Thursday, May 24, 2007

Been awhile

I haven't posted in awhile. We signed a contract with our adoption agency on 5/7. Our last home study visit was last week and it went well. I spoke with our social worker today and she received the last of the needed documents and hopes to be able to type up a rough draft of the home study this weekend. One of big approvals we need is from the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services). That is basically the approval to bring an orphan into the US to reside. One of the things we have to do for it is be fingerprinted by the INS. We received an appointment of 7/17 (that was the earliest appointment available in Tampa). I contacted the Tampa USCIS office and they were able to get us an appointment in Davie on 6/1, so we will be traveling over there next week. We received our dossier package last week. A dossier is a package of documents that are required by Russia. Once we have gathered them all, had them notarized and appostilled, we will send them back to our adoption agency and they will have them sent over to Russia to be translated. For this, we had to get local police checks done and medical exams done (again). We still have to see a psychiatrist or psychologist and I have to find a CPA (any know one) to meet with and go over our assets. I spoke with the director of our adoption agency and we are officially on the waiting list. We are number 9 (although there are many different factors involved). I told him we would take either sex and he said he would definitely be a boy. So I guess we can start planning for that. I have always wanted a girl, but I will take whichever they send my way. I'm actually starting to get used the idea of having a boy. He said it is possible we could have a referral in July, but it will more likely be the end of September. Russia closes for vacation from August-Mid September. I asked him if he believes we could be home with the child by Christmas and he said that is VERY possible, so I will cross my fingers and toes. Russia is a very unpredictable country to say the least, so you never know.

For anyone that might be interested, this Sunday night (5/27) Dateline will be running a segment called "From Russia with Love" at 7pm. It's about a family that adopted twins from Russia.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Questions & Answers

A lot of people have asked questions about Russia or the adoption process. I figured I would answers some of those questions in this blog. First, let me say that the process to adoption is a very involved and lengthy process, especially international adoption. Adoption itself has changed drastically over the years and continues to change.

Why did you choose to adopt internationally instead of domestically?

We did look into domestic, but it just didn't feel right in our hearts. There is a great deal of risk with domestic adoption. With foster to adopt, the social worker told us that Florida will give the birthparents every chance possible to get their kids back, even if it is not in the best interest of the child. Even if the parent(s) were in jail for 5 years, the child will sit in foster care till they get out. She said that a child could be in our home for 2-3 years before we might have the possibility of adopting them. That is heartache and a chance we didn't want to take. The only other option for domestic adoption is to go through a birthmother. You go through an adoption agency or adoption lawyer who finds a birthmother for you. You have to "sell yourself" to her along with many other families. You might do this by video, scrapbook, letter or meeting her. The expectant wait for a caucasian child is 1-2 years. We didn't like the idea of selling ourselves to her, then hope that she picks up out of the other 50 or so couples. In addition, the United States has moved towards open adoptions. This could mean just letters and pictures quarterly/annually or it could mean visits with her. We don't necessarily like the idea of this. The birthmother usually gets to decide how "open" the adoption is and what she wants. If we don't agree to this, she will go find another couple that will. It is also a pretty expensive process, around $25,000+/-. Included in that is birthmother expenses. Florida requires you to offer up to $5,000 for use of birthmother expenses (food, rent, utilities, clothes). In addition to that, the birthmother cannot sign the release form till 48 hours after giving birth. That is two days that she has to change her mind. If she changes her mind, we lose all the money we gave to her for expenses in addition to most of the agency/lawyer fees. She is not obligated to pay anything back to us, Florida considers it "gratuities." Some other states require you to pay more than $5,000 for birthmother expenses, so that might make the price more if we contract with a birthmother in another state. Out of the 4 situations we personally know of from friends or family, in all 4 cases, the birthmother changed her mind. We decided it was too much of a risk to take.

Why did you choose to adopt from Russia?

We wanted a caucasian child, which rules out most other countries. Countries like Australia, Ireland, Switzerland do not have many children available for adoption nor do they allow out of country adoptions. Russia is the most popular country to adopt from and they have thousands of children in the hundreds of orphanages in their country. Russia also has a very rich history that we look forward to sharing with the child. We want them to be proud of being Russian. We have considered giving them a Russian name (some of them are a little strange though). We have also thought about celebrating a Russian holiday with them every year (we haven't decided which one yet). We both agreed that we will celebrate "Gotcha Day." It is the term used to classify the day the Russian court approved you to adopt them. That way every year, we can celebrate the day we became a family. We also wanted a closed adoption and Russia does not believe in open adoptions like the US does. The rights of the parents of these children have already been removed. We will not know who their birthparents are and as a result, never have to worry about a birthparent popping up one day. This can be both a positive and a negative thing because the child will never be able to seek out their birthparents.

How much will the process cost?

We don't have any idea because there are many different factors involved. We probably won't know the total till after its all done. It will likely cost between $30,000-$35,000. We just look at it as if we are buying a car since that is the average price of a new car these days.

How does the process work?

As I said before, it is a very lengthy and involved process. Everyone in the world has to approve it. You start by having a homestudy done. This involves interviews, gathering of documents, looking around the home, background checks. We have to find an adoption agency that works in Russia and is well respected and send them an application. We did this and found out last week that they accepted it. In the meantime, we had to file form I-600A which is an application for advance processing of orphan petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They will require us to be fingerprinted. Once they receive our completed homestudy (which should be done in about a month), they will either approve us to go to Russia or deny us. The adoption agency is sending us a contract to sign with them and a dossier package. A dossier is a gathering of documents such as marriage/birth certificates, medical reports, house deed, pictures, police reports, homestudy and much more. All these documents have to be notarized, certified and appostilized. This will be very fun trying to get all that done! It is also time consuming, so I am anxiously waiting on the package so I can get started. Once our dossier is completed, it is translated to Russian and sent to them. The Russian data bank has to approve it. Once they do, they will match us with a child that is available. Then our adoption agency will let us know they have a referral and give us the available medical history and a photo (if available of that child). Then we either decide to travel to see that child or turn down the referral. If we decide to travel, they will give us travel dates which will be several weeks away. Russia requires two trips. The first is to travel to meet the child and "accept" the referral. Then we would come back home for 1-2 months while more paperwork is processed. Then the second trip is to go to court and bring the child home. The judge is the final person to approve the adoption and the most crucial.

Are the children healthy?

There are diseases and infections that are mostly known to Russia. Because of this, we have to find a doctor that specializes in international children and one that knows Russia's terminology. When we are sent the referral and given the medical history, we will give it to the doctor to review and let us know of anything that might be bad. Also, after we visit the child on the 1st trip, we should video them and have the doctor review this as well when we return. Children in orphanages are sometimes raised different than children who are not and we might have a few obstacles to tackle because of it.

What age and sex will the child be?

There are many children living in orphanages in Russia. It is a country that has great poverty and most people give up their children because they cannot afford them. The average monthly salary of a Russian is $20 a month. Children have to sit in the Russian data bank (a database for children in orphanages) for at least 6 months before they are considered an orphan and are available for adoption. They sit in this "bank" for that period to allow Russians the opportunity to adopt them. Most times it does not happen though. Russians are not very open to adoption. The men cannot accept raising another man's child. If a couple does decide to adopt, they go through great lengths to hide their adoption. They will usually fake a pregnancy and never tell the child they were adopted. The child will be at least 8 months or older by the time we travel for the first trip and will be about 1 or older when we bring them home. We requested either sex. We would prefer a girl, but there is usually a much longer wait (about 8-12 months longer) for a girl because there are mostly boys in the orphanage. I am not sure why that is but I have heard two different things. (1) Russians prefer to keep girls and give up their boys. (2) They feel that when they are elderly, their girls will most likely for them and their boys will not. We will take which ever they match with us first.

What is the timeline?

There is no concrete timeline because many different factors are involved (how long it takes the homestudy, INS and the Russian data bank to approve, how quickly paperwork is done and sent over). I can do everything on my end as quickly as possible, but the rest is out of my hands. If all goes well and quickly, it is very possible we could have our child home by Christmas (we can hope at least).

I have to watch what I say about Russia in my blogs and make sure that it is nothing that could "ruin" the reputation of their country. Apparently a couple said some bad things about Russia and some of their officials somehow read it and they banned that couple from ever adopting in their country. I hope this answers some questions. If you ever have free time, there are a few other blogs that I frequent (and learn a lot from) about others who have adopted from Russia. If nothing else, I like to check their blogs for pictures of their beautiful kids:

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

First homestudy visit

We had our first homestudy visit last night and I think it went great. She was super nice and was only here for about 1 1/2 hrs. She asked us questions about family, friends, our relationship, how we were raised, discipline methods, why we are adopting. I was afraid she was going to ask really personal questions, but she really didn't. It was nothing compared to what they wanted to know when we were going to foster. She looked around the house and gave us a list of documents we need to get. She will visit once more in two weeks.