Well, you guessed it. We've got some major updates! Firstly, we received our homestudy on Friday morning which was a huge step forward! This allowed us to finally submit our I-600A in order to receive approval from immigration to classify orphans as immediate relatives and bring them into the United States! Approval can take a long time to get, depending on the state you're in and how well the system seems to be moving along at any given time. I was told to expect to receive our I-171H approval letter in about 4 weeks (after we got fingerprinted).
However, on Thursday night, we had some radical changes to our adoption plan. We have been planning on adopting from Ethiopia, and falling more and more in love with the country and its' people the more we learn about it. Yet, something unexpected came up this past week that I couldn't ignore. On the Ethiopian adoption forums I read every day, someone mentioned an agency was starting a Zambian program. Discussions about how easy/impossible adopting from Zambia would be. I'm not sure what did it for me, but I think I was just curious. I began researching Zambia, and mentioned it to mom and Joe. I didn't really think I would have a change of heart, or be interested in changing to Zambia. We're practically ready to submit our dossier for Ethiopia... why would we consider changing from a stable, established country to one that has never had any sort of international adoption program?
Well, after a couple of days of casual research, I asked Joe whether he thought I should look more seriously into the option of adopting from Zambia. Mind you, I was just waking up as I asked him, and he was heading out the door for work, so it was a brief question and answer. He responded with "No, I think we're pretty committed to Ethiopia at this point." So, that was that.
Problem is, I just can't stay focused once I get an interest in something. I don't know what exactly, but something that day kept causing my mind to drift back to Zambia. I even carried my laptop downstairs to work next to mom for a while and found out SHE was researching Zambia! Apparently it wasn't just me that was wondering about the possibility.
When Joe got home from work on Thursday, I brought it up with him again. This time, I was more informed about what it would mean to try and adopt from Zambia. During the course of the conversation, we agreed that we should try and adopt from Zambia. Holy smokes, talk about a change in course in just a couple of days time!
Well, that night, we re-typed our application for our I-600A up, this time listing the place of travel and embassy we would file our I-600 at as Lusaka, Zambia. Yikes! We are really doing this! It's exciting, scary, and also sad. We have met such wonderful families with such great kids through the Ethiopian adoptive community. We are leaving a stable, established program and pioneering our way through a new program. Yet, as I submitted our I-600A to the woman at the orphan petition unit at the Federal Building in Los Angeles, I felt confident with the decision we've made.
Now, I'm sure a million questions must be going through your minds. We HAVE been so excited about adopting from Ethiopia, and had no reason we needed to make the change, so what happened? Especially knowing that it's POSSIBLE we'll return from Zambia and our adoption attempt will have been unsuccessful. In which case, we'll return to our original plan of adopting from Ethiopia. It's tough to summarize our thoughts, but I'll try to explain.
First of all, Zambia has a staggering rate of orphans, and this is one thing that made us interested in adopting from Ethiopia. Yet, so far, there are barely any adoptions taking place, so the outlook for most of these orphans is quite poor. Wouldn't it be great if, while building our family, we could help pioneer this new program and open the doors of Zambia to Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAP)?
In addition to the high rate of orphans in Zambia, we were also excited, and scared, by the fact that you identify your own children. When we travel to Zambia, it will be for 3 or more weeks, and the first thing we do upon arriving is begin visiting the orphanages in Lusaka (the capitol of Zambia). There are 95 registered orphanages in Lusaka alone. Can you imagine? 95 orphanages?! It's a difficult thing to imagine how difficult it will be to identify the children we would like to adopt, knowing that most of the children we see will likely not ever get adopted. The part about Ethiopia that seems easier to me is that the children we would've seen at the care center would already be matched with families to be adopted... they have homes to go to soon.
QUICK FACT: The life expectancy in Zambia is 32 years. I'm sure you'll find slight variance in this number depending on the source, but this seems to be what I'm finding.
Ok, so not only are there a large number of orphans, but the paper side of the process is also much simpler than any other country right now. All you need is a completed, approved homestudy, and your I-171H. That's it! You're set to travel! I realize that for us, this doesn't really matter since I now have all of the documents needed for our Ethiopia dossier (except the I-171H that we're waiting for no matter what). Yet, for families that aren't as far along in their paperchase, this is a huge perk. It could save a few hundred dollars in document, notary, certification and authentication fees alone!
While there are a number of differences between the requirements and process between Ethiopia and Zambia, there are some mild similarities. Zambia is also very flexible on parental requirements, even more so than Ethiopia. The only requirement is that the parents be at least 25 yrs old. For us, this could also be the downfall. We have read that this is "frequently waived," but I don't know how much that is worth with this being a brand new program, how many families have been through before and were under 25? So, we're waiting to learn whether or not we have to wait until Joe's birthday in order to travel. I'd think not... but we'll see.
At this moment, if our I-171H comes through by the end of July, we'll probably look at traveling sometime between September and November. One factor will be whether our ages come into play, another is that Joe needs to talk to his work and discuss days off for the trip. Like I said, the trip will be at least 3 weeks... and the 3 weeks begins once we identify our children, which could take a few days. Plus, there are no guarantees, so we COULD end up needing to stay longer in order to get through court, get their passports and visas. Not to mention the fact that it'd be really tough for Joe to return to work immediately upon our return with our new kids. We'll need some amount of time to bond, settle in, and get something of a routine going. As for my job, I'm hoping I'll be able to work (at least part time or something) from Zambia, especially if we need to stay more than 3 weeks. That would really help if I could save more of my maternity leave/vacation time for our return home.
Anyway, at this point, I think I'm rambling. So much has come up, so quickly. On top of it all, we've been trying to deal with the water damage in the garage and planning/packing for our trip to South Africa. We leave in less than 48 hours. At this point, I haven't even begun to pack, but I HAVE written up a list of things we need to remember to bring! What a whirlwind!
Oh, and cross your fingers for us... we had a couple come see our house for the 3rd time today, and also had a second showing by a different family! Please let them make us an AWESOME offer before we take it off the market to leave town!