I just got back from sending our dossier to our agency. For those who like to keep track of these things, that is almost exactly 9 months from when we received pre-approval to adopt H. A really long and stressful 9 months. I am very glad to be on this side of them. We now enter into another period of waiting, but there is a darling girl waiting for us to come and get her at the end of it.
I know I have readers from many different walks of life and that not all of you are familiar with the lingo or with how international adoption works. Here is a very brief explanation (edited to say, well, maybe not so brief) so you know what I'm talking about when I bring these things up.
In Ch*na, prospective adoptive parents can go about adopting a child in two ways. The first is to complete your homestudy, compile the dossier, send it to Ch*na where it is logged-in, and then wait for a referral of a child. This method has you waiting a shorter amount of time with an actual picture in your hand.
The other way is how we have gone about it; essentially we did it a bit backward. We identified the child first, and then had to back up and do all the paperwork. So in December we saw H.'s picture and in January we filed our 'Letter of Intent' (LOI) with the CCCWA (the Ch*nese agency which governs adoptions). After some back and forth, they issued us a 'Preapproval' (PA) to adopt H.
We then compiled all the paperwork needed to complete our homestudy as well as being fingerprinted and meeting with our social worker more than a few times. After the homestudy was written, it was sent to the state for their approval. (It's only we in Illinois and maybe a couple of other states that have to do this extra step.) If you remember right, that took a while and required us filing a 'water safety plan' for how we were going to keep our children safe because we live so close to Lake Michigan. (Close is evidently a relative word; we live 1/2 mile away from the lake.) But, finally after over two months, the homestudy was approved and we were free to file our I800a application to the US immigration department. That also meant we had to be fingerprinted again. (US government agencies never learned the kindergarten concept of sharing and are very selfish about their fingerprint records.) After 59 days, we received the long awaited I797 form, which is the pre-approval for H.'s visa. It was the last piece of paper we needed to complete our dossier.
All the paperwork in the dossier needs to be notarized, certified, and then authenticated by the Ch*nese consulate. This is what I spent my week doing... making endless trips downtown to sit in government offices. In the end, I came home with 12 documents all officially sealed and ready to submit. After much photocopying and adding the required photographs, I sent the whole thing off.
What comes next:
When my agency receives it, they will double-check that everything is as it should be and then bind the dossier and make it look nice. There will also be a small amount of translating done. It is then shipped to Ch*na where it is fully translated and eventual logged-in (LID) to the system. The next thing we wait for is the 'Letter of Acceptance' (LOA) which tells us that we are officially approved to adopt H. The average wait time between LID and LOA is about 77 days. When we receive our LOA, we must then send in the I800 application which is asking the US government to issue a visa to a specific child, in this case H. Once the US government approves her visa, they send a message to the Ch*nese government (Article 5). After this is received, we are issued our 'Travel Approval' (TA) and we can then make travel arrangements. The average timeline between LOA and TA is about 68 days. With an average timeline of five months from LID to travel, my best guess is that we will be travelling to bring H. home around March. Wouldn't it be wonderful if she could be home by Easter?
So, if you're still with me and haven't completely glazed over after all that, I applaud you. I sometimes can barely think about it and I have to. The short version of all that is we just wait. Wait for our dossier to be logged-in and wait for our official approval. I'm getting fairly good at this waiting-thing. Maybe I'll get back to some sewing.
One last question I receive a lot is if H. knows about us yet. No, she doesn't. She won't know she has a family until we receive our travel approval. I'll make a photo book all about us for her to look at when the time comes. I can completely understand and support this way of doing things. How horrible would it be to have to tell a child who thought they had a family that something went wrong and they don't? Still, she has another five months of watching other children receive photo books about their new families and watch friends leave. After two or three years of that, she must be thinking that her turn will never come. And that breaks my heart.