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Goodbye Home Study, Hello Homeland Security

After two months of patiently waiting, our home study is complete and the ball is back in our court! We certainly had enough going on to distract us, so honestly the wait hasn’t been all that bad.

Given the raw, emotional input we provided to Tami to help her write an honest report, we were quite curious about what would be included in the final copy and just how we would ultimately “present” on paper as a prospective adopting couple. When we received the report last week, we quickly flipped to the back page for the important part first: “It is my pleasure to recommend that the People’s Republic of China place a child with the Brown family of Nashville, Tennessee”. Yesss! If I had to hedge my bets, I would wager that Duke’s ridiculously good looks were critical to this recommendation.

Three interviews, one home visit, 18 hours of class interaction, and 99 pages of input was ultimately distilled down to an 11 page report detailing our life histories and citing the reasons we are suitable for adopting a child. It opens with a summary of the contact and interview process we had with Tami, which essentially validates our intention and motivation to adopt, and that our eyes are wide open. It then moves into a detailed portrayal of each of us, including descriptions of our physical beings, personality traits, family dynamic and history, and a quick chronicle of all major life experiences dating back to childhood and up through the present.

The real meat of the report is fairly direct and to the point actually. It summarizes Tami’s perspective about our marriage relationship, her assessment of our parenting skills and values, a description of our home and community, proof of our financial stability and existing medical coverage, and lastly, a formal recommendation that we be entrusted to raise a child. For all the hype surrounding the home study, there was really no valid reason to sweat it after all. Breathe out.

Next, the home study was off to Holt for review. As the placing agency is more intimately familiar with the Chinese culture and language, it is imperative that they evaluate the report in terms of how well the verbiage used by the home study agency will translate. Distinct cultural differences can result in contradictory definitions of individual words and skew a reader’s perspective.

As usual, Holt delivered in lightning speed so we could have the final copy notarized for inclusion with our 1-800A, which we mailed off today! If you’re interested in the details or are in need of a solid nap, read on to find out what the heck an I-800A is and why we’re actually thrilled to have the Department of Homeland Security look at us under a microscope.

The I-800A “Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country”, along with our home study and proof of U.S. citizenship, is essentially used to rule on the eligibility and suitability of us to adopt a child from a Hague Adoption Convention country. What the Hague is that? It is an international agreement made in 1993 (in The Hague, Netherlands of all places) to safeguard intercountry adoptions and establish international standards of practices for said intercountry adoptions. The U.S. signed the convention in 1994, but – in true adoption process style – the Convention did not enter into force in the U.S. until 2008.

Not all countries are part of the Convention, but China is. This is a good thing. Adopting a child from a Convention country is similar in many ways to adopting a child from a non Convention country, with some key differences. For one thing, all adoption service providers working with Convention countries must be accredited on a Federal level to ensure professional and ethical practices. Secondly, the Convention aims to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children, and it works to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children. Finally, it formally recognizes intercountry adoption as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent home to a child when a suitable family has not been found in the child's country of origin. This makes for a much more pleasant and structured relationship between two counties as they work together to join family and child.

If, after reviewing our home study and I-800A application, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security deem us a viable candidate for adoption, we will receive a 797 pre-approval notice along with an appointment date assignment for FBI fingerprinting (round 2!). Clear as mud, no? This pre-approval notice should reach us in about two weeks and the fingerprint appointment will be scheduled approximately two weeks after that.

The estimated wait time for fingerprint clearance and the final green light to send our dossier to China is all over the board. Some families have waited as little as two weeks, while others have toughed it out for two months. Fingers crossed that that our USCIS officer has been eating her Wheaties! We must have this approval to be eligible to receive a child match.

Lobbing the ball back to the other side of the court…

"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”