Since we began telling people about our plans to adopt from Ethiopia, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about the process and time lengths, so I thought it made perfect sense to write a post about it! Please remember that our understanding is still very new too, so this is all based on what I’ve gathered during brief conversations with our agency.
The first step is to send in an application and fee to an agency, and officially contract with them upon application approval. It’s been a few weeks since we were approved, and we are still in the process of getting enough funds together to send with our signed and notarized contracts.
After officially contracted with the agency, the home study and dossier process is started. We have contacted an agency in Georgia to conduct the home study. There are 4 visits total. The first one is more of an orientation visit, which we just completed. We have a lot of paperwork to complete and a big to-do list of things to obtain for our case worker, such as criminal background checks, references, etc. There is also a pretty lengthy questionnaire we have to complete that covers our marriage, childhood & family, parenting styles, why we want to adopt, and similar topics. Our 2nd and 3rd visits will be individual interviews and are based off our questionnaires. The 4th and final visit is at our home where we will be interviewed together. We will also be fulfilling our education requirements during this time. The dossier is a large amount of paperwork, and that is all I can tell you about it at the moment! This all usually takes 2-4 months to complete, but could take longer. The times estimates from application until completion of dossier are dependent a lot on how much time you have to dedicate to getting it done and how much money you have saved up. We are hoping to get this part of the process done rather quickly, so we can get on the waitlist! There are also things that can happen outside of our control that could affect the time frames as well. In that case, we’ll just have to roll with it and be flexible.
Once the dossier is completed, we get on the waitlist. We have not specified a gender, so we will receive two numbers each month. Once we FINALLY reach #1, we are next in line for a referral for that gender. When we get a referral, we are sent via email any available medical information, including photos, birth family background information, medical information, development assessment, blood tests, and court documents explaining why the child is being placed for adoption. We then have the medical and background information reviewed by a pediatrician specializing in international adoption. Upon acceptance of referral, our agency will submit our dossier to the MOWA (Ministry of Women’s Affairs) and the Central Authority. They will review and then form an opinion, which will be directly sent to the Ethiopian courts where two appointments will be scheduled. The first is for the child’s birth family and the second is for the adoptive family. I’m told the average time on the wait list is 16 months, but we should expect delays as being a possibility.
Then comes the exciting part! Our first travel date is scheduled and we arrive a few days prior to our court date. During this visit, we get to go to Hannah’s Hope and meet our baby for the first time to begin the bonding process!! Then we appear in court to finalize the adoption. The second trip is scheduled 6-8 weeks later when we’ve received clearance by the U.S. Embassy. We stay a week during each trip, which we’re very excited about!
So in regards to time estimates, we are expecting it to take at least 2 years. In March of 2011, the MOWA released a statement saying that they were reducing the amount of cases reviewed each day by 90%, but our agency has told us that they are seeing the most delays in getting a referral since additional steps are being made to ensure that each child is indeed an orphan. Usually if the age you specified is younger than 3 years old, the adoption process takes longer, whereas children over 3 or siblings groups don’t take as long. Also, a lot of the time frames are dependent upon Ethiopia. Neither the adoptive family nor our agency has ANY control over that.
We completely understand what we are taking on, but we have decided to take a leap of faith and journey down this road anyways. We believe constant prayer, solid faith in God’s plan for our family, and support from our friends and family will keep us going when we are struggling in the wait! We’ve already experienced such positive feedback and support, and are so thankful for each one of you who are here to witness the journey alongside us!