Thursday, December 18, 2008

Compiling the Dossier and Staying Organized

The main focus of this month has been compiling all of the documents we need to send to Mexico in our dossier. I have been collecting documents for the last six months. To keep everything in good condition, I have been storing the originals in sheet protectors in a three ring binder, shown in the photo above. Not all of the documents that are currently in the binder will end up going to Mexico though. Some of them are documents I needed for our homestudy or for our agency. But keeping them in a binder has helped me to stay organized.

The other thing keeping me organized is my 18-month weekly planner, the blue book shown on top of the binder. I have been taking notes in it the entire process. It has become a quite detailed diary, highlighting all of the highs and lows, all of the dates that every paper has reached my hands or left my hands, every time I have had contact with my agency, etc.

By the way, today I found out that our fingerprint scans worked fine! I called the CIS to make sure. The CIS has our background clearances, and we are awaiting being assigned an officer to review our file. Unfortunately, that may not happen until mid to late February.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fingerprinting Preparation Advice

Well, we went for our fingerprint scanning at the USCIS. But, being winter, our hands were rather dry and cracked. This resulted in the computer not being able to get a good reading on our prints. We aren't sure if the scans will be accepted by the FBI or not. It is possible we will need to have them re-scanned. In the meantime, we are applying lots and lots of lotion to our hands and are drinking lots of extra water to stay hydrated! So, that's my advice to people who tend to have dry hands, pay extra attention to pampering your hands before you have your fingerprint appointments!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fingerprint Appointment

In yesterday's mail we received our biometrics appointment. This means that we were given a date and time to appear at our local USCIS office to have our fingerprints electronically scanned. Our fingerprint appointment is taking place about three weeks after our paperwork arrived in Chicago. Once the background clearances get back to them, then our I-800A can be reviewed and a decision can be made. It's nice having these little milestones, as it helps to feel like progress is being made. What an amazing Thanksgiving week to receive two letters from the USCIS!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Receipt Acknowledgement from USCIS

I had heard through other blogs about this step, and I had a feeling I would be receiving something from the USCIS this week. So, I was not surprised when I opened my mailbox today and there was a letter from Homeland Security. It simply lets us know that our I-800A has been received, and that a separate notice will be coming in the mail with our fingerprint appointments. But at least we now have a case number and account numbers so we can follow up on the status of our filing. And I also know that our file has made it to Lee's Summit, MO.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Check Cashed

I am not sure that this really means anything significant. But it shows that it took less than a week for someone at the USCIS to look enough at our paperwork to take our money and cash our check. The check was cashed yesterday. It was for the filing fee of the I-800A plus the biometrics fee for fingerprinting me and P. It's something! Any progress is good progress at this point in time!!
The photo is of the outdoor skating rink in downtown Chicago. I took the photo the last time we were there, several years ago. I am not sure if our paperwork is still in Chicago right now or if it has been transferred to Lee's Summit, MO. But I have never been to Lee's Summit, so a photo of Chicago will do!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Celebrating Where We Are in the Process

Last night, after we put our envelope in the FedEx drop box, we went out to dinner to celebrate! After all, in our approval letter from our agency, it instructed us to use this time to take care of ourselves, and do nice things like enjoy sit-down dinners. Well, we already do that daily. But we don't eat out all that often. So we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant in town.
Que rico!!

More about Filing with the CIS

I just got a courtesy phone call from FedEx letting me know that my package arrived at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services! So, we have officially submitted our I-800A today!

Since the end of September, all I-800A applications need to be mailed to the attention of the USCIS Hague Unit at an address in Chicago. The full name of the application we are filing is "Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child From a Convention Country." Mexico and the United States are both Hague Convention Countries, so we need to follow all of the Hague laws and procedures. The I-800A is the first step in our children's immigration process, so that they will be able to enter the United States legally once they are adopted. With our application, we are seeking permission from the United States Government to adopt 2 siblings from Mexico. This would also allow us to adopt a single child.

The target processing time frame for this application is around 90 days. The applications are checked for completeness initially in Chicago, and then they are forwarded to the National Benefits Center that specializes in Hague cases. I believe it is in Missouri. Before a decision is made on our application, we will get a notice with an appointment to appear at our local USCIS office to get our fingerprints scanned for FBI background checks. After our background checks clear, then our application will be reviewed and a decision will be mailed to us.

We cannot be referred (matched) with children until we receive this permission from the USCIS.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We Are Filing our I-800A!

FedEx just arrived with our approval papers! Yippee!! We are putting it in the envelope with our I-800A Petition paperwork. Tonight it will be on its way to the USCIS!

Our agency sent a very nice letter along with the approval, as well as a certificate. I read parts of it to P over the phone!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our Homestudy is Approved!

I just found out that our agency has signed our approval! Our homestudy is now finalized! Our agency has officially accepted us into the Mexico Program. The paperwork we need is going out to us today. Once we receive it, we can file our petition to get pre-approval with the USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services). We are very excited to officially be PAP's - Prospective Adoptive Parents.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mexico City Airport

We took these photos inside the Mexico City airport when we were there in March. It is quite memorable, isn't it!? You can see all of those round little windows from outside the building, and it looks like a huge block of Swiss Cheese. I kind of like it.

In-Country Stay: UPDATED

The state in Mexico where we plan to adopt prefers that at least one parent stay in Mexico through the entire adoption process after we meet the children. Both parents have to be present for the necessary bonding period of one to three weeks. At least one of us has to be prepared to stay there for three months, but it could be more or less. We just can't know, as any number of things can impact that.

Other states in Mexico prefer the parents to return to their home after they have had an opportunity to bond with the children. Then the parents will wait at home, without their children, until the final adoption decree is scheduled. The parents could be separated from their children for well over six months. Then the parents return to Mexico to finalize everything.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both models. Option one will only work for families that are able to be away from home for many months. But lots of families just cannot do that. P and I are going to struggle to meet this requirement, but it is possible for us, since I do not work outside of the home. P will try to stay as long as possible with us, but there is a chance he'll have to return home for part of the time because of work. If it comes to it, he is going to try to work remotely via Internet. But that may not end up working out. It will be very hard on me if P has to return home, since P is my lifeline. Fortunately, we are blessed that we have a lot of family in Mexico that will make sure I am well attended in the event that P has to leave. But it would be very hard on us. Most importantly, he and the kids would be denied vital bonding time with each other.

The second option would likely turn out to be less expensive, since it is obviously cheaper to live in your own home for many months rather than paying for transportation, hotels, restaurants or a short lease apartment. Some people just cannot be away from their homes for three months if they have children at home in school or if both parents work, etc. But it would be difficult being separated from ones children for many months.

I would not be surprised if there are different possible scenarios that I don't know about in other states.

No matter which route is taken, there is still the matter of having to travel with the children to possibly two other cities after the adoption is finalized to complete all of the necessary paperwork before returning home. At least that is what we are faced with. It could be different depending on which city the adoption takes place in within Mexico. We will have to Mexico City for visits to several different government agencies for very important paperwork. We know there are special procedures to follow when requesting passports for children who will moving out of the country.

After spending around a week in Mexico City, we will possibly have to travel all the way to the border of Texas at Ciudad Juarez in order to get the special American travel visas that are needed for returning home. If this is still the case, it is quite daunting to do all of that traveling after the adoption is finalized. Many children do not handle change well and many children do not travel well. We need to be prepared for a potentially challenging road home!

UPDATE: The US State Department's Information on Adopting in Mexico website has just been changed. The link is on the sidebar. It has the newest information about the adopting in Mexico.

We will continue to research all of this, however, to be absolutely certain of everything. We will keep researching and re-researching. If we get new info, we'll post a new update on this posting.

We have accepted that these are the steps that are necessary to take. So much of this experience is going to depend on our attitude. We need to embrace it as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More about adopting in Mexico

One thing that we are finding out about Mexico is that the very youngest children have a great chance of being adopted domestically (meaning adopted by other Mexicans). Simply put, it is common for Mexicans to adopt babies. The children start losing their opportunities to be matched with families when they are older or part of sibling groups. So, adopting in Mexico is a great fit for us, since we are open to adopting siblings and are open to children older than toddler age.

It can take a long time for children to be cleared for international adoptions because Mexico tries very hard to find homes for them within their country. We think that is commendable. Interestingly, even though P was born and raised in Mexico and is still considered a Mexican Citizen in Mexico, that does not put us at any advantage for being matched with the youngest children, since he resides in the US, not Mexico.

We will be adopting through the DIF in Mexico, which is the governmental agency in charge of child welfare. The administrative and judicial expenses of adopting through the DIF in Mexico are paid for by the Mexican Government. This safeguards against corruption. That doesn't mean that the adoption won't cost anything. There are many expenses, including our American agency fees, travel expenses, cost of living while we are in Mexico, and lots and lots of other things.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Will Happen Next?

The timeline on the sidebar shows some of the steps we have completed thus far. There are many more steps ahead for us.

Since Mexico and the US are both governed by The Hague Convention international adoption laws, some of the steps have to do with complying with that. Actually, those laws only very recently took effect in the US, so not only are we pioneers because we are in a pilot program, but we are also among the first American families to have to comply with the new laws. So there have been lots of surprises!

Anyway, each country is unique in how adoptions are processed, and in Mexico it even varies by state. So, these are the steps that we anticipate in the future months, subject to change at any moment, when we get the latest, newest information!
  • Receive approval to adopt from our Hague Accredited adoption agency
  • Hague Accredited Adoption Agency approves homestudy and writes a cover letter to make the homestudy Hague Compliant
  • File form I-800A with the CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services). This is to get pre-approval from the US Gov't to adopt orphans from another Hague Country
  • Compile documents required by Mexico for our dossier (file)
  • Get all dossier documents apostilled (a very official way to authenticate them by sending them back to the State where they originated to be validated)
  • Get dossier translated into Spanish by certified translator
  • Submit dossier to Mexican government (The DIF) for approval to adopt
  • Once we are approved, we will be put on a waiting list to be referred (matched)
  • We receive referral with background and medical information on the children to review. Then we accept the referral.
  • We have more documents to prepare, another form to file with the CIS, will need to get new FBI background clearances, etc.
  • We travel to Mexico. This is a huge step. We will meet the children and have a bonding period with them where we visit them, supervised, at their orphanage. Within 1 to 3 weeks, we will have legal custody of the children and they will stay with us in our rented apartment. Then the legal proceedings in the courts begin to finalize the adoption. Within about 3 months, the adoption will become final. Then we go to Mexico City to get the children identification/passports with their new last names. Then we must travel to Ciudad Juarez to visit the American Consulate there. The children will be given medical evaluations by an embassy doctor. Then they will be issued very special visas to enter the US legally.
  • We go home! After we arrive home, we will have to formalize the adoption in our home state, get US identifications, social security numbers, etc for them.
  • Our homestudy social worker will visit our home and will write post-placement reports which will be mailed to Mexico.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our adventure begins!

Why Mexico??? The simple answer is that P was born and raised there!

We are in what is called the Paper Chasing phase of international adoption. We started the process in June 2008 and are still gathering all of the documents and obtaining all of the approvals we need from the US before our dossier (file) is submitted to Mexico.

It hasn't been very common for Americans to adopt from Mexico, but we think that will change. We are paving the way, as a part of one of the new pilot programs for adoptions in Mexico, and are excited to begin this adventure!

We keep learning a lot along the way, sometimes the hard way, so we hope to be able to share and document our experiences, as we know there are many people interested in adopting from our precious Mexico. Still, we don't claim to have the answers, as things differ greatly by state within Mexico. Each day we learn something new. But each day also brings us closer to our children.