Question: How is the nesting coming along?
Answer: When I said “nesting,” believe me, I meant nesting! Intense nesting, involving heavy cleaning and paint. My theory is that it hit me so acutely when two facts fully sank in. One, we will most likely not get three or four leisurely months to finish what we hope to finish before we go get our girl. Two, her transition to our home will most likely be an unusually challenging one, and we’ll be grateful then for all the work we get done now.
As you can imagine, the girls and I are having tons of fun working on Katie-bird’s wardrobe as well as on her nest! Turns out, Katie and Verity are wearing the same size clothing, so we could assess the wardrobe needs while sorting through their next season’s clothing. Verity is 29 inches long; Katie is 30 inches long. Verity weighs 17 pounds, 13 ounces; Katie weighs 11 pounds. But we hope to see our tiny bird grow once she is medically stabilized and can settle into her home-nest!
Question: Are you feeling the strain yet?
Answer: The grace of God is definitely needed! Some of these days, it feels as if I am holding down three full-time jobs. Maybe four!
But His grace has also been available to us! He has been doing a deep and good work in both Joe and me as well as in our marriage throughout the past couple of months, and especially profoundly during the past few weeks. We know that a handful of you have prayed specifically that our marriage and family would be protected from the darts of the unprintable one, and I want you to know that God has been granting your request. We know the unprintable one hates a godly marriage and family, hates to see an orphan leave his clutches and come into this safe inheritance, and will try many dirty tricks to attempt to break apart what God is putting together.
And He has been undertaking for us in so many other ways.
There is an amazing calm and order in our home. The important things are getting done. Our children are making obvious progress in some key areas.
Our open-hearted and open-handed church family blessed us with so much food that we won’t come to the end of it until tomorrow night!
Six months ago, we were given a second beautiful crib on the same day that the psychiatrist (an older Christian gentleman, adoptive father, and former missionary) came to interview Joe and me. This week, we set that crib up! And today, the psychiatrist is planning another visit to our home right after lunch to update this particular form. We do hope that he will again find our minds satisfactorily intact. Heh heh heh. Clearly, any mental health we have left must be credited to a grace-giving, miracle-working God. The psychiatrist has already told us that he is still unwilling to accept any payment for his service to us. I’ve learned from listening to other adoptive parents that it can be extremely difficult to obtain an interview with a psychiatrist for this purpose. And then the adoptive parents can be hit with fees of more than a thousand dollars. We are so thankful to the Lord for His provision of mental health and the doctor to verify it, and that He has has taken the cost of these onto Himself!
Question: Has your paperwork gotten to the US Embassy in the unmentionable country yet? What happens next?
Answer: Our social worker has been calling the National Visa Center every day since Tuesday, and today we expect to hear that our provisional visa has been wired to the Embassy.
Those of you who are not intrigued by long descriptions of legal processes may now allow your eyes to glaze over until you get to the next question.
For the remaining three of you, I find it simplest to copy and paste an email from our attorney~
“The actual original paper stays with the USCIS. What the NVC does is scan it and send it electronically to the US Embassy here. That’s what the ‘cabling’ is.
Then the US Embassy prints out the received file and calls me to schedule a provisional filing for Katerina’s visa. Usually it is in a couple of days. Right now they are not busy and, besides, this is an expedited case so I believe I can schedule a filing for the next day after the call.
Then I go with MY papers (filled out Immigration Form DS-230, Power of Attorney from you, Katerina’s visa photos, etc.) and after filing them with the Assistant Officer, I am interviewed by a Consular Officer. This past Monday we had a provisional filing and they issued the Article 5 Letter the next day. Again, I believe in your case they will issue it the next day too.
Then the Article 5 Letter has to be translated (the same day it is issued) and authenticated (4-5 business days). Finally, it is filed with the [justice department of this country] together with your second stage documents that you have just sent me (Consent for Adoption and Declaration, Declaration from Joe, and Power of Attorney).
THAT’S when the [justice department of this country] gets in the picture and I am able to expedite. I already have photos of Katerina from our first trip with her and I am filing them too [NOTE: she has never done this before].
The [justice department of this country] already expects this dossier and request for expedited processing.”
Question: When is the adoption finalized?
Answer: The adoption is finalized in court between our two trips. We do not appear in court; our attorney does this for us. When we go to get Katie, she will already legally be our daughter.
Question: What happens during your second trip that takes a whole week?
Answer: From our attorney~
“As far as the details for the second trip go:
You arrive on a Sunday. [We fly out a day before we arrive, and may go a day early if it saves a significant amount of airfare.]
Monday early morning we leave for [Katie's city] so that we are there around 9:30-10 am to pick her up. Sign quickly the papers and back to [the capital city]. As soon as we arrive, we directly go to the passport office for the passport to be filed and the passport photo to be taken. You pay nothing there. Then drive you to the hotel where you will be staying (the same one).
Then you have the rest of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday free and can do whatever is best for you and for her.
Thursday is a busy day. At about 9:30-10 am, we pick you up from the hotel and drive you to the polyclinic for the medical examination. You have to pay [amount of local currency] there. She will be checked by ENT, Eye doctor and Pediatrician. I expect it to be pretty stressful for Katerina. It is about twenty minutes’ drive from the hotel. Then back to the hotel to rest, clean, eat, etc. At 1 pm we pick you up and drive to the Embassy for the visa final interview. It is a long one too and I guess she will be pretty distressed there too. You don’t pay anything there, everything will be taken care of by me. It is about 35 minutes’ drive from the hotel one direction.
Friday you are free again, we will go to pick up the visa and come to the hotel to give it to you.
Next day, Saturday, you fly back home.“
Question: How are the medical plans coming along?
Before I got to visit Katerina for myself, we had a tentative plan for her homecoming.
The plan was to bring her home and take her to CHOPADOPT, the nearest international adoption clinic as soon as practicable. There her needs could be evaluated and prioritized, and a plan set in place to address them. We planned for most of the needs to be actually addressed over time by our doctors who are ten minutes away from us at the Clinic for Special Children, with the doctors from CHOPADOPT available to them on a consulting basis. We have an excellent relationship with the CSC doctors, as they have been caring for Verity since she was less than two weeks old.
You’ve probably guessed by now that this plan has had to change.
We expected to see that Katerina was very tiny, knowing that she has suffered the effects of long-term emotional neglect. We also expected to see some improvement in her condition compared with two years ago, before she had a baba.
We did not expect her to be in a state that one of the doctors from CHOPADOPT has described as “starvation,” that must be “urgently addressed.” I like this doctor for several reasons, not least of which is that she waxed eloquent on the fact that I am pumping and hope to eventually supply Katie with my milk. Her blood boils with mine at Katie’s condition, and at the callousness and ignorance exhibited in her official medical file. She wrote, “I am happy to help support you in bringing home this little girl.”
Katerina’s needs–emotional, physical, medical, nutritional–have been profoundly neglected on every level all her life. In order to survive, her body and emotions have had to adapt to her living conditions in many complex ways. Her system is now a delicate balance that must be expertly handled to avoid the very real danger of causing her death from re-feeding syndrome. Another child in her country died of this not long ago, before his adoptive parents were able to take their first trip to see him.
We are right now in the midst of attempting to obtain crucial answers from Katie’s orphanage to a long list of detailed questions about her condition. Could you please pray that God will move that director to be motivated and forthcoming with the answers?
When we go to Katie’s country next time, it will be to bring her to the United States. This process, as described by our attorney above, can be challenging for relatively healthy children and their adoptive parents. For Katie, it is looming as a grueling and daunting problem that is taking many medical minds to solve. The most similar cases this hospital has dealt with was when they treated starving Haitian children after the earthquake last year, but those children were able to be quickly brought under medical supervision. They did not need to spend a week in a hotel before traveling to the United States. Could you please pray for all those medical minds as they formulate strategies to get Katie safely from her orphanage to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia?
Our next assignment is to find out from the airline whether they will be willing to work with us by allowing her to board in her condition. Please, friends, could you pray with us that God will move in the hearts of the airline officials to allow her to simply fly to the US?
We have absolute confidence that the God who formed Katie, and has kept her alive thus far, knows every minuscule detail of every inner working of her body and mind. He is the only One who does know, and we are trusting Him to reveal to us just what we need to know! As we hear all the dire, worst-case words being spoken about her, we are clinging to Him, and know that He holds Katie in His hands, and can open any way before her. The truth is, our God is sovereign over all, and will not leave us in the lurch now or at any time in the future, no matter what hard things He may bring to pass.
Bonus Question: “Apostille.”
You keep using that word. How is it pronounced and what does it mean?
Answer: Pronounce it “app-uh-steel.”
It is the word for the process of receiving a state seal of authenticity on certain documents. We sign the documents in the presence of a notary, then take them to the State Department of Pennsylvania. They check the status of that particular notary, making sure his or her license is current and valid, then stamp the documents with the state seal. In our case, this seal satisfies Katie’s government that we as adoptive parents are not, in fact, manufacturing a pack of lies about ourselves.