Well, my faithful readers (those 3 of you who still visit here on occasion) I am calling these past few weeks the “Month of the Adoption Paperchase”. I spent June 16 till July 16 absolutely obsessed with finishing the bulk of our paperwork for our adoption agency as well as our foreign dossier. On Friday afternoon, July 16 I finally mailed two fat FedEx envelopes and two fat checks. I feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment, for now!
Many of you have asked where we are in the process, and how long we’ve been working on this adoption thing. And….how long will it be till we have our daughter home??
In the interests of keeping a record for ourselves too, I am going to chronicle what we see as significant adoption milestones throughout our journey. Many adoption blogs keep their timeline on their front page for readers who want to follow along. While this is not an adoption blog, per se, hopefully, my Techie Dude of a husband can paste a link to our Timeline on the front page of our website so that this information is easily accessible to visitors long after this entry has vanished from our front page. Though, if I keep blogging with the frequency of this past month, it’ll still be here for some time to come!
Please note: I do not mean to offend anyone by adding in notes about our expenses along the way. When we were researching adoption, we were very curious about what it would require financially, and I receive plenty of inquiries about how much this is all going to cost us when it is all said and done. To be perfectly honest, in US dollars, it will be about $30,000. I will blog at a later time about why adoption costs what it does.
But yes, that is a lot of money. And no, our family is not wealthy, in fact we spent most of last year unemployed, without the benefit of “unemployment”, and had to dip into much of our savings in order to pay our living expenses.
Just as last year was an exercise in living by faith (and with a much tighter belt!), so is this adoption process. We are already seeing God’s provision for our steps so far, and we look forward to seeing how the story unfolds from here.
With all that in mind, I give you a rough timeline (with added-in verbiage, aren’t you shocked?) of the events that led us to where we are today.
January, 2010: Jay and I are shocked to realize we have each been feeling “pulled” to adopt for some time.
My heart has been feeling heavy since early in the year 2009, even while we were ourselves unemployed and in no place to consider something like adoption. I could not shake the realization that there are millions of children in this world who need a family, and here we sit in our fairly comfortable middle class life, okay sure, definitely a busy and full life, but one that absolutely renders us able and happy to welcome another child into our family!! Whereas I had felt “complete” with our 4th child, I also began to desire a 5th very much. This was a key change in my own attitude, as I had previously thought 4 kiddos were “plenty”!!
Jay’s experience began in the fall as he began to feel very compelled that he was to become a father to someone fatherless. This after 10 months of unemployment, which I find almost uncanny, given the stresses he had been under for the previous entire year. For him, the guy who was quite happy and content with 3 kids a few years ago, to now be Daddy to 4, and to further realize he was yearning for a 5th was pretty shocking. More and more he felt there was a hole in our family that ached to be filled.
We never shared our thoughts/feelings with the other, so we never realized before January what the other was experiencing. I assumed Jay would tell me I was crazy if I admitted to him that I thought we ought to pray about adopting an orphan. Jay figured the feeling might pass with time, and kept his thoughts to himself on the matter.
In January, when we were praying for the people of Haiti and talking about the tragedy that had befallen this country, we began speaking more openly about the huge problem in our world that so many children are without families and face lives of hunger, oppression, crime, prostitution, or worse, death at a very young age. While we did not have any desire (or ability) to “save the world” we wondered if perhaps God might use us to save “just one”. One is a start.
February 5, 2010: I write to my friend, Jana Fundy asking her a million questions.
Michael and Jana Funderburk, friends from New St Peters, and part of our church home group, adopted their precious daughter Ruthie from Ethiopia in 2008. They moved to Ethiopia in 2009 to work with the Gladney Center For Adoption as part of their in-country staff. Having Jana there in Ethiopia, living and working among the children who were in need of families, and being able to ask her hard, honest questions about so many aspects of adoption was really helpful as we ourselves contemplated adoption.
Over the next few weeks and months I emailed and/or talked to anyone I knew who had adopted children themselves to just learn anything I could about personal experiences. During this time I also read ferociously and consumed quite a few books and adoption blogs.
We have friends in our community who have adopted internationally, so we know kids from China, Russia, Guatemala, Bulgaria, and Ethiopia. Given we see international adoption somewhat regularly, contemplating the idea wasn’t completely foreign (hehehe) to us. Though admittedly, PERSONALLY considering the idea felt very weighty. It helped in these months to have good friends to talk openly with about their own experiences in becoming parents to children from around the world. It helped to see that these children were well-adjusted and thriving in loving homes. It helped to see families who already had several biological children adding to their families through adoption too.
Concurrently, our family prayed together and talked alot about what it might look like to add to our household by adoption. Tons of soul-searching and honest, rich conversations about what felt like a huge decision. Once we told our children that we were considering adoption, they were very excited and supportive of the idea. They prayed along with us, and we were able to dialogue with them about their own feelings and questions. This was a precious time and one for which I am very grateful.
We approached very close friends and family asking for their input/prayer as well, in helping us to look at this decision from several different perspectives. People close to us gave us honest and open input and also prayed for us and supported us so kindly.
As we talked to friends who had adopted, or were in process, it became overwhelmingly apparent that aside from one family who used a different agency, every single family we knew had used The Gladney Center for Adoption, located here in Fort Worth, to adopt, no matter where they had adopted from. B/c of Gladney’s excellent reputation in the adoption world, their wealth of experience (been around for over 120 years) and the fact that they were local, we truly never shopped around for another agency to work with. We were absolutely comfortable with the references and experiences of so many families whom we knew and trusted.
March 5, 2010: I request Gladney’s Adoption Information Packet which is a whole lot of information about all the different domestic and international adoption programs Gladney runs. Jay and I pore over this information, wanting to learn as much as we can.
March 15, 2010: We learn that the new adoption laws in Ethiopia are going to mean that families who are adopting will now be required to make two trips instead of just one to complete the process. First time to meet their child and pass court, then a second visit about 6 weeks later to bring their child home. We are discouraged by this development, because it raises the costs quite significantly (an additional $6000 for the second trip’s travel expenses) and means that families have to meet their child without the ability to bring them home right away as their own. Very hard.
April 15, 2010: Tax Day!! Instead of paying our income tax (just kidding, it was already taken care of in March!) we sent $50 and our Initial Information Sheet into Gladney Adoption Agency saying we are interested in starting the adoption process.
April 16, 2010: Announced to our Church Home Group that we have decided to pursue adoption from Ethiopia. (One of our home group families adopted their 5th child, a little boy from Guatemala through Gladney 6 years before!)
April 28, 2010 Hour-long phone orientation with Judy Hayes in the International Department at Gladney.
May 3, 2010: Jay’s absolutely beautiful “Expecting” post on our blog; see
May 7, 2010: Long phone chat in the evening with Jen Morgan of http://morganleapoffaith.blogspot.com/ about her family’s adoption of little Bella. I learned that families who have taken this journey, are in general very passionate about adoption, and are so happy to share with those of us just beginning. I did not know Jen before this, but found her blog through a friend’, and emailed her asking if I could talk to her about toddler adoption, specifically. She visited with me for over two hours, and answered many questions, and shared a lot of their own experiences as Bella joined their family. I was very grateful for her time.
May 15, 2010: Friends of ours who are also adopting approach us with a generous gift to apply toward the first of our adoption fees. We are shocked and humbled and so grateful for this provision before we even begin the official application process!
June 3, 2010: Mail request for Application plus $300 to Gladney
June 9, 2010: Receive Gladney Application via email (it went to spam, thankfully I saw it and pulled it out a couple days later!)
June 16, 2010: I visit on the phone with Judy Wadsworth, one of the international adoption Program Assistants at Gladney, complete the “Intake and Service Plan” document with her, and get the green light to begin the “paperchase” for the first part of the process.
June 17, 2010: I contact Kate Sawyer of KBS Dossiers to contract her help in assembling and authenticating our foreign dossier for the adoption. This will cost us an additional $400, but we have been told the experienced oversight while preparing documents for a foreign government is well worth every penny, and that Kate is the best.
*For the month from 6/16–7/16 we do EVERYTHING required for our Gladney Application, plus most of our Dossier Paperwork too: Supporting information regarding our family history, educational history, employment histories, our household income/expenses, doctor’s appointments and letters for the entire family including pets, requests for birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, Employer letters, Bank Letters, Insurance Letters, Sketch of our home’s floor plan, Child Preference Profile, Reference Letter requests, and more. (Miscellaneous fees for birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports and photos around $250 total)
During this month, I made good friends with the notaries at our local bank here on the corner; I figure by the end of this process we will all be on a first name basis and sending each other Christmas cards during the holidays.
July 2, 2010: Fedex’d contract and first pieces of information plus Service Fee payment ($400) and expense deposit ($200) to Kate Sawyer at KBS.
July 12, 2010: Jay’s passport renewal application is returned to me via mail b/c I forgot to include the old passport in the envelope for renewal. Duh!
July 16, 2010: FedEx’d entire Gladney Application plus 3 groups of supporting paperwork including CIS I-600A application and fee ($670) + fingerprints fee ($160) and docs to Gladney. Pay our $2000 Home Study Fee and our $2250 Ethiopia Program Fee deposit.
July 16, 2010: FedEx’d most of the Dossier docs Kate requested in her “Document Summary”.
July 19, 2010: Mail Jay’s passport application again, this time including the old passport as stipulated, and paying a higher fee of $110 for the renewal (whadya’ know: costs increased in the two weeks’ intervening!).
I have been asked, since we mailed off all that paperwork, “Are you close now? How much longer till you bring her home?”.
The answer is, we are closer, hooray! But, in actuality, we are still a long ways from bringing our girl home. Like 12-18 months away, most likely. The next steps in the process will be:
Gladney schedules and performs our home study and then puts it into written document form. This entire process will take approximately 6-8 weeks.
Kate Sawyer will continue work on authenticating our legal documents which we have sent to her, and assemble our dossier. Again, several weeks to a couple months for this step.
We need to get our FBI fingerprints done here at the local police office to be submitted with our dossier. Once we FedEx these prints to the FBI office in West Virginia, it will take up to 13 weeks to get the results back.
After the homestudy is complete, that document is sent along to Foreign Immigration along with the CIS I-600A document mentioned above, where we request permission to bring an internationally adopted child into this country as our adopted daughter. They say that processing time for this step takes about 30 days, but lately it is taking longer because they are revamping how they do the whole thing.
CIS (Immigration) sends us approval and a date for a second set of fingerprints, which we will do locally.
Our completed foreign dossier is sent to Ethiopia, where it is translated and presented for approval to the government there. Gladney in Ethiopia will continue to oversee and advocate for our family throughout this process. I do not know how long from the time the dossier is sent till it is translated and finally approved by the Ethiopian Government. But it’ll take some time….
Once the dossier is approved in Ethiopia, we are officially put on the waitlist for a child, and anxiously await our child referral.
The referral process can take anywhere from about 5 to 11 months, depending on several different things, including number of other waiting families and children available in the age range we have requested.
We are given a referral, accept the referral, and wait for Ethiopia to schedule our date in their courts to legally adopt our daughter.
We travel to Ethiopia for the first trip, meet our daughter, appear in court to legalize the adoption, spend time in the country for a few days.
We return home for about six weeks, unpack, get over jet lag, and repack in anticipation of our second trip.
We receive travel dates for our second and final trip.
We fly to Ethiopia again for several days, this time to pick up our daughter and bring her home to Dallas as part of our family!!