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The Dreaded Dossier

I knew a dossier was an official document related to international processes before we began the adoption process. I did not know if we would be required to complete one for our adoption, nor did I know how much stress this one word could place on a person. I heard about all the paperwork involved in completing an adoption, but I thought it would be integrated with our home study (which, thanks to our case worker and agency, was a complete breeze). Turns out, every international adoption requires a dossier. The purpose of this post is to answer  questions about our place in the process, and hopefully clue in any potential adoptive parents.

The domestic adoption process is significantly different from the international process. There is a similar home study (pretty much every detail of your childhood and marriage/relationship/child rearing skills), but you may have to write it yourself, depending on the adoption agency. From our limited experience, this seems to be a fairly different process for domestic than international. For a domestic adoption, you collect pictures of your family, your house, likes/dislikes and put them into a book for the birth mother to look through when choosing families. In our home study, we had forms to complete but our case worker met with us three times to help fill out our biographies and write about our relationship and home environment. That written study is then submitted for approval. Once approved, there was no biography picture book for us to fill out, just the dreaded paperwork. Contrarily, completed homestudies for domestic cases can then move to agencies to be potentially paired with a child.

After reading of some requirements from countries other than Ethiopia, I realize we may actually have less paperwork. We have lots of documents that have to be originals, some we have already collected for our home study that we have to obtain and complete again. Almost all of these forms have to be notarized and most have to be original “certified” copies. Looking at the list, I have a mini panic attack, but we soldier through and have been steadily working through the list, checking off forms one by one. I want to take my time, ensuring we do it correctly the first time, as it can delay the whole process. Then the tricky part comes in; all forms have to be no more than 6 months old at the time of submission. Some of the forms leftover from the home study have exceeded that time frame by now. Which means we have to obtain them a second time. It is an all-together frustrating and stressful time of the adoption. However, this is the bulk of the pre -child paperwork for our adoption. There will be paperwork in the future, but not this much and not at one time.

I’m trying to step back, breathe, be as organized as possible. Take it slow instead of rushing to get it all turned in, like my Type A personality would usually approach tasks. Adoption is a challenging process for everyone, period. It’s a lot of politics, paperwork, and emotions all wrapped into a helping a child. Since we don’t have a referral for a child yet, so we don’t have a specific person to focus our motivation on. We constantly need to remind ourselves that this is worth it. All the stress and red tape is worth a child’s life.

In our particular situation, the fact that I could go into labor any minute adds to the already stressful circumstances. Getting the nursery ready, having showers and working full-time distracts us from completing a good amount of the paperwork. Finding time is difficult. Most of the documents we’re waiting on are ones  we have to send off or complete during our work hours. This is awkward to manage while I save up time-off for maternity leave. Our goal is to get everything in by the end of July, within our 6 month window for most of our paperwork, the homestudy particularly. If you’re reading this and you were considering adopting, it’s important to read and consider the necessary steps before you make a huge commitment like this. If I hadn’t had friends that just went through the process and a church family with answers, I would be incredibly lost.  I felt it could be helpful to others to compile a list of all of the paperwork we have to complete for the dossier:

Note: This is for our agencies, foreign and domestic, and Ethiopia, not a comprehensive universal all situation/countries list.

1. Letter of intent: This is a letter, written, signed and notarized to the Ethiopian authorities stating why we are adopting, why Ethiopia and what kind of life we can provide for a child here in America.

2. Original, certified birth certificates: Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that I was adopted by my stepdad and have had to track where they keep my birth certificate.

3. Original, certified marriage license

4. “Good Conduct” letters from the Local Police Department: This is a signed and notarized local background check from your hometown. (This is after doing a national background check, with fingerprints…twice, and a state background check.)

5. Original medical report: This is also notarized by a doctor during a physical exam. The agency sent us a pretty general form to get them to fill out.

6. Two original copies of our home study, which also have to be notarized.

7. USCIS approval (I-171H): This is our immigration approval. We had to fill out paperwork and get fingerprinted for the second time, to be approved to bring a child into this country.

8. Letter of employment verification stating hours, compensation and years work signed and notarized for both parents.

9. A letter from our bank stating we are in good standing with them, signed and notarized.

10. A financial statement form signed and notarized: This is a standard form the agency sent us to find out our debt-income ratio.

11. Letters from each health insurance agency stating we have a policy.

12. Letters from our life insurance agency stating we have policies on all members of the family.

13. Three letters of reference: We already turned in three letters of reference for our home study, but these should be new. They should be from friends and family favoring our position to adopt, also notarized.

14. Obligation of adoption-reporting commitment: This is a standarized form the agency included for us to sign and get notarized.

15. Three original Power of Attorney forms, signed and notarized.

16. Color copies of passports

17. Passport photos of both parents

18. Tax returns from past 2 years. 2012 and 2013 for us

These are all the paper forms we have to include and send to our agency through Fed Ex, who then sends it to the Ethiopian agency’s US headquarters (West Sands), who then sends it to Ethiopia. If we have even a small, minuscule mistake they will send it back to us and our referral will be delayed that much longer. Once the dossier is approved, we are then in the looooooooooonnnnggg waiting period for a referral. Waiting for a referral for a child can be anywhere from one to two years, provided Ethiopia does not close to international adoption (see Russia, Congo, Guatemala).  I’ll refer to this time as the “raise as much money as humanly possible for our waiting child and try not to freak out” period. Essentially, we may be driving everyone crazy with our fundraising ideas (more on the cost of our adoption and how we’re financially planning to conquer costs in a later blog post).

If the process so far sounds overwhelming and stressful, you understand our pain. If it doesn’t sound overwhelming, dive right in and show us how it’s done. Top that with a new baby (any day now) and two full-time working parents and our stress level is through the roof. But, this is such a small amount of our lifetime joy with this child. This paperwork will bring a child with no family to love and care for them, into a loving and caring home. This process will hopefully show this child, as well as others around us, what lengths God went to for His children and the beauty of the Gospel. I am stressed, yes, but I am also excited and nervous to enter this new phase. I feel like once we begin the waiting process, we are officially adoptive parents. That referral means a new member of our family and that is worth every bit of stress.

In Him,

The Shraders

dossier

We are adopting from….

adoption

 

That’s right, folks. We decided on Ethiopia about a month ago and thought of a cute and fun way to announce it via a photo shoot with the lovely Sara Davis of Sara Davis Photography. Here is the link to her wonderful blog: http://saraedavisphoto.com/life/rebecca-and-josh-adoption-announcement/. I have known Sara for a while, even before she started her photography business, when she took some pictures for my best friend’s wedding years ago. She is a wonderful person and very generous (she gave us this photo shoot!). She originally wanted to take maternity pictures when I was pregnant with Cora, but the timing never worked out. She offered to take pictures just for us, and I thought…why not use this opportunity to tell everyone about our adoption?

 

We are currently in the VERY early stages of our adoption to Ethiopia. I’ve had a lot of questions, but the main one is “now what? what’s next?”. Now, we continue to fill out massive stacks of paperwork, write checks to our agency and wait. We are currently almost finished with our home study (we have our last meeting scheduled in one week). Once that is finished, we have to sign some agency agreements and get started on our dossier. “Dossier: when used in the context of adoption, this term 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, or for the adoptive parents to obtain the legal custody or guardianship of the child in the foreign court, so the child can be brought by the adoptive parents to the United States for adoption.” This is the massive paperwork I was referring to and this will allow us to adopt in Ethiopia once it is accepted. After the dossier, we wait for at least a year before we get a referral. Once we have the referral, they check the child’s family background to make sure the child is the definition of “orphan” by poverty or by death (meaning they have no relative willing to take them in). We then travel to Ethiopia for a week to meet the child and go to court. We then have to leave the child in Ethiopia, fly back to America while they process the visas and fly back for a week to pick them up and bring them home.

 

We have to be somewhat specific in our dossier for age, gender and medical needs of the child we are adopting. Right now, we are not preparing for a specific gender and we would like a child under 5 years of age. We also have to decide if we would like to adopt a child who has been tested HIV+ or not and are undecided. As Sara said in the blog and from the information I gave her, Ethiopia has one of the highest orphan populations than any country in the world. The children have mostly been orphaned due to parental death from AIDS. Here are some extra facts about Ethiopia:

 

  • The Federal Republic of Ethiopia is the second most populous country of the African continent.
  • The economy in Ethiopia heavily depends on agriculture, which in turn relies on precipitation. The country is marked by a negative trade balance: the volume of imports is roughly three times that of exports. Coffee beans remain the most important Ethiopian export commodity.
  • Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is roughly 1/135 that of the United States.
  •  On average, Ethiopians have a life expectancy of only 54 years. Nearly two-thirds of Ethiopia’s population remain illiterate.
  • Almost half the country’s population is undernourished and 39 per cent face a life on less than 1.25 US dollars a day.
  • Ethiopia has only 3 medical doctors per 100,000 citizens, one of the worst figures in Africa. Only one in three Ethiopians have regular access to potable water and the sanitation coverage is very limited.
  • Demographically speaking, Ethiopia is a very young country: around 45 per cent of its population are less than 14 years old.
  •  The country’s infant mortality rate is at a staggering 109 per 1,000 live births – one of the highest in the entire world. Only 6 in 10 births are attended by skilled medical staff. An estimated 830,000 children in Ethiopia have lost one or both of their parents due to AIDS.

 

The reason I give all these facts is to show what drove us to adopt internationally. We had a VERY hard time deciding between domestic (adopting kids currently in foster care) and international adoption. The deal breaker for us is that a lot of children, who are adoptable through the foster care system are not usually healthy, or under 5 years of age. We know we were not ready to parent a teenager, much less one who may have behavioral, developmental, medical or all three issues. I think in the future, we will consider adopting through the foster care system a little more seriously. For now, we both work full time and will continue doing so after adopting. We know we don’t have the resources for fostering or adopting through the system. It’s not that the child would not be right for US, but WE would not be the right parents for the child. We decided not to adopt a baby domestically, because there is a long waiting list and we decided it would not be fair for us to take a spot on the list, since we are able to conceive on our own. Josh also helped me decide international adoption by saying that kids in America, while it is a very tough life, will live to see their 5th birthday. Internationally, that is often not the case. American orphanages, as in receiving state funds,do not exist like there are around the world.  Once we decided international, this decision became easier.

 

We eliminated all the countries that had more than a 2 week travel time, as we both work and I needed to save weeks up to spend time with the child when we got back. This eliminated a bunch of countries. Other countries eliminated us. China (Josh’s heart was set on it) required $80,000 in net worth, among other requirements, that we did not meet. Haiti (both our hearts were set on it) required we be married 10 years and one of us had to be at least 35 years old. Countries make their own adoption requirements and some are very lenient, but others are stringent. Here is the website that lays out the country requirements for adoption. Travel, time and country specific requirements did most of the narrowing down and that left Ethiopia. I’ve had a heart for Africa after reading Kisses from Katie and after friends adopted through Uganda. I was ecstatic to find out we could adopt from Ethiopia. I’ve heard what a heart-wrenching situation the country is in at the moment. Ethiopia is not a Hague country. *The Hague Convention is an international agreement to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. The Hague Adoption Convention applies to adoptions between the United States and the other countries that have joined it*. This means that they can shut down adoptions in the country at any point in time because of suspicions of corruption. All it takes is one family or one incident to cause all other adoptions to be put on hold. This is currently happening in the Congo. That is a very scary prospect. Adoptions can then be dragged on for years and years when this happens.We have to trust in God that if this does happen, He is working in it for His good.

 

We see a long road ahead of us for the adoption. The minimum time it will take to get a referral (not go to the country) will be 18 months. That is a long period of time to wait with no word. We are ready, though. We have prepared hearts for the long, possibly tragic road ahead of us.  We are not adopting to replace Cora or because it is a trend. We are adopting because we were adopted into God’s family and He commanded that we take care of orphans. We are following His call and are preparing our hearts. We love talking about our adoption, or adoptions in general! We have several friends and church families who have adopted. Please contact us with any questions you may have, especially if you are considering adoption. We are very blessed that our church has a mentoring program to match us with other families who have gone through the exact process or agency we are with. We know how important that wisdom can be. We are excited…nervous…apprehensive…ecstatic…joyful, you name it! We cannot wait to bring this child or these children home!

 

In Him,

 

The Shraders

 

PS. Here are a few pictures that were not included in Sara’s blog that I love:

53Shrader[1]   29Shrader[1]

28Shrader[1]15Shrader[1]

64Shrader[1]05Shrader[1]

74Shrader[1]

It’s my birthday, buy a scarf…support an adoption!

Yes, this is me shamelessly endorsing our Etsy shop. I’m turning 30 today and even though everyone says it’s the “new 20”, I’d like to move on to new and more exciting. 29 was a rough and exciting year for me personally and it included the decision to adopt! We have met with our social worker for our 1st home study meeting of three meetings. We are also waiting for acceptance into our agency and the country we’re adopting from (TBA soon) and wait. And wait. And wait some more. We have learned that process of acceptance and waiting will cost us around $5,000 + so just within the next couple of months so….we need your help. Please buy scarves. Lots of them…for gifts and for yourself, for Christmas, ski trips, photo shoots, anything. Until we get a Lifesong account and the little DONATE NOW button on our blog, that’s the way we have to raise money. Don’t worry about scarves getting sold out, we have some already ready in inventory and I will relist items as they sell. And, guess what? There are now CUSTOM ORDERS available! There will be a custom order listing for the Cora Chain and Ashley Chunky Infinity scarves, you can buy it and pick a color listed, or send me a message BEFORE you buy the listing to request a color not shown and I can let you know if I can find it. Also, if any of you have purchased a scarf, I would love some feedback. It makes my shop look more “legit” and I like to hear back from customers! So far, I have sold 61 scarves! I am so amazed and excited by this. I never imagined I would sell more than 5 scarves when I first started the store. We have raised a great amount of money for our adoption so far, but unfortunately it is still a drop in the bucket for our $30,000 + adoption. We will continue to be creative, instead of just asking for donations (although that will occur too). Thank you to all who have purchased!!

Buy a scarf, help bring home a child.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/RememberMyChains

                                chain wheat green mustard

In Him,

Rebecca Shrader

‘Tis the season for scarves…and adoption.

Guys….It’s Fall. Today. It’s arrived. One of the best seasons of the year. Yes, as a kid I was in love with summer for the sole reason there was no school. Now…Fall. This time of year makes me giddy and want to twirl around in the leaves. Exhibit A:

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For those of you who know me know I love this time of year: pumpkins, football, my birthday, dark fall colors, scarves, boots, pumpkin spice lattes, scarves…I now have an Etsy shop full of them! This crochet thing all started back when I was on leave after giving birth to Cora. My coworker came over to bring me a blanket she started for me so I would have something to keep me entertained. She taught me how to crochet earlier in the year and I made a really sad scarf. The blanket was a chevron pattern (like the one Grandma made you for Christmas) but in much more updated colors. I am pretty proud of it, even though it took weeks to make and is basically a lap blanket for skinny hipsters (how Josh describes it).

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Time has passed since Cora left us and after a very convicting sermon from JD Greear one Sunday, Josh and I discussed our future family. We have always wanted to adopt, but we thought it would be a decision we’d make in the future. God spoke to us through this sermon and asked, “Why are you waiting?” We knew God has always had adoption in our future, but we were waiting to have our own children before we started the process. We started asking ourselves, why not start the process now? We may never have biological children and there are 147 million (estimated) orphans worldwide. God commanded all His followers to care for orphans and we knew the form of orphan care for our family is adoption.

So, after much research, talks, emails and phone calls, it’s official: We are starting the adoption process!

You heard it right, adoption, and international adoption at that. We are not disclosing a lot of details at the moment about the where and who. We have chosen international adoption through an agency and are contemplating a specific country yet to be named (there will be another blog once we officially decide). Why adoption? I am so glad you asked…

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. -Romans 8:14-16

We are adopted by God into His kingdom, into His family with Jesus. We inherit the Kingdom WITH Jesus. Once we make the decision to follow Christ, we are promised to follow Him all the way up into Heaven. Heaven is OURS. What a wonderful family we will have! The best earthly example of God’s love for us is adoption. Adoption is a heartbreaking process. There are years of waiting, years of tears, years of hardship ahead. Adoption is not all rainbows and unicorns, it’s incredibly hard to become a parent to a child who isn’t your blood. But God does this over and over. God adopted all of us and it was our decision to choose His family. He gets an eternity of heartbreak, but He also gets the elation when one of His children joins His family.

Adoption is something that we have both always wanted to do as adults, but never thought it was actually possible for real (read, middle class) people until we joined The Summit. I love my church and one of my favorite things about Summit (besides being enthralled with Jesus) is their emphasis on orphan care. I am so blessed to be a part of a real adoption community. I know several people who have adopted. I used to say to myself “Oh that’s nice for them, but I could never afford it nor am I a stay at home mom; maybe someday I will when I’m rich”. Then I went to an orphan care meeting. I met people who adopted while in seminary school and those who adopted AND worked. Orphan care is a command from God….one of the most important ones. If God commands something, HE will make it work and has for several families.

Is it scary? Definitely. Expensive? You bet. The country we are contemplating costs $30,000+ for the process. Are we risking everything to do it? Absolutely. I have to have absolute trust in God throughout this process; because He has commanded us to care for the orphan, He will provide the means necessary. I cannot tell you how incredibly teary, excited, scared and elated I feel when I think there is a little boy or girl that may or may not already exist out there in the world for Josh and I. My heart starts beating faster just thinking of them. This child will have a traumatic past and may have a lot of obstacles for us to overcome, but we will do it as a forever family.

What does this have to do with crocheted scarves you ask?  We come back to the Etsy shop; it’s called Remember my Chains after Colossians 4:18. I have been friends with and closely followed many who have adopted. They all have so many creative ways to raise money: bake sales, car washes, yard sales, selling pieces to puzzles, etc. I asked myself…what skill do I have besides scanning pregnant ladies? Oh, crochet!!…sort of. After some research with friends on Facebook, I found a pattern and started making scarves. Then two of my wonderful coworkers, Ashley and Nicole, decided they wanted to help as well as a wonderful lady, Marsha,  in Michigan. I opened the shop just a couple of weeks ago and sold 15 scarves in one day! The grand total as of today is 26 scarves and over $500 in sales! 100% of the profits from the shop go to our adoption fund. Our first real step to adoption is the home study, which costs about $1,400. As of now, with all the checks, donations through this blog and scarf sales we have $1,500 in our adoption account!! Only $30,000+ more to go…

And so begins our adoption blog. Follow our process throughout the joy and heartbreak here. Also, go buy a scarf, it’s fall today!!!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/RememberMyChains

orange blue  greenwhite wheat

In Him,

The Shraders