Monday, February 8, 2010

What Snowmageddon Looks Like

These pics were taken outside our home tell the story. Enjoy!

Blizzard of 2010

All around us is a winter wonderland - something rather unusual for the National Capital area. You have probably heard the news that we are snowed in with almost 3 feet of snow here in the DC area. Snowmageddon, as some are calling it, has provided us with at least 1.5 days of leave. With the weather forecast calling for another 10 - 20 inches for tomorrow, we just might be in for some more holidays this week.

While three feet may not sound like a lot of snow to our friends and family up North, it was enough to paralyze the DC area, which does not have the infrastructure or equipment to handle this kind of accumulation. We were, fortunately, not among
the many who have lost power. The only inconvenience for us is that the roads have not been sufficiently plowed, and the grocery stores don’t appear to have had deliveries since last Thursday, making it difficult to buy bread, milk, fresh meat and vegetables.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Behind the Scenes Legwork II

When you first read this post you might be overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork that needs to be done. Don’t be. We think it’s equivalent to 9-months of pregnancy without the morning sickness or midnight runs to Five Guys Burger Joint! (Double-cheeseburger, lettuce, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo, jalapeno peppers, please!) We spent six months gathering the required paperwork, police checks and fingerprinting, going through stringent interviews with Virginia Social Services and our adoption agency in San Francisco (ATWA), fulfilling requirements required by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and taking courses in “baby handling”, “conspicuous family awareness” and “baby first aid."

The following is a synopsis of our schedule since we decided to adopt in May 2009:

May 7, 2009 – Discovered that Japan had opened it’s doors to international adoption in 2007

May 8, 2009 – Came across a blog written by an American couple who had successfully adopted a baby from Japan through an agency in California
blog written by an American couple

May 25-30, 2009 – After a week of thought, prayer, online research and talking with the couple whose blog we had found, we announced to our family our plans to adopt a baby from Japan (they were ecstatic!!!)

June 8, 2009 - Submitted an application to Across the World Adoptions
(ATWA) and were accepted two days later!

June 15, 2009 - Contacted another couple living in Virginia that had adopted from Japan through ATWA. They were very helpful in providing advice on how to navigate the process. (We are becoming good friends and their little girl is adorable!!!)

June 20 – 28, 2009 – Filled out the personal information package and home evaluation, required by social services

June 28, 2009 – Had our first joint home study interview and evaluation with our social worker

June 30, 2009 – Had required medical exams and blood work done

June 10 – July 10, 2009 – Prepared a photo book containing photographs of us, our family, our friends, and of our house - inside and out. This is required by Japan for private international adoptions

July 10, 2009 – Had back-to-back individual interviews with the social worker

July 13, 2009 – Traveled to San Francisco, CA for our interview for final approval with Lesley and Taz at ATWA.

July 15, 2009 – Attended a Baby Care Class at a local hospital

July 10 – 20, 2009 – Gathered required documentation to complete home study: CPS clearance, employment verification, fingerprints, driving history, etc

August 13, 2009 – Home study was complete, and sent to ATWA for review and acceptance

August 1 – Sept 21, 2009 - Worked on renovating our guest room into a nursery (with much help from family!)

August 28, 2009 – Received a request from ATWA for further documentation for our dossier: certified copies of birth certificates, photocopies of passports, driver’s licenses, marriage certificate, birth mother letter, etc.

September 1, 2009 - Submitted application for I-600A to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

September 28, 2009 – Got fingerprinted by USCIS

November 27, 2009 – Andy’s family had a surprise baby shower for us!!!

November 28, 2009 - Obtained I-171H, “Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition”

November 28, 2009 – Sent a copy of the I-171H to ATWA

November 29, 2009 - Were officially put on the waiting list for a referral, and ATWA began showing our photo album and letters to expecting birth-mothers in Japan

December 19, 2009 – Sent pictures of our nursery to ATWA so they could show potential birth-mothers in Japan

January 1, 2010 – Took an online “Conspicuous Adoption” course with our family, offered through Adoption Learning Partners (ALP)

January 5, 2010 – Began preparing for a referral by: researching how airlines handle travel for babies from Japan to USA (with only one month’s notice from when we get our referral), researching cloth or paper diapers and types of formula, bottles , adoptive breast feeding, and the list goes on

February 6, 2010 to present – Excited but still trying to grasp the reality that we will be parents this year!

Behind the Scenes Legwork

There is a lot of legwork involved in adoption before the real fun of raising a child begins. The agency we have chosen to work with – Across the World Adoptions (ATWA) – facilitates private adoptions from Japan exclusively for infants (ages 4-7 weeks old). They also guarantee that within 12-18 months of completing our dossier (which for us was November 27, 2009) we will meet our baby in Japan.

Japan is rather new in the international adoption arena, having only opened their doors in 2007 to allow foreigners to adopt children. Their international adoption policy is much like private adoptions in the United States.

In a private adoption, the agency counsels women with unwanted pregnancies who have been referred by Japanese pregnancy hotline workers or abortion doctors. These “birth-mothers” then choose who they want to parent the baby based on picture books and “birth-mother letters” prepared by prospective adoptive parents (like ourselves).

Interestingly, we are not immediately notified once we have been chosen by a birth-mother. ATWA’s policy is to wait to notify the chosen adoptive parents until the birth-mother has relinquished physical custody to us specifically, sometime before the baby is four days old. Thus allowing the birth mother time to be certain about her decision, and avoiding major disappointment to adoptive parents. Once the birth-mother relinquishes her parental rights, we will then get a referral – also known as “the phone call from Japan” – from ATWA telling us that our baby is born and that we need to prepare to arrive in Japan within one month to meet our baby. (This is also the time we will find our whether we are the proud parents of a baby boy or baby girl!)

How Our Journey Began

Interestingly, our journey to adoption began in an unusual place……..on a blog. Because of that, we have decided to share our story with you in the same manner, in an effort to keep you up to date of our progress and allow others to discover the joy of adoption.

After a long period of thought and discussion about our options for adoption, we had run into a wall. Cheryl had known since her time living there that adopting a child from Japan was difficult, if not impossible. We had discussed a variety of options, we asked our Japanese friends including a long-time social worker of the possibilities, we talked to a foster parent in Japan that takes care of orphans awaiting domestic adoption, we pondered other countries and the long waits and even considered domestic adoption.

Deep down though, we knew that our true desire was to adopt a child from Japan, a country we are both familiar with and a people and culture we could both easily embrace. We couldn’t help thinking that it would be the perfect match, if only Japan would open its doors to international adoption.

One night in May 2009, Cheryl decided to do one last online search for anyone that had adopted from Japan. The search returned many familiar sites – all dead ends – but then out of the blue we came across a blog. Really, a blog. It detailed the journey of a couple from Arizona to their little Japanese baby. We were encouraged that someone had done it! Late that night on May 7, 2009, Cheryl decided to send an email to this couple – these two friendly faces in the blogosphere – and that’s where our journey began.