Wow, a lot can happen in 15 days. A lot can happen in ONE day.
Let me bring you up to speed.
On Tuesday, December 8th our home study report was finally ready! James went to the home study agency's office on his lunch hour and picked up the report, and then stopped at the post office on his way home to mail out our I-800A application. (this is the document that goes to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to give us permission to bring an adopted child into the country).
On Wednesday December 9th we made another trip to the Secretary of State in order to have the home study report certified. (remember, each document that gets sent to China has to be notarized, then state certified to attest to the validity of the notary, and then authenticated by the Chinese consulate to attest to the validity of the state seal... yes, a lot of hoops!). We will have 13 notarized, certified, authenticated documents which will make up our Dossier, which is the big packet of paperwork and photographs that gets sent to China for them to determine whether or not we are a suitable family to adopt a child. The last document in this packet will be our I-800A, which will come after they process the I-800A application and we go in for fingerprinting. While we wait for that last document, we went ahead and sent the first 12 documents to be authenticated, so that we can get them back, send them to our agency to review, and when that last document comes in they will have (hopefully) already reviewed the others. This also gives us time to correct any mistakes that could be on the first 12 documents (which we are hoping are not there).
When we got to the secretary of state's office that night the line was the longest we had seen it yet. (I think this was our fourth trip for adoption paperwork so far). We only had an hour before the post office was closing, so I quickly gave up hope of getting everything mailed out that night. Low and behold, we finished at the secretary of state with 10 minutes to spare! The mail truck was already waiting outside at the post office, but we made it in the nick of time and got our documents sent out that night.
From there, we just wait for paperwork to flow through the right
channels. It's hard to explain, but once we got to this stage, all of
my anxiety was gone. I was suddenly fine with the wait that I knew was
coming, and felt a big burden lifted off my shoulders.
Our documents get sent to a courier, who will review them for accuracy, and then walk them into the consulate and then go pick them up when they are ready. There are a few different consulate offices around the country, but because the one closest to us (Chicago) had recently changed their rules about notarization just days after we had our documents done the way they no longer allow, we have chosen to use the one in Washington D.C. Of course this consulate allows our notarization, but does require an extra step that the documents get certified by the U.S. Government office before the Chinese consulate. If you try and make sense of this stuff it just makes your head hurt- you just have to follow the rules and not ask questions. For example, your documents cannot be mailed to these agencies- they must be walked in in person. That is where the courier comes in. Since we cannot spend multiple days walking documents from one office to the next in Washington D.C., our courier will take our documents to the first stop, go pick them up, and then take them into the second. When they are ready they will mail them back to us. Bureaucracy at it's finest! I don't really care one way or the other how complicated it is... so long as it gets done!
(I did check in with our courier on Friday, and our documents should be in the mail to us by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.)
As far as we were concerned, the remaining steps would be:
-Receive appointment for our fingerprinting
-Get first 12 documents back from embassy and forward them to adoption agency
-Get last document (I-800) in the mail, have it notarized, certified, and then sent for authentification and then sent on to our agency
-Once the agency has your complete dossier, they review it, translate, and then send it to China (adoptive families call this step DTC-"Dossier to China" and it marks a huge milestone because at this point, it's all just a waiting game... no more running around getting papers stamped, sealed, approved, etc).
-Once the packet arrives in China and they log you into their database, you are consider LID- "Logged In Dossier"
-On the traditional adoption path, it is at this point that you can be matched with a child. We were planning/anticipating this step to happen sometime in late January or early February provided no major hiccups with our paperwork. A few months back I would have assumed this to take even longer, but certain steps are taking much less time than they have historically and other families have been seeing much faster processing of their paperwork. (I'm connected to many different groups on Facebook where other adoptive families are able to share advice, ask questions, and encourage one another on our journeys).
Fast forward to Monday, December 14th. One of our family members had had a medical procedure done the week prior, and would be going in the next day to find out her results. I was talking to her on Facebook just before bed giving her my well wishes and I said "Just think, in another month or two you'll get to see the face of your new relative for the first time." She was shocked it could happen that soon, and we talked about how exciting that day would be.
The next day, I waited anxiously at work for the phone call from to fill me in on what kind of news they got from the doctor. I finally got in touch with them around 1:00, and unfortunately it was not the news we were hoping for. We remain fully confident that we will overcome this next hurdle, but we were really hoping to hear that they would be putting this issue behind them so they could get the medical attention they needed for another issue.
I spent the next couple of hours trying my best to focus on my work, and wrap my mind around what all of this meant for our family, and for our adoption journey also. I had considered putting everything on hold so that I could be there for my family in whatever way was needed, but I was really feeling as though that wasn't the answer, either.
Around 3:00 PM, my cell phone started buzzing on my desk. I looked at the screen, saw "Denver, CO" on the caller ID, and dismissed the call. I remember looking at my co-worker and saying "oh, probably just another extended warranty call for my car..... oh wait, my adoption agency is near Denver!" As soon as the words rolled off my tongue my office phone started ringing, and it was the same number calling- I knew I had to pick up the phone this time. When I answered, sure enough, it was CCAI. The woman on the phone greeted me in a friendly, chipper voice and explained that she had great news- they had a match for us! It was an adorable toddler-aged boy with a fairly minor medical need (I cannot share any details at this point...adoption legalities... stay tuned for a later blog post with more information). I let her get through her piece, and then politely responded with "I'm so glad you called, and I appreciate it, but I actually think you have the wrong family. James and I are not LID yet, so I do not believe we can receive referrals yet."
She explained that this little boy is on a different list of available children, and can be matched with a family before their paperwork is in China. I didn't even know that was possible! I thought the only way to be matched before LID was if you went out onto the lists and identified a child for yourself. Now my head was really spinning.... She asked if I'd like to see the file, and of course I said yes. She informed me that I had 24 hours to let her know if we would like to possibly proceed with the file, and if we did, we would need to have a concrete answer to her by the following Monday (aka tomorrow).
I immediately went in and talked to my boss, and asked if I could leave a little early that day (it was now probably around 3:30 already, and she said yes. I was totally emotionally numb- I had experienced both the lowest of lows and the highest of highs all within a few hours, and I really didn't even have any feelings left at that moment. I called James at work and told him he needed to come home early to review this file with me- we might have a son! He was just as shocked as I was, but also just as excited! Unfortunately, he was under a deadline and couldn't just stop what he was doing but promised he would be home as soon as he could. I did not want to look at the file without him being there with me. In the event this really was our child, I wanted to be together the first time we saw his face.
I finished up what I was working on and headed home around 4:15. I knew that I couldn't trust myself not to look at the file, so I kept myself busy with phone calls until he got home. I called my family members first to tell them the news- this was hard, as we were all still trying to process the other news we had gotten earlier that day, but I did not want to tell anyone before I had told my family. The next call I had to make was to a good friend who is a pediatric Nurse Practitioner. I had talked to her early on in the adoption process about helping us review the medical file of the child(ren) we were matched with, and to help interpret some of the medical language for us. She answered right away, and already started giving me what information she know about the condition he was diagnosed with and which local doctors might be best to have review his file. By the time James made it home, I was already sitting at the table with laptop open and the email ready, but I did manage to keep myself from "peeking." Once we had looked everything over I forwarded it all on to my nurse friend to look over.
I also got on some of the Facebook groups for adoption, and asked about the condition on his file and which doctors to send his file to for review, what this condition usually involves in terms of treatment, prognosis, etc. Within hours, I had gotten over 50 comments, and over and over again the names of the same 3 or 4 doctors kept coming up as the absolute experts in this condition. Over the course of the next couple of days, I sent the file off to these doctors, as well as a couple of local doctors.
By Friday, we were pretty convinced that the condition he has may actually be something other than what is listed on his file. Again, I have to be vague and I'm sorry for that, but we are not allowed to share any information about him publicly until we are officially approved to adopt him.
The thing with international adoption is that the files are often very inconclusive and do not contain enough information for a U.S. doctor to really make any sort of firm determination about the child's medical situation or future needs. In our case, we had four photographs- two full body shots of him sitting in a chair (with baggy, puffy clothing on), and two of the area of his body related to his diagnosis. The photos are grainy and of low quality. There is also a few pages of medical reports, which aren't filled out completely and most of which are a little old. An update from just last week outlines some of his basic abilities and daily routine, and there is a 19 second video of him sitting on the floor catching and throwing a ball. Not really enough for a doctor to look at and make a firm assessment of his health. Adoptive parents just have to be willing to take a leap of faith in some ways.
We have requested additional information from the orphanage he's in, but honestly do not expect to hear back before tomorrow, when we have to make a final decision one way or the other with his file.
In the event that we do hear back, and the information we get paints a picture much more difficult than what we are already imagining, we may have to pass. Otherwise, our intent is to proceed with adopting this child.
The condition we believe he may have is one that we had never even heard of before this week, and the lifestyle outcome that could result is one we had never imagine for our family. Most likely, it will be a very correctable issue with possibly a few surgeries and some extensive therapy, but we also have to be okay with the worst case scenario of this condition, which would mean some pretty substantial changes to the way we go about our daily lives.
Over the past few days, I have spent hours and hours online researching the condition, finding out about insurance coverage, consulting other families who have adopted children with this condition, and most importantly, praying for wisdom and guidance. My husband has been doing the same, and both of us have come to the same realization- that God has brought us this file for a reason, and He has a plan and purpose for this child's life. If we step outside of our comfort zone a little and put our trust in Him, He will provide, just as He always has. To some, it might look like we are taking on too much, or getting in over our heads. And you know what, I'm sure we are. We very well may be getting in over our heads..... BUT we have an incredible lifeguard who I know will not let us drown.
The funny thing is, when I imagine my life being at a fork in the road... Option A is to continue as we are... comfortable jobs, comfortable finances, comfortable life. Option B is to take a chance on this child, risk taking on the worst case scenario involving his health. Possibly take on multiple surgeries, years of therapy, and a dramatically different lifestyle than what we have ever known or imagined... for some reason there is more Hope, Peace, and Joy when I imagine Option B. I cannot explain it, other than to say that it's a calling that's coming from above, and peace that comes when we answer a call.
So where do we go from here? Well, I'm not 100% certain on the details, but I know we have to submit what's called a LOI, or "letter of intent" to China to adopt this particular child, and once they have reviewed that, if they approve us we will be issued a LOA or "letter of acceptance." This process can take a few months. From there we have to apply U.S. government for permission to bring this specific child into the country and to get permission to travel, get our Visas, etc.
Absolute best case scenario- we could be looking at travel as early as April, but I'm still planning on May or June as the earliest scenario.
Anything could cause delays at any step of the way, so it's important that we do not get our hearts set on any particular timeline. I do know that now that we've seen our child's face the waiting will get harder and harder as we go. I know that this child needs medical attention, and while none of their suspected conditions are life threatening or even progressive (that we know of), the sooner we could get him started on treatment the better. The one good thing about having a file assigned earlier though, is now we can actually plan- we can prepare the child's bedroom, start buying some of the things we will need, and so forth. And of course, we've already decided on a name. It is likely we won't be sharing his name with anyone other than immediate family and friends for quite a while, but I guess you'll just have to wait and see ;).
I'm sure you're all dying to see a photo, and I'm sorry that I cannot share at this time. Once we have been given permission from our agency to do so, I will post a photo on here, but I'm not sure when that might happen. So please just imagine the cutest little face you've ever seen on a toddler-aged boy from China, with bright eyes and pinch-able little cheeks, and you won't be too far off :)
That's all for now. Please pray for continued peace for our families, and for the little boy that we hope will someday soon be ours. He is already our son in our hearts... we just have to wait for the paperwork to line up accordingly!
Our puzzle fundraiser is still going strong, and we are so thankful for the amount of help we've received from this fundraiser so far. We will have another $4,000 in fees coming due within the next few weeks, so if you have not yet sponsored any pieces but would like to do so, now would be an excellent time for that! I assure you, the funds will go to use right away! :) If you need to wait until after the Holidays and/or income taxes, that's ok too. We'll have another $3500-$4,000 due when we get LOA, which I'm assuming will be sometime in January or February. We will be saving every penny we can in the meantime, and I have already began working on some applications for grants as well.
Here is how the puzzle looks today. We are almost 20% of the way completed! (the brown/upside down pieces on the left are the ones that have been sponsored, the ones that are right-side-up are still available) Details on how to sponsor pieces can be found in this post:
Here is the one gift we bought for ourselves this Christmas. A special ornament for our tree, from a fundraiser to help support another adoptive family. Mine hasn't come in the mail yet, so I borrowed this photo from someone else.
If I have any substantial news to share this week I will share it, but if not, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! God bless your families and give you all comfort and peace. Safe travels to those who travel, and happy resting to those who do not!