Monday, October 22, 2007

Homestudy Complete but NOT Approved

Everyday I learn that terminology means everything. Yesterday I was so excited at crossing the approved homestudy hurdle. Today I found out that having a favorable approval of the homestudy does not an approval make. In Illinois my HS now has to be sent to DCFS for state APPROVAL. I hear that it will take them 3-4 weeks and that I should expect they will want some things changed, corrected, or revised. Next it goes to my HS agency's headquarters in Maryland for approval (let's call this sign-off) before it is sent to my placement agency. Approved? Nope. I hear that then it will have to be rewritten to comport with the placement agency's guidelines; changed, corrected, and revised. So, who knows maybe by Christmas it will be APPROVED!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Homestudy Complete and Approve

Yesterday my homestudy was completed and approved. I got a chance to read over and verify all the information. Now it has to go to the placement agency for review and in Illinois it also has to go to the State DCFS for approval. It feels good to be done with that. The two things that have caused the biggest trouble have been the insurance affidavit and the CPA letter -- challenges of being self-employed.

The Insurance Affidavit - I'm self-employed with independent individual coverage that is not expandable to anyone else. On my search for another policy, I learned that no one is interested in making it easy for you. The second question they ask is, "are you adopting?" If you answer yes, you are immediately disqualified from application. I was told by my placement agency that it is illegal to ask the question but they ask and it is also at the top of the insurance forms that you fill out. The good thing is that I found this online insurance finder that helped me compare different plans online. Health Benefits Direct

The CPA Letter - It seems that if you are self-employed and can show consistent income through payment advices from clients, signed binding contracts that include the amount and payment terms; corresponding bank deposits into a business account, a business license, and tax transcripts directly from the IRS, that is not enough to prove that you are self-employed or have an income. They require a CPA letter to attest to the fact that you are now, have been, and will continue to earn self-employed income. CPA's may have mighty pens but they don't have crystal balls. The problem is that professional accounting organizations strongly advise CPA's from writing any letters of attestation and they don't want to write them. Suggestions? Any CPA's with a strong calling to support the cause, please let me know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Famous, Ethiopian, & Adopted

Marcus Samuellson is a famous Chef and was featured in an article at Tadias Online Magazine. I was familiar with him, but did not know until reading this article that he was not only Ethiopian but adopted and raised in Sweden.

In several conversations I've said that I don't believe my (adopted Ethiopian) children will be either Ethiopian or American but find themselves somewhere in between. They will always be Ethiopian by birth but their socialization will come from being raised in the US. As they grow older they will have to decide how they want to be identified. Finding ourselves is not unique to children of adoption nor to children who grow up in different places.

Samuellson describes it this way...

“The difference between an immigrant and an adopted kid, is that when you are an immigrant you are more clear on your identity; you are Ethiopian. When you are adopted you are stripped a little bit of one identity, and when you grow up you sort of go back to that identity.” “

He compares his upper middle class Swedish upbringing with that of his childhood friend Mesfin’s, who lived in close proximity to Stockholm’s ‘Little Ethiopia’ neighborhood. “What my friend Mesfin had was a community that I wasn’t familiar with. He was exposed to Ethiopian music, language, identity and customs.” Read the whole article on Tadias Magazine Online

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Idea of Adoption

It's funny how ideas come into your consciousness. We may remember the moment that the idea arrived but are often unaware of what brought it to the surface. I can remember first thinking about adoption between the ages of 13-14. Like most little girls I dreamed about my wedding in full detail and color and also about the family that I would have. I wanted SIX children! I was sure it would be two boys and two girls, probably a set of twins and two of the children would be adopted. From a young age, I connected with the sadness that I saw in the eyes of some children and had a deep understanding of their need to be loved unconditionally.

Well, many years past eighth grade I am single, 41, and have no children. While the time has past for me to work on my four naturally born children, I have decided to adopt two.

That's right; I've decided to jump head first into parenthood and am on the road to finding my two special gifts that God has placed in this world. Today without even knowing her, I bless their mother for nurturing them in her womb. I bless her for giving them life so that I might have the opportunity to love them for a lifetime.

10 Questions About My Adoption

Since I've started down this path everyone has been so supportive. There are questions that keep coming up so I thought I try to answer the top 10 questions here. If you have other questions, let me know.

  1. Do you know the kids?

    No. I am doing private adoption and the process is a blind process for the most part. You have to meet the state and agency requirements, complete a great deal of paperwork, receive final agency approval and then you are given a referral. A referral is basically the identification and presentation of the children on paper. I will receive pictures, their names, their ages, their medical, family, and social history. By the time that I receive the referral the kids are only weeks from coming home.

  2. Do you want boys or girls?

    As I mentioned above the process is blind until just before the adoption is finalized. While some agencies allow you to specify I chose an agency that wants both boys and girls to have an equal chance of being adopted and does not support you choosing by sex. I would love to have a boy and a girl but I'm trying to look at it like a natural birth; you get the child(ren) that is meant for you.

  3. How old will the children be?

    My target ages for the two children are over 2 and under 6.

  4. Where are the kids coming from?

    My children are coming to me by way of Ethiopia. I am working with an agency called Wide Horizons for Children that have an orphanage called Horizon House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The children will live at Horizon House before coming to the states. (see pictures)

  5. Do you have to travel to pick them up?

    Unlike other inter-country programs you do not have to travel and their is no residency requirement. I will be making two trips to Ethiopia. The first trip will be immediately after referral so that I can go and see them. I will return 8-12 weeks later to bring them home.

    I can't wait to go! Anybody else want to come?

  6. Will the kids be U.S. citizens?

    Yes. The kids will come into the country as U.S. citizens. That is why I'm making two trips. Illinois is the only state that has a requirement that if you will not see the children before the adoption is final, you have to first become licensed as a foster care provider. I could not psychologically or emotionally wrap my mind around the thought of working this hard to get them here and then bringing them into my home as foster placements.

    So, I've decided to go to country twice. By going to Ethiopia before the adoption is final, my children will get IR3-Visas without that extra step, the children inter the country on IR4-Visas. With an IR4 Visa must states (Illinois) require you to readopt the children in your home state.

    An IR-3 in most cases makes re-adoption unnecessary, although it varies by state. With an IR-3 Visa, children are immediately U.S. citizens, automatically get a Certificate of Citizenship and they also can get a regular SS number, instead of an alien number.

  7. Why Ethiopia?

    The most direct answer is that somehow I was called to that place. I will write more on this in a separate post.

    I began the process looking at domestic adoption. Many evening I would go through pictures of waiting children from across the entire United States, currently in the DCFS system. I learned several things: 1) There a very few children in my target age group 2-5 that are not are not part of a large sibling group or do not have medical issues. 2) Of those few, DCFS has very specific guidelines on the type of home that the children should be in and many specify two parents, a need to live close to other siblings or relatives, and a willingness to keep those contacts alive. 3) The children are placed as foster care children (I would have to become a foster care provider) and many of them have not had their parental right terminated. So, you could have them only to watch them later returned to their parents. 4) The process could take up to 24 months to become final and there is no guarantee that you actually end up with the children.

  8. How long does the process take?

    The process varies based upon the age of children that you want and the agency that you choose. I look at the process in four distinct parts (there is some overlap). I am in my second month of the process. I am hoping that all of my paperwork will be complete by the end of November. I hope to have immigration approval by December 2007, a referral by May or June, and the kids home by August 2008. That would be 11 months total.

    To learn specifics about the process see:
    Adoption-How Long Is Too Long?

  9. Are the children healthy?

    You have an option to request healthy or a child with special needs. I have requested a healthy child. Any parent knows that even with an identified healthy child their may be some things that come up down the line. It is recommended that you take the medical records that you receive with the referral to an international doctor for review. I have identified an International Pediatric Clinic associated with the University of Chicago. They will review the records and then examine and assess the children once they make it to Chicago.

  10. Is it expensive?

    Yes. That is the short answer to a question that is relative based upon the size of your bank account or heart. It depends on your agency, the children, and the travel. The cost range somewhere between $18,000 - $25,000++. That of course does not include the costs of starting from scratch with two little ones that will come only with the clothes on their back.

    I am setting up a couple of online fundraisers to help defray some of the costs. I am also considering setting up a wish list for things that I think we might need in those first few months.

From Here to Ethiopia

It is a long way from here to Ethiopia, 7,500 miles give or take. So, how I found my way to this country was more by leading than searching. In another post I mentioned that I would spend many evenings looking through the many websites of waiting children here in the US. I would get so sad looking at the pictures thinking about what circumstances might have brought them to that place. I would scour the pages looking for some hint of familiarity in them, just one child that jumped from the page into my heart. I've watched and read a lot about adoption stories and have heard the adoptive parents describe the moment of knowing that they were looking at their child.

One late night, a little less than a year ago, I'd look at the same page of waiting children again I noticed a button for international adoption. There was a link for Ethiopia and from the moment that I hit that button my entire life opened up. I knew what my path would be. I knew that my child (I hadn't worked my way up to two just yet) was there. But how do you get from here to Ethiopia? I had no clue, I just knew that something in me drew me closer and closer until the miles seemed insignificant until thinking of Ethiopia as a far off country on a different continent was irrelevant. I wasn't sure how to get there; I just knew that I needed to go.

I knew that something was waiting for me there in Ethiopia, something greater than the birthplace of the children that I'd someday call my own. I read the stories of humanitarian efforts. I read about the how the US agencies had set up orphanages, of their commitment and care for the children. After reading about the 6 million children alone without parents, the war, the famine, and the poor life expectancy of innocent children, I looked at the pictures.

I looked at their faces and I looked into their eyes and I saw myself looking back at me. Even in their circumstance their eyes were bright and full of hope. There was an instant familiarity. There was a connection that was strong. There was a desire that was born that will not rest until I am able to truly find my way there.

Matthew 6:22 - The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Adoption-How Long Is Too Long?

It takes nine months to carry a baby to term and it can take that much time or longer to complete the adoption process. Depending on your agency and how long it takes for you to prepare paperwork the process could take 5-18 months.

I look at the process as four distinct phases. A lot of the documentation that is needed for each phase is the same and the phases can overlap. I'm actually adding a fifth step to the front of the process -- selecting an agency.

Once you have decided to adopt you quickly learn that their are a list of agencies approved or licensed in Ethiopia. A few short months ago when I started I believe that there were only 8 agencies and now that list has grown to about 15. With that many agencies it may take you awhile to sort through them and find out what you want.

AGENCY SELECTION PART 1 - PLACEMENT: You need to select a placement agency. Identify the agencies and select the agency that fits your needs. You will find that no only are the prices different but the have different rules, and requirements as well. This could take you 1-2 months of careful analysis. Is the agency in your home state? If not make sure that you get a list of approved agencies that the placement agency will work with.

AGENCY SELECTION PART 2 - HOMESTUDY: If you choose an agency that is not in your home state you will also have to select a homestudy agency that is licensed in your state. The homestudy agency has to meet the placement agencies requirements. This could take another 4-6 weeks. I think that a good strategy is to look at placement and homestudy agencies at the same time.

There is a process that is conducted by your home state called the homestudy. The process requires you to go through a screening, home visitation by a social worker, and the collection of documents and a written approved report.
This can take about 1-3 months.

PLACEMENT AGENCY: The placement agency is actually the Ethiopia contact agency, the identify the children, initiate the adoption, and make the placement. This takes approximately 2-4 months of gathering paper work that has to be completed and approved and waiting for the approved homestudy report.

US IMMIGRATION: After you have documented everything that you think is possible about your life you get to collect more documentation and submit it to the US Department of Immigration. You need to have an I600 (Orphan Petition) approved by immigration before you are considered paper ready and are eligible to receive a referral or bring a child into the country. This process can take 3-4 months.

ETHIOPIA ADOPTION & TRAVEL: All paperwork goes to Ethiopia and they begin the adoption process in the Ethiopian courts. There is a representative in Ethiopia handling that process on your behalf. Once the adoption is final you receive a US Embassy court date. Once you have the date, you plan your travel to be at the Embassy on that date. At the embassy you take more documents, get final approval to bring the children into the country, you complete their paperwork, and then fly back home. You may wait 2-3 months after referral to be notified about the court date. The court date may be 2 -12 weeks away. You make your travel plans go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, pick up the children, and return home.

Meet The Children of Ethiopia

Pictures from Ethiopia

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are thousands of pictures from a variety of sites.

Wide Horizon for Children, Inc. -

All God's Children Adoption Agency.
  • Watch this compelling video Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the video.

Hundreds of pictures from Sprague Photo -
ASMAT - Photo slideshow of the Timkat procession, the outside of the churches, and local life.

Ethiopia Lives
is a program that has given digital cameras to young people in Ethiopia to document their lives. -
  • Celebrations: Festivals, naming ceremonies, and weddings.
  • Foods: Cooking of injera, fruit, a typical plate.
  • Work Life: See how people make their living.
  • Family: This picture notes how rare it is to see elderly relatives.

Photos by Martin are amazing pictures of one man's travel through Ethiopia.
These photos are from the travel library of Galen Frysinger. Check out his Ethiopia Page. You'll find more pictures from from:

More than 6,000 Pictures from Flickr show the range of diversity and ethnic groups that can be found throughout Ethiopia.

20 Years to Now

It's funny the things that we remember. From the start of stumbling into the Ethiopia program it has felt like the right fit. I've talked about how I felt an immediate spiritual connection to the children and how learning about their lives in Ethiopia has touched me.

This isn't the first time. A few weeks ago I remembered that I had written a poem about the children in Ethiopia almost 20 years ago. I found the poem in a notebook of poetry that has been sitting on a shelf next to my bed since I moved into this house in 1996. I vividly remember the night that I wrote it. It was a late night and the show that I was watching talked about the famine that was devastating the country.

I couldn't get the image of the children out of my head and the next day I wrote this poem:

Please Don't Let Me Die:
A Humble Plea from Starving Children in Africa

Blistering heat on a barren land.
Dry, parched lips on desert sand.
Managing only one feeble cry,
"Please dear world don't let me die..."

In Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan,
The worst human disaster known to man.
The darkest hour, the faintest cry,
"Please dear world don't let me die..."

Don't let me die.
p l e a s e, d o n 't l e t m e d i e

Looking for Ethnic Dolls

Paradise Galleries Doll Collection
I came across these dolls and thought they were so realistic. These dolls come in a wide range of skin colors, different hair textures and different ethnicities. It's nice to have a lot to choose from and they are not very expensive.

What Makes Us Human?

I was searching the net looking for information about family and culture in Ethiopia. I was interested in learning how their up bringing might compare to children raised in the US. That is how I found the Ethiopia-American magazine called Tadias.

One of the articles was about the man that found Lucy's baby. Not the red-head from TV but Lucy the oldest human remains found in Ethiopia in 1974. Salem is the name given to the skeletal remains dated at 3.3 million years old. The skeleton of the three-year old girl where discovered by Paleoanthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged who was born in Axum, Ethiopia.

In this video oZeresenay talks about our connection to Africa and what makes us human.

You Should Be In Pictures

Everybody loves pictures. Picaboo gives you a unique way to create personalized photo greeting cards and unique hard or soft cover photo books.

Check out Picaboo!

Maybe you could take pictures of your home and family and then send to your child after referral. Maybe it could be a gift to give to a birth family.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adoption Concerns Rise in Ethiopia

This article excerpt is from the New York Time Article dated June 2007:
Surge in Adoptions Raises Concern in Ethiopia

ST. PAUL — Ethiopia was not on Mark and Vera Westrum-Ostrom’s list when they first visited Children’s Home Society & Family Services here to explore an international adoption.

Then they learned about Ethiopia’s model centers for orphans, run by American agencies, with an efficient adoption system that made it possible for them to file paperwork on Labor Day and claim 2-year-old Tariku, a boy with almond eyes and a halo of ringlets, at Christmas.

From Addis Ababa, the capital city, they traveled to the countryside to meet the boy’s birth mother, an opportunity rare in international adoption. And at roughly $20,000, the process was affordable compared with other foreign adoptions, and free of the bribes that are common in some countries.

It is no wonder, given these advantages, that Ethiopia, a country more often associated by Americans with drought, famine and conflict, has become a hot spot for international adoption. Even before the actress Angelina Jolie put adoption in Ethiopia on the cover of People magazine in 2005, the number of adoptions there by Americans was growing. The total is still small — 732 children in 2006, out of a total of 20,632 foreign adoptions, but it is a steep increase, up from 82 children adopted in 1997.

Ethiopia now ranks 5th among countries for adoption by Americans, up from 16th in 2000. In the same period, the number of American agencies licensed to operate there has skyrocketed from one to 22.

The increasing interest in Ethiopia comes at a time when the leading countries for international adoption, China, Guatemala and Russia, are, respectively, tightening eligibility requirements, under scrutiny for adoption corruption and closing borders to American agencies.

Ethiopia’s sudden popularity also comes with risks, say government officials there and in America.

Continue reading.

Links to Ethiopia

Here are several links that provide more information on Ethiopia.

Get Ready for the Homestudy

If somebody was coming to your house to decide whether or not you would be a fit parent, what stuff would you need to hide? A social worker decides based on meeting you and the appearance of your home if you should get to proceed in the adoption process. After meeting with you 2-4 times she writes up a report with her recommendations. So, what would you do first?

I've been in my house for 11 years and I'm at the point of wanting or needing to replace a lot of things. Getting ready for the first homestudy, was nerve wracking. You want to make a good impression but where do you start. I got busy finishing a few home projects that were left undone a couple of years ago. I put in new doors, replaced some fixtures and some other small cosmetic things. I was worn out and frustrated that a few things didn't get done.

I cleaned the house from top to bottom, called the cleaning lady so she could clean some more, and then the day before the homestudy visit I cleaned up after the cleaning lady. You get the picture. Anyway after a couple of weeks of work, a lot of sweat, a lot of cleaning, purging, moving furniture, and agonizing I was ready. The only thing left to do was to bake my famous "apple treats". I wanted her to know that I could cook.

The social worker came right on time and was dressed casually. The first thing she said was, "People get so worked up about the homestudy and I don't know why." Yea, me either! We talked for about three hours. I answered all of the personal questions about family, upbringing, fears, thoughts about parenting, all the whys and why-nots that come with the process. Just before she was about to leave and after packing up the apple treats to go, we spent a few minutes walking around the house. After all of that work it was kind of a let down. It took less time to do the tour than it did to drive to Home Depot and pick up the supplies. The good news is my second and final homestudy is Saturday and I don't have any more projects to do.

The moral of the story: Don't sweat the homestudy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

News From the Adoption Community

Here are a couple of sites that will keep you up to date on the latest news from the adoption community.

Personalized Baby Gifts

Welcoming our new children often means giving them new names. Find some great personalized gifts using the links below.

Here some great gift basket from Gifts For You Now.

FREE Gift List

MyGiftList offers a FREE, private, Universal Gift Registry™
With MyGiftList you can let everyone know what you want and need the most.
  • Create a wish list for your own special occasion. An adoption, wedding, anniversary, birthday, or baby shower registry.
  • Create a wish list to keep track of gifts you give to special people throughout the year.
  • Use for any gift giving occasion whether you are the gift giver or receiver.
  • Easy to set-up, easy to use, and its FREE.
Never forget an important occasion or purchase an unwanted or duplicate gift. Click here to take a TOUR!

To Get Started: Create a personal, private gift registry of the gifts you would like to receive. Specify an occasion or a gift giver. Use the links below.

Sign-Up Now

Click to Join!

Create A List - From the Shop & Support List

Click to Create MyGiftList!

  • You decide who views the items on your gift registry.

  • Identify friends and family members who you want to purchase gifts from your gift registry. Also include the people you shop for so that they will set up their own gift registry and share their gift wishes with you.

  • Once your list is set-up, use our handy reminders to keep track of important dates and your to-do list.

  • Go to my Charity Blast, pick from hundreds of stores. When you find items you would like to receive, copy and best the website page URL into your list. It automatically enters the information into your gift registry. You can also choose gift selections directly from the Shop & Support list on the right.

  • Get your friends and relatives to create a gift registry and make gift shopping easier.

  • You'll wonder how you ever managed all of the special occasions in your life before using our services. The MyGiftList gift registry helps you give the perfect gift, every time.

: So how does this work as a fundraiser?
You sign up to create a gift list for FREE. Create your gift list using Charity Blast or from the Shop & Support list on the right. Then send your list to all your friends and family. Encourage them to create their own wish list. When gift items are purchased through your gift list a small percentage is contributed to the adoption fund.

The Cost of Adoption

Does anybody remember the old song by Shirley Caesar, "No Charge?" My mother loved that song and she enjoyed singing it to me to let me know exactly where I stood.

For the nine months I carried you, for the nights I sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you NO CHARGE. For the time and tears and the costs through the years. There is NO CHARGE.

If my mother were still here I know that she would say that there are some things that you just can't put a price tag on. This adoption is one of them. But if you haven't heard the adoption agencies do charge for their services. I've added up the costs to see just how much it will take to get the kids home and snuggled in their beds on that first night.

Here is the Adoption Breakdown
Drum roll please...

I am doing everything possible to minimize my cost and still it's a big hurdle to get over.
  • My first thought was to raid the trust fund and then I remembered I didn't have one.
  • I called my rich aunt, my rich uncle and Oprah but none of them answered the phone.
  • I tried to cash in on my good looks and that got me a buy-one-get-one-free coupon.
It's Time for a Fundraiser: After much thought I have decided to try several online fundraisers. Keep checking the site. I will be adding a link for monetary donations, several retail and gift sites where you make purchases and a percentage goes straight into the adoption fund.

Gifts that Keep Giving: I am also adding a gift wish list registry. I'm excited about this one. You create a gift registry and choose items that you want for your birthday, wedding, baby shower, or just because. Send the wish list to your friends and family. They buy you the gifts you want and a small percentage goes towards the adoption.

Make sure to check out the fundraiser page!

Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]