Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The answers to a few questions

Our home study has been completed and sent to our agency’s Albania team for approval, which we will hopefully receive within in the next week and a half. Rob and I are so happy and relieved to have this portion of the journey behind us, and now we are looking ahead to our dossier. Dossier is a term that refers to a set of appropriately authenticated and translated legal documents which are used in international adoption cases to process the adoption of a child in its own country by the adoptive parents.  Each country has different requirements for the dossier, and Albania is no different.  Our agency has the list of documents required for Albania’s dossier on their website so Rob and I know what is needed.  I am happy to report that the list of documents needed for the Albania dossier is somewhat smaller than the list on the Bulgaria dossier that was required for our son’s adoption.  

People often ask me about the difference between the home study and the dossier, and I try to put my answer in the easiest of terms.  The home study can be thought of as the United States’ requirements for the adoption, and the dossier is the Albanian requirements for the adoption.  This is actually one of the easiest questions in regard to our adoption for me to answer, but I must admit that people’s eyes usually glaze over when I start talking about it, particularly if I mention that all the documents included in the dossier must be certified, notarized and apostilled.  Most people know what it means to have a document certified and notarized, but there are not many people, unless you have gone through an  international adoption, who know what it means to have a document apostilled. An apostille is basically another measure of certifying the authenticity of a document, and this type of certification is usually done on the state level at the secretary of state’s office.  For this Albanian dossier, Rob and I will have to collect several documents like certified copies of our birth certificates and our marriage license and then we will have to have them apostilled at the secretary of state’s office for further proof to Albania that these documents are authentic.

What are some other questions that I have been asked in regard to this adoption? Well, believe it or not, one that comes up frequently is, “Where is Albania?” Albania is a country in Southeastern Europe that is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast.

 “What language do they speak in Albania?” is usually the next question that I get.  Albanian is the language that is spoken in Albania and also parts of Kosovo and the southern Balkans.  Julia and I are currently learning Albanian using  a Youtube  channel and an Albanian language app on my tablet. I think Rob is hoping that I am going to be his translator as he has not been studying the language as much as Julia and I have.  As Julia and I progress in our studies of the language, we plan to move on to the Pimsleur course, because sadly there is no Rosetta stone for Albanian.  We definitely want to be as prepared as possible in the language department because we want to communicate with Lucy and others at the orphanage.   But, we also want to be able to grocery shop and go out to dinner or hail a cab.  All of these things will require at least a beginner’s knowledge of the language.  In addition, we have learned from other families that have gone to Albania that it is difficult sometime to find people who speak English and our translator will not be with us most of the time.  This is a complete change from Bulgaria.  On our first trip to Bulgaria, our translator was with us every day, and on our second trip to Bulgaria, we were mostly in Sofia, the capitol city, where we could easily find someone that could speak English.  I am actually looking forward to testing out my language skills and immersing myself in the Albanian culture.  I want to soak it all up for myself and for Lucy.  I want to help her keep her culture alive and an important part of who she is.

The next question that I usually hear is “How long do you have to be there [Albania]?” This one is a little harder to answer, which is usually not the answer that the person asking the question wants to hear, but it is the truth.  Rob and I have to be in Albania for a mandatory 15 days prior to court to bond with our daughter. After the initial bonding period, we will have our three court appointments, which we hope will all be done within a span of two weeks.  At the final court appointment, the judge will declare that Lucy is legally ours, however, we will be unable to take her home at that point. Albania has a two week waiting period after court in which we can still visit Lucy at the orphanage, but we cannot take her for an overnight visit to our hotel.  At the end of the two week waiting period, Lucy will be allowed to leave the orphanage with us, her parents, and at this time, we will begin the process of getting her new birth certificate, her visa and her passport. All of these things should take another week.  If you have been keeping up, this time frame totals about six to seven weeks.   Of course, this is another reason that we need to work on our Albanian language skills…because we will be there the better part of two months!

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy answering all of these questions and more about our adoption.  The discussion gives me a platform for something that is so close to my heart and for something that I am so amazingly passionate about.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What was lost has been found

The new year has been ushered in by myself and my family, and one of my first thoughts on New Year's Eve as the clock struck midnight was that I could now say words that I had been so longing to utter. "Our little girl is coming home THIS year!" For months, I had been telling anyone who asked about our potential travel dates to bring Lucy home that it would be sometime next year. Those words made the first meeting and the first hug and kiss that I would give my sweet girl seem so far away. Simply changing those words to "this year," makes our first meeting with Lucy seem so much closer.

Now, what seems like a lifetime ago is the moment that I first found our sweet Lucy on our agency's waiting children's list. Since that time, I have been what we in the adoption world like to call paper pregnant. I am going through many of the emotions that can come with expecting a new child into our family, and I am also making preparations for our daughter's arrival later this year by beginning to fix up her room and buy clothing for her and other items that she will need. My husband and I have also been buried under a mountain of adoption paperwork (this is the paper part) and have been going to various adoption related appointments to meet all the requirements of our home study.

When I wrote my last post in December, we felt for sure that we would have our home study finished and approved by now.  But, we encountered a small bump in the road. For one of our home study requirements, we had to have a background check done on each of us in every state that we had lived in since we turned 18 years of age. My background check was very simple. I have only lived in one state, Tennessee, all of my life. My husband, on the other hand, was in the Air Force before we met and has lived in several states. While he was in the Air Force, he was stationed in Blytheville, Arkansas for a time. His residency there, even though it was over 20 years ago, precipitated a background check from the state of Arkansas, and this is where the bump surfaced.

The background check information was sent to Arkansas in early November, Arkansas took our payment for the background check, and then we waited... and waited and waited some more. Our wonderful caseworker was vigilant and called the state office in charge of the background check several times to determine its progress. Rob and I  honestly believed as of last week that the paperwork had been lost or was in an enormous, dusty pile on someone's desk never to be seen again. But, on Thursday (2 months and 3 days later) our caseworker notified us that the background check had come in the mail. We jumped for joy that our supposed lost paperwork had been found and that we were moving forward again in our journey to our daughter.

Isn't it always such a relief when you find something that you thought was lost? Can you imagine for a moment that you thought your parents or your family was lost?  I overheard Yuli recently tell my sister-in-law that his mommy and daddy had been lost and then they came to Bulgaria and found him and brought him home to be with his family. This was adoption from my six year old's perspective.  Mommy and Daddy were the ones who were lost and needed to be found before they could go and get him. Yuli also once asked me while we were watching a video of him with his baba in the orphanage, "Where were you mommy?" Holding back the tears, I could only answer, "I was waiting for you."

Just like lost paperwork, waiting is something with which most adoptive parents have a lot of experience. There are no definitive answers on how long each step of the process will take or how long it will be before that first highly anticipated moment of when you can look upon your child with your own two eyes rather than relying on the images in a photograph. In adoption, there are no absolute time frames, except God's. So, in the meantime, you wait. You wait for that precious moment when what was lost has now been found...when a family apart has been made whole....when Lucy comes home.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes on finding what was lost.

 “For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto another brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
Edmund Spenser, "The Faerie Queen"