Friday, April 4, 2014

About Poland!

The more we learn about this amazing country, the more exited we are to go!
 (This information is from the online adoption classes we are taking.)

General:
--The Polish language is the official language of Poland. Until recent decades Russian was commonly learned as a second language, but now has been replaced by English and German as the most common second languages studied and spoken.

-- Poland is considered to have one of the healthiest economies of the post-communist countries, and is currently the fastest growing country within the European Union. Since 2004, European Union (EU) membership and access to EU structural funds have provided a major boost to the economy. GDP growth has been strong and steady since 1992 and Poland is the only member of the European Union to have avoided a decline in GDP. Poland is recognized as a regional economic power within Central Europe, possessing nearly 40 percent of the 500 biggest companies in the region (by revenues). Poland was the only member of the EU to avoid the recession of the late 2000s, a testament to the Polish economy's stability.

-- Tourism in Poland contributes to the country's overall economy. Poland was the 17th most visited country by foreign tourists in 2012. The most popular cities are Warsaw, Kraków, Wroclaw, Poznan, Lodz, Torun, including the historic site of the Auschwitz concentration camp near Oswiecim.
  • Warsaw, the biggest city and capital of Poland, is one of the EU's thriving new business centers. The old town was nearly completely destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt in a style inspired by classicist paintings of Canalletto.
  • Kraków is known as the "cultural capital" of Poland. Its historical center is filled with old churches and many monuments, the largest European medieval market-place, and plenty of magical pubs and cafes; all attract millions of visitors from around the world each year.
  • Poznan, the merchant city, is considered to be the birthplace of the Polish nation and church. (This is the city where some of John's family still lives)
  • Lodz is known as the "Polish Manchester" because it was once renowned for its textile industries. This city has the longest walking street in Europe, the Piotrkowska Street, full of picturesque 19th-century architecture.
  • Wroclaw has more bridges than any other European town except Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg.
  • Torun is the city with the most sites to visit in Poland, after Kraków. It is famous for its son Nicolaus Copernicus and the medieval gingerbread called katarzynki.
  • Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka but local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Poland's brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages and today Poland is one of the top beer countries in Europe. In the winter time, many Poles drink grzaniec (mulled wine), made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the most popular method.

    Orphanages:
    -- In 1736, Father Gabriel Piotr (G.P.) Baudouina founded the first orphanage in Poland and over 36,000 children have passed through this one facility alone. Today the Father G. P. Baudouin Home for Small Children, located in Warsaw, is the largest and the oldest such institution in Poland. In Poland today there are 350 orphanages-the highest number in Central Europe- including about 100 smaller orphanages run by families. They are home to about 80,000 children.
    -- Over the years there have been fewer parentless orphans and more social orphans. Social orphans are children who are removed from their parental home because of neglect, abuse, or whose parents had lost their parental rights. About 96% of children in the Polish foster care system today are social orphans and the remaining children have lost both parents.

    Adoption:
    -- According to Polish law, the children qualifying for international adoption are the children who could not find a family in Poland. Children are available for adoption because of poverty, inability to parent a child with special needs, abandonment or rights having been severed by the Polish courts. The children frequently reside in orphanages and some children may reside in foster homes.

    --When a referral is made, the prospective adoptive parents will usually receive several photographs and 2-3 pages of medical information.

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Round 2


    We are happily working away on round 2 of creating a dossier. I love a good project, and I love organizing things, so this big adoption "to-do" list is like a fun puzzle to figure out. We are hoping that we can be done with this step quickly, and on to the exciting part of waiting for a referral!

    What is a dossier, you ask? It's just a stack of papers that we need for the adoption. It includes things like: background checks, FBI fingerprinting results, our home study, birth certificates, marriage certificates, certificate of adoption education classes, power of attorney documents, medical exam forms, references, employment letters, copies of our passports, and more. Most of these things will then be notarized and apostilled. Apostilling is a state certification of the notary. Like notarizing the notary. Basically they just staple a sheet of paper to the document saying that everything is legit.

    In the mean time, John is thoroughly enjoying his new job and we are starting to talk about what summer house projects we will tackle this year. Patio re-do? Paved walkway by the shed?

    We are also planning an anniversary extravaganza for our 5th coming up on April 18th. Woo-hoo!
    That's about all the news we have. We are continuing to work on learning Polish... we maybe have 20 words down between us. :) Better than nothing!

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    Our New Plan

    We've officially "re-grouped" and we are starting off on our new path.




    We have decided to pursue an adoption from Poland, through St. Mary International Adoptions (SMIA). It feels so good to have a plan and goal to work towards again.
    We chose this agency because:

    "First, we are blessed to say that we are one of very few agencies who are fully accredited by the Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Policy to carry out adoptions in Poland.

    We are also blessed to say that over 25% of all children adopted from Poland for the years 2011, 2010, and 2009 were adopted by “St. Mary’s Parents”. In addition, for 2012, a little less than 50% of all children adopted from Poland were also adopted by “St. Mary’s Parents”. 

    We have worked with Poland since 2001 and have an excellent reputation among authorities in Poland. In our long years of working with Poland, we have come to admire many things about Poland. We have witnessed how much they care about the children in their orphanages, and we are confident they have witnessed our passion for the adoption process as well. Over the years, we have developed a trustworthy relationship with everyone involved and have come to recognize the cultural significance attached by the Polish representatives for having and maintaining such an honest, ongoing partnership."

    (From SMIA's website)

    Sounds like a pretty solid program! :-) It will take longer, at least another year before we might travel to Poland. The traveling part is different, our first trip would be only 5 or so days, where we would meet the child/children and then the second trip is around 4 months later and then we stay 6 weeks and complete the adoption. The child would have dual citizenship afterwards.
    Here is a link for more details on their Poland program:
     http://saintmaryadoption.com/?page_id=15

    We are getting excited about all things Poland, and we are slowly trying to learn the Polish language. It's a tricky one. Thankfully it's similar in some ways to Russian, which we had previously been working on.

    We love, love love all our family and friends and truly appreciate all the support as we navigate this path.

    Friday, February 28, 2014

    As of today...

    We are still trying to figure out our next step.

    To clarify what happened with Bea, we committed to her in late October 2013. When we signed up with Reece's Rainbow, we knew from the beginning that this might happen. It was not technically a referral, as it is in other countries. We had committed to her and on the US side of things, she was "spoken for." But in her country, no one at Bea's orphanage knew about John and I, Bea certainly did not know that we existed, and people in her country could still adopt her. There was no way for her to be truly "reserved" for us until we were in her country and had our DAP appointment-- this is how a family gets an official referral and permission to visit/adopt a child.
    I'm not sure if this number is right, but I remember reading somewhere that around 10% of the time a family will not be able to adopt the child that they committed to. We were okay with those odds, and it seemed safe enough since Bea had been listed since she was an infant.

    These are our choices right now:
    1) We can still go to this secret country on a blind referral. This means that we would still probably go in May, but with no particular child in mind. We would go to the DAP appointment, and ask to see files for all girls 2 and under. They would reference our home study to see what special needs we are approved for, and show us all files that fit that description, from the whole country. It might be 5 files or 20--- we don't know. Then we would choose from those files and decide what child to visit.
    The biggest risk for us in that scenario, is not finding a child and returning home empty handed.

    2) We can switch to a domestic adoption. We already have our home study done and background checks galore, but the average wait time for domestic is usually around 1 year. We would create a profile for ourselves that is put into a "adoptive parent binder," which birth parents would peruse and hopefully choose us.

    3) We could switch to another country and still do an international adoption. Before we found Bea, our plan was to adopt in Poland. This is a longer process (12-24 months) but we would get a solid referral and total medical/social history of the child before committing or traveling. We would both love to visit Poland regardless, and Poland would be very excited about John's Polish Catholic background.

    Our Biometrics appt is next Tuesday, and we will do our fingerprints no matter what, they will be good for whatever country we go through. If we don't go to this appt, our USCIS application will be considered abandoned. When we get approval from them, it is good for 18 months.

    I'm feeling weird about the whole t-shirt fundraiser. I am sad that everyone will be getting their shirts soon but they will now have a sad story. I hope that we can still adopt a daughter and that they will have new hope and meaning breathed into them. I guess if you have a daughter they will still be cute and appropriate. If we go through Poland and have a longer wait, maybe we can put the money we raised in a CD or something and let it grow until we need it again. Would that be weird? 

    Thanks loyal blog followers. ;-)
    John and I will figure this out! We are hoping to have clarity and insight about this and make the right decision for us.

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

    Over Before it Began

    This morning we got a phone call telling us that we have lost our referral. Another family in Bea's country has started the process to adopt her. They get priority since they are from her same country. So.
    We have nothing. We lost her. I don't know what we are going to do.

    We are so sad, devastated, and feeling numb. We were so close, but it didn't matter.

    As for the fundraiser money that everyone generously donated, we will just set it aside in an adoptions savings box/account.

    We still want to adopt, we still want to have a family. This is a huge setback, a slap in the face, but it doesn't mean that we will give up. 

    One option is to go "blind" and decide what child to adopt once we get there. At the DAP (referral) appointment, they have hundreds of profiles of children that need homes. We could just go to that and request to see profiles of, say, all 2 year old girls, and then just decide from there. It would be a huge leap of faith to do it that way. And the worst case scenario would be that we don't find a child.
    Or we could change to a domestic adoption or change to another country.

    Saturday, February 22, 2014

    Blech

    I think we are lost in a USCIS black hole. The biometrics letter still has not come. It was guaranteed in 2 days and its been 4. Beyond frustrated!
    On Monday, they will have had our complete application for a MONTH. Sick of this.   :-(

    This is how I feel (but a little more angry):



    Tuesday, February 18, 2014

    Thank you, Officer Morris

    Finally!
    USCIS is really working on my trust/control/patience issues.

    I called them twice today, the first time they told me exactly the same thing as last week. They had received my application, but no officer was assigned yet- so I just had to wait. I reminded them that she was a waiting child, that we had everything else ready to go, and that they had had my application already for 3 weeks.
    The second time I called to clarify the whole officer-before-the-letter thing. Officer Morris helped me out. She said that I was right, I did not need an officer first, and that I should have gotten my biometrics letter by now. She said that she would take over my report. She called back 10 minutes later and said she had my complete application in front of her and that she would absolutely have the biometrics letter to me in 2 days! She said she wasn't sure what had happened... but that it happened to another family too a couple weeks ago. PTL! So relieved.  Again, crying on the phone to people I've never met before ;-)
    Hopefully we can walk in and get our fancy fingerprints done this week and then get our approval next week and be done!