Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ethiopia Baby?

Could it be that an Ethiopia Baby graces cover of Adoptive Families magazine? It sure is! Does this baby's face looks familiar? Well it is Kia a West Michigan baby! She was the one we were voting for. I am not sure if she won the contest, but to me getting the cover shot is even better. Now if worlds are not small enough, but little things happen daily that are just meant to be. Our neighbor AJ was really excited about our adoption and said that he knew a great young family that adopted from Ethiopia that he would like us to meet. Just by chance it ended up being Kia's parents. What an absolutly small world.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

VOTE...this time with less media coverage

One of the talented photographers in our group got the great news that her daughter is in a photo contest for Adoptive families magazine. I would love it if you guys would check it out and vote for your favorite (hopefully Kia!!)

Holiday Blessing Everywhere!

After the great lunch at the Olive garden there has been good luck all around me. The two girls on my left both got referrals!

Julie received a referral call from Chandra telling her that it was the big day that she would be the mother of an approximately 8 - 10 weeks old baby boy (and he is very tiny). He is at Enat Alem orphange. Check out her full story at http://leapafaith.blogspot.com/

Then Rebecca posted the news of a beautiful 7 month old boy. She told me that she really wanted a boy and that is so great! Another awsome thing is that she only waited two months! Rebecca and were almost exactly on the same paperwork schedule and have our dossiers arrive in Ethiopia almost the same time. Obviously we will be waiting much longer because we are waiting for a girl born after 10/08.

Then we got word that Rob and Mary's court date has gone through. They will be traveling to pick up there beautiful daughter Lucia Mihret, 19 months old over Christmas. And she IS beautiful, I saw the photos. We are wishing them a trip of a lifetime, comfort for thier child staying behind and Gods pertection on their little Lucia until they get her safely home in the care of her doctor. Hopefully I can get Mary some supplies for the orphange before she leaves!

I joked around with the girls in my adoption group that the key is to sit by me at parties because I am lucky : ) I wish this was true, but we also got a lot of other good news from parents excepting refferals, at least three families traveling, and many more making good progress!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fun and fabulous females!

Tonight I had the privilege to meet about 20 women who are also in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. They were the nicest group of gals that anyone could meet. They were so open and self expressed about their experiences, no matter where they were in the process. Some were home with their adopted kids, others going through the court process and lastly some waiting just like us. I had the opportunity to see photos of thier beautiful childern (both bio and from Ethiopia) and hear tips from those who made the journey. My favorite was the one to bring several sets of clothes in your carry on just to stay dry after your new sweetie experiences air travel for the first time. You get the point!

The passion for orphans of Ethiopia were truely present and the strong commitment to preserving and promoting the Ethiopian heritage was evident. I could only hope to be among such an outstanding group of women. Hopefully we will stay in contact often and support each other. I hope to post links to some of their blogs soon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our adoption steps

We got an email from Kim saying "Alemu did receive your dossier in good condition". I know this because I had tracked the UPS to Africa and seen that it arrived safely in Ethiopia on 11/21/08.

Our next step is to wait....
Honestly I am not even in a "hurry" for a referral. We are hopeful for one, but not pushing for it to happen unnaturally. If we have to wait a while and smother Liviann with 100% love and all our parenting efforts, I can’t think of a single problem with that. Plus we have to still have to write checks for the second half of the moo-la. We are both ok with Gods timing. I find the whole process very interesting so I outlined it for fun for you. Here are the next steps in order...

  1. Our dossier arrives in Africa & gets Translated by a service (in progress).
  2. Translated Dossier goes to Mowa for a pre-approval (Mowa is the Ethiopian government ministry in charge of women and children’s affairs)
  3. Then We Wait.......
  4. When a Child is found, they go to an orphanage. This can be very traumatic because the child could be found by a deceased parent or worse.
  5. Orphanage determines Child is declared a true orphan. They declare them a true orphan and write a report on the child. (not some orphanages are not Ethiopian Gov run - maybe Christian churches or Us aid sponsored. These do not have authority transfer legal rights to an American parent.)
  6. Orphanage transfers child to an orphanage that has authority to adopt out children. Traumatic again. I am told there are only 3 homes that can adopt out by Ethiopian law so they get carted to one of these “gates” to be adopted out.
  7. AAI -Adoption consultant in Ethiopia calls home branch in Jenison to let them know about an available child.
  8. AAI hires doctor to do a full physical and create a medical report on the child(s).
  9. AAI matches child(s) with appropriate US parents based on medical report, orphanage report and a whole list of criteria. If all things are equal it is up to where you fall on the wait list.
  10. AAI sends information to potential Adoptive parent(s). They call this offer a referral. Parents look at photos and documents to decide if they want the child.
  11. Parents say “Yes” and except the referral. This is a big deal day.
  12. Parents Pay country fees.
  13. The case goes back to Mowa to approval and write a Mowa recommendation for court that says they approve a particular child to be adopted by a particular couple. This is an intense report that needs to go to court.
  14. First court date is set to legally transfer the child to the new parents custody and sir name. The courts are only open certain times of the year, they are closed during the rainy season too. Many people get a referral, but have to wait for the courts to “open” to get a court date.
  15. Adoptive parents give power of attorney to a liaison to represent them in court otherwise they would have to appear personally in court.
  16. All parties travel to court. All parties that MUST appear in court for the case to happen. This means that the Judge, Mowa, an orphanage representative, a living relative of child or last care giver, and the adoptive parents representative). All parties must be present for the court or it gets canceled. Now remember we are in remote Africa. This doesn’t always happen the first time, or second or third.
  17. The Court rules that the adoption is valid. This means every piece of paperwork is 100% correct and the judge is feeling good. Sometimes court approvals are delayed because one line on one piece of paperwork is wrong or maybe the judge just does not want to approve it. This often happens. If they rule in favor, the child is now legally yours
  18. They will obtain the final adoption decree, approval from MOWA, new birth certificate, child's Ethiopian passport, get another HIV test for the US Embassy, then submit the documents into the Embassy at least a week before we intend to have your Embassy appt.
  19. The Parents (us) travel to Ethiopia.
  20. The parents stay in home and then travel to meet the child(s) in Ethiopia (sometimes this can take days If child is located in south). Parents meet caregivers in orphanage and learn as much as they can about child(s).
  21. You travel to meet living parent (may be very ill), extended family still alive, or people who found child. This can be difficult as the conditions are very poor and people can be very ill.
  22. Parents bring child to second court hearing at Eithipian/Us Embassy to complete process. Parents apply for a travel visa for the child and wait for this to arrive normally the next day.
  23. Family flies to US with the child(s)
  24. Child is seen by a doctor in the us -US medical clearance happens
  25. Family arrives home. Now the real journey begins

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fast - Are documents are in Ethiopia!

Wow- the last few weeks have gone by so fast!
Here is what we did in just a few weeks
  1. We finished our adoption training
  2. We received our I171-H approval - This is the final document that you need to complete a dossier.
  3. All our paper work was notarized
  4. We sealed our documents at the office of the great seal in Michigan. This was to say that the notary was authentice
  5. We sent them to the Assistant Stork. This is courier service near the US Capital that helps get US and Ethiopian authentication.
  6. The US department of State in Washington DC authenticated and bundled our documents. They basically did this to prove the great seal was real.
  7. The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC then authenticated that the US department of State was real and true
  8. Then the paperwork went to our agency who then put the papers in a special folder in special order.
  9. Our paperwork then traveled to Germany and then on to Ethiopia. I tracked the progress of the package online! It made it : )
  10. Lastly our paperwork now is being translated. Amharic is the national language of Ethiopia.

I then called my coordinator at the Agency and said that we added another stipulation to our adoption. I told her that our new child must we weigh as much or more than the paperwork we sent! She thought that was pretty funny too. That would make the child nearly 5 pounds. I think I spent almost 100.00 just to ship the documents to the Assistant Stork and back. We spent nearly 5,000.00 in paperwork and fees last week. This is just a fraction of our overall expenses. Not only can we say that our bio daughter is older, we can also say she was cheaper!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

About Ethiopia

Map of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is located in East Africa just north of Kenya and west of Somalia and only a few hundred miles north of the equator. Interestingly, it is the only African country never colonized by Europe (with the exception of an Italian occupation in the 1930s). It is slightly less than twice the size of Texas.

Roughly 75 million people live in Ethiopia, and thus there is much diversity in food, languages, people groups, and customs. The landscape is breathtaking, from mountainous areas to parts of the Great Rift Valley and Nile River.

Ethiopia is traditionally a Christian nation and one of the oldest on the planet. About half of the population today is Muslim, 40 percent Christian, and 10 percent animistic. Ethiopia traces its history and ruling lineage back to King Solomon and the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba. It is believed that the Queen of Sheba went to visit King Solomon and had a child with him. That son became the next Ethiopian king, so every Ethiopian monarch since then can trace their lineage to the throne of David.

During the 1980s, Ethiopia was stricken with crises of war and famine, leading to the still-lingering image the starving children of Ethiopia. Today, Ethiopia faces an orphan crisis, millions of children have no family, primarily due to poverty and AIDS. Many orphans live on the streets, while others live in public and private orphanages.

From those who have visited, they say it is really a beautiful place and above all, a country filled with beautiful people. We look forward to soon visit Ethiopia and hope to learn all we can to to promot the proud history of Ethiopian culture in our family.

Golden Ticket

The golden ticket just arrived Saturday... Our I-171H . The approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for our adoption. The approval is a form, the I-171H. I had imagined that it would be a very official document, possibly with a watermark and a seal or something along those lines. It is just a piece of paper with a check-mark next to our approval and the expiration dates for our fingerprints and paperwork. It took us several internet searches and reading the form a few times to actually realize it was the real thing. The only place on the form that actually says I-171H is in small text in the very bottom left hand corner. Then it sunk in... This is really the form! Can you hear the whooo-ha's and hiphip horay's? Now I really have to think some higher power is working magic here. This form normally takes months to get and we just got ours in a few short weeks. This through us totally in a tail spin. I thought we had weeks to complete our paperwork for our dossier. Now this week we need to go into high gear to get all the final pieces completed.

The arrival of the form also creates some butterflies. Similar to the butterflies we felt prior to our first child. Wow we could soon be with another family member. Is our little baby going to like her new parents? Are we going to be able to juggle it all? What unknowns are there? How will flying and living our daughter behind be? Oh and then there is the money? Oh and the list goes on and on.

So it is here. Now we just have hope that we get our daughter home before it expires. We know of several people who have had to redo this 2 or 3 times. There is actual a campain going on right now to create reform around this short expiration. The current the fingerprinting only lasts 15 months and the form 18 months. As if our finger prints are going to suddenly change at month 16 - hahaha. I am pretty sure they will be good for a lifetime ; ). If you feel inspired to help change this, check out this website:

At a minimum, please be help us in giving thanks that the approvals has been so smooth thus far. And special thanks to everyone who is tracking our journey.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Born on Date

The agency that we signed on with has strict policies on birth order. We believe in these policies too. This is why we agreed to adopt nine months younger than our youngest child. The magic date is Oct 23, 2008. That happened this week.

So this means that our new daughter could have actually been born this week. Or at least she is probably in in the tummy of her birth mother. We have begun to pray for her safety and health. This little life is already alive and connecting with her surroundings!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Foot in the mouth or finger in the ink?

Wow, I just posted how long we would probably be waiting for our finger print appointment and the very next day we got our appointment notices. So tomorrow we are off to dip our fingers in the ink or would that be scan these days? We have been instructed to lotion up to help the prints. Did you ever wonder what the major parts of a print are? check out this image.

My agency says that submission of documents to USCIS to receipt of I-171H--that varies, but is generally between 2 - 3 months (has been known to go a bit beyond 3 months at times). So we can plan to still wait a little longer for our approval. Next step is to get that dossier finished!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Could it be true...didn't think so

Yesterday we received a letter from the Department of homeland security. Could it possibly be our fingerprint date? Would we set the record for fast turn around? That would be an amazing 3 week turn!


It was just a letter saying they would get to our application in the next three months and not to inquire on the status until that time had passed. These things always make me laugh. They have time to write the letter, but not process the form. We are still going to hope for better turn time than they are currently experiencing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The big decision

Rich and I have always been passionate about helping children in poverty stricken areas. Prior to our daughter entering our lives, I have been able to volunteer abroad. I have witnessed first hand terrible living conditions and many orphans out there not getting loved. Now that I know what a strong love between a child and parents is like, it broke my heart even more imaging all the orphans in this world living their lives with out being loved by a parent. The fact that some Americans spend more money on a ring-tone for our phone than a child dying of starvation is allotted to save his life, just about makes me ill. Being angry about this still does nothing. We have made a decision to act on the orphan issues in a small way.

The issue is so big and we can't save the entire world, but we are going to try to save just one child. One rain drop in the flood. We feel called by God to do this regardless of general opinion. We have begun working on all the piles of paperwork to make the whole process legal and allow a child who’s current longevity is uncertain to become part of our family. We have no idea how we will pull it off logistically, but trust God that these things will work themselves out if it is meant to be. I know that it is hard to believe the success or failure is out of my control...not normally my comfort zone!

We want to adopt from a place where the need is among the greatest. The UN is saying by next year AIDS, drought, and extreme poverty will sky rocket the orphan crisis to 44 million orphans in Africa. So Africa is where we will be working with an orphanage bring home a child to the US. The process takes a long time.

Last month we had to attend a risk meeting and have a summery document notarized. The documents we had to sign said that the likely hood of the child dying of malnutrition between the time we adopt and the time we pick them up is more than just possible. We know of more than one family who had this happen just this summer. It is sad, but it is not the reason for Rich and I to give up. We figure that even in a short time and a photo on the fridge, a child will be loved and prayed for by many and we would have supported them and made their last days more pleasant if they were to pass.

Here are the top ten things we do know:
  1. The child will be from Ethiopia, Africa.
  2. They will be at least 9 months younger than Liviann to retain the birth order of our family.
  3. We will be adopting one little girl (or possibly twins or young siblings).
  4. We will be worn out with an enormous amount of paperwork to be completed and frustrated with the ridiculous things we have to do.
  5. The child will have been abandoned due to aids, parental death or poverty (or a combination).
  6. We will not actually be matched until all the paperwork is complete and our dossier approved in Ethiopia. This way there will not be a child waiting on red tape.
  7. Constantly going crazy waiting (possibly a year or two).
  8. We will spend most of our cash reserves (and then some) through the process.
  9. We will travel to pick them up.
  10. We will be obnoxiously in love with our new child!
Our wish would be that the process will be expeditious and their will be a higher power looking over the child until they arrive safely home to us.