Deciding to go international - An international adoption has always been a possibility for us, we said that if Sara turned four and we were still waiting domestically that we would start the international adoption process. So we probably started talking about it approximately 2 years ago, began exploring our options more seriously in summer 2007, and made our decision in fall 2007 (see the "Why Ethiopia?" post). If this would have been our first adoption or used a different local agency we would have been required to take an educational course on adoption; however, we took this course before we applied for our first adoption in 2003, which saved us several months of time.
Applying for international adoption - Our first meeting with our Adoption Agency was scheduled in February 2008, where we signed our "Letter of intent" to adopt internationally and were provided with the endless paperwork to start our homestudy.
Completing a homestudy (3 months) - So we completed one homestudy for Sara's adoption, one homestudy for our second domestic adoption, and a third for our international adoption. Fortunately for us, we had our domestic adoption file open with our agency so we were able to use most of the history content to develop our international file. For clarity, an international adoption file or application is called a "dossier". So, I will now refer to our "file/application" as a "dossier".
The following is a list of just some of the documents/tasks/materials we had to complete/compile/gather as part of our homestudy approval:
* Security Clearance (Fingerprint Check through Interpol in Ottawa)
* Medical Reports from Family Doctor
* Handwritten letter to Minister of Women's Affairs in Ethiopia - explaining our desire/reasons to adopt a child from Ethiopia
* Proof of Life Insurance and Health Benefits
* Passport photos
* Criminal Checks
* Notices of Assessment
* Letter from Employers
* 4 reference letters from non-family members
* 2 pages of labelled photos of our family
* 12ish page personal, work, family, parenting, etc. questionnaire
* Trans-racial questionnaire
* Request questionnaire - selecting gender, age range, and why
Homestudy Interview - Again, fortunately for us, because we had already completed a VERY intensive homestudy interview as part of our first adoption application, we simply had to provide an update homestudy interview.
Provincial approval (1 month) - After our interview, our local adoption worker compiles ALL the documents we have collected/completed and requests our approval for an international adoption, our dossier then goes to our provincial government for formal approval. This means that the province approves our dossier and our gender/age request.
Foreign Affairs approval (1 month) - Our local agency then sends our approved dossier to the international adoption agency, who then sends it to Ottawa where it gets legalized and authenticated by Foreign Affairs and the Ethiopian Embassy.
Dossier travels to Ethiopia (Less than 1 week) - Once our dossier is returned to the international adoption agency, they send it to their contacts in Ethiopia and we are officially put on the "waiting list" (for lack of better words). Currently, we are being told that our referral will come approximately 6 months from this time.
Referral (about 6 months) - This is where the real fun begins! A "referral" means that we have been "matched" with a child; we receive photos and a medical and social history of a child. Our international agency will send the referral to our local agency, whom, in turn, will inform us that our referral is in. We will review the referral and formally accept the referral. At this point, the child is put "on hold" (again, for lack of better words). The child is NOT legally ours until after court.
Court (1-3 months) - Receiving a court date can take anywhere between 1-3 months. This is the legal process in which the child legally becomes ours, granted by the Judge in the Ethiopia courts.
Waiting to Travel (2-4 months) - Once this Adoption Order has been granted, we will wait another 2-4 months for the immigration documentation to be prepared for our child (passport, birth certificate, visa). Once the final piece of documentation has been prepared by the High Commission, we will be notified and then we can travel to Ethiopia.
Travelling to Ethiopia (7-10 days) - Once we receive notice to travel, we are required to travel to Ethiopia for at least 7-10 days to pick up our child. We are only required to send one parent to Ethiopia; however, we will be travelling as a family (Chad, Laura and Sara) to pick up the final member of our clan.And worth EVERY second of our time, energy, frustration, labour and waiting!!!!!!