Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ain't no mountain high.....

This picture could not describe our feelings more accurately these past few weeks! We received two large binders full of paperwork, and our adoption education booklet about two weeks ago. These documents will serve to help prepare us for our home study as well as to begin the compilation of our dossier. I cannot even begin to describe the amount of documents that are required for adopting an international child! Here is a brief glimpse into what we are talking about: Notarized employment verifications, proof of health, life, and auto insurance, financial statements, FBI, state, and local background checks, child abuse screens, notarized medical clearances, fire safety inspections, home safety audits, veterinarian letter of clearance, 8 references, notarized guardianship documents, and various copies of marriage and birth certificates, social security cards, drivers licenses, tax documents, and on and on and on.  I have to admit that the hardest part is the notarization! While most banks will provide this service free of charge, there are several documents that require us to hire a traveling notary to follow us to doctors appointments and the like, and because the process is so long, the notaries expiration date that we use can not expire for 24 months.  I have only two notaries who fulfill this part and they aren’t travelers! I keep telling all the people who are helping us compile all of our documents that we will bring our baby around to show them why all this hard work was needed and worth every minute. I have to say that if anyone in the Columbus area is considering international adoption, please let me know and I will go get my notary to help your process go more smoothly! 

While all the paperwork is daunting and seemingly never ending, we are glad that we have something to focus on, something to work towards. I know there will come a time when all we can do is wait, and I hear that is the hardest and longest part of the journey.  We do have a lot of education to complete that is necessary for our home study, and it is exciting for Jay and I to begin discussing things like where the baby will sleep when he comes home, and how we are going to incorporate his culture into our lives. In fact, we have kind of already started that part. I recently found an Ethiopian restaurant near us and we invited the family to partake in our first cultural outing experience. In the Ethiopian culture, eating with people is a pretty big deal. Everyone at the dinner shares a large plate or tray, and it is said that those who dine together this way, shall never betray each other. Everyone eats with their hands (no worries there was plenty of purell to go around) and it is a sign of affection to actually feed each other. Everyone must eat with their right hand. Ethiopian food is considered a respected gift from God and eating it with your left hand is considered disrespectful! Injera is Ethiopia's national dish. It is a spongy, tangy, kinda mushy tasting bread made from the grain teff which grows only in the highlands of Ethiopia. This is Injera. It is kinda like a thicker, spongier crepe. 

The Injera sits on a the large plate or tray and is covered with wots (or wat). Wots are the traditional stews made with various Ethiopian spices, meats, vegetables, hard boiled eggs, and legumes. While its hard to tell by the pic, the center plate, which we all shared, was pretty fact it fed six of us with left overs. 

So, you get sides of injera and you simply rip off pieces and you use these to eat the different wots (or stews), with the right hand of course! 

As you can tell, fun was had by all.  Of course, some preferred the unique taste to others! I think Kurt can check it off of his "to do, and never do again" list. 

Along with the education we are completing, we have various exercises to complete. Some are quite silly, but they do encourage us to think from our baby’s perspective and we know, no matter how silly the task, there is a HUGE reward upon completion. I had to share this part on the blog; this was one of our exercises: to draw a picture of how we think our child will look. I let Jay complete this part, as he does have his dad’s genes when it comes to drawing. I left the room and when I came back, I was NOT shocked at all at what Jay pictured our child to one day look like and take an interest in.  

However, we (perhaps I a tad more than Jay) are very open to our child deciding not to follow daddy’s footsteps, and instead perhaps follow his uncles and cheer from the sidelines, or his aunt’s and become a singer. See, these exercises are already working! 

God continues to amaze us through this process though. We pray for guidance and clearance, and we are given it through the awesome case managers and social workers that are helping us get our life together in paper format.  We pray for help financially, and help comes along. He continues to shower us with stories of international adoption, and more recently, stories of couples that decided to start their family through international adoption and have biological children after. It is crazy how similar our lives seem to these other couples, and it is so reassuring to see others who have walked this path. Jay and I are honored and feel incredibly grateful for the task and responsibility of caring for one of God’s beloved children. 

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11


       "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

And then there came the paperwork......

Our first set of documents has officially arrived and taken over our kitchen table and I have to admit that the amount of signatures and notarizations required is quite daunting. These documents make up our “orientation packet” the first step in the whole sha-bang of paperwork.  We read through the documents quite extensively and came up with a list of questions and concerns we had. We also received program specific information about the Ethiopia program. While I had shared that Ethiopia had one of the world’s largest populations of orphans, I was still shocked to learn that nearly one in six Ethiopian children die before their fifth birthday! We are sure more than ever that Ethiopia is the country that God is calling us to adopt from!

The packet also contained a glimpse into the next process, the dreaded home study.  For those that don’t know what a home study is, it is basically the biggest and hardest interview of an adoptive parents life. A social worker, assigned to our case, comes over for a minimum of six hours and examines every detail of our life, marriage, family, and home. This study also appears to be a crash course for parenting an adopted child. While most first time parents never get the chance to have solid training and education for becoming a first time parent, Jay and I will! We have some education to complete and throughout our child’s life, we will have resources available along the way. Along side the home study preparation, we also begin the second set of staggeringly large documents entitled “The Dossier”, basically our application to Ethiopia. The documents contained within the dossier will be used not only for application, but also to match us to our baby. These documents take around 2-4 months to track down and obtain. I figure a separate blog detailing that adventure will take place when that hurdle is reached.

We also had our FIRST conference call. That’s right, apparently we have to get used to these, because we should have them twice monthly during our “paperwork stage”.  During the hour-long call all those questions Jay and I had were answered, and some of the worries we were carrying around the last 2 weeks have for the most part passed. I have been doing a lot of research on Ethiopia, and have found that they have drastically reduced the number of applications they process a day due to questionable unethical practices on behalf of the Ethiopian government. While Jay and I would love the opportunity to welcome a little Ethiopian tyke into our home, we certainly didn’t want our new family to be plagued with questions of whether this baby was even an orphan to begin with! Fortunately, the delays are due to the fact that the American embassy is striving to make sure that orphans are truly orphans and the agency we are working with is not solely concerned with adoptions but also helping to care for families who would only relinquish their children because they could not afford to care for them.  They in fact, help financially support families and are concerned with other humanitarian works in Ethiopia as well.  

This process sounds like it is going to be a long one! They are estimating 4-6 months before our paperwork is completed, and then 18months before we get matched with our little one, then an additional 4-6 months before we can bring him home.  However, we are learning a lot about our family, our friends, and ourselves. I am thrilled that we have so much support backing us with this decision. Thanks again and please continue to keep the Reichert’s in your prayers, even the one that isn’t here yet ;)