Category: Ethiopian Adoption Story
Created on Thursday, 03 January 2008 18:52
I've always wanted to have both biological children, and adopt. I sorta feel 4 kids are too many (growing up as 1 of 4 kids). Time and resources are divided too many ways. I always thought 3 was a nice number...not too many, but still a nice sized family. A family with a presence. I've had 2 bio children, and they are wonderfully perfect. I was blessed with a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery x2. So, the third child...is to be adopted.
Although I've been thinking about adoption for years and years....I knew I wanted biological children first. I was well aware of the advantages reproducing at maximal fertility - as designed by Nature. I knew that being pregnant at 40 is not only a bit more risky (for both mom and fetus), but would be less pleasant physically.
Now, that I'm all done with growing parasites in my body that, takes over and zaps all your energy, and just generally wreck havoc being pregnant, I can focus on other things. Adoption being one of 'em.
Ian is 2...and now my "baby" is a little boy. When Haley was this age, I decided to "go for it one more time" and get pregnant with Ian. I'll bet it by design that pregnancy and births are typically 2-3 years apart in families. If so, it's no wonder why I feel ready for another baby.
So last summer I purchased an Adoption book. And last fall I purchased an International Adoption Book. In October I spoke with our hospital/ER social worker about agencies and the process. He directed me to another social worker whom I contacted a few weeks later. I contacted other people who may have some valuable information on adoptions. I did preliminary reading.
Then after Christmas, I was ready to proceed. I started investigating the requirement of various countries, reading adoption news, and researching agencies. I spoke with a few...but wasn't quite ready. I had a few (well, more than a few) "what if" scenarios that paralysed me. I expressed some of my 'worries' with a friend of mine...who assured me that I was being crazy, and my what-if scenarios are highly unlikely.
I read as much as I could online about homestudy agencies, adoptions agencies, the process, etc. I learned that I had to have an agency that was licensed by the State to do homestudies in my city/county. That limited the number to choose from. I decided I wanted an agency that was close to our home...and really hate going over to San Francisco (except for occasional outings), so a couple of agencies were eliminated based on that alone. I didn't want to travel over the bridge for my meetings, educations courses, classes, etc.
Then, I needed an agency that is knowledgeable about international adoption in general (and Ethiopia in particular would be nice). One that was reasonably priced, with a good reputation. We found one...in Walnut Creek.
Now - some decisions have been made: international over domestic. Ethiopia over Latin America. Walnut Creek agency for homestudy. Leaning towards Americans for African Adoptions as the placement agency. That's pretty much all the information you need to get started.
"Mail the damn thing already" my friend instructed when I shared with her my reluctance to send the homestudy adoption agency the application (plus fee).
I finally mailed it on January 3rd.
Category: Ethiopian Adoption Story
Created on Wednesday, 02 January 2008 16:56
It's a new year, and the time seems right to begin our long-awaited journey of international adoption.
The very first question is -
From which country do we adopt?
Initially we had no preferences...the world was wide open. We were just interested in helping a little soul out there achieve their purpose. We would be honored to participate in the Divine Plan in this way.
Our preferences -
Short wait time
Child of color (since most people seem to prefer white babies)
Child from a Country in need
A country that we connect with
An ethnic group that's represented in our part of America
We prefer to have the option *not* to travel
We prefer to *not* spend tons of money
Exclusion Criteria -
Those countries we aren't to qualified to adopt from
Countries that require more than one trip
Countries that require extended trips
Overly expensive programs/countries
Super long wait times
Those countries lacking American Agency representation
Controversial or shady operations
Severe political unrest such that business cannot be conducted
After a bit of research and information gathering, we were able to eliminate some countries immediately. Some because they didn't fit us...and some because we don't fit their requirements. Our serious final considerations included the following:
China - It seems everyone is interested in adopting a Chinese girl - which is great. But when I look at my own kids, and think about how difficult it is to place 'kids that look like mine'...I'm very much drawn to adopt a child who may be otherwise 'difficult to place'. With China being so popular, I don't feel that the children are hurting for good homes. Additionally, as a country, I'm not very impressed with China these days.
On a practical level, the wait times for a healthy Chinese infant/toddler is about 3 years. That's just too long.
India - I would love to adopt an Indian baby. I love the culture, the country is progressing in the right direction, and the Indian population here is quite large. The kids are generally healthy, and the country is an English speaking country and is used to dealing with Americans. We've even considered traveling to India, and possibly making a home there. The Indians here are a welcoming group with rich culture that's actually becoming mainstream American. We feel that and Indian child would "fit" into our family, and not feel like 'the only one of his/her kind.' (more on this later)
Practically, however, India doesn't let non-Indians adopt their children. There are some special circumstances, exceptions, etc...but in general, only Indians can adopt Indian children. We're not Indian...so that's a no go.
Guatemala - Latin America was very attractive, nearby, and a very familiar culture to us in California. The wait times are very short, and the babies are well cared for.
Practically, many agencies have closed their Guatemalan programs. There was some controversy over the "integrity" of the adoption process. We're not interested in unstable programs that are fraught with controversy. We simply love the idea of helping a child who exists in the world by supplying them with a forever family in which to thrive. We have no interest in stealing children, or otherwise participating in shady adoption practices.
Colombia - on the short list for the same reasons as other Latin American countries. But, travel is required, which is a drawback.
Ecuador - infertility is required by some agencies. Travel required, two trips typical.
Haiti - seemed like a very viable option. Plus side - children of color (that are more difficult to place); will likely more readily fit into our family. Great need, and familiarity.
Practically, the program is new with lots of setbacks and kinks. Additionally, the time period from referral to arrival home is over a year. That's too long.
Zambia - on the plus side, very simple process. You actually go a 'choose' your child from the orphanage (with associated pluses and minuses). There are lots of kids there who *really* need homes.
Drawback is the program is very unstable...and there are/were no American agencies who'll represent you over there.
Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana (and other West African Countries) - the programs are few, unpredictable, and unstable. Adoption has enough innate unpredictability.
South Africa - has closed adoptions to Americans.
Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan - all require extended stays in the countries, or multiple visits. We cannot interrupt our lives traveling and such with our two children, our jobs, and our lives here. Also, the expense is outrageous. The price people pay for a white baby.
Bulgaria, Georgia, and other Eastern European countries - all require travel, some with extended stays and multiple trips.
Cambodia - requires you to live there for a period of time. We had no plans to move.
USA - we of course thought about the here. I'll explore this in another post on 'domestic vs. international.'
So, a handful of countries remained:
Taiwan, South Korea - close runner-ups. But, given the choice, we don't want to travel. Eliminating Taiwan. South Korea was a finalist.
but - I have a "friend" (someone I know) who was adopted from Korea by a Caucasian family. Major issues with this for her. Being the only Asian in her world, she felt isolated. Even when she interacted with other Koreans in America, it was apparent that she was not "Korean." I understand how it feels being "the only one." It's no fun. Since we're not Korean, cannot pass for Korean, and really don't know many Koreans....that 'isolation issue' was a concern for me. Afterall, this adoption isn't just about us. And it seems to us that many Asian cultures are very exclusive, tight knit, and value lighter skin and caucasian races. Where we live, it's quite uncommon for African (Americans) to really intimately interact with Asian groups. Being that our family is African, German, Irish, etc...we thought we'd further isolate an Asian child in America by sheer prejudice of our society. Major consideration...and seems too contrived and complicated.
Ethiopia - (Ultimately our choice). Ethiopia has a very stable adoption program. It's quick, simple, and short. It's not overly expensive, and there are multiple American agencies who work in the country. It doesn't require any traveling, at all (which was huge for us). Even if travel is desired, only one 1week trip is taken. The children are not as "desired" by the rest of the world (being brown-skinned and all)...and the conditions in the country helps one feel good knowing that, by adopting this child you are actually participating in helping him/her realize their greatest achievements. The culture is rich, the history impressive. There is a large East African population in California. The children are beautiful, and will fit into our family perfectly. And connecting with Africa in this way...seems like destiny. Africa - where life began!!
Additionally, an Ethiopian child will not likely feel 'like the only one' or out of place in our family. Our Ethiopian child will be African-American...like the rest of us African Americans. Same issues, same external perceptions. It will not be obvious that the child is adopted (although that's not a big issue for us, but considering the child it's something to at least consider)...a sense of family/belonging, is good for the Soul. An Ethiopian child will likely not feel like 'the only one.' Nor will their attempts to reconnect with Ethiopian culture in California be difficult.
So, we decided on Ethiopia. Ethiopian kids need our help. They aren't as "desired" by the masses, making them a top choice for me. The program is stable, relatively inexpensive, quick, and no travel is required. We fit the requirements as a family, and we think that an Ethiopian child will really thrive in our family. We are very interested in expanding our worldly perspective, and Africa is the perfect place to start!!
Category: Ethiopian Adoption Story
Created on Tuesday, 01 January 2008 16:49
A great explanation here.
Cutty tried to impress upon the boy that there is more to life than the (drug-dealing) corner. ''The world is bigger than that, at least that's what they tell me,''
''How do you get from here to the rest of the world?''
In America, so many of us are so caught up in our la-la-lives that we fail to realize that the World is a great big place. The above quote from The Wire captures this thought process exactly for many Americans (not just the ghetto folks). We are arrogant, ignorant, and complacent as a nation - which is only possible because our lives are relatively rich (especially compared to much of the world). Even the poorest chump in our poorest city needn't starve. With our supersized menus on the cheap, foodstamps, and just the general availability of food/shelter, and access to healthcare (via ERs/EMTALA), even the most destitute of our poor have a significant leg up on the *average* person living in many other spots on our globe.
I can appreciate the difficulty of really achieving the American Dream, if both of your parents are cracked-out, and you had to raise your younger siblings in a project or trailer park. I know that the quality of schooling varies, and is largely determined by the amount of money in a community. I have witnessed first hand the abandonment of American kids in ERs, trash-cans, and family members' front porches. Being born addicted, or without access to loving parents, can really set a person back. I know this. And there are lots of kids in America who need families, and I am not impeding this process.
But, any child born in America in this day has significant advantage over a poor child born anywhere in Africa or Latin America. Poor in Ethiopia or Somalia can mean death...and frequently it does. Life expectancy is way lower in poor 3rd world countries. Many children have no one...and there is no 'social support system' in place to coerce strangers to care for them. There are no EMTALA ER visits...or foodstamps to go to the local fish-fry. Unlike our homeless here, there is no supersized burger to be found in the trash can...or cans to recycle for cash. A child born in America has so much opportunity, just by being American. A child born in America has access to books, schools, educators, healthcare, food, shelter...and many of their basic needs are met. They have the ability to make a decision to better themselves, and ultimately acquire many of the "luxuries" that define "success." Even with absent parents, this is possible...and many can attest to this fact first hand.
Clearly there is an psychological component (although money doesn't equate emotional stability, just consider Britney Spears or Paris Hilton). A nurturing home environment, healthy and consistent meals, excellent health, and stable overall environment has a huge impact. Undeniably. I'm not saying children in America are without need. What I'm saying is, children in other parts of the world have different and more basic needs.
With so many needs in the world there are many avenues in which to help. When considering our contribution, we had to consult with our hearts. Divine desires are placed in our hearts to help guide us to/thru our evolution. Our purpose. We care about world peace...we care about genocide in Darfur. We care about autism, environmental pollution. We care about illness, disease, and poverty. We care about women's rights, civil rights, and modern-day slavery. We care about the war in Iraq, corruption of government(s). We care about Mercury in vaccinations, skin eating bacteria, and the dying off of bees. We care...really.
But, people develop certain passions. They soapbox on certain issues. These passions and issues come about various ways. Some experience an illness and begin a fight (such as Christopher Reeves). Some have family members fall ill with conditions that spark their fire to get involved (such as Holly Robinson Peete). Some just educate themselves about a subject they find interesting...and become involved that way.
We have a desire to learn the world. We have a desire to break out of this 'American mindset' that keeps so many of us "trapped" in our la-la-lives, wondering how "we get from here to the rest of the world." We desire to incorporate another culture into our lives, and have a very important and heartfelt reason (and constant motivation) to learn about a group of people we know almost nothing about. We have a desire pull someone into our 'blessed' environment (an environment that is very much a gift that we've been graced with) and share. We believe this is what people are supposed to do - share. Care. Take interest in other cultures, in other people. To give what can, in a way that feels good to your heart.
Sharing our "stuff" and our love with an African child sounds like it'll feel very good. Having a reason to learn all about everything Ethiopian feels good. International adoption, for us, incorporates many of our core beliefs into our desire to participate in the world.
Limiting our adoption efforts to local children doesn't expand our perspective to our satisfaction. Our efforts would feel less significant if the child already has access to...America. And our efforts, to be real and lasting, should feel 'significant' to us. Our contribution should be heartfelt (with that desire placed there by the Divine). And with enough need to go around...we chose international. Many others will have that light in their hearts to seek American children for various reasons. And for them, that's exactly what they should do.
International adoption: expand our perspective, participate in another culture, learn something new, give a child (that would not otherwise) access to America.
Additionally - it's not uncommon for domestic adoption to go awry, and for prospective adoptive parents who opt to participate in the foster-care program to see their children taken from them. For example, with PACT in Oakland, as a prospective adoptive parent, you are expected to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to pay for healthcare of the birthmother. (Care that she'd otherwise have government assistance with). And after the time (year or so involvement), money, and "auditions" (i.e. the portfolio and the birth mom *choosing* you) drama...she can change her mind. That's understandable...I mean, how could it not be? But, the kicker is...you don't get your money back (from the agency). If that happens to you...it's just "one of those things." And these kids are very likely to have had intrauterine exposure to crack, alcohol, STDs, and malnutrition, etc. And here you are, lined up to 'undo' what has been done by the mother...
...it just doesn't feel as if the prospective adoptive parents are given any props for stepping up and being willing to intervene to lessen the likelihood that this crack baby will grow up and be a huge burden on society. Almost a thankless task in America, really.
And we won't even go into the 'value' stratification and 'price' of the babies based on race, gender, etc...
Category: Ethiopian Adoption Story
Created on Monday, 31 December 2007 16:34
We first started talking about adoption before we were married. One of those "one day...wouldn't it be cool to adopt a child?"
Then, the thought of *really* making a difference....AND learning another culture to boot was even more intriguing:
"I know, wouldn't it be *way* cool to adopt internationally?" That, my friend, would be a big 'something special', we concluded.
Well, now that our two biological kids are here, healthy, and well on their way to 1st grade and pre-k....we feel "one day" is today.
So, while at work I started asking our social workers about the process. I was educated about homestudies...birth mothers...dossiers. And eventhough I hardly understood the overwhelming amount of information at the time...I felt motivated. I've always had the 'interest' but, until just now...lacked the motivation. I think it's because I had so many other things going on...and now they are over. I had certification specialty exams to prepare for (then travel to take). I'd recently started brand new jobs...then there was the Holidays.
But now...now I have time to involve myself in other interests. We're in a groove...and I suddenly feel very motivated to begin the adoption process. This is the time...it seems.
So, I asked the social worker for agency references for homestudy. I asked my family if they had any pearls of wisdom to offer. I did internet research, and even contacted (more than a few) places for info.
Our preliminary process:
11/30/2007 - Received information from hospital social worker I requested a few weeks ago.
12/2/2007 - Called the recommended agency. I accidently contacted them twice, and the chick actually seemed irritated?! They are way in San Francisico anyway...I don't frikin wanna go all the way over there...for meetings/education/business. So, scrated them off the list and kept looking.
12/12/2008 - Made contact with a local agency that does only international homestudies - Partners for Adoption. We're pretty sure we're going international....so they stay on the short list.
12/28/2007 - after reading books, doing internet research, and meeting families/hearing stories of both domestically adopted and internationally adopted families - we decide to go international for sure.
12/28/2007 - So we choose Partners for Adoption for our Homestudy agency. We complete the application...and it sits on the piano...waiting to be mailed....
...are we sure we're ready to do this, because $250 has to accompany this application.
Ethiopian Facts and Figures
Life expectancy: 42 years old
Population subsisting below $2/day - close to 80%
Average births per woman: 6.14
Deaths from pregnancy/abortion related: 1 in 7
Women dying from TB is 96 per 100,000
Children dying from AIDS: 1 in 16
Percentage of AIDS cases in the world: 7%
Female genital mutilation: >80%
Women experiencing rape: 25%
Newborns dying before age one - 1 in 10
Children dying before age 5 - 1 in 6
Orphans - 4 million
Children under 5 stunted from malnutrition - >50%
for women 26.4%
High school attendance for females 8.5%
1/3/08 - Homestudy Agency (Partners for Adoption) application sent.
1/10/08 - Officially establish relationship with HS agency
1/13/08 - First Contact with our Social Worker
1/17/08 - Application to Placement Agency (Adoption Avenues)
1/17/08 - I600A form mailed to USCIS
1/17/08 - Livescan fingerprinting for HS agency
1/23/08 - Livescan again for Department of Justice for State police clearance letter for our Dossier
1/23/08 - First homestudy visit
2/1/08 - Second homestudy visit
2/21/08 - Homestudy complete
2/29/08 - Police Clearance Letter arrived from DOJ
3/3/08 - Homestudy mailed to USCIS
3/4/08 - Received our USCIS FBI fingerprinting appointment
3/11/08 - Dossier is Complete
3/11/08 - FBI fingerprinting done for USCIS
4/2/08 - I600A approved
4/9/08 - Actual I171H (approval form) in our hands
4/14/08 - Authentication of documents completed
4/14/08 - The dossier has been sent to placement agency
4/16/08 - The dossier received by the placement agency
4/21/08 - The dossier has been sent to Washington DC.
4/28/08 - I171H being sent to Addis
5/6/08 - The dossier sent to Ethiopia
5/7/08 - I171H at the embassy; case number assigned.
5/22/08 - Registration of dossier in Ethiopia complete - Officially waiting for a referral!
7/7/08 - Referral
7/23/08 - Assigned a court date of Oct 7, 2008
8/6/08 - 9/30/08 - Court Closure
10/7/08 - Court Date #1 (postponed)
11/6/08 - Court Date #2 (successful)
12/12/08 - Travel date
12/15/08 - US Embassy Appt. in Addis Ababa
12/17/08 - Visa issued for baby by US Embassy
12/20/08 - Home from Ethiopia with Hana
03/2009 - 3 month post-placement report complete
07/2009 - 6 month post-placement report complete
07/20/09 - Readoption Complete!
12/2/2009 - Certificate of Citizenship application mailed
12/2/2009 - Social Security Number/Card applied for
12/7/2009 - Social Security Card Arrives.
12/7/2009 - Passport Application sent.
12/15/2009 - 1 year post-placement visit complete.
01/15/10 - Passport Arrived; Post-placement report complete.
3/4/2010 - Certificate of Citizenship obtained. Citizenship ceremony complete.
Final Documents needed in Addis Ababa
Information for Travel and Health
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LeToukoul Orphanage - the orphanage our placement agency uses
The Process Overview
-First you decide to adopt.
-International vs. domestic
-Decide on the country.
-Find homestudy (HS) agency - needs to be licensed in your state to conduct homestudies in your area.
-Find Placement Agency - there are no California placement agencies for Ethiopia. Actually, there are only a handful licensed in Ethiopia to conduct adoptions in America. So, you have to find one of those...and establish a relationship with them.
-Fill out out the I600A application for advance processing of orphan petition. Accompanying this application you'll need: birth/marriage certificates, proof of employment, proof of health insurance coverage for an adopted child, and of course a fee.
-Complete the homestudy - consisting of interviews, lots of papers, letters from friends, fingerprinting with child abuse index check, and an actual inspection of your home.
-Send completed homestudy to USCIS to complete the I600A application - and wait for FBI fingerprinting appointment.
-If the USCIS approves you, you get the I171H form (after the fingerprinting and review of the documents)
In the meantime...
-Completion of the dossier - papers that are required to go to the Ethiopian Government for referral of an orphan. (including the I171H form).
-Notarize the papers you've collected for the dossier. These papers include a positive homestudy report and a state police clearance letter.
-Then take/send the notarized papers to Sacramento for Authentication (where they verify the authenticity of the notary stamp and signatures, and in doing so places the Great State Seal on the documents).
-Then send Dossier with a notarized copy of the I171H (the I600A approval) to the Placement agency.
-Be sure the I171H form goes to the US Embassy in Addis so you can get a case number.
-The Placement agency overnight sends the papers to Washington DC for Federal Authentication - this is where our federal government authenticates the Great State Seal....by placing the Great Seal of the United States on the documents. This is hand carried by an Agency representative in Washington DC.
-Then, the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC, recognizing the US Seal, accepts the documents. They are sent back to the Placement Agency, who then sends them to Ethiopia.
-Once Ethiopia has our documents they will be legalized, registered, translated - then we will then be eligible to get a referral.
-A referral - where they send you pictures and information about a child that you've been matched with based on the criteria you specified in your homestudy.
*Get travel ready during this time:
Decide whether or not you want to travel
Get Passports if necessary (the passport must be valid for at least 6 months post planned return date). Also get your children passports - both parents must be present.
Vaccinations and consultation with travel clinic.
Of course gather needed supplies and people.
Plan travel details: Hotel, flight, etc.
-Get a Ethiopian Court date where your placement agency has a lawyer with power of attorney go and represent your family.
-Get an US Embassy (in Addis Ababa) appointment date.
-Travel to go get child.
For the Placement Agency - Dossier
*all most of the documents need to be notarized: see here
Contracts and fees
Introduction letter to Ethiopina Government
Family registration form
Letter to the orphanage Toukoul
Letter to the Ethiopian Government
Financial information form
Letter from Bank
Letters of reference x2
Letters from Employer
Birth certificates for parents
Deed to home
Power of attorney
Passport photos (2 of each parent)
Ethiopian Program List
Homestudy agency license
Obligation of homestudy agency to do post-placement reports
State Criminal Clearance Letter
USCIS approval I171H form
Things to gather for Homestudy Agency
Contracts and fees signed
Establish Fedex account
Autobiographies - before first homestudy visit
Authorization to release information form
Authorization for release of information form
Medical reports for each parent
Medical reports for each member of household, including kids
Reference letters (4)
Copy of financial statement to be used in dossier
Federal income tax 1040 form last 3 years
Personal information sheet
Family photo and family of parents
Copy of birth certificates
Copy of passports
Copy of marriage certificate
HIPPA Authorization forms (ability to transfer medical info)
School performance report for each kid
Completion of education courses - book, test, online courses
Deed to our home
Criminal record statement
Explanation of incident
Certifed Court documents of the incident
Information needed to send with I600A form to USCIS
Obtaining the State Police Clearance Letter In California
Refer to this website - Office of the Attorney General DOJ. Take note of the far right hand column about half-way down - the information about "Visa/Immigration and Foreign Adoptions".
Download this form, as instructed.
Fill it out using this guideline.
Find a Livescan facility to get your fingerprints done (this is a separate livescan from the one you do for your homestudy agency; and they cannot 'save' fingerprints on the computer, so you have to do it twice, and pay twice).
They will mail you a printout to your home - no criminal record may take 1 day. Yes criminal record? Took 35 days for us.
Once the printout arrived, looking very unofficial, I called DOJ. Of course I got the run around as most of the automated pre-recorded messages are not very helpful - so I left a message. But there is one person who was tremendously helpful: (916) 227-3807, her name is Lena. She said she'd mail us a letter, on letterhead with a seal.
Two days later, a letter arrived - on letterhead with a Seal impression and signature. Attached to the letter is a printout (the same printout they initially mailed to us san the letter).
So, after getting the print-out, we had to call Lena and have her subsequently mail us the 'letter.'
See this post for more details.
Dossier - a legal set of documents
Apostille - legalization of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents
Authentication - authentication of public official signatures on documents to be used outside the United States of America. The country of destination determines whether the authentication is an Apostille or Certification (basically legalization of a document for international use in a country *not* apart of the Hague Convention).
I600A - Application for advance processing of orphan petition
I171H - Approval of the I600A
Placement agency - Agency licensed to operate adoption procedures in a foreign country
Homestudy agency - Agency licensed in your state to do homestudies for your area.