Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Study is OFF to USCIS!!

Short post:

Copies of Home Study Report arrived at our door at 8AM and by 9AM I was at the Post Office express mailing a copy to USCIS along with the agency and social worker licenses. YEAH! Now I'm waiting for an invite letter to go do fingerprints! Super!

It's getting brighter in the paperchase tunnel!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Happenings

Here's what's happenin' - LOTS of great news from AWAA regarding Ethiopia:
1. Documents required for dossier no longer need to be individually notarized and certified. We can collect the rest of our docs, put them in a bundle and take care of notarization and State certification in a bundle. That saves time and money and that's a good thing.
2. This week there have been NINE referrals!!!! That's a lot of movement after quite a while of very little movement and that too is a good thing!
3. Received news today that the requirement for Ethiopian orphans to be in the orphanage care for 90 days before being referred/adopted has changed to only 60 days which means babies/children can be adopted and in their parents arms sooner and that is a WONDERFUL thing!
4. Rachel Ward, who works in AWAA's transitional home in Ethiopia, has just confirmed a new partnership with another orphanage/organization called Kingdom Vision International. Here is the link: Looks like KVI is run by an amazing group of godly people. AWAA's partnership will be a wonderful thing on many levels, but bottom line and best of all - the more orphanages AWAA partners with the faster the program can grow and go. Love that! The best thing about KVI is that it is Christ-centered and their vision and desires are in line with the heart of God!

Regarding our paperchase: Though docs no longer have to be individually notarized/certified, our case worker believes that for TX and US government purposes our home study will still need to be notarized. So - Sarah has shipped the document to Lisa in Dallas (who is head over AWA-TX) who is then having the doc notarized and then overnighted to me. I should receive the home study report copies on Monday and then I can overnight a copy to USCIS where they will process the info and send a letter to us saying we can go have our fingerprints done. Once we have our fingerprints done we will wait for the 171-h which is the last document we are waiting for. This is where many families end up waiting for a LONG time. And yet, sometimes a 171 is received surprisingly fast. Let's pray ours is FAST! Everything else has been, so why not?!
After that - we'll make copies of all the docs and then send our dossier to AWAA. They will send the dossier off for US Authentication and then on to the Ethiopian Embassy for further authentication and then FINALLY - the dossier will be shipped to Ethiopia and our official wait time will begin. At this time the wait for an infant girl from the time the dossier is sent in until the day we get a referral (pic and med info of our child) is about 7-9 months. So - if we get our paperwork shipped to Ethiopia at the end of April (just guessing here) then we could potentially receive a referral at the end of Nov, Dec or Jan. Then a court date is set in Ethiopia (while we remain in the US) that hopefully will go by without a hitch. The Ethiopian court will approve us as parents on that date (which is usually several weeks after referra) and once we have that approval we will travel to Ethiopia fairly quickly..... Of course - this is the ideal way things should play out. In international adoption you just never know. But if all went as I've described here we would be in Ethiopia anytime between January and March of '09.

That was probably more than most of you wanted to know - but for our family and friends who are trying to figure out the way things work, hopefully all the info was worthwhile.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Heard from Family Coordinator Today!

This morning I heard from our family coordinator (Terra Bailey) concerning our home study report. The email was to me and our case worker, Sarah, and it said the following:

Good Morning Ladies!

I read over your home study and it looked great. The only things I found that need to be added/changed are:
1) Description of the physical appearance of the applicants
2) The post placement agreement is for 3,6, and 12months after the child enters the home. (you have this highlighted so I assume you knew this would need to be changed)
Other than those two things it looks good to go. Hope you have a great day. Let me know if you have any further questions!


Terra Bailey

Hopefully, this means our home study will be complete and sent to USCIS in the next couple of days. FANTASTIC!!!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Home Study Report is Coming Along...

I received a rough draft of our home study report (via email) today from Sarah!!! YEAH! I made a few corrections and I just emailed it back to her. I'll let you know when I know more...


Sunday, March 16, 2008

2 weeks since last homestudy...

No new news. Tuesday will mark 2 weeks since our last homestudy visit. I haven't heard anything from Sarah. I kinda want to email her to see if she's making progress, but I also don't want to nag....'m so going to email her!

I'll fill you in when I know more...

SO - Here's what I found out... Sarah will be finishing up our homestudy report today! What happens next is our agency, social services director and I will all receive copies to review. Once it's reviewed (and corrected if necessary) then it gets notarized. I'll recieve a notarized copy and one of the copies will go to USCIS. Then we wait some more.

Ta Ta for now,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Meltdowns, Tunnels and Unusual Unruliness

Do I look unruly to you? No way!

Home study visits are D.O.N.E. done! YEAH!!!!!!!!!! Sarah is the name of our case worker and she was phenomenal! She's a rock solid believer in Jesus. She's sweet, beautiful, professional, AND she was incredibly flexible with our out-of-sorts-toddler. Here's the story...

Remember - we've been out of town A LOT over the last 2 months and when we travel a lot Libby gets extremely attached to me and extremely not attached to Billy. This makes our job on the road difficult, but we recognize the pattern and things usually go back to normal by the second day at home. However, Billy went on a fishing trip right after we returned home from one trip and arrived home just hours before our first home study visit. So, Libby had not had a chance to get used to her daddy again. (To some, I realize this sounds strange. But try traveling to different events, hotels, conferences, churches, nurseries, etc with a toddler and see if she isn't just terrified by the lack of schedule and the constant change. Libby's coping mechanism is just to cling to mommy. It's not anything personal against her daddy. It's just how she manages to find security when everything around her is changing. She did this in the very beginning of her sweet life the day we flew home from China. Up until that day she was attached to both Billy and I. But on travel day, only mommy would do.... and that simply hasn't changed for travel situations). So, home study began with my personal interview with Sarah. Billy decided to take Libby on a car ride so she could watch a movie and be out of the way for the interview. But Libby proceeded to completely melt down as she was taken from me and after 10 minutes of Billy trying to get her into the car seat he came back inside and said, "I don't know what to do" (not exactly what you want your case worker to hear your husband say, but oh well). And Libby came running and screaming to me. From that moment on Libby was with me for the interview and she was a bit of a challenge to please. I was never embarrassed or worried about it because that's just what happens with toddlers sometimes, but I was slightly disappointed because this was not the way Libby usually acts. She is such a content, laid back girl and that certainly didn't come across on day one with Sarah.

Billy finished his individual interview that same afternoon. Both our interviews went well. Basically, Sarah had a long list of questions that she had to ask us face to face. So, although we covered much of the info in our paperwork and autobiographies, we had to discuss it all in person. The questions range from family history questions to financial questions to philosophy on parenting, disciplining and our understanding of the potential risks in adopting internationally. There is no topic left untouched.

On Monday afternoon (after yet another weekend of travel - to Alabama and back, this time) we drove to Austin to have our 3rd meeting with Sarah. This time we agreed to meet at a Starbucks on a particular street, so Billy and I drove thinking we'd find it with ease. Well, there was no Starbucks on that street so we found the closest one and waited to see if she would show. My cell phone broke over the weekend and it was the only place I had Sarah's number stored, so I had no way of contacting her (silly me!). A few minutes after 3pm Sarah called and said "where are you guys?" So after a little confusion we finally decided to meet at a nearby Chic-Fil-A so Libby could play on the playground while we had a 2 hour interview.

That really was a great plan...... if only Libby would play on the playground without us being on the playground equipment with her. After an hour of juggling our toddler at a table (and believe me, we tried everything from chewing gum (which she swallowed 3 times) to cookies and cream milkshakes and movies) we ended up finding an outlet in the playground room where Sarah could plug in her laptop and we could proceed with the interview. Oh yes - picture it.... Our sweet, flexible case worker sitting in a chair politely typing away and asking personal questions in a small corner under colorful playground tunnels as I literally explored through the tunnels above her with Libby jabbering away. Seriously! I was answering Sarah's questions from inside the tunnels (and I was wearing 2 inch heel boots as we crawled through that small space - I might add) and saying things like "what was the question?" as I began to perspire and pant from the exercise of squeezing my adult sized body through tiny tunnels, in heals, with Libby on my lap because, of course, Libby could not just crawl ahead or behind me - only ON me. The more I have thought about that moment the more I have laughed - both because somehow I was calm through all of that and because Sarah made it seem like that was a normal interview - which I am certain it was NOT!

The next day Sarah kindly met us in our hotel room and still Libby was all over the place. I think sitting and answering another person's questions was just not Libby's idea of fun. She wanted our full attention and she was going to get it somehow. Oh well! Sarah was wonderful to put up with us and we are feeling good about the fact that somehow we never felt like we should be embarrassed or in a panic over the unusual unruliness of our daughter.

1000 questions have been successfully answered (not the actual number, I'm sure) and home study visits are over! Whew! Just waiting on our home study report to be written up, approved, notarized, shipped to USCIS and so on....

Thanks for all your prayers!