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.