Our Little Man

Since we started this blog one thing has become blatantly obvious. I’m a terrible blogger. There have been many, many changes since our last post. So I apologize in advance if this turns out to be a long post.

In the last post we touched on our immigration paperwork. We received our immigration approval from the USCIS for 2 children ages 0-5, no special needs. Shortly after receiving this we were placed on the official waiting list with Lifeline. After about a month of calling and e-mailing we found out that we were number 28 in line. I guess I should mention our previous frustrations with Lifeline. Before being placed on the list and what not we were beginning to get frustrated at the lack of communication we were receiving from them. At this point in time we were lucky to hear from them every couple months, and that was usually because we had called or e-mailed them requesting an update. We felt as though we had been lost in the system, like we were just another number and billing address. So when we heard that we were number 28 we were upset, but optimistic. We asked them how many referrals and court dates they had assigned in the last 6 months. Their reply was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We were informed that they had issued 6 referrals, and only one of them was for a child under the age of 6. So at this point we were looking at a wait of over 2 years.

At this point in time we were talking with a social worker about possibly being a pilot family for a new Uganda program with a different agency.  This put us in position to make an extremely tough decision. The social worker we were talking to was one we trusted and wanted to work with before we signed up with Lifeline, but she happened to work with an agency that didn’t work with LDS (Mormon) families. We were informed that her husband was in the process of starting a Uganda pilot program with Across The World Adoptions. After a week of talking and some serious praying we made the decision to leave Lifeline and join up with Across The World Adoptions as one of the pilot families in their Uganda program. Unfortunately all the money that we had paid to Lifeline was nonrefundable, so we lost close to $5,000. This was hard, but we knew that being with an agency that we trust was worth it. We’re not just a number and a paycheck anymore. We talk with our social worker every few days, and are constantly being updated about how things are going with the courts in Uganda. I (Matt) personally felt relieved going with ATWA because they are much more structured on the Uganda side of things. We won’t be on our own to find housing and transportation. This was huge for me as I will only be in country for a few weeks, while Brooke will be staying the full 6-8 weeks.

Once signed on with ATWA we received our first referral within days! After a week of prayer, fasting, and more prayer we turned down the referral. We so badly wanted to give this sweet child a home, but we knew in our hearts that this was not our child. The next few days were rough, neither of us were a joy to be around. We knew they weren’t meant for us but we couldn’t help feeling like we had condemned this child to life of substandard living and care. Only our Heavenly Father knows what’s in store for the life of that child, but they will always have a place in our hearts and prayers.

It was close to two weeks before the next referral came in. To be honest, I was really nervous. I was excited at the possibility of seeing my child for the first time, but terrified of having to turn another orphan away. It was July 24th. Brooke and I were both at work and were patiently awaiting the referral. Brooke sent me a text that said, “I have pictures!” and immediately followed that text with a call. In her high pitch happy little squeal she said, “Oh my gosh hunny, I just love him so much!” A few min later the picture came through on my phone. I pulled over to the side of the road and just stared at my phone. We both knew that this was our son.  The next few days were a blur as we rushed to complete the paperwork to meet the deadline for the new rules in Kampala. By the grace of God alone we were able to get the paperwork together and in country before the close of business 2 days later. This was an incredibly exciting moment for us, but as with most adoptions, joyous moments are followed by concern. We were excited to think that we would have our son home by Christmas, but terrified to think that we were $10,500 short of what we needed to accomplish that. We figured that if we scrapped our pennies over the next few months we could come up with roughly $6,400. Due to our income level we are ineligible to receive any adoption grants or loans. So we went to our local bank and looked into personal loans. After a few minutes of choking on interest levels, the loan office pointed out that we had roughly $14,000 in equity in Brooke’s car and that the refinance interest levels on vehicles was 2.99%. Far lower than any personal loan, or any low interest adoption loan for that matter. A few days later we refinanced our car and were given a 60 day no payment bonus and now have all that we need to finish the adoption. We are wrapping up our last fundraiser as we speak, in an attempt to reduce the size of the loan we had to take. Now onto the important stuff J Our little man.

Due to the privacy laws in Uganda we can only share his gender, age, and a little about his personality. He is a 4 year old boy and is just about the sweetest child ever. He is described as a sweet, shy boy who loves the children in his home. A few weeks ago we were able to send a photo album to him that had a few pictures of Brooke and I, the dogs, house, and his room. Once we are cleared for travel he will learn about us. We are hoping to find out here in the next few weeks when our actual court date is, but we were told to expect a late October/early November date. Until then we sit and wait. Stare at the pictures of our sweet little boy on our phones and play the, “I wonder what he’s doing now?” game. This has been such an incredible journey for us thus far and we feel incredibly blessed to have had minimal issues up to this point. We want to thank all of you so much for your actions and kind words. We truly could not have done this on our own. I will try to post more often so you don’t have to spend 4 hours at your computer. Thank you again.

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Quick update…

We’ve had a few people ask us about what’s been going on since our last post, which was quite a while ago. So I thought I would jump on here and fill you all in. Not much has happened… 🙂 The only thing that’s happened is that we’ve submitted our I600A paper work with United States Customs and Immigration Services, and are currently awaiting their approval for us to bring in two little ones from Uganda. We were told to expect 3 months for that to take place, and we submitted our forms a little over a month ago. Once we here back from the USCIS and are approved we will be placed on the referal list for an awaiting child(ren). So here we sit… waiting… and waiting some more… Oh, and one more thing. The new trend amongst the judges in UG is to mandate that the adoptive parents agree to take the child(ren) on “Heritage trips.” To sum this up we will have to take the child(ren) back to UG for a visit every 5 years until they reach the age of 18 as well as keep their UG citizenship intact (they will be dual citizens of the US and UG).

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Home Study Thus Far

The past few weeks have been crazy to say the least. I spent a week making phone call after phone call trying to find someone who could do our home study for us, with each and every call leading to another dead-end. It was beginning to seem like there was no one that would be able to do our home study for us. We called a list of people who work with Faith International to no avail. I called Faith International’s HQ and the guy said he would send me a list of their social workers, and never sent them. LDS social services, no answer. Finally I got a hold of a lady in Portland named Gail, and she directed me to someone here in Richland that conducts home studies. I called and spoke with her for a few minutes and she gave us the news we were looking for. Her schedule was clear and she was available to do our home study. I cannot explain how happy we were to have finally found someone. We called Heather to give her the news and to take down some info that we would need to give to the one doing our home study. Then Heather dropped a bomb. The Ugandan court system is not a fan of independent adoptions and since our home study would be the main thing they look at when deciding whether or not to grant us legal guardianship, our home study needed to be done by someone who works with an agency. Back to square one. I went back to the list of people who Heather had given me and started over. This time we decided that we would have to look outside our area. We avoided this the first time because we wanted to try to avoid having to pay for the social workers travel expenses. After a few more phone calls we located a gentleman in the Seattle area who happens to be with Faith Int. He was very straight forward with the information and answered all of our questions thoroughly, and had a “common sense needs to dictate your action” mentality. I can’t even explain how happy that made us. We had this fear that our social worker was going to be some cold hearted person who would come into our house with a clipboard and a checklist and search for every little reason that could help to prove us to be unfit parents. It was in fact quite the opposite. Our social worker is amazing. He made it clear right off the bat that he was here to HELP us not only in the home study, but to help us deal with transition that our kids will go through when we bring them home. At the end of our conversation he informed me that he would be stopping by the house to do the first home visit on Monday. This was on Tuesday night. We went from not being able to find anyone to, “Oh crap. We only have a week to get the house ready!” I called up a good friend of mine and he dropped everything he had going on and showed up bright and early Wednesday morning. We spent the entire day and most of the evening fixing up the house. This was no small task as we had 4 rooms that needed electrical work done and a bathroom that was being remodeled. After a hard full day’s work we were able to get it all finished. Brooke and I then spent the next 3 days giving the house, garage, and yard a good deep cleaning. Monday came way too quickly. We nervously waited for him to show up. We had another stack of paperwork (details are in the What it Takes section) that we had done during the week. As soon as we answered the door all our nerves were gone. He was an incredibly nice guy. We spent the next few hours going through paperwork and conducting our interview. All of which was incredibly harmless. I had expected to feel a little uncomfortable about some of the questions but that wasn’t the case at all. We went over our homework, he required 18 hours of homework but our agency requires more so he gave us the ok to just do their homework. After the interview we gave him a tour of the house and that was it. We were still missing some paperwork so he said that he would send that to us when he got back to the office. When he left we felt relieved and a little upset with ourselves. All that time spent worrying over nothing. The home study process is nothing to be overly worried about. As we sit now, we are waiting for our FBI and CPS background checks to come through. This takes 8-12 weeks as they check every state that you have ever lived in. Once they come back he will write up our home study and send it to us and our agency for tweaking and finalization. So for now we wait. If there’s one thing that we have learned about this process, it’s very much a hurry up and wait (and worry) game. I know that we have much to learn about this process but for now, we wait. “…but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Romans 5:3-5

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Orientation Interview

Today we had our orientation interview. The call was about 45 minutes long and briefly went over the different steps of the adoption process and ended with a short individual interview and a joint interview. The process involves 4 phases, first is the home study which takes roughly 3 months. After the home study we have to file for immigration approval which is another 3-4 months. Then comes the exciting part, the referral process. This is when we get to meet our precious little ones, which typically takes about 6 months. Shortly afterwords (2 weeks-4 months) we will receive a court date and travel to Uganda spending the next 4-6 weeks in country. This is going to be a very exciting time since the kids will be turned over to us as soon as we arrive. We will be able to spend time with them in their orphanage as well as do some local traveling, sight seeing, etc. We are hoping to have the funds to take them on a safari, we will probably enjoy that a lot more than them! The phone interview was pretty brief, she asked questions about our marriage, history of drug and alcohol abuse, history of domestic violence or any other crimes to include speeding tickets. She also asked about how our families felt about us adopting and why we decided to adopt and why Uganda. All in all it was a pretty brief and painless call that provided us with a little more information about the process. The only downside to the call was the confirmation that we will have to find an outside agency in which to do our home study as Lifelines satellite social worker had to quit with no notice to take care of her ill mother. So we should be posting fairly soon regarding that process.

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