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Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Say Paper...

... you say WORK!

PAPER... (I'll assume you just screamed WORK!).

Hi there!

We have a lot to update you on since trivia night, so this will be a lengthy post - consider yourself warned. :)

March brought some exciting updates in the process of getting our paperwork to Eastern Europe. First and foremost, our home study was approved! We received the draft from our agency after meeting with them a couple of times, made a couple of updates to what they had done, then sent it back. It was approved through all the proper channels and we picked up the four copies that we'll need in the coming month or two. Woohoo!! The home study is a large and important chunk of what will go to Eastern Europe, so it's a big deal that that step is complete. CHECK!

Once our home study was approved, we received our second big step from the agency - dossier prep paperwork. The dossier is the packet of paperwork that will go to Eastern Europe to be a "profile" of us that will be reviewed by the powers-that-be to match us with our children. The dossier includes a lot of biographical information us, but also a lot of legal paperwork and background information. So, we've been diligently working on that! We had our fingerprints done again (3rd time and counting) for an FBI background check, filled out another checklist of characteristics we are seeking for our family (2-3 children, ages 5 and under, etc.), did a "condense your home study into a one page document" application, applied for new copies of our marriage license (have to have new ones), talked with our doctor for some additional check offs from him, etc. It's been a lot and slightly daunting after doing what I thought was the mega-load of paperwork for the home study. But, all is moving along well! Several of these items take time to get as we have to submit paperwork to retrieve it, send money, yadda yadda yadda, but it's going well. We just about have everything that we need to gather, then we'll take it all to get certified (more on that in a minute).  

We did have a laugh today... we received the copies of our marriage license and check it out:

I, Mary Ann Eckertett, take you Scott Andrew DeArmond...

A couple things that are especially funny are that my last name is spelled wrong, and also that it's an 'authenticated copy' of our original marriage license... really? Because on our marriage license my name is spelled right. They also spelled our marriage official's name wrong on the original and correctly on this "copy"... So yeah, we'll be calling them on Monday. Try again, please, clerk's office!

In addition to all of the paperwork we are gathering, included in our dossier will be approval from the USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services) to adopt. This, obviously, is a huge deal. Without this approval, we do not adopt. The first step in the dossier prep was getting that application sent to the USCIS and we did that as soon as our home study was approved (they review your home study as part of that application). That generally takes 1-4 months to be approved (hello, huge window of time!) and we use that time to gather all of the rest of the documents. We received mail this week from the USCIS and I about fell out of my chair... did we just win an award for fastest approval EVER?... it was just a notice that they received our application. Oh. Ok... well that's good at least :).

Next steps: once we receive our approval from USCIS (you'll hear us scream excitement across the country, so you'll know that day when it comes), we take the approval notice and all of the other dossier documents we have gathered and all of them will be notarized and then apostilled. That will likely take a little bit of time to get it all apostilled, but after that - it's off to Eastern Europe!! WAHOO!!! Our agency told us it generally takes 4-6 months to get the dossier to the country you're adopting from and we are right on that schedule. Depending on how long it takes to get our USCIS approval, we anticipate having our dossier submitted by July at the latest (which would be 6 months). 

The other piece of the journey we've been working on in addition to dossier prep is education. We have education from our agency and also from the National Council for Adoption (NCFA). We just finished our NCFA education today - yay!! We only have two more classes from our agency to complete and then a book to read and the requirements will be met. That's exciting because education has to be complete prior to dossier submission, so that's another step complete! We do plan to continue our education, though, as we want to learn as much as we can before we bring our children home. We have really enjoyed this part of the process - the education has been very insightful for us and helped us to gain insight into what unique needs our children will have and how we can best transition both our children and ourselves into life as a family of 4-5. We have learned so much and are excited to continue that process as we anxiously await our match. 

Another event we have been very anxious for is for Dad Eckert to shave his head!! Back in January, Mary's Uncle Jim challenged us to raise $2500 into our AdoptTogether account by March 13th - he said that if we did, we should get Dad to shave his head and Dad agreed!! As another fun bonus, Uncle Jim said he would shave his head for $5000. Thanks to everyone's INCREDIBLE generosity, we reached our goals and Dad shaved his head a couple of weeks ago! It was a fun night celebrating! We know it's a fun thing for Dad to shave his head, but what this meant to us was very serious - the love, support, and encouragement is absolutely incredible! Thank you so much to everyone!!

Thank you for your support, Grandpa!!!

The other thing we've been up to since our last post was a cruise!!! Mom and Dad DeArmond treated our entire family to a beautiful cruise to Key West and Cozumel at the end of March/beginning of April and it was an incredible trip. We left on our 6th anniversary and what a great celebration! We had such a wonderful time with our family and enjoyed the sun, sand, and warm weather. We are so thankful for their generosity - we are diligently saving for the adoption, so of course a vacation was out of the question! Being able to take a week to reconnect, enjoy time with family, and get away was so refreshing and just what we needed. 
Off the ship in Cozumel

Key West!

Needless to say, we've been busy!! While it does get overwhelming at times, we are so thankful to be working on this process - there will never be a more important journey than bringing our children home and we are joyfully doing whatever it takes to get there. We know that soon, we will "just" be waiting for a match and going crazy with nothing to do... so until that time, here's to paperwork!! 

We will leave you with this, one of our favorite pictures from our awesome week on the cruise... 

 Love certainly does cross oceans... 

Until next time, 
Scott and Mary