Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I800 Approval!!!

We received our I800 approval in the mail today, dated 5/26!  I was very shocked!  I talked to our officer the afternoon of the 25th, and she said she didn't have our application yet, but could see it was in the system and hoped to get it by the end of the week.  Then she said she'd "turn it around within 2 days."  She promised to email when it was approved.  So, I was all set to get the email today or tomorrow, and instead it was approved the next day!  What a nice surprise!  That means I can start emailing the national visa center tomorrow, to see if they have us in their system yet.  There is a chance for July yet!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Making a video

Our agency suggested several months ago that we make a video of our daily life to send to Emmett.  At the time I dismissed the idea, as taking too much time/being too much work.  Well, the more I've talked to other parents who have adopted older children, the more i hear that a video was a great idea!  They reported that the kids watched it over and over again, and were familiar with everything on the video.  So, we decided to try it.  After borrowing a camera, figuring out how to run it, coordinating a time with Brian, Emmett's future teacher, the school prinicipal, and a Chinese student at our local boarding high school, it was accomplished.  We walked through our house, with the student (Jenny) explaining what each room was (including the bathroom, as it is very different over there), his bedroom, the front of the house, swingset, etc.  The girls each played a song on their instrument (we've been told Emmett likes music), and read a story to him.   They also played on the swingset and rode their bikes around near the house. Brian started mowing the lawn, so Emmett could see the tractor.  We also went to the school, and video'd walking to his classroom; meeting his teacher, exploring his classroom, the playground, etc.  His teacher was great, and went with us to the office to meet the prinicpal, the library where she read a story to Brianna and Linnea, the computer room, and outdoors to play a ball game she frequently plays with her class.  Jenny was along for all of it, explaining what was happening.  It was quite an event!  Brian downloaded all the video, and i edited and reorganized it, and added a written introduction.  Brian saved it to DVD, and it was sent to China 10 days ago!  I'm not sure if Emmett has it yet, but I sure hope so!  We also sent the three books that the girls read on the video, and a T shirt that we made with Emmett's photo and name on it.  We made matching ones for the rest of the family, and sent a photo of us wearing ours.  (Brian's says "Emmett Haixing's baba", mine says "mama", and the girls' say "jiejie", as that is older sister.   We intend to wear them again the day he joins our family.  I made an extra for him that we will bring along, as I'm sure his will be lost in the orphanage laundry before then.  Was quite a weekend getting it all organized, but I think it will really pay off when he comes! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Photo album

We were encouraged to make a photo album for Emmett Haixing, of photos of our family and daily life.  We sent this to him with our dossier, and received photos of him looking at the album!  It was great to know that he received the album.  We also sent some stickers, and he is wearing a fish sticker on his forehead in the photos.  He is really growing up!

Updated photos

During the last 3 months we've received new photos twice.  The first time was in February.  We received these photos of Emmett with a couple of his friends. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Train cars yet to be added:

We are currently awaiting I800 approval, which is the US government's approval to adopt Hai Xing.  This application went out by UPS overnight less than an hour after receiving the LOA from our agency.  (LOA had to be included).  This approval takes 2-3 weeks, so should come in the next week.
Next:  NVC cable and letter.  The National Visa Center receives our I800 approval, and takes about 7-10 days to issue it's approval for Hai Xing, now named Emmett Haixing, to receive a US Visa.  Once they cable that information to the US consulate in China, and send us a letter to prove it, then all our documents so far go to the US consulate in Guangzhou, China.
Next:  Article 5.  The consulate takes about 2 weeks to issue an Article 5, stating all our paperwork is in order, and the US will accept Emmett Haixing as a citizen.
Finally:  The caboose!  China issues our TA (Travel Authority) to come get him.  Then we schedule our CA (consulate appointment), and buy airplane tickets! 
We should be traveling in early August, possibly July if things move quickly.

A big one: the LOA

LOA is the letter of assignment from China, stating that China has assigned Hai Xing to us.   This is the most unpredictable wait time of any of them.  A few very lucky people receive their LOA in a month or less.  Some very unluckly people wait up to 4 months!  I was very afraid of being unlucky here!  We received our LOA 5/6, which was 49 days since our LID.  This is the current average wait time, but still seemed very long to us!  What a celebration the night we got the call that it was coming!!!!

The next car: LID

Our Log In Date is the day the Chinese Adoption Authority logs in our dossier and begins translating and reviewing it.  In hind sight we learned that if our DTC date had been 2/25, our LID would have been 3/4.  Since our DTC date was 3/4, our LID wasn't until 3/18.  So, the secretary of state error cost us 2 weeks!!!  Very frustrating!

Another big milestone/train car: DTC

DTC means dossier to China.  This is a big milestone, meaning you are done with the second portion of the huge paperchase! (the first was the homestudy).  After receiving our I800A approval 2/22, I got it notarized that night, was at the Secretary of State office in WI at 7:15 the next morning (they didn't open until 8, but that was during the time of all the protests at the state capitol in WI, right across the street, so I didn't know how long it would take), and had it sealed by 8:15.  The SOS office called me by 8:16, that they had goofed, would i come back.  I ran back, and they fixed their goof, they thought!.  I drove like crazy to Chicago, to the Chinese consulate there.  If you arrive before 11, documents can be authenticated the same day!  I could have had it fedex'd to our agency that day, and been DTC 2/25!  That would have been awesome!  However, the consulate refused to accept the documents the way the SOS office had "fixed" them.  So, I drove home very frustrated, fixed the document, and drove back to Chicago Friday 2/25!  So, finally our DTC date was 3/4. since our agency only sends documents to China on Fridays.

Waiting for I800A approval

We walked in to the Milwaukee USCIS office 9 days early to get fingerprints done (1/19, our appointment was 1/28), thinking it would speed up the process.  It really didn't matter, as USCIS was backed up with applications.  We received approval the day after we were finally assigned an officer, 61 days after the application was submitted!  That was a long 61 days, as no paperwork can go to China until this is approved.  In the mean time, we gather all the other documents needed for our China dossier:  medical forms, police clearance letters (again, different than for homestudy), photos, financial statements, employment letters, passport copies and photos, marriage certificate, birth certificates, etc.  Each document had to be notarized, sealed by the Secretary of State in the state it was issued in (involved Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin), and then sent to the appropriate Chinese consulate or embassy for authentication.  This involved lots of time, money, and visits to fedex!  All paperwork was competed, notarized, sealed, authenticated, and to Holt by mid January.  The wait for the I800A approval (2/22) seemed very long! 

Homestudy completed!!!

After many hours on the phone to every government office I could think of over a period of 2 weeks, I finally reached the person who could speed up the Ohio child abuse registry clearance.  There was currently a 4 month wait for this information!  When I explained that we had already been matched with a child, ours was completed in a week!  Homestudy was finalized and approved by Holt December 20th, and our USCIS I800A application was mailed out 12/22, the day I received our copy of the Homestudy.  The I800A is the application to adopt an international orphan from a Hague Convention country.  Very long application!  It was a huge relief to get it sent though.  Another milestone!

Adoption lingo

International adoption involves a lot of acronyms.  At this point in our journey we started to learn them.  We submitted our LOI (Letter of Intent to Adopt Hai Xing) on Nov 26th, and it was uploaded to China 11/29.  This was our first big international milestone!  This was a fairly complicated letter, involving our plans for his future, his heath care, schooling, etc. 

Finding our son!

Brian and I spent a lot of time going through the children available for adoption, focusing in on the boys 3-5 years old.  After much discussion, we asked for more information on a little boy.  When reading all of his information, we decided his extra needs were more than we were prepared to handle.  Thankfully, the same day we regretfully said "no," another family selected him.  The second boy we asked for information about was Hai Xing.  After reading all the information, watching him on video, and having our pediatrician review everything, we informed Holt that we were interested in adopting him.  They had us fill out pages and pages (literally) of answers to questions about our motivation for adopting, especially an older orphan.  Then we had several phone interviews, with the social workers asking lots of questions and making sure we understood all that was involved with parenting an international orphan.  Finally, it was our turn at the Waiting Child Committee.  This committee meets weekly, to decide who is the best family for each child.  We had our final visit for our homestudy the same day of the committe meeting.  (Nov 24th)  We learned at noon that our homestudy would be approved (pending the child abuse registry clearance from Ohio, which hadn't responded yet), and then got the call at 2:45 that Hai Xing was ours!  What a great day!  Hai Xing just turned 5, though these photos were taken when he was 4.

Choosing an country and international agency

Narrowing down which country we would adopt from was not a short process.  There are many reasons we ended up with China, after considering India, Russia, the US, and many Latin American countries.  After choosing China, we selected our international adoption agency:  Holt International.  We applied to their Waiting Child Program in October, and were accepted. 

The engine and first few cars of our train

The engine of our train is our family's desire to adopt a boy.  We formally began this process last August, by contacting a social worker to start our homestudy. 

The first car is all the paperwork filled out for our homestudy, which was a very large stack, including autobiographies written by Brian and I.  The agency also required 5 letters of reference from people we know, as well as medical forms, police clearance letters, child abuse registry checks in every state and country we've ever lived, etc.  Not a short process!

Inspiration for title

The title of this blog is Linnea's idea.  The kids all agree that our journey to Emmett is like a very long train, with each car consisting of a document or set of documents that bring our family closer to Emmett.  We are currently awaiting I800 approval from the USCIS (Customs and Immigration Service).