Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Little Up a Little Down

Our daughter is in Guiyang. Mark just discovered that Fort Worth's sister city in Chi*a is Guiyang. Out of all the cities in Chi*a, Guiyang is the sister city!! I really love that.

For a long time I have hoped that the day we meet Emma would be June 10th. I have a countdown app on my phone that is set for that date in Chi*a which would be the evening of the 9th here (1 month 2 weeks 2 days 21 hours 7 minutes 3 seconds FYI). All the dominoes seemed to be lining up. We received our I800 approval on the 11th (this is where the US gives permission for us to adopt Emma specifically). We were cabled on the 19th (this is the beginning of the Visa process for Emma). Things were on-track for for our Article 5 to be dropped off on Tuesday the 23rd (another step of the Visa process). I emailed the appropriate document to the agency. I knew our coordinator was currently in Ch*na, but I assumed that she would still be managing things like this. When I hadn't heard back from her after 2 days, I emailed her again to check on the status. I received an auto-reply that she was out of the country and would have limited internet for a week. The timing of this is so important. If we don't have drop off this week, then this process may not be done in time for us to receive travel approval before the Chi*a agency closes for a week for a software upgrade which would make "my" desired travel date not possible. Monday morning I received an email from our agency reassuring me that things were on-track and drop off was happening on the 23rd (today). FYI, drop off can only happen Tuesdays through Thursdays. Things were back on track and "my" date still looked probable. A few hours later, an adoption friend who is using the same agency let me know that because of holiday closures, no adoption business would be conducted the week of June 10th. NOOOOO! We will have to delay travel by a week. I was really hoping to avoid that because it means that we will be home 2 days or less before the oldest 3 leave for Camp Blue Haven (and they are not going to miss camp). I strongly believe that this is in God's hands and that we will travel when it is best. I was just hoping he would agree with MY plans :-) The good news is that things are progressing as they should and we should be able to travel in June!! We have 3 steps left in this process. The Article 5 process (the current step in process), Travel Approval (TA) from the Chi*a agency, and confirmation of our Consulate Appointment (CA). This may actually happen!!!!!

- Jenna

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Care Package

This waiting is really hard. We already feel as though Emma is our daughter, but we can't know what she is doing or do anything for her. Her birthday is later this month, and I didn't realize how sad I was about missing it until I was talking to some friends about when her birthday is and then I felt the tears coming. I am feeling very emotional lately. We are so ready to bring her home. Now that we have LOA, we are finally able to send our sweet Emma a care package. We picked out some gifts for her and for her foster family. We also get to an album of pictures. We are praying that she is shown this album (sometimes it is not shown to the child) and will recognize us when she meets us. We are praying that this will help her transition. I received an email this morning letting me know that Emma will receive the package in a couple of days! It really feels good to be able to send her presents. Finally we are able to do something for her.

Here is the complete care package. There is a stuffed panda, a toy phone, tea for the foster parents, and seed paste (don't ask me) for the foster parents and foster siblings. There is also a letter that we sent. It was really hard to try to write a letter to an almost 2-year-old who is about to have her world turned upside down and who will not understand what is happening to her.

These are the pictures we sent and the photo album that they are being put into. Captions in mandarin were added so the foster family can tell her who everyone is. I didn't know how well American names would translate, so I put aunt, brother 3, cousins, etc.

The dress that is being sent. We did not get to pick out the specific outfit.

This is a backpack. The goal is to have the foster family put Emma's special things into it so that she can always have them. We may or may not get it back, and it may or may not have anything in it.

This made me the happiest. We sent a camera so that hopefully they could take pictures of Emma for us to have. The fact that the care package company replaced the camera with a flash drive means that there is a good chance that the flash drive will be loaded with pictures from Emma's childhood. I am praying for this to be the case. Right now, we have 3 pictures of Emma that were taken on the same day when she was around 6 months old. We also have the video that was taken in January (we have taken still shots of the video). It is heartbreaking to me that we might not have pictures of Emma's childhood. Please pray that we get this flash drive back FULL of pictures from Emma's life before she joined our family.

There is a paperwork update. I emailed immigration on Friday and was told that we had provisional I800 approval (the US government saying that we can adopt Emma specifically). We are hoping to get the final approval in the mail this week. Then, we wait to be "cabled" which is where the National Visa Center grants permission for Emma to receive a visa to enter the US. This normally takes around a week. Then the Article 5 is issued and dropped off at the US consulate in Chi*a. It is normally picked up exactly 2 weeks later. Unfortunately, it looks like this process will hit for us when offices are closed in Ch*na for their Labor Day holiday. Hoping that will only be a couple of days delay, if any. We then wait for official TA (Travel Approval) from China. This has been taking about 2 weeks, but there is no guarantee on this timing. We then are able to set our official CA (Consulate Appointment) and will then be able to book flights!!!! We are getting there. Here is a picture of the adoption binder which holds all the paperwork that we have completed so far in this process. Every bit of it worth it!

- Jenna

Friday, April 5, 2013

Big Update!

We have now received what is known as LOA or Letter of Acceptance (sometimes called Letter Seeking Confirmation). This is a big step. Chi*a now considers Emma Grace our daughter!!! you normally travel 8-10 weeks after receiving LOA, so we are on track to travel in June.

LOA's arrive at your placement agency, and then the agency lets you know. They prepare some paperwork, and send it to you. You then have another large stack of paperwork to complete and send off. Some people receive their LOA in just a few days, and some have to wait more than a hundred days. This part of the wait is excruciating. Our wait was 63 days.

I had become quite obsessive about refreshing my email. I decided to check it one last time (at 12:40 a.m.), and there it was!!!!!!!!! I was so excited and might have woken Mark up by hitting him and scaring him to death. I tried to go back to sleep, but it was impossible. I got up and started working on the paperwork. I think I finally got to sleep around 4 a.m. We officially received LOA on April Fool's Day. I may appreciate that holiday now :-)

What happens next?

We have sent our I800 application along with the necessary paperwork to USCIS. Once we have this approval, then the US government has given their permission for us to adopt Emma Grace specifically. This step normally takes around 2 weeks or so.

Next, we wait to be cabled. This is basically the US government granting permission for a Visa to be issued to Emma. This normally takes a week or so.

Then comes the article 5 process. This is where the US Consulate in Ch*na is processing and preparing Emma's visa. This almost always takes exactly 2 weeks.

Then, the Chine*e adoption center is notified of the visa approval and they give us Travel Approval (TA). This can take a week to 3 weeks (or more).

As soon as we have TA, then we can schedule our consulate appointment. This will be the last step of our adoption journey and will determine when we leave and when Emma Grace joins our family. Children over 2 are normally only allowed appointments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (because a TB test results have to come back).

Then we book our flights and leave to bring our daughter home!!!!!! Can't wait!

- Jenna