While I was visiting college friends in April, we received our Travel Approval (TA.) This was the final permission from the Chinese government that we could make travel arrangements to come get our new daughter. We had to first schedule a consulate appointment with the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. All Americans adopting from China have to pass through Guangzhou before they can come home and must have an appointment to apply for a US visa for their new child. Most families take the next available consulate appointment (CA) so they can leave ASAP. Because we were having to plan for my parents to come keep our kids while we were gone, we planned a little further out. The Consulate confirmed our first choice for CA–June 4th. We started checking airline schedules and costs (financial panic!) and made reservations. Our agency requires that we use their Chinese travel agency for in-country travel, so we began a flurry of emails discussing itinerary options and sight-seeing. (Even though this trip is not a vacation, there is a lot of downtime between official appointments and the kids can get antsy. So, most people schedule various short outings to parks, temples, lakes, etc. during their stay. It gives the families time to get to know each other while burning off energy and getting out in the sunshine.) It was all arranged and our departure date was May 22. My parents arrived the day before and we quickly reviewed details for their stay. We were packed and ready to go.
The general travel plans are similar for most families. First, you go to the capital of your child’s home province. There, you complete the adoption and apply for the child’s Chinese passport. That takes several days to process. Once you pick up the passport, your family flies to Guangzhou, in the Guangdong province. This is where the US Consulate is located that processes US visas for adopted children. In Guangzhou, the children undergo a medical exam and the parents must file a huge pile of papers with the Consulate. You present these papers at your CA and, if there are no problems, your child’s visa is issued the next day and you can go home.
An interesting point is that, by the time you get to Guangzhou, the child is legally adopted by you. If there is a problem with the medical exam or other paperwork, the family is stuck in Guangzhou with a child that is legally theirs, but who they are unable to bring home to the US. This was a source of many late night anxiety attacks for me.
We decided to tack two extra days onto the beginning of our schedule and see Beijing. We knew this could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us and we might not be here again. We wanted to see some of the famous sights there and adjust to the local time before continuing on to our daughter’s province. This would be the closet thing we’d have to a vacation in a long time!
While we were planning our trip, we received updated pictures and measurements of our daughter. The orphanages often shave the kids’ heads for two reasons: they believe it causes the hair to grow in thicker and (according to my Chinese nursing-school friend) they believe shaving the head improves brain development. Alrighty then.
We anxiously waited for our departure date.
At this point in the process, there isn’t much to do but wait. I’m trying to learn a few key phrases in Chinese for our trip:
We are waiting for the US Consulate to issue Sweet Girl’s visa. That is scheduled for this week, but there is a Chinese holiday that may put us behind a couple of days. I can’t complain when everything else has gone so quickly and smoothly. Once that gets picked up (we are hoping the beginning of next week), then we are officially waiting on our Travel Approval (TA). With TA, we can make our flight reservations and we find out when our Gotcha Day will be–this is day we will actually get to have Sweet Girl in our arms.
While I’m waiting, I’ve spent a lot of time packing all of her clothes and toys. And then unpacking them and repacking. With just the stuff I am carrying for her, my bag is already pushing the weight limit. I am the plan-ahead-make-a-list-keep-outfits-together-type traveler. Sugar Daddy is more of the throw-some-underwear-and-toothbrush-into-a-bag-and-go-type. He is going to wind up with half of his bag already packed with toys when he finally gets around to thinking of what to take.
“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.” -Chinese folklore
I mentioned in my last post that we have decided to adopt another child. We’ve spent the last nine months completing paperwork–some people say an adoption “pregnancy” means no morning sickness, but the paper cuts are hell. We had considered adoption domestically and from many different countries. After prayer and careful consideration, we decided that a special needs child from China was the best fit for our family at this time. We submitted our dossier to China in November and waited excitedly to be “matched” with a child. We reviewed over a dozen files, consulting with doctors and specialists on numerous medical conditions and tried to imagine how the needed treatments would fit with our family. In January, we were presented with a file for this sweet girl and accepted!
She is 3 1/2 years old. Like one of our older daughters, she has mild cerebral palsy. We are so excited to bring her home to her forever family!
This part will be boring to most people. I will attempt to nutshell our adoption paperwork process. (It won’t hurt my feelings if you skip these two paragraphs.) In the adoption community, people live and die by their timelines. There are different processes for adoption depending on whether you found your child on an advocacy site first or waited for a referral (when China sends you a file that matches the special needs you are willing to consider.) We decided to wait on a referral. Our first step was having a home study done and putting together our dossier to send to China. Part of that is the US government approval to bring home a child from another country. Once that is submitted, you are DTC (Dossier to China.) Then, you wait on a LID (Log In Date) which means you are officially in the Chinese system. When you receive a referral (possibly days or months later) and accept it, you write an LOI (Letter of Intent) and then wait on your PA (Preliminary Approval.) After you have PA, you have to wait for China to translate your file. When that is done, you are OOT (Out Of Translation.) The most exciting part comes next. The wait for the LOA (Letter Of Acceptance), sometimes called LSC (Letter Seeking Confirmation), can be long or short. Some families wait over 100 days. We were lucky and had a really short wait—only 24 days! Our LOA came much faster than we expected and we were taken by surprise! The LOA is the official approval by the Chinese government that THIS can be YOUR child!
With LOA, you now have to return to the US government to petition for immigration of your specific child. With that approval, you have to go through the National Visa Center and the US Consulate in China to get a US visa for your child. (Faith will travel home on her Chinese passport, but will be a US citizen when our plane lands in the USA!) We are in the middle of this step now, while simultaneously applying for our Chinese visas so we can travel to get her. Once we have her visa (probably in the next 2-3 weeks), it is sent to the Chinese government and they issue our TA (Travel Approval). TA means we make airline reservations!! We expect to have TA in 4-6 weeks and are hoping to travel to China the last week of May or early June. Not panicking AT ALL. For those keeping score at home, our stats: DTC 11/16/12, LID 11/26/12, Referral 1/21/13, LOI 1/23/13, PA 1/28/13, OOT 2/4/13, LOA 2/21/13, I800 3/12/13.
So, much like a physical pregnancy (except I can still enjoy my wine!), I am trying to find ways to pass the time and prepare for a new child. When you receive your child in China, they usually arrive with just the clothes on their back. So, I have enjoyed shopping for clothes, toys, and hair bows! I have also been able to send her a care package with a scrapbook with pictures of our family, house, cat, and her bedroom. I am praying that her caretakers are preparing her for this adjustment.
Many adoptive families have a blog that follows their adoption journey and I hope to post updates here and share information on our travel this summer. Welcome to our latest adventure!
Wow, can’t believe the last year and a half has flown by like this. Didn’t seem to move so swiftly at the time. Felt like I was slogging against the current for most of the time. I may or may not have mentioned that I was going back to school. I decided that my first degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management wasn’t as useful as it sounds. And, y’all, I have FOUR kids starting college in just a couple of years! SugarDaddy is starting to sweat bullets about college costs. I spent almost a year working on my prerequisites and getting my CNA (Certified Nurses’ Aid) certification and, after careful discussion with the family, I applied to a one-year, second degree nursing program. Last August (2011), I started the BSN program and pretty much didn’t come up for air until graduation last month (Aug 2012.) Because of the accelerated pace of the program, I was doing all of my academic work online while working two shifts a week at the hospital with a nurse coach. There was a huge learning curve (especially for someone like me who had never worked in the medical field before) and I may or may not have tripled my wine consumption over the course of a year.
So, anyway, I am now officially a GRADUATE NURSE. Celebratory rectal thermometers for everyone! I am scheduled to take the NCLEX (basically, a nurse bar exam) next week, so, you know, what a perfect time to catch up on the blog when I should be studying. Go me! I would like to point out that I could not have made it through school with (what’s left of) my sanity intact without my study group. We were the Fabulous Four and I am so lucky that we fumbled our way into a little consortium that was determined to kick some nursing school booty.
I am still a little in shock that people are going to trust me with their health and LIVES, for Heaven’s sake. I mean, I still feel like a student. But I’ve already got a job waiting on me. I’ll be working on a cardiac floor, which means I’ll be making tons of obscure references to “the machine that goes PING!” The hospital will train me on all the specifics of this job, so I’ll still be doing school-ish things for a while to make sure everyone is safe and I’ll have an experienced nurse to work with for several months until I am comfortable in my role. After I’ve gotten some experience, my long-term goal is to go back to school for my Nurse Practitioner and work in a military clinic. That school is on the back burner for now, because the Dolans have some crazy-exciting things going on.
Firstly, the Big Kids are JUNIORS this year. DS2 is driving and thinks he is totally the shizzit. After sixteen years of telling them not to expect a car for their driving birthday, guess what they got as a present. Yep, a car. I was disgusted with myself for being such a stereotypical parent of teens, but it really made sense since they will be driving the younger kids to school on the days that I work. What’s that? Younger kids? Yes, I did use the plural. Which brings us to . . .
Secondly, we are adopting another baby Dolan! OK, so not so much of a “baby” to most people, but they are all my babies. We are in the process of adopting a child from China and I am having frequent, unannounced panic attacks every step of the way. If not for the wise and calming emails from a friend doing this for the second time (hi, ML!), I would probably have determined that I was too high-strung to do this. We are still completing paperwork and have not been matched with a particular child, yet. My friend, ML, estimates that we might travel to get our child in the spring/summer next year, and she knows EVERYTHING there is to know about this subject.
Thirdly, BabyGirl is now a “grader.” As a Kindergartener, she referred to anyone older than her as a “grader,” as in first grader, second grader, etc. She has started first grade and is enjoying her trips to the library and computer lab. She declares snack and lunch as the favorite parts of her day. That’s totally genetic, ’cause those are the best parts of MY day, too! She is excited about her role as a big sister and has been practicing on our newest pet, Annie the cat.
Sugar Daddy is still using his excellent legal and administrative skills to defend our American way of life. FREEDOM!
And I will attempt to update our adoption journey here when I am not learning a new career or throwing up from anxiety. Thanks for stopping by!
One year, I’m gonna actually get these things out by Dec 15th. No, really. Quit laughing. Finally getting this year’s (last year’s?) cards in the mail with the annual quiz. The quiz is shorter because my family is boring and we don’t have much real news to share. But here you go– (identifying items removed, as usual.)
Christmas New Year Easter Quiz – Version 2010
This quiz will count as 53% of your final grade in Dolanology. Please use a
#2 pencil and fill in your answers completely.
1. Last summer the Dolans
a. took our Bedbug Circus on the road to New York City!
b. spent a lot of time on our vuvuzela lessons.
c. moved to West Texas. Yee-haw!
2. SugarDaddy’s new job
a. requires him to ask for squatters’ advice from Randy Quaid.
b. does not involve performing TSA patdowns on perfect strangers. (That’s just his hobby.)
c. is [military legal job.]
3. Last fall, Dolanmama
a. finally learned the difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazel.
b. figured out that if she put “Happy New Year” on the Christmas cards, she’d buy herself another week to mail them. Score! (Sigh. Still late.)
c. went back to school and plans to apply for a BSN nursing program this spring.
4. The big kids
a. saw a full-on double rainbow all the way across the sky! So intense! <delirious sobbing> What does this mean??
b. still don’t understand exactly what it is that the Kardashians *do*.
c. are all playing tennis and really liking high school.
5. This year, BabyGirl
a. is a guidette. Pass the bronzer.
b. will celebrate the new year with an oral reading of the Constitution.
c. started preschool two days a week and loves it.
6. The Dolan family wishes
a. Kate and William much luck in planning a wedding on such a tight budget.
b. Bieber would just cut the hair already.
c. you all a very merry Christmas and a most wonderful New Year!