November, 2010: We find God tugging at our hearts to adopt.
December, 2010: We send in our application to begin the process to adopt a 0-2 little girl from Ethiopia.
March, 2011: We begin our home study and I begin to compile the massive amounts of paperwork.
April, 2011: We decide to change countries, agencies and age range (read the first post for details -- see, I will get you to read it somehow!)
Some high and low points of the mountainous amounts of paperwork over the last several months:
My fingerprints were rejected because I have small, wrinkly fingertips. Luckily, the second time around they were accepted. Don't ask me how my fingertips suddenly got bigger or less wrinkly.
I had to have two notary signatures redone. (They failed to sign their names exactly as it appears on their stamps -- this is a huge no-no! Because all notarized documents must be authenticated at the state level, the signature must match the stamp perfectly.)
A reference letter and document fee check got lost in the mail (mailed separately, the same week). This taught me to send everything priority mail, with a tracking number. It cost more, but the peace of mind was well worth it. The check and reference letter still have not shown up.
The criminal background checks for our two oldest kids (we have to prove that our kids are not juvenile delinquents) mailed by the home study agency took 20 (yes, 20) days to go less than 5 miles across town. When the paperwork finally arrived, it sat on a government desk for 2 weeks. When it was processed at last, we discovered it was not filled out properly by someone at the home study agency and part of it had to be resubmitted. Ugh!
I discovered that home study agencies do not like you to call government agencies to check on the status of document processing. (However, I do not feel too badly about it, that is how we discovered the document mentioned above wasn't filled out properly.)
BUT, due to our Haitian director visiting Haiti, we were able to have our referral interview a couple of weeks earlier than expected. This was an answer to prayer!
We completed our final step just this week. At least the final step until we file paperwork in Haiti. We drove 30 minutes to the Immigration office to once again have our fingerprints taken for our I-600A document (some document that Homeland Security needs to prove we are who we say we are, I guess). It amazes me that our government doesn't keep things on record or share information between agencies. Our state fingerprints, taken less than 2 months ago, can't be used by Homeland Security. Wouldn't it be more cost effective to just send over the prints than to have us fill out more paperwork and have another employee spend time fingerprinting us? (So many of the documents we have compiled are redundant.) I fear my fingerprints may once again be rejected -- this time the employee says my fingers were too dry. I am crossing my (dry) fingers that I don't have to redo them.
Overall, the paperwork process went more smoothly than I ever envisioned. I took it one piece of paper at a time, and tried not to get bogged down in the fact that I just filled out the exact same thing for a different governmental agency. You have to be willing to jump through a few hoops to adopt a child. She will be so very worth it. Granted, we are not even close to being finished with the process, and once our documents reach Haiti, I will have zero control over them, so I may singing a different tune in 6 months.
While the paperwork may have been smooth, there were some bumps with our kids. The idea of a toddler running around the house, messing things up didn't sound very fun to our two oldest. Which I totally understand. It'll be a transition for all of us to go back to the toddler years.
I think the main thing I've learned is to listen to my kids' fears and feelings and to let them know it is ok for them to feel that way. I have tried not to sugar coat any of the process and make it seem like everything is going to be just fine when their new sister arrives. Because it may not be. We focus on the positive aspects of adding another to our family, but we certainly can't pretend that there won't be challenges. But as our kids got used to the idea of having a new little sister over the last few months, they have gotten more and more excited about it.
I will leave it at that for now -- my next post will be an exciting one, as I have lots to share about the next phase of our journey!