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.