Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm NO Angelina Jolie (thank goodness)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008:

WOW -- such a blank page! Where to start? I guess as Julie Andrews once sang, I'll start at the very beginning... a very good place to start.

A month or so back, after the Texas Sect Crisis, I started joking with my friend Rhonda that I could adopt a "Sect baby" (one of the many children removed from the Texas compound that were displaced first in an arena) and we laughed it off. Then Myanmar/Burma cyclone hit and once again I joked to Rhonda that I could adopt a Myanmar baby. Again, we laughed it off (not the cyclone mind you - the adoption statement!). Finally, the earthquake in China hit and I found myself once again remarking that "I could adopt a Chinese baby". Rhonda finally said to me, "you keep joking about this, but why don't you look into it". So I did... and the quest begins.

So I started the BASIC research.
- Domestic vs. International? Too many horror stories on the domestic side for me. I know lots of people that have domestically adopted and it's worked out. BUT... too many scary stories!
- What countries do people adopt from? Lots of options here, but #1 and #2 are typically Russia and China. The Ukraine pops into the top 5 and I do have a very good connection in my friend Anna Manko, alas, both China and the Ukraine do not accept single women (foiled again!). The more and more I read about the Russian programs, I knew I had a connection! And I still have a Russian connection for Anna...
- What's the process? LOTS of time, patience and paperwork. Basically in a nutshell you have your US paperchase: Agency selection, Home study, and federal forms i-600a; then you have your Russian paperchase: dossier of documents (here's my life) that goes to Russia to be matched with a child; then you get a referral of a child; you visit the child and accept (or deny) the referral; go home and wait for a court date; go BACK to Russia and go to court to receive final, legal approval. I am oversimplifying this - but that's pretty much the gist.
- How do you select an agency? OK this one was HARD for me. For all of those who know me, you know that when I decide to do something, I want to do it NOW! It's the Verruca Salt in me. But my mom was scaring me half to death with stories from Dateline/PrimeTime/20-20/60 Minutes (insert news magazine show name here) of international adoption fraud and these people who lost thousands of $$$. So I knew I had to do my research. Most of the websites that refer to people's opinion's of adoption agencies have been shut down - opinions are just that, and if they are bad... companies obviously want to fight to clear their name. So all the research is "underground" as I like to say. (thank you Rhonda for helping me find this) has a great forum for international adoption. One of their posts is basically people posting the agency they have experience with and you can send them a private message to get their feedback. Gads this was still really hard and stressful. As many people that I found that liked agency A - I found almost as many who hated, knew someone who hated or met a family that wouldn't recommend them. Throughout the process I kept hearing about Lighthouse Adoptions here in Michigan (another bonus) and honestly, I couldn't find ONE person who had a negative experience with Lighthouse. I immediately loved my contact Lorien, who is SO patient with me and my 1000 questions. And would ya know it - she's adopted herself (twice) as a single woman. So after all that stressing, my decision was relatively easy.

And off we went. I applied to Lighthouse who was also going throughout the process of getting licensed to do the Home Study (social worker visits your house/interviews you a couple of times to sign off on your adoption) and I could potentially be Lighthouse's guinea pig - first Home Study. Planets aligned, and their approval came through THAT weekend. So my initial steps have been moving at a LIGHTNING pace. Believe it or not, this weekend I should have all my paperwork in for the Home Study and just waiting for the final copy to send in to the BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services; formerly known as INS). They approve you to bring an international adoptee into the country and make them your immediate kin.

From there it's onto the Russian paperwork. Lorien at Lighthouse had a couple options this week when I spoke with her. Here's the plan so far. After the i600a is sent to BCIS with the Home Study approval, we send my Russian dossier (paperwork) to a region called Vladivostok. This is the FAR, FAR eastern part of Russia, almost to Korea. They accept the paperwork while your federal approval is pending. The potential is that I could receive a referral for a little guy (more on that in a minute) while waiting for the i-171H (what the approval of the i-600a is known as). Then if the approval comes and I still haven't received the i-171K, we also submit to Moscow. Rhonda is pushing for Moscow -- they have Marriott's, Pizza Hut and more well known tourista sites. Oh yeah, she's volunteered to go on at least trip #1. Any other takers??

So backpedaling a bit, YES, I did say little "guy". I know what you're thinking -- but you have so many girls in the family. Well, that's exactly it!! If Gramma Clarkson were still alive, she'd have 10 Great Grand kids currently and #10 was the FIRST boy (Logan Miles Levitt). In addition to that, there are more Russian boys available for a variety of reasons (some say a stigma in Russia for a Russian man to raise another man's son, and most of the US families want lil girls). Out of Lighthouse's 11 families in the works, I am the ONLY one on the list of for a boy - the rest want girls. I am open to name suggestions... so submit your entries!

That's it for now. After long decision and telling the same people the same things over and over again, I decided to create this to pass information along to anyone interested. Plus, I have been a complete SPONGE on other adoptive families blogs/websites, so if my ramblings can help someone else... so be it!


Anonymous said...

but if you were angelina... you could snuggle with Brad..mmm.

already in tears, btw. i can't believe how quickly this has moved forward. Now come on MOSCOW! It would make for a prettier baby book for Master Nikolas.

Charlotte in Pa said...

Hooray! Congrats, Amy! Congrats on the baby... and the blog. You're just so tech savvy. :-)

I vote for Nikita. Or George.

BarGal said...

Congrats on your decision and good luck with your quest to Russia! I'll be following along via your blog and Rhonda's postings & pics!

timi said...

this is so exciting, i am thrilled for you. it is good to hear from you as i have been missing you.

will the baby have kleenex in his teeth? love, timi