Joel and I have sensed a calling to international adoption for many years. In May, 2009 God made it abundantly clear that it was time. After much prayer, research and wise counsel we began the process to adopt a daughter from China. God directed us to an incredible agency that was founded by a family with an amazing testimony. This blog is a chronicle of our journey, to inform our friends and family and as a record of events for our daughter to read one day. Join us in the journey... it is sure to be an adventure!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Stocking Hung in Anticipation

I am beginning to gather the components of a Lifebook for Grace. Many adoption agencies encourage Lifebooks as a means for helping a child to integrate into their new family. Eventually, when they are old enough, it also helps them to understand where they have come from. A Lifebook helps a child to understand their history, and that of their adoptive family. There are many articles and books available to help in constructing a Lifebook. Some can be found HERE and HERE.

Grace's Lifebook will contain information about our family genealogy, which will also be hers. It will tell about our lives and traditions before bringing her home, how we found her, Gothca Day, what little we will know of her history, and the adoption process.

One day I want to be able to show her how we began making her a part of our traditions even before we found her. This Christmas that means that her stocking is hanging with ours. It means that her name is on our Christmas cards. There is an ornament wrapped under the tree to begin her collection, just as there has always been one for Samuel and for Seth. And also, how we chose a little girl named Lyric, about her age, from the Salvation Army Angel Tree to provide gifts for since Grace is not yet with us.

I believe these things are going to help our boys adjust to and anticipate Grace's arrival. And, I hope that one day she will see just how much she is wanted and loved.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Guess What I Found In The Mail Today...

So, I came home today and opened the mail box. Inside was this big envelope from USCIS. *Inner monologue* " I wonder...no it can't be the approval. Don't get your hopes up. They told you that earliest it could possible come is Christmas Eve. Really...calm down...it's not possible..."

A document that was due some time between December 24 and March 1 from the US Government...just arrived EARLY...Merry Christmas!

This is what our adoption agency says in the Dossier Preparation Guide about this form, "when it arrives, Celebrate!" So, I did my happy dance through the house and cried at the same time :)

Now I just have to seal this document (explained in a previous post), and we send everything to Colorado for a 10-day workover...then Airmail to China! Lord willing, we will send it to Colorado before Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas present, a complete dossier!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

They're Back!

Just a quick update. I received a call from that nice Fedex man today to let me know that my package was back. So I dropped everything and went to get them (of course). Everything is in order and appropriately authenticated...Yay! I almost had a heart attack when he handed me the package because it was only half the thickness of the one I sent, then I realized that they had kept the copies that I had to send with the originals...whew!

Also, we received our invitation to have the biometric fingerprinting done by USCIS (Immigration/Homeland Security). We go two weeks from today for that. Then, all we will do is wait for that final approval from USCIS which could come any time between now and the end of February. Yeah, I know, it's brutal.

So, thanks for your prayers for the documents to return safely. Another step is behind us!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fedex Holds the Key to Everything

I just left the Fedex office. The man behind the counter was very kind and very helpful. That did not make it any easier to turn over the documents which represent 5 months of work and which contain every personal and financial detail about our family. Open that envelope and you will know how much money we have in the bank, whether Joel has a criminal record (he doesn't, by the way) and what my cholesterol level is. I have carried those documents everywhere this summer, mission trips and all. And now, I've had to give them up to the nice man at Pak Mail.

There is comfort in knowing that they will be at the Chinese Embassy by 10:30 tomorrow. And, this is a huge step...the end of the paperwork phase is drawing nigh. I am very excited that we have come this far. My desire to protect and control everything is just making this step difficult for me to swallow. Thousands of children are adopted from China every year, Praise God! And, every one of those families mailed these documents to their respective Embassy or Consulate. I keep reminding myself of this.

Help us to pray that these documents will return safely to us. According to the timeline we've been given, we should get them back by the end of next week. I know that God is in this adoption, and I know that He is in control of even these finite details.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

The sealing process for dossier documents can be a three, four or five-step process. This depends on the state in which you live. Of course, Maryland is a five-step state. The steps are:
2)County Certification (approving the notary)
3)Secretary of State Certification (approving the county clerk)
4)US State Dept. Authentication (approving the Secretary of State)
5)Chinese Embassy Authentication (approving everything)

Yesterday we made the trek into DC to get step four taken care of. I am thankful that I live within an hour of our state capital and DC. This has allowed me to hand-deliver our documents rather than mailing them. Something about entrusting these documents which I have carried around with me for three months "just in case the house burns down" to the US Postal Service is a bit disconcerting. And, let's not talk about the personal nature of what they contain!

So, step four is done and all that is left is the Chinese Embassy, which has it's own hoops to jump through. We are going to have to mail everything, because of their rules, so they will be overnighted pretty soon. Once this is done, we will just be waiting on our invitation from USCIS for fingerprinting and their approval document. Then this document will need to go through the sealing process and our dossier will actually be complete!

It could be as late as February before we receive that final document, although I hope it will come more quickly. Most adoptive families see this as the last big hurdle.

I also decided to send scans of our documents to our agency this week to check behind me and make sure that I've done everything right. I just received an approval email from our dossier consultant. I am so relieved. As careful as I have tried to be, I had this nagging feeling that I had missed something.
So, all that to say...there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

USCIS Filing...DONE :)

We mailed our application to US Customs and Immigration this week...finally! This takes 10-20 weeks to process and will include an invitation to have biometric fingerprinting done at some point during that time. While we wait for that approval to come through, I will begin the "sealing" process for all of our other documents...the multiple certifications that I talked about in an earlier post. USCIS approval is really the last BIG hurdle (other than finding her). The rest is just jumping through hoops. Pray that this approval moves quickly!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another Small Step Forward

I am listening to power tools whirring outside, finishing out our basement to add a little more living area to the house in anticipation of our family's increase. Each step of physical preparation makes this whole journey seem a little more real.

I received word from CCAI that our homestudy has finally and wholly passed muster, after multiple reviews. So, the homestudy agency is preparing the official copies that can be distributed to the necessary government agencies between here and China. The biggest part of this is that it will allow us to file with USCIS (US Customs and Immigration) for their approval to adopt. This one is a hurry up and wait kind of thing. It takes 6-10 weeks to get this approval. Somewhere in the midst of it we will be invited by USCIS to go in for biometric fingerprinting. Once that approval comes back, we will be in possession of all of the documents needed for our dossier and we will beging the "sealing" process, which is the multiple-layered approval of all county, state and federal governments and the Chinese Embassy.

And so...we wait...some more...trusting that God will lead us to Grace in His perfect time and in His perfect way.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Waiting for Approvals

Well, the Home Study draft has been forwarded to our Adoption Agency for approval. As soon as it has passed muster, we will get official copies of our Home Study to use in our Dossier, and to send to US Customs and Immigration (USCIS) to file for their approval to adopt internationally. Once we apply to USCIS, we will be invited to have biometric fingerprinting done and then we wait to receive their approval. Once we have it, we will begin having all of our Dossier documents authenticated.

These are the documents that compile a Dossier:
*Adoption Petition
*Birth Certificates of Adoptive Parents
*Marriage Liscense
*Employment Verifications for working parents
*Non-Employment Verification for non-working parent (ME)
*Financial Statement
*Physical Exam Documents including several blood tests
*Gold Seal Police Reports obtained through FBI fingerprinting
*I-797C form indicating approval to adopt from USCIS
*Finalized Home Study
*3 couple photos
*8 family life photos (both parents must appear in each)
*6 Passport photos each
*Copies of Passports

Everything except for the passports and photos must go through multiple levels of authentication. For most of these documents there is 1-Notirization, 2-Certification by the County Clerk (where the notary is from), 3-Certification by the Secretary of State (For us this is in Annapolis), 4-Authentication by the US State Department, 5-Authentication by the Chinese Consulate in DC.

Thankfully, our state capital is within easy driving distance, as is DC for the State Department and Chinese Consulate.

Many people have to do much of this through the mail. It is my hope to hand-deliver everything to every office. I have been told the document that walk through the front door are attended more quickly than the ones that arrive in the mail. So, that is where we are now.

The very exciting thing is that we are already on the Waiting Child waiting list. Since we are seeking a child with some medical needs, we will more than likely be matched by CCAI instead of the CCAA in China. Waiting Child matching tends to happen within 18 months. That timeline has already begun. We are not guaranteed a match within 18 months, but it is very possible...wouldn't that be an amazing Christmas gift in 2011?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Whirlwind is Subsiding :)

Wow, what a crazy summer! We have been on mission in Mississippi, to the SBC, through VBS, and so much more. During all the insanity we have managed, by God's grace, to finish our homestudy paperwork and move forward. Tomorrow morning we leave on a much-needed family vacation to Disney. (shhh...the boys still don't know!)

During the third week of July we had home inspections by the Health Dept. and the Fire Marshall. The sanitary inspection included a test of our well water which revealed bacteria in our well. We have learned that this is a fairly common issue and how to sanitize it. The Health Dept. will be returning on August 31 to re-test. Hopefully, the bacteria will be gone. Other than that we passed both inspections with flying colors (whew).

Upon passing those and compiling the final documents, we were ready to contact our social worker so that we could move forward with interviews. About a week ago we had individual biographical interviews that lasted nearly 2 hours each. We set a date for August 25 to have our final interview. Our SW said that she would be contacting our references over the next few weeks and asked us to complete Parent Training before our final interview.

Now, a word about Parent Training. Any one who adopts a child from a Hague country is required by law to take 10 hours of Hague-accredited Parent Training. I must admit that I was a little taken aback by this. I mean...we do have two healthy boys. But, thankfully, the wonderful agency that we are working with, CCAI, has designed a program specific to China adoption. Joel and I both completed this training this week online. I must say, it really is fabulous. It includes information about grief and loss experienced by adoptees, developmental delays that should be expected, behaviors that encourage attachment, what to expect as a racially diverse family, and information about Chinese history, language, festivals and culture. I really did benefit greatly from it. I will add that not all agencies have country-specific training. CCAI makes this training available to families adopting from other agencies for a fee. If you have a choice in training and are adopting from China, I highly reccomend CCAI.

So with training completed, primary and biographical interviews done, and homestudy documents mailed, we are very near being finished with this step in the process. After that final interview on the 25th, our social worker will compile all of the information that she has gathered into a narrative about our family with recommendation that we be allowed to adopt. This narrative document will be included in the Dossier that we will eventually send to China. She expects to have the narrative completed by the third week in September. Then it will be sent to CCAI for approval. Sometimes the wording needs to be tweaked a bit.

In the midst of all of this, I have also been collecting documents for our Dossier. Official birth certificates for Joel and myself and our marriage license had to be ordered from South Carolina. Then, I had to mail them back to the Secretary of State in SC to be authenticated. I overnighted them and was very surprised when they were back at my door within 36 hours...all the way to SC and back in 36 hours...WOW!

I met with our pediatrician a couple of weaks ago to discuss the possible health concerns with the many possible disorders among Waiting Children.

I will share more about what the Dossier entails later. I will also write another time about Waiting Children. The good news is....we are moving forward!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Caught in the Whirlwind

We had a lovely meeting with our Social Worker on Wednesday. She is very sweet and made every effort to put us at ease. There is a whirlwind of activity around us now. I am making every effort to get every document set into motion that I can before we leave for the SBC. A few short days after returning from Louisville, we will be taking off once again for mission work on the Gulf Coast. Shortly thereafter comes VBS. I know God had a purpose in setting all this in motion at one time, I just hope I can keep up!

It is my goal to have all doctor appointments, inspections and paperwork ready by the end of July. At that time our Social Worker will return for two more interviews and then she will compile everything into a "narrative" about our family. At that point, our homestudy will be complete. If the Lord wills it, we will be there by mid to late September. Of course, during all of this, we will also be working on the documents that are required for our Dossier. I haven't received that list yet :) The homestudy will be one component of that Dossier that will ultimately be translated into Mandarin and sent to China.

That seems so far away right now. But, as I have said before, each step brings us a little closer to meeting our little girl.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Step

Another step is taken. We have been assigned a social worker and are hoping to hear from her soon. We have also been given a sea of documents to wade through...or drown in... :)

Doctor appointments are being scheduled for physicals, and paperwork is being notarized. With each signature, each clearance, and each release form we are that much closer to the goal. Please help us pray for a smooth journey through all these things. Also, pray that I will be able to juggle this process with our trip to the SBC, two weeks in Mississippi on mission, and directing VBS. If I can make it through July 31, I will be in good shape. There is absoluetely no way I can pull all of this off in my own strength. I am so thankful that His strength is perfect!

Thank you my friends!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

We Have Only Just Begun

We have taken the first few baby steps in a marathon. I think the memories of the endurance needed for the Baltimore half-marathon will come in handy before this is over!

First step...choosing an adoption agency. Check! We have chosen to work with CCAI in Colorado. CCAI was reccomended to us by a nice lady who shared her own adoption experiences with me over the phone. She is three-time adoptive parent of Chinese children. I asked which agency she had used, and she told me that she would not use either of the two she had worked with again. She highly reccomended CCAI. She had seen their staff in action in China early this year and had been extremely impressed.

After more research and reading the testimony of the founder online, we were convinced. So we submitted our application and received approval last week.

Second step...choosing a homestudy agency. Check! We are awaiting a call from our social worker right now. Once we meet this individual, they will give us a stack of documents that will be the framework of our family dossier. This dossier will eventually be sent to China (hopefully by November). Once it arrives, all we have to do is wait for God's timing in revealing our third child to us.

So, that is where we are at this point in the journey. In later posts I will share more about why we are doing this, including the theological foundation for adoption. I will also share our continued steps toward the finish line, when we bring our little girl home.