The saga of the dossier

Someone actually noticed that I missed a Favorite Photo Friday last week. I am so impressed! I had no idea anyone cared! I am also behind on my e-mails and my blog reading, so this is my universal apology for not commenting or responding more quickly. I will try to get caught up soon.

I have a very good explanation for my absence. Things have been a little crazy for us since Thursday, when our adoption agency called us and said they were changing their procedures. Previously, they had families complete a homestudy at the beginning of the process, but wait to submit a dossier until closer to referral (match with a child). Now they want us to complete the dossier immediately. It is possible that the Vietnamese government would allow families with their dossiers logged in to Vietnam to adopt even if there is a shut down. There are no guarantees, but at least we feel like we are doing everything we can. Anyway, I have been frantically gathering all of our documents together. The only thing we still need is our I-171 form from United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

I know many people who are reading live in Adoption Land like I do, and are familiar with the adoption process, but I thought I would outline it for everyone else. We decided to pursue a second adoption in November, and we submitted our application to our agency. They accepted the application and asked us to begin our homestudy with a local social worker. We had one office visit and a home visit with the social worker, and we were interviewed together and separately. We also had to submit the following:

~Three years’ tax returns
~Letters from our employers
~Most recent pay stubs
~Financial statements and budget
~Local police background check
~Federal background check
~Child Protective Services background checks for Christian, Noah, Zoe, and me
~Physicals for Christian, Noah, Zoe, and me
~Personal autobiographies
~Six references from non-family members
~Address history for the last 5 years
~Employment history for the past 10 years
~Family photos and photos of our home
~Birth certificates for Christian, Noah, Zoe, and me
~Marriage certificate
~Vaccination records for our dogs

In January, we were finally “approved and recommended” to adopt in an 8-page homestudy.

The dossier that goes to Vietnam includes the homestudy, but also the following documents:

~Photocopies of the signature/photo pages of our passports
~Letters from our doctor that we are free of “mental and communicable disease”
~Marriage license
~Employment letters
~Four passport photos of each of us
~Six photos of our family and our house mounted on paper and placed in plastic protectors
~Local police clearance letters
~Photocopy of the I-171 immigration form
~Acceptance of Referral in Vietnamese
~Acceptance of Referral in English
~Commitment of Periodical Reports in Vietnamese
~Commitment of Periodical Reports in English
~Application Reference Form
~Application for Adoption
~Homestudy update (because Christian started his new job two weeks ago and I’m now working part time)

Sounds pretty simple right? Well, while none of these documents are particularly difficult to compile or collect, each one has to be notarized (by a notary whose commission does not expire for at least one year) and certified by the Secretary of State’s office. Then we make three copies of everything and send the documents to our agency. They send them to the Vietnamese Consulate in San Francisco to be authenticated, then they are translated, and finally sent to Vietnam to be logged in. This process is affectionately called the paperchase.

Six days after the phone call, I have it all compiled and notarized, but we are waiting for the elusive I-171 from USCIS. We were fingerprinted January 29th, and most families I know who have filed at the same office have gotten it 2-3 weeks later. We are on day 22. I know I should not complain because other cities are MUCH slower, but I am ready to start stalking the mailman. I even drove home at lunch today to check for it, but no luck. I also called the local USCIS office, got voice mail, and haven’t heard anything back. It HAS to come tomorrow so that I can run down to the Secretary of State’s office Friday, make copies of everything, and UPS it, because I am out of town next week Monday through Thursday. It just HAS to come tomorrow or I will lose my mind! OK, so maybe I’m being a touch dramatic here, but I just want to get it done before I leave.

So what do these procedural changes mean in the grand scheme of things? We’re not sure. Our agency is now basing a family’s place on the waiting list on when a completed dossier was submitted, instead of when the homestudy was submitted. It’s possible we could jump up the list (Christian asked, “How FAR up the list?” in a shaky voice since we already have a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old at home), but it’s also possible that the 41 people ahead of us have been rushing around like maniacs to get their dossiers together too. And, to be fair, our agency started at the top of the list making the phone calls about the changes, so people further up on the list had a few more days notice than we did. Unless we’re told differently, I’m still going to assume it will be 18 months before we would be matched with a child, and then another 6-10 months after that before we would travel to Vietnam. That would put us into early 2010.

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10 thoughts on “The saga of the dossier

  1. I KNOW exactly how you feel. For my first dossier, I had a lot of trouble with USCIS completing their end of things. They misplaced part of my 1600A so I had to re-send. It took an additional 6 weeks for my 171H from the time I was fingerprinted because they lost it! This time around hasn’t been any smoother. Good luck to you both. I really hope we BOTH get something special in the mail tomorrow.

  2. WOW ~ Fantastic!! I didn’t know that you had made the decision to adopt again. I know that you were thinking of it though. GOOD LUCK!! What agency are you using? I know you weren’t happy with your last one.

  3. I did wonder where you were! Things seem to be moving right along. Hopefully VN will give us some indication of what “in the pipeline” means to then SOON!

  4. Have you tried emailing instead of calling USCIS? I’ve had more luck going that route. If you need their email address, just let me know.

    When I went to the Sec of State’s office last year, not only did I get ticketed, I got towed! Talk about a crazy afternoon. We had to walk through some nasty parts of town and all while I was holding my precious dossier. I was determined that if anybody bothered me, they were going to be the one crying uncle at the end.

    I’m really praying that we both get what we need tomorrow. I was so disappointed when I didn’t see my 171H in the box. Why isn’t this done electronically????

  5. Wow, really interesting about the procedure change. I hope you guys do jump ahead a bit! Our I-171H took 10 months out here in CO, as opposed to 9 days in VA!! Amazing how much variation there is in that timeline based on location. I hope yours comes today!

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