, but eventually they got really comfortable and then the arguing and getting into things started (followed by a poopy diaper and then goldfish crackers smashed into the carpet).  They were a handful and it felt good to get everyone situated in their respective seats back in the van when we were done.

Then it was off to the Driver's License Division.  Yeah!  *insert sarcasm*  Just one of those things we've been procrastinating.  We figured that we probably should get a Utah Driver's License since we've lived here nearly 2 years and we're asking Utah (and Arizona where we're currently licensed) to do a state background check on us.

We quickly filled out the forms while the boys ran back and forth (drove me nuts), helped each other reach the drinking fountain (ew), and potty breaks became necessary.  Once papers were done we waited in line, got our pictures done, and were given a number to wait for our turn.  Mark sailed through just fine, but I found out that one of my documents wasn't acceptable for a SSN verification (I can't find my card).  I was told that I either have to order a new social security card or get a 1099 form from our financial institution.  We also found out that we had to take a written driver's test.  Mark needed to get back to work (we came in separate cars), so while he started his written test I left to go figure out my 1099 situation.  I called America First CU, figured out the closest branch, called them and talked about what I needed.  They said that there is no way for them to print a 1099 that has the full social security number on it anymore (which is what I needed).  The SSN is automatically truncated for security.  So, I was stuck again.  Luckily the girl I was talking to knew that they only started doing that a few years ago, so she thought of going back to a 1099 a few years prior and bingo - she was able to print a 1099 for 2009 that had my full social security number on it.

I was so focused on getting all these things done that I was surprised when I arrived at the credit union branch to pick up my paper...and saw my brother Josh!  I forgot he worked at that branch!  So, that was fun.

At this point the kids were at the end of their rope.  They had been running errands all day, they were hot and hungry for lunch...a revolt was beginning.  Oh, I know what sounds like a good idea when the boys are like this...take them all BACK to the driver's license division and do that over again and then take a written test while they wait patiently.  Yeah, right.

Instead, we grabbed a bite to eat on the go and drove to Mark's work.  When I explained my situation my mom offered to help out (she was out finishing errands).  So, she headed to Mark's office and while we waited for her to get there (which wasn't long) one of his nice employees (Dani) came down and waited with them in the van and I sped off in Mark's car to finish up with my driver's license.  Once my mom got there she had the smart idea of just taking the boys to her house and leaving me her car.

Things went pretty smoothly (other than the terrible headache that came on while I was there) with the driver's license.  I was glad there were no issues with the form being from 2009.  I walked out with my temporary driver's license, swapped Mark's car for my mom's and headed to pick up the boys.

I got home around 3:30 and we were all exhausted.  Max went down without objection for his nap and I started looking at what we need to do next with this seemingly never-ending checklist of things to do for our homestudy and dossier.  I was feeling a bit burned out and thought that maybe it would help if I vented about or re-capped my day so far.  I am pretty darn tired between so little sleep last night and then wrangling the rascals amidst things today.  So glad for the help I had though - things wouldn't have been possible without it, that's for sure.

Now that I've purged all of that I do feel a tad bit better.  It's better for me to blab here (to a post that likely nobody will ever read once I publish this blog someday) than to want to recap every boring detail to some poor soul.

I can not even imagine how good it will feel to have the homestudy and dossier done and to drop the last item in the mail.  That feels too far away and too close to get it done in time - all at once.

No, duh

Sometimes there is just a need to say something really obvious.  To tell someone (or in this case, just write down) something that is not a newsflash, but needs to be said anyway.  So here it is...

Holy crap does international adoption take a lot of paperwork.  Sheesh!

I feel like I've been working on things forever and there is just still so much paperwork to be done.  *sigh*  Is this unexpected?  No.  Still a pain in the neck?  Yes.  Worth it?  Also yes.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homestudy and telling the boys

Anyone who has adopted knows that there is a little bit of pressure to have your home looking nice when your case worker comes to do the homestudy visit.  Now, I know that we won't be rejected if our mantle has dust on it...or even if the kitchen sink is full of dishes - BUT it's normal to want your home to look presentable when you've invited someone over, let alone someone who is coming for the purpose of inspecting your home!

So, this Tuesday (July 9th) I worked very hard getting the house in perfect shape...and my mom took Noah and Lincoln to the park and a movie for a few hours prior to the appointment as well as the duration of the appointment so we could concentrate on the homestudy (and because the boys don't know about the adoption).  Mark left work a few minutes early and all was on track.  Phew!  Until the case worker was late.  Finally I called him to ask if he was having any trouble finding our home and he said that he'd written down next Tuesday (I checked the email, it was the 9th).  He was very nice and apologetic and asked if we could do Thursday.  Now, Thursday was our anniversary and that wasn't exactly what I pictured doing on that day, but I didn't want to delay things any longer so I agreed.

Now the next couple days was "interesting" trying to follow around the boys and keep the house perfect.  I'm glad I don't live that way every day (having to have my home perfect) because it drove me crazy.  It was good that we got out of the house for a good portion of the day on Wednesday!  Nonetheless, my mom volunteered to come take Noah and Lincoln again on Thursday for the appointment.  I polished the house back to where we wanted it to be, and the caseworker showed up just fine this time.

Josh, our social worker, did my personal interview and by the time we were wrapping that up Mark got home.  We finished up some discussions, did the home walk through, and things went fine.  We scheduled our next interview for Tuesday and were surprised to hear that he wanted to meet the other boys (he saw us interact with Max at our home).  It would have been nice to know that since my mom took them twice to keep them out from under our feet for the homestudy - and because we hadn't told the boys about that adoption!  So they'll be coming with us on Tuesday.

That being said, on Friday night we sat the kids down and made our big announcement.  We made sure they know (as well as kids that age can understand time) that things won't be happening for a long time, but that we wanted them to know what all the paperwork and interviews were about and that over the next few years that they can always share their feelings or questions with us.  We showed them the Ethiopian doll, talked about things, looked at pictures on the internet, and then all had ice cream cones.

So, at least this week had a couple concrete steps to share about!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quote to reference

I have a feeling that I should post this quote here so I can refer back to it over the upcoming years!  A lot!  It is from an adoptive mother/author/blogger (Jen Hatmaker) on the adoption process:

"On the excruciating wait/delays:  Oh my, I can speak to this.  First, forget whatever timeline you were given at the beginning.  Forget you ever heard that.  Put that in the trash can. Adoption will change, shift, slow down, hit snags, be weird, be difficult, take longer than you think, take longer than you can stand.  This will happen.  This is the normal thing.  When someone gives you a timeline, say, "Thank you for that cute little sentence.  Flush." Potential adopters, let me tell you this:  Get your "YES" straight at the very beginning.  Decide on it.  Roll around in it.  Put it on the table and shellack it. Because you cannot let every delay and snag derail your certainty about adoption.  When you say YES, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM.  I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours.  We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing,  YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay.  Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption.  Every adoption has snags.  We Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" or "this must mean God is closing a door" or "God must not be in this because this is hard," but all that is garbage.  You know what's hard?  Being an orphan.  They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home.  So we will.  We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will. "  - Jen Hatmaker

I love so many different aspects of this quote.  It just grabs hold of me each time that I read it.  Although I must interject that I don't exactly believe that Americans invented the "show me a sign" or "this is a sign" thing...I'm pretty sure that's been around for thousands of years...but I do think it is a lot of people's crutch!  I do agree that it will be more productive when I'm struggling to remember that indeed her suffering (and of course that of our daughter's family also) is greater than our own.

And the part about getting our "yes" straight at the beginning...I received advice similar to that from Brandi.  She was the caseworker who had the heart to heart conversation with me while I sat on the Target store's floor (the night before leaving for Europe).  She explained that there would be more snags, hangups, and unexpected things to come and that if I let every one of them question whether we should be proceeding with the adoption or if the program was in danger of closing...that we wouldn't make it.  It would be too much on me, and too much on our family.  I was overcome as she told me that and I knew she was right.  As Mark and I talked about things over the following days - we got our "yes" straight.  I may not like the way things play out over our journey, and as Jen Hatmaker says I "may cry and rage and scream in the process"...but amidst that I will know that we're doing the right thing and is part of that "yes"!  Not too different from the "yes" I said when Mark and I were married.  It wasn't a "yes...as long as it doesn't get too hard" it was a "yes even WHEN things are hard"!

I also love the part of the quote that says, "Do not imagine that something outside of "your perfect plan" means you heard God wrong."  That rang so true for me...there are times where I can face difficulty, change, frustration when it is out of my control...but if it results after something I chose prayerfully, I do tend to doubt that I heard right.  Not that God had it wrong, but that I heard Him wrong.  Because of that I am grateful I have had cause to stop and really re-consider whether to move forward with this adoption so early in our process.  I knew it was for sure what I wanted, but I struggled with knowing it was right for our family and committing to that "yes".  Because of our wrestle with that, we now we have that "yes" straight and it's a matter of relying on Him and one another to stick things out, and to remember that it's not about us - it's about her.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Phone call and spilling the beans

So, today we had our first scheduled phone call with our caseworker Toni (with AGCI).  It was just a nuts and bolts kind of phone call.  We didn't go over much that we didn't already know, but it helped us to go over everything that needs to happen with our home study and dossier over the next few months.  I must say that condensing everything we need to accomplish in just the next 4-5 months into a 45 minute conversation was a bit overwhelming, but we weren't surprised by anything.

We also scheduled our first home study visit and interview for this Tuesday!  Our caseworker with WIA is Joshua and he seems like he has a good handle on things.  It is exciting to be making big, concrete steps forward like this!

I also have to mention that on Sunday night we had a get together with my whole family before my brother Matt and SIL Katie moved to California the next morning.  We decided that we wanted to tell the rest of our families about the journey we've embarked upon and I wanted to tell my family before they left...SO we told them at our little get together.  People were excited and it was fun to just be able to talk about it.  We were clear about how long this process will be, but also about how excited we are.  As a side note it's been fun to see all the neat things my mom has pinned on to her pinterest board titled "Sweet Little Girl (Dreaming of our Ethiopian Granddaughter)"  That meant a lot to me.

We've been trying to get a hold of Mark's siblings to tell them, but no success yet.  Exciting stuff!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A few little updates

Over the last 9 months our communication with our agency has been through an 'inquiry coordinator'.  Funny enough our inquiry coordinator is also named Holly.  She has been very helpful in answering questions, and finding out the answers to a lot of questions that I've asked that she didn't know.

Once our first big payment and packet of paperwork was received, we were assigned a case worker.  We were assigned to a woman named Brandi.  On May 31st I had my first phone conversation with her.  She was kind enough to arrange a call with me after hours so we could talk about the new information (lengthened wait times) before we left for two weeks on vacation the next morning.  We had the big decision to make about whether to continue with our application or pull out of the process.

She happened to call my phone while I was doing some last minute shopping at Target.  I found an area in the women's clothing that wasn't busy and sat down on the floor and talked with her for over an hour.  After I got off the phone I just sat there on the floor of Target and cried.  Given, I was very sleep deprived that day (only 4 hours in the previous two nights combined)...but I was also overwhelmed with the decision we had to make.  This is one of the biggest decisions of our lives and I wanted to be sure that I was doing the right thing.

During Mark's and my vacation we had two weeks away from work, kids, and responsibilities.  We were able to have some conversations and sort things out and made the decision to proceed with the adoption.  We believe that we are doing the right thing, and pray that it turns out the way that we think it will (us bringing home our baby girl).

So!  While on vacation we also received an email that our caseworker Brandi was departing the agency and we had been reassigned to a new caseworker named Toni.  I have yet to speak with her, but plan to this week.

Yesterday (June 25th) we finished our application to a local adoption agency (WIA) approved to do our home study.

The other exciting thing that happened yesterday was that I told my mom about the adoption!  I originally had planned to have family over for a get together/party to announce things after we turned in our dossier and had a wait-list number.  However, since we already ended up needing to tell Mark's parents and with the added wait time the whole thing was feeling like it would be anti-climatic to make a "big announcement" with that big of a wait to follow.  So, I decided that we would just slowly start letting people know about our journey.  No big, official announcement...just several conversations explaining the journey we are embarking upon to those we care about.

The way that things were brought up with my mom was pretty funny though.  Noah knows that we've mentioned that maybe someday we would adopt another child, and ironically he has had a keen interest in Africa much longer than I have.  One day while Mark and I were on vacation he told my mom that he had prayed to Heavenly Father and He told him that our family was going to adopt a baby girl from Africa.  Now however accurate this story is remains irrelevant to me.  The fact that my son recognizes that he can go to his Heavenly Father in prayer to ask a question, and receive an answer is a beautiful thing to me.  And surely Noah has picked up on tid-bits of conversation or interest about Africa that we didn't recognize (we've tried to be very discreet).  So, when my mom told me this "funny" thing that Noah told her I replied that he was right.  She looked really confused.  Really confused.  I told her really, that we had submitted paperwork and were going to be adopting from Africa, specifically Ethiopia...and then we spent quite a while catching up on all the background of how we got to this point.  It was such a relief to tell her.  And she helped me feel better about the age gap that there will be between her and Max.  Maybe it will be a good thing in the end.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Big set back

The rain is pouring outside right now and I feel like the sky is weeping with me right now.  I feel so sad at the news I heard over the phone today.  First, let me say that my papers and payment were all received by our agency as expected.  I got a phonecall this morning (as anticipated) verifying that all was in order as far as that goes...and then she continued on to give me news that I did NOT want to hear.  First though, a tiny bit of background...

We are on track to have our dossier finished and in the mail this October or November.  Our official "wait time" (how agencies report it) begins at that point - even though we will have started the paper chase one year prior to that.  So, when an agency says that their average wait time is 12 months they are referring to the period of time between when your dossier is submitted and when you get a referral.  In our case we can add a year prior to that to our "wait time" as well as how ever many months it takes for us to get her home once we receive our referral for our little girl.  This is usually a few months (including two separate trips to Ethiopia).

So!  We knew that the agency we chose had slightly longer wait times than most out there, but we were impressed enough with their thoroughness and attention to detail and ethics - as well as with the conditions for the children in their transition home - that we were fine with that.  Our quoted wait time for the age of child that we submitted papers for was 24 months.  So, again, 24 months from dossier to referral.  Add the year prior to that and likely 4 months after that to bring her home and we're looking at a total of nearly 3 1/2 year actively pursuing the adoption to bring our baby girl home.  This contrasts dramatically to 2 years ago when the wait time was just 6 months.  Necessary government overhauls seriously slowed down adoptions back in 2011 just after I had begun seriously looking into adoptions in Ethiopia.

So, that's where we're at.  We knew things could fluctuate a bit one way or the other, as is the nature of international adoptions, but I wasn't ready for this (back to the phone call)...

I was informed that the agency had been monitoring wait times over the last few months and wanted to be sure that it was actually a trend and not a fluke, but that wait times are dramatically increasing.  After calculating things she said that her best estimate of our wait time now (instead of 24 months) would likely be around 42 months.  Almost double.  Whaaaa???

So, like I said before, once you add on the paper chase before dossier submission and the wait and two trips to bring her home...we're looking at a total of almost 5 years.  And that's assuming that their projections are right, that there are no further delays, that there are no complications with our referral that slow things down, or that Ethiopia doesn't temporarily shut down adoptions to pursue Hague accreditation or something.

That puts us not bringing baby girl home until fall of 2017.  That. is. so. far. away.

As I grapple with how long that wait is, I worry even more about what the future holds...first the agency closed off infant adoptions to Ethiopia (just after we applied), now they have almost doubled their projected wait time, what is next?...What if we get years into this and $16,000 later the program closes?  Then what?

We were told that in light of how recently we submitted our payment and official documents - that if we choose to that they will refund us our money.  I'm actually surprised by that, but appreciate the option.  I think.  I wouldn't know where to start with researching agencies again.  Who is ethical?  Who accepts applicants for infants?  Who is financially sound (lots of agencies have gone under over the last year)  Etc, etc.  I would likely be trading one set of problems for another to switch agencies.  Even though I'm saddened about this longer wait, if I could be guaranteed that things would work out at the end of the 5 years I would stick it out.  But that's just the thing with adoptions.  There never are guarantees.

And, saddest of all - in the meantime of all this slowdown - children need homes.  Children are being raised in institutions because of either government red tape or because of the greed of a few people/agencies (and so now everything takes longer).  The whole things is just so sad.

This is exactly the type of thing that has kept me from being open and public about us pursuing the adoption.  Yet at the same time, I wish I had someone I could talk to about this that understood.

And the rain just keeps falling.