Friday, July 28, 2017

Signed, Sealed...

Jordan is (supposed to be) sleeping, Derek is out in Springfield getting things certified (see above photo) and I thought I'd take advantage of my quiet time to explain exactly what the China adoption process looks like. I don't know if I ever explained last time--it's all sort of a blur now--and I also know that my friend list has grown exponentially, mostly with other families who have adopted or are adopting from China. Because of that, I just assume (incorrectly) that everyone knows what I'm talking about because you're all mind readers, obviously, or more likely have done this before.

Let's start with a few acronyms/terminology:

CCCWA: China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption--This is the Chinese authority for all international adoptions.

DTC: Dossier to China--The stack of paperwork that we've been assembling and sealing that tells the CCCWA who we are, our intent to adopt, etc.

LID: Log-in-Date--This is the date that our dossier is logged in to China's system.

MCC: Medical Conditions Checklist--A document each family submits stating openness in regards to a child's age, gender, and medical needs.

SF: Special Focus--This term generally applies to a waiting child with more significant medical needs and is assigned by the CCCWA. A family can be matched with a SF child at any point in the adoption process (before LID or after)

LID-Only: Logged-in Dossier Only--This term refers to children's files that are typically younger with more mild-moderate special needs, also assigned by CCCWA. A family can only be matched with an LID-only child once their dossier has been logged into the CCCWA's database.

I'm 99% sure that covers the majority of what we tend to refer to as "the conversational acronyms/terms" used in our house, posts, texts, and blog. No, I will not give up my Oxford comma; you cannot make me.

If you want further reading for more terminology, click here.


Home study: This consists of four home visits (two of them being one-on-one with each parent) as well as five reference letters, copies of insurance policies, bank and tax statements, etc...and about fifty essay questions that each parent has to write separately. Fourteen hours of parent training (online) is also required by our state. (We did this last time; no need to do it again!)

Once the home study is written, then we can apply for the I-800A, which is an application for our family to US Immigration to obtain approval to adopt a foreign born child. Once you send your application, you then get an appointment to be fingerprinted at your "local" USCIS office. (The closest to us is two and half hours away.) Then an officer reviews your information and hopefully sends your approval letter, and hopefully not an RFE (Request for Evidence, or more information).


Next, there's the sealing process and dossier compilation, which we are doing in four steps instead of three, just to make things the same across the board for all documents:

  1. Notarization of documents: Home study, I-800A, Adoption Petition, Financial Statement, Background Checks (x's 2), Medical forms (x's 2), and Employment Verifications (x's 2). (Since I'm a SAHM, I only need a letter stating that my income is $0 and plan to return to the workforce when kids are in school, or something like that.)
  2. Certification of documents at state level: This involves either mailing or driving to Springfield--we are driving because it's saving time and money! All of the above documents need to be certified (and that's what the above photo is of as well). If this was our first adoption, we would also need our marriage license and birth certificates certified.

  3. Certification of documents by State Department: Since some of our documents need to be authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., we chose to send all of them there for continuity. However, in order to do that, we need to have the U.S. Secretary of State Department certify them. Since we don't live in D.C., or near it, we will be using a courier.

  4. Authentication of documents by Chinese Embassy: Once our documents are certified by the U.S. State Dept., our courier will then take them to the Chinese Embassy in D.C. The Chinese Consulate in Chicago is another option, but many of our documents cannot be authenticated there because they were notarized as copies. 
Once all of these documents are sealed, we will very carefully make copies (to not disturb any of the seals, staples, etc.), arrange everything in a particular order, and send the originals plus a complete set of copies to our agency and keep a complete set of copies for ourselves. We also will send photos of our everyday life, formal pictures, and passport size photos. Our agency will review and bind for us and then send express to China--thus making us DTC/LID. The CCCWA then starts the translation and approval process. 

It really isn't hard, but it is time consuming and meticulous. One small mistake at the beginning that isn't discovered until it gets to China means you have to redo that document all over again from scratch. Thankfully, our placing agency looks at our documents before we get them notarized and then again once they receive the complete dossier. 


Once we are LID, or sometime in the next few months, we'll be matched and then submit our LOI (Letter of Intent to adopt a specific child). We will wait for China to confirm that they've received it and then we wait for our LOA (Letter of Acceptance) from China, which is usually sent once our dossier is out of translation. 

This is when things really start to move, on a weekly if not daily basis. At this point, everything is back in the USA's hands. 


Next steps are: 
  • I-800: Child specific immigration approval
  • DS-260: Visa Application for child to enter the USA
  • Article 5 Drop Off / Pick Up: The is a letter issued by the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou notifying the CCCWA that the adoptive parents are eligible to adopt their child and that the child can enter and permanently reside in the U.S.A. No matter what, this always takes two weeks.
And then we throw it back to China, who then issues Travel Approval, which is the formal invitation to the adoptive family to travel to China to complete the adoption. 


Once Travel Approval is issued, our agency requests consulate appointments in Guangzhou to get the immigration packet. Typically, travel can be anywhere from one week to three weeks from TA. If I recall correctly, we had about a week and a half from TA to leaving for China.


Current Events:

Right now, we are waiting for our home study to be written (completed hopefully any day now) which will then be looked at by our placement agency and us for errors (spelling, dates, wording, etc.), before we can get it sealed. We are doing things a bit out of order this time per our agency's instructions, and sent our I-800A this week which was received yesterday. We should get our fingerprint appointment in the next 7-10 days, and hopefully we will do that by the end of August. Typically the I-800A is sent once the home study is completed since a copy of your home study needs to go with the application; this time we will be sending the home study separately as soon as that's done to save ourselves a couple weeks (hopefully). Our agency/CCCWA is really wanting us to be LID ASAP, so that's why we're doing things a little out of order.

Most of our documents are notarized and certified, and we'll be sending those to the courier this weekend--hopefully to get them back by the end of August! We also hope that the last two missing pieces (I-800A and home study) we will have by mid-September to rush down and across and wherever needed!

We're also waiting for (the right) match for both the child and our family. We've had our MCC submitted since last July, but only opened it up to both genders a little before Jet's surgery--just to make sure we wouldn't be traveling too soon after arriving home and also to give us some time to figure out Jet's medical needs.


If you've made it this far, congratulations! I think you deserve a medal, but all I have are stickers (actually, bandaids). I know I threw a lot of information out there, and I also know this wasn't a "fun" post but more "educational" but hopefully it's organized enough to understand. The biggest goal though was for you to understand the process a little better and how both countries work together; as well as how imperative it is for everyone to dot every i and cross every t, no matter where we are in the process. Maybe, hopefully, this helps you understand why we're--ok, I'm--a bit frazzled or spacy--we thought we had six months to do it all, and now we have about two and a half instead. It can be done--no doubt--but there's a lot of rushing along with simultaneous waiting (not my favorite combination). Thanks for sticking with me for the entirety of this post, and as always we appreciate your prayers while we just keep running along!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Updated State (of Things)

So you may or may not remember that in the last blog post, I mentioned that the CCCWA had changed their rules and we would not be able to submit our dossier until Jet turned three in January--which was disappointing but did give us time to save, time to enjoy our family, and basically, just time.

On Wednesday, someone from our agency called and said she had news that was about to make me very, very happy. I was skeptical, because I knew they weren't calling with a file referral, and had no honest clue what sort of news would "make my day, or maybe even my week." She proceeded to tell me that they (our agency) had inquired if their families that were already in process but not yet matched or DTC would still be able to continue on as planned, and the CCCWA said yes! I asked her maybe three or four different times, rewording it just to triple and quadruple check, that we no longer had to wait for Jet to turn three--and no we don't! So yes, that was good news! I texted a friend and she asked how I felt about it, and I said relieved--because I no longer had to worry about timelines but yet we didn't have to rush. 


Yesterday, I wasn't feeling well so I stayed offline a lot of the day, but when I finally checked my email late yesterday I actually found out that our "no rush" plan was now obsolete. Per our agency, the CCCWA wants all families who are now grandfathered in under the old rules to submit their dossiers within 3-4 months. That might seem like a lot of time, but it actually isn't...or it isn't if you were planning on sending documents via regular priority mail or ground, not overnight. Our home study visits are complete, but as of the time of that email yesterday we were still waiting on a few documents our HS agency needed to complete before writing. 

Fast forward to this morning: we ended up receiving and getting approval on the last few documents needed to complete the home study...but got another email from our agency that said even though our home study isn't complete, they would like us to file with immigration and overnight those documents, like today. (The reason this is weird is because with immigration/USCIS they NEED a copy of your home study to approve you to adopt--so to send things sans home study means a few extra steps as soon as that is done.)

Again, maybe this doesn't seem like a huge deal. And it really probably isn't. But we went from "ok, we'll wait an extra six months", to "Yay! We don't have to wait but no rush," to "GET THIS DONE ASAP YOU NEED TO DO THIS NOW". Almost every time I checked my email, there was another little tidbit of instructions to follow. 

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. When plans change frequently, for better or worse, I don't handle it well. 

What? I know. This is completely brand new information to all of you.  

Last time we did this, we didn't have a two year old (who is currently making elephant noises in his crib instead of sleeping), so we could work on it pretty much whenever--but now we really can't until after 7:30 or we have to take him with if there's a last minute errand--like this morning when I ran a few documents that couldn't be emailed or mailed to our HS agency. That means that last night Derek stayed home to help me make sense of everything and get what we could ready instead of going to a meeting he had at 8:30. And it meant that tonight he stayed home from a work thing to also help with getting documents ready for the first round as well as trying to make sense of the I-800A application and instructions. It makes for tense situations and arguments over the most mundane things, such as, should we notarize today or Monday? Should we do it over Derek's lunch break (right before nap) or after he gets off work (also known as the witching hour--or maybe that's just our two year old)? What are we supposed to write in certain blanks on the I-800A application since we aren't submitting our home study with it? How can we get answers to our questions now that our agency is closed for the day? Why don't you know the answers to these questions? I don't know, why don't you? (I vaguely remember having these arguments last time too.) And where in the world are the dining chairs I ordered from IKEA and why haven't they been delivered? What does that have to do with anything? 

Everything just escalates to An Issue. 

But then I opened Derek's wallet this afternoon because I needed his driver's license number (I can't be expected to memorize everything) and see a label I made with our fancy label maker in the retirement home where I worked in college--he still has it, even though his wallet has changed multiple times, it's not even sticky anymore, and I even got him a replacement copper "wallet card" so that he didn't need it. And it helped me remember that we are in this together. It might be chaotic, but that's life. Honestly, if we got through Jet's adoption, his subsequent tests and surgeries, and really just this past year in general, a little upheaval and rushing around isn't going to hurt anyone. Everything will still get done, and yeah, we might be overnighting things and using couriers instead of using ground service, but in the scheme of things, it's not life-altering. It doesn't change the end goal. If anything, it speeds that end goal up a little bit. 

I am happy to report that we have completed all eight documents that are ready for the first wave of sealing. I am also happy to report that we have completed our I-800A application as much as we can (fun fact, there's a rather massive typo/error by the US government on it that we cannot change). The world will not end if we don't send it until Monday to arrive Tuesday. Our home study should be written by Monday, where it will then go to the HS agency director and us to review for errors, and then our placement agency, who will fine tooth comb it at least three times. Things are getting done. We probably will be DTC by the end of October. There's a fairly good chance that with our luck, our fingerprinting appointment at the USCIS office in Chicago will be scheduled during the week we are on vacation, but we'll figure it out. Again, things will get done. 

And as I've said many, many times, life goes on outside of whatever issue we're dealing with. As I mentioned before, last time we did this we didn't have a two year old, and this time we do. We may be working on adding a brother or sister to the family for him, but our main focus is still him--as it should be--until we accept a match--and then he gets to share. We don't want the words "in a minute" or "maybe later" to become the norm in this house. So that means yeah, paperwork gets put aside, we watch "Lots and Lots of Trucks" on Amazon Prime so much that we hear it in our sleep, we do puzzles, we swim, etc. After a lot of thought, we decided Jet really needed some sort of structured social aspect in his life, so he's starting two year old preschool (which is way more intense than I thought it would be) in less than a month. He is absolutely going to love it, and they have a doctor's kit AND a PomPom (panda) so how could he not? Most importantly, school will be "his thing" and will also give me and/or Derek one-on-one time with our new son/daughter to help with bonding and adjustment. 

So. That's where things stand. Our T-Shirt campaign is over, but the link should remain live if anyone still purchases. Our garage sale with our good friends is still scheduled for August 11/12. For our praying friends, we ask for these specific three things (in addition to our son or daughter, whomever they may be): 

1) Finances. Due to an even faster dossier completion we will be sending the money sooner, so wise decisions on that. 
2) Good weather for the garage sale--no rain, and definitely not 100+ degree weather or heat indices. 
3) Pray for a traveling companion for (probably) Derek for when the time comes. If at all possible, we don't want to leave Jordan home for two weeks and then completely disrupt his life even more with a new sibling. 

Thank you to those of you who ask how everything is going and ask questions about the process. It means a lot that you try to understand more what we're working on/toward. I know I used a lot of acronyms in this post, and I'll explain more about the process later--something I meant to do last time but did not. Thank you all, as always, for your support. We appreciate it more than you'll know. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The State of Things

Hi. How are you?

I typically use our Facebook group to give updates on where we're at in the adoption process, but shockingly enough, Facebook is not always the right form of mass media communication (I know, I'm still getting over it too). I actually had to rewrite the majority of this post regarding our current adoption progress, based on the happenings of this past week.

So. What exactly are our updates?

Family: Jet is being fantastically two and a half. I'm not entirely sure where he picks up half of the things he is learning, because Curious George does not strike me as being particularly educational, but over the past few weeks he's really started talking a lot more--new words, sentences with a subject/verb/predicate, pronouns, etc. His new favorite phrase is "What's that?" which is driving everyone (Derek and me) crazy, and also sounds more like "whazZAT!" He's slowly progressing in his physical therapy; even if not much improvement is shown yet at least now he is willing to participate and listen. We also plan to head to Birmingham next week with a stop in Tupelo on the way home to do a whirlwind trip to see some of Jet's MSFH family as well as another special family who was in our travel group in China last year. Also, save the date; J's baptism is set for August 27--now that there's no RSV, pneumonia, heart surgeries, etc. in sight. I have no idea which service, because I didn't ask or specify (maybe Derek did?). If anyone does know the answer to that, let me know! Ha!

We also are planning to take a much needed family vacation (with no agenda or schedule to follow) in September. Derek and I originally wanted it to be just the two of us for our tenth anniversary this November, but after this past year we really want to have some uninterrupted time as a family of three before things get crazy again. Since this is our second go around with adopting from China, I now know that really once you're matched things get pretty crazy, pretty fast...until you land back in the States again (and then they're crazy in a completely different way).

Adoption: Our last home study meeting is July 11, and the majority of our paperwork is ready to be shipped off for the first step of sealing. Casey even gets to get in on the fun with updated vaccines and vet record. He's very excited. We were originally hoping up until a couple days ago to submit our dossier asap, but due to some new laws that China has passed we can no longer do so until Jet turns three in January. It's a little frustrating and disappointing, but in the grand scheme of things, as I mentioned on the Facebook page, it's honestly more of an annoyance compared to what many families are now facing. We do have to do some fancy footwork to time the authenticating of some of our documents accordingly, by not being able to be DTC (dossier to China) until the end of January, but it's all very doable. We have two choices...two ways to look at this, and right now, we're accepting that this is a good thing. It's forcing us to take more time together as a family, hopefully with less hospital time, and giving us the opportunity to save for a few extra months. We also realize that had we already been matched with a child, we may have had no choice but to wait to travel until at least January, or, release the file back to China.

To put this plainly, and bluntly, we'll be upfront and say that unlike our last adoption we are no longer a dual income family, plus--although we have great insurance--we do also have a child with medical special needs. Therefore, our finances are not what they were when we were in the process of adopting Jet. Originally, when we first decided that yes, we want to do this again, it left us with a bit of a dilemma. Do we wait to save up the majority of the money (thankfully costs are still around the same--you can look here for a very accurate itemized list) or do we step out in faith and practice what we've been preaching for the past three years? We did the math, and looked at the facts (hello, I married an engineer)...and while the math doesn't add up, the facts are the same. Last time, every time we came up short, God provided a way...whether that was through an anonymous donation, a fundraising type event, or learning what our real priorities are. Therefore, once again, we're learning (because how quickly we forget) how to do the trust fall.

Therefore, we are mainly concentrating our adoption fundraisers in three separate ways, and it's important to us to share you how those funds will be used:
  1. Adoption T-Shirts: This is the first time we've attempted to do something like this, and honestly weren't sure how it would "take." However, we've been amazed at the generosity shown with people purchasing shirts. There are still about twelve days left to order should you still wish to. Click the t-shirt photo at the bottom of this list to take you directly to the t-shirt sales link! With the funds we receive from the shirt sales, we are applying those directly to our home study fees and document sealing fees, which we anticipate to be around $2,500-$3000.
  2. Garage Sale: We are SO excited to be doing a garage sale again, and even more excited to share this experience with our friends the Zobacs (check out their story here). We had originally planned to hold the garage sale in April/May, but somebody had to go and have heart surgery...and then the Zobacs ended up being matched and needing to travel. Throwing a garage sale is a lot of work, and we wanted to make sure we would all be able to put in the necessary prep time. You can learn more about the garage sale on the other picture below (yes, that has it's own Facebook page too). It will be, rain or shine (but hopefully shine) the weekend of August 11 & 12, and we really hope you'll check it out. Again, the funds Derek and I receive from the garage sale will go directly to our home study and document sealing fees.
  3. Puzzle Piece Fundraiser: Yes, we are doing a puzzle piece fundraiser. We couldn't do one for Jet and not do one for Tanis2 (again, working title). We do not yet have this set up, but unlike last time, we hope to offer people the option of donating to an AdoptTogether account so that people who would like to receive a tax receipt will be able to. If we qualify for a matching grant, we will use that instead of the AdoptTogether site, but only time will tell. Neither of these can be set up (or approved) until our home study is complete, and just like last time, the funds will be used to cover flights and some travel expenses. Since now we won't be traveling until at the very earliest next spring, there is no rush on this but will keep you informed. 
 #adoptionrocks Garage Sale

Although we've given three separate options to help support us in the next phase of our Tanii Life, ultimately, our biggest request is for your prayers. Pray for our hearts as we adjust to this slight delay and change of plans. Pray for people to want to get involved, however that may be--financially, donating items, volunteering time, etc. Praise God with us for those that already have. Pray for Derek and I to be wise with our saving (and spending). We recognize that without asking God for his help and guidance, we really wouldn't be where we are today without His help thus far. So please, please pray for all of those things with us and for us, and most importantly pray that we would not lose sight of the finish line, so to speak, and especially, pray for our second little person on the other side of the world.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:20-21