Saturday, January 22, 2011

Almost done with dossier

So we're sitting around, and we both get this quietness, which I'm learning means that we're both thinking about the adoption paperwork. Tabb asks, is there anything we can be doing right now for the dossier? I know, I say, let's run through the checklist for the 17th time.
- Power of Attorney document on its way to be certified (should receive by end of next week)
- Employment letters done
- Health forms done
- Birth certificates and marriage certificate done
- My new passport received and copied
- Letters of reference on their way (but I am secretly stalking you, Jamie and Amanda)
- Phone interview with our case worker done 
- USCIS approval on its way in ????? weeks
There must be something we could be doing right now. What if I scour the USCIS website one more time for clues to wait times? That could be productive.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Another snow day today, so we went down to the USCIS office to see if they would let us do our fingerprints early. They did! Everyone there was very nice, and we only had to wait about 20 minutes before they called us in.
Then we went to the credit union and got a bunch of our documents notarized.
The dossier paperwork seems to be going faster than the homestudy paperwork.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Snow day today, so a good day to work on getting dossier paperwork organized. This is the checklist required for the dossier. Once everything is collected and notarized, it goes to the State Department and then to the Ethiopian Embassy.

1. Power of Attorney letter - must also be certified by the state department. Luckily that's in Raleigh, and they have a same-day service if you go there in person.
2. Statement of Reason for Adopting an Ethiopian Child - done. Mostly I included what I had written here, but in more formal language.
3. Photos of us and the house - done. Lots of cleaning involved, just in case an Ethiopian official is on the lookout for dog hair under the couch.
4. Original copy of home study - done.
5. Employment letters for each of us - requested and should be arriving soon.
6. Financial statement - done.
7. Birth certificates - Tabb's is ordered and on its way. I was born outside of the U.S. but luckily I do not have to order a new certificate. I can just get a notarized copy of the original.
8. Copies of passports - mine expires in August, so I've sent it in for renewal. Should come in a couple of weeks.
10. Marriage certificate - picked one up yesterday after work.
11. New health form from our physicians - I have an appt on January 20. The traveling notary will meet me at the doctor's office once again. Tabb works next door to the hospital, so he can pop over to the doctor any time.
12. Police clearance. We have our FBI clearance, which will be enough, unless we don't have our dossier completed by February 16. On that day we go past the allowable 3-month age on documents, so then we'd have to get a local clearance instead.
13. Two letters of reference - with a few changes, we can use two of our original reference letters from our home study.
14. USCIS approval - we have our fingerprinting appointment on January 20. I don't know how long after the appointment we get the clearance. The timing of the USCIS approval will probably determine whether we can get everything processed by the State Department and Ethiopian Embassy before February 16.

And then, once all that is finished, we are officially on the waiting list. At this point it sounds like the wait for a referral will be well over a year. Then there will be an additional wait, which also seems to be getting longer, to get a court date in Ethiopia. So I'm guessing it will be at least summer of 2012 or later before we travel to Ethiopia. And of course, anything could happen between now and then.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

not really thinking

I'm working on our "Statement of Reason for Adopting an Ethiopian Child," which will go in our dossier to the Ethiopian government. It's funny how many blogs I've seen where the parents' reason was, "God told us our child was in Ethiopia," and that's been a completely acceptable statement. Yay, religion! No need for thought or self-reflection!

Friday, January 7, 2011


I forgot to post that our homestudy was finally officially accepted by Wide Horizons a few days ago. There had been some missing paperwork that the homestudy agency hadn't told us about. I think the two agencies have only partnered recently, so they seem to still be ironing out the communication kinks. Not a big deal, since we still have Mount Dossier looming in front of us. Dang, those instructions are long!

We also got a USCIS fingerprinting appointment for January 20. Tabb reminded me NOT to do any weeding, because last time my fingerprinting had to be delayed due to a giant blister.

Anyway, the dossier instructions were printing out as I wrote this. I'm about to get a beer and start reading them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

thoughts about ethics

I have been thinking a lot lately about ethics in international adoption. This is going to be my attempt to write down some coherent thoughts.

I’ll start at the bad end of the ethics continuum. The worst kind of adoption is one where a child was kidnapped, or where the birth parents were out-and-out lied to. I would like to say that everyone is against this kind of adoption, but unfortunately I can’t. I was listening to a piece about Focus on Children (the agency that lied to Samoan birth families and American adoptive families), and one adoptive parent was supporting them because in the United States the children were, “more advantaged by 1000 percent than from where they come from.” Somehow I imagine this man would change his mind about advantaged=ethical if Warren Buffett decided to kidnap his son. Anyway, obviously I am not OK with child trafficking.

At the other end of the continuum is a child who has lost both parents. Everyone in the child’s extended family has also died. Multiple attempts to place the child for adoption within the country of birth have failed. There is no future in the country except at an orphanage. In this case, international adoption would be the better choice.

But then... What if the birth parents are the ones who think it’s better for their child to have an “advantaged” life in the United States? What if the birth parents have not died, but can’t afford to raise the child? On the one hand, I think it would be unethical for an adoptive parent to go through with the adoption. There’s no informed consent. A destitute family in Ethiopia doesn’t know anything about life in the United States (or they’ve seen some American movies, in which case what they think they know is totally wrong). I know about life in the U.S., I know about moving to the U.S., and I know enough about poverty in Africa to know that they’re not making an informed choice, so I can’t participate in that adoption. But then on the other hand, that child could die if s/he is not adopted. Or if not die, live in extreme poverty. Maybe it doesn’t matter to the birth parents that they don’t know about life in the U.S., maybe they want any kind of life besides the one they can offer. How can I make that decision for them?

If I go with the first answer, I don’t participate in an adoption where the birth parents relinquish the child for a “better” life, and I only adopt if the family has died. But now consider – Judge Rahila Abbas, who handles all of Ethiopia’s adoption cases, was quoted as saying, “Some families prefer to lie about their history. I think the reason is they are destitute. I think that is the reason why they lie about one of the parents has died or is absent.” So in any given situation, I don’t know if it is an adoption in which I can participate. If the parents want to send their children to a “better” life, I do not adopt. If the parents have died, I do. But if people are lying, what do I do? Do I not adopt, assuming the parents are living? If so, I may leave a real orphan without a home. Or do I adopt, so I don’t leave an orphan? If so, I may be taking a child whose parents are alive. Which is worse?

Some people have posted on the adoption boards that instead of adopting we should give money to aid organizations that address poverty. But we can do both. Adopting for me is not about saving children. It’s about wanting to raise a child and deciding that rather than making a child I can give a home to an existing child who needs one. That has nothing to do with money I donate; I will continue donating money after I adopt. Besides, even if all the families who are currently waiting to adopt decide to donate their money instead, there would still be poverty.

Wide Horizons does several things to make the adoption as ethical as possible. They send their own social worker to confirm the information provided by the Ethiopian government, they educate the birth family about the American definition of adoption and about their right to change their mind right up to the court date, they require a sizable donation for in-country aid, and they arrange for us to meet the birth family. Still, if the family is lying so that the child will be placed, Wide Horizons would not catch that. Again, I don’t know if it’s ethical to adopt when it’s possible the family is lying. Am I the one to decide that they can’t do that because I know more about life in the U.S. or are they the ones to decide because it’s their child?