Friday, December 29, 2006

Homestudy Visit

Lisa, our social worker, came this evening about 6:45pm. She started by going over a lot of paperwork. We filled out forms, we wrote checks, we signed documents. We gave her our SS# about 4 times each. We showed her our passports. We signed up for a Federal Express account. We gave her copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate.

We went over which documents will be part of our dossier, and which are documents just for her purposes. She gave us an initial timeline to help us with the paperwork. She gave us homework assignements (take our online parenting course, fill out guardianship papers, get employment letters done, see the doctor and have medical letters written, get in touch with our references, etc. etc. etc.)

Then the interview...who are our parents, when did they get married, what was life like growing up, how did we meet, how long have we been married, what did we do growing up, what was our childhood like, where did we go to school, what do we enjoy doing as a couple, what do we enjoy doing separately, and so on....for about an hour and a half.

She got the grand tour of the house. She checked out the pool. She shared a little bit of her own story with us (she and her husband have adopted two children from China). She left, and I breathed a sigh of relief! I am now hungry, even though it's almost 11:00pm. I couldn't eat before she arrived...I was too nervous. Jack was well behaved, and after an initial sniff or two, he curled up on his bed and snored until it was time for the house tour.

Tuesday starts another day of paperchasing. Fingerprints in the morning (we hope!), then a quick trip to the Sheriff's department for a background check. Then off to make doctor appointments for our medical letters. We are very motivated to get all of this paperwork done quickly!!! The timelines seem to be lengthening a bit for Vietnam, and with the possibility of adopting two at one time, we may wait longer because of that. Dan is home for the next few weeks, which makes a lot of this much easier to do. We'd love to have all of this out of our hands before he starts his travel gigs for the year.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll post more details (or Dan will) later, but for now, it's bedtime. I have a long day ahead of me, including a drive to Ocala for a Chrysalis meeting, and Dan promised to help Chris lay his flooring down.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Minor Snag...

Federal agencies will be closed Tuesday, Jan. 2, for a national day of mourning honoring President Gerald R. Ford, the Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday.

Under an executive order issued by President Bush, all Cabinet departments, independent organizations and other agencies will be closed in honor of the 38th president, who died Dec. 26 at the age of 93 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The order excludes "those offices and installations, or parts thereof, in the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, or other departments, independent organizations, and governmental agencies whose agency head determines should remain open for reasons of national security or defense, or other essential public business."

We don't really know what this means for our Tuesday morning appointment. We're planning to go ahead and drive down to the office at our scheduled time. Unfortunately for us, the local offices are closed tomorrow and Monday to celebrate New Years. Most likely, we won't know until Tuesday morning what the status is. I'm crossing my fingers though, that Dan is right, and that the office we need to go to will be open despite the other closures! Here's to hoping, because it'll be a few more days before we can get another appointment.

Eventful Day

After Dan posted last night, we talked a bit about how we wanted to deal with today. I said that should we not hear from anyone at the agency by 2:00pm, then I would call them for a status report.

This morning we got up and Dan headed upstairs to do some year end paperwork for his office and our home. I was putting dishes away when the phone rang around 10:30am. Lisa (our local social worker) was on the phone asking how quickly she could come out and start our home study! I took the dates she had available (Friday or Saturday evening, or Monday), her phone number and asked Dan what worked for him. We agreed to have Lisa come out tomorrow (Friday) evening to start our home study! For the rest of the morning/afternoon Dan and I have been working furiously around the house to straighten up, put things away, and generally get the house in order. Dan has spent much of the day in his office, and I've worked steadily on getting the dining room, living room, kitchen, and our bed/bathroom tidy. My mom is coming over tomorrow afternoon to help with a final spruce (hopefully including a vacuum and mop since those two tasks are two things that still bother my back).

The other exciting event for today is that we turned in our I-600A paperwork, which is our petition to adopt an orphan. I chose to drive the documentation and the money order down to the Department of Homeland Security myself, and in doing so, we were able to get about three weeks ahead of anyone who chose to mail their paperwork into the office! From what I have been reading, many people send their I-600A in, and sometimes it's a month or more until they get an invitation for FBI fingerprinting. But not for us! We go for our FBI fingerprinting (and background check) on Tuesday, January 2, at 9:00am. Once that is done, the government will begin processing us in the system, but they will have to wait for final approval from our social worker in order to issue us the I-171H (which is our document that we give to Vietnam, and the document that will tell us how many children we are allowed to adopt). The woman I worked with at the DHS office was wonderful. She said she is running about three weeks out on paperwork, but depending on our circumstances (for instance if the agency had a referral for us very quickly) she might be able to expedite our paperwork if necessary. I don't think this will be necessary, but one can hope, can't she?

So, in 24 hours we'll be meeting with Lisa in our home. She said she will be here about three hours, and once we've met with her we might actually know a little bit more about the process, timelines, etc. One of us will update after our meeting.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Treading Water

I would imagine I will be using that title a lot during this process...

Today (and yesterday, and last Friday), nothing happened! No response from USCIS -- even with the holiday and assuming they were closed yesterday as well, they are at the end of their two business day advertised response time. No contact from the Home Study person either as we were prepared for on information from the FHSA office manager. We know the Home Study person was dealing with a substantial crisis for a travelling client last week, so today was probably a bit optimistic, despite the information from the office. Glad we didn't have any significant time invested preparing for it at least.

We think all the paperwork is in order for the I600A filing, but would like to get confirmations on a couple things before actually filing it. Hopefully tomorrow, if not we may just file it anyway on Friday or Monday.

In the meantime, I'm starting on a couple house projects since I have the time off. Started building cabinets for the loft today, expect it will take at least into next week to complete, and that's probably optimistic. That should make the loft space more versatile which will be helpful to us and probably look better in the Home Study if I can complete it by the time of the first visit. The other project is finally replacing the downstairs windows, just because it needs doing (not necessarily because of the adoption).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Paper Chase Begins

Today we have already emailed back and forth to FHSA with a few questions, including a picture of the birth certificate I have on hand (to see if it will be suitable for USCIS). I filled out the online I-600A PDF and printed it and drafted the letter stating that we would be following up with the Home Study report, but there is still some confusion as to whether my birth certificate and the marriage certificate we have on hand will be OK for USCIS. (The instructions we have from FHSA say that copies of hospital / officiant signed certificates are not sufficient and both are copies of the original certificates, but they both have filing marks. In the case of the marriage certificate, I'm not sure there is any other form.) I'm still working on that, but I think Shannon is going to get a marriage certificate regardless as we have misplaced our certified copy anyway and it is relatively available to us. I tried to call the USCIS hotline figuring they would have the best resources to clarify what is actually required, but they are not allowed to give any advice other than what forms to fill out. They were unable to even give contact information for local office. While friendly, the hotline seemed like a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Found an E-mail address for the local office on the USCIS website and sent email with several questions. I'm hoping for a response today, but not really expecting one until next week.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We are "Pregnant"!

Shannon and I drove to Sarasota to meet with FHSA and review some final documentation before making a final commitment to the agency and adoption. After meeting with them for almost 3 hours, we gave them the application. They accepted it on the spot, and we immediately executed the contract (after making a clarification or two). They were very surprisingly laid back (especially when modifying their contract). Since we were expecting them to have to look over the application and check some things, we were surprised when they gave the go-ahead right away. Therefore, we had to mail in the agency fee required with the contract when we got home since we didn't have the right checkbook and it was easier than shuffling money around later.

I started with the busy work of setting up a method of payment and process tracking so that we have a prayer of staying organized throughout the process. Using a spreadsheet to keep track of costs and payments, and set up the bookkeeping in our checkbook to try to make sure that it's easy to figure out the taxes when the time comes. Shannon and I started looking at the required paperwork at almost 11PM and quickly got cross-eyed. We already messed up the I-600A form that needs to be filed with USCIS to really get started, but today I found interactive PDFs on the USCIS website that should make it a lot easier (assuming they will accept the form on white paper – original and instructions both state the application is on orange paper).

A lot of the agencies and literature we have seen regarding adoption refers to the time leading up to the process as a "Paper Pregnancy." Hopefully we won't have too much "Paper Morning Sickness."