Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas in Uganda


We're three days from Christmas and as we prepare for such a festive holiday, we were curious how Ugandan's celebrate Christmas. I don't claim to be an expert on this topic, as there seems to be varying opinions on the web and we've never actually been to Uganda to experience this holiday. I expect it's somewhat like celebrations in America, depending on your culture, background, etc., traditions vary from family to family.

The picture above is a child that we sponsor through Compassion International. Several years ago, we sent extra money (above our monthly sponsorship) for a Christmas present. We expected he would buy toys, a soccer ball, something he really wanted. We received this picture, and he used the money to buy a suit for Christmas! How precious!!

In Uganda, most will not have Christmas trees. Most families don't have money to buy and exchange new shiny gifts. Instead, family and friends will gather together and celebrate the holiday together with a feast, many of them will also celebrate with a new outfit. For them, spending time together celebrating Christ's birth is the most important part of the holiday.

We found this article describing African Christmas a little more.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Waiting

As we approach Christmas, we seem to be in a time of waiting. We're waiting for our social worker to receive clearance on our Criminal History check, we're waiting for the USCIS to send us instructions to get our Biometric fingerprinting done, etc. In the mean time, we're trying to put as much information together for our Dossier as possible. The Dossier is all the paperwork that goes to our Ugandan lawyer to take before the court. Every lawyer/agency requires different information we're hearing, this is definitely no cookie-cutter process!

We got an email from our lawyer last week that she would be going to visit an orphanage and this would be an additional cost. This caught us by surprise as we understood it would be a flat rate for their services and a child referral (however, not unexpected!). We've emailed back and forth with her about this increase and she's going to try to cut some expenses and not travel to orphanages. Some orphanages will not talk to them over the phone or by email, they want an in person meeting which I can understand. We finally received another email that she was sending our profile over to an organization that may be able to help us. Again, we're waiting to see if they have any twins available for adoption.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Support

Through a group of people connecting and supporting each other, I found a Ugandan radio station! It's been fun listening, it's mostly music but some talk and they easily go from Luganda (I'm guessing) to English, it's fun to listen to!

On Saturday, Dec. 11, we received an I-797C, Notice of Action from the USCIS, this form basically told us that they've received our I-600A application & will be sending us an appointment time for our Biometrics (electronic fingerprinting). We must wait to receive the appointment notice before going.

On Monday, Dec. 13, we received another I-797C, Notice of Action. This one just stated that we haven't yet turned in our Home Study and it must be turned in within 1 year of our I-600A application. Hopefully we'll get it very soon!

We received an email from our lawyer yesterday telling us that our request for twins would be very difficult..."I do not want to say that it is impossible because all things are possible with God." These were very sweet words!

Friday, December 10, 2010

little things

Little things have happened over the last week:
December 1: email from lawyer recommends Aggie's Babies home, we send them an email.

December 2: hear about another lawyer who may have some children, we email her asking for more information. Received email from Aggie's. They have 7 families on the waiting list, ask for more information about us.

December 3: received email from lawyer with pictures & more information about the children, 2 older siblings & 1 infant, we help find forever homes for them.

December 4: emailed Aggie's Babies home back, asked to be put on the waiting list, haven't heard back from her but know she runs a business as well as helping with Aggie's.

December 6: received email confirmation from USCIS that they have received our I-600A application and we should receive a "Form I-797" in 7-10 days. I'm guessing this is the form that tells us when & where to get our biometric fingerprinting done. Just hope it doesn't get scheduled for when we'll be in Kansas City over the holidays!

December 7: We've decided on a lawyer & she has sent us a list of orphanages, tells us she has twins if none of those work out, we request more information about the twins.

December 8: We receive more information about the twins with a picture, sorry, can't post it or too many details on the internet. Call Uganda to tell them we want these babies!! She will contact the grandmother to find out if they are still available.

December 9: A Doctor friend of ours came by the church, and gave me a TB test, Flu shot and Yellow Fever vaccine...I'm ready to go to Uganda! Wes went hunting so he'll have to get his later.

December 10: we find out that 3 other families have inquired about the twins and it sounds like they are much further along in the process than we are. Our hearts break but we know they need a forever home and nourishment quickly. It doesn't sound like they are officially spoken for, just inquired about...we wait. We also took our cat and dog in for their rabies vaccines. Our cat needs to go on a diet and our dog is up to 150 lbs!

The Details
  • TB test result needs to go on the Physical form that's turned into Social Worker (we had already turned ours in without the TB & thought it could be a separate medical note)
  • Our Vet gave us a Rabies Vaccine Certificate, we had them reprint so both of our names on the certificate match what our passports say, just to avoid any possible delays
  • waiting is hard

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stunts for the Home Study!

Wes had his individual interview on Nov. 22. We had our marital interview this evening after work. I had our carpets cleaned today at lunch so our living room was in a little disarray but it was nice to know they're finally clean!! She asked us questions about our engagement and planning the wedding, the most difficult thing in our marriage, h
ow we argue, things like that. We also found out we still needed to get a TB test and she needed proof of rabies vaccines for our pets. She is still waiting on the results from our Criminal History check and the CA/N (Child Abuse/Neglect) to come back. Once those come back and she has the last of our paper work (TB & rabies) she'll send it all over to the Alabama DHR with our Home Study to get us approved with the State. We'll also get a copy of our Home Study to send to USCIS to add to our I-600A application.

Several times during our meetings with Leslie, we had talked about stunting. I'm not sure she knew what that meant so we told her and showed her a picture of us stunting at our wedding and she requested we "stunt" for her! It just got really cold outside so we had to do it in our living room, we did a "Hands-Cupie" if that means anything to anyone out there!

this is a "cupie"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Adoption Books?

Today I coordinated a wedding at our church. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to celebrate in such a special and exciting day and earn a little extra money towards our adoption! After the wedding & reception we drove up to the Summit, a local shopping center, to hit up Barnes & Noble for some adoption books. It was the lighting of the Summit so the area was packed with people, we got there just in time for the fireworks! Once they were finishing up we headed inside, grabbed some coffee and started searching for books on adoption. After finding nothing, we finally asked an employee. She took us over to the family section-LOTS of books on being pregnant and having a baby and we FINALLY find a (yes, that's right, ONE) book on adoption. Adoption for Dummies. While I'm sure it's a great book on adoption, we were past many of the questions and topics it covered and were looking for some of the books that were recommended to us...such a disappointment for such a large store...what on earth did we do before the internet!!
We headed over to the travel section and found a couple books on Africa/East Africa and read a little bit about Uganda instead. While in the store, we saw a family with 2 younger asian boys who had just been adopted, it was so great to watch them teaching/reminding their biological children to include and watch out for their brothers as they were very wide eyed!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Child Advocate & Lawyer responses

Last night we went to dinner with the another family that is adopting from Uganda. They are using a Child Advocate. They have been to Uganda several times for Ministry opportunities and some friends are acting as their advocate. Even though we're leaning towards using a lawyer, they have so much helpful information and we just enjoyed our conversation with them!

2 nights ago we heard back from one of the lawyers and tonight we heard back from another. One will do child referrals and the other does not. Costs vary but are not too terribly different. Both seem very nice and helpful as we heard they would be from so many people!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fingerprints

Tonight after work we gathered up our paperwork for the SBCN-Criminal History checks for Alabama DHR and our fingerprinting cards and went down to the Sheriff's Department to get our fingerprinting done. The deputy who helped us out was very nice and had done fingerprinting for several families who were adopting. We had to use the black ink rather than the scanner and she kind of kept getting onto me because my prints were smearing. We thought it was because my fingers weren't letting her move them but we decided it was because my hands were too oily. I have pretty soft hands but had also used a little lotion so that didn't help. I just hope my prints are accepted! Wes on the other hand, has a messed up pinky finger from an old football injury so on the set of 4 fingers, his pinky barely makes it on the card. We had a good laugh!

When we got home, we emailed the 3 lawyers that have been highly recommended to us and hope to hear back from them soon!

The Details:
  • We each had 2 fingerprinting cards
  • Some places charge for fingerprinting or will only do it certain days or times of the day
  • The person who does your fingerprinting has to fill out and sign certain parts of the card and possibly your other paper work as well. Make sure to take everything they need to sign
  • Don't forget Identification!
  • Rules change constantly, you may have the option to do biometric fingerprinting (a scan rather than ink)

Homestudy Part 1

Tonight was our 2nd Homestudy meeting and did the individual interview with me. We started at 6:30pm and didn't finish until about 9:30pm! Wow! we girls can chat! We talked about everything from my background to current to the future. I say we talked, she actually had a list of questions to ask and I had to talk about them. Some of the questions, I didn't really understand what exactly she meant or where she was trying to go with that question so I would have to ask for clarification and she'd help me out some! Some of the questions asked were about my earliest memories or how I was punished growing up and how will you respect your adopted child's culture. The questions really made you think a lot. A lot about where you've been and why you are the way you are, how you got to this point and where you're going.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Starting the Details

Immediately after our Home Study started last night, we began gathering all of the information. I started making copies of originals and scanning everything that needed to be submitted. This way, if I need to find anything again, I at least have a copy on my computer for easy access (Google Docs can be very helpful in saving forms). My folder began to get very cluttered so I grabbed a large envelope and wrote down everything that the Social Worker needed. Once I had a copy in the envelope, I checked it off the list.

Tonight after work, Wes drove by Chick-fil-a and grabbed some dinner, we met up at the Urgent Care where a friend is a physician. He did our medical exam for us and offered to do the TB test but we're both going out of town this weekend. We'll have to schedule that for another time! After that, we ran home to drop off a car and headed over to the Fanning's house, one of the couple's that's agreed to help us through this process! They had some amazing chocolate mouse ready for us and made us some delicious coffee!! They answered so many of our questions and talked with us about some of their experiences so far with using a Lawyer in Uganda. They also recommend we read the book Foreign to Familiar to understand the differences in our cultures a little. They also recommended we read The Connected Child and said that helped them even bond better with their biological children.

It's been a long week and it's not going to slow down anytime soon! We have so much to get done and feel like we're in crunch time! We're so thankful to have family and friends supporting us and walking this road with us!

The Details:
  • Recommended books: Foreign to Familiar & The Connected Child
  • Airline to look into for adoptions: Golden Rule
  • Make sure that the lawyer has the long version of the Birth Certificate, apparently in Uganda, there's also a short version
  • Keep your paperwork organized and copies of everything you fill out & send in

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Home Study & Paperwork

One of the couples who agreed to walk with us, sent a packet of information about Uganda Adoptions from an agency they began to work with, hoping this would help us see everything that's involved and where to start. We begin with the I-600A, this is an Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Sounds a little overwhelming! The packet was helpful in figuring out some of the basics of the form but several of the details have changed from a year ago when the packet was created. It's preferred to send your completed Home Study in with the I-600A but right now, not required. That's good because the fees are increasing as of Nov. 23! I tried to get through as many details and write down all my questions for the social worker who started with us after work!

Home Study-I've heard this term so many times before & had no idea what all it meant, other than sounding intimidating! Here's my best stab at describing what this means. A Home Study is conducted by a licensed Social Worker. Depending on where you're adopting from (Hague Convention Country or Non-Hague) may determine who is eligible to conduct the Home Study. A Home Study is comprised of several meetings with your Social Worker. For us, it was 4-5 meetings but this may vary depending on state, agency or country requirements. Our Social Worker combined 2 meetings into 1. The first part of our Home Study was an introduction to the paper work required by our state, what this process looks like etc. The second part that she added in tonight was an overview of our home and making sure we meet the requirements for a home. The other meetings will be an individual meeting with each of us and then a marital interview. After we finish all of our meetings, our Social Worker will type up our Home Study (details from each of our meetings) and will send it to the Alabama State DHR with other documents (birth, marriage certificates, etc) for us to be approved by the state.

The Details:
  • 3 different sets of laws to consider: US Federal Law, the laws of the child's country of birth, laws of the state where you reside
  • I-600A required by the USCIS, it's preferred to submit your Home Study with the application but not required currently
  • Began gathering documents and information for the Social Worker (photocopies acceptable): Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Drivers License, Social Security Cards, Health Insurance Card, Paycheck stubs, Life Insurance, , Home Insurance policy, Auto Insurance Policy, Budget, HIV test, TB test, Pet Vaccinations
  • Social Worker issued forms: Physical Examination form which also had to be notarized, "CA/N" (Child Abuse/Neglect Clearance form). These were given to the Social Worker
  • Criminal History Check and 2 fingerprint cards to be sent to SBCN (Security Biometric Clearing Network) in Virginia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cry of the Orphan


We've talked with so many families we know who have adopted or are in the process as well as friends working with Lifeline. One family, who we were talking with about China, used Lifeline and were helping get ready for their annual fundraiser/dinner called "Cry of the Orphan." They invited us to attend and it was such an encouragement to hear so many stories, how people were lead towards adoption, the questions they were asked and the issues they dealt with or are dealing with. We were so honored to attend a God honoring event and thankful to the friends who invited us!

While talking with a friend who works for Lifeline, we asked about the challenges of adopting domestically rather than internationally. Her answer was "it's like going to the state fair or Six Flags, they both have roller-coasters but they're different."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Accepting a Journey

For several years we've prayed about adoption, but haven't felt like it could become a reality, there were just too many questions and no answers for us. Well, God has been burdening our hearts more and more for the children of the world. Finally, we were both on the same page and it was as if we just hit the "GO" button on entering the world of adoption!

Since High School, I have wanted to adopt from China so that's where we started exploring. After God closed and opened many more doors, we decided on Uganda! Our Compassion International child is there and we have a couple friends who were walking through the process independently. Both agreed to walk through this with us and help us however they could. The resources they started us out with were just an amazing blessing!

They gave us the contact information for a Social Worker and we have our first Home Study meeting set up for next week! Talk about diving right in!

Some details:
  • You may be familiar with the "Hague Convention." Uganda is a "non-convention country." Click here to read more about the Hague Convention and what countries participate
  • Uganda allows adoptive families to adopt independently, meaning they do not require you to use an Agency