Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Individual Interview #1

Well, a couple weeks has passed and things continue to progress on the adoption front, though of course not as quickly as we wish. I know we won't be ready to go until Theresa is done with her school next September but that doesn't make me any less impatient. Like always, I want stuff done yesterday.

Anyhow, I had my individual interview with our social worker last Friday. The questions were much more in depth than in the first sit-down that Theresa and I had several weeks ago. Basically, we started from the beginning of my life and came all the way to the present day. I guess it was the stuff that you would expect her to ask of me in order to find out if I would be a suitable parent. She wanted to know about my parents, how it was being raised in my family, what my relationship was like with each parents growing up, what it is like now, who did the discipling, how the discipline was handled, what my relationships were like with my brothers both then and now, etc, etc, etc. We also talked about several of the issues that shaped my life during my teenage years and how those times have influenced who I am to this day. Then, of course, we talked at length about my relationship with Theresa, how it started, what attracted me to her, what I thought her strengths and weaknesses were, how we work through issues in our marriage, yada, yada, yada. I actually enjoyed the interview in the sense that it really made me think about some of those issues from my past that I probably never really realized had shaped me as much as they have. Maybe the field of social work isn't quite as "touchy/feely", feel-good as I thought. It was amazing how she was able to read what I had previously written and listen to the things I said and really put things into words that I hadn't been exactly able to come up with previously. Then again, maybe it was her 20-some years of experience in listening to people just like me and perhaps my life isn't quite as far out there as I sometimes think it is! :)

For those keeping score, I failed miserably in my task to get our paper work filled out and turned in. I had done absolutely none of it. However, after feeling bad about myself, I sat down for several hours this past weekend and did nearly all of the paper work. I think I signed and initialed more papers than I did for my mortgage. My hand was quite sore by the end of it all. A quick trip to Champaign this week allowed me to hit-up a free notary (thanks, Deb!) so most of the paper work is ready to go. Theresa just has to fill out a couple of her forms and we should be good to go. Those forms don't include two of the major federal forms for the USCIS, the I-600 and I-600A, which will be completed closer towards the end of our homestudy process to ensure they don't expire before our little girl comes home. We also don't have our medical physicals done yet either. South Korea has a weight requirement that says all prospective adoptive parents must be no more than 30% over their ridicuously low average weight for your height. They must be using gymnists and marathon runners to get their average weights because I can't believe that the "average" male at 6' 3" shoud be 188 pounds. Anyhow, I've got a bit of weight to lose before I'm within their guidelines so there is no sense in rushing into my physical yet. I think if I managed to go the entire month of January without a Diet Coke, I should be able to knock off these few pounds that I need to lose, right? Right!

Anyway, that's it for me. Next up is Theresa's interview, which I think it coming up later this week or sometime next week. I'm sure she'll get the same type of interegation that I got and then it will be another joint interview at the adoption office. The final interview then will be at our home. I'm not sure about the timeline for these last two meetings but I assume they will be within the next month or so. I can't say that I have much free-time for the next 4-6 weeks but I'm sure we'll find some time.

Thanks for reading along and for all the prayers. God bless!!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

We met our SW and have a giant stack of papers

I'm sorry it's been so long since we've updated the blog. I guess we're not off to a great start but I promise we will do better. There really hasn't been a whole lot of news to update recently. One of the great aspects of a South Korean adoption is that we are not required to gather documents into a formal dossier to be sent to Korea. Instead, once a couple fills out the formal application for adoption, you are immediately placed on the waiting list and the clock starts ticking. Because of this, we are able to take our time with paperwork and do everything at a bit more leisurely pace. This is different than many counties (e.g. China) where you have to gather, complete, sign, notarize, and ship dozens of formal documents from your adoption agency, your state government, the countless federal agencies to the adoption country before you ever get put on "the list." (Our case was a bit different because we just needed to tell them that we were ready to restart the process. They back-dated our time on the list to when we first re-initiated contact with the agency, which was sometime in mid-February.) That isn't to say that we don't still have a mountain of paperwork that has to be filled out. We can just take our time doing it.

Anyway, so what's been going on with our process? Well, we had our first meeting with our case worker on April 9. It was our first time to meet her and both of us enjoyed our time with her. The meeting covered about what you would expect for an initial meeting. We spent quite a bit of time going over all the basics of the Korean adoption, which we had mostly remembered from the process two years ago. We were particularly pleased to learn that we would, in fact, be able to request a girl because we already have a boy in the home. We thought that would be the case but it is always good to get that confirmation. We also went over all the stuff like the fees, the wait time, and all the training that would be required of us before the referral. It turns out that we do not have to go through the full-day training course that we did a few years ago because that certificate is still valid. However, we are still required to do about 4 or 5 online training courses. I don't know anything about those courses or how long they take but I'll be sure to update as we go through them. We also got a giant pile of papers that we have to compelte. Because Korean adoptions are finalized in the US six months after the child comes here, we are required to have a foster-child license from the IL Depart. of Children and Family Services. That alone requires a bunch of paper work. Then we have forms for the agency, doctor's forms, background checks, fingerprinting applications, and a house exacuation plan. That doesn't even include the federal immingration forms that we will fill out later (with a hefty check, I might add...) I'm supposed to have a good chunk of them filled out by the time I go for my individual interview in a few weeks. We'll see if that actually happens.

Once those formalities got out of the way, we got down to a little business about Theresa and me. Most of the stuff we discussed was pretty easy - how did we meet, what do we enjoy most about being parents, why do we want to adopt, why adopt internationally, how do our families feel about adoption, so on and so forth. I imagine that most of the heavy questioning will come during our individual interviews that will take place over the next couple weeks.

That's a pretty quick summary of where we are at this point. The social worker feels that our wait for a girl will probably be somewhere in the 18-month range for the referral and travel will happen 4-5 months after that. That's pretty much what we had assumed so as it stands now, I hope we'll have a referral by Thanksgiving 2010 and be traveling sometime in Spring 2011. Those dates seem so far away but somehow, the calendar already says 2009. How did that happen? It sure would be nice to have her home for Christmas next year........

Happy Easter and God Bless!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

And we're off... again...

So here we are...

Theresa and I are once again starting the process of adopting a child from South Korea after taking a couple years away when we discovered that we were pregnant with our little miracle boy, Jackson. This is a journey that we have both wanted to take since before we were married and we are excited to start the process again. At this time, we are anticipating a wait of approximately 18 months for a referral of a Korean girl and will likely travel 4-6 months following the referral. Because we already have a son, our agency allows us to specify that we would prefer to adopt a girl. This selection has become exceedingly rare and we are lucky that our agency still gives us that option. However, specifying a girl will greatly increase our wait time for a referral. That's fine by us, though, because Theresa won't be done with her school until August 2010.

We originally started the process in January 2007 but had to put the adoption on hold in April of that year because we found out that Theresa was pregnant after nearly 4 years of trying. We were obviously very excited but given that we had had several miscarriages before that time, we waited until we were "certain" that the pregnancy was viable and finally put our adoption on hold when we reached about the 10-week mark of the pregnancy.

Before putting the adoption on hold, we had already gone through several milestones during the preliminary stages of the process. Most importantly, and by FAR the most time-consuming, was the actually adoption application that we completed. Filling out the 4 pages of lines and boxes that our agency supplied us was the easy part. The much more difficult portion of the application was the self-study essay that we were required to complete (I assume all agencies make adoptive parents do this sort of thing). Basically, the agency asked us to describe our lives from birth to the present day. They were interested in knowing about childhood, our families while growing up, the house we grew up in, what interests we had growing up, how we did in school, how are parents raised us, etc, etc, etc. Basically, they wanted us to tell them everything we could about our lives to that point. Then they wanted to know our philosophies on things like parenting and education. How did religion factor into our lives? How did our extended family feel about our decision to adopt - specifically how did they feel about an international adoption. Was there any significant medical history in our families - both physical and mental health issues? Then, once we were done spilling our guts about ourselves individually, we had a whole other section to write about us as a couple. How did we meet? How do we interact with each other? How did we come to adopt? How will we handle discipline? How do we resolve conflict between us? What do we enjoy doing in our "spare" time (seems odd that we actually used to have spare time). So on and so forth. Obviously, it was a LOT of writing and involved a lot of soul searching. In reality, though, the essay is as detailed as you wish to make it. In the end, we probably each ended up writing WAY too much but I actually found it interesting to go back through my memories and dig up some of those past experiences that I had buried away so many years ago. I think when all was said and done, our total essay about 25 pages. Each of our individual sections was about 10 pages and the joint section was about 5 pages. Our social worker made it clear from the beginning that this was not an official document that would be shipped to Korea and was not going to be part of any permanent record. This is simply a document for the SW to read as a way to become more familiar with you before getting into the formal home study process.

Besides the formal application, which took a couple weeks to complete, we also applied for (and received) our US Passports, submitted finger prints to the FBI for a background records check, and completed formal paperwork for the State of Illinois DCFS to become Foster Home licensed. (The foster home license is a requirement of the State of Illinois and is just a formality more than anything else. Because a Korean adoption in not finalized in Korea, the child is technically a foster child between the time you bring them home and the time the adoption is finalized six months later. The State knows that we are "adoption only" foster applicants and are not going to send us foster children at any given time for temporary care.)

One of the last things we did before suspending our adoption was to attend a day-long training session for adoptive parents. Such training is required by agencies at all levels of government, including the State of Illinois, the USCIS, and the South Korean government. It was a long day but I found it to be quite interesting. Many issues were raised that I had not previously thought of, and it was a good opportunity for us to meet with other people who had been through the adoption process.

So that's a kind-of quick synopsis of where we have been. We have just recently asked that our file be reopened and I believe that as of this morning we are back on the waiting list. We antipicate that it will likely be 18 months before a referral and another 4-6 after that before we travel to South Korea to pick up our new child.

We look forward to the journey and keeping everyone posted!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our journey is set to begin again

Dear family and friends,

As many of you know, Theresa and I were in the process of an international adoption exactly 2 years ago when we found out that our little miracle, Jackson, was on his way. We had wanted to do an international adoption at some point but didn't realize that it was going to happen so soon. After 3+ years of trying to have a child on our own, we were both tired and emotionally beaten down. We figured it was time to take a break from the the pregnancy stuff and do the adoption thing. Of course, we had heard the stories of other people who tried for so long to get pregnant, only to get pregnant shortly after starting an adoption. We never imagined that would be us. However, lo and behold, we turned out to be one of those couples as well! We are so grateful everyday for Jackson and he brings more love into our lives than we ever dreamed possible.

Even with Jackson in our lives, we knew we still wanted to do an international adoption at some point. We have had many long discussions about when would be the best time for us to proceed on this journey and have come to realize that now is the best time for us. Both of us were hoping that we would be able to adopt a little girl from Korea but very few agencies are allowing couples to specify the gender of the child anymore. Luckily, the agency that we are working with still allows couples with a boy in the house to specify that they would like to receive a girl. Should we have decided to wait to adopt after trying to have another natural child, this option may not have been available to us. Of course we would welcome and cherish a little boy as well but given the option, we would prefer to have a girl.

We also believe that from a timing standpoint, this is the perfect time for us to begin the adoption process again. At this time, we are estimating that the time to referral (when we are actually matched up with a child) will be approximately 18 months. We would then travel to South Korea 4-6 months after accepting a referral to be united with the child. If all goes well, we hope to receive our referral shortly after Theresa completes her schooling in August 2010.

This is a very exciting process and one that we dearly look forward to. It will be a long and emotional journey, one filled with many highs and lows, long waiting periods, and chances for bureaucratic nightmares with every submitted piece of paper. Though we don't yet know when this journey will end, we do know this journey will eventually lead us to the other side of the world to a child that has not yet even been conceived. We greatly anticipate the day when we can welcome that new child into our family and share her moments with all of our family and friends.

We hope that you will support us through our journey and keep us in your prayers as we go forward in this process. We will do our best to keep this blog updated with all of our adoption related news and invite you to follow along with us and we go forth on our adoption journey.

May God bless you and your family,

Paul & Theresa