Monday, November 26, 2012

Paperwork, Paperwork

In some ways this process over the last few months has felt like filling out our ordination packets again for the Florida Conference. Some people call adoption a "paper pregnancy" and now we understand why; there is a TON of paperwork. 

We spent our beach vacation this year researching international adoption agencies in the afternoons when it was too hot to be outside and after interviewing several agencies on the phone, we selected Lifeline Children's Services out of Birmingham, Alabama. We submitted our application (including a statement of faith) to them and were assigned to Stephanie as our social worker within the China program. She has been extremely helpful in navigating the different parts of this process. One of the reasons that we selected Lifeline was because it was a Christian organization whose social workers regularly gather together to pray for the children and families in the process. Also, Lifeline is VERY thorough in the pre-adoption education requirements that it requires of its families. We had to read two different books on bonding and attachment, more information on China's culture and heritage, and complete two online education pieces (one geared more towards general adoption issues and the other specific to the special medical needs of internationally adopted children). Then based on all of these things we each had to fill out four pages of questions about our understanding of adoption and trans-racial parenting. 

Because we live outside of Alabama and Lifeline's purview for homestudies, we had to select a Hague accredited homestudy agency to work with in Florida. The homestudy is the first major portion of the adoption process. A homestudy is really a comprehensive profile of a family and is used to determine their suitability to adopt. Based upon the recommendation of our friend Debby Baugher, we chose to work with social worker Debra Hewitt through Embraced By Grace out of Ormond Beach, Florida. We had several visits with her, in Orlando and in the parsonage, throughout August and September. 

So what was included in the home study? It might be easier to say what wasn't! We had to write out personal autobiographical statements, answering questions about our families of origin and how we parent. We had to each have a physical (including the boys) and get certificates proving that the cats were up to date on their shots. We had to pass several background checks including through DCF, our local Ocala police department and the FBI. We had to produce copies of our tax returns from the last two years. We had to talk to our district superintendent and get letters verifying our employment and salaries. We had to fill out a notarized statement of our income and assets. We had to gather five notarized letters of reference and fill out a guardianship form. And we had to request certified copies of our birth certificates and marriage license. 

We wrapped up the homestudy by the end of September and it was approved in early October. That doesn't end our association with Debra Hewitt though - China requires that followup reports be filed at regular intervals following an adoption (up to 5 years post adoption) and Debra will be handling those for us. 

Currently we have finished putting together our dossier of 13 official documents to be sent to China through Lifeline. This includes many of the pieces above from our homestudy. There are a few extra things required here beyond the 13 official documents, including photographs of our family and of our house. All of these pieces are in the process of being authenticated by local and state government offices before being sent overseas to be logged in with the CCCWA that regulates China's international adoption program. We are hopeful that our dossier will be off to China (DTC) before the end of the year. That should put us on track to bring home our son by the end of spring/early summer next year. 

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