Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Home Study

We have had our final meeting for our home study and have received the first draft! We are waiting on John's physical to get done next Wednesday and a few more online classes and then we will be done with our portion of the paperwork. Very exciting. Just one step closer to bringing our child home.....

For those of you that have not been through a home study, here is a quick run through as to what this entails. In short, the home study is a ten page document that is used to tell the United States Immigration as well as Ethiopia who we are and what we are about. The social worker also has to make a statement as to whether or not she recommends us for adoption.

Our first step was to turn in a bunch of paper work to give the agency some background on who we were. This included autobiographies, pictures, financial information and a family history.

Then we were assigned a social worker that set up meetings with us. We were required to have 6 meetings. Two as a couple, and two as individuals. During these meetings, the social worker was gathering the information she needed to complete the home study. Our social worker was wonderful. She saw these meetings as not only an opportunity to find out about us, but also as a time that she could share with us her knowledge of adoption and make sure that we were prepared for the unique challenges that come with an adopted child. She really took an interest in our lives and we both really enjoyed our meetings with her. What a blessing this is for us to have found someone so knowledgable and caring.

The other portion of the home study has been gathering documents to prove the facts that we are telling our social worker. We pulled together copies of our birth certificates, marriage certificates, criminal background checks, tax return, life insurance, proof of health insurance, and FBI clearance. We both needed physicals to prove we were in good health and we also were asked for references from family and friends. Completion of ten hours of online adoption education was also required to complete our home study.

Once everything has been turned in, a draft of our home study will be given to our agency it will be finalized. This process will take at least a couple of weeks to finish so we are expecting to have a final copy of our home study by the end of March.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why Ethiopia

We began the process of adoption last fall by looking into North Caronlina's foster-to- adopt program. When we told the social worker on our case that we wanted to adopt an infant, she closed the file and said that would highly unlikely, if not impossible. If we wanted to pursue the foster-to-adopt, she suggested that we decided whether or not we would feel capable of adopting a child most likely four to six. While we left the meeting disheartened, we also had a lot to think about, particularly, what kind of child did we feel capable of adopting and caring for at this stage in our life.

Answering that question was humbling process, but necessary for anyone thinking of adopting a child. As we talked, prayed, and talked some more, Sarah and I came to the realization that we did not feel prepared to adopt a child older than Emma. We are relatively new parents and we have no experience with older children. Next, we had to decide if we felt capable of adopting a child with special needs or a serious illness. This was a humbling and heartbreaking decision - we took a long look in the mirror and came to the decision that at this point in our lives we want to adopt a healthy infant, but there is not a day that goes by that we don't pray that our hearts will be enlarged and some day when confronted with these questions we will be able to say - we will love any child in need of a home regardless of age or health. 

The decision to adopt an infant limited our options. Since we could not adopt an infant through the foster-to-adopt program, we looked into other means of domestic adoption, but soon realized that the process was not only long but also expensive. Therefore, we turned our attention to international adoption. As we researched the countries open to adoption for American parents, we found that many countries had extensive residency requirements, and the expectation for some countries was that you would relocate and live for up to two years. 

After exhausting all of our connections, and realizing we would not be able to find employment in any of the countries that had extended residency requirements, we changed our focus and began looking at those countries open to American parents with limited residency expectations. Once we limited our search to those countries the next step was to find which countries had the most successful placement rates with American agencies. Of all of the countries we researched Ethiopia not only had a high success rate in terms of placement, but there were also a number agencies with favorable relationships with the Ethiopian government. These relationships between adopting agencies and government are crucial to the adoption process and once we saw how well Ethiopia worked with American agencies we decided to pursue in adoption in that country. In brief, Ethiopia requires that parents stay in country for 5-7 days. Once families return to the United States the Ethiopian government requires that they provide yearly reports of the child's development.

We have learned through this decision making process that it is easy to be overwhelmed with the numbers of children that need homes, but as we have discovered, every child is important and deserving of love, and any child a family chooses to bring into their life through adoption is a the "right" child for that family. Adopting a child from Ethiopia will come with a unique set of challenges, and as we prepare to become a transracial family, we will continue to speak openly and candidly about the process so others on this journey of adoption will have a place to come and connect with others faced with the heart-breaking and life-affirming decision of choosing a child from amongst the thousands of faces looking for a family.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Adoption Process

We have chosen to adopt a healthy boy or girl from Ethiopia between the ages of 0-12 months old.  This process will take us approximately 12-18 months from the time we turned in our application so we expect to bring our child home sometime between January and May of 2010.

One of the reasons we have set up this site, is to inform others of the adoption process.  This process tends to seem very mysterious and confusing which can be a big reason for families steering away from bringing their adoptive child into their world.  In this post, and others to come, we will attempt to explain our process in a way that is helpful and informative for others.  Of course, this is our process and for others it may look different but most of the steps are the same for all international adoptions.  Here goes...

Step 1:  The decision to adopt.  Once we decided to grow our family through adoption, our first step was to decide whether to adopt domestically or internationally.  We also needed to decide what age, gender and special needs our family would be open to pursuing.  

Step 2:  Choosing the Country.  As we chose to adopt internationally, our next step was to choose the country we would adopt from.  Every country has their own guidelines such as ages of parents, ages of siblings, income level, travel requirements, etc.  Picking the country that fits with your ability is important.  (We will have a post coming that describes our thought process on this and why we decided on Ethiopia)

Step 3:  Choosing the Agency.  We have already found that choosing the right agency is VERY important to the adoption process.  The Agency's knowledge regarding the country that you are adopting from and the US regulations on adoption is priceless.  We chose our agency based on a recommendation from someone we highly respected and was very knowledgeable concerning the adoption process.  So far, we are very impressed with our agency and their ability to communicate and be a resource for us.  

Step 4:  Starting the paperwork process:
Homestudy:  Our home-study began when we turned in a series of paperwork including autobiographies, financial information,  birth certificates, and family history.  We were then given a social worker that we will meet with six times.  She interviews us to find out more information about our family, parenting style, home environment, ect.  She writes a report on this information and submits it with our Dossier and USCIS paperwork.  
Dossier:  This is paperwork that you collect and submit to the country from which you are adopting.   This information is specific to the country and is similar to the information that you prepare for your homestudy.
USCIS paperwork:  These are the forms that you submit to US Immigration to obtain the legal permissions for international adoption and later to apply for citizenship for your adoptive child.

Step 5:  The first item above to be completed is the home-study as the final copy is required to be included with both the Dossier and the USCIS paperwork.  Once the home-study is completed, we can send our Dossier to our agency for review.  At the same time, our USCIS paperwork is sent to the US government and we wait for approval from them.

Step 6:  Approval of our Dossier from our agency.  Once our Dossier is approved by our agency, it will be sent to Ethiopia for approval.

Step 7:  We are put on a waiting list for a child.  Our agency will inform us that we are officially on the waiting list for a child.  This process can take between 3-6 months for a healthy infant from Ethiopia.  Our USCIS paperwork can still be in process at this time.

Step 8:  We are given a referral from our agency for a specific child.  At this time we will be given any medical information, family information and a picture of the child that has been referred to us.  We have the choice to accept or reject this referral but once we accept, the child is ours and is no longer adoptable in Ethiopia.

Step 9:  A representative of our agency goes to court for us in Ethiopia to obtain legal guardianship of the child on our behalf. This process takes between 3-6 months to finalize.  We also file another form with US immigration to obtain US citizenship for our child.

Step 10:  We travel to Ethiopia to pick up our child!!  We will get about two weeks notice before we travel.  This is a 5-7 day trip and will include visits to the orphanage and visits with any living family of the child.

Ok, so we know that is a lot in one post but hopefully this provides a clearer picture of what adoptive parents go through.  We will be posting more information regarding each of these steps as we go along.  If anyone has any questions or wants more information in the mean time, please let us know as we would love to share.