Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Status Update of our Adoption Proceedings

I emailed this letter to our families and thought it covered the bases of what some of the rest of you might want to know about what's going on with our adoption right now and in the near future.

Hi All,

This weekend, talking with Mom and Dad, we realized that we haven't kept you all up-to-date on what's going on with our adoption process. So, here's the current scoop:

We're finished with our home study (inspections, background checks, doctor appointments, social worker visits, etc.) and we were approved by our social worker and homestudy agency. Now we're gathering our documents for our dossier, which is the file of information all about us which will go to Guatemala as our representation in family court. It includes some of the background checks, employer reference letters, power of attorney for the lawyer in Guatemala, photos of us and our families (yes, you're all part of our dossier!), medical reports, birth and marriage certificates, etc.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon I'm having all of those documents notarized. After that (Thursday or Friday), I'll take them to the Howard County Circuit Court Clerk to have the notary's stamp "certified." Then I will take the documents to Annapolis to the Secretary of State to have them each Great Sealed. Each step provides proof that the previous step was done correctly and signed by a person of legitimate right to do so. Andy's birth certificate is from Washington DC, not Maryland, so I took that down to DC last week to have it Great Sealed by their "secretary of state" (not really an SOS since DC isn't a state, but it's the same idea.)

After the documents are Great Sealed, I will send them to our placing agency in Georgia, who will send them to one of their lawyers in Guatemala. The lawyer will provide us with a referral, which is currently taking approximately 2-4 weeks. That's very fast! We will receive all of the information about the referred child that the lawyer can find and we will have about a week to determine whether or not to accept the referral. We will base that decision mostly on the medical report, which we will send to an international adoption specialist at Johns Hopkins. Their office is skilled in reading foreign country medical reports and will be able to point out any possible "red flags" so that we can make as informed of a decision as possible.

After we sign to accept the referral, our dossier is officially entered into the PGN (Guatemala's family court) for processing. The adoption will be legally finalized by our lawyer before we even arrive in the country.

We will be called once the family court provides a date for us to show up in person. The amount of notice varies but is usually a week or less - so we'll have to be ready to make travel plans at the last minute. It is currently taking approximately 2-3 months from the referral acceptance date to the call to travel. Again, that's fast!

We will be in Guatemala for 3 days to complete the paperwork, most of which is necessary to bring the child into the U.S. as our own. We have already begun the paperwork for that in order to get clearances ahead of time. One of our 3 sets of fingerprints was for this part of the process, but we'll have to get the child's visa from the Embassy once we're down there.

So, all in all, it's possible that we'll have our child home by October (wow!). It's certainly possible that it could be a little earlier or a little or much later, but the timeframes I've mentioned are what our placing agency has been experiencing in the past 6 months.

Oh, and it's likely that we'll only adopt one child this time because there are no siblings available for adoption in Guatemala (it happens, but it's rare, and since we began our initial paperwork, no siblings have become available.) We decided against adopting 2 unrelated children at the same time to begin with, so we will probably have one child to start. I'm sure he or she will keep us plenty busy!

Hmm... what else? I think that's the majority of info at the moment. Please feel free to ask any questions you want - I am likely to miss telling someone something and it's not because I don't want to tell you, it's just because it's hard to remember who knows what and who doesn't!


P.S. Just remembered to mention that some children in Guatemala are in "hogars" (orphanages) and some are in foster care. The orphanage system in Guatemala is among the best in the world (if there can be a best orphanage) in terms of the ratio of caregivers to children and the methods that they use to care for the children. Their foster system is also well-regarded because children are not generally "bounced around" from one home to another - they are often with the same caregiver from the time their birth mother relinquishes her parental rights until they are adopted. Ok, that's really it for now :-)

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