Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's been a while

It has been a while since I have posted anything on our blog, but we have been extremely busy. Our dossier was completed and sent to Albania for approval. Because the Albanian Adoption Committee only meets once a month and our dossier had to be translated from English to Albanian prior to being submitted to the committee by our NGO, we had to wait about four weeks for our dossier to be approved by the committee.

Once the dossier was approved, Lucy's official referral documents, which include copies of her birth certificate, the court decree terminating parental rights, and medical assessments on Lucy were forwarded from Albania to our agency and then on to us. With the referral documents, another document declaring our intent to continue the adoption also came. With our signatures, we declared our intent to proceed to bring our daughter home. There were also other court documents from Albania that we had to sign, notarize, certify and have apostilled at the Secretary of State's office. We completed those documents and had them ready to go back to Albania in less than a week.

As these documents were being sent to Albania, Rob and I were also filling out our I-800 for USCIS. The I-800 is a petition to US Immigration requesting that the convention adoptee be classified as an immediate relative. Basically, USCIS uses the information found on this form and the accompanying documents to determine if the child is an orphan and eligible for convention adoptee status. The accompanying documents include copies of Lucy's original birth certificate and the court decree terminating parental rights from Albania.

USCIS logged in our I-800 application and documents on June 17th, and we have an assigned officer. Rob spoke to our officer last week who stated that our documents had not made it to her desk yet, but she felt that she would get them soon. The receipt for our documents from USCIS stated that the application would be processed in 10-14 days. We are definitely at that point now. Rob and I intend on calling our officer again tomorrow for an update. We are hoping for I-800 approval by the end of the week.

So what happens next? Well, our I-800 provisional approval gets sent to us, our adoption agency and the US Embassy in Albania, and Rob and I get to do, you guessed it, more paperwork. Rob and I will be required to fill out a visa application for Lucy with the help of our adoption agency, and this application will be submitted to the appropriate consular office at the US Embassy in Albania. After reviewing our provisional I-800 approval documents and Lucy's visa application, the Department of State will then issue an Article 5 letter to the Central Authority in Albania. Our documents will then be sent to the court in Lucy's city in Albania, and the court then will issue our first court date.

Yes, folks, that is how close we are to meeting our sweet angel! Once we get I-800 approval, typical wait time to travel is four weeks. We will be hitting the time period when the courts close for the whole month of August in Albania, but we are confident that we should be traveling in mid to late August if we get a court date for early September. We have to be in country 15 days prior to our first court appointment to meet and bond with Lucy, hence why we are hoping for travel dates in August.

This process has been 15 months in the making, and now we are ready for the real journey to begin. The journey that does not start with a bunch of paperwork, but the journey that starts with gentle words, hugs and kisses, timid moments of getting to know one another and becoming a family. This journey will last a lifetime. This journey will have ups and downs, happiness and sadness, joy and grief. But, this is the journey that we have worked so hard these last 15 months to begin. This is the journey to be a Lucy's forever family.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

This adoption has changed me

This adoption has changed me. It has stretched me and pulled me in ways that I never imagined. It has on many occasions brought me to my knees in tears, and it has lifted me up with amazing joy. It has shown me at times the most ugly part of human nature as people have both attacked our choice to adopt and disagreed with our choice to adopt internationally. However, those negative voices have been silenced by all of the amazing friends and family and other kind people who have supported us on our journey to adopt Lucy. I choose to focus on this ever surprising and wonderful side of our adoption. I choose to focus on all the people that love us and have made sacrifices to help us bring our daughter home. And, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you from our family to yours. You have all blessed us so much! Thank you for the words of encouragement , the donations, and especially your prayers.

Our Facebook Event, 150 Envelopes for Lucy, is doing so well, and we are hopeful that all of our envelopes will be taken by the end of the event May 9th, which is the date when the remainder of our fees will be due. The event is doing so well because so many loving and giving people have decided to step out in faith and make sacrifices to support our family, in the same way that Rob and I stepped out in faith to pursue Lucy’s adoption. And, we are grateful, thankful, and forever blessed by every single person who has done so.

We are also blessed by the sisters in Lucy’s orphanage who are taking amazingly good care of our little girl and who are telling her daily that mami and babi (mommy and daddy) are coming. We have been told that as soon as our paperwork is in Albania and we have a court date that the sisters will begin sharing our pictures with her daily and reaffirming to her that we are her parents and that we are coming soon.  For those of you who have been in this process before with another country, you know how amazing that is!  That sort of preparation to help the child before the parents arrive is typically not the norm for international adoption, but I am so glad that it is for Lucy.

Speaking of our paperwork being in Albania, Rob and I should finish our dossier on Monday! We are hopeful that our paperwork will be sent to Albania within the next few weeks after our agency has reviewed it one last time. Wow!  Even, I can’t believe how quickly all of this has come together. The last week has seen a flourish of activity in our house as we finished up the remainder of the documents required for the dossier. The kids had their medicals updated including an updated TB screen, Rob’s apostilled birth certificate came back from Illinois, Julia and I drove three hours to Knoxville to have our home study and a few other documents certified at the county clerk’s office, and Julia and I rounded out the week by having eight more of our documents certified at another county clerk’s office closer to home. Monday, we will go get the remainder of our documents certified at yet another county clerk’s office and then it is off to the Secretary of State’s office for apostilles for all of the documents. After that, it is a simple matter of making copies of everything and sending it all by FedEx to our agency.

My heart is in my throat with excitement at how close we are to seeing our daughter for the first time and finally holding her in our arms. And, we definitely could not have gotten this far without your help.  Faleminderit! (Thank you!)

Monday, March 31, 2014

How You Can Give One to Save One!

We are the featured family this week on the Give One Save One adoption advocacy website. Please check out our new video over at GIVEONESAVEONE and read more about how you can help us this week.

Most importantly: SPREAD THE WORD!

Use the GIVEONESAVEONE link to post to Twitter, Facebook, your blog, EVERYWHERE! The more people who know, the more people can be part of our story too!

(Go ahead, be a little obnoxious…believe us, our daughter’s adorable face is worth the trouble!!)

GIVEONESAVEONE encourages each of its readers to donate $1 to their weekly featured family. The idea is that if each of us gives $1, we together make a big difference.

The donations are tax deductible and go directly to our agency.

Want to help?

Check out GIVEONESAVEONE this week (starting today, March 31st).

Share the address with your friends and family to see if they’d like to give $1 too.

We hope you enjoy the new video we have posted today!

(We know you are really going to like it!)

(An extra challenge to consider: what if we each gave $1 everyday for 1 week? That would make an even bigger difference to a little girl who has never known a family!)