I've honestly had 2 very frustrating days working on adoption stuff. Yesterday was one of those days when I worked and worked all day but got nowhere, and today has turned out to be very similar!
When I went to bed last night I remembered that somewhere on the USCIS website I had seen a way to check on the status of your application, so first thing this morning I went to the website, found the link, and put our numbers in. It said that it could not find our file! My heart stopped momentarily, but I remained calm as I called the number it suggested that I call. The representative also said that she could not find our file, but to try calling Adoption Services, and gave me that number. I questioned her on this, asking if Adoption Services has any information on the status our our Immigration application, but she insisted that that was indeed the number to call.
I called the number, but it was actually the "travel.state.gov" number, meant for Americans who are overseas and need help. That lady suggested that I call the National Visa Center, and gave me that number. I didn't think that was right, either, since we won't be needing any visas for quite some time (until we're ready to travel to China), but I shrugged my shoulders and tried it.
That representative said she also couldn't find our file! I tried to remain calm as I asked her what this means, and what I should do. How could our paperwork be lost? I know it was received by USCIS because we got a receipt, and an appointment to be fingerprinted. How could we suddenly just not be in the system?! She put me on hold, then came back and said that she had spoken to her supervisor, who also did not know what to tell me. She suggested that I call USCIS!! I nicely reminded her that USCIS was the first number I had called, but I thanked her for her time and hung up.
Still trying very hard not to panic, I looked over all of the papers that we have received from USCIS with a fine-tooth comb, and finally found one more number for "Hague cases". Since China is a Hague country, and the I-800A form is for Hague adoptions, I tried the number listed. The recording said "Due to unusually high call volume we cannot take your call at this time" and hung up on me! UGH!
I tried again later, and a nice lady actually answered the phone. She had our file!! THANK GOD!!! The problem now is that it still has not been reviewed. It is still sitting on someone's desk. HOPEFULLY someone will review it very soon because we need that approval before we can do anything else!
I then tried to call the Chinese Embassy in D.C. again, but they did not answer the phone (even though I was calling during their "business hours"). It just rang and rang, not even a message or recording. I tried again later and a recording answered, but spoke all in Chinese. I finally heard what I thought said "For English press 1", so I pressed "1". The next menu spoke only Chinese! Since I couldn't understand a word I hung up so that I could try again, but when I called back the phone rang busy! I tried again and again but it kept ringing busy. I gave up, drove home, then tried one more time (the Embassy is only open until 3 PM and it was nearly 3 by now). The recording answered, and this time I listened much more carefully: it said to press "2" for English!
I pressed "2", and finally got an actual person! I told her about all the problems I have had with the Embassy in Houston, and when I finished she said "I see. They owe you an explanation. You should call them. Here is their number..." (and gave the same number I've been trying).
I took a very long, deep breath, then repeated that I had tried that number, numerous times, as well as the automated number, and gotten no response.
She said "I see. Then I think you should e-mail them. Here is their address-"
I cut her off, kindly reminding her that I had also tried to e-mail them and had gotten no reply.
She said "I see. Then I think you should fax them."
I thanked her for her time and hung up.
At this point, ready to cry, I e-mailed Philip, our contact person at our agency. I told him what all I've been through and explained that I've obviously hit a major road block and I did not know what else to do. He wrote back and said not to worry, he would handle it! He said that all I need to get are the State Authentications (I've already done that for all the States except Virginia, which is waiting for the I-800A approval to arrive so that it can be authenticated as well), but that he will do the rest! I don't have to deal with the Embassies any more! THANK YOU PHILIP!!!!!!!
Sorry this post was so long, but it's been a very long couple of days! I just want to keep a journal of all of this so that Caitlin knows how hard we worked to get to her. Hopefully she will see how much we loved her and wanted her, even before she was born, that we were willing to go through all this to bring her home...
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I've honestly had 2 very frustrating days working on adoption stuff. Yesterday was one of those days when I worked and worked all day but got nowhere, and today has turned out to be very similar!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Paul got another "Letter of Employment Verification" printed and notarized today. He already did this back in July, but since we are still waiting to finish the "paperchase" it needed to be redone.
We still have not heard back from USCIS (Immigration) about our I-800A approval. I was really hoping it was going to come by now, but no such luck. Hopefully it will come very soon because everything is on hold waiting for it. If we don't get our paperwork in to China soon even more of our documents may have to be redone.
Oh, and I tried to contact the Chinese Embassy in D.C. to ask them if they could help me with the communication problems with the Embassy in Houston, but they did not answer the phone. The Embassy in Houston is only open for 1 hour a day; apparently the Embassy in D.C. is only open for 4 hours a day, and I missed their working hours. I'll try again tomorrow!
For a little good news, a big, surprise batch of referrals began arriving today from China for beautiful babies! This batch finishes out the LIDs for February 2006, meaning that the families who get these referrals have been "LID", or on the waiting list, for almost 3 years, since February 2006. It really caught everyone off guard since they just sent out a batch at the beginning of December so no one was expecting any more referrals until later in January. Hopefully this is a sign of the speedup that we all are hoping for!
Friday, December 26, 2008
Paul's family had a few surprises for Caitlin as well! Paul's parents gave her a beautiful pink and white crocheted blanket,some cute pink pants,and adorable Disney princess slippers!
Paul's sister's family gave her a gorgeous Asian "American Girl" baby doll:She is so pretty- I love her! She reminds me of my first baby doll, Ba (I couldn't say "baby" yet so I just called her "Ba". The name stuck, and to this day she is still known as Ba). Ba was always my favorite and went everywhere with me (even to college, believe it or not!). Maybe this doll will one day be Caitlin's Ba!
It was so fun including Caitlin in our family festivities; it almost made it feel like she was here!
Posted by Allie at 12/26/2008 07:07:00 PM
Sunday, December 21, 2008
My parents, Paul and I went to the "First Emperor of China" exhibit at the Atlanta High Museum of Art today to see the Terracotta Soldiers. It was fascinating- we all learned a lot about China's history. The exhibit only had a handful of the over 1,000 soldiers that have been uncovered so far, but it was enough to make us really appreciate how amazing they are!
Posted by Allie at 12/21/2008 04:37:00 PM
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I have been looking and looking for a ladybug ornament for Caitlin. I would like to collect one each Christmas that we are waiting for Caitlin to hang on our tree, and I will write on them "Waiting for Caitlin," plus the year. I had no idea it would be so hard to find a simple thing like a ladybug ornament! I finally found a couple, but they were scary ladybugs (ladybugs can be really cute or they can look like, well, bugs; I wanted the cute kind!) Anyway, I told my mom about my quest, and little did I know that she set right to work to try to help me out. After a lot of searching (and persistence!), she finally found this:It is perfect- exactly what I was looking for!
She also surprised us with this beautiful Swarovski crystal ladybug:It is so beautiful and I absolutely love it. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad!
Posted by Allie at 12/20/2008 06:52:00 AM
Monday, December 15, 2008
I just wanted to update the blog since I haven't updated in several days, but there is actually no news to report. I have been trying since the last post to reach the Chinese Embassy in Houston to ask why our papers were returned unopened, but they do not answer the phone (even during the one hour they say to call, from 9-10 AM. I have tried calling from 9-10 Houston time as well as our time!), and even the automated number has no recording. I have sent an e-mail but there has been no reply. Finally, in desperation I e-mailed our contact person at our agency, Philip, and told him about it. He replied very timely, but only stated that he also tried calling and got the same response. No offense, as I truly appreciate all the help Philip has given me in the past, but did he really think that his phone was special? How did he expect his phone to get a different response than mine, when he called the exact same number! I was actually hoping that he had some kind of insider info and a different number to call, or a better address to send the documents to.
Anyway, I will continue trying my futile efforts for the next few days, but we are leaving town again Thursday morning for our Christmas travels so time is quickly running out for this year... Here's hoping to better luck in 2009!
Monday, December 8, 2008
We are back from our trip! It was a wonderful trip, but the voyage home was unbelievable. Long story, but we didn't get home until 5:00 AM this morning! We are pretty exhausted, but glad to be home!
In adoption news, today I got back the envelope that I'd FedEx-ed to the Chinese Consulate in Houston last week (the one with all of our Georgia and Florida papers that needed to be authenticated). Unfortunately it was returned unopened because it was not accepted at the consulate. I'm not sure why, but I will have to wait until tomorrow to call them since they are only open from 9-10 AM.
Posted by Allie at 12/08/2008 09:45:00 AM
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Paul and I would like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
We are leaving tomorrow on our long-planned trip... see you in about 10 days!
Posted by Allie at 11/27/2008 03:52:00 AM
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I sent our Georgia and Florida documents to the Chinese Embassy in Houston today so they can be authenticated. Included were: my birth certificate, our marriage certificate, my police clearance from Georgia, and Paul's police clearance from Florida.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Posted by Allie at 11/25/2008 12:02:00 PM
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Well, actually it's from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago... We got Paul's birth certificate back with authentication from the Chinese government. I have no idea what this certificate says, but I hope it's something like "Pass these nice people through ASAP!!"
Now that I know how to go about getting this authentication I can send in all of our Georgia and Florida documents to be authenticated as well (they go to the Chinese Consulate in Houston).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Paul and I had our appointment to be fingerprinted today at our local USCIS office. It was amazingly painless: we had an 8:00 a.m. appointment and we were done and out of there by 8:20! And they had these cool computers that took our fingerprints without getting our fingers dirty- no ink! All in all it was a very pleasant surprise.
On the way to the USCIS office we passed a truck on the highway with a big ladybug on it (Paul, thinking quickly, snapped this picture with his cell phone). Ladybugs are kind of considered to be the mascot for China adoptions; according to "myth," whenever you see ladybugs something good is about to happen. Here's hoping that today's sighting was a sign of good news to come (like a quick approval from USCIS!!)
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I couldn't believe my eyes this afternoon when I opened the mailbox and found 2 envelopes from USCIS! We have already been given an appointment to be fingerprinted (next Tuesday)! Philip had said it would take about 30 days to hear back from them, but it's only been 5 days! I hope and pray this is a sign that things are finally going to start going more smoothly...
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I sent Paul's birth certificate to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago for final authentication today. I spent the morning trying to figure out how to do this, and after hours on the internet I decided that the process was very complicated and so before I send away all of our precious documents, I would do a test-run with just Paul's birth certificate, since it is the only one that needs to go to Chicago. All of our Florida and Georgia documents go to the Consulate in Houston, and our Virginia documents go to D.C. We'll see what happens!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Today Paul met me after work at the AAA office so that we could have our Virginia forms notarized (AAA notarizes for free for members!). They also told us that they can take passport photos there, and that they only charge $5 for each set, so we were able to take care of our photos for our dossier and visa as well. We were glad to get to knock 2 more things off our "to-do" list.
The photos that we send with the dossier are used in the matching room when the CCAA is deciding which baby they should match with us, so they are very important! OK, not that a mug shot will ever be good, but these were at least decent, and the nice lady at AAA allowed us to approve the shots before she printed them (although she wouldn't let us smile- she said the passport/visa people don't like to see teeth for some reason)!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
We received a very official-looking letter from USCIS (Immigration) today saying that they have received our I-800A application and we are now just waiting for our appointment to be fingerprinted. Philip says we should expect an appointment in about 30 days.
Friday, October 31, 2008
A very sweet friend at work today gave us the nicest surprise- a very generous gift for Caitlin! She gave us 3 of the cutest little outfits and a beautiful red coat! Paul and I were overwhelmed at her generosity. She is an angel and we will never forget her kindness. Thank you, Elizabeth!
P.S.- You can see that Libby is already curious about her new baby sister!
Posted by Allie at 10/31/2008 05:28:00 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I know it's really early to be buying stuff for Caitlin, but there was a book sale today downtown at the library and we couldn't resist! We bought Caitlin 20 books, and we got a huge, beautiful National Geographic book about China for us. Although it is a bit outdated, it has beautiful pictures and looks very nice on our coffee table! Most of the books are in very good condition (although anyone who knows me knows that I have gone over them with a Clorox Wipe before I put them away!) and the price was too great to pass up! Now Caitlin has an excellent start to her library!
Posted by Allie at 10/19/2008 09:57:00 AM
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I mailed off our I-800A application today! We are FINALLY moving again! We went out to dinner to celebrate this milestone. This is a big stack of papers, which took a lot of work and effort to put together, and it really felt good to finally get it in the mail. Last night I held the stack up to Paul and I said "Do you know how important this pile of paper is?"
He replied "Yep, that's a baby!" :)
I've been hearing that there have been hold-ups with this part of the process and it can take as long as 3 months, but I'm praying hard that it will go smoothly (and quickly)! Once we get our approval we can have our Virginia documents notarized, then sent to be state certified, then the last of our documents will go to D.C. to be authenticated by the consulate. Once that's done our entire dossier is off to China!!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Our second home study arrived today, with the new physical dates. We are ready to proceed to the next step!
Posted by Allie at 10/14/2008 05:18:00 AM
Friday, October 10, 2008
Paul got his third physical completed and notarized today. Philip approved it as well! PHEW!!
Posted by Allie at 10/10/2008 03:26:00 PM
Monday, October 6, 2008
We got the biggest surprise in the mail today! In the mailbox I found a box addressed to "Baby S." from our friend Rochelle! I was going to wait for Paul to get home from work so we could open our first baby gift together, but I just couldn't- I ripped right into it! It was a Sonya Lee doll from the "Little People". I've been hearing all about Sonya Lee from all of the blogs I read but I didn't really know what a "Little People" was. Well, now I do! Rochelle knew about the bad week I had last week with all of the problems with our physicals, and she knew we needed a pick-me-up. She had the perfect one- her gift totally made my day! Thank you so much, Rochelle!!
Posted by Allie at 10/06/2008 05:33:00 PM
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I got my third physical done today. I had to bribe the nurses with donuts to get them to help me, but my doctor was wonderful and helpful as usual! I forwarded it to Philip and it is APPROVED!!!
Posted by Allie at 10/01/2008 06:17:00 PM
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I was so excited this morning when our home study arrived via the FedEx man. We lost so much time when CAI went out of business and I couldn't wait to get the process moving again! As soon as I had the home study I could mail in the I-800A form and start working on USCIS approval. However, soon after I received the home study I checked e-mails only to find one from Philip (our case advisor at our new agency) stating that we can not use these physicals either because the dates of commission for both of our notaries are not valid for at least TWO years! I had thought the rule was one year, but now it's two. I tried to get around it but it's inevitable: they have to be redone. Sometimes I wonder how many more hoops they can possibly ask us to jump through...
Posted by Allie at 9/24/2008 06:26:00 PM
Monday, September 22, 2008
I completed my second physical last Thursday and Paul finished his today. I forwarded them to Barbara this afternoon so that she could finish up our home study and mail it out to us. Once I have it we can move on to the next step: USCIS (immigration) approval!
Posted by Allie at 9/22/2008 06:21:00 PM
I filled out the I-800A form today, a rather long application that we will send to USCIS as soon as we get our home study squared away...
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Just to bring this blog up to date, here is an abridged timeline of everything we have done so far: (It may seem long, but believe me- there are so many details that I have left out so as not to overwhelm my readers!)
Fall 2007: Paul and I decided to start the adoption process; I began spending hours online researching agencies and the process in general. I spoke to several agencies, and even went to an informational meeting for an agency here in town. I was very disappointed that none of the agencies were willing to let me begin the process now since Paul would be deploying in February.
February 19, 2008: Paul deployed.
March, 2008: I contacted CAI and asked for more information.
March 11: I was contacted by Rochelle, an intake manager for CAI. We immediately hit it off since we have a lot in common. We e-mailed back and forth quite a bit over the next couple of days. Since she is also a Navy wife she understood our situation and agreed that there was much of the process that I could begin now, even with Paul deployed.
March 13: Paul and I decided to go with CAI. I filled out the application online and sent in the application fee.
March 14: We were approved by CAI.
March 22: I signed the contract with CAI and paid the contract fee.
March 26: I contacted Barbara, a social worker recommended by Rochelle. She was very kind and helpful and agreed to work with us.
April 21: I began my online parenting class (a requirement).
May 21: I sent away for Paul's birth certificate.
June 2: Paul's birth certificate arrived.
June 25: Paul sent our requests for police clearance from Naples (we have to get clearance from every place we have lived in the past 5 years).
June 30: I completed the application for the social worker and sent it in.
July 6: Paul got his Letter of Employment signed and notarized. I finished my autobiography.
July 11: Paul returned from deployment!
July 17: Paul and I spent the morning being fingerprinted and getting forms notarized.
July 18: I had my physical, then went to the post office to mail in our fingerprints, our requests for police clearance from Florida and Virginia, as well as Paul's birth certificate back to Wisconsin to be State Certified/Authenticated.
July 21: Paul finished his autobiography, I typed up my Letter of Unemployment and our Certificate of Property/Financial Statement. Also, I finished the online parenting course!!
July 22: Paul began the online parenting course.
July 23: I mailed our autobiographies in to the social worker. We also got Paul's birth certificate back from Wisconsin with State Certification.
July 28: Paul worked all weekend and finished up the online parenting class!
July 30: We got our police clearances back from Virginia and Florida. Unfortunately the Florida one had to be redone because the notary's commission was not valid for at least 1 year (another requirement).
July 31: I called and asked for a new Florida police clearance, and also ordered my Georgia clearance which I will pick up next week when I'm home.
August 2: We had our home visit with Barbara, our social worker. Although I was a little nervous about this (I had heard horror stories!) it was actually not a problem at all. Barbara was wonderful and made the whole process pleasant and stress-free!
August 3: After the home visit was complete I drove home to Georgia to complete paperwork in person.
August 4: I picked up my Georgia police clearance, as well as our marriage certificate, and dropped off my Explanation of Surgery form with my surgeon for an operation I had several years ago. Also, Paul's 2nd police clearance arrived from Florida, still wrong. (This time there was NO notary signature at all!) Paul called and requested clearance #3.
August 5: I picked up my birth certificates.
August 6: I picked up my Explanation of Surgery form from my surgeon (basically stating that I am medically capable of being a great parent). My mom and I then drove downtown to have my police clearance county certified at the courthouse, then we went to the Department of State to have my police clearance, birth certificate, and our marriage certificate State Certified/Authenticated. We went home, feeling very accomplished, only to find out that our agency, CAI, was going out of business! Everything was put on hold until we figured out what was going to happen.
August 7: We were passed to another agency. I faxed a consent form to allow our paperwork to be passed to the new agency.
August 8: Opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing! I watched with pride and amazement as my daughter's birth country put on quite a show!
August 9: I drove back to Virginia.
August 11: I typed up our "Letter to China," basically a cover letter that will go with our dossier to China.
August 14: I spoke to the Executive Director of our new agency; he agreed to pick us up right where we were with CAI. He did not charge us any fees that we had already paid to CAI, which was wonderful and we were so thankful, but we did have to start back at the beginning with filling out an application and contract with them.
August 15: I mailed in the application to our new agency.
August 18: We got Paul's 3rd police clearance from Florida- STILL WRONG!!! This time it was signed by the original notary (the one who's commission was valid for only 2 months, instead of the required year).
August 20: I called Florida for police clearance #4 (needless to say, I was not exactly friendly this time!)
August 22: The 4th police clearance from Florida arrived today, finally correct!!
August 27: We signed a contract with the new agency.
August 28: I mailed in the new contract, Paul's police clearance back to Florida for State Certification, as well as a couple of my Georgia documents back to the Secretary of State since they were not dated correctly the first time and needed to be redone.
August 29: We found out that we had to redo our physicals since they were done on CAI letterhead and, since that agency is now defunct, they need to be on the new agency's letterhead. I called my surgeon and asked that they complete another Explanation of Surgery and made another appointment with my doctor here for a new physical; Paul did the same.
September 2: Barbara completed our home study!
September 11: Our home study finished review with our agency; it was only lacking the new physicals
September 16: I started our blog! (We are now up to date!)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
We have decided to create this blog so that our family and friends can follow along with and better understand our adoption journey, and so that we will have a journal of our journey that we can share with our daughter one day.
For those who don't know, I have wanted to adopt a baby girl from China for over half my life. When I was in high school I first learned about the "One Child Policy" in China, and how, due to a cultural preference for boys, thousands of beautiful, perfect little girls are abandoned for no reason other than the fact that they are not boys. I decided right then that one day I would be a mother to one of these children. Since Paul and I are currently living in the States, and will be here for at least another 2 -1/2 years, we decided last fall that this would be a good time to start the adoption process.
The process for international adoption is very long and complicated. Later I will post the actual timeline of everything that we have done so far just to get to this point, and we are still at least 2 years (probably more like 3 years) away from getting a referral for our daughter. It has been almost a year since we first made the decision to go ahead and start the process, and we are not even on the "waiting list" yet....
First I would like to explain a little about how the process works, and some of the "adoption lingo". Paul and I are currently finishing up our dossier, which is basically a huge pile of paperwork that has to be collected, including our birth certificates, marriage certificate, proof of employment, proof of financial standing, physicals/proof of good health, police clearance from every State/country we have lived in the past 5 years, etc., etc., etc. Then these papers must all be notarized, then State certified (meaning that the Secretary of State verifies that the notary that certified the official that signed the original document is actually a valid notary. Confused yet?), then all of the paperwork must go to the corresponding Embassy (Wisconsin papers go to the Embassy in Chicago, Florida and Georgia papers go to Houston, and Virginia papers go to D.C.) to be further certified (basically saying that the Secretary of State, who verified the notary, who verified the official who signed the actual document, is actually the valid Secretary of State).
We also had to have a home study. This is when a social worker puts together even more paperwork about us, including verifying our proof of employment, proof of financial standing, proof of good health, etc., as well as fingerprints, police clearances from every State/country we've lived since we were 18 years old, family background information, etc. She also had to meet with us and interview us, both separately and jointly, and she did an inspection of our home. She put all of this information together into an 8-page report.
After the home study is complete, we can proceed to the next step: getting permission from Immigration/Homeland Security to bring an "immigrant" into the country (even though she will be "sworn in" as a citizen of the United States before we leave China, and will become a US citizen the second she touches US soil). This is yet another long, complicated process. We have to send in an application and our home study to the USCIS (Immigration), then wait several weeks, then we will get an appointment to be fingerprinted (again), then wait several more weeks...
Once we get approval from USCIS, we can get the final certification done on all of our documents (the USCIS approval, as well as the dossier documents) by the Embassy in D.C. Then, THEN, we can send everything to China, where it will be translated to Chinese, then sent to the CCAA (the agency that oversees all adoptions in China). Once the CCAA looks over our documents they will log us into the system and we will get a "Log In Date", or LID. Then we sit back for the long wait. The current wait (from LID to the date of getting a referral- the first pictures and information we will receive for our daughter) is about 30 months.
We have asked for a baby, as young as possible, preferably younger than 9 months old at the time of referral. The youngest she might be is 5 or 6 months at the time of referral (that is the amount of time it takes China to get the babies' paperwork together so that they can be adopted internationally), and the oldest is 18 months. Once we get our referral it will still be another 6 to 8 weeks until we will be able to travel to China to bring her home.
Right now we are planning to name our daughter "Caitlin Mei" (Mei means beautiful in Chinese).
SOOOO, while we are very excited and more than ready to fly to China tomorrow to bring our daughter home, it will be quite some time before that day comes. In the mean time we plan to keep ourselves very busy (as we usually do!) so the time will fly and before we know it the day will come!
I hope that this has helped to explain the process a little, and to answer some of the questions you may have. Please let us know if you have any other questions or confusions- we love to talk about it!