PK and the Gang

Bringing Eastern Europe to Eastern North Carolina

Archive for the category “Home Study”

A Whole Stack of Paper and a Whole Lot of Homework

A massive stack of paper! Lighter placed for comparison.

A massive stack of paper! Lighter placed for comparison.

After far too long of radio silence, Becky and I are happy to post another update. Yesterday, we received a large stack of papers in the mail. This was our long awaited home study.  This is the culmination of months of work. The home visit, the trip to Charlotte, the insane amount of paperwork full of intensely personal questions, recommendations from friends, doctors’ notes, and background checks are all bound up in this packet. This is also the document that will allow us to start applying for adoption grants. It is strange to finally hold it in our hands and even stranger to realize that our lives can be bound up in these pages. I’d like to think that it at least would take a full novel to record the antics of the Arthurs.

For a moment after opening the packet and seeing the product of a year’s worth of work, I wanted to take a break. It only lasted a moment though, as Becky can attest, because within a few minutes, I had the pack spread out and was reading through the instructions for the next steps. The journey continues and we’re already in the next steps. As soon as we got the packet, we started preparing to send the different pieces out to various places.

Our next steps:

Another view of the home study packet.

Another view of the home study packet.

  • One copy of the main body of paperwork plus a few other documents goes to US CIS in order to get approval to immigrate a child into the country. Part of this process is getting our fingerprints done for a third time. This time, however, we have to go to Durham to get it done.
  • The majority of the pages has to be sent to the North Carolina Secretary of State to get apostilled. Apostilling is the process of getting notarized papers a seal that will allow them to be used as legal documents in another country.
  • Some papers have to be sent to Connecticut for the same process. Documents can only be apostilled in the state that it was notarized or, in some cases, created in.
  • Some papers have to go to Virginia as well.
  • Finally, some of the pages have to go to the US Secretary of State’s office to be apostilled.

(While that seems easy, there’s a good bit of prep work that needs to be done. Mostly that involves several documents that need to be notarized and we have to get duplicates of some pages.)

When all of that is done, we’ll have a form from the government that will tell Poland that we have the United State’s clearance and blessing to adopt and we’ll also have the papers we need for two copies of our dossier. The dossier is the paperwork that gets sent to Poland to be translated and guides the Polish government in selecting PK out of all the children who are eligible for adoption. When we send the dossier to Poland, we have to send a large payment as well, which we have the lion’s share of. With your help, we’ve paid almost half of the money that we have to pay the agency.

In order to try to raise some more of the money and due to several folks asking, Becky and I are attempting another Chrome

The "official" shirt of this fundraiser.

The “official” shirt of this fundraiser.

Buffalo fundraiser. Chrome Buffalo is the company that made and sold the t-shirts that we did last year. While the previous design is not being offered in all sizes, we have found another shirt that not only looks nice but has a message that Becky and I feel is very appropriate for our adoption – Love Always Holds Onto Hope. It’s a phrase that has guided us through the adoption and is true on some many other fronts as well. As with the previous drive, we will receive $11 for every shirt purchased and while the anchor shirt is our ‘official’ shirt, there are other great shirts to choose from and I have it on good authority they’re really comfortable. The page says our goal is $250. Honestly, we need a great deal more than that but it is a suggested goal by the company and if we reach the goal posted it helps their statistics. We figure helping the company out a little bit is the least we can do in support of a company that is helping us get closer to PK. The fundraising drive begins on 1 August and can be reached here. Please, feel free to share the link to others you know. If shirts aren’t your thing, we also still have our Just Love Coffee storefront and you can find the link in our sidebar.

We cannot thank you all enough for your love and encouragement as we have gone down this road. Poland is this much closer!

Now that we’ve reached this point, I am going to try to be better about more regular updates and perhaps even some info on Poland, Polish culture and interesting links so that you can learn a bit more about PK’s homeland and culture. I would write more but we’re trying to get two of the above pieces out in the mail tomorrow and so I have other writing to do – government forms!

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Another Step In The Journey

This binder only cost a few bucks but it's currently our most valuable possession!

This binder only cost a few bucks but it’s currently our most valuable possession!

Well, a month has passed since we last posted and we’ve completed another step in the process. Becky and I just got home from a trip to Charlotte to meet the folks who work at our agency. It was a bit of a haul, but we’re glad it was something we had to do.

You see, we’ve spoken with the owners of the agency over the phone, through email and once over Skype but we have only ever met our social worker. It was very nice to meet them, shake their hand and know who it is that is helping to make this whole process happen. Everyone was very nice and they approached it with warmth but also a professionalism that is truly impressive and appreciative.

Most of the time was spent with our social worker going over the home study and helping her fill in some blanks. You might have seen the binder that we have compiled, well, most of that was stuff we needed for this meeting and the lion’s share stayed in Charlotte with them (we’ll get it back after the document is completed). It was one of the few times that I felt like I actually had my act together. The social worker would ask if we had a bit of information and we were, usually, able to pull it out and hand it over to her. In case you’re wondering what all is needed at this stage of the journey:

  1. Certified copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate
  2. A certified copy of our deed
  3. Copies of our monthly bills
  4. Letters with proof of employment
  5. Medical forms
  6. Proof of health, life, home and car insurance
  7. Property tax information
  8. Information on our mortgage
  9. Copies from our three references (you all rock, by the way)
  10. This year’s tax return

Add to that, the massive forms of social and family information, background checks in every state that we’ve lived in since we were 18 (so, NC, SC, VA, CT, and CA), proof that we have completed our adoption parenting classes and a few other things and you get an idea of how thorough this all is. In the end, this document is going to be around 22 pages, along with the documentation, and certificates that our agency has to tack on. It’s no joke.

We also left with some more homework. I have to get proof that I’m paying into the State’s retirement plan (done!). We have to hound the states of California and Connecticut to get their results from our background checks. Because of Becky’s DM and my Tourette’s, we both have to get letters from our doctors explaining our condition, its history and treatment and that we do not have shortened life expectancy and be good adoptive parents. Becky also has to get her TB shot and another copy of one of her employment letters since they didn’t type out the notary oath. Also, we have to get our fingerprints redone by the FBI since those are apparently only good for a year and, therefore, will be defunct in June. While that last little bit is a little disappointing, it really is no big deal and we’re happy to know what needs to be done. Like I said before, I like having a list to check off.

What happens after all of that? When we turn in all our homework, the home study will be submitted to the owner of the agency, when she proofs it and passes it off, it will be sent to Becky and I for our edits (things like deciding medical conditions we don’t feel we could handle, etc.). When we agree to it all, (and I could be misunderstanding some of this) we have to mail off a smorgasbord of documents to get apostilled, get our fingerprints done by USCIS (meaning a trip to Raleigh/Durham), and then I think we’ll be ready to ship our dossier off to Poland (with perhaps a stop by USCIS for their approval). Then we’re in the waiting game. On the upside of that, we’ll have a completed home study and that means we can start applying for some grants. There are some grants that prefer you to have a referral and so we’d have to wait for those but it will be nice to have something else to do as opposed to just sitting on our hands.

As always, thank you all for your continued support. We got our first check from Just Love Coffee today and every little bit helps! We’re so glad that all of you are rooting us on. We know that we are loved and that PK is going to have quite the fan base when they finally do get here!

Until next time!

In which our heroes survive their home study…

It was a long week for everyone. Rex is still recovering.

It was a long week for everyone. Rex is still recovering.

This past week has been a whirlwind. After we found out we were having the home study, I think a secret signal was sent to pull out all the stops. Work was wild, my family joined us in a multi-prong approach to clean the house and prep for a yard sale, we held said yard sale, and then the day of the actual home study. Rex the Dog had a rather exciting week with people coming in and out of the house. He’s a big fan of my niece and nephew. My mind had Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” running through my head all week. Thanks to everyone who donated things to the yard sale and to everyone who purchased things as well! The yard sale was a great success! The money raised through the sale covers the next step on the journey and the money we already have will cover the rest of the home study plus put a good dent in the money for the dossier (which is the next big milestone).

Sunday Becky and I were a bit on edge. The time leading up to our appointment seemed to drag. Thankfully, I work with a great lady who has been through the international adoption process who gave me some very important advice, “Don’t worry. The agency’s job is to make you look good. They want you to adopt.” My mind bounced around between that and more than a bit of panic. The social worker was great. She knew we were anxious and started right away to making us more comfortable. On of her first statements was that we had already applied to the agency and they had accepted us. If they had concerns they would have addressed them, this was to prepare the paperwork for the US and Polish government (which shows how common the fear has to be). Granted, always plan for a hiccup or two – ne’er did the course of adoption run smooth. The calm way she said we were accepted made a feeling of peace fall on the whole meeting.

She reviewed how the adoption process with Poland works. It was pretty much all review for us (the benefit of being a nerd who likes homework). We talked about how the referral process works and then worked on the wording for our home study papers. This will tell the various officials how old of a child we want, how many, if we have a preference of a boy or a girl, and what sort of issues we would be willing to consider.  We’re going for one child, boy or girl, up to five years of age (which basically means up to four because according to how the paperwork goes a child of 5 years and a day would be too old). Along with the usual wording about special/medical needs, ours will have a sentence about being very open to a deaf child. We also had the surprise of being called a young couple. We’re both over 30. We’ve never been called young in regards to starting our family, especially by Southern standards. When we got married I was 27, just about to turn 28 and a lot of my friends from college and high school had at least one baby under their belt and several were working on number two (or more). Still, we got called young and with as much gray hair as I’m getting, I’ll take it!

Most of the meeting we were together. There was a short bit where we spoke to the social worker separately. While there had been times I had mixed feelings about that, I completely understand how good that is. It’s a time to ask questions, or to talk about parts of your history that could be painful and, God forbid, a chance for a potential parent to come clean that they aren’t really feeling this whole parenting gig. She asked about my Tourette’s and how that affects my life (aside from the occasional hoot or flap, it doesn’t) and how my family felt about adoption (they couldn’t be more supportive. I think, if we didn’t keep a close watch on my mom, she would fly to Poland, grab a kid and drop them off at our front door just to speed up the process). I actually asked her why there is the big hush around home studies. She said part of it could be the personal nature and part could be the major differences between how international adoption agencies and DSS run things. We chatted about the need to work to make the home study less mysterious. The last thing she did was a quick tour of the house. Seriously, like three minutes. Still, both Becky and I were glad for the work that we (us and the family) did on that front.

Becky and I have some more homework to do before the next meeting for the home study. It’s mostly information gathering and mailing some things off. Sometime, near the end of April, we’ll head up to Charlotte and actually go to the agency to meet folks there, wrap up the home study portion and check another box off the list.

So, there you go. A week of edge on the edge of our seat for a few hours of calm talking. If you are out there and are on the adoption journey and are getting ready for this part, listen to me closely – Don’t. Freak. Out. You can survive this and you’ll find yourself strangely at ease afterward.

The First Rule of Home Study…

5334281676_14e1e3ffc2_zSince we last chatted, we’ve exchanged several emails with our agency. It has been nice to get to see a bit more of the staff’s personalities. They’ve always been wonderfully nice but in this last week they’ve seemed more like real people. We also managed to schedule the portion of our home study that actually happens in our house. Cue the insane house-cleaning. Now, we’re not slobs, but the idea of someone official coming into your home to make decisions about whether you can get a child or not would make even Mr. Clean ready to break out the big guns. Thankfully, between awesome family and amazing friends there is a team that I’m sure would put Martha Stewart (who is entirely of Polish descent) to shame.

Aside from what seems to be the obligatory cleaning frenzy, there is the nervousness that is setting in full swing. The home study is on Sunday and is supposed to last two hours. At some later point, we’ll head up to Charlotte to have another meeting at the agency. We know that it is a conversation and we figure it will likely be close to the questions that we filled out and sent to them. In some ways, it’s good to meet face to face. You present your real self and paper is a notoriously bad way to read facial expressions. Still, there is an aspect of the unknown. Also, it somewhat feels like the first rule of home study is the first rule of Fight Club – You do not talk about it. I don’t know how much of that is because of its personal nature and how much is that you can’t talk about it but the fact remains. Thankfully, I have some cousins who are great people who reassured us that it isn’t bad. Regardless, any prayers and good thoughts you can send our way would be much appreciated.

While I hate to do shameless plugs, I figure if you’re reading this you must be at least moderately interested in supporting us. With Mother’s Day is on the way and if you’d like to get your Ma a gift and help us out there are a few options. You can get organic, fair trade coffee for the coffee-loving mom from our storefront for Just Love Coffee (there’s a link in the side bar). If you are more interested in something family related, shoot me an email (found on the Fundraising page) or contact me on Facebook about doing family research or transcribing some of your old family letters in order to save them for future generations.

As always, thanks to everyone for your support. We’re so blessed to have so many wonderful people undertake the journey with us. See you on the other side of the home study!

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