I'm not going to be home this afternoon so I won't be able to give the Friday update news as quickly as I normally do. I'll have my Blackberry with me all day, so I'll get the e-mail, but I probably won't be able to sit down and blog about it until this evening.
I got an e-mail from someone yesterday asking me to to blog about what happens after we get our referral. I get that question a lot, so I thought answering it in a blog post would be a good idea, but honestly, it's so complicated that I don't even understand it well enough to explain it in detail. I'll try my best.
Once we get our referral there is a whole bunch of complicated government paperwork that goes on. It's discussed often on the Korean adoption message board I visit, but it's always discussed in abbreviations that I don't completely understand. There are people waiting for their P3 and their VI and their TC (I know that one, it's travel call!) and it's like a foreign language to me at this point.
That part of the process is something that I figure I'll learn as I go once we get to that point. I basically understand it, sort of, but it's something my agency is going to have to walk us through when the time comes.
But basically what happens is that as soon as we get our referral we start a paperchase with the government. There are a whole bunch of forms that have to be approved to bring Clarissa into the country and each one has to be approved before we can move on to the next step. There are about seven steps I think. The government has to approve us to bring a child into the country and Clarissa has to have a passport and a visa and all of that before she can leave Korea.
One of the first things we have to submit is a form to USCIS that basically asks for approval to adopt a foreign orphan. The Department of Homeland Security looks at our background check and our homestudy to make sure we're not child molesters or terrorists or whatever and they look at the info on the baby we're trying to bring into the country and then once decide we're OK they approve the form and we can move on to the next step, which I think the adoption message board calls the NVC, and I think it might have something to do with getting Clarissa's visa, but I'm not sure. That's when I start getting confused. :)
The problem with all of these steps is that the government moves at their own pace and you never know how long they're going to take. From what I've seen on the adoption board, it's completely random. Some people have gotten certain forms approved in days and for other people it's weeks or months. It just depends on how fast that particular government office is moving at the time. The average wait between the time of referal and the time you travel to Korea is about 3-6 months. Our agency has told us to prepare for six months, but most of the people I see on the adoption board seem to be getting it done in 3-4 months. Best case scenerio I hope that we're traveling to Korea by August.
During that 3-6 month wait we're able to send Clarissa a care package to her foster home. In the past couple of weeks I've been gathering a few things that I'm planning to put in that package. Most people send photo albums of family photos and things like that so that the baby can get used to seeing their new family. The foster parents are usually really great and showing the baby the photos every day. Whether it helps or not, I'm not sure, but it can't hurt! Being the photographer that I am, I have several ideas for photo related things to send to her. I'm sure I'll be blogging more about those things soon.
While we're waiting we will hopefully also get updated photos and info about our baby. They're given regular doctor checkups in Korea and often they'll send updated info about height and weight and things like that during the wait.
Everyone says that the 3-6 month wait between the referral and bringing the baby home is the hardest part. It's hard enough waiting for a baby you haven't seen yet, but once you get that photo and it's a real baby, waiting to get them into your arms is hard and you're pretty much at the mercy of whoever approves government paperwork.
Once all the paperwork is complete and Clarissa is cleared to leave Korea and enter the US, they'll call us and tell us to come get her! At that point we're going to make travel plans as fast as we possibly can and then go to Korea ASAP!
We only have to go to Korea for three days. That's pretty unusual for foreign adoption. In a lot of countries you have to stay for weeks and go before a judge to have the adoption finalized before you can bring the baby home. Korea is different. We won't have her adoption finalized in the Korean courts, we'll have it done at a later time in the US. As a result there's not a whole lot that has to be done while we're in Korea before we can bring her home. By the time we get there to pick her up, she's already pretty much ready to go.
So we're only required to go for three days, but we're hopefully planning to go for a week. If I'm going to fly halfway across the world I'm going to stick around long enough to be a tourist for a few days!
While we're in Korea we will get to meet Clarissa's foster parents and maybe even go to their house and see where Clarissa has been living all this time. It's a good opportunity for the foster mother to tell us everything we need to know about what Clarissa eats, what her personality is like, how she sleeps and all of that.
We'll get to visit Clarissa often, but they usually won't let the adoptive parents actually leave with their baby until they're ready to go to the airport and leave the country. So if we're there for a week we'll have time to do some siteseeing by ourselves as well as visit Clarissa. Then once we're ready to go home they'll hand her over to us and she's ours!
So there is kind of a brief overview of what will happen. Once we get our referral and start the paperwork process I'll be able to explain things better as we go through each step.
But for now I'm going to get ready for a busy day and start obsessing over the Friday update! Check back this evening for an update!