Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Adoption Education

I came across a page on the That We Might Be Adopted blog from the Adoption Ministry of YWAM - Ethiopia. This page includes a wealth of info/topics (e.g. attachment, transracial families, etc.) some of which were included in the Hague Training/pre-adoption classes. Anyway, I am finding this info to be helpful and interesting, so I decided to share:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scary...and it isn't even Halloween yet!

Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask, "It is 2012, correct?" Is it me or are women's rights in jeopardy this fall?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Summer Vacation: Take 2

Summer school is officially finished and it is time to enjoy the next two weeks before school starts! I always begin to appreciate the summer (or what's left of it) once mid-August arrives. I have been super busy chasing down paperwork for our dossier. I've wondered how people do this when they work full-time. I feel as though this has been a part-time job for me and I am happy that this part of the adoption process happened to occur during my summer vacation. So far we have completed/gathered and notarized the following documents for our dossier:
  • Police clearances (for C & A)
  • 2 x letters of recommendation/reference
  • Employer references letters (for C & A)
  • Letter to the ET govt asking permission to adopt
  • 6 passport photos for each of us
  • Copies of S.S. cards
  • Passports have been renewed (my passport came back already-it took < 3 wks!)
  • Financial statement
  • Declaration of Willingness letter
  • Power of Attorney
  • Family post adoption agreement letter
  • Birth certificates (C & A)
  • Marriage certificate
  • Medical physicals and blood tests for both of us


On Monday our health certificates will be completed and our home study draft will be submitted to our agency. This was held up a week b/c our social worker is waiting for me to obtain documentation from my doctor re: my prescriptions for anxiety and nasal congestion. Yes, explanation of Flonase is needed too! We are 80% done with our 10 hour Hague/pre-adoption online parent training courses and plan on finishing these classes up in the next two days so our certificates will also be ready for Bev, our social worker, by Monday. We are also in the process of obtaining a proof of health insurance letter from our Human Resources Department. Apparently Blue Cross & Blue Shield of MA does not notarize documents but luckily our workplace does.

A couple of weeks back our dossier checklist only had a few items checked off. Now it is approx. 2/3 of the way completed. At this rate I am anticipating that our dossier should arrive in Ethiopia sometime in October. Once again, this expectation may change. It will depend on how quickly our fingerprinting appointments are scheduled, the results come back, and how quickly we receive approval from U.S. Immigration to adopt internationally.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Suggestions?

Over the last few months I have begun collecting new/nearly new books for our child's "library." Most of the books have come from Savers (one of my fav stores) and they have been 69 or 99 cents a piece. I remove the book jacket and find that the book itself is usually in tip-top shape. If it is not I do not buy it. From my experience with my friends' kids, book jackets last about a day anyway. I have also picked up a few books from the Book Shack at our local mall. I think kids' books are something like 3 for $12 which is a pretty good deal.

I have picked up several winter/Christmas themed books. I am guessing this is because it is summer and no one is thinking about that! I also came across a cute book titled, Everyone Poops, at a thrift store for a quarter. My friends know this type of humor is right up my alley!

I have also picked up a few classics by Dr. Suess, as well as some books on animals. I want our child to think globally and I have come across a cute book on peace and the Is there Really a Human Race? book by Jamie Lee Curtis. 

My goal is to build one of those library walls in our child's room that are all over Pinterest. Then we can display groups of book related to a theme, season, or holiday. Yes, my teacher friends have definitely rubbed off on me!

So, my question is, do any of you have any book suggestions for young children one to three years of age? Eventually I will pick up some more Dr. Suess books and a few classics like Goodnight Moon, but I am curious of any moms/caregivers out there have found a book or two that their child absolutely enjoys.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paperwork = poopy

I know others feel the same way - paper work is the single worst part of my job. Why, then, am I so surprised that the stress of completing and gathering adoption paperwork has finally caught up to me? It probably doesn't help that is it summer school progress report time and I am pretty sure that I am allergic to writing progress reports. Seriously though, this is the 3rd consecutive time that I have gotten sick the week progress reports are due. I am not trying to complain and I am very grateful that I got this summer job as it paid for the first payment to our agency! Just needed to vent!

Our homestudy draft is almost complete. Our social worker is just waiting on 2 documents from us. She sent us a draft and we were super impressed. It is amazing how well someone can get to know you in a just a few short meetings! Hopefully it will be finished next week and then she will send the draft to our agency and they will approve it/give feedback. Once it is finalized and notarized we can apply to immigration! Please send positive thoughts that things will continue to move along steadily. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Buna or coffee, is believed to have originated in Ethiopia. This is a fact I came across early on in my research and "buna" is the first Amharic word I ever learned. Drinking Ethiopian coffee is something we are looking forward to, as we are both coffee drinkers. Others who have traveled to Ethiopia have said it was the best coffee they have ever had. Some people have compared it Starbucks which scares me because I can barely get a sip of Starbucks coffee down, never mind a whole cup! Being from MA, we love our Dunkie's through and through! I am wondering if the comparison to Starbucks is based on taste or something else?

So, next time you are enjoying a great cup of coffee, you can thank the Ethiopians!

Coffee Ceremony video:

Monday, August 6, 2012

Q & A Time...Part II

1. Do we have to travel to Ethiopia?
Yes. Twice. After we accept the referral of our child, we will wait for our court date (seems to be 1-2 months after the referral). During our first trip we will a.) meet and spend time with our child, b.) attend court, and c.) possibly meet our child's family. We can stay at a guest house or hotel, but will probably choose a guest house because it is much cheaper than the hotels. Plus, there are typically other adoptive families there and it will have more or a "home" feel than a hotel). We will go before the judge and she will ask us a series of questions that we will answer. Luckily, our adoption agency and other families who have adopted have provided us the questions they ask so we will not feel caught off guard by anything. As long as the paperwork is all in order, we will legally be declared parents of our child by the Ethiopian government. During our first trip we may have the opportunity to meet our child's birth parent/family members if he/she was relinquished (vs. abandoned). Our agency encourages us to do this if the birth family would like to meet us. This would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have read that it is helpful for the children to see a pic of their birth and adoptive families together and to hear stories of the meeting. This would also give us the opportunity to ask questions and share info with each other. It is suggested that we would make a photo album for the birth family so they will always have pictures of us, our families, our house, etc. 

After this first trip, we will come home to the United States.  Adoptive parents have said this is the absolute hardest part of the entire process-you have met your child, fell in love, and are legally the parents. Our case will be submitted to the U.S Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In the cases of relinquishment, the birth parent/family is interviewed to make sure they understand all aspects if the adoption. In cases of abandonment, they have a police officer come in to tell his story. Our case will be submitted and then cleared. This usually takes place 2-4 months after the court date. Once again, there are factors that could affect the timeline at any point in the process. From reading others' blogs, it appears cases are being submitted and cleared by the Embassy faster than they have been (in another post I had explained that there changes to the system over the past couple years which greatly slowed things down). After our case has been cleared/approved, we will schedule our second trip to Ethiopia. When we arrive, we will go straight to the transition home and pick up our child. Our child will be able to stay with us the entire time we are in Ethiopia. During that trip we will go the Embassy and apply for our child's visa. A few days later it will be delivered to us. Because Chris and I will both meet our child before our court date, the type of visa our child will get means he/she will be an American citizen as soon as we arrive home.

2. Can you choose gender, age, etc?
Yes. You may specify whether you would prefer a boy or girl, as well as the age of the child.  I think it is perfectly acceptable for people to choose whether they would prefer a boy or a girl. Personally, I feel a little weird doing that because we would not be able to choose if we were having a biological baby (or "vagina baby" - yes, I used this term with the social worker-I thought Chris was going to die!). Also, this will be our first child so we do not have any preference, in comparison to other families who may be requesting a girl because they have 3 boys, or vice versa.

3. Will our child speak English?
I think people ask this question before they have actually given themselves time to think about the answer. No, our child will not know any English. The national language of Ethiopia is Amharic, although there are over 80 languages and dialects spoken in the country. So, it is possible that our child will be exposed to two languages before it learns English (if he/she comes from a region where Amharic is not spoken). How much language our child has already acquired will depend on his/her age in addition to other potential factors (e.g. malnourishment, stimulation/interactions from previous caregivers). Since we are adopting a younger child, he/she will be in his/her prime language acquisition years and we anticipate that he/she will acquire English rapidly once he/she is home (unless of course he/she has a disability). Luckily, mommy is an SLP so I will be paying close attention to this aspect of development to make sure he/she is progressing. I have downloaded a couple of Amharic apps for my iPad and I will be studying some basic vocabulary and expressions/phrases so we can communicate at a very basic level when we travel. I think it is respectful for people to try to learn some basic phrases when they travel internationally. Also if our child is not an infant, it may make our child more comfortable if we can communicate with him/her.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Q & A time...Part I

We have been researching adoption from Ethiopia since last December. I feel that we have become pretty knowledgeable about the process (we are in no way experts!). Toward the end of our "research" I was beginning to become frustrated because I just wanted to start the process! We needed to wait for the one-year minimum marriage length requirement (some agencies require 2 or 3 years).  We could not officially begin until July, although we did begin our home study process in June. Looking back, I believe this was a good thing because it allowed us to learn a lot about Ethiopia and the whole process. I have noticed that people have several of the same questions related to our adoption. We welcome others' questions and please feel free to ask away, but I thought I could clear up a few questions right here:

1. Why Ethiopia?
There are several reasons we have chosen Ethiopia. When we first began looking into international adoption programs, I reached out to a few agencies to obtain info. The first agency we spoke to informed us that we were eligible to adopt from Bulgaria and Ethiopia (out of the programs that they had). After researching these countries, I was immediately drawn to the beautiful country of Ethiopia. We are not eligible to adopt from many countries for several reasons. For example, to adopt from China, you have to married for at least 2 years and you can't be on the medicine that I take for anxiety. S. Korea requires couples to be married for 3 years and Haiti, 10 years! We also began to learn about the orphan crisis. There are 5 million orphans in this country and we feel that we would be able to provide an orphaned child with a loving home.

2. Can we have our "own" children?
First off, the child we adopt will be our own child. I understand people are referring to biological children when they ask this question. As far as we know we are both able to have children. We have chosen to adopt first. We may adopt again or we may have a biological child. We will have to see...

3. Doesn't it cost a lot of money to adopt?
It definitely is not cheap! To me, it is all relative. I don't think you can put a price on a human life so to us, it doesn't really matter. When we look back on our lives, we know that we will not regret this. When you break down the total costs, it really isn't all that expensive. There are a lot of different people and agencies working to ensure that your child gets home safely and that your adoption is ethical. Once again, you can't put a price on that. Plus, those that know us well also know we are pretty practical with our money. We don't go on fancy vacations, wear expensive clothes, or drive fancy cars. Luckily, the fees are due over time, at different points in the process, so that allows this process to be a little more affordable.

4. Why don't you just adopt from the U.S.?
We are not against domestic adoption at all. It just isn't the best choice for us (at this time).The situation in our country is very different from the situations in other countries. Our idea of poverty is different than the poverty that exists in some areas of the world. I came across a statistic recently that said there are 20 couples for every American child who is adopted. Personally, I would feel guilty if we were chosen to be the adoptive parents over another couple who has experienced infertility or loss. There are plenty of couples (and individuals) who are willing to adopt in our country. There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia and I have read estimates between 143-147 million orphans worldwide. 

5. How long does the whole process take?
It really depends on several factors. We are in the beginning stages now, and at this time I am estimating that we could be arriving home with our child in late 2013/early 2014. There were changes to the adoption process in Ethiopia that have slowed down the entire process. From reading others' blogs and from talking to agencies, it appears that things are beginning to pick up again. We will have to wait and see. We are open to adopting a boy or a girl, and we have a 3 year age range. We have been told this flexibility may make our referral wait time shorter. Only time will tell.

6. Will you keep his/her name?
The answer to this is "most likely," but once again it will depend. If we adopted a 2-3 year old, we probably would not change his/her name, whereas it may be different if we adopt an infant. I know what it is like to have a name that everyone spells/pronounces incorrectly and I do not want my child to have to deal with that. On the other hand, our child's name is part of who he/she is and we want our child to be proud of his/her Ethiopian heritage. My husband suggested we keep our child's birth name his/her middle name (if we were to change it). That way, he/she could choose to be called by his/her Ethiopian name.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

So, things are moving along steadily. After our initial denial from our first agency (because I am on anti-anxiety meds to prevent panic attacks), we have found a wonderful agency, Adoption Associates Inc. in Michigan. It is a smaller agency with happy clients and a good reputation. Although we were very disappointed by the initial denial, I want to believe that everything happens for a reason-that maybe it is all supposed to happen this way-that this is the path we should take to find our baby/child. Our homestudy visits were finished last month and our social worker said the draft should be ready soon. We have been working on obtaining and compiling documents for our dossier, the humungous stack of very important documents that will be sent to Ethiopia. Basically it is our entire life on paper (e.g. birth certificates, financial statements, medical and criminal clearances, and several promises from us). It will all have to be notarized and then sealed by the state before it is sent over there. At this time, we are anticipating that our dossier will be sent to Ethiopia sometime in October. Our agency requires our homestudy to be finished before we apply to immigration. After we apply, we will wait for fingerprinting appts. Once that is approved we will wait for a special form that states the U.S govt. is giving us permission to adopt from another country. This document will be the last important piece of paper that we need to obtain in order to complete our dossier.

Once our dossier arrives in Ethiopia, we will be placed on a referral waiting list. After this happens, we basically just wait and wait. Wait times vary a bit and depend on each family's criteria. Our referral wait time will most likely be between 12-18 months. I have spoken with a couple of families in our agency and one who arrived home a couple of weeks ago waited just a year, but I am not sure what their criteria were. At this time, we are open to a boy or girl, 0-36 months. Our social worker has approved us for a child from 0-5 years, but is recommending 0-36 months based on her impressions, our ability to parent for the first time, etc. Luckily, we have a wonderful social worker who has been working with families in the field of adoption since I was just a year old (1982). She is a perfect fit for us and she definitely has our best interests in mind. She has been honest with us and has raised great points and questions. At this point in the game, we are just continuing to gather our important documents. We are also in the process of completing the 10 hours of pre-adoption training that is required. Luckily, the topics are interesting (e.g. attachment, medical issues in intl. adoption, conspicuous families) and the information has been very helpful!