Saturday, June 28, 2008

Approved by USCIS!!!

It's nice that some things don't take nearly as long as you think they will. I thought for sure we'd be waiting weeks for our approval letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS)--after all, our home study was just mailed to them last Friday!

But today (Saturday) we got the magic "letter of approval" that allows us to proceed with the adoption of a child from Korea. It's called the I-797C, Notice of Action, and it's titled (are you ready for THIS mouthful?) NOTICE OF FAVORABLE DISPOSITION CONCERNING APPLICATION FOR ADVANCE PROCESSING OF ORPHAN PETITION. And the "approval" box is checked! Yay!

Of course I found a typo (see if you can find it too): "Your approved advance processing application is being retained or has been forwarded as indicted by an "X" below..."

Funny, I never knew you could "indict" an "X"--I'm certain they meant "indicated," but that's a whole other discussion.

Oh, and they apparently think we live on Thornberry "Land" vs. "Lane" (I asked Margie if that matters...I really, really hope it doesn't!).

We also got in the mail our certificate from Catholic Charities that reads as follows: "Catholic Charities Center for Family Services ADOPTIVE HOME CERTIFICATION--This is to certify that the home of Jeffrey & Kathleen Halverson has been certified as an Adoptive home for the care of children who are under the supervision of Catholic Charities' Center for Family Services." Whoo-hoo! We're official in every sense of the word!

Routine, bureaucratic paperwork typically bores me to death, but we are pretty darn excited about these two integral pieces of paper, both of which are critical steps on our journey to get matched with our child and to travel to Korea to bring him/her home.

So now, there really IS nothing left to wait for except our referral (when we get matched with our child), which probably won't happen until, at the earliest, the end of 2008, early 2009. Once we accept the referral (after running the baby's file by two international adoption pediatricians), we travel to Korea typically 2-4 months later. So travel will likely be anytime between spring and fall of 2009.

All in all, a pretty good weekend, wouldn't you say?

Keep the prayers and positive thoughts coming our way!


Monday, June 23, 2008

And the Wait Begins

I know it sounds weird, but I'm so excited that our "wait" has finally officially begun and we don't need to do anything else except to sit tight and WAIT. Keep us in your prayers/thoughts that our wait will be as brief as possible!

In the meantime, we continue to occupy ourselves with our usual slew of activities. I honestly don't know where the weeks go!

I subbed for a Gentle Yoga class at Blue Heron Wellness in Silver Spring, MD, last week, and while I was there, the director was talking with me about a possible regular teaching opportunity (every new yoga teacher's dream: to teach at a "real" yoga studio!) come fall. So, in the context of that conversation, I explained that I had to think very carefully about taking this on, and I mentioned the adoption.

Well, the world continues to shrink, folks. It turns out that Elisa and her husband are the parents of two beautiful boys (8 and 10) from Guatemala! She took me into her office and proudly showed me the most amazing photos of these little guys. Smiling, holding hands on what was clearly someone's first day of school. They looked so happy and relaxed! It made me think about what our little one will hopefully look like in photos, once he/she arrives.

And I couldn't help but wonder if it gave me an "in" that I wouldn't have had, as far as this teaching opportunity goes! Ha ha!

Have a wonderful week! I probably won't write again this week, as there really is nothing new going on.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Slight Change (But All Is Still Good)

Well, today I got an email in which Margie amended her original estimate of the mail date to Korea. They are actually mailing the home study to Korea and to CIS on the same day: this coming Friday (June 20). I'm not terribly surprised, nor am I worried/upset about it. It's all still good stuff--our home study should arrive in Korea next week, as opposed to this week. (I suppose this is just a sampling of the typical "delays" that an adoptive family experiences!) She said that this will have very little impact (if at all) on our wait, that a few days is no big deal but she always wants to keep us up-to-the-minute informed.

We went to our neighbor's house this weekend for a barbecue on Father's Day. They have four adopted children (two boys, two girls; two in college, two in high school/middle school) from Korea. They pulled out the scrapbooks, and we saw some of their photos. So exciting. We saw photos of their youngest, Caitlin (sp?), when she was new to their family. They also showed us their "Homeland Tour" photos, where John (the dad) and two of the kids (Karen and David) traveled back to Korea, when the kids were about 12 and 10, and they were able to meet up with their foster moms who had cared for them very early in their lives! We've been told that things like this are very important for adopted kids--gives them a sense of closure, completeness, filling in of the "gaps" that may exist in their young lives. It's also, as you can imagine, VERY emotional for both the child (who may or may not remember her but still feels a connection) and the foster mom (who remembers well). Doing things like this definitely makes it feel more real for us. They were giving us all kinds of helpful advice and tips.

We feel so supported on this journey, and we're so thankful for that!

Hugs to you all, and talk soon.

Friday, June 13, 2008


It's official. Here's the exact wording from Margie's email to me about an hour ago:

"It was so good to visit with you yesterday and see your lovely home. I have good news for you: I finished your home study last night, had Ellen sign today before she leaves the country, and it's being notarized right now! It will go to Korea Monday and to CIS [Customs and Immigration Services, formerly INS] next Friday."

I'm leaving the office now, but I wanted to convey the good news! What a great way to start a weekend!

Think I'll have a beer tonight. Maybe several.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

What to Expect When We Travel

Another shocker we learned was that we will NOT be traveling to Seoul as part of a group of parents, as we've thought all along. We will be traveling alone--a direct flight from Dulles, VA, to Seoul, Korea, with a van from Holt (our int'l adoption agency) waiting for us. We'll have a translator who travels with us, though (a Mrs. Lee). So that's comforting to know. From what I understand, Seoul is a big, modern city, so traveling to Korea to pick up our child is not like traveling to, say, Ethiopia.

The typical routine is to fly out on a Saturday and back on a Thursday. Here's the rough schedule as she told it to us:

Sat: Depart Dulles for 13-hour (I think) direct flight.
Sun: Arrive in Seoul.
Mon: Meet our child for the first time (but we do not take custody of him at that time). Back to our hotel, just the two of us, that evening.
Tues: Sightseeing in and around Seoul (guided tour of some type--translation: "pleasant distraction" while paperwork gets worked out). We will also have the opportunity to visit the home for disabled orphans in a neighboring city, which is where our sponsorship money goes (this money is rolled into our fees that we pay during the process). We can also request to visit the city/town of our child's birth (if known, and if we arrange it with Holt ahead of time).
Wed: We prepare for our flight home the next day. It's typically an early flight, so we'll get custody of our child Wed evening and spend our first night alone with him! Yikes!
Thurs: Get up bright and early (something like 3 a.m.), head for the airport, kid in tow. Back to Dulles.
Fri: Arrive in Dulles (jet lagged, probably exhausted, but happy). Promptly collapse (oh, whoops! We can't do that anymore! We are parents now!).

Just thought you might be interested...we apparently have travel meetings several times while we are waiting. They bring in families who just got back; we meet their kids and hear directly from them about their experience in Korea. Sounds cool, huh?!

OK, three wordy posts are enough for one day!

Talk soon,

Airing My Pissiness

OK, now that I gave you the good news, it's time for a less-than-blissful gripe session. Hang onto your hats, kids. I hope you're prepared to be the ears and shoulders you said you'd be for us during this process, b/c I need you right now!

Can I tell you how much I didn't like having a person who is still almost a complete stranger coming to our home, assessing its cleanliness, advising us on how to parent, suggesting how to set up our home so it's "safe" for children, and actually suggesting that we should plan on decorating our home with some Korean art/cultural items (not that I'm averse to that: I like Korean art and culture. What I don't like is being told that's what I "should" do)? Never been particularly good with authority, and this is certainly no exception.

Sorry for these several long posts, but I have a lot to say. After weeks of very infrequent posting, I know!

As happy as I am that we are moving forward, this whole experience this morning really got under my skin and rubbed me the wrong way.

We had taken this parenting assessment at our initial meeting with Margie back in March, and so one of the things we did today was to go over whatever questions Jeff or I answered that were not the "preferred answers." There weren't that many, thank goodness. Then we discussed any questions where it appeared that he and I disagreed markedly. She said it wasn't a pass/fail kind of thing, just an opportunity to discuss issues that need to be talked about beforehand, to get on the same page with one another and with our agency about parenting.

It reminded me of when Jeff and I were engaged, and we were looking around for Pre-Cana classes to take here in MD. The one church that offered the classes told us that a "compatibility test" was part of the Pre-Cana Program. I'm sorry, but we wouldn't be engaged if we didn't think we were compatible! That pretty much sealed the deal for me. We went elsewhere. Ended up using my hometown church's Pre-Cana Program, in good old PA--and it didn't require a compatibility test.

This time, we don't exactly have a choice in the matter.

Ooh, it just irks me.

I usually like to stay positive and focus only on the "good energy" of anything that is going on in life, but today I'm finding it extremely difficult to do that.

Talk soon--look for my next post on what I learned about our travel to Korea.


Our File Will Be In Korea NEXT WEEK!

Well, today's home visit went very well. I am tired from all the worrying and cleaning, but happy that things went well. Mara, our in-person reference, came all the way to MD (about 1 hr drive) from Vienna, VA, to meet with Margie (our caseworker) for 10 minutes! Now if that ain't true friendship, I'm not sure what is. A very public thank-you and HUGE HUG to Mara for her willingness to help us and give up so much of her morning.

Margie got there at 8:30 on the dot and left at 11:30. We didn't need to clean nearly as manically as we did...but oh well. Now we have a nice, clean house. We did get told that we need to fence in the backyard completely (it's only three-quarters fenced). We were planning on doing this soon anyway, so now we'll just make sure it happens in the next couple of months. What the hell? It's only a couple of thousand bucks, right?

She said that she was going to sign off on/approve our home study today and submit it to her supervisor tomorrow, for complete signoff. Then, it gets shipped to Korea. She said that our file should be in Korea BY NEXT WEEK! Translated: We're about 7 days away from being officially on the Korea waiting list! You couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces when we heard that. For some reason, I didn't think it would happen so soon after the home visit.

I asked her about timelines, explaining that tons of people keep on asking us the magic four-letter word of "when"? She said that my estimate of Fall 2009 was fairly accurate, if not a little bit sooner. She said "I would hope that you'll be traveling to Korea before Fall of 2009, but with the way things are going, the waits are getting longer, so we'll just have to see what happens."

Translated: Sit tight and wait. Famous last words in the world of adopting a child.

I asked her if we would get routinely updated on where we are on Catholic Charities' "list of waiting parents for Korea." (For example, would we be told, "You are now Number 12 of 20 families waiting" or something like that?) She said she does not disclose this information, b/c it's very misleading and doesn't tell you much. It's not like we're on a chronological list...when a referral comes in, they certainly look at the next family on the list; however, if the child has a medical condition that the family has indicated they wouldn't accept, then Catholic Charities moves to the next family. And so on down the line till they find a match. So lots of times, it just depends on the agency making the best match possible based on (a) the child's characteristics/medical issues/age and (b) the family's criteria (what they will and will not accept in a child).

So, stay tuned for more updates! Thanks for checking in.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Home Visit Next Week!!!!!!

Yay! Just a quick note to tell you all that our home visit is scheduled for next Thursday morning! June 12. Wish us luck. I'm sure all will go well. I'm really not that nervous about it. This happened a lot quicker than I had anticipated. Not that I'm's all good stuff. Means everyone's prayers and positive thoughts (including my own) have resulted in quicker action than expected! So, thanks!

Trying to get out the door to go teach yoga tonight. Gotta run...will write more soon!