Monday, August 13, 2012

Adoption Speak: 101

Before December, I'd read an adoption-related update and think, "What in the world is a dossier?"  "Who is USCIS, and why are some people saying I-800A and others saying I-600A?"  Even after beginning our own process, I asked several adoption friends "Why is I-797C on my dossier checklist?  What happened to the I-800A?  I don't understand why I subtracted 3 and went up two letters!"

Now that I'm in the process, I can speak adoption fluently!  But I am forgetting that I have friends following the adoption that don't speak adoption, so I'm turning this blog post into a sort of crash course in my new lingo, as well as a big catch-up post for those of you new to reading over here.

Our homestudy was complete and in our hands in July, and required fingerprinting for state background checks, child abuse clearances, driving records, tax returns, home, auto, life, and health insurance policies, education requirements being met, and so much more.  There were 24 items on my checklist, I believe.  This is simply a thorough investigation on our family, to make sure we're good candidates for adoption.

Once the homestudy was in hand, we needed to submit our homestudy and I-800A to USCIS.  The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services reviews the homestudy and approves us to bring foreigners into the country as US Citizens.  The I-800A is an application to adopt from a Hague Convention country (meaning everything is above the table, fees are determined in the beginning and are clearly outlined, and I'm sure there are other differences, but I've been too wrapped up in this process that I haven't looked into others).

We received our I-797C (the thing on my checklist that I just didn't get for what seemed like a long time, which is our I-800A approval) in the mail today!!!  We now need to have it notarized and apostilled, then it will go into our dossier, which is nearly complete (just waiting on some apostilled documents to come back).

Oh, boy, the dossier.  Months of paper-chasing, all for the dossier.  The stack of paperwork that every paper-pregnant family loves almost as much as the children they're adopting, after working so hard to pull it together.  The homestudy, FBI clearances, marriage certificate, medical certificates, agency licenses, fee agreements, powers of attorney for two agencies, photo pages, and more (and some of it in triplicate)!  Sending it off is much anticipated and much dreaded because, for a few days, a package worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars and months and months of time will be headed across the ocean.  It goes beyond "tracking" a package, to "stalking" every move that box makes until you know it's safely on the desk at the Ministry of Justice.

Where it waits.  Or at least ours will.  The MOJ is currently shut down for six weeks, and will re-open in mid-September.  I'm still confused about what happens during the six-week shutdown, because they aren't closed, but it seems almost like a catch-up time.  If you sent your dossier in before the shutdown, then they'll get to it during the shutdown, but if you send it during the shutdown, you'll wait until they re-open.

I really have no idea how long it will take before they get to our dossier, but I would love to travel in late October/early November.  So, we're hoping for around 6-8 weeks after the MOJ re-opens.  And I have no idea whether or not that's a realistic goal, it's just my hope. 

After our trip to meet the kids, we'll come home and file our I-800 (different from the I-800A), which is our petition to adopt our two kids, specifically.  We'll have a visa interview (and by "we" I think I mean our attorney), get our Article 5 letter (I have no idea what that is yet, but I think it comes from the visa interview), and submit that with all our second stage documents (more medical certificates, and other things I won't worry about until I'm done with the dossier) to the MOJ.  We'll be assigned a judge, who will assign us a court date, and our attorney will go to court for us.  At that point, I'll finally be able to show pictures!

After all that, we'll be invited to come back and bring our kids home!  The times between travel seem to average about 5 months, so I'm hopefully still good with my "As long as they're home by Mother's Day, I'll be happy" statement. 

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but it's not always busy and chaotic.  There's a lot of waiting, and then there are crazy busy times.  The busy times are almost easier than the wait, because at least when you're busy you feel productive.

Got any questions about the adoption?  Just ask, it's one of my favorite topics of conversation!

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