19 February 2010

The Dossier is on the Way to Ethiopia!!!!

One clock stops and another begins.

The folks at AWAA finally made it through the winter tundra of the DC metropolitan area! Our Dossier made it through the State Dept and is on the way to Ethiopia.

The paperchase clock has now stopped! 19 weeks and 1 day ago we began the paperchase of our adoption journey. The waiting clock officially begins! I say "officially" because the term "wait period" is used to describe waiting for the Referral after DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia).

Our move to CA may add time to the current waiting period estimate (3-6 months). We have to update our Home Study and submit that update through USCIS. From other families who have had to do this, we've heard the update process has its challenges. That's my polite way to say "it adds too much time and frustration dealing with layers of bureaucracy when all we want is our son." We have worked hard to get through the paperchase quickly, and we'll apply that same mindset to get through the update as quickly as possible.

14 February 2010

Show Me the Money!!!

We received a number of responses to our last posting, most of them thanking us for including expenses in our adoption timeline and discussing them briefly. As we decided to adopt, we discovered a number of families' web sites. Their postings and responses to our questions were invaluable. This entry is an attempt to "pay it forward" for those families considering adoption, especially from Ethiopia, by sharing the expenses portion of our journey so far.

Before I start this rather long entry, I'll say up front that I think you need a financial plan before beginning this journey. The expenses are spread throughout the timeline fairly evenly, but some can be big (e.g., $7,700 due with the Dossier submission). I think AWAA's estimates are right on the mark. Plan on that schedule, and you won't be surprised.

Our experience has closely matched AWAA's timeline. Their web page clearly lays out the expenses: http://www.awaa.org/programs/ethiopia/cost.aspx. The current estimate is $22,080 to $32,580 (updated Feb 14, 2010). As I mentioned in my last post, the two biggest reasons for the range are: #1 the variety of expenses in obtaining all of the Home Study and Dossier paperwork, and #2 the airplane tickets - our round-trip ones and the one-way ticket for the child.

The single biggest check goes with the Dossier submission to AWAA. I expect a close second will be the third fee installment to AWAA and the plane tickets. The most significant "nickel-and-dime" series of expenses comes with collecting the variety of required papers during the paperchase for the Home Study and Dossier. All of the background checks, finger printing, and birth certificates add up quickly - especially if you're trying to hurry through all of the paper like we were!

The Program Fee to AWAA is $5,000. We saw their headquarters in McLean, VA, during our Home Study Orientation. The AWAA office occupies half of a floor of a small, unassuming building. We had the Orientation in their conference room, where they meet daily at 9am to pray for challenges of specific families raised by the Family Coordinators. Each Family Coordinator (the person who shepherds each family all of the way through the adoption process) is highly trained and probably handles at least a couple of dozen families at any one time. Those folks work long hours. We received e-mails from our Family Coordinator well past normal working hours.

The International Fee is $7,500. A bulk of this money supports the two AWAA Transition Homes (TH) in ET. This is where orphans are brought from orphanages after referral (AWAA works with only a select few orphanages in ET). They stay in the TH for at least three months to improve their nutrition and undergo a series of close medical examinations. AWAA has stacked the deck with professionals in the THs: a full-time pediatrician, an Educational Director, and a Developmental Psychologist. ......and then there are the caregivers. I think the caregiver-to-child ratio is around 1:5, and that dwarfs the ratios found in the orphanages. Every single family's report of "Gotcha Day" (the day they finally hold their child and take them from the TH) says the nannies develop such close ties with the children that saying good-bye is oftentimes very emotional. Frankly, I'm surprised the International Fee isn't higher for what they do.

I know this post has been long, but I hope it's been helpful or at least a little educational. We got our Dossier to AWAA just before the snow hit the DC area (AGAIN)! With any luck, they can tunnel their way to work this week and get our Dossier to ET by the end of the week.

03 February 2010

The Dossier is Complete!!!!!!!!

17 WEEKS!!!!!! All of the forms are finally in, and the Dossier is complete! It's been 17 weeks since we received AWAA's e-mail chocked full of forms to officially begin our adoption journey.

Alicia overnighted the Dossier and a bunch of copies to America World today. Now the real waiting begins. For the past four weeks, we have been waiting on USCIS to complete their review of our paperwork (the I-600A Form and the Home Study) and fingerprints. We're lucky to have that office here in town so I could go by and talk with the lady who actually does the review. I learned the local office actually does the review and issues the I-171H Form. Armed with the knowledge that the 171-H only has to travel about 10 miles through the mail system, I naively believed we would receive the form in a matter of no time. Taking into account that no bureaucracy moves at the speed of light (or even the speed of an eager adoptive couple), I guess three weeks could be considered "no time."

As I've said before, the "real" waiting begins because now our Dossier makes its way through the Ethiopian government. Once we're accepted by their system, we wait for a child to be referred to us. We're hoping for an infant boy (younger than 2 yrs), and the latest estimate for wait times is 4-6 months. Before anyone starts counting on a calendar and thinking we could have our son before September, there are two not-so-small details that will only add time to this process.

Detail #1: The Ethiopian government shuts down for holidays from sometime in August to late September / early October. Even if we get our referral before they shut down, we won't be able to travel to Ethiopia until after the government recess. The corollary to Detail #1 is after the referral, the Ethiopian judicial court formally reviews the case of our child to determine beyond any doubt whatsoever that the child is a legitimate orphan and may be legally adopted. The court date usually is about 4-8 weeks after the referral. The good news is the day of that successful court date, the child is legally ours!

Detail #2: We're moving to San Diego - at the end of this month! I'm here in SDGO attending a Navy school, and I took a few days before school to find a home to rent. Isn't the view from the patio in the back yard pretty neat?! The move adds time because we must update our Home Study to reflect we're in a new home. We have yet to contact a social worker agency in CA to figure out exactly what is required for the update. Every state is different. I may have said this before, but the "update" could be a simple one-time visit by the social worker to our new home or a re-do of most of the Home Study. Obviously the latter will require more time.

You may notice when looking at our Timeline that I'm posting our expenses every so often. I'm including everything from AWAA program fees to copier and FedEx expenses. I'm doing this for couples who are thinking of adopting who happen to discover our web site. When we were "blog stalking" other adoptive families, their timelines helped shape our expectations on how quickly (or not so much) the paperchase would progress. I've chosen to add our expenses to the Timeline for the same reason. So far, our experience has matched AWAA's estimates. The biggest variable is the cost of the plane tickets. I hope we'll be able to speak to that later this year!