Very often we are asked where we are in the adoption process, and nearly as often, what is the timeline since the reduction in international adoptions. I usually smile and give an abbreviated version of which phase we are in and guide the conversation toward a different topic. It's not that I don't appreciate people's inquiries, concern, and genuine thoughtfulness. And it's not that I'm in such a poor state that I don't want to talk about it. Mostly, it's that I don't have answers to the questions. But, here is what I do know.
We were assigned an appointment for our "Application for Advance Processing or Orphan Petition" on June 20 at 8 AM. (Yes, that's the last full day of school we have to take off.) There our biometrics will be "captured;" that is we'll be fingerprinted and will complete some forms. This is a milestone in the process and it will feel great to check it off the list.
After our appointment, we wait for an approval notice, which usually takes 4 - 6 weeks. In the meantime, we will continue to assemble our dossier. This is a collection of 19+ notarized documents ranging from employment verification letters, bank statements, income tax forms, to photos of ourselves with a sworn statement that we, indeed, those in the picture. It isn't difficult, but tedious and time consuming. One mistake in our dossier can set us back months in the process. Thankfully, our dossier will be looked over by professionals in the field before we send it off.
When we receive the approval notice from our biometrics appointment, we can mail our dossier. At that time we can get a referral!
The referral process works like this. There are three orphanages operated by YWAM in Ethiopia. The amazing ladies at YWAM Ethiopia Adoption Ministry know we want to adopt a girl as young as possible, so they let us know about the babies that will soon be "paper-ready." The requirements to be paper-ready in Ethiopia change all the time. Every attempt is made in Ethiopia at finding a baby's birth parent(s), even if they are abandoned. Since Ethiopia is slightly less than twice the size of Texas with a population of 60 million people. Locating specific people, finding means of transportation to contact them, and making sure every last letter matches on every single sheet of paper takes time. A whole lot of time.
Anyway, when a baby becomes paper-ready to be adopted and we are "up" in line, we will receive information about her. If there are several babies at a time, their pictures and information are posted on a Waiting Child site on the YWAM website. We will be in constant communication with Becky and Joy at YWAM during this time. It's not like we are number 3,457 on a list and we "get" baby number 3,457. We trust God to reveal who he has chosen as our daughter to us and all involved. When we accept a referral, we are the acknowledged parents of our daughter, though it isn't legal until the court date. We will receive pictures and updates (but cannot post any pictures or information in the net).
After the referral, we wait for a court date from Ethiopia. This is where the long wait comes, and this is the wait that has yet to be determined. More crossing t's and dotting i's, but at this point we will have absolutely no control how quickly paperwork is processed. Could be three months. Could be a year (or longer).
When we receive a court date, we fly to Ethiopia. The hope is we will be approved at the first court date. I've heard of couples needing to attend court three times because of last minute changes to required documents. Once we pass court, our daughter is legally ours. We stay in Ethiopia for 2-3 days and return home to wait for an Embassy Appointment.
Since the changes in Ethiopia, an "average" wait between court and Embassy has yet to be determined. Previously it was 4 - 6 weeks, but couples have waited several months. When we receive our Embassy Appointment, we will travel again to Ethiopia, this time staying about a week, and we will fly home with our daughter, beginning the adventure of parenthood at 30,000 feet.
Our obvious prayer requests are patience for God's timing and trust in His will. Second, we pray for providence financially. Discussing the finances of the adoption with others has been more difficult since we had the set back and cancelled our BINGO night fundraiser. Perhaps that is pride or perhaps God is calling us to trust Him without actively seeking donations. Third, we pray for discernment. So many of these steps are out of our control that is is easy to get bogged down and panicked about the decisions we are "allowed" to make. And finally, we pray that God stays God in our lives, and we don't lose sight of who he is by making this adoption a god that rules us. Within the last week, I met two couples who were in the process of adopting internationally when they were approached by someone who knew of a pregnant teenager who wanted a Christian family to adopt her child. One couple, after prayer, halted their plans to adopt internationally and they now parent three domestically adopted children. The other couple is still in prayer. Had international adoption been a god in these couples' lives, they may have missed an amazing blessing from the true God.
All that to say, we are hopeful and life is good. Summer break is a week away (though Ty still works), the weather is slowly getting nicer, and we have a love to last a lifetime with each other.
There you have it, as of June 13, 2011.