I'm Paper Pregnant
Many people have asked about the adoption process. Before we began researching and moving forward into the process, we didn't know much about it either. It is a long, tedious process that sometimes makes you want to pull your hair out, but each form gets us one step closer to bringing home our son! Each agency and country is different, but this is what the process looks like for us as we adopt from Ethiopia. (If you just want to know the estimated time-frame for this process, skip to the last two paragraphs to find out when we could have our son at home and how you can pray for us throughout this process.)
Now that we have signed a contract with an agency and decided upon a country program (choosing an agency and a country were stressful processes in and of themselves!), it is time for the "paper chase" or "paper pregnancy," as some people call it. Yep, I'm paper pregnant! We have begun compiling documents for our dossier. This term refers to a set of official, translated legal documents used in international adoption cases to process the adoption of a child. We have to compile and complete forms about EVERYTHING! (marriage certificates, birth certificates, medical records, financial records, employment history, scrapbooked photos...the list goes on and on and ON!) Almost all of these items have to be notarized. (Luckily, we have friends in high places! Thanks, Annissa!) The whole process of document gathering and completion can take anywhere from 4-6 months. Thankfully, we have been assigned a Family Coordinator to help us through this process and she is fabulous!
We also need to complete the "Home Study Process" to submit with our Dossier. A Home Study is a screening of our home and our life before allowing an adoption to take place. We have been assigned a social worker, and we will have to go through several interviews with her (at least 1 of them will be in our home). This is tricky for us right now, because we are still looking for a HOME! Right now, we are staying in a parsonage. It is such a blessing because we are not paying rent/mortgage and are able to save money for our initial adoption fees and a down payment for a house. BUT, we cannot move forward to the next step in the adoption process until we complete our Home Study. The Home Study has to be done in the house where we will bring our child home. If not, we will have to update our study, which is another added expense to the process. We have another stack of papers to get through for our Home Study which include background checks, online training courses, reference letters, medical examinations, the writing of autobiographies, etc. Thankfully, some items needed for the Home Study and the Dossier overlap. (It is a good thing I love file folders, paperclips, post-it notes, and color coded lists because this all takes some serious organization skills!) Pray that we will find a house soon and that we can balance our finances between purchasing a home and our adoption fees. We know God will work it out!
As we finish each item for our Dossier, we have to fax it to our Family Coordinator for approval. Once we are finished with our entire Dossier (including our Home Study), our Family Coordinator and agency will review it one more time. Then the documents will be taken to the US State Department and Ethiopian Embassy to be translated and authenticated. That process can take up to 3 weeks.
After we are approved by the Ethiopian government, we will get put on the OFFICIAL WAITING LIST to be matched with a child! At that point, all we can do is wait. And wait. And wait. (This will be the hardest part for me because I will feel like I need to be doing something!) When we are finally matched with a child, we will be sent a referral with a picture (Ah! Can't wait!) and a medical review of our son. (We have requested a boy 0-3 years old.) Once we accept our referral, our paperwork is then sent to the court system in Ethiopia to apply for a court date. Within 2 months, we will travel to Ethiopia for the first time. Once in country, we will have to appear in court. (Pray that we are approved for adoption at this first court appointment.) BUT we will also get to meet our little boy on this visit! Unfortunately, we will not be able to bring him home yet! We will have to fly back to the states, leave him there, and wait for approval from the court system. (Marcus might have to leave me in Ethiopia for 2 months because I'm not sure that I'll be able to leave him once I hold him!)
Once everything is approved, the Ethiopian Embassy will issue a Visa, passport, birth certificate (with our names on it!) and other documents allowing our child to immigrate from Ethiopia to the US! Then we can FINALLY fly back to Ethiopia and bring our son home! The average wait time for Dossier submission (sending off all of our paperwork) to bringing your child home is about 24 months. It is crazy to think that our son may or may not be born yet! We continue to pray for him...whoever he is, wherever he is.
The Ethiopian Embassy is currently working on a new program that allows for pre-screening of adoptive families. This would be FANTASTIC because it would mean only 1 trip to Ethiopia, less money needed for airfare, and a shortened wait time to bringing home our son. We would receive pre-approval from the Embassy before our initial court date, and we would be able to bring him home on our first (and only) trip to Ethiopia. We are praying that this will pass and all the kinks will be worked out before we receive our child referral!
While we are waiting for our referral, we will be learning about Ethiopian culture, transracial families, and travel expectations for our trip(s) to Africa. There will still be different payment deadlines to meet while we wait as well. After we bring home our son, there are 3, 6, and 12 month visits and reports that have to be done before our adoption is finally closed and he is ours forever! We will continue to fill out yearly reports until he is 18 years old.
Are you exhausted yet!? I know, it was a lot of information...probably more than you ever wanted to know about international adoption from Ethiopia! It is a lot to take in, and a lot to complete! But each item checked off is 1 step closer to bringing him home! To summarize (for those who skipped the overly detailed details!), we should be on a waiting list within 4-6 months, pending home purchase, financial obligations, and document completion. The average wait time from document submission to bringing him home is about 24 months.
Pray for us throughout this long process, that we can be patient, diligent, and will meet all requirements. Pray that we find a house and that we would be wise with our finances. Pray that the government remains stable in Ethiopia and adoption from the US remains open throughout this process. Also pray that the new pre-screening process would go into effect this Fall.
We appreciate your support and prayers.