Monday, October 17, 2011

FAQs - The Final Chapter

Hi All. I wanted to add 3 more questions we often get. So, here goes...

1. What paperwork is needed for the Dossier?

The Home Study and the Dossier both require a lot of information, so I'll tell you about both. First you start compiling the documents your Social Worker is going to need for your Home Study. Here they are...

Official Birth Certificates of each family member
Marriage Certificate
Copy of latest tax return
Copy of Medical Insurance Cards
Copy of Drivers Licenses
Floor Plan of Home
Photos of our front and back yard
Immunization Records of any pets
Physical for each member of the family
Autobiography for Chris and myself
3 Reference Letters
Personal Data Form
Addresses for the last 10 years
Certification of 10 hours of Adoption Education for both of us
Extensive Application (Including Financial, Medical, Employment info)
Child Abuse Clearances from each state we have resided in since we were 18
The Social Worker will also make multiple home visits where they will interview each family member (yep, including the kids) , tour your home and discuss adoption, family, parenting issues with you.

With all of the info collected the Social Worker will draft your Home Study report. It ends up being about a 13 page document. Once you have your official Home Study complete (signed and notarized by your agency and Social Worker) you can file your I800-A. This is an application sent to USCIS requesting permission to adopt an orphan from China. This approval requires your fingerprints to be run through the FBI database and takes about 2 months to complete.

During that 2 month wait we compiled our Dossier documents...
Application Letter
Birth Certificates for parents
Marriage Certificate
Employment Verification (signed by employer) for both of us
Financial Status Certification (signed by your CPA - no, we couldn't sign our own)
Physical Exam for each of us
Police Clearance Letter for each of us (we had to go to the local police station for this one - FUN)
Agency Agreement Form between our placing agency and our Social Worker
copy of 1st page of Passport - both of us
2 passport pics of each of us
6 family pictures
Home Study Report
1800A Approval Letter

All of these items (except pictures, passport copies, birth cert, and marriage cert) needed to be notarized. Then, all the items (except pictures and passport copies) needed to go to Austin to be Certified by the Secretary of State. The SOS looks up the notary on each document and certifies that the person is indeed a true notary in the state of Texas. I made a trip to Austin to get this step done. THEN, all the documents (except pictures and passport copies) need to be HAND DELIVERED to the Chinese Embassy to be Authenticated. The Chinese Embassy will verify that the SOS Certification on each document is correct and authenticates it (adds a flashy holographic sticker to the back of each document). The closest Chinese Embassy for us was the one in Houston. We used a courier for the majority of the documents.

When we finally got our I800-A approval (2 months after we sent it in) Chris and I were more than ready to get our Dossier in the mail to China. We had already moved all of our other documents though the notarization, certification, authentication maze. We did this so that we could send the completed documents to our agency in California so they could review them and make sure everything was okay. Remember, if a document needs to be changed, it would have to go through all the steps and this would eat up precious time. So, when our I800-A approval finally arrived, getting it notarized, certified, authenticated and sent to our agency was the only thing standing in the way of getting our Dossier to China. We got the approval notarized the same day it arrived in the mailbox. The next day, I drove it to Austin to be certified and then a day later Chris and I made the trip to Houston to get it authenticated. Once we got that last precious document in our hands, with the cool Chinese sticker, we headed to Fed Ex and sent it to our agency. The next day our Dossier was in route to China. Running all over the state of Texas allowed us to process our last document in record time and get our Dossier off to China!!!

Getting all of this paperwork together and through the notarization, certification, authentication maze is referred to as the paper chase. When your Dossier goes to China, you are considered officially done with the paper chasing portion of the journey. The rest of the process is not without forms and more paperwork, but nothing as bad as the paper chase.

2. How much does it cost to adopt from China?

It's about $30,000 to $40,000. Travel costs are the big reason for the $10,000 spread. You are required to go to your child's province to get them and sign adoption paperwork. Then all families have to go to Guangzhou China where the US Embassy is located. There you get your child's medical check and US Visa to come to the US. If your child is in the same province as the US Embassy (Guangdong province), you just need to go to Guangzhou. If your child is from another province (like Hannah) you will need to go to 2 places. We are going to 4 places during our trip. We are starting out in Beijing so we can tour the sights there. Then we will fly to Hannah's province. The next stop is Guangzhou to go to the Embassy and finally, we will fly home from Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a quick van drive or train ride from Guangzhou and it was cheaper for us to fly home via Hong Kong. The extra in-country flights add to the trip costs. Traveling in the summer is generally more expensive too. We are taking the boys and that adds to the costs as well.

I hate to cover the cost of the adoption without mentioning what the Lord has done in our journey. Chris and I intended to start the process about a month ago. Yep, would have been in the thick of our paper chase about now. But in Nov 2010, Chris felt the Lord's prompting for us to GO. We allocated the money for the application fee ($500) from our personal budget, stepped out in faith that God was calling us to begin, and filed our application without any idea where the rest of the money would come from. God has blessed us with the funds we have needed (often right before we needed to make our next payment) and we are nearly there. This is his plan. Hannah is his child. He just wanted us to be obedient. He has provided and I have no doubt he will continue to do so. If God is calling you to adopt, He will make a way even when you don't see one.

3. Why are you adopting from China when there are so many children in America who need a family?

Simply put, God called us to China. The daughter he had designed for our family long ago was in China. We prayed about both domestic and international adoption, but over and over God confirmed that we were to adopt from China.

Let me just say, that this question is often asked with complete curiosity and a desire to understand how we came to the decision to adopt specifically from China. But, sometimes, this question is asked and it is clear that the inquirer thinks that your decision to choose a Chinese orphan over an American child, needing to be adopted or fostered, is inappropriate. Prior to beginning this journey, I would have never guessed that the issue of domestic versus international adoption could be so heated. Some people (including many within the adoption community) can be very passionate about domestic versus international adoption. But, in God's eyes there are no foreign or domestic orphans, just orphans. MILLIONS of children around the world need the love of a family. I rejoice when any child gets one! Whether they are from China, Ethiopia, Haiti, Russia or Dallas, San Antonio or Austin, it's always good to rejoice when there is one less!

Ok, that's it! I hope I have answered everything you ever wanted to know about adopting from China. Stay tuned beacuse we leave in just 15 days! It won't be long now!

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FAQ - Part 3

Here is the final installment of FAQs.

1. Why does it take so long? or Why can't you just go and get her already?

Adoption just takes awhile, but the China SN program can be one of the quicker international adoption processes. There are US requirements, China requirements and tons of paperwork and it all just takes TIME. Here is a general breakdown of what the steps are and how long each step took us....

Select agency and Complete Home Study - 2.5 months

Apply for I800A (US permission to bring an orphan to American and obtain citizenship for them) - 2 months

During the 2 months of waiting for our I800A approval, we completed all of the documents that we needed for our Dossier. A week after receiving our I800A approval, our Dossier was sent to China!

Formal recognition that China has received our Dossier - 2 weeks

Wait for China to translate and review our Dossier and then issue our LOA (official China approval to adopt Hannah) - 2 months

Apply for I800 (US permission to bring an Hannah to American and obtain citizenship for her) - 2 weeks

Notify Visa center and US Consulate in China of my I800 approval - 1 week

Apply for Hannah's US Visa - 2 weeks

Wait for our Travel Approval from China (last step) - 11 days

After 8 months, 2 weeks and 5 days, we have completed all of the necessary steps and were approved to go get Hannah!

Now we are in the process of making all of our trip arrangements and we will leave on Nov 1st to get our daughter!!!

2. Are Travis, Chase and Hailey excited?

Travis and Chase are very excited! They were excited about getting a new sister through adoption from the first time we talked to them about it. They are so happy to be going to China and can't wait to see Hannah. At age 2, I have no idea what Hailey understands about all of this. We talk about and pray for Hannah every day. If you ask Hailey if she has a sister she says yes, she says her sisters name is Hannah and that she is in China. So, Hailey understands some, but I don't think she has any idea of how much things are going to change. This will be an adjustment for Hailey, but I hope that in time, Hailey and Hannah will be wonderful sisters to each other.

3. What does Hannah know about you? Does she know she is being adopted?

Hannah is 18 months old, and I can't imagine how she could comprehend the concept of adoption. Orphanage life is all she knows and she is too young to understand the concept of a family. It seems that she has a nanny that loves her very much, so it will be a shock for her to be removed from all she knows and to suddenly be with us. We have sent 2 photo albums so she has at least seen our faces before. Sadly, that will be little comfort to her as she begins to process this sudden and extreme change in her little life. Some children of this age deal very well, relatively speaking, with being adopted and others grieve very very hard. I'm sure the loss of her nanny will be so hard for her. There is no way to know how Hannah will handle this enormous change. We are praying each day for God to prepare her heart for this change and the love we have for her. I can't begin to fathom the adjustment this sweet daughter of ours will have to endure to accept our love and eventually reciprocate it. God has begun a good work and we trust that he is faithful to complete it. We believe that Hannah's adoption day is not the completion date, but that the good work continues as He knits our family together after we come home. It may be a quick process or a slow road, but I confident that God will complete this good work.

4. Will you adopt again?

I don't know. Honestly, that one is up to God. We decided we were done after Hailey, and clearly God had other plans for our family. I've learned not to declare myself "done" anymore. I'm very content with the 3 kids we have now and thrilled to be adding Hannah to the mix. So, we will just see what happens. I'm trying to stop making such declarative statements about what I will and won't do in a lot of areas of our life. We are rolling with God's plan (or at least doing our best to) and following his lead. Hannah could be our last or we may be buying a 15 passenger van in a few years. You just never ever know!

Well, I think that wraps up the FAQ series! If you have a question, please still send it to me and I'll be sure to answer it. I hope you were able to learn more about adoption, orphans, China or Hannah through these questions and answers.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6