Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Adoption Fees and additional costs- Independent Adoption- UPDATED

I will try to give an idea of what kind of fees we have encountered and when they needed to be paid. As with all of my other posts...do your own research as well, ask around, and make your own decisions. I will just share what we have done and learned along the way!

New Life Links current adoption fees: $9000 per child, $2500 "deposit" due with dossier, balance due at exit of IBESR. This may vary greatly by different Orphanages and some of them may even be willing to work out different arrangements if you ask.

FEES DURING DOSSIER GATHERING:
Largest fee during this time will likely be your Home study fees (please see my post on home study tips). This will range from around $1000-$2500 depending on the state you live in and if you can use an Independent Social worker or if you have to use an Adoption Agency.

Fees for ordering birth certificates, marriage certificate, and divorce decrees if you need to for your dossier: varies by State

Notary fees: Please see my Notary tips post to help save money on this. It can range from free (if you find someone to donate their time or have a friend that is a notary, or have a bank that notarizes for free as a service) to up to $20 per document. This can really add up so it's worth it to read about my tips and save as much as you can here. I have heard of people hiring a traveling notary to meet them at doctors offices, or other place and this can cost quite a bit. I personally think that is unnecessary, but you should do your own research on this and make a decision of what you feel comfortable with. Make sure to budget for almost every document to be notarized.

Medical Exams: If you have medical insurance you would just budget what your co-pay would be for an appointment for each person in your family.

Police clearance letters: Our charge was only $3 each but I think this varies a bit as well but will likely be very inexpensive.

Psychological Exams: For us, our health insurance covered this and it was only a $25 co-pay for each adoptive parent (please see my post for Psychological Exams for more information). I have heard of others paying around $300 to outrageous amounts for this (defiantly unnecessary to spend a lot on this!).

Passport photos: You need 4 for each adopting parent for your dossier and will want to get 2 additional each if you need your passports as well. I don't remember exactly how much this was but I'm thinking it was about $16 total for my husband and me to each get 6. I've heard of some people that do this online and have seen a website that claims you can do it for free with your digital camera and online. I have not done it but it might be worth looking into and asking about. It sure sounds easy and FREE. :)

State Certified/Authenticated documents: according to our orphanage (and what we did) we only needed 5 pages certified/authenticated by the state at $10 per page (may vary with each State). This was only $50 total for us but I have heard of others that insist that according to their orphanage/agency that every single one of your documents that have been notarized need to be certified and apostilled as well and that would really add up! If your agency or orphanage is asking for this it might be worth it to question them about this requirement.

Authenticated: The same papers that you have state certified need to be sent to the Haitian Consulate to be Authenticated. This fee is $25 a form. Again, some parents have done every single page of their dossier and this could turn into a huge fee but if you only do the required documents the fee is just $125

UPDATED 6-19-07- Seems that now many parents are having their Psych Eva. on one letter as husband and wife instead of two seperate letters. This would make the above two fees a bit less and would be 4 documents instead of 5: always good news :)

Translation: All your dossier will need to be translated into french before mailing. I will include a post soon about this and with referrals. Our orphanage, NLL, offers to do this for you for a flat fee of $500. This is what we paid. However, since then, I'm convinced we could have had it done cheaper sending it elsewhere. I have seen the fees range from $10-$15 per page, another for $250 flat rate, and we paid $500 flat rate for ours (see how much I'm learning after the fact, hope it will help some one else!).

Your ready now to mail your dossier!!

Immigration Fees:
Currently the fees to file your I-600A or I-600 (I'll go into more info on this in it's own post) is $545 filing fee and an additional $70 for each adopting parent for the fingerprinting fees. So the average total for this (assuming 2 parents and no other adults in the house) is $685. If you have any other adults living in your home (roommates, or children over 18) you also need to pay an additional $70 each and have them fingerprinted.
If you are adopting multiple children that are siblings you only pay the one filing fee! However, if you are adopting children that are not related you must pay a separate filing fee for each child.
A common question/confusion about paying for the I-600A & I-600 is do you pay with each form you file? I'm happy to say the answer is NO. If you pay the fee for the I-600A and it has not expired you do not need to pay the fee again when you file the I-600, yes, I'm sure. :)

Passports: If you have current passports you do not need to worry about this fee. If you need a first time passport the total fee (not including photos) is $97 and if you just need to renew an old one it is $67 per passport. If you need your passport expedited it is an additional $60 fee but you should not need to worry about this if you remember to get your passport while starting the adoption process. You should have plenty of time to get it without the expedite fee. Our orphanage states that the child(ren)'s passports are included in the adoption fees so you will not likely have to pay an additional fee for this unless your orphanage tells you otherwise.

Visa for your child: This is paid while you are in Haiti picking up your child(ren) to bring home. The fee is $380 per child. UPDATE 4/11/07 I was just in Haiti a few days ago with a friend picking up her child. I asked her when she came back if she had to pay cash (a question that comes up about this) and she said that they are able to accept credit cards now, but in her opinion you may want to bring the cash anyways and not rely on the credit cards machines to be working. So... that's just the news I have received, I hope it helps you make a decision on what is best for you!

Travel expense:
Your hotel and airfare to go to Haiti and bring them home. I won't even try and give you an estimate on this because it varies so much depending on where you live, and so many other factors.

What is IBESR?

Once you get on the chat sites you will see this acronym being thrown around a lot and a lot of people excitedly stating that they are OUT of it. :) So what's this all about?? This question came up on the Haitian Angels chat site today so I thought I would share it while I'm thinking about it and have some information on hand.

This won't help much unless you speak French but what IBESR stands for is "Institut du BienEtre Social et de Recherches" . There that should clear that question up! Just kidding:) You may also hear of this part of the process as the Big Black Hole. Here is a great description of it's purpose that was posted on HA: Its french for the the equivalent of the department of family and children's services, and are responsible for approving each international adoption and ensuring that the adoptive family meets criteria, that the child is eligible for adoption, and that the adoption itself is legitimate, according to Haiti's adoption legislation of 1974.

During the time that we (and many others) hit the point of getting into IBESR it had allegedly a very corrupt director who had since been removed from his position and replaced. Many of our files were held up first by him and then because of the delay of getting a new director, getting her trained, and then she had to play a lot of catch up. Since she has been in the position everyone seems to be very pleased and the process has really picked up with much shorter wait times and frustrations for people now in or going into IBESR. It may even lose it's other title as the Big Black Hole if she keeps up the good job!

For much more information that will especially be priceless once your paper work hits the step of IBESR... A very helpful and smart adoptive mom started an unofficial IBESR blog. It's fantastic! It gives updated information about IBESR and any changes as well as giving file #'s that she knows of (from chat sites and being told by the adoptive parents) that come out of IBESR. It is so exciting to watch and see the numbers close to your file number getting out and knowing that your time may be coming soon. Here is her blog: http://ibesr-updates.blogspot.com/

Getting out of IBESR is exciting because it usually signifies the beginning of the end of the adoption!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Okay, I KNOW it's not "Logical"!!!-- UPDATED

Stephanie, Jude, and Lovenie's little brother Vilner: Will his mother want him to be adopted as well?
Jacques snuggling with a little girl at the orphanage. How could we not love him? :)




You don't need to tell me we are crazy. I already know about that! When we prayed about adopting Lovenie we had no idea that she had siblings. The very idea of adopting this young disabled girl considering my health and our financial circumstances at the time made NO SENCE at all! However, God called us to it and had never been more clear about anything before. While working on the adoption paperwork for Lovenie I felt like God kept telling me that there was a sibling we were supposed to adopt. This was a nagging feeling that just wouldn't go away but I knew that Lovenie didn't have siblings in the orphanage. A few months later we found out she had not only one but two siblings on an adoption waiting list as they could not even get into the orphanage. We KNEW without any doubt that God was calling us to adopt them too. How could we do this?? Again.. It just didn't seem logical, but God confirmed it and confirmed it and we should have them all home very soon! We already couldn't imagine our life without them.
So here's where it gets really crazy... God has brought a teenager into our lives that I have become unexplainably attached to. Now some people can explain this away as emotions but I see and even interact with many other orphans that do not have a home yet and while I pray that they find a home I do not feel that we are called to be their family. However, with this boy the feeling is overwelming! His name is Jacques and his story is on a post on my other blog at www.makefunofyourday.blogspot.com (March 21st post) with two other teen boys looking for a home. I can't explain the intense love I feel for this boy. I would never imagine feeling this way about a teenage son and could never have imagined considering it. Jim and I are talking about him and praying and asking God to make it really clear if we are to be his family. We do not feel that God has given us a clear answer so we will continue to pray until He does. I have prayed that God would take away this desire if it is not His will but instead of taking it away He has made it stronger and stronger until I can think of almost nothing else (just as He did with Lovenie). On top of all of this... Our children have a baby brother we just found out about. We are wondering if the birth mom will want him to be adopted as well. SO... we are currently praying about wisdom on adopting a 15 year old and 1 year old at the same time. If anyone would have told me that we would be considering this there is no way I would have believed you! I told my husband I wanted one or two children when we got married. :) We just want to follow God's plan for our life and the lives of these children. Please be praying for our family as we wait on the Lord for answers!
UPDATE 4/4/2007- For anyone wondering how this turned out.. a couple days ago my husband spoke with the director of the orphanage and we committed to the adoption of both of these boys! So for anyone trying to keep track here is our tally:
3 bio sons ages 8,6, and 3
3 siblings we are adopting from Haiti ages 11, 9, and 2- Currently in 2nd legal
1 little brother of the above siblings age 1
1 teenager not related to above siblings, unsure of his age somewhere between 13-15?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Psychological Exam Tips

I remember dreading having this done because it seemed like everyone else on the chat sites had a really hard time with this step. I guess we were extra blessed because this also went very smoothly for us. I guess my biggest tip is this: Check your health coverage. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that this would be covered by our health care plan and only cost us a $25 co-pay! I have read of many people that have not been so fortunate (or didn't know to check their health care plan) and ended up spending $300 to over $1000. If you can not get your health care to cover this then it's worth getting on a local chat site and requesting a referral. Then call around and make sure that you are getting the BEST price and jumping through the least hoops. I believe you have to use a licensed Psychologist but that is the only requirement (not a therapist). I have heard stories of some parents going through outrageous amounts of testing that is totally unnecessary. Here is what we did. We scheduled an appointment with a Psychologist, went in and had a short interview, filled out a written test, and left around 2 hours (or less) later...done. This letter will need to be notarized, authenticated/certified by the Secretary of State, and Apostilled by the Haitian Consulate.

UPDATE ON 3/28/07: I have been hearing a lot of talk on the chat sites that some orphanages are requesting only one letter for both parents. It would be worth looking into seeing if you can do this. If you can submit just one page you would cut back as much as $20 for the additional notary, $10 for the additional State Certification/authentication, $25 for the additional Apostille, and even an additional $10-15 if you are paying per page to have your dossier translated. This would total a savings of around $70! You may even find that the Psychologist might charge you less for the one letter-- worth looking into!

Here's an idea of what ours look like:


Clinical Record
Name: (Your name here) Provider: (Name of Psychologist, title) Date:
Personal Data
Social Security # Birth Date: Treatment Status: Active
Address Age: Previously Treated: No
Address Continued Gender: Pri. Care Physician:
State Race: Employer:
Zip Military Rank: Psychiatrist:
Your home phone Treatment start date: Referral Source: (Our insurance was here)
Work phone Setting: outpatient
ASSESSMENT
Interviewer: (name of psychologist) Interview Date: Person Interviewed: Patient
Psychosocial History:
Family: Description of your family and family life here.
Development: Brief overview of how I was raised and information about my parents and siblings.
Socio-Economic:
Brief description of my life from the time leaving my home to when I married
Psychiatric:
(your name) experiences no current emotional distress. She has no treatment for psychological reasons.
Medical:
Brief description of your medical condition
Assessment Summary:
There are no psychological reasons to suggest that (your name here) should not continue with the adoption process.
Psychologists Signature
Typed Name and title
Licensed Psychologist
She had promised to have this notarized for us and mail it to us. You might want to ask when calling around if they can do this for you. However, ours never got around to sending us a notarized copy so we took it to a notary and wrote on it... This is a true, exact, and complete copy of the original document. Then we had our signature to that statement notarized. We have done this with many documents and have no problems at all with this. However, some people will insist you can not do it this way. I'll update if we end up running into any problem with doing this but are currently at the end of the adoption and have had no problem with it as well as knowing others who have done the same and have had no problem with it that have their children home. Remember, I'm just sharing what we did... Use your own judgement in these kind of decisions.
In hindsight: I'm learning that this letter could probably just have been a simple letter on the Psychologist's letterhead stating that they have interviewed you and find no reason why you should not be able to adopt. Keeping in mind that everything you have done needs to be translated into french, this could be a good thing for everyone.

Police Clearance

For us the police clearance letter was easy to obtain. We simply walked into our county's police headquarters and told them why we needed this and for $3 each they printed it out, notarized it for us and we walked out with it minutes later. If you are married make sure to get one for each of you.

If your police headquarters are unsure of what it is you are requesting from them it may help to take ours as an example. It was on the police department letterhead.

Date
Your last name, first, middle and DL #
Your Current address


To Whom It May Concern:

Please be advised that the above-mentioned individual has no record of ever being arrested, or in any other way handled by this department.

If any additional information is needed, please don't hesitate to call or write.

Thank you,
Signature of Staff Member
Typed name of Staff Member
Department of Staff Member (In our case she wrote Records)


Don't forget to have them notarize it! They should have a notary there on site.

Power of Attorney

Here is an example of our power of attorney. When completed this needs to be notarized, authenticated/certified at the Secretary of State and Apostiled at the Haitian Consulate.

Here's an example of ours:

SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
We, (your names here) do make, constitute and appoint (name your orphanage wants you to give power of attorney to here) our true and lawful Attorney-in-fact with full authority to act and in our behalf as follows:

To obtain all documents, items and things which are necessary and to take any and all action which is required to issue an immigrant visa and adopt orphans according to the laws of Haiti and the United States of America, State of (your state here).

We hereby give and grant unto our Attorney-in-fact full power and authority to do and perform all and every act and things whatsoever required and necessary to be done and accomplish the above stated purposes, as fully we might or could do if we were personally present, and we hereby ratify and confirm all that said Attorney-in-fact shall lawfully do or cause to be done by virtue of this power.

No third party shall have any duty to inquire into the authority of our Attorney-in-Fact to take any action as set forth herein. We hereby release any and all persons for actions taken in compliance with and in reliance on directions of our Attorney-in-Fact.

It is intended that this special power of attorney shall continue to be effective until such time as care, custody and property of said orphans is transferred from my Attorney-in-Fact to us.

SIGNED___________________________________________________________________________
(If adoptive parents are married both sign on the line above, don't forget to wait to sign until in front of a notary)

Can an Independant Social worker do my home study?

This is a GREAT question to ask as it could potentially save you thousands of dollars. However, please keep in mind that each state has it's own laws about this so do as much research as you can and ask people in your state. In Texas we were able to use an independent social worker and it saved us about $1500 so definatly worth the time of looking into! We are now in California and this question has recently come up. I don't take just anyones word for a yes or no answer but was recently informed by someone very experienced in both law and adoption that you can not legally use an Independent Social Worker and she backed it up with what I believe to be very compelling evidence. Again, this applies only to California law and as always, any advice given on this blog or a chat site should be questioned and researched yourself. I will just share what I am learning along the way. So if you are in the state of California... if it were me I would play it safe and get an Adoption Agency to do my home study. Any other state... It's certainly worth researching to see if you can save money and effort by using an Independent Social Worker!

Here is the California Law information recently shared on a local chat site:

CALIFORNIA CODESFAMILY.CODESECTION 8900-89208900.
Intercountry adoption services described in this chaptershall be exclusively provided by private adoption agencies licensedby the department specifically to provide these services.8901. The department shall adopt regulations to administer theintercountry adoption program.8902. For intercountry adoptions that will be finalized in thisstate, the licensed adoption agency shall provide all of thefollowing services: (a) Assessment of the suitability of the applicant's home. (b) Placement of the foreign-born child in an approved home. (c) Postplacement supervision. (d) Submission to the court of a report on the intercountryadoptive placement with a recommendation regarding the granting ofthe petition. (e) Services to applicants seeking to adopt related childrenliving in foreign countries. The Legislature recognizes that thesechildren have an impelling need for adoptive placement with theirrelatives.
CALIFORNIA CODESFAMILY.CODE
8904. For an intercountry adoption that will be finalized in aforeign country, the licensed adoption agency shall provide all ofthe following services: (a) Assessment of the suitability of the applicant's home. (b) Certification to the Immigration and Naturalization Servicethat this state's intercountry adoption requirements have been met. (c) Readoption services as required by the Immigration andNaturalization Service.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Great Creole resource update

I recently posted suggestions for learning Creole but I just found a new favorite! It's a book and CD called Simple Language for Adoptive Families and can be ordered from this website www.adoptlanguage.com .

Things I love about it:
It's small and light weight but durable so I can take it just about anywhere. It's broken up into really great sections which will make finding just the words I need so much easier when our kids are home and I can't think of what I'm trying to say. The way the book is made you can use it like flash cards as far as the english translation on one side and you can fold back the creole words or vice versa to test yourself. The words and phrases are extremely helpfull and include usefull phrases that were not in my other resources. I really like the CD too because it is high quality recording and the words are said very clearly in English and then repeated slowly twice in Creole giving you a chance to say it over and over before moving on!
Just fantastic! I'm sure it will prove to be a huge blessing to many families. We have just had it this week and have already been through it over and over again!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Great benefits to using an Agency!

So, this blog is pretty much written for those who find themselves in a situation where it seems like independent adoption is the only way they can afford to adopt. I in no way mean to imply that you should not very seriously consider using an Agency with a great reputation. So I contacted an agent and asked her to share with us the many benefits of using an agency and what they do for you. In my opinion... if you have the money, and /or you don't have A LOT of time to invest, or you are feeling unsure of doing the adoption independently- you should certainly consider an Agency.

For two years now I have been on Haiti adoption chat sites where I have heard nothing but absolutely wonderful things about this agent. So I contacted her and asked her to share with us. This is what she had to say:

Well....the benefits of using an agency is usually:

Someone to help with paper chase

Someone to Translate, Authenticate and State Certify your documents for you

Communicate with the USCIS, US Government and Haitian government for you.

Communicate with your Haitian contact so you don't have to worry about it or spend the money doing it. As well as more frequent updates on dossier status.

Be with you to answer questions on paperwork thru out the process

Someone to hook you up with necessary resources available that many do not know about

Agencies have access to information before it is known by the general population

We have a vast network of agencies called the JCICS (Joint Council of International Children's Services.) When you are a member agency it gives you access to more information and ability to network for the adoptive family quickly.

Someone who has been there and done that to understand and sympathize during the long process.

I myself understand the cost of using an agency is prohibitive. If I had my way it would be MUCH cheaper or pretty much free. :-P My boss gets mad at me for 'giving the milk away for free' all the time.

Heritage is www.heritageadoption.org
I run the Haiti Link program, the other is currently A Child's Hope Foundation.
MY number is 208.412.0788 for my cell. Also feel free to paste my email at thehaitilady@hotmail.com or thehaitilady@heritageadoption.org

ACHF does not require religious affiliation, but has some really different and strict requirements for their program. (No singles etc and couple must be approved by several levels of people to adopt from there.) It may be like that for other agencies that may work with Dr. B, but I do the approval since I know him so well and if I have a question I can ask him and then let them know.

One way we are different (better hehehe) than most, we have been to Haiti several times, have kids from there and view it NOT as a job, but a CALLING. I am called by God to help the children of Haiti find good homes and to work my hardest for the families who ask me to. I make myself available to families night and day...ask them if I have business hours. hehe

Thank you for including me..I really appreciate it!
Love ya,
LeAnne


Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your task. -Phillips Brooks

LeAnne "The Haiti Lady" KovickHaiti Link Program CoordinatorHeritage Adoption Services10011 SE. Division Suite 314Portland, OR 97266Office: 503.233.1099Home: 208.454.1856Cell: 208.412.0788

Learning Creole

Creole is like a slang French that is mostly spoken in Haiti. The educated in Haiti speak in French so if your children have had any school then they may speak some French as well. I thought I would post some tips about learning enough Creole to at least communicate a bit with your children. I wish I had started this sooner (especially since we are adopting older children). One of our favorite books/cd for learning Creole is "On Almost Even ground". The book gives wonderful words and phrases that is writen for English speaking parents adopting creole speaking children. One thing we wish this book gave was more examples of how to pronounce the words- it does come with the cd so you can hear the words being said. We also got a English/Creole dictionary that has been very helpful. We have made our own flash cards with a combination of resources. Some of these resources we found online and I will share:

Creole for Moms and Dads- www.natesmith.web1000.com

Creole Lesson 1- http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/oOb2RX2DB8i8a46xAzfgs5N5kBoV6BnjK5ROfuuPccHVqNQXW1lMoZAEJsIF1SUWrjCQtN9Tk9vZUDkxHNplPvlsqbUWiRumJvhpGpsuA9EZlw/Creole%20Lessons/CREOLE%20LESSON%20#1.doc

Creole Lesson 2-
http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/oOb2RQ-R_na8a46xRO4NEZ4ESfYfzO2vU5AzES7RsDbxtM3hIOP2koCWCnIdo75utXmGABrW-LJo5vdG7UOJVuvmYT-zoRpoqw0kxPWRlfxqOw/Creole%20Lessons/CREOLE%20LESSON%20#2.doc

Creole Lesson 3-
http://f1.grp.yahoofs.com/v1/oOb2RSx3kXu8a46xixZjBclUskcP_pPKh8hwoFIqyB8NXuvkbJ3gx_bI198VCZdBzWzSvHD1dv1Ugc0GpQDI4kjMxsyYwRf-n0wJrZ3deF9baw/Creole%20Lessons/CREOLE%20LESSON%20#3.doc


Just for fun:

If you want to see our insane family attempt to make a message video in Creole to our children still in Haiti while our bio children go wild:

go to my blog at www.makefunof yourday.blogspot.com on March 13th, 2007 post. It will give you a link to our video's on youtube and the English translation. Or to just access the video's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnsh3MfXqpw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmu7zVSN6G8

I'll include more resources as I come across them!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Home study requirements accordinging to USCIS

Please read my post about home study and updates before reading this if you have not already done so. This information can be very difficult to find but it is SO VERY important that you are informed of what you legally are required to have in your home study. Also, this information can save you a lot of time, money and frustration later in the adoption if you have this. If you find your self wondering if you need a new home study, update, or addendum you will hopefully find this information to be priceless!!!

Try this link to find the home study requirements from the USCIS website. www.uscis.gov/propub/ProPubVAP.jsp?dockey=b7de738c4e7cc5144a380b3848bf01bb

If this link does not work (USCIS site changes often) then try going to the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov and type in the search- home study. I have (with much frustration) found that sometimes it will allow you to open the page with the requirements and sometimes it won't. So, one time that I got it open I copied and pasted it to a word program.

If you have any trouble at all access this information or just want to bypass messing with the links or website you can email me and I will email you back with a word document attachment with the information I copy and pasted on 3/12/2007. I am more then happy to do this since I think it is crucial that you have this information. My email is angnjim@sbcglobal.net I am online often and will usually respond very quickly.

Hope this is a great blessing to you and will save you a lot of trouble in the beginning as well as later in the process!!

Home Study & updates tips

If you are a member of a local Haitian adoption chat site or international adoption site- this is the best place to ask for referrals and references for who to do your home study or home study updates/addendums (if needed later in the process). You will find you will get lots of advice! Many will share honestly about agencies that they have trouble with so that you can possibly avoid falling into the wrong one. Others will share their great experiences with you as well. This should give you a great start at choosing an agency. A great money saving tip is to find out if your state allows an independent social worker to do your home study! Make sure they are licensed to do international and not just state adoptions. If your state does allow it then make sure to ask for referrals for this as well. Not sure how much to budget for your Home Study? Ask! I've found people are very willing to share how much they were charged. Again, make sure you are asking a local group as different states have different requirements and can be extremely different in costs as well. For example: When we started the adoption we lived in Texas and was able to use an independent Social Worker we were referred to. She was absolutely wonderful to work with and only charged us around $1000. We had to do a home study update when we moved to CA and from what we understood, did not have the option of using an independent social worker and the agencies costs were an average of around $2,500. We were able to get an update for around $500 ($200 of that is refundable when we send them post adoption papers).

When we moved from TX to CA we were unsure if we needed to have a whole new home study done (since we were in a new state) or if we could just do an update. I posted on many chat sites and got many conflicting answers (these are the times you have to do your own research). I called USCIS (immigration) to find out what I legally needed to do and talked to two different employees who gave me conflicting advice and seemed totally clueless. No help at all. This was honestly one of my most frustrating times in the whole adoption process. I hope sharing what I learned from hours and hours of seeking the truth will help someone else in the same shoes.

Every single Agency I called insisted that we would need to do a whole new home study done because of the change of state. This would be done at the price tag of $2,500. None of them offered me the option of doing just an update. There may be some agencies out there that are very honest and helpful... but my experience was... they are a business and if they can get more money out of you--- they will!!! This is why you need to be informed when you call them. YOU tell them what you need instead of asking them. Their answer will likely be in their best interest not yours. I know this sounds harsh but it's unfortunately very true to the experience I had. I spent hours and hours online until I finally found the legal requirements on the USCIS (immigration) page. Once I read this I knew exactly what I needed and was able to call the agencies. Armed with the knowledge of exactly what I needed I ended up saving over $2000 and possible months of waiting time and lots of extra work! In my next post I will share with you what USCIS requires for home studies, updates, and addendums.

Tips that may save you trouble, time, and money down the road: ask your agency to approve you for more children then you intend to adopt. You may be absolutely convinced that you will not add any more children but it happens very often that during the process you learn about a sibling, or fall in love with another child or children and would like to add them to your adoption. This is easily done if you are already approved for more children. Ask them to make the age range much wider then the specific age range (or have them say children of any age if they are willing) you have in mind for these same reasons. Also ask them to include that you are approved to adopt a special needs child (even if you have no intentions to do so). You never know, something may happen to your child while you wait, or you might fall in love with a special needs child along the way and this is required to be in your home study to bring a special needs child home. If it is not in your original home study you will need to have an update to your home study to bring them home which would be additional cost and time. Having all of these approvals does not mean that you are at all required to adopt more children, or a special needs child but it leaves you options and you may be very glad later in the process that you did it.

Your home study needs to be notarized, authenticate (or State certified) and apostled by the Haitian consulate. I will go into more details about this in another post. USCIS requires your home study to have been completed with in the last six months in order to except it when you file your I-600 (I'll share more about immigration paperwork in another post as well) or you will need to have an update done. So, keep an eye on the date.

Medical exams for dossier and home study tips

Some advice on your medical exam... Wait until you choose your agency or independent social worker (if your state law allows) before having your medical exams done. Two reasons for this 1) some agencies or SW's will have their own forms they want the doctor to fill out for their files and you can save yourself a trip if you wait until you have that form before you do your exam for your dossier (yes, these are separate things). 2) If you need to do an update or addendum to your home study later in the adoption the medical exam and blood tests usually expire in one year (this seems to be common policy with most agencies). It may save you lots of time and money down the road to NOT rush to get the Medical exam done before starting the home study process. Some home study agencies require your children currently living with you to have exams and blood tests as well, and some do not. This is a question that you may want to know to ask when deciding on an agency/SW. You do not need to include a health exam for your children in your dossier (again, unless your orphanage specifically requests it).

Here is what is required for your dossier:

Health certificate/letter from your doctor and results from your HIV, Syphilis, and TB (also referred to as PPD) testing for each adopting parent. If you or your Doctor needs any help, or more details about what to write, here is an example of ours (again encourage your doctor to keep it short and to the point as you will have to have this translated into French later). Make sure the letter is written on your doctor's letterhead. Here is ours:

Date

RE: Your name here
DOB: Your date of birth here

To Whom It May Concern,

(Your name here) has been a patient of mine here since __________. She has recently come in for a complete exam. I found no physical abnormalities. She had a negative PPD. She also had a negative HIV screen as well as a negative syphilis blood test. I see no physical or emotional reasons for her not to be an adoptive parent.

Please contact me with any other questions.

Sincerely,

Your DR.'s signature here
Doctors name, MD
Name of Clinic or Hospital


This letter is for your dossier but a copy of it may be requested for your home study as well. Also, ask for a copy of the actual blood test and PPD/TB results and include these with your dossier. The letter from your doctor needs to be notarized but the blood test result pages do not (unless your agency or orphanage requests otherwise). Most doctor's offices have a notary which really helps. If they do not- please see my notary tips post for advice.

Huge money/time/frustration saving advice: Many people have run into the problem of having their exam done by a nurse practitioner, or someone other then an MD. This WILL be rejected by your home study AND for your dossier. Make absolutely sure the exam is done and the letter is signed by an MD and an MD only!! So many people have run into this problem (myself included when I had my children's done) and it can be a big hastle.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Notary advice

You are going to get to know a notary all too well! We were very fortunate to have a friend that was a notary and she sat down with us in one night and we went through page after page notarizing everything! Ask around- you might be able to find someone to do this for you for free and it could end up saving you a lot of money. Another place to check with is your bank. Some banks offer free notary service to anyone that has an account with them. Our bank, Washington Mutual, would not notarize anything unless it was a bank document. I am pretty sure Bank of America does this for free for their customers and there are probably many other banks that do as well. Again, it could save you a lot of money to take the time to ask!

UPDATE 3/28/07: I just learned that AAA members (even non-members) can receive cheap notary services. Here are the fees for each of the different memberships: Premier Member-FREE, AAA plus $4, Classic membership $7, and non-members can even use this service for as little as $10!

Some notary tips:

Make sure that the notary's commission does not expire in the next 12 months or longer. If it's about to expire you could end up not being able to use that document/notary later in the process. Better safe then sorry. The notary should hand write or stamp something along these lines on your document:

State of _____
County of _______
Sworn to and subscribed before me this ___th day of ________ by (your names here).

It should, of course, also include the notary's stamp and signature.

Helpful hint: A friend that has adopted many times from Haiti gave me this wonderful tip and we have not had any problems with it (or her as far as we know of). If you have a document already signed that was not signed in front of a notary--- like a reference letter from a friend. Write at the bottom of the document:

This is a true, exact, and complete copy of the original document.

Then sign that statement in front of the notary!

Gathering your dossier can be a very busy and stressful time. Try to have as much of your paperwork ready to notarize before making a trip to your notary. The fewer trips you make will save you time and stress.

Letter of Formal Request to adopt- for your dossier

I remember this being a letter that I had no idea where to begin with! So, I thought I would share what we wrote in ours. Obviously your information would be different but at least this might give you an idea of what to write and who to direct it to. In hind site- I should probably kept it shorter since it will need to be translated into french down the road. Anyways... Here it is:

Your full name
street address
city, state, zip code

Director of IBESR
Port- Au- Prince

Date

Dear Director,

We are interested in adopting three siblings from your country. We currently have three sons ages 2, 4, and 6. We are excited about the idea of our family growing and have received a lot of support in this from our family and friends. We are a very loving family that knows the importance of spending time together and making sure that every member of our family knows they are loved.

James is a Chemical Engineer and Process Manager for an Anodize company where his salary is $________ a year plus bonuses which makes his Salary potential over $_______. He has been with the company for a total of 8 years. Angela is a stay at home Mom and home schools our school age children. She plans to be home giving her love and attention to the new children that we would like to add to our family as well.

We are very actively involved with teaching and caring for the children in our church. Jim is the Coordinator and lead teacher of the classes for two year olds and Angela is a teacher for 4th and 5th grade children. We love these kids and are very invested in them. We have a lot of experience caring for children from being parents of three children, we have 9 nephews and nieces, and have taken care of many friend's children, as well as teaching many children at church.

We would like to request approval to adopt three children from Haiti. We would be very honored to bring children from your country into our lives and home. We have been studying your country with a desire to understand and embrace your culture. We would like for the children we adopt to continue to know and love Haiti as well as incorporate some of your culture, language, and traditions in our home and family.

Sincerely,


Your name typed here
your signatures above---- do not sign until in front of a notary!!!


This letter will be notarized and later certified/authenticated by the Secretary of State

Friday, March 9, 2007

Getting Started--The very 1st steps

If you have not done so already, please read the introduction post on this site for some great tips on getting recommendations and support. In this post I will assume you have chosen an orphanage to work with, and an agency or independent Social Worker (if your state law allows) to do your home study. Let's get started with working on your dossier. What is a dossier you ask?... it's simply a word to describe the personal paperwork you need to gather and send to the orphanage. Your child(ren) will also have a dossier that the orphanage will take care of. Start gathering the things that make sense from this list and the more difficult ones I will expand on and give examples of in future posts. If you can't wait that long feel free to email me at angnjim@yahoo.net with your questions.

Here is a great place to get started and should keep you busy for a while:

Dossier Checklist- Keep in mind this is pretty generic but check with your orphanage to find out if there are any differences, in the meantime this should help you get started...

Letter of formal request for adoption (addressed to: Director of IBESR)
Birth Certificate for adopting Father
Birth Certificate for adopting Mother
Marriage License (if you have had previous marriages you only need your current license)
Divorce Decree (for any previous marriages)
Employer Letter (His)
Employer Letter (Hers)
Bank Letter
Copy of last 3 years taxes
Medical Exam and test results (His)
Medical Exam and test results (Hers)- I will go into more detail soon with advice about this
Police Clearance (His)
Police Clearance (Hers)
Psychological Exam (His)
Psychological Exam (Hers)- will go into more detail soon
Home Study
I-171H approval - will go into more detail soon but you can send your dossier ahead without this
Letters of references (3 sources non related) Keep these brief as they will need to be translated
Power of attorney to______ Check with your orphanage on who to give P.O.A to
Four Copies of passport photo's (His)
Four Copies of passport photo's (Hers) Don't forget to get a couple extra each if you need passports


I will go into more detail about many common questions about some of these soon. If you need answers right away go ahead and email me! Keep in mind that everything on this list needs to be notarized except for your tax return and I-171H. I will give more advice on notary soon as well.


Joyfully, Angela

Introduction/ Concerns

So your interested in adopting from Haiti? That's great! The most important advice I can think to give someone is to pray, pray, pray, pray!!! Make sure it is really God that is leading you to make this decision. Once your sure of this pray some more. :) Ask God to make it clear to you what his plan is... how many children? What orphanage? Which children has He chosen for you? Should use an agency or adopt independently?

This blog I hope will be most helpful to those who choose to adopt independently. This is the way we did it and for us it was a must because of financial restraints. If you are using a good agent you are not likely to need much help from this blog. :)

Concerns:

It's a scary and exciting thing to take the first steps in adoption. I encourage you that if you truly know this is what God's calling you to do that everything WILL fall into place and He will provide your every need. I have found that the biggest concerns have been the following:

Can I handle ___ # of kids? We have 3 biological children, and are at the end of the adoption of 3 siblings from Haiti. God made it very clear that these children were to be part of our family but I still had the fear of wondering how I would handle it. When I had one bio child and was pregnant again I wondered "I can hardly handle one, how am I going to handle 2?" When I was pregnant with my 3rd child I was very nervous thinking "I can barely handle 2, how am I going to handle 3?". At the beginning of the adoption I had great fears about going from 3 to 6. To me that was a huge jump. God has taken away that fear for me and I'm left with the comfort of knowing that I am not alone in this and it is nothing to fear. Plus, after being on adoption chat sites long enough you will learn of families with 15 kids, half of them special needs, and all of them home schooled! I'm totally serious. :) Suddenly you realize that if others can do what they are doing, then with God's help you can certainly handle this!

HOW WILL WE AFFORD THIS?
You are not alone. Almost everyone that starts out in adoption does not have the money and has NO CLUE where it will come from! Again, if God has called you to this- trust that He will be the provider. Move forward in faith, doing whatever you can do and pray about provisions. You will be absolutely stunned at the way the money is always there when you need it. Don't try and figure out how it's going to happen because God goes beyond your wildest imagination!! I have heard story after story of people that have started out with no way to pay the adoption fees and have received every penny in the most incredible ways. Maybe in a later post I will share how God did this for us and ask others to share as well. It certainly would encourage and inspire you! Now that we are at the end of the adoption, if I could go back and change one thing it would be that I would not have wasted so much time worrying about the money and a lot more time having faith that it would come. God's grown me a lot through adoption. It is a great time to really grow in faith and patience!!

CAN I DO THIS INDEPENDENTLY?
Most orphanages will work with you independently. The orphanage we are using is New Life Link. It will mean that you do not pay someone to hold your hand, tell you exactly what to do, and fill out some of your paperwork for you (I've gotta admit there were many times I had wished for this, and if finances are not an issue for you- you may want to consider this as an option!), however, with the help of others you can get answers to almost any questions. I will do my best to put on as many tips and examples as I can on this site. Different states and orphanages may require different things, and the laws change constantly so you can use my blog as a guideline but it is best to check as much as possible with people that are adopting or have adopted from your state, as well as from the same orphanage. In my opinion the BEST way to do this is to get on some adoption chat sites. The one I would recommend the most is- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HaitianAngels/ It currently has 1007 members that have adopted or are adopting from Haiti and have been my greatest resource and help. This group includes families that are all around the world and adopting from many different orphanages. Because of this you are likely to be able to get recommendations on different orphanages, the laws of your state, recommendations for an agency to do your home study, and SO MUCH MORE! Because there are so many members, after you join, you may want to go to the site and edit your membership to receive daily digests instead of individual emails. Also, look into joining a group that is in your state or area, and additionally a group of people that are adopting from just the orphanage that you choose- this will be very important for when you have specific questions.

Over time I will be adding more and more to this blog. I hope it will be a great blessing to you.

Joyfully, Angela