In March, after we had said YES to our son, we submitted an LOI (Letter of Intent- saying you have a desire to adopt your specific child). After your LOI, you are waiting for something called a Pre-Approval. This process typically takes a week. Except in our case...because we received our pre-approval the VERY NEXT day. This kind of timing definitely isn't ordinary. We were beyond excited that our process was gaining speed. I remember sitting down with a friend and talking about potential travel dates. She too was shocked that we had received such a quick LOI and in turn, LOA (Letter of Acceptance). She offered to go home and plug our important dates into a spreadsheet that can estimate your time of travel. Our "quick" travel date was April. Um...this was MARCH! YIKES! I almost couldn't wrap my brain around that quick of a turnaround. Our "normal" travel date was May. This fit much better with my obligations during the school year as a teacher. We were done at the end of May so I wouldn't have to take off a lot of time if we left before the last day of school.
Our next big step was waiting for our I800. This step takes 4 weeks. It is not a part of the process that can be miraculously shorter. It's one of those "known" steps which can be a breath of fresh air when there are so many waiting periods of UNKNOWNS in this process. We sent our I800 application to our agency who then forwards it on to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). *Do you sort of feel like this post should have been named alphabet soup? So many acronyms!* Two weeks into our wait...we received a letter from USCIS. I was so anxious to open it up! Unfortunately, the letter was informing us that our application had been rejected due to a missing signature. I was in disbelief. We had missed one spot for Eric to sign. What was even more frustrating...was that our agency didn't catch it. This oops set us back TWO weeks. That may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like an eternity.
Shortly after we sent in our corrected I800, we received our letter confirming that our application had been sent to our I800 officer. This means that we had two more weeks to wait before this specific step was complete. At the two week mark, I still hadn't heard anything. I had been reading from others online that you can call your USCIS officer and ask about the status of your application. I decided to do this...and was connected to a very kind officer. OUR kind officer. She shared that she had just sent us an RFE the day before and that if we had any questions about it...we could call her! Ok. So an RFE is a "Request for Evidence." This means our agency would need to supply more information to the officer for one reason or another. I was sick after hearing this news. I immediately called our social worker...who I could not get a hold of via phone. I tried email.
A few minutes later, I received a phone call. I knew it wasn't our social worker because of the number. But I didn't recognize it. I answered quickly. It was our officer on the phone! She apologized about misspeaking just moments before. She actually had our application on her desk and had been trying to reach our social worker that week to discuss something about our paperwork. I explained that I could not get a hold of her either and so I went ahead and called our agency director of the China program. She called our officer immediately to find out the situation. In short, our home study listed some specific mild to moderate special needs that we were open to as a family. It was not an all-inclusive list, but it also did not use the phrase "including, but not limited to." Basically, our list COULD be interpreted as an all-inclusive list. Well, since we adopted our little guy off of the waiting child list...his SN wasn't named in our list of examples within the home study. *Now, I had called our SW several weeks prior to check on this specific situation because it was one of the things suggested to families in an email that was sent out. I was told it would be fine.* Our agency director remedied the situation but shared that the only place where this would turn into a problem again would be at the Article 5 process. It was worth the risk to continue on in our minds. Making amendments at this point meant more delays and more money.
After the I800 process, you work through a series of steps to get you ready for the Article 5 pick up and drop off. This is done IN China at the Consulate...only on certain days...and it takes exactly 2 weeks. Again, this is a "known" step that cannot be hurried. We were finally set for A5 drop off on a Tuesday. A week later, we received an email saying that our A5 was ready for pick up the following Tuesday. All systems go. We were SO CLOSE! Except we weren't. On the day we were scheduled for pick up, we received an email that said our A5 could NOT be picked up due to missing information from Josiah's medical report. Our social worker explained that this situation was worked out between the Consulate and the CCCWA (China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption). The agency has nothing to do with this issue and is hands-off. I was crushed. CRUSHED. Yet another hiccup. We were already into June and there was no end in sight. I waited and waited...but heard nothing. I reached out to others online and this problem was not new to some. In some cases, the issue was resolved within a couple of days. In other situations, it was resolved within a couple of weeks. I felt paralyzed. I emailed our social worker...but heard nothing back. I emailed the director and she called me right away. She said that she would look into the situation after a week had passed...and if we had still heard nothing. If the email said it was missing medical information, then that's what it was...except that it wasn't. A week passed and still crickets. The agency director called...and learned that the Consulate was actually waiting on a new I800 from us. WHAT!? This was NOT the issue we were told at first and now an entire week was wasted (again) because we couldn't get involved. I was unraveling fast. All I knew to do was gather our prayer warriors and pray. We literally heard the phrase "In my 16 years of working with China, we've never had this happen." The issue was in fact our worst nightmare. The issue we had with our I800 was now rearing its ugly head at the point of the process where it would only be an issue...the Article 5 process.
Even more ironic than the occurrence of this problem was that the issue was actually being asked to be resolved by USCIS. This was truly a God-thing. Typically, this problem is asked to be fixed by the adoptive family. We would need to update our home study to match the wording of our son's SN. This means our social worker would need to come and visit and then make changes to our home study which we would then have to resubmit for I800 (4 week process). I could barely travel there in my mind. We were grateful that this was not yet the case, and prayed for favor from USCIS in this unprecedented situation. We should know something in a few days. Miraculously, the situation was remedied and we did NOT have to delay our process any longer. Our A5 was picked up and we were officially waiting on TA (Travel Approval)!
TA typically comes within 7-10 days of your Article 5 pick up. Our pick up was on June 5/6...and as of now, we've heard nothing. I emailed our travel person because I was truly hoping for a June family day still...only to hear that the earliest available family day for us was July 3. July. This was not even a month I had wrapped my mind around. I didn't even think it was possible. July is my last true month of summer break before school starts. I don't have enough sick time built up to take time off at the beginning of the year...unpaid leave is now inevitable. Admittedly, in times like these, it is HARD to understand that God's timing is perfect. My lists of "cons" can get long, quickly. To make matters even more interesting, no TAs have been issued because the TA office is apparently moving offices. I almost laugh now. Almost. We also heard that the TA officer was on vacation last week. In my own little world, it's me vs. China. Doesn't China know that my son is in an orphanage waiting for his MOMMY AND DADDY to come and get him?! Doesn't China care? But, I am one person. And there are lots of families just like us that are anxiously waiting to bring home their son or daughter. They're experiencing the same agonizing wait that we've experienced...with no urgency on China's part. But, I have to remember that I cannot be selfish. People in China are allowed to take vacation. They are also allowed to move offices just like government offices do here in the U.S. We are not dissimilar in these ways. <Stop being selfish, Lindsay.>
Adoption is such a refining process. And I can be so unwilling to be refined. And lately, I have not wanted to be patient. But God calls us to be patient. He asks us to trust. Trust in Him. Trust in His timing. And I know that this bad case of hiccups will be over with soon...and our son will be in OUR arms at the most perfect time. HIS time. Not ours.