Let's see, where do I begin,
We did some research and sent away for some info. After attending a seminar in Raleigh, NC given by
Carolina Adoption Services (CAS), we decided that they would be our agency and we would adopt from Ukraine!
We liked that you didn't have to wait for a referral and could travel within weeks of having all of your paperwork approved. It also meant that we could meet and interact with different children before making our decision.
We are adopting 2 toddlers very soon from Ukraine (used to be part of the former Soviet Union). The way it works in that country is that once you have all of your adoption paperwork (called your Dossier) ready and approved in the U.S., you send it to Ukraine and then you wait for the National Adoption Center in Kiev to approve you and invite you to come and see their children.
When you get there, they show you pictures and then send you to an orphanage or region to see the children that you think you might be interested in adopting. At the orphanage(s), you get to meet the children (one at a time) and decide which child(ren) you want to adopt!
We have been approved for a boy and a girl age 0-5 but are hoping for 1-3. The children need to be on a registry for 1 year (plus 2 months for paperwork) before they are available for international adoption unless they have a medical diagnosis on the "list" that permits them to be taken off of the registry early. Many of these diagnosis are correctable in the U.S. (i.e.- cleft palet or heart murmer) or are not a problem here (i.e.- lactose intolerance) or are just non-existant (medicine is not the same there!)!!!
We should be gone about 3 weeks, returning through Warsaw, Poland.
The following are my notes and e-mails about everything that happened...
The social worker came yesterday to meet us for the first time and stayed for 2 hours. She never looked at the house and I had been cleaning for days! She is coming back on Monday so I told Mitch that he's not allowed to touch anything until Tuesday!
I had Mitch tell her the story of our girls so I wouldn't cry in front of her but I still got all teary about it. Otherwise I think it went well. She asked us a lot of questions about them and how we felt about adoption & why we decided we wanted to do it. Mitch talked a lot and I felt really comfortable with her. She also gave us homework (a sheet on what "handicaps" we would accept, everything from wears glasses to missing an arm).
She is also the Carolina Adoption Services person that started the Ukrainian program and has been there 5 times so she told us a little bit about how the process works, the backgrounds of some of the children she's placed, the country & things like that. She also said that the host's house (when you are there, you stay in these peoples house and they go stay with friends while you are there and come back to cook your meals) that we would probably stay at is not much bigger than the size of our living room! That should be interesting, us and 2 kids in a 2 room house (2 ROOMS, not bedrooms!) the size of our living room that I always thought was too small!
We had our second visit with the social worker on Monday. After almost two hours, she was getting ready to leave and I said, "when are you going to want to see the house?" She said whenever I was ready so I took her on a tour right then and there! I'm so glad I don't have to make the whole house look perfect anymore! Just the downstairs!
Anyway, after seeing the house, she said that she'd be happy to approve us for 6 kids! I'm taking that joke as a good sign because she implied that we would definitely be approved! She also told us some details about when we bring the kids home and how to get them adjusted slowly to the house. Basically by closing all the doors in the house and giving them access to only a room or two at a time. Same for the dogs since they probably have never seen an animal before.
Our fingerprinting appointments are for Monday the 8th! The FBI has to make sure that we are not criminals. The local Sheriffs office already signed a form saying that we're not local criminals but I guess they need to make sure we're not wanted anywhere else! It should be interesting.
Monday morning we had our fingerprints done for the FBI. For some reason they did Mitch's with an ink pad but they did mine on a machine. It was kinda cool. They put my fingers one at a time on this scanner thingy and rolled it from one side to the next and then my fingerprint came up on the screen. No ink!
Tuesday night the social worker came again for our 3rd visit (over 3 1/2 hours!). This time she met with us separately. She asked about our childhood. What we would do the same & different then our parents did. How we came about (career wise) to our current jobs & if we had any misgivings about adoption. She also went over our financial statement with Mitchell. We asked her a bunch of questions and she told us that she was done meeting with us. As soon as she gets our medical statements and copies of insurance stuff, she can finish writing the homestudy! So I guess it's time to give them more money again!!! Then we can get the country info and start putting together our dossier.
There are some great ways to not stress out and find out info while you wait to travel. I joined a listserve! It's great! You have a question and you e-mail it to one address and a whole bunch of people answer you! The most helpful for adoption in Ukraine is at:
There are many others that I have joined for just about any subject at:
We bought furniture this weekend!
This was not easy since we don't know how old they will be but my parents offered to pay and I wasn't about to wait for them to change their minds!!!
The furniture is a brand called "Baby's Dream" and the style is called
"Generation Next". The crib converts to a toddler bed or an adult double bed! And the 3 drawer dresser can be turned upside down for a changing table! (The drawers can go in either way.)
We bought the crib, dresser, and a 7 drawer dresser in amber for the boy and the crib, dresser, a longer dresser (called combo) with a hutch in honey for the girl! I am so excited and it should be here the end of January!!! I guess we're painting the room this weekend!
If anyone's interested in seeing it, here's a link, The crib is the pictures on the bottom but the furniture is slightly different [Generation Next not Generation],
http://www.crib4life.com/index.htmland we bought it locally at Kids Convertables in Raleigh, NC. They were great!
It's been 3 weeks since we sent our homestudy to INS and still haven't heard anything about an I171H letter. My agency FINALLY got through to someone at INS (I've been trying for days and couldn't!) and they said they are just waiting on our fingerprints!!! We were fingerprinted on NOVEMBER 8TH!!!!!!! Don't these people realize that they are keeping me away from my children!?!?!? (OK, fine, I don't know who they are... but that's not the point!) I called the FBI and they were very nice. Unfortunately, they are also very busy. But they promised that as soon as someone was free they would research it and call me back. Hopefully today, but not likely.
Well, the FBI called me back and I found out that our fingerprints were approved December 4th!!!
It turns out that they did not "update to the tracking system" of the INS. So I had to call the Adoption agency and have them call their contact at INS in Charlotte so that they could call the FBI and ask for INS personnel in that office so that they could fax our approval to the INS in Charlotte so that they could approve our I171H and send it to us. Supposedly they mailed it today.
Can you imagine how much longer we could have wasted not knowing that it was "lost" in the system if I wasn't so annoying and begging people into trying to find out what's taking so long???
Tonight we are moving the guest furniture into the smaller room so we can paint the big room for the kids.
Sometimes I get nervous thinking about everything. Aside from traveling halfway around the world and becoming a hands on mom overnight, I sometimes wonder if the kids will even like me. Or if I will like them!?! I loved my girls from the moment I conceived them but I've been trying to keep myself a little more detached this time. I don't know if it's because of what happened before or if it is because I don't want to start to imagine them and expect things making it harder to find them once we get there. Mitch says that I'm being silly but I think I'd be silly if I didn't think about these things!
Mitch got the dossier state authenticated and UPS'd it to Washington DC for the rest. I was supposed to do it but by the time the letter finally came, I was in the middle of having surgery! Everything worked out for the best. I was fine and Mitchell didn't have to sit in the hospital worring about me (Mom did though)!
We've found out that we may be able to travel as early as the last week of Feb. but most likely the beginning of March. Mitch & I found a sale right after New Years and I think we now have more than enough stuffed animals! We are getting a boy and a girl and they will be sharing the nursery for now. We decorated the room so far by painting the walls light blue and the slanted part of the ceiling (it used to be a bonus room) light yellow. We didn't realize until later that that's the colors of the Ukrainian flag! There is a Noah's Ark boarder around the room (mostly yellow & blue but lots of other colors too) about chair-rail height. We even got one of those kids fans that is all different colors. We bought furniture that should be here in 2 weeks. It's called Generation Next by Baby's Dream and the crib converts into a toddler bed or an adult double bed so I think we are covered there! The boy's furniture is Amber color and the girl's is Honey Pine. The boy's bedding is Serindipidy by Kid's Line and it is Noah's Ark with a lot of dark blue and yellow in it. The girl's is Precious Moments Two by Two by Quintex which is also Noah's Ark theme with a lot of pastel green, blue, yellow & white. It also matches the needle point that I made last year.
The UPS guy made it through the snow and ice! Poor guy, I almost tackled him when he came through the door. I tore open the envelope before I realized he was still there waiting for me to sign for it!
Anyway, here's what I did about authentications and it worked perfectly!
(Note - This is what my agency calls stuff, I know that some people call things different names.)
All 14 documents were authenticated at the North Carolina Department Of The Secretary Of State. Then, 10 of them were bundled and 4 were left separate for the Department of State and The Embassy of Ukraine. This is how they were bundled into 5 documents (They charge by the document so it's a good idea to bundle if you can):
1) Power of Attorney for some guy
2) Power of Attorney for some other guy
3) Commitment Letter
5) The following forms are a part of this packet:
1. Affidavit for INS 171-H (and 171H)
2. Approved Homestudy (7 pages)
3. Agency Licence
4. Affidavit for Passport (and copies of passports)
5. Medical Form for Laurie Cooper
6. Medical Form for Mitchell Cooper
7. Criminal Record Check for Laurie Cooper
8. Criminal Record Check for Mitchell Cooper
9. Income Tax Return for 1998 (and copy of 1040)
10.Certified Copy of Marriage Certificate
Hope this helps other people. Now if the mail would start to run again, I could get this on to the agency and then off to Ukraine! Wish me luck!
Hopefully we will go in March and I have been getting worried. I go back and forth between how will I pick and there won't be ANY that's right!
(The following is meant as a joke, please don't take offense)
My husband has been telling everyone that for the boy we are going to put a power tool by one foot and ballet slippers by the other foot. The first boy that goes for the power tool is ours. As for the girl, he wants to put a vacuum cleaner by one foot and soap opera tapes and magazines by the other. The first girl that goes for the vacuum is ours. This is a direct crack at me but it's better than the other line he uses! He tells people that he want's to adopt an 18 year old girl and that my dad keeps offering to babysit! Can men ever get serious? I think it's his way of saying he's worried too. But then again, he probably hasn't even given it a second thought!
The last 2 weeks have been very hectic! The agency didn't like the way our dossier looked. They were afraid it would get turned down in Ukraine because the gromet (thing the US Dept. Of State put on to make sure it stays together) came apart. The back page was coming off. I would recommend breaking up the big packet for authenticating into two so this doesn't happen again. It was just too big. Anyway, we had to get it back from the agency, then send it back up to D.C., then get it back to us, then bring it to the agency! I think we lost at least 2 weeks! I really hate paperwork!
The morning before our party, our furniture came. The cribs look great and we put the bedding on the next day after we got everything back from my parents house (it took 4 trips!). Three of the pieces were backordered and should be here this week. The other pieces, well... while they were putting the hutch on the dresser, it caught the wood wrong and split (very tiny spot, barely noticable). But, no problem. Before I even knew about it they said they would replace it when they bring the backordered stuff. Luckily, it was the one piece that they actually had an extra of in stock! The store is in Raleigh and it's called Kids Convertables. I would highly recommend them.
We had a lot of delays with our dossier due to no mail during the snow and ice storms, a page comming off of the grommet due to being shook up so much in the envelopes, having to sent it back to the State dept. in DC to be refastened (no charge but UPS fees were $25), and then driving it 2 hours to meet in person with the agency to make sure it was OK thus having to wait until a Monday instead of sending it out that Thursday.
Our Dossier was FINALLY sent to Ukraine to be translated & submitted to the NAC. It was sent last Wednesday so I would think they will probably get it by today. I was told it takes 4 days. Anyway, this means that we are obviously not going in early March. I'm guessing 3rd or 4th week in March if nothing else goes wrong.
(Read the following as from someone calm but sad)
We were just informed by our agency that there are very few little girls between 1 and 3 available right now and we should wait until April or May to go.
We thought we would go in March.
Obviously we are upset and didn't understand.
The more I calm down and think about it, I guess it makes sense that we should wait until more are available. The local facilitator is visiting next month. Maybe they have more girls coming available by then? Doesn't it figure... we're always waiting on the girls!
I know in the whole scheme of things 1 or 2 months isn't that long but it's really hard to wait. It just drives me crazy knowing I could have my children sooner if someone had just done their paperwork on time a year ago!!!
Thursday we found out that our Dossier has been received in Ukraine.
The final piece of furniture arrived yesterday. Now the room is complete! All we need is a couple of kids! We got a phone call today that the translations are complete and our Dossier has been received by the National Adoption Center in Ukraine! Technically, all we need now is their approval (which should only take about 10 days) and then we can make travel plans. Except for one thing. STILL NO GIRLS! So apparently they will wait to send us our approval letter until there will be more available. I'm starting to feel more positive though. Now that the room is done, I've started on a new project. I'm trying to make a scrap book of our life and family to take with us to show the orphanage people and the Judge. I was going to just stick some pictures in an album but someone gave me a memory book kit at our shower and I know I'll have no time when we get back. Obviously I have lots of time now though! Looks like I'll have to get creative! I was even thinking of writing descriptions under the pictures like "these are our best friends" in English, Russian, and Russian with English letters so our friends can look at it too.
I hurt my back and was out of work for a few days. My back feels fine now, I was just happy to hear that it wouldn't affect our trip (whenever that might be)!
Wednesday we found out that the NAC approved us! So now we just wait for them to tell us the best time to come! Arrrggg! I just want to be home with my kids! Waiting is so fustrating!!!
The agency called me yest. to say that we have to wait a little bit longer. I had hoped that they would tell us when we would go but they said "no" right now and we'll have to keep waiting. There are more kids going off the registry in April than May but they might get adopted by Ukrainians before we get there! So we wait, and wait, and wait.
Agency called to update again. No change but it sounds to me like May is more likely than April.
I called the travel agency to let them know so they don't lose our file.
Sat. we went to a class with the agency. It was informative for adopting two kids at once and for adopting toddlers. We met several other couples waiting to adopt girls in Ukraine and Russia. One thing we found out that made Mitch happy and me sad is that most often, the children bond quicker to the father than the mother! That they think of the mother as just another caregiver since that's all they are used to. Women caregivers and no men! That stinks!
I got a phone call today with a possible travel date! I started shaking the minute I picked up the phone and had just been looking at Laurel & Samantha's pictures. That must be a sign! I'm trying not to get too excited. We'll find out more tonight. I'm so afraid to get excited. I hope this is it!
We spent the whole weekend running around getting all of the last minute stuff done! We kept stopping people to ask them how old their kid was and what size do they wear. It was exhausting! But we got some really cute stuff. I'm sure the sneakers will be to big but we can stuff paper or something in them if we have to. Better too big than too small! I'm starting to think this might really happen! Mitch and I haven't slept since we got the call. At night we stay up talking about it and in the morning we wake up early and talk about how we didn't sleep or about the dreams we had about it. One morning he told me that he dreamt that we were there and the little boy spoke English and told him he likes bugs. He doesn't remember it now or telling me about it but I did catch him checking out the bug collecting kits in the toy store yesterday! It's so cute to see him really get excited. The gas guy even called (after fixing a leak we had) to say he couldn't stop thinking of Mitch and how excited he was talking about the adoption. I was shocked because I wasn't even there!
Yesterday we got a phone call that there had been a mistake. We can't go yet. We had a travel date of next week but something went wrong and now we can't go until May. (Paperwork error in Ukraine, one of the dates was wrong.) We found out just before booking our tickets. We were so excited and bought so much last minute stuff. I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever really go!
It was such a bad day. I just knew something had gone wrong. I felt it about an hour before I got the call. Then I went home and opened the mail to find bills from the birth (and death) of my daughters. Will they ever end??? (It was also the anniversary of the day I found out I was pregnant.) So I go outside to sit in the hammock to relax and a bird flies over and decides to GO on my leg! It was so gross. When I showed Mitch it was hard not to laugh but I wanted to cry! So I go to move the chair and the spindle breaks off in my hand! After that, I was afraid to do or touch anything!
On the bright side, our good friends and their kids came over to "try out" some of the stuff and the 3 year old says out of nowhere "I wasn't born in an orphanage you know, I was born in mommy's tummy." I thought that was so funny. I guess she asks a lot of questions when I'm not around! That's good because her and her 1 year old sister will be our kids best friends if we ever get them! She also sat in one of the cribs and said " This is really nice, the kids will like this!"
Friday our visas came. Too bad we have nowhere to go. They are good for 6 months so that's the good news but when I saw them I panicked. The visa is like a stamp that goes in your passport and says that you are allowed to visit that country. It said that it is valid from 6-4-00 to 6-10-00. I thought that's only a few days in June! But luckily my boss looked at it and realized that it's the European way to write the date! They switch the month and day so it really says April 6th through October 6th. What a relief!
By the way, if anyone was planning on bundling their documents to get them authenticated, I just heard that they aren't being accepted that way anymore. So you may want to check that out before you send it to Washington D.C.
Today we got the call! We knew it was coming but this was the confirmation call saying this is really it, book your tickets! I think I'm still in shock. I thought I'd be more excited but I'm so afraid! What if it's not real? What if it is?!!!
OK, here are the choices:
Go on United/Luftansa and be in countries 21 days (not including travel time) but they have NO seats available on any flight that leaves later in
case we get delayed for $817 each (from NC)
Go on Northwest/KLM and leave a day earlier, spend 24 hours in Amsterdam, then spend 23 days in countries but have no change fee if we need to leave
earlier for (don't faint) $1229 each!
We have them both on hold until Wed. I'm inclined to go with the first and save $800 and hope for the best.
(Even with the $150 each change fee IF they can find seats on a different flight!) The only concern is that we are getting 2 kids that were probably
(unless we get lucky) born in different cities which will add more time getting the birth certificates.
Also, either I'm getting very excited or very nervous or I'm practicing what will happen if I drink the water over there because my stomach is killing me! Even Mitch got sick yesterday! Hopefully, we are just getting it all out of our systems!
I have been thinking about packing for so long that now that it's time, I don't know where to begin!!! It looks like the temperature in Kiev for the time we'll be there has ranged in the last 5 years from 38 degrees to 91 degrees! How do you pack for that?!?!? Wish me luck!
Our tickets came today! We are going with Lufthansa. I can't believe we leave in one week! We have so much to do! I feel so strange, maybe I'm in shock. Sometimes I don't believe it and other times I'm so overwhelmed with emotions...I just can't explain it!
Cont. story on Travel Diary later OR look at We're Here!
LAUREL & SAMANTHA