Wednesday, March 26, 2008

No News

We don't have any new news to report this week. Our coordinator in Russia doesn't know when the DOE will get back from their vacation. While I'm getting impatient waiting for a travel date, I know that in a few months when we have our daughter home, I'll look back at this time and see how fast it actually went. As a matter of fact, I was just marveling the other day when I realized that our journey actually started over a year ago! We submitted our original contract with our agency on Feb. 14, 2007. As things were unfolding last year, I thought it was taking for ever. Now I look back, and I can't believe how quickly time flew!

Our only concern right now is that our fingerprints for USCIS expire in June, so it looks like we'll have to be re-fingerprinted. I don't know at this point if it costs another $80 or if it's free since we already paid for the first set....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Top ten things to do during your adoption experience

There are many things I wish I had known before I started this journey. It's been an interesting experience trying to "learn as you go". I supplied this post so that you will be better prepared for your journey.

10) Read! Get yourself books on parenting, adoption, potty training, discipline, all kinds of topics. The more you read the more you are prepared to have different methods on hand for situations. As a nanny, I find that I use methods from several different sources. I use methods from books, Supernanny (of course), parenting classes I took through our home study, parenting classes in church, and...books! You will not be able to use the same technique with all your children.

9) Take some parenting classes. These will help you think about different techniques you want to use with your child. Even if you already have a family, taking parenting classes can really help you figure out how to get your household under control before the next child comes in.

8) Fully research your agency before you commit to anything. Although I don't have any "official" complaints about our agency, I do wish that I had asked some key questions about their programs before committing to them.

7) Fully research the country you hope to adopt from. Talk to people who have already adopted from that country. Join a chat group for people who are adopting from that country and gather information. Please note, however, that different agencies have different requirements for some countries, so some information may be different. For instance, we had a referral for Guatemala. On the chat groups, people were talking about visiting their referral during the process. Some even decided to foster their child during the process by staing in-country. The children would then live with you in your hotel/apartment until you were done with court. However, when I asked our agency about visitin our referral, we were told that they do not allow it. Make sure you know what your agency expects/allows during the process BEFORE you begin!

6)Organize! You must be anal about organizing paperwork during this time. Purchase one of those milk-carton style files for your adotion information. I have expandable file folders in there that I keep my information in. One is for the homestudy, another for USCIS or BCIS (depends on your state...Immigration). One is for your dossier paperwork, another for general information(nursery ideas, parenting tips, etc...) I also break down the dossier folder with several files inside: notarized originals, photocopies, apostilled originals, my copies, extras, agency copies, court originals. You may not want all of them, but there have been times when I needed an extra original of something, and all I had to do was go to the correct file to find it.

5) Start shopping now! Some countries require that you take a donation to the orphanage. Some people wait until they get in-country before they purchase anything. That's fine, because then you can ask the orphanage director what they need (OTC medicines, diapers, formula, etc. that can be purchased at a local pharmacy). However, there are some major benefits to buying them before you go-espcially if you are considering taking clothes. Orphanages are constantly looking for clothes. It's common to see one baby wearing a particular outfit one day, and another baby wearing it the next...without a washing in between. It's no wonder diseases are widespread! If you'd like to take a donation of clothing, start thinking now how much you would like to spend. I think $100-$200 is about average. Once you determine how much you would like to spend, start hitting the clearance sales! A WalMart in our area just had a clearance rack, and most items were $1!!! Not kidding! I came away with 60 outfits. A caution about donating toys: I think it's a fantastic idea, but a friend of mine told me that when she visited an orphanage, instead of opening the boxes for the children to play with, they were placed on the top shelf and left alone. If that doesn't bother you, go for it! Again, hit the clearance isles. You can find some fantastic deals on toys. Start stocking up now...even if you are in the beginning stages! It's well worth the money saved.

4) Know where your Secretary of State's Office building is for getting apostilles. We live about 12 miles from downtown Chicago, and let me tell you, it was well worth going to the building in person. This is now the third country that we've had to apostille paperwork for, and if I had to FedEx it all in, it would have been a pain. If you live even 50 miles away from your state's capital or wherever your nearest location is, PLEASE consider going in person. You save a ton of time. I catch the early train, and arrive at the location right at 8am when they open. I wait maybe 15 minutes, and it's done. FedEx is costing about $20 each way. A train ticket costs $6.75 for a two-way. Of course, I know you have to factor in fuel costs and such, but it's well worth it if you can go in person.

3) Get to know several people: a notary public, a public accountant, your bank staff. You will have to have everything notarized, and you may not get everything you need in one visit. Try to see if there is a notary public where you work...and brown nose! If this person is going to notarize your documents for no charge, send them flowers, chocolate, thank-you cards, etc... Also consider getting this person a NICE gift from the country you are visiting. Our notary public has been fantastic! She has had to notarize tons of documents for three different dossiers now. Be aware that even though banks have a notary public, some won't notarize document being used for adoption. We found that out the hard way. Ask ahead of time. The accountant you may need to sign your financial forms for the dossier. We are going through Russia, and our agency requires that our financial worksheet be signed by a CPA. I don't know if that's an agency requirement, or if it's common for all Russian dossiers. We've been having problems with this one because we do our own taxes and therefore don't have a CPA. We are finding that CPA's are unwilling to sign the document if you are not a client (even if you offer to pay a fee!) I suggest you make some friends at your bank. If you are one of those people that do everything from the ATM machine, or from the drive-through, I would highly suggest you take the time to actually go in your bank and get to know some tellers. You will need a lot of Certified Checks, Money Orders, and of course, your cash withdrawl. Russia requires that you take the country fee in brand new $100 bills. You need to be able to request these from your bank, and it helps if they know about it ahead of time. Our bank requires at least a week's notice. Other banks may need more time, and some (small banks) may not be able to do this at all. You need to know as soon as possible so you can make arrangements. Your bank staff can also be helpful by guiding you in how to invest the money you are using for the adoption. If you are using credit, or equity, feel free to ignore this next little part. However, if you have been blessed by God to be able to use cash, your bank can help you in deciding what type of account to place it in while you go through the process. Anything that will help you get the maximum amount of interest without getting penalized for making withdrawls.

2) Make more than one original set of ALL your dossier documents. I am requesting at least five original copies of all my documents. Seems a little overboard, but I want to play it safe. I am apostilling at least three copies of the originals, and leaving two signed/notarized copies in a seperate folder. That way, if any of the three already apostilled gets "lost", I have other originals I can just run downtown and have apostilled. This also means that I can take a photocopied set to Russia with me, and an apostilled set with me in case any of our court documents gets "lost" while we are there. You can also leave a complete set of notarized documents with a trusted friend. If any get "lost" while you are in country and you don't have spare, you can have your friend get them apostilled and FedEx or DSL them to you. Make photocopies of all your notarized documents BEFORE you have them apostilled. For most countries, you must have exact photocopies of all your documents. In most cases, the apostille is attached to the top of your document. In some cases, however, the apotille is attached in the middle of a packet. For instance, if the notary appears on the second page of a document, the staple is removed, the apostille placed on top of the notary and then stapled. You CANNOT remove the staple in order to photocopy the last page, so if you have the pages already photocopied, you don't have to worry about getting a good copy. Also, some states (Indiana for example) not only staple the apostille to your document, they add a huge sticker (stamp) on top of that, making it impossible for you to remove the apostille without damaging your document. I have several different folders to keep track of dossier documents: documents that need to be notarized, documents that need to be apostilled (same folder...I take all documents to be notarized/apostilled at the same time), notarized copies (extras) , apostilled dossier set, photocopies, agency set, my set, apostilled set (extras).

1) The number one piece of advice I could give you: Order more than one copy of your birth certificates/marriage license and HAVE THEM APOSTILLED AT THE SAME TIME!!! Most of the time you will need your certificates to be apostilled, and it is worth it to request your original copies to be apostilled before they are sent to you. Early in the process, (even before you choose an agency) write to your state's vital records department and request copies of your birth certificates. Call them in advance for their requirements. Some require that you include a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, a cover letter including your name, address, place of birth, birth date, parent's names, etc., and a photocopy of your driver's license. They also charge different amounts. My husband's (California) cost $15 a copy, while mine (I was born in Italy so had to get a Certificate of Birth Abroad of an American Citizen) cost $30 a piece. It was a pain to figure out who to write to get mine, so I would suggest that if you were born out of the country you figure out NOW how to get copies. Our marriage license (Indiana) was $2 a copy. If you were born in the same state you now are SO LUCKY! It avoids a ton of complications! By the way, if you were born in the U.S., try Vital Check on the internet. We ordered my husband's birth certificates in March, and by July they still had not arrived. I ordered one copy through Vital Check (because we needed it ASAP), and it arrived so fast. I ordered it on a Thursday, and it arrived on Monday. A week later, the five copies we ordered through snail mail arrived. Also important to remember- for those of you that have to write to the Department of State to get your copies...they do not apostille your certificate. You will have to then send your birth certificate to the Passport services in Washington D.C. It took me two months to finally get a straight answer from three different government agencies. My gift to you-answers!

There are so many things I learned by trial and error. I hope that providing these tips help you be more prepared to start your journey. One more piece of advice that is VERY soon as you start working with an agency, submit your I 600A. The reason is that it takes quite a while for the government to approve you, and the sooner you submit your I600 A, the sooner you'll get your approval and dossier completed. A word of caution, however. Your fingerprints are only good for a year. Since we've had such an...interesting...adventure, our fingerprints will expire before we are done with our adoption. Therefore, in a month or so, we will have to have our fingerprints re-done. Not a huge issue, but make sure you are aware of when your prints expire, and tell your agency well in advance so they can tell you how to contact the goverment agecy and get another apointment.

Well, that's all the tips I have for today. I hope the lessons we learned the hard way have helped you make your journey less stressful. I welcome your comments. If you have any tips that you have found to save time/money/stress, please let me know!

No News

We haven't had any news recently. We were told that the person responsible for our paperwork at the DOE is on vacation, but we don't know for how long, so we don't know when to expect an update. Our case worker is confident we will travel in April, so it looks like it might be mid-to-end of April. Meanwhile, a lot of our documents for our second dossier are done. I just need two employment letters, our letter from our realtor, and for the CPA to sign our financial paper. The employers and the realtor have the samples, and I know that I will have them done within a week. That just leaves the medicals and the police reports, which we will not have done until right before our second trip. We are hoping to be able to take part of our dossier with us on trip one. We were told that we can hand over anything that's done. I wonder if that helps you travel faster if you have most of it done earlier?

We are just biding our time and trying to be patient. My husband has been acting strangely lately. He's been cleaning more frequently, and throwing things away. He's a pack rat. He never throws things away. I'm thinking he's either "spring cleaning" or "nesting".

In an effort to consider the environment when raising our daughter, we have decided to use two different diapers. The first will be used when we travel in Russia, or for long car trips like when we go see our families. They are gdiapers. They are a cross between a cloth diaper and a disposable. The outside is a really soft material with velcro in the BACK (so babies can't pull their diapers off). The inside is a plastic liner that snaps onto the inside. Inside the palstic liner,you place a disposable pad. This didposable pad is amazing. You can actually flush it down the toilet! You have to be really careful, though, and if you live in an older house, or out in the country, you may not want to flush it. You can also throw it in the garbage. Traditional disposable diapers take up to 500 YEARS to biodegrade. These take 52 days.

The second system we will use the majority of the time. They are fuzzi bunz, an All-In-One cloth diaper. The outside is a waterproff material (like cotton, only waterproof), and the inside is fleece microfiber. The fleece microfiber pulls wetness away from baby's skin. You get less diaper rash! There is a "pocket" in which you place an insert that comes with your fuzzi bunz. This absorbant insert is what holds the moisture. You can place two inserts for night time, or even a pre-fold. I know this will make more laundry, but since I plan to be a stay-at-home mom, I don't think that will be too much of an issue.

I know I have yet to factor in water use, but the fuzzi bunz were about $200 for a set of 12. (ebay) The G diapers were about $80 for four pants and a small package of liners. Unfortunately, the liners we'll have to keep buying, be I am planning on stocking up on them now while I'm working and we can afford it. We currently have about 300 liners-and if we are only using them occasionally, those should last us a while.

If you've been considering cloth diapers, give fuzzi bunz or gdiapers a try. I think you'll be impressed by how much they DON'T look like regular cloth diapers.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Friday, March 14, 2008


We received an update from our agency (finally). Yesterday, our agency e-mailed us to let us know that they had not heard from the coordinator in Russia concerning our case. Although I was disappointed, there’s nothing I can do about it at this point. However, today she e-mailed us with more news. The dossier is at the Department of Education, which is really cool. But, the person handling our case is on vacation. This person has to review our information, issue us an "official" referral, and send us an invitation to travel. We have to wait until this person returns from vacation before we can know when we travel. While I think it stinks that our travel plans will be delayed for a while longer, I don’t begrudge the worker a vacation. However, now our case worker is saying that we won’t travel until April. She was actually very appologetic about it. She told us that we would be able to travel this month, so she’s disappointed to see that we’ll have to wait a few more weeks.

Also in that e-mail she included all the documents we need for the second dossier. It doesn’t look too hard. Most of them are papers that we open in Microsoft Word, type in our correct information, print, notarize and apostille. There are a few that will take a while, like getting copies of our deed and such, but most are really easy. She said that we can do all of them except the medical reports and the police clearances, since they have an expiration date. The medicals are only good for about a month (since your health can change quickly) , and the police clearances are only good for six months.

This dossier should in some ways be easier, but in some ways harder. It should be easier because they have very specific guidelines that we must follow in order for the document to be done correctly. This makes it easy because we know exactly what we have to do in order to make it right. However, the same thing makes it harder. With the other two dossiers we worked on for Nepal and Guatemala, we were just given a list of documents needed, and there were only a few instructions. A lot of the paperwork we did for Nepal we could use for Guatemala, because there wasn’t a "formula" or a "form". For Russia, we can’t use any of the paperwork we did for Guatemala or Nepal because Russia has a form you print out (Word document), and a "formula" for all the letters. It tells you exactly how your employer should write the letter of employment! I guess that’s the way it is to make it easier for the translator. If there’s a "formula" to the documents, then he only has to concentrate on the specific details.
Well, I’ve got a stack of 15 documents that I need to prepare. 13 of them are documents for the dossier and 2 are check lists and more instructions. I’m going to start chipping away at it. Our case worker also mentioned that any documents completed for court that are done before our first trip we can take with us. I guess that’s so the translator can start working on the documents ahead of time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Our Siberian Princess turns One!

Happy Birthday! Today is your birthday, Princess! Tatyana means "fairy princess", so you are our "Siberian Princess"! We hope that your caretakers made this day a little special for you, and we can't wait to go to Russia and meet you. In a few months, we will be a "forever family".

Monday, March 3, 2008


We e-mailed our agency to find out if it's possible to FedEx our documents to Russia. Our case worker e-mailed back that our paperwork is already in Russia! Last Friday, the 29th of February, we were told that we had to wait for a family to travel. We assumed that we'd be waiting a while because I didn't see anyone on the agency web site that was saying they were traveling soon. Anyway, it appears that a family left for Russia this weekend and handed our paperwork of to the corrdinator in Russia. Our case worker will call us later this week to let us know when the coordinator says we can travel. Our first step will be to make travel arrangements and book a hotel. Second, we will have to send our passports away to the embassy to get our visas. The Russian and American governments will want to make sure they know where we will be when we are there, so our visas will say where we are staying. We will provide the embassy with our fedex number so that we can have it back in a few days. We could have a 3-day turn around, so we could leave in a week or so. However, we are not getting to excited, as we might not be able to leave for a month or two (highly unlikely). Average is about 17 days. I'll post again when we find out when we leave!