Sunday, February 5, 2012

Big news on the horizon

I am not really sure where to pick up.  There has been a ton going on and we've laid low, very low, posting information because everything has seemed so tentative.  In fact, it still is.  We are just now sharing the possibility of something big with our family.  We are, however, feeling more and more confident that there is a magical red thread guiding our way.  To a place... to a person... to a bigger family.

So here's the story...

Since September we have been going, going, going.  We very promptly assembled necessary paperwork for our social worker and agency.  We felt like the "paper chase" was a blink.  Having done it once before, we had a great idea of how to save time.  We knew what documents needed to be done first.  We were on the ball. 

There was a little girl whose file we tried to locate during the time we were paper chasing, and I found out that her file had been locked and she was matched.  I was happy for her and a little sad for me.  After that happened I decided to stop actively stalking the blogs, advocacy sites, etc. and just get closer to dossier to China.

For those who are not familiar with the process, there are two options.  First, a family can be matched with a "special focus" child at any time.  These children are typically a little older, or have more severe needs.  To be matched with a special focus child you do not have to have paperwork, home study, or anything else complete.  It could even be a starting point... match, home study, and then dossier paperwork.  The other option is to be matched with a "dossier first" child.  These children typically have less severe needs and/or are younger.  You have to have all of the wonderful paperwork, home study, etc. complete to be matched with a dossier first child.  Many agencies have their own list of children that their families are eligible to adopt that fit either description, special focus or dossier first.  If you are not matched with an agency child you can be matched from the shared list (either by looking at the list on your own, or waiting for a monthly shared list update).  Many families wait until they are dossier to China so that their agency can match then with a dossier first child right when the shared list is updated and the chances of a mild need are most likely possible.

Now that we got that out of the way, we were working our way to dossier to China, but were not opposed to special focus.  We just knew we were not ready to dive into searching and wanted to keep our options for either.  Last time Sophie was matched for us on a shared list update.  There was no such thing as special focus or dossier first at the time, but she likely would have been dossier first.

Our home study was complete on October 21st and we anxiously waited for our agency to approve it and submit our 1-800A (needed for US approval to bring home a child).  We got our receipt from USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) that they received our info on 11/2/11.  We then had to wait a few more days to get a fingerprint appointment.  We ended up getting our fingerprints done two days before our seventh wedding anniversary, 12/2/11.  We had a great day getting printed and then enjoying a little Christmas shopping in Jacksonville.  Then the hard part came, the part that will repeat over, and over, and over again...WAITING!  We knew to expect the way to be something beyond 60 days from the date of our receipt notice (11/2).  In fact, at the time the wait was average over 70 days.  It was crazy since last time our approval happened so quickly. 

Shifting gears on you all...  We were waiting on our approval, nearing the holidays.  There was a ton going on and we knew we were going nowhere fast.  My last day of work before a short break for the holidays was 12/22/11.  It was a Thursday.  It was late in the day and I was waiting for very large kayak to arrive to my work so that I could then figure out how to get it home and hide it for Jason.  At about 4:00 I got an email from our China coordinator.  She is the same wonderful coordinator we had last time. Someone who I've never met in person yet feel eerily connected to.  Her email read:

"Hi Stacy,

How are you? First of all have you heard from immigration at all about your I-800A approval? You should receive your approval any day now.

The main reason I am writing you today is that I have a file of a little girl that you might be interested in reviewing. Our staff met this child in May during our special partnership project with the Shandong province. The purpose of this project is for WACAP to establish a relationship with this province to better advocate for the children needing families. We want to contact families who are already in the China Program about these files first before moving on to broader advocacy, you are among one of the few families who aren’t already matched with a child so we contacted you. We will only send the file to one family at a time."

She then gave us some brief info about the little girl.  Her birthday was 10-10-10.  If you are not aware, that is an exceptionally lucky date for many reasons, but mostly because on that date WE WERE IN CHINA and IT WAS THE DAY BEFORE SOPHIE'S GOTCHA DAY!   Loss for words...well, sort of....after being stunned for a minute, I mean we WERE NOT AT ALL EXPECTING A FILE YET.  We were not actively looking.  We were waiting.  I had to call Jason immediately.  I didn't want to say "yes" without his consent because I knew what would happen as soon as I opened that file.  We discussed the possibility of this beautiful child needing heart surgery once home so that I could make sure he felt comfortable with this.  We'd previously discussed this with differing opinions.  He has felt that it would be heart wrenching to see his child undergo surgery.  I have always explained that it is heart wrenching for me to think that Sophie did that without us, without a person, in a sterile hospital environment for months without us.  We finally agreed.  I called the coordinator and asked a few questions, and for her file!

There is was, a TON of pictures.  A file.  Information from a volunteer doctor who was visiting with our agency.  Much of this we did not have with Sophie. 

After receiving that ginormous kayak I mentioned, something I reallllly didn't want to have to mess with, I rushed home as soon as possible.  I wasn't even worried that as soon as I pulled in Jason would find the obviously large gift I had for him "hiding" in my car.  Whatever!  We had a file!!

We went in and sat down at the computer.  She was adorable.  Things seemed simple.  Patent Foramen Ovale was her primary diagnosis.  A heart condition that we felt was very manageable after doing some homework. 

Knowing that we had one business day before the holiday, IF we were lucky and everyone hadn't already vanished, we had to get her info to an adoption specialist and Sophie's cardiologist IMMEDIATELY!  I quickly uploaded everything to the adoption clinic.  The next morning I called the cardiologist to see if he would review a file.  I was told yes, and that he had office time so that it would be done early.  I sent it right over. 

Very quickly we had two responses, and two very unclear reviews.  Both doctors felt that there was a lot of missing information.  At 14 months of age, all her file had to show for her was test results (ECHO) from 2 months of age.  Her weight and height were both off the charts, non-existent.  She had started off on the charts and slowly fallen off...  That was a big concern.  The adoption clinic gave us several great questions to ask for in an update, something our agency said we could ask for if we needed.  So here we were.  A referral for a precious little girl we had so many concerns about.  It didn't look good, and my typically very optimistic husband, was turning into the pessimistic (or probably more likely the realist) of the family.  I was so discouraged and his realism didn't help.  I wanted to hear him say "I'm sure it's going to be fine.  We'll get more answers and it will work out."  But guess what, he didn't.  So with sadness and a great lack of patience I waiting...through the longggggest holiday season ever!!  On 12/27 I emailed the agency to tell them all of my concerns.  It was a hard email.  I had to let our coordinator know that we wanted more answers, if not for us, for the family that would be her forever family...but I REALLY wanted that to be us!  I was heartbroken at the thought that it wouldn't be us.  She appreciated my response and said they would forward the questions to the orphanage.

Then, just as we thought we were behind the eight ball and needing more answers we got a kick in the teeth.  Our coordinator mentioned that because she was dossier first and only had her file until the  January 22nd, that they were working to try to get switched to special focus.  WHAT?  Dossier first?  Since when?  I had already assumed she was special focus since we were given the file and DEFINITELY WERE NOT DOSSIER TO CHINA!  Not only that, but her needs seem much more significant than a dossier first child's would be.  She stated that they were not sure the CCCWA would accept an eastern doctors diagnosis, and that they may want to have her see a doctor again in China.  Ugh.  So we wait.

The next couple of weeks were pure agony.  We waited on:

That 1-800A approval, which we needed to get logged in, and increase our chances of being eligible for her file before 1/22. 

The orphanage update.  Which we needed because we were not even sure we were going able to move forward based on her needs.

The CCCWA to decide if they would switch her file to special focus.  This was important because it seemed very unlikely we'd be logged in before January 22nd.

Each day passed.  Each week passed, without any information on anything!  The first couple of weekends were tough because I just wanted information so badly.  By the last couple of weekends I was relieved when they would roll around because I knew I could rest.  I had become so crazed with checking email, looking at caller ID, and fabricating reasons to email my coordinator in hopes that she would respond with a "oh, by the way...I for you a moment ago" response.  The weekends were great.  I could shut it off and succumb to the fact that nothing was coming through. 

I'd begun calling USCIS to check on the status of our approval before New Year's.  It was the one thing I had a bit of control of.  I couldn't call China to check on things so I just bugged the USA.  Nothing.  They were either closed, told me we hadn't even been assigned an officer yet, or were closed some more.  Finally on 1/4 we had been assigned an officer.  I asked if there was anyway for them to email me the approval.  The answer was no.  I asked if I could pay for them to FedEx it.  They told me as long as I emailed the FedEx label that they would use it.  As soon as we hung up I began to figure out how in the world to generate a FedEx label.  Before I could accomplish that task I got a call.  It was our officer telling me WE WERE APPROVED and that she saw a note in the computer that we wanted it expedited.  I told her I'd have it to her ASAP. 

Were things turning around?  Maybe.

The next day I anxiously awaited that approval so that I'd be able to scan it to our agency and get the ball rolling on completing our dossier.  The day before it was scheduled for delivery by noon and now it wasn't showing a delivery time.  What in the world?  Well, wouldn't you know it, it didn't come.  Not only that, but I got a frenzied phone call from our coordinator who stated that two of our documents which were sent to D.C. via a courier to be authenticated were on their way back to me.  Apparently they had made in through verification in Tallahassee and got caught at the State Department with a notary stamp but no signature.  I was going to have to find the notary's and have them sign the documents.  The problem was we didn't know which documents, and it sounded like it may be our medicals which were not sure we'd have access to the notary's who stamped them.  What if those notary employee's no longer worked for the practice?  We would have had to have them redone entirely and go back through Tallahassee and make it to D.C.  It would have taken days.  The package was due to arrive the next day.

The next day I jumped on the phone with FedEx and found out our 1-800A would arrive that day.  Now I was waiting on two packages and I had to be ready to hunt for two notary's as soon as they arrived.  Thankfully I found them on my doorstep at noon and lucked out that the two missing signatures were from co-workers of mine!  I quickly visited two schools, received two signatures, dropped the docs back off at UPS, and then scanned our approval to our agency.

Because our agency is in Washington State and are three hours behind, our coordinator quickly jumped in her car and drove our approval letter to get verified that day.  Then she sent it to D.C. to be authenticated through the State Dept. and Chinese Embassy with our other dossier documents.  As soon at they were done we'd be on our way to dossier to China.

Another weekend passed and a new week began. We were hoping that we'd finally get some news from China.  On Monday our coordinator emailed to tell me that her director was going to call China that evening (morning time in China) to find out more about the request to switch the file to special focus.  They were not feeling optimistic however.  At minimum they were hoping that they may be able to get an extension and hold the file longer.  Oh, and by the way, they already had her file until 2/6, not 1/22!  That was a happy mistake.  There was even a chance we'd be fine without an extension.  However, I was happy that there may be a slight chance of improving our odds.  We would wait.

Just like clockwork, at about noon the next day I began to pace.  I know that our agency at opens noon our time so I began to stalk email.  I mean, if they had received an answer they'd know!  It was now 12AM in China so their day was done.  What did they say?  WHAT DID THEY SAY?  Do we even have a chance?

We got two more weeks!  YAYAYAYAY!  I was soooo excited!  I immediately called Jason to tell hi the good news.  Now then, we wait.  We wait for that wonderful log in date!

***NEWSFLASH*** before I finished the post, we got some more news!  Check out our new blog (linked to this one at the top)

Hopefully I didn't miss any details!