When you start the adoption process, one of the first questions to answer is “what route to adoption” you want to take. As far as I understand, there are three options to consider – domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. The reason you make this decision up-front is that the process and paperwork for each paths is radically different.
We were faced with the looming reality that if we wanted to follow our hearts and adopt the two children in Haiti we would have our work cut out for us. BIG TIME. We basically would have to start all over again. The first time we did our paperwork the application process took 6 months. This time we would have six weeks in which we would need to secure:
- two original copies of our Birth Certificates (the Long Form Versions that people seemed to be so obsessed about in national politics)
- two original copies of our Marriage License
- a Power of Attorney authorizing our attorney in Haiti to act on our behalf
- a letter to the director of the Haitian Social Services requesting permission to adopt
- two letters of reference
- criminal background checks for anyone in our home over the age of 18 (which involves fingerprinting).
- a letter from our bank stating that we were customers in good standing
- a letter from our employer stating that we were employees in good standing
- a letter from our CPA saying we were solvent (heh)
- letters from our healthcare providers outlining the health status of all members of our household, including tests for tuberculosis
- a letter from a licensed psychologist stating that we were mentally stable
- an international homestudy written by a certified social worker. This document alone requires about five million pieces of information including financial records, new sets of reference letters, more medical exams, and a completely distinct set of fingerprints (apparently once was not enough).
And then I read on:
Every piece of information needed to be signed in front of a notary. In New York, where we live, each notarized document then needed to be certified by the County Clerk who had issued that notary. Then the certified forms need to receive an apostille from the Secretary of State who issues the notary/certification
(an apostille is like an internationally valid notary. It is a system set up through the Hague through which countries can be assured of a document’s legitimacy. Who knew?).
Once the our documents receive an apostille, they then need to be translated into French (the official language of Haiti) and then the notarize, certified, apostilled, translated documents need to be reviewed by the Haitian Consulate. If they “pass muster” the Consular adds their own special certification to each document.
Then, and only then, would we be able to submit our dossier and start our adoption journey.
Just writing that all down takes my breath away… and somehow we were supposed to get it all pulled together so that it could be ready as soon as the little girl was born.
Impossible! (said with an indignant French accent).
We had a lot of work to do and very little time to do it in. We needed to start YESTERDAY. We didn’t have any time to think about it for a few weeks. We didn’t have any extra time to do more research. We had to get started NOW.
But was this the right choice? Were we supposed to go down this path? Were we CRAZY to give up on all the work that we had invested already?
Honestly, we had no idea, and we struggled with the pressure to make a decision quickly. The Nature Family tends to be analytical and methodical – problem solvers, ruminators, talking it through-ers. And it didn’t seem like the analytical option was open to us.
And so we decided… not to decide. We would keep both options in play as long as we could. We wouldn’t change anything with our domestic adoption application, but we would start to pull together the paperwork for our Haitian Dossier. If the domestic adoption came through, we would be out the time and money we had invested in our dossier, but we would have a new child to soften the blow. If nothing happened with our domestic adoption and the dossier was ready to go, we would submit it and put our domestic adoption on hold. We were going to play “both sides of the field” as long as possible and pray for clarity through the process.
And so my work began.
Phone Calls and Google Searches, Express Mail and e-mails. Folders and Photocopies, with sticky notes everywhere. Sign this, mail that, stamp here, email this… I was on a mission to get it all done.
One week into the process and I had birth certificates and bank statements. Two weeks into the process I had medical exams, tax forms and background checks. Three weeks into the process our homestudy was scheduled and our reference letters were written. It was coming together!
And then the phone rang….
For the last twelve months, the sound of my telephone has caused my heart to miss a beat. The thought would fly into my head “Maybe it’s the agency?!” and I would RUN to answer it, only to be disappointed when the caller id showed someone else’s number. I have prayed and begged and hoped that the adoption agency would call us… and this time they did.
There is a birth mom in New Jersey who looked over profiles and would like to interview some families in person. Congratulations! You were one of the families she was interested in. When can you be in the office next week?
“Wow!” I said, “that’s great.”
“Whatever time is convenient for her.”
“sure, we’re really excited.”
“thanks for the call.”
And I hung up the phone with my heart in my feet.
Somehow during the previous three weeks we had reached a decision. Through the hard work of creating our dossier we had started the process of falling in love. We had committed ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our spirits, to those two young children in Haiti. We WANTED them to be part of our family. Our HOPES and VISION for the future included these two little people. We were no longer uncertain about what direction we should head – we KNEW our hearts were in a little crèche a fifteen hundred miles south. And in all good conscience we couldn’t meet with a Birth Mother in New Jersey knowing that we wouldn’t be able to say yes to her.
And so it was on a cold and rainy morning that I placed a call to the Domestic Adoption agency. My hands were shaking and my voice cracked a few times, but I told them about our change of directions. I told her that we needed more time to pursue the new opportunity we had discovered. And I told her that we couldn’t meet with the BirthMom in New Jersey when our hearts were in Haiti.
It was the hardest phone call of my life, but the decision was made.
We’re going for it.