Tuesday, December 14, 2010

adoption in Ethiopia

We did not know how popular adoption from Ethiopia had become until we had already settled on the country. Anything that will tighten adoption regulations in a such a fast-growing program is good news. If our adoption is delayed because of it, I'd rather have that than concerns that my adoption was unethical.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homestudy ✓ Next up: USCIS

How exciting - we are officially past the first step in the adoption process! We received the finalized homestudy today. We went to the post office to pick it up, put one of the notarized copies in the envelope to USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) and got right back in line to mail off the I600A (application for advance processing of orphan petition). It will be received in Texas by 3PM on Monday. The government website says processing takes 2.5 months, but I've heard it can be faster.

Our homestudy was delayed a few extra days because we found out that Wide Horizons has a rule that requests for siblings must cover a 4-year range. We had originally put 12-36 months on our application, and we had to change it to 0-48 months. When our homestudy agency told us (it seemed to be news to them, too), Tabb agreed pretty quickly, but I took a couple of extra days just to sleep on it and make sure I was OK with it. Then on Tuesday I realized (on a beautiful walk home from work) that my uncertainty about changing the numbers on our homestudy had nothing to do with the ages of the children we want or feel able to parent, and everything to do with wanting to feel like I can control something in this process. Which is silly, because if there's one thing I know about international adoption it's that I can't control anything. And this realization was a very nice feeling, because I really love those rare moments when I feel that things are completely out of my control. It's so freeing.

Our final homestudy says one child 12-36 months or siblings 0-48 months.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

cleared by the FBI

We finally got our FBI clearances in the mail yesterday. We were about to go out to dinner, and I asked Tabb if he'd checked the mail. He said, no, and maybe we'd gotten the FBI clearance. This has been our standard conversation for the last two weeks - Have you checked the mail? No, maybe we've gotten the FBI clearance. I went out and stuck my hand in the mailbox and felt something thick and it was the self-addressed envelope I'd sent off two months ago.
We sat on the couch and opened it and there were two envelopes inside, one for each of us. I had my thumb under the flap of mine and about half an inch torn before Tabb said, maybe we're not supposed to open them. So we ran around looking through the adoption boards online and in our directions from our agency until Tabb finally found something that said, send a copy. So we opened our envelopes, and of course it was kind of anticlimactic because it was just one sheet of paper that said, no arrest record. Still, we've been waiting for this for two months so we were excited. I made up a little song and our dinner out became a celebration.
I know it's just one step and there are still many more steps ahead of us, but I needed a celebration because the last two months have been so miserable. I really hit a low point last weekend. We'd flown to Austin for a wedding, and on the way back we missed our flight. We were sitting in the airport with a seven-hour delay, and suddenly it hit me that I was happy to be there. I was happy to sit and wait in the airport for seven hours because it meant I wasn't back at home and working. Work has been AWFUL. It's not just about being micromanaged and having to spend every weekend writing epic lesson plans. It's also about being made to teach in a way that I don't believe in. Reading class should teach kids what reading is for - about how they can use reading to discover themselves and the world. Instead, we're teaching isolated skills with no context and no meaning.
So things are going to change. This past week I have refocused on the adoption and we got the last of the missing paperwork into our homestudy agency. We've sent the draft of the homestudy back and forth a couple of times, and now it's been sent to Wide Horizons for final approval. I've also committed to setting a time limit on doing work on the weekends, and to rebalancing my life so I have time for getting out and exercising and seeing people and thinking about things other than work. I am not going to let work take over my life like this again!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Holy shmoly, it's been a month since I've posted on this blog and way over a month since our social worker visits. I've pretty much been working non-stop, and it has consumed every corner of my life. Which stinks. In the meantime, nothing has been happening on the adoption front. We have been waiting for our fingerprint clearances from the FBI. We did finally call the home study agency last week, and that seemed to prompt them to send us a draft of our home study. We've made some corrections and will send it back. We still have to research our community resources (local pediatricians etc.), interview other adoptive families, and complete some more training. It's the same list from my post six weeks ago. With my crazy work load and waiting for the FBI, everything has ground to a halt.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's official - we are physically and mentally fit to be parents.

We both had our doctor's appointments this week. Tabb also had his one-on-one with the social worker. We should be getting a draft of our homestudy for approval this week. Next up is getting our employment verified - Tabb already got his, but my letter was lost somewhere - and an affidavit from Tabb's health insurance. Then we need to identify locally and contact:
  • an early intervention specialist
  • an international clinic & a pediatrician (I'm assuming these can be combined in a pediatrician who specializes in international adoption)
  • a therapist
  • an interpreter
  • family respite care
Also we need to identify and interview at least two families who have adopted toddlers from Ethiopia. And we have some more online courses to take, I think.
Taking it one step at a time...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

social worker visits and other things

     Quick update about the social worker visits... we've had two so far. The first one was with the both of us. The social worker was super nice and very professional. She was here for almost two hours. Mostly she asked us the same things that were in our homestudy documents and autobiographical statements. She met the dogs, who were very well behaved (Buki did not even bark once!), and she did a quick tour of the house. The room that will eventually be the child's or children's is currently being used as a guest room/photo framing room/seed starting room, but that was fine. As far as asking about religion, she said, "You don't go to church, right?," we confirmed it, and she moved on.
     The second visit was with just me. Tabb sat out on the deck the whole time. She asked me more about my autobiography, and about our relationship. I think I babbled a bit, and I probably didn't need to go through our wedding album with her, but it was fine, too.
     Tabb has his one-on-one tomorrow while I'm in class.
     I also finally had a chance to slip out of work a few minutes early and go get fingerprinted at the courthouse. I mailed our fingerprints to the FBI today. This set is for our criminal background check. There will be a separately set of fingerprints for USCIS.
     We both have doctor's appointments next week for the medical paperwork. Tabb was lucky to find a friend of a friend in his building who is a notary and can come to the appointment with him. I found a traveling notary who coincidentally uses the same doctor's office as me, so she's giving me a cheap price to come out to my appointment.
     And finally we were excited to meet another local couple who has adopted a beautiful little girl from Ethiopia. Their daughter turned one on Sunday and we went to the party. The little girl was happy, healthy and clearly very attached to her parents. Hopefully a glimpse of our future!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

preparing for the social worker visit

The last few weeks have been super busy with work, so it's good that the homestudy process has gone a little slowly. We now have been assigned a social worker, and we have our first visit on Tuesday. I'm taking a break right now from mopping the floors. I'm trying not to go overboard with the cleaning, but with this month being so busy, the house had gotten really dirty.
We had actually met this social worker before, briefly, when we went to an information session at the homestudy agency. She was giving an overview of all the different country programs. She seemed pretty laid back, so I'm feeling positive about Tuesday's visit. Buki is also doing really, really well - the dogs have been playing together every day. So we just need to buy a fire extinguisher and get the floors to be less crunchy, and we're good to go.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Step 1 DONE!

Yay! I mailed the first round of homestudy paperwork to Carolina Adoption today! I wasn't allowed to take a photo inside the post office, so I asked someone to take my picture out front:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buki update

Buki, for anyone who doesn't know, is our second dog who has some challenging issues. We got her when she was a year old. We don't know what happened to her that first year, but she was very fearful of people. Since then she has gotten much better with people, but has become aggressive with other dogs. About a year ago she got in a big fight with our first dog. A lot of people thought we should get rid of her. Instead we have used closed doors, the crate, the backyard and a muzzle as tools to keep the dogs apart. So for the past year, like Sarah Palin and a coherent sentence, the two of them have seen each other across the room but never actually come into contact.

In the past month a lot of people have asked us about our adoption and Buki, so here is the update. The first thing we have done is to fatten Buki up. This has made a big difference. Even though the vets always complimented us on her weight, they said it's possible she was cranky because she was hungry. We gave her a deworming just in case, increased her food, and even temporarily switched her to puppy food. The second thing is that we put her on Prozac. That has definitely helped her anxiety without affecting her energy too much. We've also gotten on a waiting list for the superfancy experts at the veterinary hospital. And finally this past week we felt that things had improved to the point where we could reintroduce the dogs to each other. We are doing this in the evenings, when they are at their calmest, and it has gone very smoothly. We just let them be in a room together with plenty of space around them and both of us nearby but not hovering. Last night they were up to two hours together and they spent most of the time passed out on the floor snoring. We're pleased and hopeful.

The goal right now is to just have a smooth visit with the social worker during our homestudy. We haven't yet decided what to do when it's time to bring a child into the house. That's something we will be thinking about a lot during this next year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


This site is a wonderful resource for adoptive families: http://ethiopianadoptionblogs.blogspot.com/
Thank you so much, Cindy, for creating and maintaining it.  There are currently about 1400 blogs listed on this site.

I am reading all of them.

Unless the agency or blog has the words "Christian," "Jesus" or "God" in the title, in which case I feel comfortable skipping it because we won't have much in common.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Last week we were officially accepted by Carolina Adoption Services and got our first packet of paperwork. My first reaction when I looked at it was to leave the house. So I did. I came back to it later and started filling it out, then I left it again. The next day Tabb and I worked on it together, and now it is feeling less overwhelming. The key thing is to do it one step at a time.
Here’s what’s included in the first round of paperwork:
  • Basic family information
  • Education and work history
  • Discuss your values and beliefs
  • Organizations to which you belong
  • Activities you enjoy separately
  • Activities you enjoy together
  • Childcare plans
  • Plans for preserving your child’s cultural heritage
  • Preparations for international adoption
  • Information on our parents and siblings
  • References
  • Our autobiographies
  • Various legal documents to sign
  • Financial and tax statements
  • Birth certificates, marriage certificate
  • Photos of us and our house
  • Proof of life insurance (we need to get some)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Guardianship letter (who would care for our child if something happened to us)
Right now we are working on our autobiographies.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How we started

I read a bunch about adoption online, and I found a couple of local information sessions to go to. One was on international adoption, and one was about adopting from foster care. After the sessions we talked, and we both were more interested in international adoption. It seemed far more likely that we would be matched with a toddler, and one who was fairly healthy.
Then we started thinking about countries. We both were looking at sub-Saharan Africa, because we’ve both lived there before (Namibia for me, Senegal for T). We had to rule out most countries because they have a five-year marriage requirement, and we’ve only been married for three years. We started thinking about Ethiopia and getting excited about what we learned. For one, we would get to meet our child’s birth family. We didn’t know that was even possible in international adoption, and we feel it would be very, very important for our child. I also love how ancient a country Ethiopia is (I’m Greek, being obsessed with antiquity is required). And all the descriptions I read about the orphanages sounded positive.

At the same time we were learning about countries in other parts of the world and realizing they wouldn’t work for us. Many of them have the five-year requirement; many only make older children available for international adoption; many only place special needs children; some have religious requirements. We kept coming back to Ethiopia, and it felt right.

Then we had to figure out which agency would be best to work with. Early on I had read some articles about unethical practices in international adoption, so we were really, really concerned about working with an agency that was transparent and completely committed to ethical adoptions. From the Ethiopian embassy, I got a list of all the American adoption agencies registered in Ethiopia (there were 22 of them). I crossed out any that were not Hague-accredited, and all the Christian agencies. Again, nothing against Christians, but I see adoption as joining a community of adopting families, and I simply cannot relate to someone who thinks the creator of the entire universe has a personal interest in their adoption. I also crossed out the agencies that were on the west coast. I figured if our agency organizes events and meetings, as many agencies do, we would be more likely to attend if they were on the east coast, where we are. Then I started reading about the remaining agencies in online forums and message boards.
Useful groups to join: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Adoption_Agency_Research/ and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EthiopiaAdopt/

Finally we had narrowed our choices down to two agencies: Wide Horizons for Children (based in MA) and Gladney (based in TX but with an office in NC). Both had very positive reviews and good reputations. Two things pushed us over the edge to WHFC - 1. they had responded to a survey on www.ethicanet.org/ and Gladney had not 2. they responded to a list of questions I sent them about ethical concerns and Gladney did not.

Since WHFC is in Massachusetts we also had to find a local agency to do our home study. There were two secular partner agencies in NC listed on the WHFC website so again I researched them online and Carolina Adoption Services was clearly the better one.

So… we have applied to both agencies and that’s where we are now.

We’re adopting!

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to adopt my children. I’m so excited that we are finally doing it!