Last Thursday we had the first big meeting with our adoption agency. Since they are in Oregon and we are not, we did it via telephone conference call, which worked except when Baby Bear decided to sing.
Now we have a lot clearer idea of what's involved with our international adoption. To our surprise, we learned we'll have to travel twice to Africa. Yikes! We both go the first time to stand in court and adopt our child. Then six weeks later after more paperwork is submitted, we get to bring her home.
The difference in the process between domestic adoption and international adoption continues to amaze me. In some ways, however, they are the same: apply, pay a LOT of $$, have your life minutely examined and approved, get matched by someone else and wait a long time for lots of red tape. I'm sorry that sounds a little cynical. I actually don't feel negative about the process at all this time. It's more like feeling patient. We know it's all worth it in the end.
More surprises: Most paperwork will need to be translated from Amharic, the language of Ethiopia to French, the language of the orphanage coordinators, to English, the language of the agency and adoptive family. I have decided to spend as much time this year as I can learning phrases in Amharic, since that is what our child will understand.
I'm not totally clear on the timeline, but it looks like we'll spend this summer having our homestudy done and compiling our "dossier" which is a packet of official papers used to match us with a child and bring that child into this country. Once the dossier gets sent off, we'll wait several weeks or months to be matched with our child. After the match happens, we wait more months for the child to go through extensive medical examinations and for paperwork to be approved for the finalization. Then we travel there and adopt the child. Six weeks later we can bring her home. Some families stay during the intervening time. Some don't. Since we can't realistically take our other three children with us to Africa, we likely won't stay. That will probably be the most difficult part: leaving our newly adopted daughter in Ethiopia for six weeks. All this could happen as early as Christmas or as late as next summer, depending on the speed with which both governments approve our intentions.
The whole process still seems surreal to me. Although the agency lined out the steps we'll take and the reasons for the delays, it still sounds overwhelming, frightening. When we do bring our daughter home, she will have to endure a 23-hour plane flight with people she barely knows and a language she doesn't speak. The transition time is going to take a while. I pray that God will smooth our way as only He can. He has called us to do this work and He will make it happen: the finances, the trips, the transition.