Last night we celebrated a very special occasion in our adoption journey! We received our final home study reports on December 18th from MLJ, overnighted them to Lifeline December 19th, and they sent our I-800A application (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) to US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) yesterday afternoon (December 20th)! For anyone familiar with the adoption process, this is a exciting step in our journey!! We were told that within 2 weeks, we should receive a Notice of Receipt from USCIS. Then, 10-14 days later, we will each receive a notice for our biometric fingerprint appointment. Our fingerprints will be filed with the FBI, and our pictures will be taken.
The home study process went very well with MLJ! We had four visits total with them in November. The first and last visits occurred at their office downtown Indy, and the other two appointments took place in our home. The home visits were each 2-3 hours long and involved lots of questions and conversations so that our social worker could really get to know our family in order to write a thorough Home Study Report. She worked very quickly and very hard for our family! We were extremely fortunate that our social worker completed her report in less than one month from when we turned in our binder. She then sent her report to Lifeline the first week of December, as MLJ is Hague Approved not Hague Accredited. Our agency is accredited, so they conducted a review to make sure that all necessary requirements for a China Home Study Report, including Hague Accredited language, were all included in the report. This review process took approximately 2 weeks. After completing a few last minute pieces of paperwork, Lifeline approved the final Home Study report, and MLJ signed it, notarized it, and gave us the thumbs up to pick them up! We are so very lucky that the entire process from turning in our binder to receiving the final report only took a little over 6 weeks. I just heard someone say that it took them 6-7 months! Now that is probably rare, but still, we are counting our blessings.
Not only is the Home Study report needed to apply for our I-800A with USCIS, but a copy of the report will also go to China with our dossier. Our agency sent us the next part of our China manual, which explains the dossier process. Fortunately, we've already collected several documents for our dossier. The timing is again incredible because today begins 17 days off work for me! Hopefully we can get everything together so that when we receive our approval from USCIS (which typically takes 2-3 months), we can send out our dossier right away.
In the meantime, I've continued communicating with lots of people who are part of a Yahoo group specifically for families adopting children with cleft lip/cleft palate. Additionally, a new acquaintance created a Facebook Group for people who are adopting and should travel within the next year. We are connecting with lots of people who are just beyond the stage we are in, people who are just applying with USCIS, and people who are just completing their home studies. It's so nice to have support during this process! I am praying that I can be a resource and support for some of you who decide to take this step. It is such an exciting process, and I cannot believe that we could have a new son or daughter home before next Christmas. What a perfect gift! All FIVE of us will take our Christmas pictures together next year, and I can't wait.