Join Angela, Axel, Abel and Asher as they welcome their new sibling home.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wanna know what I'm doing tonight?

Tonight I'm filling out my I-600A!!!

For those who are familiar with this form, you understand why I'm excited!

But I have many readers who are not familiar with adoption. The I-600A is a significant step in the international adoption process! Once the homestudy is complete it, along with this form and a check for $890, is sent to the US Department of Homeland Security Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is the petition to adopt a child from a foreign, non-Hague country.

Once the petition is received in the USCIS office, an immigration officer is assigned who will review the homestudy then either a) request further information or b) issue an appointment for fingerprints. This appointment is usually about 2 weeks out. Fortunately our nearest immigration office allows for walk-in appointments as long as you bring your appointment notice with you.

After USCIS receives our fingerprints it takes around two weeks to receive paper approval. This paper is called the I-171H, and is THE golden ticket that allows us to travel to bring B home!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Adopting an Older Child

Most of the people I know who are adopting kids with Down syndrome via international adoption prefer to adopt younger kids; those under 3 or 4 years old. I know a few who have adopted a little bit older, like 5 or 6 years old. Those who adopt kids older than that are in the minority. Most people won't even consider the older kids because they've been in institutional care longer - meaning more damage done. I have to laugh, because Dean and I have never even considered adopting a younger child! We're too old for infants and toddlers so older kids seemed perfect for us.

Let me tell you our experiences with adoption thus far:

When we adopted Axel he was 10 years 4 months old. He had spent his first 8 1/2 years in institutional care, in some of the worst facilitates in Serbia. How he survived those places is beyond me! The last 18 months prior to adoption he was in a foster home with experienced foster parents. Because they had him for those months, they went through what was probably the worst of his de-institutionalization. I know they worked very hard because when he came to us he had a lot of really good skills, like making a bed, dressing himself and things like that. The behavior management was left up to us. ;-) I won't sugar coat things. Axel's behavior when I first took custody of him was beyond difficult. He was, for lack of a better term, a feral child. I was very surprised! When visiting the foster home he was really quite well behaved the first day. The second day he pulled me hair, then looked around to see if anyone noticed. The third day when his family member was getting him dressed to go with me he was laughing hysterically while kicking her in the face and pulling her hair. I figured it was just stress induced. (At the time I had no idea he didn't understand the language spoken in their home so he didn't understand they were telling him he was going with me.) That first day with him was rough. Lucky for me at 10 years old he was the size of a typical 4 year old so he was easier to manage.

By the time 10 days had flown by and it was time to fly home with him, Axel's behavior had improved dramatically. Still, I knew Dean would have to start from scratch with him, but for me Axel was great.

Axel has been home for 26 months now. He's doing FANTASTIC! While his behavior at school took awhile to sort out, at home he's been great for a very long time. He plays appropriately most of the time and has developmentally appropriate responses to things. When we got him he was developmentally around 2-3 years old with language that was more like a 12-14 month old. Now he is developmentally more like a 5-6 year old with receptive language around 4 1/2 years old. (Which is a HUGE gain in 2 years!) Although he is technically in 5th grade, he goes to mainstream classes with 2nd graders which is where he is physically. His phy ed. teacher says he fits right into what they're doing in reg. phy ed. class, which is wonderful!!

Axel is just an awesome kid, and a joy to be around. I wish everyone could have a kid just like Axel!
Axel the first time I met him in March 2010 age 9 1/2.

Axel today, age 12 1/2

And then there is Asher. We adopted Asher one month after he turned 7.

The first time I met him I was shocked. I'm not sure why because I'd gotten his height and weight before I traveled. He was 31lbs and 40.6 inches tall. That is the size of a typical 3 year old. But when I saw him in person for the first time, he seemed to be so much of a baby. His walk was that of a brand new walker: unstable, with his hands held in "high guard" position at all times. He ate independently but only apple sauce consistency foods. He had no clue about stairs. He didn't make a sound. Developmentally he was like a walking 6 month old.

Dean and I weren't prepared for an infant or toddler. We had planned on a 7 year old with DS, so significant delays plus throw in some institutional stuff. When Asher and I first arrived home, he turned our little world upside down. Suddenly there was this little person who needed SO MUCH 1:1 care. Don't get me wrong, we didn't have a problem providing it, we just weren't prepared for it.

Even with all the care he needed, Asher was, and still is, a pretty easy kid! Well, as easy as a 2 year old can be because developmentally that's where he's at. Two years progress in just one year is amazing if you ask me!
Asher, age 7, the day I met him November 2011, 31 lbs and 40 inches tall.

Asher today, age 8, 46 inches and 48 lbs. 

Watching the rapid growth and development that happens when you bring an older child home is probably one of the most awesome things I've ever had the opportunity to witness. Every day I thank God for allowing us this opportunity. We enjoy it so much that we're willing to do it one more time! Our new son is 9 years old. We don't know when he turns 10. He has been in institutional care his entire life. I don't yet know how big he is (I'll ask closer to travel time when I need to get him clothes). I know a little about where he's at developmentally, but really, everything is going to be a surprise this time!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dare I say it?

The paperwork is done! Everything is signed. The only thing left for me to do is pick up Dean's medical statement.

The next step is a home visit with the social worker which should be sometime next week. Once the Adam Walsh clearance comes back (I hear they're taking as long as 4 weeks right now. Anyone know?) we'll have the homestudy in our hands.

Once we have our homestudy in our hands, our dossier - aka "the paper baby" - will be sent to the translator in Serbia. I'm hoping it will only take a week or so to translate. While this is happening another copy of our homestudy will be sent to USCIS for approval. That process is currently running 4-6 weeks, which puts us to about mid-March. As soon as we have  USCIS approval we can set a travel date!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Document gathering complete!

We have influenza raging in our household, All the sick people are doing nothing but laying on the couch sleeping (or talking deliriously in the case of Axel who thinks he's speaking English but he's NOT and we can't understand anything he's saying!)  Since nobody is moving very fast, and Asher and I are the only ones not sick, I took the opportunity to finally get the necessary documents we needed!

Today I:

Dropped off medical forms for the kids at pediatrician's office
Picked up medication for Axel
Stopped at the police station to request local background check
Went to doctor's office for my physical
Back to police station to pick up local background check
Went to BCA to pick up state background check
Stopped at work to pick up proof of employment
Went back to doctor's office to pick up medical statement
Back to Peds office to pick up kids' medical statements
Gathered all financial documents
Gathered asset documents

Guess what? DONE! All our document gathering is done.

My plan was to drop everything off at the Homestudy agency office on Friday, then our homestudy can be completed and I can get it in the mail to USCIS!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

hang on little boy

hang on little boy
your mama is coming.
soon the nights
of comforting yourself
to sleep
will end.

hang on little boy
your mama is coming.
soon your night time thirst
will be quenched by a glass
of cool water
whenever you want.

hang on little boy
your mama is coming.
never again
will you go to bed
a bedtime snack.

hang on little boy
your mama is coming.
she will chase away
all the monsters
you fear
in the night.

hang on little boy
your mama is coming.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This is me

This is me and adoption paperwork.

I got by really easy with Asher. I had our original homestudy for Axel approved for more than one child. All but a couple of my documents were still good, the homestudy was super easy to update (because my documents were still current) and USCIS was still good for another 6 months. Easy Peasy!

I hate starting over. Blech! This was my week to crank out a lot of stuff but instead we've been dealing with sick kids and miscellaneous other stuff. I've gotten nothing done that I wanted to. 

It will get done eventually, but I need to do it quickly to travel when we're hoping to. Adoption is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Money talk

You may have noticed I've been messing with the numbers in the list of B's adoption expenses. The thing that went up the most was airfare.

For both Axel and Asher's adoptions I traveled alone, so the airfare was significantly less. This time Dean is traveling with me for the first half of the trip. This will be our last adoption and he needs to be there! To get to lay eyes on his new son and see where he's been living is a part of the process Dean has missed out on but something he needs to experience. Also, Axel is coming along! There are a couple different reasons for Axel to go. First, if there are going to be any problems while I'm gone, it's going to be with Axel. LOL When I traveled for Asher's adoption, Dean ended up having to pull Axel out of school for a week because he was so naughty. The second reason is one that requires much prayer, planning and discussion, but importantly PRAYER. I will be traveling home alone with both boys. Lucky for me Axel is very easy to travel with and I'm sure he will be quite helpful in getting B home. Please Lord let "B" be as easy as Axel!

I have also added a couple of gadgets to the blog. On the left sidebar is a thermometer so you can see where we're at overall. I know when we started our first adoption I found it helpful to see how other families were "getting there". Also, I just like visuals. LOL

On the right sidebar I've added a chip-in button. I *think* that is all we will need to fundraise for this adoption. (Please Lord, let me be right this time!) I'm hoping to have a fundraiser coming up soon, I'm just waiting to hear that the item is completed.

There is always a question of having a money cushion. Remember the volcano??? Not only do volcanos happen, but if you're supposed to be flying they are very damaging financially. And also they might cause a person to freak out.

Well, we know "B" will be home before we know it. I can hardly wait!

Friday, January 4, 2013

You know you're adopting when....

This is probably post number 27 in what should just be an ongoing series. It seems, once families start the adoption process, stuff happens. Most of the time it's stuff that affects the much guarded adoption budget!

When we started Axel's adoption, it seems as soon as we sent our dossier to Serbia the engine in my SUV seized up while I was driving down the road. We needed to purchase another car.

When we started Asher's adoption appliances started to die. The refrigerator died just a couple weeks after we got home. In fact, from September 2011 to March 2012 we replaced every appliance in the house.

So here we go again. I was excited for today. I was going to bring a big check to our homestudy agency so we can get that process done and over with. First I needed to get the kids out the door. Angela left first, then Axel. I went down to talk to Axel's bus driver because there have been some...ahem...issues on the bus that needed to be dealt with.

I went back to the house to take a shower while Asher watched Sesame street. (Ok, really the TV is on so he CAN watch Sesame Street, but what he really does is constantly stick his hand into the shower to touch the water spray. ) Got out of the and switched loads of laundry around. When we went back upstairs there was a text on my phone...sigh...I needed to pay a visit to Axel's school, which meant not putting Asher on the bus but dropping him off later instead.

We got to school and made our way to Axel's classroom. While Asher flirted with Axel's teacher, Axel and I had a bit of a discussion about behavior on the bus. Then it was back to the van to get Asher at school. I strapped Asher in then turned on the ignition.

Click click.

OMG no not today.

click click.

Dollar signs started flashing before my eyes. I have EXACTLY the amount I need for the homestudy and the household bills.

Click click.

Dear Lord. Pretty pretty pretty please make this an easy fix.

Click click.

I'm glad I chose to add the roadside assistance option to my auto insurance plan. They were there within a few minutes. They guy said something about needing a new battery, and I replied with something about this being the wrong day for that. He asked why and I explained. He laughed and said, "You know, when you're going the direction the Lord wants you to go, the Devil will do whatever he can to make you trip and fall."

My van back on the road, I dropped Asher off at school then went to the auto supply place to get a new battery. The sales guy was kind enough to put it in for me, asking about my day and where I was headed. I told him of our adoptions and our hope to get our new son home this spring. "Ah, the Devil has thrown a speed bump into your day. I'll pray he leaves you alone the rest of the day."

The homestudy agency has shortened hours on Fridays, and I made it just before they closed. Sadly I learned that the social worker who does our home studies has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be having surgery next week. Please pray for her and her family!

So today's "speed bump" only cost $100 but I know, almost to the penny, how much is needed along the way. I know just how big those speed bumps can get as we move closer to bringing our son home. They always seem to get bigger....and more expensive. We're at the point in the game where I'm starting to obsess about money, constantly recalculating how much each step will cost, watching airfare and currency exchange rates, planning what week various steps need to be completed in order to travel when we're hoping to.

Here's to hoping any additional bumps don't do too much damage!