in case you haven’t heard the big news and latest update:
we received approval from immigration on saturday!!!!!! Hal-le-lu-jah! huge weight off of our shoulders. it’s kind of weird to think/say, “the government has found us fit to be parents”, but whatevs. it’s just the way international adoption works
you’re probably thinking, “yay! that’s such good news…so what does that mean exactly?”
short answer: we are done with our U.S. paperwork.
no acceptance=no child. If USCIS says, “no, i don’t think you will make very good parents,” then we cannot adopt from overseas. we broke down the cost in this previous post , but here we will break down the actual process. Please take note that I have yet to meet a family whose adoption process looks EXACTLY the same. this is what ours looked like, it’s not the same for everyone.
Step 1: Prayer. and lots of talking, like, for a little over a year, and a personal deadline was made about adoption. During this time, one of you (wife) does a lot of research about agencies and programs, checks on these things about once a month, develops a potential plan with plan a’s and b’s, talks it over with husband, husband agrees.
Step 2: Personal deadline arrives. we say, “let’s do this!” both exciting and terrifying.
Step 3: You start with plan a. plan a fails almost instantly. husband consoles you before you start to cry. reminds you that we have a plan b and knew it was likely we would have to do it like this, though not ideal. husband starts researching (p.s. step 2 and 3 happen in 1 day).
Step 4: husband finds a way for plan b. it’s friday so we have to anxiously wait till monday to call. you pray heavily over the weekend.
Step 5: you stay up late to make a very important phone call. you try miserably for like 20 minutes to make an international phone call and keep failing, yelling at the phone as if that’s going to help, and you finally figure it out. and then you pay a lot of money because you didn’t think about international charges beforehand (duh) and then you get skype credit.
Step 6: after lots of questions and good confirmations, the person on the other end of the line across the world says, “let’s do this. i look forward to talking to you again soon.” you go to bed on cloud 9, head spinning, incredibly thankful. you’re about to buy a house, so you think “we’re just going to take this process leisurely.”
Step 7: for the next 2 days, you call agencies in dfw area. thankfully, you and your husband come from the social work world and know the good ones. many of them shut you down flat, because they don’t just do home studies, they want you to be in one of their programs. they don’t have a program in the country you want to adopt from. one of them gives a referral to a smaller agency you’ve never heard of. you look them up, intrigued, give them a call and find out yes! they are not outrageously priced, they have years and mountains of experience, only do international adoptions, are helpful, and tell you upfront what to expect and to “get moving” because there’s a new law you’re going to want to beat (so much for plans and “leisureliness”). you know you love them already when she promises to email you the forms within the day, and actually does it. the executive director of the agency personally emails you the forms that you need that same day right before she leaves the country to go on a mission trip in less than 24 hours.
Step 8: you tell your husband. you look over info, and you decide this agency is a go, then you momentarily freak out knowing this is already moving 3 months faster than you had anticipated, we have to tell our families and friends. we have to start fundraising. you make a website. you tell everyone. no one is really surprised, nor are you terribly surprised they’re not surprised.
Step 9: a week later you send in your application. you find out you are good to go, and they send you a bunch of documents to look over. you do that, think it looks like a good and solid contract. you sign it and send it in.
Step 10: a few days later they send you all the paperwork they need to conduct your home study. you have never seen so much paperwork in your entire life. for the next 2 days, you stay up until midnight filling out reams of paper. you have a 20-page questionnaire with not-so-easy-to-answer questions like “how diverse is your neighborhood, how will you discipline your child, how will you handle a child with special needs?” you know, things like that. you write a 2 page autobiography (each), you get 3 friend references and 1 family reference, your husband draws a sketch of the house with the exact size/dimensions of each room, you print off 1040s for the last 3 years of taxes, you ask your employers to write a very detailed and specific reference letter, you get certified copies of your birth certificates and marriage license and copies of your passports. you give copies of your insurance (medical, auto, and home), as well as your dog’s shot records. you tell them exactly how much is in your bank account right now, how much debt you have, how much you have in savings, you breakdown your monthly budget (don’t worry the worksheet is provided). you send in your questionnaire, your finances, and your autobiographies. *whew…*
Step 11: they call you, tell you it’s all being processed, and a caseworker will call you shortly to schedule a home study visit. you didn’t realize “shortly” meant 2 hours later, and you freak out when you schedule your visit for that very same week. like, in 3 days. your precious community group knows you are freaking out, and cancels group to come help you scramble to fix your house and make it look good and safe (seriously, not even been in the house a month) a friend comes over to help you clean because she’s sweet like that. the next 3 days are a lot of stress and anxiety. your house has never been so clean. and probably never will be again.
Step 12: caseworker arrives for the home study! and she’s sweet and friendly, and not looking for all the things you do completely wrong. she doesn’t even wipe her finger over the mantle to check for dust. you realize how silly you are. you have a very serious conversation/questioning at the table while trying not to laugh as you watch your boxador out the window directly behind her, sprinting back and forth like a maniac. it’s ok, Sirius-pup, we’re so proud of you for being good and not knocking her over for the 5 minutes you were inside! it’s hard, but after 2.5 hours you are done and you can BREATHE!! you celebrate by eating dinner. and then sleeping. hard.
Step 13: you get tb tests and physicals. fun times. you send it in, she now has everything she needs. she calls you a few times over the course of the next couple of weeks to clarify/ask some more things.
Step 14: you get your first disappointing news. she couldn’t get finished as fast as she thought. you wait another week and half, feeling like that new law deadline is going to take you down. and stomp on you.
Step 15: you get news, it’s finished! now you can start your I-600A petition (immigration paperwork). yes, we are just now getting to immigration paperwork. you have to fill out a petition to adopt an orphan overseas because your child will be arriving on US soil as an immigrant, we as the legal guardians until his/her adoption is complete and can take our last name. the petition itself is not long or hard, it’s only 2 pages, but it costs $720 to send in plus an extra $85 per person to pay for those biometric fingerprints you have to get, and you have to send it in with a home study (that alone was $2650, not including contract fee) and necessary documents, or you’ll get automatic denial. you send your petition with the check (with very specific instructions on exactly who to make it out to, thanks USCIS) to your agency first.
Step 16: agency checks it, makes necessary changes, signs off on it, overnights it to the big guys at homeland security and united states citizenship and immigration services.
Step 17: we get confirmation that it has been received by text, email, and then a letter in the mail a day later. the letter tells us it has been received (check), and is now being sent to the National Adoptions Benefit Center in Michigan for review. it will take 10-14 business days to get there (i guess they still use horse-drawn carriages to deliver mail). they set the biometric fingerprinting appointment, so they’ll tell us when that is and we have to move heaven and earth to get there.
Step 18: a week later (guess that horse ran really fast), you get a letter notifying you of your fingerprinting appointment. you put in your calendars and have to take a day off from work.
Step 19: you drive a little over an hour through the worst construction zone ever to get to this random place that just says, Application Services, right in between an IHOP and a Lowe’s. you leave your cell phones in the car as instructed, and you go inside. we thought we were going to be like Leslie Knope when she has to go to the dreaded “4th floor” in Parks and Rec, but it only took 15 minutes! somehow though, i got stuck with a guy who i think forgot to take a few of these things that they talk about in the beginning of this clip. bless his heart, he works for the government. i’m sure he feels like this most of the time.
Step 20: you go through all of this, just to get a single letter. we could have gone through all of this, spent all this money, time, and our sanity only to get a letter saying, “sorry, but you guys did all of this work for nothing.” no refund, no take-backs. BUT, we got GREAT news! “you did it! you’re going to be good parents! you can become a mom and dad! you can continue on in this journey! (but by the way, it expires in 18 months and you’ll have to do it again if you haven’t brought your child home before then). our response? WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Step 21: wait for a phone call.
and that’s where we are now. more will come after we get a phone call.
we do have to type up our testimonies to send to our Japanese agency – yes, our testimonies. they’re a Christian agency and want to make sure the children are going to good, godly homes. they will also be getting copies of all of our US paperwork that the embassy in Tokyo now has on file.
september 23-october 8, we are going to actually volunteer with our Japanese agency. none of their faithful staff gets paid, and they rely heavily on volunteers. this will be a good time for the husband to acclimate himself with Japan as well, and we are eager to see the place that – one day – and one day hopefully soon – our baby will enter waiting for us.
if we get a phone call before then, of course, we will have to leave early to go get him/her. but realistically, we believe it will be after our mission trip.
so be praying for us as we wait, as we decorate baby’s room and fill it with everything he/she needs, that we will be patient and steadfast. pray for our mission trip, that we will show the love of Christ to the women at our agency who have selflessly chosen life over “the easy way out.”