Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some Questions...getting personal

We have not yet formally held our family/friend news conference announcing the adoption, but many people know already.  Tor and I want to wait until we actually ship our papers off to Ethiopia, we've learned our lesson about getting too excited for a new baby too soon.

Question 1:  Why not a domestic adoption?  
As far as I know, the 2 ways to adopt in the U.S. are through the County's foster-adopt system or a private adoption.  Tor and I took 99 of the 100 steps to becoming licensed foster parents, and then realized this may not be the best route for us to actually build a family. It is a great and selfless act, but after already losing 2 of our own babies in 1 year...we are not ready to become attached to a little one only to have them return to the birth parents.
As for private adoption, it is even more expensive than the already-pricey international adoption (the price people pay for a healthy, white, American baby!!).  I have no energy or motivation to create a happy profile for a birth mother to select us over all the other happy profiles and determine we are the perfect pair for her to hand her child over to.  It sounds a little like on-line dating to me and despite the success I had with finding Tor, I'm not sure I want my child to come to me that way too.  Besides, at the end of the day, no matter how f*cked the American healthcare and social services infrastructure's still America!  You can still find a way to an emergency room or a food stamp card...not in Africa.  If you are the son of a goat herder, with no food or education, and you get pneumonia - well, you get the picture.

Question 2:  Why Ethiopia?
Logistically, it is one of the few countries in Africa that welcomes foreign adoption and has a fairly straightforward process.  There is enough political stability that approx. 2,000 adoptions are completed there each year.  Bigger picture - there are MILLIONS of orphans in the country who have lost their parents to AIDS, poverty, famine, or a combination thereof. The AIDS crisis has hit the country hard and almost wiped out an entire generation of parents.  In fact once you are tested positive for the disease, your family may disown you as the lack of education about AIDS has created a society in which fear and shame take the place of empathy and help.

Question 3:  Why a little girl?
I know, I know - how cliche - American parents requesting a healthy baby girl from Africa...but there is a reason this has become so common.  Initially, Tor and I thought "boy or girl, over 2 years old" - let's skip the diaper phase, save on daycare, and bring home a slightly older child that no parents are requesting.  But wait - we have no children, and are we really prepared to start on Day 1 with a 3-year old?  Maybe - I mean we would figure it out.
For us, it came down to 3 reasons:
a)  In third-world countries, gender inequality is still a big deal!  Little girls still face a more severe level of injustice than women in the U.S. could ever think to complain about.  A quote from the book I am reading "Girls in Ethiopia received less education and had fewer job prospects than boys, and they had no property or inheritance rights.  An orphaned girl lost the protection of her father, if she had lost her parents to AIDS, she might find herself turned from her house, school, and village.  Orphaned girls are at the absolute margins...they are the very bottom of the barrel.  They are much more likely to engage in risky behavior just to survive."  A survey of young women in Kenya and Zambia showed that 40% of women were infected with HIV by the age of 20!!!
b)  As a black woman, I feel that there is a possibility my little girl will feel a special connection with looking at me and seeing something familiar.  Don't get me wrong - I FULLY support ANY family that takes on the challenge of bringing an orphan into their homes and giving them a better life than they could ever imagine.  But I do feel that there is just a little something extra that comes with seeing "mommy" and thinking "wow, that is me in 30 years" or "wow, Michelle Obama is coming to take me to America"...okay so I giving myself a little too much credit there.  :)
c)  After losing our little girl Cali last June, I think there is definitely a part of us that feels that although we could not save her, we can save another little girl and Cali would be happy with that.

These are just some of the questions I know people want to ask, and some people have asked.  Fair enough - hopefully these answers shed some light on what we have been going through in making this decision.  There is a mix of logic and analysis, with a bit of a gut feeling that this is the path we are supposed to be taking. Now if I could only think about something else all day long..........

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paperwork Pregnancy

NOTARIZED, CERTIFIED, AND AUTHENTICATED - "Paper Pregnancy" is the term adoptive parents use to refer to the long wait that is filled with paperwork gathering, filing, FEDEXing (yes, that is now a word), and filling out.  As if it wasnt bad enough that we have to find all these legal documents, it really doesnt matter because they cannot be more than a year old.  So yes - that means birth certificates must be certified as of 364 days ago.  So, the documents must be original and date-stamped within the last year, notarized, certified with the state seal in Sacramento, and then sent to the federal government to be authenticated!! Just to give you an idea:

-Application to home study agency and Placement agency (with app fee)
-Signed contracts and program fees
-Introduction letter to Ethiopian government
-Letter to Toukoul orphanage
-Financial Information form
-Last 2 years of tax returns
-Letter from Bank of America
-2x letters of reference from non-family members
-Letters from employers
-Gaurdianship statement
-Marriage certificate
-Divorce certificate
-Birth certificates
-Deed to home
-Power of Attorney
-New Passport photos
-Color copy of passports
-8-12 photos of family and home etc.
-True copy of Homestudy agency license
-State Criminal Clearance letter
-USCIS approval (immigration)
-Homestudy report
-Obligation of homestudy agency to do 3 post-placement reports

NOTARY - I just spent $370 having someone witness my signature and placing a rubber stamp on a bunch of paperwork today.  I never realized how much money those people make, no wonder there are notaries everywhere!!  Tor blissfully signed away while reading a book on his iphone...with an occasional "Is this the last one?".  No - it is not the last one, we have to make a second trip to have them notarize color copies of our is a little crazy.  The good news is that I think at this point most of the forms are 'in the mail' from other people and there isnt too much for us to actually do but follow-up and notarize :)

HOME STUDY - The first homestudy visit was rather simple.  Our next one is scheduled for one week from now, and this is when she will talk to Tor and I seperately.  Now if only Boston would behave; he makes us look like horrible parents!  lol, he was jumping all over Emma trying to get her to pet him, and sniffing in her purse for who-knows-what.

In my spare time (when I am not gathering our never-ending list of documents), I have been reading "There is no me without you" by Melissa Fay Greene.  It gives a great perspective on the AIDS crisis in Ethiopia, and background as to why there are so many orphans in the country to begin with.  I think it is soooo important to understand and learn as much as we can about Ethiopia, its history, the people, and the current situation.  I want our child to be proud of their heritage, and know why we made this decision.  Anyways...more about my plans for our little one later on.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Paper Chase!

Tip # 1 go through the documents you need for the Homestudy and the Dossier and make sure you know which forms can be used for both (fingerprinting appt should be sent to your home and then you can make copies for each), medical forms etc.

Homestudy Visit #1

Emma is our social worker with Angels Haven, and we met with her today after work for the first time.  Overall, the visit was fairly informal and the questions were easy.  Boston was being a total pest, trying to jump up and get attention from her...he makes us look like totally inept parents.  Aside from our attention-whore of a dog, everything went smoothly.  Our next (and last) visit is 1 week from today, and then she will start the write-up which Adoption Avenues will review (for another $50 of course).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

And we're off...

I just came back to my desk from FEDEX, mailing the applications to Adoption Avenues (placement agency) and Angel's Haven (homestudy agency)!! I am so excited and nervous and excited and nervous :) After my grandmother's memorial services this past weekend, I became even more convinced that this is the right thing to do.  We only live once, and we have to live to fulfill a purpose.  My purpose is to love a child that has no one to love them, to give them a home that they otherwise may not have.
I have decided that the internet is truly a blessing and a curse at times.  I have been so overwhelmed with information on the adoption process...from the Yahoo groups to the agency review sites etc.  One person gives 1 star, and someone gives 5.  Everyone you call is amazing on the phone; you want to be best friends with them!  Then, you read that someone wrote an ugly blog post that criticized every aspect of them as a person...good grief.  Some of it is actually very discouraging and so I have decided to continue on this path and not look back!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Our journey begins...

The Decision - Tor and I are so excited to have finally decided that we are going to move forward with an Ethiopian adoption!!!  We have not told anyone yet, but I feel like this is an important decision and process and so I want to capture every moment of it (including the set-backs and frustrations).  We decided on  Ethiopia for a number of reasons, partly because it is one of the easiest programs to do as the government is actually supportive of the children who need permanent homes.  We are looking forward to building our family, after some major losses last year.

The Process - The process goes something like this:
1) We fill out a katrillion forms,
2) A Homestudy agency writes up a long report
3) We take the katrillion forms and have them notarized
4) We send $900 to Homeland Security and they send us an appointment for fingerprints
5) We get approval from Homeland Security that we are sane enough for children based on our fingers
6) We drive to Sacramento to get the katrillion + 1 forms stamped and sealed by the State dept
7) We mail everything off to the adoption agency, who send it to the D.C., who will then send it to the Embassy and the Ethiopian government...something like that...(somewhere in there it gets translated)
8) We officially become a 'waiting family'
9) The orphanage meticulously reads our bios and analyzes our photos to match us with...
10) A REFERRAL - this is when we get photos and medical info on our new bundle of joy
11) We get a court date - then fly to Ethiopia for court
12) We return home - no baby yet :(
13) We get an Embassy appointment and fly back to Ethiopia for
14) you guessed it...bringing home the baby!!!!

Research (nerd!) - I have spent the last 2 weeks researching, researching, and researching some more.  After 3 spreadsheets, emails to agencies, emails to families who have used certain agencies, Yahoo groups, and review websites...we have finally made a decision.  We are going to use Adoption Avenues (placement agency) and Angels Haven (homestudy).  Tor was definitely a little hesitant to use AA as we heard it is not the place for people who want a lot of hand-holding, but I think once he realized the price was right and he has a wife who is extremeley diligent, he came around.

Costs - International adoption ain't cheap!  So far, I have a budget of $26,000 to complete the entire process.  I know I know...a lot of money!  But there is hope!  One of the motivations to go through with this now, is that it is the last year for the adoption tax credit of $12,600 that we can claim IF our adoption is finalized by December 31st...not guaranteed.  Also, my job gives a $5,000 reimbursement as well.  We are currently looking to rent out the new room in our house which should bring in (hopefully) $1,000/month or so which will go straight into the adoption fund.  I have also been researching various adoption grant programs, although not depending on any.  My annual bonus from work wil hopefully help out with some of the up-front costs, and then of course there is always debt...a loan or a low-interest credit card.  We constantly get those offers for 0% APR for 12 months, and now I wished I hadnt thrown them all out!

Travel - Off to Ethiopia...twice! Yes, the government requires both of us to appear for court in-person for the first visit, and then we return 2 months later go to the Embassy for our child's VISA and of course...our child :)  Those trips alone are an exciting prospect as we have never been to Africa and have always wanted to go.  We are hoping to have a new addition to the family by the end of the year...the best Christmas gift anyone could give us.  The process is time-consuming and of course not all of it is in our hands...for instance, the Ethiopian goverment closes in August and September for the rainy season!!

My main goal is to not stress out, and to be patient...breathe.  Still, we are both really excited and cannot wait to see that referral email with our little Ethiopian girl/boy.