Thursday, May 24, 2007

We have a case worker!!!!!!

Oh my gosh, what a thrill! I had to leave the house for an hour because our listing agent wanted to show it to someone, and when I returned, I decided to call Angels' Haven Outreach to let them know that I had sent them Joe's birth certificate and our post placement agreement form. Well, when I asked more, I learned that they received one of our letters of reference finally today and assigned us a case worker!!! I nearly cried I was so excited! PROGRESS! They've mailed us another packet with her contact information, and we are supposed to give her a few days to review our file now that she has been assigned to us.

So, thanks to our fabulous friends for getting those letters of reference in! We couldn't have gotten this far without you... and that's the truth!

Now, time to have a fabulous, relaxing Memorial Day during which we will have a wonderful BBQ here at our place with some of our family. Good times, good times. Yippeeeee!!!!

Placement Agency Application Received!

Well, I just found out that late yesterday afternoon Adoption Avenues finally received our application! Yeah! I faxed them all of the documents we have so far for our dossier in order to have them reviewed. I hate to get all the way to getting them notarized and certified, just to learn that something was wrong!

My fingers are crossed that everything has been done correctly so far!

Wading our way through the impatience stage

I certainly know that in the world of adoption, patience is extremely important to possess. For me, that is an ever-present challenge to overcome. I imagine at the beginning of each stage of the adoption I will have to struggle through my initial impatience. For example, when Joe and I first decided to move forward with adoption last September, we didn't decide to begin right away, but start doing our research and prepare ourselves while waiting for the "right time." At first, it was so hard to wait to get started, I think I brought the topic up with Joe every day, discussing whether we shouldn't really get started sooner. After a time, though, I resolved myself to waiting a while, and then "all of a sudden" it was May and we were ready to get started!

Well, here I am again at the "beginning" of the next stage. The paperwork stage. And, not surprisingly, I am feeling very motivated to knock this stage out quickly and keep things moving forward. Impatience. Well, sort of. I also know that the majority of the adoption timeline is completely out of our hands... how quickly our social worker gets our homestudy written up, how long Immigration takes to process our application for a visa, how long we have to wait for a referral, how long we have to wait to travel, etc. So, this is the one stage I have some control over. Therefore, I find myself going crazy when someone or something else in the process holds us up. Seriously, I feel bad for my friends trying to write letters of reference for us! I have all of the documents to Angels' Haven Outreach that they need in order to start the homestudy... including the $1000 check I overnighted to them on Tuesday morning, but when I spoke with them yesterday, I was told they hadn't received any of our letters of reference, and they needed at least two of those before they'd assign us a social worker. Agggghhhhh!!!! Didn't anyone realize how hard I'd worked to get everything turned in so we could get a social worker assigned this week?! To make it worse, the agency is closed on Fridays, so now it's unlikely they'll get any of our references before Monday. Darn it. I should've sent money to each of the people we asked and begged them to overnight the letters... but I guess that may just be silly and showing my impatience too much.

You know you need to realign your focus when you spend an entire day hovering around your front door and walkway up to your front door, watching and waiting for the UPS delivery person. I seriously checked the door at least every 15 minutes throughout the afternoon. I even sat on the front porch for a while. I got a call yesterday morning informing me that a Next Day air package from "Tennessee Vital Records" would be delivered and someone had to sign for it. Now, I was left a bit confused since Joe was born in Cincinnati and that's where I ordered his birth certificates from, but what else could it be?! So, all day long, I couldn't leave the house, and poor Suka definitely found it to be unjust that we missed her park playtime! I started getting "nervous" when 5:00 came and still no delivery. Wouldn't you know it though, UPS stated on their website that deliveries were made to residential addresses until 7:00 pm. So, I waited. And then, at 6:47 pm... the UPS MAN ARRIVED! And, he DID have Joe's birth certificates! (Yes, I know I need to focus on other things...)

I also know that North Carolina Secretary of State's Authentication Department has my employment letter in hand now. (Thank goodness for package tracking!) It was delivered to them early yesterday morning. So, hopefully that'll get overnighted back to me and be in my hands by the early part of next week. One more item I can check off the list. Boy, do I ever love checking things off the list! It feels so good to inch each little step forward.

Yesterday, I finally received the letter from my bank (that I later found out they charged me $10 for without my permission or knowledge!), and it was a complete disaster! The letter was addressed to Donald and Cindy P... at our address! It had 3 accounts referenced on it (we have 4 through them) and the 3 on there were our account numbers! Let me remind you in case you've forgotten our names. We are Jessica and Joseph G... Not even close! The letter also did not state what it needed to and it wasn't notarized or on the blue and red bank letterhead paper!! The signature on the letter wasn't even a "wet" signature... it was printed off! It took over a week to receive (mailed from 20 miles away) and it wasn't even written for the correct names. Geesh. I'd heard BANK OF AMERICA was bad, particularly for obtaining the letters need for adoption dossiers, but come on! I will tell you though, that after spending 42 minutes and 15 seconds on the phone with the assistant of my Premier Banker (yep, having a large mortgage with the company I bank with does have its perks!) I had 2 copies of a new letter overnighted to us and the $10 charge credited back to my account. So, later today I should get the letters and HOPEFULLY this time they'll be right! Goose frabah.... (think "Anger Management" with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson). I'm feeling better now. ;-)

I will also probably have to send another application and check to my placement agency, Adoption Avenues, because as of yesterday they still hadn't received my original application. That'll teach me for using regular old USPS. Slow and unpredictable. And with no way to track it, I have no idea if it's lost forever or still making its way to Oregon. By the time they get that, we'll be ready to turn around and send them a much bigger check ($4,000) and our signed contract package!

**Update, my application check to Adoption Avenues has been cashed and the application is in hand! Yeah!**

So, yeah. Things are moving along really well, but never fast enough for me. ;-) I think I'll feel better when we have a social worker and the next big hurdle (our homestudy) gets going. It looks encouraging to see how few items are left on my list of needed documents for the homestudy or dossier:
  1. Criminal Clearance letter
  2. Letter from Financial Establishment
  3. Letters of reference
  4. Homestudy report (from homestudy agency)
  5. Homestudy license (from homestudy agency)
  6. Homestudy agency agreement (from homestudy agency)
  7. I-171H (can't apply for this until we get our completed homestudy!)

Not too shabby considering I just picked our agencies and got the list of items needed 10 days ago!

All in all, progress is good, and my impatience is starting to ease up as I settle into the paperchase phase. I really couldn't be happier that the journey is begun... I even let myself wander through the baby section of Wal-Mart the other day. Of course, I became so excited and overwhelmed that I began to cry, but that's another story! Bottles, formula, gidgets, and whatsits galore! Another reminder that this part of the journey into parenthood is only HALF the battle, the other part is learning what you need, what diapers to buy, bottles to use, formula, etc.

If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time to hear about the progress and setbacks! Now, it's time to get back to work. I am banning myself from adoption related matters until 4:00 pm or later today (yeah right! I'm planning on running out to express mail Joe's birth certificate to Angels' Haven Outreach now!).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Homestudy application received!

Well, I just got word that Angels' Haven Outreach has received our application and is "intaking our file" this afternoon (whatever that means)! Yippee! One more little bit of progress to celebrate! Now, I need to go overnight them a check for the first installment! They must have this check before assigning us our case worker!

Everybody do the happy dance! You know I am!

Welcome to the whirlwind!

Well, it's official. I am OBSESSED. Joe must think he's unleashed a crazy person! We're living in warp speed these days... I can't begin to express how motivated I have been to do everything I can to speed the process along. So far, I have gathered most of the documents needed for our dossier, and the ones that I don't have yet have been requested and are on their way. The biggest thing holding us up at this point it the homestudy. In order to get a social worker assigned to do our homestudy, we had to get the agency a long list of documents. On that list were things like birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical form signed by the Dr. for both of us, letters from our employers, letters of reference from friends, fingerprint clearances, etc., etc. At this point, the only thing I don't have to them is the letters from our employers (should have those to mail in the next day or two), and Joe's birth certificate. Our letters of reference should be on their way to Angels' Haven by now. I'm hoping that they'll go ahead and assign a social worker as soon as the bulk of these documents arrive in their office.

In order to familiarize you with the process, I thought I'd give an overview of it in order of steps we will go through. There is some overlap in a few of the steps, but most rely on previous steps in order to move forward.

  1. Apply to Adoption Avenues (Ethiopia placement program) and Angels' Haven Outreach (Homestudy Agency)
  2. Gather documents required for Angels' Haven in order to begin actual homestudy. Also, be gathering documents for the Ethiopia dossier since there is a lot of overlap in what is needed for the homestudy and the dossier.
  3. Submit all documents for homestudy along with a check for $1,000 (1st half of homestudy fee).
  4. Sign Adoption Avenues contract and return it with a check for $4,000 (1st installment fee for 2 children).
  5. Homestudy (this could take a month or more to complete)
  6. Send final check of $1,000 to Angels' Haven Outreach prior to receiving completed homestudy. (OUR GOAL: Complete Homestudy by end of June!)
  7. Upon receipt of completed homestudy, drive to Los Angeles USCIS (Immigration) office and submit I-600A (Application for Advanced Processing of Orphan Petition) with all required documents. (From application to fingerprinting to approval will probably take AT LEAST a month, probably more like 2-3 months).
  8. Upon receiving I-171H (Notice of Favorable Determination...this document results from the approved I-600A), complete dossier and take to the Orange County Clerk and Recorder, followed by the Los Angeles Secretary of State's office for notary certification.
  9. FedEx Certified Dossier with check for $250 (Authentication/courier fee) to Adoption Avenues for submission via courier to Washington DC to the US Department of State and then to the Ethiopian Embassy to be Authenticated.
  10. Send $6,000 (2nd installment for 2 children) check sent to Adoption Avenues before dossier is sent to Ethiopia.
  11. Authenticated dossier sent to Ethiopia. Wait for referral officially begins.
  12. Receive referral, have international adoption doctor review and give feedback.
  13. Accept referral (or reject if there is just cause... in which case you wait for another referral), send final installment check to Adoption Avenues for $5,500.
  14. Case goes to court in Ethiopia... adoption is finalized in Ethiopia
  15. TRAVEL to get our babies!

Wow, what a process. It's very hard to nail down an accurate timeline for all of this, but we are HOPING we will be able to get through the process by the end of the year. That is one advantage to working with a small agency with no waiting list. Of course, paying for all of these things as we go is the other obstacle that could hold up the process. I have only listed the large expense items, and not all the costs for fingerprints, visa application, document notary & certification, postage, etc. We expect the grand total including travel to end up between $25,000 - $30,000. Hopefully, a large chunk of that we will be able to get back through the Adoption Tax Credit in the year after the adoption is finalized. One large advantage to getting our children before the end of this year is that we could get the tax credit next spring!

Please everyone keeps us in your thoughts for a speedy process! We are so thrilled to be so supported by our family and friends! We love you all so much and appreciate the kind words and support as we work through this journey towards becoming first time parents!