Thursday, April 27, 2006

China's Lost Girls

Many adoptive families are in search of tools to help educate their extended families, co-workers, churches, children, etc. about a China adoption. The link (which can be cut & pasted into your browser) will connect you to the National Geographic webpage featuring a DVD called "China's Lost Girls." The DVD is approximately 45 minutes long and provides a brief overview of the history of the "one child policy" and focuses on the journey of a China international adoption. It is also available from Netflix and the Orange County Library. The DVD is hosted by Lisa Ling. Enjoy!

Be and I watched this DVD several nights ago and found it balanced and informative. It gave us an idea as to what to expect when we pick up little Joanna. I (Don) was a bit disturbed at the manner of presentation of the child to the adoptive parents. Apparently, all those adopting are put in one room where the children are paraded in with orphanage workers and given over to the parents in the group. The room was filled with confusion and took on an almost circuslike character. The poor kids appeared terrified for the most part. I would have preferred a more private first encounter with the child. Hopefully, this was for the benefit of playing it up for the camera and production team filming the event for the purpose of 'good TV.'

Monday, April 24, 2006

Visa Info Received from The American Consulate In Guangzhou, China

Today, we received "The Big Brown Envelope" from the American Consulate General in Guangzhou, China. It's no real big deal, but I'm short on postings during this long waiting period, so ANYTHING is something. Essentially, it is confirmation that the Chinese acknowledge that the US government has approved our intention to adopt an orphan overseas. It also contains all of the yaddah related to securing a visa. The Consulate has created a separate department which places a high priority on adoption cases due to the number of orphans (about 6,000 a year) leaving China for the US. So, now we have another small pile of paperwork to be stamped, notarized, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours. Then WE bring the package with us to China when we are placed with our child. I'll try to keep this blog as interesting as possible, but I'm really pushing it with this posting.........

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Let's Talk Paperwork

The following is a rundown of the amount of documentation (and $$$$$ - Don's dad, Albert, has donated $10,000 to the adoption process - we are most grateful) that went into the first stage of our adoption journey. I found it while surfing.........

The Adoption Homestudy
By Roberta Rosenberg
Put your fear aside and warm up your photocopier.. you're in for an interesting, sometimes frustrating ride.
Some people call it hell. (Perhaps that's an exaggeration. Perhaps not.) But you're now in the thick of the adoption process. With a little work, persistence, and a sense of humor, this can actually be a time of thoughtful exploration between you and your spouse, if married, and your desires and expectations as adoptive parents.
What is an Adoption Homestudy Anyway?
So you've selected your agency. You've filled out the initial application and paid the initial fee. At this point, you'll most likely have had your first post-introductory interview. Now the real work begins.
To adopt internationally, you must have an approved homestudy. Your agency will assign a social worker to you who will work with you during the process. The homestudy consists of gathering specific documents (see below)... interviews with you, your spouse, and any children living in the home... in-person or telephone interviews with your references... and a home visit or two.
The long and short of it? Your social worker, working on behalf of your agency and the children it represents, wants to know only one thing -- are you going to be good, capable parents? The good news is that most of us do pass the ultimate test. So hang in there and pace yourselves.
Let's talk PAPERWORK!
During your initial interview with the agency or at your first meeting with your social workers, you'll also receive a large, hefty packet of forms that need to be filled out: personal and financial information disclosures, fingerprint cards, INS forms, and lots more. Don't be alarmed. You can do it.
Your Documentation List
Every state has different document requirements so your actual list may look different than the one below. You may need originals or certified copies rather than simple photocopies. The number of copies per document required may also vary. But, for the most part, it will look something like this:
Adoption decree(s) on children already living in the home
Birth certificates for spouses and children already living in the home
Marriage license
Divorce decree(s), if applicable
Employment verification by letter and/or current paystub
Income verification, usually W2s or income tax forms
Proof of life insurance
Proof of health insurance
Statement of current assets, including savings accounts, money market funds, mutual funds, stocks, etc.
Proof of mortgage or rent payment
Proof of good health, usually a medical exam is required
State-mandated fingerprint clearances
Written approval of public health inspection
Written approval of fire safety inspection
Photos of the couple, any children, and front of the home
Copy of previous homestudy, if applicable
Written personal references
State-Mandated Criminal Clearances
Police Clearance
Child Abuse Clearance
Motor Vehicle Driving Records
Many of these forms will require signature verification by a notary public. Your bank can usually provide this service at no charge to its customers. (You're going to get to know the notary really well!)
Are we having fun yet? Wait! There's more...
Meet the INS I-600A Form
At your initial meeting you're also most likely going to receive several forms required by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). One is a blue I-600. Don't worry about that one right now. The other is far more important at this stage in the process:
I-600A - Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition
This salmon-colored form gets the ball rolling well in advance of completing your homestudy and receiving an assignment of a child. Decide on who will be the "Prospective Petitioner" and continue to use the same person on all INS documents. Can be husband or wife.
Want to save time? You can now download the I600A and I600 forms right from the INS website. No fuss, no muss, no waiting! (Roberta's note: some INS offices have been kicking back perfectly fine forms because they were printed on white paper. Save yourself a hassle - make sure you print the I600A on salmon pink paper and the I600 on light blue paper.)
Here are the documents you'll need to accompany your I-600A application:
Two sets of fingerprints from each prospective adoptive parent and any adults over age 18 living in the household. See below for complete info.
Proof of US citizenship of the Prospective Petitioner (I'd include a copy of the spouse's information, too) -- birth certificate, naturalization certificate or valid US passport. Photocopies okay.
A marriage certificate. (Photocopy okay.)
Divorce decree or death certificate if previously married (Photocopies okay.)
Certified check (plus fingerprinting fees for each adult over 18 living in the household), payable to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

HINT : Rules change constantly. Always check with your agency regarding the latest INS and other governmental information.
HINT: Send your completed application by traceable means, certified mail with return receipt requested, UPS or Fed-Ex. I like the two latter choices because you can track their arrival dates yourself online.
HINT: Get this form and its attachments completed without delay. It takes 60-90 days for this application to process without any problems. Imagine how long it takes when you run into a snag. Get it done now and save yourself a lot of headaches.
INS Fingerprint Rules Get the latest information directly from the INS site. Read carefully and speak with your agency for any clarification. You will need Special Instructions for Form I-600 "Immigrant Petition for Orphan (Adoption)" and Form I-600A "Advance Processing; Immigrant Petition for Orphan (Adoption)."
INS now accepts walk-in traffic, but... each office is going to have its own rules about when and how. Call ahead (or ask your agency) the best days and times to go to your regional INS office for fingerprinting and in-person I600A application processing. Remember to bring a certified check or money order with you for the full fees amount, application and fingerprinting.
Exception: Applicants and petitioners residing abroad who are fingerprinted at a United States consular or military installation abroad do not need to be fingerprinted by the INS and are exempt from the $75 fingerprint fee. These applicants and petitioners must file their completed card at the time their application or petition is filed.
The Homestudy Interviews
Your state and/or agency may have different requirements, but we had one joint interview, one individual interview each, and one home visit with our social worker. I found it to be a somewhat lengthy, but interesting experience. (If you like to talk about yourself, you'll probably have an easier time than someone who tends to be uncomfortable talking about personal matters.)
Generally, you'll be asked about your childhood, your relationship -- past and present -- with parents and siblings, your school days, and previous marriages (if any). You'll be asked about the health and status of your current marriage, your attitudes about parenting, and corporal punishment.
You'll also be asked about the kind of child you're willing to consider. Are you open to either boy or girl? Some agencies prefer you not have a choice, especially since the majority of families looking to adopt internationally prefer girls. Will you consider a baby born before 38 weeks gestation and/or low birth weight? What is your preferable age range? Will you consider a child with physical, emotional or developmental special needs? If so, what can you comfortably handle, what not?
Having preferences doesn't make you a bad person. Your agency wants you to be upfront and honest with them. But the more flexible you are, the faster you're more likely get a referral.
Writing Your Autobiographies
Scared yet? In keeping with the tone of your initial interviews, here's your chance to really express yourselves on a lot of personal topics. Your social worker will probably give you an outline to follow. Our outline read something like this:
Your Birthfamily
Describe your parents, siblings, and your childhood home. Your parents as a couple? Areas of agreement and disagreement? Ways your parenting style is/isn't similar to your own parents?
Growing Up
Describe your feelings about school life, favorite subjects, friends, etc. Teen issues? Religious orientation? Dating?
Courtship & Marriage
Describe how you and your spouse met, courted and married. Relationships with inlaws? Mutual interests? Areas of strength and disagreement? (Reasons why previous marriage(s) didn't succeed?)
If you have them: describe your children, their personalities, and their feelings about adopting a sibling.
If you don't: describe your experiences with children
For both: what is your philosophy about childrearing, discipline, and punishment.
Describe your reasons for adopting. How will the child fit into your family? Childcare issues? Cultural issues and concerns?
Describe your job. How do you feel about your work? Satisfactions and annoyances?
Describe your house and your community. Describe your community involvements.
Strongest influences in your life? Greatest disappointments and achievements?
Don't like to write? Get over it. Besides, you won't be judged on how you write, just what you have to say. My husband's was five typed pages. Mine was 10.
I'd say that if you can truthfully say what needs to be said in 3-5 pages, you'll be fine. Worse comes to worse? Dictate it into a tape recorder and have someone transcribe it for you later.
Choosing Your Personal References
So who is going to say, in print and in person, how wonderful you are, singly and together? For the most part, those you ask will be incredibly honored.
But do start thinking about it now. Your social worker will ask for a few references for each of you. (Generally a family member isn't eligible for this honor.) Have a few good friends who've known you a long time? Good. Your priest/rabbi/pastor is also a good choice.
Try to include at least one reference who knows you as a couple. And if you already have children, you might ask if one of their teachers might offer a reference, as well. (My husband and I did this. My feeling was the best way to gauge our effectiveness as parents was to ask someone who has gotten to know our child well for many years.)
All the references you choose will be asked for a written reference. One or two of these references may be called for a more in-depth interview, or your social worker may want to meet a reference in person. So think about who'd be willing to go that extra mile.
Here are some of my personal recommendations for the homestudy process:

HINT: Be honest! A lot of information will be unearthed in your background checks, so make sure you're forthcoming about anything in your background that could seem even remotely dicey or problematic.
HINT: This isn't therapy. So be candid while keeping your written and spoken remarks ontrack with your goal of showing yourselves to be capable, loving parents. Also, too, if you have children in the home, your social worker will want to speak with them. It's a good idea to start talking with your children about adoption prior to the social worker's visit.
HINT: Don't kill yourselves cleaning for the home visit. What your social worker wants to see is a safe, relatively clean home with enough room to accommodate a child. You don't have to have the baby's room ready either. (And no one is going to look in your closets or white glove the top of your refrigerator.)
HINT: Your social worker wants to approve you! So give her/him what s/he needs on a timely basis. Get the documents in quickly. Get what needs to be notarized, notarized, etc. Make appointments and keep them. Sit down and get those autobiographies written.
Once your homestudy is approved, your agency will forward it to the INS to be included with your I-600A application. Upon completion of its review, the INS will then send you a notice stating your I-600A application has been approved. You can then fax or mail a copy of it to your agency to be added to your file. You keep the original.
Homestudy times vary widely. They can take as little as 30 days or as long as six months (our homestudy took three months from start to finish.) Remember, it's up to you to keep things moving along.
© 2001 R. Rosenberg. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Chinese Baby Ultrasound

In adoption circles, you will probably be asked "When was your 'log-in' date?" It's an important date because wait times for China are now lasting 9 - 10 months from log-in. We were informed by our case worker that our log-in date was March 24 - so we are now officially pregnant. Don is showing more than Be and we are both relieved that the first trail of paperwork is over. We are thankful that our adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, has a fine working relationship with the Chinese Adoption Office and we look forward to our encounters with them throughout this next phase. Thank you for following us in this journey.