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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Headshrinking, Part 1

Yesterday's fun involved meeting with a psychologist in the hopes of having him find us at least marginally sane and capable of taking care of an orphan. He seemed quite surprised at our request and refused to sign anything unless we met with him several times and filled out a rather extensive psych evaluation--and by extensive I mean over 500 true/false questions.

Len, as usual, was his calm, understanding self and hunkered down to the task, #2 pencil in hand to answer honestly whether he sometimes thinks the top of his head might be pointy or soft. I'm not sure what he said (we were separated for the test and asked not to discuss it) but this is how I imagine he came through it--his aura intact and glowing:



I, the more high-strung individual in this marriage, was annoyed and felt totally put-upon. I'm sure this is how I was perceived:



In the end, we got through the questionaire and then Len had a one hour meeting with him. I managed to snag an appointment today so I met with him for an hour this morning. Next he will score our tests and then have us back for a third meeting. Not sure when he will sign our form but our heads sure do feel like they've been messed with.





How could you NOT give a child to this couple?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Armageddon?


66 is our indoor temperature. 6 is the temperature on the deck. Need I say more?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A walk on the beach

I figured since Len is enjoying the beach that I would join him, at least in spirit, on the journey. With that in mind, I headed out, camera in hand, and for the first time on a beach trip, completely unconcerned with how my thighs would look in a picture.
Yes, the snow is up to my calves which is a shame because all of this walking on snow and ice has made them rather shapely.


I thought it might be seaweed but on closer inspection, that is ice floating on the lake.

It was around 14 degrees this afternoon when I took these photos. No idea what the wind chill was but in the short amount of time it took to take the pics my fingers had shooting pains in them from having my gloves off. I did manage to get in a nice walk along the shore--amazing what long underwear and a puffy coat can do to stave off a chill.

Lest you think Len is off enjoying his brief new-found bachelor-hood with his buddies with nary of thought of his poor, frozen wife slaving away on adoption paperwork, this was in my inbox this morning.
I love that man.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blurry eyes, sore neck and cramped fingers

I sat here at this computer with a phone to my ear from 9am-4pm today. In that time I had been on hold a total of about 2 hours, listened to countless automated voices that never lead to a breathing human, emailed our new home study agent approximately 35 messages, tracked down a licensed psychologist who could meet with us on Monday, a new physician who will take us on Wednesday and printed out dozens of forms. Len, from his post on the beach, managed to track down a notary through his office who can accompany us to the doctor’s office next week—behold the power of the Crackberry.

So here has what has been accomplished today. My homestudy agency has mercifully agreed to accept our previous homestudy documents in lieu of rewriting our life history. We also do not have to complete yet more classes (words can not express how happy I am that we do not have to sit through more classes on adoption—in fact, I think I could probably teach the class at this point).

We have found a psychologist and a new doctor so we will have new physicals and head-shrinking next week, all notarized and tied with a bow. I called the Chicago Police Headquarters and found that to get a local police clearance we have to go in person to fill out the form (while I would never disparage my new city, they could take a lesson out of the VA playbook and provide forms online that can be mailed). We have fingerprinting for IL scheduled for next week as well. No one can seem to answer whether we can get the FBI fingerprints done at the same place so I’m taking the forms with me just in case.

The main downside has been that the local USCIS office (they who hold the coveted I-171 hostage) take a LONG time to release the I-171 and without that, no travel to Nepal is allowed. As she put it, “with the way IL state and our USCIS works, we will be pushing it to get you a completed I-171h through IL USCIS before you travel.”

Fortunately, I have so many other balls in the air that I haven’t had time to focus on that piece of dispiriting news. I have contacted the VA USCIS office and they are forwarding our form to IL and all I can do is march on and complete the IL requirements as fast as I can.

The latest news from Megan is that referrals (i.e. a match with a child which means a picture and information about her) could start beginning February 1. No guarantee (do I even need to say that now?) but hey, if there’s a chance, I want to be ready.

I rewarded myself for my hard work tonight with a glass of red wine and a pot of homemade spaghetti that I shared with our new Chicago friend Karen. Now I'm heading off for a long soak in the Jacuzzi before bed.

I’m hoping to head out to Evanston tomorrow morning—there is an indoor farmer’s market that sounded promising. Anything indoors will be welcome—it’s supposed to be 6-10 degrees for a high with wind chills as low as -10. Meanwhile, this is the view from Len's Crackberry today..
Just kill me now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Haven't I already done this? Why yes, yes I think I have.

I know a lot of you have been wondering what’s going on with the adoptions. I’ve been putting off writing about it because to put it into words means that it is real and I have to then do something about it. In a nutshell, we have to start over on paperwork.

Immediately.

Because our Nepal dossier is at the Ministry as we speak. We are #2 with our adoption agency. This matters because each agency is only allowed to submit 10 dossiers per year (an effort to avoid the problems China is having with 40k+ dossiers in the queue and 5 year waits).

IT HAS BEEN SUBMITTED TO THE MINISTRY! I don’t think that has sunk in because, although it has been submitted, we have moved to a new state which makes our dossier not up-to-date.

Before I get into that though, a short update on where we stand with China. The current wait as of this month is up to 34 months. With our current “time served” we are looking at another 13 months. The CCAA has finished the placement of children for families with CCAI LIDs prior to February 28, 2006. Yes, you read that correctly--2006.

They have finished the review of dossiers received prior to February 28, 2007. That means our dossier, with an LID of March 27, 2007 has not even been LOOKED AT by the China Ministry officials.

Now for the Nepal conundrum. Since Nepal opened at the first of the year, there have been a few announcements on the Ministry website that list additional paperwork required that was not part of our original dossier. We scrambled to get those additional pieces filled out and notarized while we were in the throes of moving (see previous posts should your memory not serve).

Yesterday there was another announcement from the Ministry. It was as follows:

Notice For all Adoption Agencies and Representatives
1. All Representatives of Adoption Agency enlisted with this Ministry are requested to check all required documents before submitting the application for adoption.
2. The following documents, until and unless specified by the concerned authority shall remain valid for one year from the date of issuance.
a. Consent letter from concerned authority of the home country of adoptive parent/s.
b. Guarantee letter from the concerned authority (Government or Embassy) of the home country specifying that under the law of the country, the status of the adopted child is equal to that of biological child.
c. Health certificate of applicant/s issued by licensed medical practitioner.
d. Character certificate (Criminal Records) of applicant/s issued by Government authority.
e. Social, psychological and home study report of applicant/s.

Since we completed some of our dossier prior to submitting it in February of last year, a few of our items (health certificate for example) have expired based on this new rule. We also now need a psychological report from a licensed psychologist. That should be fun—finding a psychologist in a new city with room for a new client who only wants one appointment for the purposes of having a form notarized.

It's almost as much fun as finding a notary you can drag with you to your doctor's appointment.

In addition, we have to have an ALL-NEW! homestudy report. Sounds simple right? Find a homestudy agency, have a nice visit over tea and crumpets, get the report, get referral, fly to Nepal, cuddle child in arms, pose for gauzy Precious Moments photos....

Let me share (because again, I don’t suffer well in silence or alone). These are the requirements in IL for an international adoption homestudy (keeping in mind that we already have TWO prior approved homestudies and an additional homestudy update because one of them had expired):

1. Application and non-refundable application fee
2. Family info packet: this includes an in-depth form discussing our parents, their strenths/weaknesses, what we would change about them, important things they taught us, etc., sibling information including ages, marital status, spouse’s names, children’s names/ages, occupation, addresses, and whether they are full/half/adopted/steps, etc.

*note to family reading this: Curious aren’t you?

We also must write about our childhood, family trips

Oh those joyous scout campouts,

activities, type of discipline and who handled, family communication, etc. Present family relationships to include how often we talk on the phone/email. School history, employment history to include job satisfaction for each

I'm guessing that references to "Office Space" would be inappropriate,

religious views, traumas/losses, medical issues, list of medications, personality, what would we change about ourselves, greatest frustration

ummm, adoption paperwork anyone?

greatest achievement, greatest failure, how would I spend $1 million

gee, probably on adoption paperwork fees

physical description of self

must it be an accurate representation or how I like to see myself?

list of hobbies, where we vacation, AND ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION WE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE.

Because you left out the question on the color of my colon.

3. Five character references (usually it’s 3 but because we’ve lived in IL less than 5 years, it must be five references. Sorry to those of you who I will hit up yet again for another letter—I hope you saved the last 2 you wrote).
4. Local police clearance and fee.
5. CANTS clearance (Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System)
6. IL fingerprints and fee (which is separate from the FBI fingerprints)
7. FBI fingerprints and fee (which is separate from the FBI fingerprints we will need for CIS)
8. Summary of arrest record and fee (YEA! A form we won’t need)
9. Medical reports and copay
10. Marriage license
11. Divorce decree(s) (YEA! Another form we won’t need)
12. Birth certificates.
13. Animal vaccination records
14. Tax return for previous year
15. Pay stub or letter of salary confirmation
16. Most recent checking account statement
17. Most recent savings account statement
18. Stocks, bonds, retirement or pension funds statement
19. Life insurance documentation
20. Letter of insurance coverage for adopted child
21. Adoption training approval forms and fees (we have to take yet another class—not sure how many hours are required yet)
22. Well water letter (again YEA! No need for this form)
23. I-600A immigration packet and fee (this leads to the I-171 form which we already have from VA. I have already requested that it be forwarded to IL but to be valid we will need yet more fingerprints taken)
24. Adoption Education Seminar (sounds like another class…)

So that’s all. Oh wait. This doesn’t include the 3-4 home visits by the social worker where we get to discuss in person everything that we wrote down on the family information packet. If it’s anything like the ones we’ve had before, we are interviewed as a couple and then we are taken separately and interrogated interviewed. It also doesn’t include the several thousand extra dollars to the agency for said face-time.

Somehow the invasive ultrasound wanding and nightly needle poking from infertility treatments is sounding like the good old days.

Lisa: Remember when I was in the stirrups and Dr. I-Can-Get-You-Pregnant and Nurse Sympathetic Eyes were shooting dye into my fallopian tubes to see if they were obstructed?

Len: And remember when you almost broke my fingers when the dye reached the blockage on the right side and built up so that you felt like you were being kicked repeatedly in the stomach with a steel-toed boot?

Lisa: And then the search every night for a non-bruised portion of stomach into which you could inject medicines that made me a crazy hormonal bitch.

Len: Yeah. Those were the good old days.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Since our dossier is currently being reviewed in Nepal, that means I have to get all of this done ASAP.

Oh, and Len’s in FL for Guy’s Weekend-That-Has-Grown-Into-A-Four-Day-Event. Not that I’m bitter…or want sympathy. I’m just saying.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pictures from our move


Leaving our house in VA. It's amazing how much smaller a house seems once all of your stuff is out of it. You would think it would seem larger...

This is in PA around 4pm on Jan. 7. The ice on the trees was gorgeous. Not so much the ice on the roads...

Charis voicing her displeasure over the truck ride.

She ended up climbing into my purse during one of our pit stops.

Our first night in Chicago was spent in a hotel in Wrigleyville. Notice the giant binders--one is our Nepal adoption binder and the other holds all of the relocation paperwork.

Saturday the 10th saw 12" of snow. Since our snow removal guy hadn't shown up yet, Len went downstairs to shovel a path for the movers.
Parallel parking a 58' truck on a snowy Saturday. We were not very popular with our neighbors since we blocked off over 65' of parking with police permit signs for the entire day.
Putting down salt for the icy trek into our building.
Aren't you glad you don't work for a moving company in Chicago?? These guys were awesome--working 7 hours straight in a driving snow unloading 10k pounds of goods up and down 24 steps to our unit. And all of that with nary a mark on the walls and nothing was broken or damaged.

When they were done unloading, the driver had to back the truck up all the way out to the main street as we have several speed humps and the other end of our street has a jog in it and is even more dense with cars.

Ahhh! All moved in and enjoying the sun coming in through the front windows while watching the inauguration of our 44th president!

Chicago Winters

Residents of Chicago are fiercely proud of their winters. Not unlike survivors of natural disasters or chicken pox, these people are united in a common triumph over the most terrible of conflicts. Apparently, winters in the midwest "suck ass" or "fucking bite". They will stare at you, agape with blank disgust when your sissy, spoiled DC ass remarks, "Winters in Chicago can't be that bad." And just before you say, "What's the worst that could happen? It gets really cold, boo-hoo," these people will seriously contemplate tossing your naked body into the pool of ice that is now Lake Michigan. I like that about Chicago. People are no nonsense.

Take our movers for example. On the day our goods were to be delivered it was snowing. Snowing hard. We got 12” of snow by the time the evening had arrived. Our truck driver arrived about 2 hours late and managed to drive a 58’ semi down our small city street and parallel park it. Even with constant snow, our 4 movers lugged 10k pounds of furniture/boxes up 24 steps into our condo in just under 7 hours. When I expressed concern over the snow and the bitter cold they just shrugged and said, “Eh, welcome to Chicago. Where are you from anyway?”

True to their boasting, Chicago has turned out to be kick-ass cold. The high last Thursday when we woke up was -7 with a wind chill around -15. By the afternoon when I went outside to retrieve our mail, the temperature was -13 with a wind chill between -20 and -30. No kidding.

Until we figured out that the humidifier on the furnace shouldn't be kept at a balmy 38% we had some serious condensation (and thus freezing water) issues. This first photo is the back door--note the hinge is covered in frost and the ice has worked its way up the door.

This next photo is our sliding glass door facing north--read: no sun, ever. It had a sheet of ice on it that was at least an inch thick and covered the bottom third of the door.

According to the news this is the worst winter in Chicago in 30 years. I was talking to our realtor-turned-friend Karen who said, “It is what it is. What keeps the riff-raff out are our winters. Chicago is a big city with the feel of a small town and the winter is what keeps it that way…otherwise everybody would move here and it would turn into Boca.”

I think Boca sounds nice right about now. With the exception of the flowery caftans and the orange lipstick of course.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Snow, notaries and moving boxes

It's cold in Chicago. And snowing. Again. Yeah, not a real newsflash but since it's foremost in my mind I thought I would lead with that.

We made it to Chicago yesterday after much snowy driving. We got a later start than we had hoped because we had to fill out some extra adoption paperwork and get it notarized and sent off. Turns out there are some new forms on the Nepal front that had to be filled out, notarized and with passport photos affixed. We also needed some new pictures of our house, exterior and interior views.

We finally got out of VA around 2:30 Wednesday after picking up Charis at the pet spa. She held up remarkably well until about 1/2 hour before we stopped somewhere in Ohio. We had a lot of ice in PA and then just snow the rest of the way. Fortunately the ice trucks were out in force so the roads were great.

Once on the road we got another call from Megan that we needed to write two more letters for Nepal--a Committment Letter (stating we would actually follow through with the adoption once we got the referral and accepted her...can you believe we wouldn't travel immediately to get her if we could??) and a Family Composition letter (which basically tells who lives in our house). We got those written, notarized and mailed today.

No word yet on when our dossier will actually be submitted but it is in the hands of our adoption agent's representative in Kathmandu.

The movers arrive tomorrow and will have to shuttle our stuff in smaller trucks since the semi is too large for our city street. They should get everything off the truck and the furniture back together but the rest of the crew won't arrive until Monday to unpack and remove the boxes. Had to reschedule the cable guy so we won't have internet service at home until next weekend.

Whatever will I do without the internet???

Monday, January 5, 2009

We will never move ourselves again

The movers packed us up today and they will load tomorrow. They were done packing all 156 boxes by 3:30 today! I actually sat on the sofa and read quite a bit ofJane Austin's Pride and Prejudice while they were packing. It was beyond awesome. Wednesday we will load up the Uhaul with items the movers won't move and leave from there. We should be in Chicago by Thursday.

We have enjoyed a rather sunny, DRY holiday but just in time for the movers the weather channel is predicting mixed precipitation for tomorrow and Wednesday. And the weather is expected to be fairly crappy for our entire drive to Chicago--a mix of rain, sleet and snow.

Driving a 10' truck and towing the Prius should be extra fun on ice. Add to that the rather persistent, plaintive cries of Charis in the cab of the truck with us and you have an adventure I am sure you are sorry to be missing. Maybe I'll video some of it and let you share in our joy.

Stay tuned. Posting will probably be sporadic until well into next week.

To keep you occupied, click here to read a very inspiring story of a very young woman from Jersey who started an orphanage/school in Nepal.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Further confirmation of movement in Nepal

Following are two articles out of Nepal. As you can tell once you read them, the facts are not always accurate as the two don't agree on monies spent, etc. but all signs point to movement.

Megan, our adoption agent, emailed yesterday confirming that Nepal is indeed open. No word yet on when our dossier will be submitted to the government.

KATHMANDU POST REPORT (from Kantipur online)

Jan 1 - The government has invited applications from prospective international adoptive parents for adoption of Nepali orphans from Thursday after it completed work on listing international adoption agencies and Nepal-based orphanage homes on Thursday.

"Approved international adoption agencies can now submit applications for inter-country adoption process as the process of listing international adoption agencies and orphanage homes has been completed," said Toya Nath Adhikari, law officer at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

The government had stopped taking new applications for adoption in March 2007 after irregularities were found in the process. Releasing a six-month study in September this year, UNICEF had said that an "industry" had grown up around adoption in which profit rather than the best interest of the child took centre stage. The study also found instances of children who were not orphans being given away for adoption by parents as well as orphanages.

Since the amount that prospective adopting parents had to pay was not determined, they often had to pay huge amounts for the baby of their choice and this involved a lot of bargaining between parents and orphanages.

The government came up with new provisions for registration of international adoption agencies and Nepali orphanages in June 2008. There are 68 international agencies registered at the ministry.

Of the agencies, 32 are from the U. S., eight from Italy, five from Spain and three from Canada. Such agencies should have at least three years' experience and they need to have permission from their respective countries for the purpose. Prospective adoptive parents may also approach the ministry through their embassy or diplomatic mission.

Likewise, only the 38 registered orphanages can give away Nepali children for adoption. All but two of them are based in Kathmandu Valley.As per the new criteria, adoptive parents will have to give orphanages U.S. $ 10,000 within a year of adoption, U.S. $ 3,000 to the government after the adoption process is complete and U.S. $ 500 as service charge.

With the new regulations, the entire adoption process will be looked after by the ministry; while earlier, it was involved in only the final approval stage. Adoption applications were made to local district administration offices. There were cases of agents with expertise in bypassing regulations and due process to illegally procure Nepali babies for adoption by foreigners in exchange for large sums of money.

Ministry officials claim that the new terms and conditions have teeth to curb rampant corruption and loopholes in the process.As per the new conditions, only approved agencies and orphanage homes will be allowed to submit lists of suitable children for inter-country adoption to the ministry.

As per the new terms and conditions, the whole process will be dealt with in coordination among the adoption recommendation committee, concerned embassies and interested parents without the involvement of orphanage homes.

Prospective adopters will not choose the baby personally and not be attached to them in case their application is rejected. Applications are received by the ministry and a matching committee will match the needs of the prospective adoptive parents with the children available. The parents will then be informed of the choice and if they are satisfied, adoption will take place. The whole process is expected to take about three months.

According to records kept at the ministry, altogether 2,244 children have been adopted by foreigners since 2000 after the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare started approving such adoptions. In the records, Spain, Italy, United States, France and Germany are the largest receiving countries of Nepali babies.

INTER-COUNTRY ADOPTION OPENS
PUBLISH DATE: SATURDAY, 3 JANUARY 2009 AT 12:52 DOHA TIME KATHMANDU: (from Gulf Times, Quatar)

Nepal has begun accepting applications from foreigners who want to adopt Nepalese children, 18 months after the practice was stopped because of widespread malpractice, officials said yesterday.

Adoptions were suspended after reports that foreigners paid up to $20,000 to adopt children, most of whom were not genuine orphans and some of whom were taken overseas without their parent's consent or knowledge.

"We have started accepting applications for inter-country adoptions from registered agencies," said Hari Krishna Poudel, spokesman at the ministry of children, women and social welfare. Poudel said that under new, tighter regulations, it would take three months for the adoption process to be completed. Foreigners now have to deal with registered adoption agencies from their home country, and can have no direct contact with children's homes and orphanages.

The ministry will be responsible for matching prospective parents and children, and fees have been fixed at $8,000, with 5,000 going to children's homes and 3,000 to the government. The government has approved 58 foreign adoption agencies which will each have to spend at least $10,000 per year on "the welfare of children in Nepal," the official said. "The previous adoption process was dodged by financial irregularities because direct deals were made between the prospective parents and orphanages," he said. "With the new rules this channel has been removed".

Nepalese and international child welfare organisations have welcomed the reforms, but are worried that problems remain with the system. "What we are concerned about is that the institutions which have been created for the sole purpose of adoption might continue to flourish," said Joseph Aguettant, Nepal representative of Swiss child rights group Terre Des Hommes. "This may increase the number of children that are put into children's homes and we need to keep a close eye on developments over the next few months," Aguettant told AFP.

Terre Des Hommes and Unicef, the UN child rights body, jointly released a report last year that found between 60 and 80% of the 12,000 children placed in homes throughout Nepal had family members they could live with. Unicef and the Swiss group say they are not against international adoption, but that increased support for families at a local level would help prevent impoverished parents putting their children into homes.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And a Happy New Year

From the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Government of Nepal website, posted today:

This Ministry would like to inform that inter-country adoption process of Nepali children for alien pursuant to “Terms and Conditions and Process for Granting Approval for Adoption of Nepali Child by an Alien - 2065 (2008)” is open from January 2009.

What a great way to start the new year! I think we're turning the corner and I'm throwing 2008 under the bus.

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