Serbia is different than Ukraine. First you submit your family profile, and request a child who meets certain criteria. We requested a 10 year old boy with Down syndrome. Not many of those in Serbia who are also eligible for international adoption! In fact, we knew there was only one...Axel. We submitted a family profile on October 11th.
Once your family profile is approved, your dossier is requested for review by the ministry officials. I fedexed our dossier on October 21st.
Once your dossier is approved you're given a travel date. We were given a travel date on November 5th.
Did the fact that you had meet him earlier this year speed up the timeing at all?
What sped up the process for Axel was a few different factors. 1) He is either THE oldest, or one of the oldest children with disabilities who was registered for international adoption. 2) he was at risk of transfer out of the foster home and back into an institution 3) We were paper ready. We had started the US side of the adoption for Ianna. Dean and I had agreed that when our homestudy was ready to submit to USCIS, if Ianna still was not available we would submit for another child. We decided to submit for the most at-risk child who I had previously met, which was Axel.
You were able to have Axel with you early on in your trip, is that the normal process (do you know)? I am not completely sure how it is that I got Axel on the 3rd visit. On the afternoon of my second visit, my facilitator asked if I would feel ready to take him the next day. Ummm YEAH! I was shocked they were allowing me so quickly, and my facilitator was just as surprised. Again, I think there were a couple of factors at play. 1) is the fact that I had met Axel and his social worker back in April. She knew my connections to the DS community. 2) Reading the adoption decree it is noted that our visits went VERY well, and Axel didn't show any signs of distress. I was comfortable with him, and he with me. I was already teaching him signs so it was apparent we would quickly build communication. 3) his social center is is in favor of getting things done quickly as long as the child is safe. 4) I'm very knowlegable about raising a child with Down syndrome and have a 14 year old daughter with DS. This was not new to me. I learned later that the head psychologist from the social center had read not only my blog, but Angela's as well, so she could see the kind of life Angela lives.
However, I did NOT leave the city with him at that point. Axel's social workers made two visits with us at the hotel to see how things were going, and if I had any concerns. I also had our facilitator with us who was watching how our interactions went and reported back to the social worker about how things were going, so I wasn't just turned loose with him. There have only been two other children adopted out of foster care to US families. Usually the family has several visits in the foster home before they're allowed to take custody of the child. My friends who adopted from foster care just the week before I did met him for the first time on 12/15 and were allowed to take him on 12/19, so only one day more. The other family who adopted from foster care, I'm not sure how many visits they had. I bet she'll chime in here though, cuz I know she's reading.
Love to know anything about what you are so happy that you brought with you, wish you had brought with you, wish you hadn't wasted the space to bring it. Along with recomendations on starting communication etc.
I was going to bring a couple cans of ravioli, or something that could easily be warmed up. I wish I had. When I'm completely alone, I'm a little intimidated about going into the stores alone. I need moral support. LOL The store across the street from me the first 2 nights was always PACKED with people and I was too intimidated to be doing the miming thing in a crowded store. I did bring instant Mac and Cheese, and I'm glad I did. That saved me the one night I didn't want to go to the store. It's light, so doesn't add much to the suitcase where the canned ravioli is heavy.
I only brought 2 pr of jeans and 3 sweaters. I brought enough clean underwear for the entire trip, along with socks. If you're staying at an apartment there is usually a washer available to you, but no dryer. I was in a hotel for an apartment 2 days, then a hotel for 9 days and didn't have EITHER available to me. Then I moved to my friend Mary's apartment (and those of you going behind me will be able to stay there as well if Mary is out of town.) And she has a washer AND dryer! (unheard of in Serbia!) I could hardly wait to do my laundry, and it was nice to be able to come home with a suitcase full of clean clothes.
Don't bring shampoo, etc. You can buy those things there.
I keep one clean shirt for me, along with solid deodorant, in my carry on, just in case of extreme layovers. (my friend got trapped in Frankfurt for 24 hours! YIKES!) Traveling home I brought a full set of clean clothes for Axel as well.
They do not have pull-ups in Serbia. If you're getting a child who would need them, bring them with you. I remembered that Axel was not night-time trained, so brought a pack of 15 pull-ups. I carried 2 with us on the plane home, and had him wear one. I was a little worried as to weather or not he'd use the airplane bathroom. He WAS petrified of it, but he DID use it and the pull up remained dry. I finally removed it in Chicago when we only had an hour flight to get home.
I also carry a travel toothbrush with me. Toothpaste is hard to carry now with the recent TSA changes, but even brushing without toothpaste feels better to me than not at all when traveling for 24 hours!
If you can, ask what size clothes your child is wearing so you can bring the right size. Here's a european size conversion chart. However, I was told Axel was a size "10" in Euro sizes. I wondered if this was a "110", which is a size 6 in US sizes. I held up 6's, 7s, and 8s, trying to remember how big he was when I met him in April. I ended up bringing size 8's, and they were HUGE on him. It WAS a "110" (size 6) that he needed. I also was able to bring the right size shoes for him as well.
Learn how to buy water. Look CAREFULLY at the labels, or you'll end up getting charged water (or soda water). If you go into a store or restaurant, ask for "Natural water" or "flat water". Soda water is usually called "Gas water".
I brought LOTS of stuff for Axel to do. I brought construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, small magna doodle, match box cars, and a few dollar store toys, These were more than enough to keep him busy. At each foster home visit I brought out something different. These kids are used to having very little, what I brought was more than enough to keep him busy.
Skype. Make sure you have skype loaded on your computer. Put a few dollars into your skype account so you can make phone calls too. Skype calls are CHEAP (like .02 per minute!) and it was well worth it to be able to call Dean's cell while he was in his car for work. I was able to call my bank, and other people in the US. It really helped pass the time!
Install a world clock app on your i-stuff. I put it on my iPad and this served as my alarm clock as well. I left my computer clock on the time at home so I knew what time it was there without having to count on my fingers. LOL
Communication: I was an ASL interpreter for over 20 years. Most parents are not able to do this, however I started signing...everything... IMMEDIATELY. Having a manual method of communication is a good bridge while you're learning to understand each other. Once I had custody of Axel I signed everything I said to him. Learn as much sign as you can before you go.
Also, learn some key words and phrases in your child's language, such as "No", "Yes", "toilet" (or bathroom, or however a child might indicate they need to go.) Those are the only things I knew, but I wished I'd learned more. Still, Axel was very quick to start understanding me.
Pictures are a good thing to bring along too. I brought along this talking photo album, and recorded some phrases ahead of time. I had pictures of his bed, new coat, Papa, Angela, etc. You can record your own voice, or have your translator or someone record the phrases you want in the local language. This was very helpful to us, but I didn't even realize HOW helpful until we got home and Axel recognized his own bed. :-)
I'm sure I'll think of more things to add to this list. LOL