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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

:::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.

MERKATO

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

Our Dossier is...




...in the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC.

Out of the US Secretary of States office...federally authenticated...and in the Ethiopian Embassy. Hopefully this will go smoothly...





Recommended Vaccinations



So, I had an appointment with the travel clinic (on behalf of my entire family)...and subsequently did some research on my own.

The discussion

Hep A in children is a benign disease, so they may not get this one...but probably they will.

Flu
Pretty benign viral disease; vax are frequently ineffective due to inability to predict the appropriate strains. Young healthy people with healthy immune systems typically overcome the flu quickly. So we won't get that one.

Meningiococcal is recommended in Addis Ababa only in the dry season (from December - June). And is recommended in the instance of intimate and prolonged contact with native people. We will be traveling in the wet season; and our 5 days trip to pick up a baby doesn't qualify as "intimate/prolonged exposure to native people."

"Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa may be at risk for meningococcal disease. Travelers to the meningitis belt during the dry season should be advised to receive meningococcal vaccine, especially if they will have prolonged contact with local populations." CDC website.
So it is not recommended for us unless we travel in December or later.


Yellow Fever


Yellow Fever/Malaria Vaccination Requirements from CDC
Country requirements: If traveling from an endemic zone and >1 year of age
CDC recommendations: For all travelers >9 months of age (if going to endemic zone)
Risk areas: All areas at altitudes below 2,000 m (<6,561>No risk in Addis Ababa.



TABLE 4-24. Countries that require proof of vaccination against yellow fever for all arriving travelers
Angola
Benin
Bolivia (or signed affidavit at point of entry)
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
Congo
Côte d’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo
French Guiana
Gabon
Ghana
Liberia
Mali
Mauritania (for a stay >2 weeks)
Niger
Rwanda
São
Tomé and Principe
Sierra Leone
Tanzania
Togo


No vaccinations are currently required for return to the United States. (Updated April 21, 2008)



**Additionally, I spoke with the Ethiopian Embassy today at (202) 364-1200, and was informed that no Yellow Fever card/vaccination proof is required for entry into Ethiopia for US citizens coming from the USA.

There is no risk of yellow fever in Addis Ababa (per CDC website), and vaccination isn't required (or even recommended by our travel clinic); nor is it required to return home. The shot is not without 'real' risks. The risk of getting Yellow Fever is small anyway...and by confining our trip to only Addis Ababa...the risk of exposure is too close to zero to justify the risks of the vaccination. So...we won't be getting this shot



Malaria - not an issue in Addis Ababa; no prophylaxis necessary.


So, what's left?

I'll be getting a Hep A and polio booster/titer; and perhaps typhoid (shot is good for 2 years). My titers indicate I'm immune to MMR, Varicella, and Hep B. I've had a Tdap booster 1-2 years ago for work.

Hubby - will need Hep A/B, polio booster/titer, MMR titers, Tdap booster, and perhaps typhoid.

The kiddos - have received all their standard vax. They may not need any additional shots...and one physician so far actually recommended *no* additional vaccinations.

Travel clinic is willing to 'make available' pretty much whatever we request. Perhaps we'll all get the typhoid shot. Maybe the Hep A...and if we end up traveling in or after December, we'll all get meningiococcal immunization.

I'll let you know.





Recommended Book






We purchased a couple of books yesterday...
...and started researching airfare costs.



This book is AWESOME. 10 Steps to Successful International Adoption.
Note to self: wish I hadda picked up a copy about 5 months ago.




Travel Health


We also discovered that our current health insurance *does* cover us anywhere in the world. For "smaller" issues...it's expected that you pay, and submit receipts for reimbursements. For "larger" expenditures (including medical evacuation) they have numbers/people you call for authorization, and they will pay at the time.

But I'm still gonna look into supplemental. Maybe American Express has something?





Amended I171H - now being sent to Addis



The first I171H pretty obviously should have been sent *somewhere* and the highlighted "is being held here with us"...motivated me to write the letter (also upon recommendation of my homestudy agency, who also receives a copy of USCIS documents) asking them to go ahead and send it...somewhere.


The 'amended' I171H form indicates that...
...it has been sent to Addis Ababa.


Now that seems right.


Ian's Passport Arrived!!



Wow, that was quick...one week and one day. Date of issue was 4/21...so that was actually 3 business days. I'm sure glad I didn't pay the extra $60 for expedited service!! :o)





Be the Change - more thoughts out loud.



When I tell people we're in the process of international adoption, I usually get raised eyebrows, curious grins, and lots of questions. After about 5-10 minutes of brief (well-rehearsed) "explanation" I almost always get a positive response. I've even had a couple of colleagues start crying a bit. Other's will go into their own story of "how they want to adopt." Overall a positive response.

I have gotten some negative comments:
"why would you want to adopt when you have 2 kids already?" "Can you afford another child?" "what if they grow up to not like you?" "I could never love a 'random kid' as much as I love my own..."

And when I mention that we're actually planning a trip to Ethiopia....likewise, there are supporters, and those who wrinkle their brow and pooh pooh on it.

See...
...as you may be aware, initially as we were choosing a placement agency we planned to stay home and have the child escorted. I was sorta very skeptical about traveling. I'm not a huge fan of flying...especially with two little kids. And with all the weird stuff they have in Africa, all of the problems, the war, the disease, the bugs, lack of sanitation, starvation (do they have leprosy there too? What about those worms that penetrate the skin and take up residence in your muscle?) Seems like everything bad you hear about...every bad virus, or animal disease, genocide, war, you name it....it's in Africa. In medical school we learned about all kinds of esoteric diseases....most of which are no longer familiar to American physicians...but go to Africa and you'll find an example of just about every bad bug known to man (and animal).

And, what if we get stuck there...like all those people in Hotel Rwanda? Or what if we get sick...do they have hospitals in Ethiopia? What if someone gets sick enough to need a *good* hospital...does that exist in Ethiopia, and would we be able to get to where we need to be? Don't they have rampid rabies there? And what about Malaria and Yellow Fever? The children must have lice/fleas/scabies...and what if we bring it home with us? And, what if we get something, and don't know it....and remain sick for awhile once back in the US for some time since (as mentioned) American doctors are unfamiliar with these weird African bugs.

Is it safe to go? Politically and healthwise. Is it okay to take our kids? How crazy to even consider potentially exposing them/us to....Africa!!

BUT, we only get this one life. AND we cannot be afraid to do God's work. This trip will likely be life altering for Haley. And we cannot abandon Ian while everyone else in the family embarks on this great adventure. PLUS, I've always wanted to travel, especially to Africa.

Then I remind myself that - much of the disease in the world is not from bugs per se, but rather from the body's inability to effectively keep the bugs in check. Malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of education, and poor living conditions contribute to outbreaks and weakened immunity. As evidenced in the US, mortality from common childhood diseases (including mumps and measles) dropped significantly well before mass vaccinations against these viruses. The drop is attributed to, basically better hygiene, better nutrition, and better handling of sewage (I mean, c'mon, they used to toss raw poop over the balconies and into the street...and the rats/flea problem is what caused the plague outbreak). Pest control, and improved living conditions helped control these diseases, probably more than any other element in our evolution (a close second is probably antibiotics...and I'm sure vaccinations helped too).

So, it's not the bugs we should be terrified of...but rather focus how we live when we go there. What we eat, our access to clean water and adequate sewage. Plus staying indoors from dusk to dawn to avoid pests...avoiding standing bodies of water and stray (or not stray) dogs, cats, and animals in general. Not leaving the major city. Never being far from the embassy. AND staying in a nice hotel, like the Hilton or the Sheraton while we're there (that way we'll be more protected in the instance of political disruption). Also, limiting prolonged close contact with people; and before we leave on our last day we should be sure we're clean and rested, and perhaps self-treat for fleas/lice/scabies with elimite prescription for everyone. That way we bring no bugs back home with us.

Initially we were planning (tentatively) to go thru London...and maybe even stay in London a few days (to see the city). But, I'm thinking that we should just fly from San Francisco to DC...then on to Addis Ababa (and come back home the same way). That way, it's a non-stop flight once we leave the country. Then, on the way home, if someone gets ill, we're not in London (with the weak American dollar), but in DC. We can be treated in DC. We know people in DC. We can get to/from DC to home in 4-5 hours. There are multiple flights/day. We could even drive if we had to. DC is a better place to be as a lay-over for us...with 2 or 3 small children.

I'm hoping if we plan this right, it'll be a life-enhancing, positive, memorable adventure for everyone involved. We will stay healthy, and have access to the things we need. We will be confident, and unafraid to follow our hearts. Our children will appreciate another culture, and will understand that being a spoiled, entitled American is not the pathway to happiness nor does it enhance spiritual awareness. And if we "be the change we want to see in the World," our experience will be enhanced in the most Divine positive ways.


By opening our hearts and home, sharing our resources, and nurturing a little soul who needs us, we gain so much. We allow ourselves to become vested in another culture, in another country, and in another human being. We add richness to our own lives, and the lives of our family. We develop a deeper understanding of the world in general, and Africa in particular. If everyone in the world would interest themselves in achieving similar goals, our planet would be much better. We must "be the change we want to see in the World." Therefore, we are enthusiastically seeking to expand both our family, and our perspective.

By allowing us to adopt a child from your orphanage/country we will be the change, and help create the change, we want to see in the world - a world of love, understanding, peace, and mutual respect. A world where every child has the opportunity to experience a forever family, and actualize the greatness they are destined to achieve.


It is important to keep our eyes on the larger goal when people introduce negativity into this process. It's important to decipher *constructive* criticism from just plain criticism. And use these tools (and learning opportunities) to more fully prepare ourselves to successfully follow the path of our lives to our divine purpose.



Thinking out loud



So, the U.S. Department of State authentication goes:

Fees: The authentication fee is $8.00 per document...

Mail Service: The Authentication of documents takes approximately 5 business days to process from the time of receipt...

Mailing Address
U.S. Department of State Authentications Office

518 23rd Street, N.W. SA-1
Washington, D.C. 20520

The Authentication Office will mail documents directly to the Foreign Embassy or Consulates if provided with a transmittal letter, fee, and a pre-addressed stamped envelope. Please enclose an additional pre-addressed stamped envelope for the embassy or consulate to return the document.

Walk-in (Counter Service)
Open - 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday thru Friday except Federal Holidays
Each customer (company) is limited to 15 documents per day on a while-you-wait basis.


Location:
Authentications Office

Columbia Plaza Store Front
518 23rd Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

THEN
to the Ethiopian Embassy for Authentication -

Before any of the documents are sent to the Embassy, the following process must be completed:
1. The documents/s has/have to be authenticated by the Secretary of State of the state in which the organization exists or the individual lives.


2. The document has to be sent to and authenticated by the U.S. Department of State...

3. This authenticated document has to be sent to:

The Embassy of Ethiopia
3506 International Dr. NW
Washington DC 20008

You must include a payment of $94.80...
...and a self addressed envelope with pre paid postage for the return of your document


The Placement Agency navigates this process on our behalf. Radu said it takes 10 days to move thru the US part...and another 10 days to move thru the Ethiopian part. Then, I guess the document is mailed back to Radu (for final review), then forwarded to Ethiopia.

Expected time = about 3-4 weeks.

This process seemed faster for other people. I wonder if we (thru our agency) could have gotten someone to do the 'over the counter' service. That only takes half a day, and fedex is overnight. That makes the US part about 3 days. The Ethiopian Embassy website doesn't say how long their end of the process takes....but it seems that a courier could take the document by hand (like with the US Dept of State)...and our dossier's stay in Washington DC can be cut from 20 days to...about 3. With 2 days of mailing (overnight fedex), seems like our completed package could be back to the Placement Agency all authenticated in 1 week...and ready to head over to Ethiopia.

I think I'll email him and ask him if this is possible....

UPDATE:
Got a return email. He said that this process is actually done via hand courier, and isn't as 'simple' as it seems...which is why the agencies tend to do these steps. He confirmed that we aren't eligible for a referral until our documents arrive in Ethiopia. I guess he will let us know when they arrive...
...he approximates 3-4 months before getting a referral.




Letter requesting that our i171h form be sent to Ethiopia



When we originally submitted our 600A application, we left a few items of page 2 as 'unknown.' How many kids - not known/more than one. Where? not known.

So now that we have our approval...its being held in the San Francisco office. Apparently it needs to *not* be held there....but rather sent to the US Embassy or Consulate in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We didn't fill in this information b/c we wanted to stay flexible....

But now, we need it to be there when we go....so that they might issue us the appropriate visas and such to leave the country and enter back into the US (or something like that).

So our homestudy agency called this morning suggesting that we write the USCIS a short letter requesting that they send our i171h approval to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa. That was done today.

Note: next time I would go ahead and fill in this information on the original 600A application....just to avoid this step, since we were quite sure that Ethiopia was our country of choice from the beginning.



On it's way to Washington DC for Federal Authentication of the State Seal...



I spoke with Radu, and he received our dossier....reviewed it...okayed it....and sent it to DC today.

The process takes up to 10 days in Secretary of State at the Federal level...then it goes to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC for another sort of authentication (where they authenticate the Great Seal of the USA) - that can take up to 10 days...

...so in 20 days (or less) it heads over to Ethiopia to be translated and incorporated into their "process." After this point...we'd be eligible to receive a referral.

So....forward progress continues as we allow the process to take place.

It feels good that we're all done with 'our part' of this document collection.

But, still, there's tons to do - planning the trip. I have to figure out how to get our 171h to the ?American Embassy in Ethiopia so we can obtain the I600 form to get the visas...so we'll be able to take the child from Ethiopia...and bring her into the USA.

BTW, my mom decided that she wasn't going to go with us.



Shift focus



I spoke with Radu today, and he's out of the office until tomorrow...
...hopefully our Dossier is safe and sound. Hopefully it'll be sent to Washington DC on Monday.

Now that that's done we've done all we can do for now, we can shift our focus on the travel.

I always like to start with things that could potentially take a long time...and we have little control over. Such as passports. We all have our passports, except Ian. His application was submitted yesterday. They said it'll take 4-6 weeks...and that should be fine.

My mom and my sister are thinking about going with us. So, as I gather information about vaccinations and travel insurance...I'll share it with them.

I called Kaiser today to begin the travel medical evaluation/vaccination process. Also, I'm trying to figure out if travel health is included in our policy. And whether or not we'll need supplemental travel insurance of some sort...

We'll need to start planning for the care of our 2 doggies while we're gone...and fix our sprinkler system so our grass stays green when we're not here to water it.

I'll need to start thinking about how to schedule my shifts at work as to cause the least amount of disruption...(which hopefully won't be an issue).

And, finally, I'm starting to research (so I can begin gathering) the various medications and treatments we'll need to take with us in an attempt to self-treat many common aliments...and prevent the spread or acquisition of others. There are drugs/treatments for the adults...for the children...for the adoptive child.

Then...after we arrive home...there's still other medical things to do (vaccinations, nutritional status, testing, etc). aye, yai, aye...a bit overwhelming!!



Dossier delivered!



Label/Receipt Number: 0307 0020 0003 2903...

Status: Delivered

Your item was delivered at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2008 in PORTLAND, OR 97219.

I emailed Radu to ask him if he actually has our dossier in his hands yet. AND...what's next?!



Passport for Brother



Ian's application for a US Passport is in....

expected wait time: 4-6 weeks.

Cost: $60 (passport fee) and $25 (postoffice fee) = $85.00 total (2 different checks required)

BOTH PARENTS HAVE TO BE PRESENT

(or else the 'missing' parent must notarize their signiture/permission for their kid to get a passport...OR the 'present' parent must notarize a statement that the 'missing' parent is indeed missing...and why. Apparently this adds time (maybe they have to verify the statement or something?).



application for a US Passport



The Dossier Has Been Sent!!!



So, we made a copy of the I171h form, attached the 'true copy' statement...notarized it as scheduled on Saturday afternoon with our friendly neighborhood notary.

Hubby took the documents (the newly stamped birth/marriage certificates along with the newly notarized *copy* of the I171h form) to the Secretary of State today...

...and they AUTHENTICATED it!!

Then...he took the Authenticated Dosssier to the post office and...and...

...he *MAILED* it!!

We are done with the Dossier!! Yay us!!




Authentication of documents



So, we've completed the Authentication of our documents.

Points to note:
Grant deeds issued to you by the registrars/recorders office with the purple stamp don't need to be notarized.

The State Police Clearance letter - does not need to be notarized

The registrar/recorder issued birth certificates/marriage licenses don't need to be notarized (just make sure they have the appropriate signature stamps).

The federal document the i171h form needs to be copied, and a true copy statement attached...then this statement needs to be notarized.

Family pictures also need a true copy statement attached, then notarized.

Passport pictures didn't need to be notarized.


To get the Documents Authenticated
Per the Secretary of State website:

Documents can be hand delivered to any office location for over-the-counter processing between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) or mailed to the Sacramento office. Regional offices do not process mailed in documents. Office locations are as follows:

Sacramento Office (for hand delivery)
Notary Public Section1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-3595

Regional Offices (see website for addresses)
Fresno
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco

When submitting documents to any of our offices for over-the-counter processing, no appointment is necessary. Customers are served on a “first come first serve” basis.

Documents submitted for over-the-counter processing are normally processed within an hour. The average processing time for documents submitted by mail is approximately two weeks.

There is a $20.00 processing fee (per signature authenticated) and a $6.00 special handling fee (per public official for documents submitted over the counter).Payments over-the-counter in Sacramento can be made by check, money order, cash, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard).




Think I figured it out...the authentication of the I171h form


Okay...I found this online -

Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance
Processing of Orphan Petition (Form I-171H): issued by the US Department
of Homeland Security-Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The
prospective adoptive parents must make the photocopy of the Form I-171H.
The copy must be a legible and clean copy, i.e. do not sign, write, or notarize on
this photocopy...(attach a statement that it is a true/unaltered copy). Upon receipt of a properly executed Oath form (statement) attached to the Form I-171H, our office will then prepare the Authentication... (
source)
***

And, I spoke with someone in the Secretary of State's office in Sacramento. She agreed that we should make a copy, attach a 'true and original' form to the copy...sign it. Have our signature notarized....

...and they will authenticate the notarization of our signature.

Tomorrow we have an appointment at noon to get this (hopefully) last item notarized...and ready for Sacramento on Monday, along with our 'corrected' birth/marriage certificates.

Hopefully our completed package will be mailed off to our Agency Monday afternoon...
...and they receive it Tuesday morning.

The good news is: This timeline is still in concert with what I'd been hoping (after receiving the i171h form), afterall, even if everything was 'perfect'...my plan was to wait until Monday to mail the packet/dossier (to avoid weekend mail issues). Besides, even if the packet arrived today, nothing would be done with it until Monday. AND payday is on Tuesday (let's not overlook that a 'rather large check' has to accompany our dossier to the Agency).





Sacramento to Los Angeles



So, hubby made the trip to Sacramento yesterday to the Secretary of State's office. Discovered that our *certified* (i.e. costing over $200 in total) birth/marriage certificates we obtained from the LAX branch of the County Registrar's office lacked a signature....therefore could not be authenticated!!

So...since hubby had to fly to LA today for a meeting, he went back to the registrars office (after we spent all yesterday afternoon on the phone 'letting folks know just what we thought of this screw-up'.) They were very apologetic...and "fixed" the certificates for no additional charge (the least they could do, IMO). So, we/he goes back to the Secretary of State with the birth/marriage certificates for authentication on Monday. Hopefully they'll be 'right' this time.

Another thing: The Secretary of State *wouldn't* authenticate the I171h form as it is a FEDERAL document (which is what I've been saying to people...).

So...now, I have to figure out *exactly* what it is they expect us to do with the I171h form...

-the good news is: we got everything else authenticated with no problem!!

Note to self: If I had have known...I would have went ahead to Sacramento weeks ago when I originally planned, and wouldn't have waited for the 171H form. That way, any problems or issues encounters with the authentication of the other docs, could be dealt with while waiting for the 171H.

Note to others: Make sure your birth certificate and marriage license has the signature.





I171H Approval Has Arrived!!




Tomorrow to Sacramento for authentication...







response to the email I sent...



...said our 600A petition was approved on April 2nd (which is huge!!)

Hopefully that means that the actual I171H is "in the mail."

fingerscrossed that it'll come tomorrow.



Sent inquiry email...



Still waiting for the I171H form (the approval of the I600A).

I'm starting to get a bit concerned since others in the yahoo group from San Francisco said they received theirs...what was the phrase?..."at the speed of light." Now, light travels quite fast!!

So...I called the number...went thru the automated prompts...finally spoke with a real person...who told me to email them. So I did.

Apparently they have this process for receiving questions.

I hope they didn't opt to not approve us. I hope they didn't lose our fingerprints...or drop our application packet onto the floor...and someone came by and accidentally kicked it under the desk...and now it's covered in dust bunnies and spider webs...

yikes!!




...checking the mail.



Still waiting for the 171H to arrive. Nothing to do until it does....




Hold off...



The placement agency reviewed the docs I sent....and said everything looked great. (Now, all docs have been reviewed and blessed by our agency...that's all done).
***

I learned that we should wait for our I171H form to arrive, and include that in the packet of documents to take with us to Sacramento. Maybe it has to be authenticated too (but I didn't think so since it's a form that comes from the federal government (immigration)...why would the State authenticate a federal document??)

Nonetheless, it's not like we can get a referral for a child without the I171H form (even if our dossier documents are all authenticated...so there's no harm, or time lost, in waiting to go to Sacto).

So we'll wait for the 171H form...

...then we'll go to Sacto. Some say they received clearance (i.e. the 171H form) in weeks. Hopefully we'll receive ours soon. Hopefully nothing will come up on FBI fingerprinting (like some sort of identity mix-up, or a traffic violation in college....???)

Until then...we wait.



FBI fingerprinting done for the USCIS and Dossier is Complete - 3/11



So, all of our dossier documents are complete!

And we both had our fingerprints done today for the USCIS.

Our placement agency is to receive copies of our dossier documents in the morning for final (re-)review before we head up to Sacramento on Thursday for authentication.

Now...we wait for our I600A approval (the I171H), and we authenticate our documents.




Update



So, we did receive our notarized copies of our homestudy, the homestudy license, and a couple of other forms that we had to have the Homestudy agency fill out for our Placement agency.

We have our FBI fingerprinting in the morning. Actually they give you a 5 day stretch to just show up between 8:00a and 3:30p or so. We're gonna go tomorrow.

We didn't get the homestudy until Saturday afternoon via fedex...so we'll have to go to Sacramento later this week...

Maybe, Wednesday.