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Choosing A Placement Agency

Trying to decide which placement agency to use during your adoption journey? This blog entry will help you in that decision.

Choosing A Placement Agency

International or Domestic Adoption

International vs Domestic Adoption? Why we decided to adopt internationally.

International or Domestic Adoption

Our Trip To Ethiopia

A recap of our trip to Ethiopia. A firsthand account of a trip that would touch so many lives.

Our Trip To Ethiopia

Pathway To Citizenship

Adoption from Ethiopia was only the first step for many families. Re-adopiton and citizenship are a next step. Your pathway to both.

Pathway To Citizenship


:::MERKATO::: A new documentary by Sosena Solomon about the largest and oldest open air market in Ethiopia. Join Coily Embrace as a sponsor of this film.


Packing To Go To Ethiopia

What should you pack to take with you on your trip to Ethiopia? We have a list for you that includes supplies, medicines and other must have items.

Packing To Go To Ethiopia

Choosing Homestudy Agency

Not sure what to consider when choosing a Homestudy Agency? Here are some things to consider when you make your decision.

Choosing Homestudy Agency

We're HOME!!

We are home!! We were very (VERY) pleasantly surprised that Grandma and Grandpa were waiting for us (with rotisserie chicken meal from Whole Foods, homemade brownies, and a warm house). Our doggies are fat, and our neighbor came by with Greek cookies.

We'll write more later. I'll upload a few pix. It was wonderful seeing Alicia in Addis...but I agree, there are a few things I'd do before travel to avoid the *STRESS* in dealing with delayed paperwork and possible trip extension! (such as call Abebe, the attorney *yourself* PRIOR to travel to make sure everything is all ready at the US Embassy...including the medical evaluation!!)

Anyhoo...more later!!

The family goes to Ethiopia

Send positive energy our way...

....as we go to get our little girl in ETHIOPIA!!!

We are now in the air...on our way to Dubai. Will update as possible!!

Braids n' things

1.) Braids - I'm thinking that lice cannot grab onto fake hair, and climbing braids is very difficult. It makes sense to me that having synthetic braids not only saves us time/effort, but is healthier!! :o)

2.) Travel/med-evac insurance

3.) We'll clean our home (of course), before we go.

And, with that...we are all ready!! :o)

mad dash to the pharmacy

Joy and her family are back from Addis...with their two boys. The "word on the message boards" is that chicken pox, scabies, and URI (upper respiratory infections) are rampant in the orphanage.

I'm not concerned about chicken pox...it is a pretty benign disease in childhood, and do not feel children really should be vaccinated against it. But scabies? That's absolutely a big problem. The last thing I want to deal with is little itchy bugs in our home. Also concerning are the bacterial superinfections that occur when the children scratch the pox or scabies. SO....

...even though I had LOTS of stuff/meds/supplies all packed up - (including zpaks for all which treat both skin infections, URIs, pneumonias, etc). I decided (in my usual OCD fashion) to *get more stuff* - just in case. It would be very frustrating (to me) to be there, and not have something I could have totally gotten...if I'd have just taken a minute to *think* of it...OR, a bit of extra effort/money to actually go get it.

So today, I picked up:

fluocinolone acetonide ointment 0.025% - prescription topical steroid that's the best I've used
more antibiotic ointment - just in case we need to cover her entire body with the stuff
permethrin cream 5% to treat scabies (Sister also has some of this cream for us) - we will treat her on day 1, and treat ourselves on our last day in the hotel.
Aveeno Baby Oatmeal bath treatment
Aveeno Baby Oatmeal Creamy wash
Aveeno Baby Oatmeal Moisture cream
Aveeno calamine and pramoxine HCL cream - dries out weepy rashes and itch-relief
Gold Bond baby powder - triple action
anti-fungal (via Sister)
triamcinolone cream (via Sister) - topical steroid cream

in addition to these skin treatments, I started thinking to myself as I walked around the drug store "oh my, I wonder if we have enough [fill in the blank]!!"

SO...I bought more anti-diarrheal medication, more pepto-bismal (not a big fan, but maybe it'll treat travelers diarrhea better than it treats dyspepsia), lactaid...and I wrote myself a prescription for phenergan (because the reglan doesn't work as well when you're not pregnant I've learned).

I also had to get some infant vitamins...afterall, if she lacks essential vitamins, it'll be more difficult for her to heal and be/stay healthy.

Phew!! I *really* think I'm done with the medications now...


Confirm our hotel reservations with a phone call
Confirm our flight information with the travel agent; ask that he mails the receipts (expecting them tomorrow)
Print final documents and fill them out
Gather the supporting documents (employment letter, paystubs, taxes)
Spoke with Haley's teacher regarding missed classwork
Suspend Haley's automatic healthy school lunch program
Paid the house bills or arranged for them to be paid.
Gather supplies and donations
Pack supplies/donations
Pack the medications/medical supplies that we've gathered
Pack clothing
Pack activities, snacks, carry-on stuff
Bug sister about the final medications we're bringing for skin conditions
Register our trip
Give our travel info to interested parties
Copy and leave copies of our important document with family
Email these same documents to ourselves for online access
Purchase doggie supplies to leave with our doggie-sitter
Speak with neighbors regarding our travel plans (so they will bring in the mail, out the trash, watch the house, and the dogs)
Read books about Ethiopia
Read books/info about health conditions in Ethiopia
Purchase and learn to use new camera/video recorder

Wash all baby's clothes, fold them, put them away
Decorate Hana and Ian's room, wash the crib clothes (thanks Grandma for helping me with this...couldn't have done it without you - just wasn't enough time)
Rearrange our house to accommodate one more by turning the playroom into Haley's bedroom and
complete the last of home improvement projects
(thanks Grandpa for helping us with this...we've been trying to do this for the last 6 months. Nothing like time pressure to motivate.)

Sort out important issues with family - sign forms, etc.
Update life and medical insurance to include new baby
Meet with other people who are familiar with the process, and Ethiopia
Call the people in Addis Ababa that friends recommended we contact

Christmas shopping and talking to Santa on behalf of our children
Christmas decorations, inside and outside

What's left?
Thinking of getting my hair done
Thinking of getting Haley's hair braided
Home spa day
Get more snacks (can never have too many)
Thinking about getting a stronger topical steroid since other families have reported that their babies from Toukoul have extensive rashes
On the same note - thinking about getting stronger anti-fungal
Still have to pack last minute things (things that *can't* be packed until the last minute b/c they are used daily)

Hubby list includes:
Making sure the dogs are squared away (including grooming)
Travel insurance with medical evacuation
And he needs to finish his packing (I'm OCD and cannot wait until the last minute. He, OTOH...can)

This is starting to feel *real*.

More Recommended Reading

Bradt: Ethiopian Guide

Ethiopia & Eritrea

Recommended books we've been reading in preparation for our trip. We've spoken to multiple people who have offered tremendous insight, pearls of wisdom, and advice. Thanks to everyone who participated in helping us raise donations, money, and took their time to share their experiences.

--the shout-outs--

My first 'real' boss...an ER doc who let me join his medical group when I was a new graduate and 21 weeks pregnant without blinking an eye...and promoted me, advocated for me, and really took an interest in me. He encouraged me to leave my previous oppressive group to take a chance and join a more progressive group. AND, his parents took him and his siblings to Ethiopia when they were young....maintained relationships...and now he takes his girls there. Needless to say, I considered him a valuable resource.

We also had the pleasure of hosting an adoptive family at our home this week. They not only came full of wisdom and pearls...but baby clothing, shoes, dresses for our little one. They were very reassuring, telling the the good/bad/ugly about their experience. They, no doubt, saved us from lots of unnecessary frustration.

And I can't leave out the wonderful Ethiopian family who had brunch for us. Because they were born/raised and attended college there...and go back every year...they had tons of things to say about their home country. Lots of her family still lives in Addis Ababa, and even know our attorney over there. There were pictures of his wedding at a beautiful hotel there...his home, and a glimpse into their lives. I spoke to him personally, and will try to see him during our visit.

We have another friend who works for an NGO in Addis, and moved her family from NY in September. Her, her husband, and 5 kids...all moved to Ethiopia for at least a year. They are now in school there, and really have made a life there. We are eager to visit with them. We have activities planned since she has small children too.


We're all packed and ready to go. We have all of our required papers, including the employment letter, paystubs, cash in new bills, etc. Donations are all packed up in rubbermaids, and ready to go.

ALSO, we got our final update!! We are so excited about going...

...and with the info we've acquired from our friends, we feel safe, confident, and ready! :o)

I600A approval - I171h - Visa 37; just be sure the Embassy has it!!

(As a follow-up to this post - on checking to see that US Embassy has received the necessary documents to issue the child's visa at the embassy appointment).

I wasn't sure if, when the embassy says "we have your I600A approval" they ALSO mean "we have your Visa 37 cable and you are safe to travel...and when you get here we will actually issue a visa for your baby..."

So, I've been emailing them for the last few days (along with my blog buddy Lisa)...we're totally freaking out together. We've been going thru this entire process together...except she's traveling next week. (See, we decided to wait...for multiple reasons. Among which include Haley's school vacation schedule...my work schedule...and the fact that we purchased our tickets 'early' and gave ourselves 'extra' time, just in case there was a delay. Besides, we wanted to make sure that all of the papers are prepared and ready...)

Well, we learned that, for whatever reason, the embassy wasn't receiving her emails. So...after a few days of 'no responses,' I changed up my email address...created a new gmail account...re e-mailed the request for confirmation from my brand-new gmail email...and they responded immediately!! :o)

So. Yes. They do have our I600A approval...BUT ALSO they have our Visa 37!!

Note to self: Next time I'll ask about *both* the I600A approval AND the Visa 37 on my first email (because, I've heard the the Visa 37 actually includes the homestudy info...in addition to the I171h approval).

Note to self: Next time, I won't even bother trying to call the Embassy. And if I don't get a response within 1 day or two, I would immediately send the message from another email account.

Note: I wouldn't bother with the National Visa Center unless the Embassy tells you they didn't get the necessary forms...because even if they *say* they sent it...it only matters if the Embassy *receives it*!!

Also note: The I600A approval = I171h = Visa 37 (+ few other papers)

Info from the EthiopiaAdopt Yahoo Group - very helpful!!
The I-171H from your USCIS office means that your I-600A was approved. Your approval for an international adoption is now good for 18 months and your fingerprints are good for 15 months - the end dates are determined by the approval date, not the date you received the I-171H. This approval is for your family not for a specific child.

After you have adopted a child and have all of the child's foreign documents you then submit an I-600 form for a child - one for each child if you are adopting more than one child. The I-600 will either be submitted to your local CIS office or to the involved US Embassy, again with all the child's foreign documents including the child's foreign passport.

Before you can submit an I-600 at the US Embassy your placing agency must make certain that yourI-171H has been received by the US Embassy, along with your homestudy. While the approval a family receives is called an I-171H, the approval for an I-600A that goes to the US Embassy either by e-mail or fax is called a Visa 37 -

The adopting family's homestudy is either held at the involved CIS office if the adopting family is filing their child's I-600 directly with CIS, OR the homestudy is pouched by CIS to the US Embassy. The Embassy will make sure that the child being presented for a US visa matches the gender, health, age range and number of children the family's homestudy approves the family for. If it does not matchthe Embassy will not issue the adopted child a US visa until the homestudy has an addendum with information matching the child.

The US Embassy in Ethiopia requires one I-864 form (affidavit of support)for each child. The person who signs the I-864 as the applicant MUST be the person who was approved as the applicant on the I-171H. If the applicant does not have enough income to match the Federal guidelines then the spouse of the applicant signs the attached paperwork to the I-864 (which is the I-864A). This form is given to the US Embassy, not to CIS.



Using the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) guidelines; and abiding by the rules of Emirates Airlines. (max carry-on size is 22x15x8 inches); each person can check 2 items.

Carry on stuff
Medical Supplies**
toiletries/hygiene products (3oz bottles)
water bottle
video camera
digital camera
Lip balm
premoistened towels
antibacterial towels
hand sanitizer
eye shade
saline solution
(sun) glasses
compact mirror
child strap
business cards
permanent markers
toys/activities/books for everyone
sippy cups

stroller (double)

2 complete outfits for all

Accordion folder
Airline e-tickets
Hotel reservation
credit cards
New/clean dollar bills
Drivers license
insurance cards
insurance information
passport holder
Ethiopian contact list
emergency contact list (there and here)

U.S. MD letter to carry all of these meds/supplies
AHOPE letter stating they need some of the HIV meds we're bringing
the final forms
pay stubs
employment letter
birth/marriage certificates
I171h forms + copies
medical license

emergency medicine certification papers
information about the baby/pictures
travel health book and information
language information

Zithromax (adult/kids)
zofran ODT
compazine suppositories (sister)
cortisporin ear drops
erythromycin eye ointment
sulfacetamine eye drops
Altabax (antibiotic ointment)
triamcinolone cream
permethrin cream 5%

cough medicine/drops
Tylenol (kids/adult/infant)
Motrin (kids/adult)
benadryl (kids/adult)
antifungal cream
infant vitamins
Aveeno Baby Oatmeal bath treatment
Aveeno Baby Oatmeal Creamy wash
Aveeno Baby Oatmeal Moisture cream
Aveeno calamine and pramoxine HCL cream
Gold Bond baby powder

rubbng alcohol packs
iodine swabs
cotton balls
deet (non-deet) repellent
hydrocortisone cream
rehydration salts
Pediapops (kid salts)
Lice/scabies treatment Rix Shampoo
water purify tablets

Tea tree oil
Sleep/relaxation aid (kids/adults)

medical/paper tape
IV start kits
IV fluid
swiss army knife
face masks
nail clippers
Ace wrap

Laceration Repair
staple remover
laceration repair kit
cotton swabs
iodine swabs
tefla/non-adherent gauze
gauze rolls


Checked in luggage
soap (tea tree)
toilet seat covers
feminine hygiene
shaving stuff
tide (little boxes)

REI quick-dry pants
lounge wear (pajamas)

infant formula
diaper bag
diaper cream
baby toys/books/activities
baby blankets
baby clothes



Thank you SO much to everyone who has given their time, energy, MONEY, medications, clothing, shoes, jackets, school supplies...etc. etc.

We've decided, after talking to various people, that it's less hassle to simply take the donations in rubbermaids/luggage, and check it. So, that's what we're gonna do. We're going to hand deliver all the items to the 2 orphanages that we've been in contact with.

I will update this post if/when we receive other donations.

Crossing things off the "to do" list.

- We've been busy gathering everything we *think* we might think about needing in Ethiopia (list forthcoming). We have our luggage out, mostly packed. I think I have all the items I want/need - including a new camera. I just can't reconcile taking only one camera.

- I mentioned before, I'm a list person. I'll make a list just to cross everything off the list. My list of "things to do" is short now. I have to squeeze my December shifts into the first week and the last week...so I anticipate being crazy busy with work/home as we get close to our travel day. And I cannot wait until the week before 'cause I'll forget a cool third of our stuff if I do. So, now, everything has been purchased.

- We're even done with Christmas stuff...and I spoke to Santa, and he has everything all ready to deliver on Christmas eve ;o)

- I've called our contacts there, touched bases with the orphanages regarding medical volunteering with Sister and have it all arranged.

- We have our transportation (mostly) arranged.

- We (get this) actually have appointments and things to do scheduled already during our time in Addis - people to visit (friends of friends) - things to deliver.

- We've registered our trip with the Department of State Travel Registry - so we get travel warnings (and they know our travel plans) at https://travelregistration.state.gov/

- Hubby has added Hana to our family health insurance policy.

- Our dogs are microchiped in case they get out.

- We've been taking probiotics and vitamins to help maintain healthy gut environment.

- I have our U.S. MD note to justify carrying all of our medications:
All prescription medications are permitted in carry-on bags, even those in liquid or gel form. Associated supplies such as syringes, disposal containers, and the like are also allowed once they have been screened by security. The TSA recommends having the same name on prescription labels and boarding pass, but it isn't a requirement, so you can pack a small day-of-the-week pill organizer rather than several bulky bottles. If you prefer to bring entire bottles of pills, a multiple-bottle storage case can keep the bottles together in your bag. The TSA encourages travelers to bring "supporting documentation" such as a doctor's note explaining medication needs. Additional documentation isn't necessary, though it may prove helpful if you encounter an overzealous TSA agent.

- We've been reading relevant travel information such as: http://www.africanchildforum.org/visa.asp

- Making sure we have all of the required papers in order.

- Coordinating donations.

- Hubby is doing a school project with Haley's class.

- AND we had the greatest time with our new Ethiopian friends who had a brunch for us, and served the yummiest spicy injera dish with spicy butter. The best part - we get to go back over there and learn to cook, speak, and celebrate Ethiopian style!!

Busy, busy, busy...
Still have to arrange travel insurance.
be sure to constantly check the US travel site.
Get cash, new clean bills

Scan our important dox (again) and try (again) to upload them; and send them to our VIP (very important people). Stuff like copies of our passports, hotel/plane reservations, dossier, etc.

Get (replenish) our snacks :o) (redvines are sooo irresistible!!)

Arrange pet care.

And, honestly, we still have to get our employment letters.

But...the list is shorter.

Final Forms

We've browsed over, and started the completion of the final forms that are needed for our Embassy appointment in Addis.

Forms and Fees (remember, all of these forms must be filled out by the petitioner, and signed at the Embassy).

Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
There is the I600 form, which is the last part of the process we began back in January with the I600A form (and the instructions). The fee, the fingerprints, the approval (I171h form), all culminate in this. So no additional fees are needed.

- you'll need to bring a copy of your I171 form (the approval of the I600A form).
- be sure to call and make sure a copy was sent via National Visa Center to the US Embassy.

Affidavit of Support
The form I864 is a form showing the US Embassy how much money you make and to demonstrate that you have the resources to care for the immigrant. Also is an "agreement" to do so. It's required that you make at least 125% percent of poverty level as determined by the 864P.

You'll need to bring supporting documentation to submit with this form.
- Recent employment letter (same letter as prior, but with new date) - notarized
- Recent pay stubs/earning statements
- 1099 and/or W2s for at least last year, but possibly (if it'll help you prove your financial viability) for the last 3 years.
- Paystub(s). Again for the last month, but if it'll help prove your case, consider bringing them for the last 3-6 months.

Contract between sponsor and household member.
The form I864A. If you need (or choose to) show a second person's resources/assets in order to meet the financial qualifications described above per 864P, you'll need to fill out the I864A.

Visa Application. - overview
Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration.
This is the actual visa application. The fee is $355 as of January 2008.

We've made a few copies to take with us, just in case we need them. Additionally, there's this blog with awesome links (in both the text of this post, AND in the sidebar) to all the forms needed, if we happen to need new ones once there.

What we still need.

We're so excited that our friends and family are excited for us, Hana, and our (relatively small) contribution to the orphans in Ethiopia!!

'How can I help?' some have wondered. We want as many people as possible vested in this experience with us.

How you can help is by donating a bit of money so that we can ship things over there to the orphanages. From what I understand, it's over $300 per box!! Or, if it's more feasible, we could add the box(es) to our checked luggage to travel with us...but checking extra (heavy-ish) bags is not cheap either.

So...if you're so inclined, please help us collect these funds so we can ship as much as possible to the children in the Toukoul and AHOPE orphanages. We plan to ship the donations to a friend's house in Addis Ababa, then, once we are there, will go thru and divide the donations so that each orphanage gets the products they need most. Then we will hand deliver the donations to the two orphanages.

The paypal button is in the side-bar. And for those of you who are wary...I've used paypal for *so* many things...and it's safe, reliable, and easy (the best way is to set up a paypal account http://www.paypal.com/ and use money from the account - but they also accept credit/debit cards)!! For those who would prefer to give another way, just email me (at myaschlitz.at.yahoo.com) and let me know what you're thinking. :o)

Thanks so much!!

UPDATE 11/15/08:

Needed supplies AHOPE

Ace Bandage
Nystatin suspension(oral preparation)
Nystatin and Triamcinolone Acetonid cream
HEXIT-Lotion (Lindane lotion 1% usp) for scabies and poison
Perimethrin cream 50% (for scabies)
Pediatric Nasogastric tube No. 6 & 8
Pepcid (Famotidine) antacid tablet 20mg
Cefalexin 500mg and 250mg capsule (antibiotic)
Spatula (Tongue depressor for throat examination)
Enfamil (Multi vitamin supplement Drops)- Essential vitamin for infants and toddlers
Enfamil- Milk gas-free infant formula powder for Babies 0-2

Hair/Skin Care/Hygiene
Anti dundruff shampoo and ointment
Ketokonazole Shampoo
Hair accessories
Hair oil (8-15 year old girls)
Strong Body Lotion(8-15 year old children) (e.g. Eucerin)

Socks (8-15 yrs)
Clothes (8-15 yrs)
Swimming Suit (different size)
Sports wear(for 8-15 year old children)
Shoes (all sizes for infant – 15)
Watches(for 8-15 year old children)

School-Type Supplies
Children's Diary
School bags(for older children)
Rechargeable battery
Flash disk
Mathematical Set
Note Books
Index Cards (3x5 blank for flash cards – several sets for English/Math) – please label "Char Baldwin – Big AHOPE"
Plastic Containers, varies sizes (e.g. storage of flashcards, art supplies, etc)

Diaper (for 9 month -2yrs)
Baby Wipes
Rubber sheet(disposable)
Toys, games (8-14 year old children)

Things we have in excess
Anti Pyretics(anti-pains) (e.g. Tylenol, Motrin)
Antibiotic ointment
Tooth brush
Band Aids
Alcohol Swabs
Baby Feeding bottle
Hydrocortisone ointment
Gas relief
FALCON Ophthalmic Solution
Clothes for children of 1-4 years
Diaper rash ointment

The following is a list of physical donations currently needed at the Toukoul Orphanage.

Warm Blankets
Clothing (all children's sizes, gently used or new, boys and girls)
Jackets and Sweaters
Books for the Library (hard bound and good quality)
School Supplies (pencils, crayons, paper, note books, educational activity books, flash cards, educational games that don't require batteries)
Sports/Play Equipment (soccer balls, playground balls, frisbees, bubbles, games that don't require batteries)

Cellphone use. Emergency Consular Service in Ethiopia

ATT Wireless does allow for international cell phone use on our Blackberry's. The cost: $3.49/minute!! They have a "special world traveler package" but it saves you no money for calls in Ethiopia.

Lucky us...our friend is gonna let us use her cell phone for the week we're there!!

Of note:
Consular Emergency while in Addis Ababa:
call 011-517-4000 ext. 0 and ask or the Duty Officer.

Hana's Growth/Updates from the Adoption Agency

Referral and Update Photos

Hana was born to a woman who died of TB leaving behind her an orphan at 4 months old. The father is unknown, and as a result, there was no one to take care of her. Her mom's remaining family took the baby to the social court to so that she might join the orphanage. They were no longer able to take care of the baby due to difficult living conditions. She is from South Ethiopia - born on 2/22/08 in Guemto Guech; Gamo Goffa Zone SOUTHERN NATIONS NATIONALITIS AND PEOPLE'S REGION.

JUNE: (referral picture = white dress) Her mother died, leaving her an orphan. When she arrived to the Toukoul orphanage, she was 4 months old, malnourished, and weighing only 7.7 pounds (3.5 Kg).

She was rehydrated, and basic medical care was provided. One week later, she weighed in at 8.2 pounds (3.7 Kg). Height 61 cm; head circumference 38.5 cm.

Her physical exam is unremarkable, and her blood tests/xrays/cultures are all negative. She has a good appetite, normal sleep cycle, and began laughing out loud. She holds her head steady when pulled to sitting.

JULY: (update picture = pastel/white romper) At 5 months old, she weighs in at 10.1 pounds; height 62cm, head circumference 40cm. She receives her first set of vaccinations. Developmentally, she rolls over from front to back, imitates some speech sounds/razzing sounds, and recognize familiar faces.

SEPT: (update picture = blue/gold dress) at 7 months old, she weighs in at 13.6 pounds; height 64cm, head circumference 42cm. She receives her second set of vaccinations. She's eating more, and has her formula supplemented with spoon feeds. She sits with support and has started to crawl. She transfers objects from hand to hand, babbles and reaches for familiar people.

OCT: (update picture = blue dress with hair bow) At 8 months old, she weighs in at almost 15 pounds; height 66 cm, head circumference 44cm. She's sitting unsupported and crawls.

Referral Photo - can now be published!!

Our Newest Family Member...

We passed court...and are therefore officially Hana's family per Ethiopian Law!!

Now we go get her.

Our Embassy appointment in Addis Ababa is December 15th. In the meantime, birth certificate has to be redone (with us as her parents), passports, medical clearance, visas, etc. This typically takes between 3-5 weeks.

Today we celebrate!! President Obama...and our newest family member!!

President Elect Obama - Global President!!

'Change has come to America'

We are ecstatic about our new President OBAMA!!

Now we can travel internationally with our heads held high...proud...and without fear and World hate!!

Now, we don't have to lie and say we're Canadian. :o)

Baby Girl in Review

JUNE: (referral picture = white dress) Her mother died, leaving her an orphan. When she arrived to the Toukoul orphanage, she was 4 months old, malnourished, and weighing only 7.7 pounds (3.5 Kg).

She was rehydrated, and basic medical care was provided. One week later, she weighed in at 8.2 pounds (3.7 Kg). Height 61 cm; head circumference 38.5 cm.

Her physical exam is unremarkable, and her blood tests/xrays/cultures are all negative. She has a good appetite, normal sleep cycle, and began laughing out loud. She holds her head steady when pulled to sitting.

JULY: (update picture = pastel/white romper) At 5 months old, she weighs in at 10.1 pounds; height 62cm, head circumference 40cm. She receives her first set of vaccinations. Developmentally, she rolls over from front to back, imitates some speech sounds/razzing sounds, and recognize familiar faces.

SEPT: (update picture = blue/gold dress) at 7 months old, she weighs in at 13.6 pounds; height 64cm, head circumference 42cm. She receives her second set of vaccinations. She's eating more, and has her formula supplemented with spoon feeds. She sits with support and has started to crawl. She transfers objects from hand to hand, babbles and reaches for familiar people.

OCT: (update picture = blue dress with hair bow) At 8 months old, she weighs in at almost 15 pounds; height 66 cm, head circumference 44cm. She's sitting unsupported and crawls.

According to Radu, everything is all set and ready for our Nov 6th court date. All documents have been acquired, and everyone is prepared.

Fingers-crossed that we become her new parents on this day.

US Embassy in Addis Ababa.

You may recall that I mentioned that we're supposed to contact the US Embassy in Ethiopia on a prior post - but couldn't wake up early enough to ever catch them before 5pm their time...

I finally had a genius moment and thought: "why don't I call the US Embassy in Ethiopia *before* I go to bed?"

So first I had to figure out how to call them:

011 - US exit code

251 - Ethiopian country code

11 - Area code for Addis Ababa

124-2424 - the phone number to the embassy.

So the number is: 011-251-11-124-2424 (this is exactly what you press on the phone)

Got an email response the same day (which was *my* next day) saying they'd received the I600A approval (the form I171h) for an infant girl age up to 2; the dates it (and the fingerprints) expire (which are October 2nd and June 11, 2009 respectively). I also asked about the Visa 37...what it is...how to get it...

...they didn't answer that part.

So...I'll send another email, maybe after we pass court.

Travel Plans. Tickets.

Dubai. Home to the World's only 6-star hotel.

We made the decision to purchase our plane tickets!! We've decided to fly Air Emirates. Our route: LAX to Dubai then Addis. Back from Addis to Dubai, then into SFO (San Francisco). Everyone has a ticket...even baby girl!! The tickets are refundable, changeable (for small fees), and very reasonably priced. Much lower than I expected!!

After talking with multiple travel agents (including American Express Travel), we decided to use:

Scott Nordwall.
Travel International
2345 Rice St. Suite 173
Roseville, MN 55113
Phone: 1-800-494-7568 or 651-482-7568
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Other popular agencies that we considered:
Elsa Abate
Addis Travel Services
1821 W. University Ave. Suite S135
St. Paul, MN 55104
Phone: 651-646-6900 or fax: 651-646-6909
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Susan Parr
Susan Parr Travel, Inc.
1234 East Front St.
Port Angeles, WA 98362
1-800 455-7277 or 1-360-452-6596

We've also reserved our hotel rooms (and the rental car to drive down to LA). The reservations for the hotel can be canceled up until 48hours prior to our expected arrival, so we felt comfortable doing this.


On a side note -
Most of the "things to do" on the 'pre-trip' list is done.

Trim the branches of the big tree off of the house
Micro-chip the dogs in case they get out
Sprinklers/timer fixed
Reorganize the living space to create more room

We've gathered donations, and I'm hoping to ship the box(es) so they arrive while we are there. I would rather not try to lug all of those extra items on our trip around the World.

We've gathered up most of the medications/supplies we need (still have a ways to go before we have *everything* we want to take). But between me and Sister...all the medication and medical supplies have been acquired!!

Now...we just have to get the rest of the supplies, organize (so we won't forget) our important documents, such as copies of our dossier, passports, tickets, identification, contact lists, my medical license, the stuff we'll need for the embassy appointment, and so forth and so on...(I have a check list to help organize).

Also, one of these days I'm going to wake up early enough to actually call the US Embassy in Addis during their business hours!!

Final Paperwork

Once in Addis Ababa, with the help of our attorney, we'll have to complete the I-600 form (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative). We have the forms now, and we were instructed to fill out as much as possible. Both parents have to be present at the US Embassy (or a notarized signature must be obtained from the 'absent' parent prior to leaving the US) - unless you're a single woman adopting. The person who files the I600 must be the same petitioner as on the I-600A.

Additionally, the I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and I-864A (Affidavit of Support Contract between Sponsor and Household Member) must be done. This is an agreement that you have the resources to provide for the child...and the child will not come to America only to end up on public assistance. This is also filed with the I-600 form at the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. Again, the petitioner of the I-600 form must be the sponsor on the I864 form.

The Form DS-230 Parts 1 and 2 - (Application for immigrant visa and alien registration) to be done for the US Embassy appointment.

*whatever we can't complete, the lawyer will assist once we arrive to Addis. I was told that we meet with him the day prior (Sunday) to go over and complete these forms correctly.

To accompany us in support of these forms:

1) Most recent paystub.
2) Notarized employment letter with recent date.
3) Last 3 years taxes (copies of 1040 and W-2 or 1099)
4) Copy of your INS approval (the form I171h)
5) The DS-230 form (parts 1 and 2)

Additionally, we must be sure to call the Embassy and make sure that our I600A approval (the I171h form) was indeed sent to them via the National Visa Center *prior* to our departure from the US. (If not, follow these steps: write a letter to the USCIS asking them to send the form to Addis Ababa. And they will. Then you'll receive confirmation and a case number that they did.)

That's the last of the paperwork per our Agency. This final paperwork couldn't have been completed prior to the referral as they require the *name* and *identity* of an actual orphan/child.

Q & A with Grace

Grace recenlty went to Addis Ababa with her daughter Abigail to pick up her baby Anna. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

Grace Q&A

Court date postponed: New court date November 6th

So, the court date was postponed. I don't know if it's okay to post lots of info on the issue, so I won't. Wouldn't want anything to jeopardize future court dates...

But, apparently this is not all that uncommon...and somewhat expected after court reopens. Reading the yahoo groups, it seems that (not infrequently) the rules change ever so slightly with the new "season" and agencies are forced to make adjustments. Adjustments that may not be entirely understood *until* they reopen. Courts reopened last week...so maybe there just wasn't enough time for those required (new) adjustments to be made?

And because of the backlog (I would imagine)...our next court date isn't until November 6th.

The thing is, though, Radu gave us travel dates, and our US Embassy appointment in Addis Ababa (for which we have to be present) is Monday December 15th. This information was not shared prior to this 10/7 court date though I *specifically* asked multiple times). Radu is 'confident' that everything will be worked out, and 11/6 will yield a passing court experience for our family. Maybe he wasn't so confident about this 10/7 date and therefore didn't provide the travel dates....hmmmm...


as far as prep goes, we're ready to have her here - with all of the (big) basic stuff. I have yet to purchase bottles, formula, and smaller baby items. I figure that once she's here, we'll see what stage she's in (afterall, she'll be 10 months old). Maybe she won't want a bottle? Maybe she'll be ready to try out her legs with standing-type toys. Maybe she'll be barely crawling, and still only drinking a bottle? Babies change so much in their first year of life...to try and anticipate her stage (considering the circumstances) is not the easiest thing to do.

Additionally, we purchased all of the OTC (over the counter) meds for the trip. And Sister has more stuff (we have to take inventory of our supplies soon so we'll know what we've got, and what we still need).

So, a December trip. That's not such a bad thing. Haley won't miss school. Hubby is on winter vacation. It gives us a couple more paychecks to save (and spend). With travel dates this far in advance we can start making plans 2 months out instead of 4 weeks out.

The only (relatively) difficult thing was/is...my work schedule. The good thing is December requests are due today...so I requested the needed time off. BUT, that only leaves a handful of days left that are available for me to work...and because I want a certain number of shifts, I'm really trying to work closely with the scheduler (and the group) so I can get *exactly* the days I need to maximize my ability to work on the days I'm actually available.

But for November, where I have lots of blocked days off (in anticipation of November travel) I'm now trying to pick up a few days. AND, because I totally compressed my schedule (i.e. working lots of days in a row, which is highly atypical for me), I'm trying to switch dates around to allow me more time in between shifts to recover. All of these schedule changes are like asking for *personal favors* and care has to be taken to ask the right person in the right way. This, is probably the most stressful part of the 'limbo.'

Hopefully our November 6th court date will allow us to travel as planned in December. The fact that Radu is confident, and other families didn't pass, helps me refrain from totally freaking out about the possibly that there's something about *us* or *her* that is causing a problem.

Pre-trip Pedi Appointments - done.

Pre-trip physical exam for the kids - with scripts given for gastroenteritis symptoms and z-paks (antibiotics). CHECK.

Today Haley and Ian had their physical exams. Turns out their pediatrician used to work at Children's Hospital and spent a year in Sudan right at the border with Ethiopia. She was so excited for us...and thought it was great that the entire family is going.

One more week until court!!

More update here.