In other news, I forgot to mention our wonderful Christmas Eve surprise: we received our FDL in the mail that day - only 9 days after our fingerprints were taken up at the Cleveland USCIS office! To remind those of you who are not in the adoption world, USCIS stands for "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services" and FDL stands for "Favorable Determination Letter." Basically, USCIS takes a look at our homestudy, collects a whopping fee, takes our fingerprints, and forwards a "these people are okay to bring an immigrant into the country" letter to the US Embassy in Ethiopia. We were really excited that we got our clearance so quickly after our prints were taken. Then, on New Year's Eve, we learned that as of January 1st of this year, Ethiopia has started requiring the FDL to be part of the actual dossier. Our dossier hadn't been authenticated yet, so early last week, we had to have a copy of our FDL notarized, (promising that it was a "true and accurate copy" of our original FDL) and then sent of to our agency to become part of our dossier.
This seems like a good time to do another explanation: What is a dossier, anyway?? Well, it's essentially a collection of documents that is sent to the foreign country to explain who we are as a family, and it is used to make sure that we are eligible to meet the adoption requirements of that country. In our case, our dossier includes the following:
- 2 signed and notarized Power of Attorney forms, giving Almaz (the director at Hannah's Hope) the authority to match us with a child, have all of the medical examinations performed on that child, make any legal arrangements necessary, and bascially facilitate the entire adoption on our behalf. One of these POA forms must also be county and state certified (attached to a sealed document from the Clerk of Common Pleas of the county in with the notary has his/her commission, stating that the notary's signature is genuine, and also a sealed document from the Secretary of State, stating that the Clerk of Court's signature is authentic.)
- a signed and notarized letter to MOWA (the Ministry of Women's Affairs) in Ethiopia, giving a brief explanation of our family and our reasons for wanting to adopt a child from Ethiopia.
- signed and notarized copies of our US passports - one for David, one for me.
- 2 passport-style photos of both David and me.
- Color photos of our family and home. We had to have one photo of David, one of me, one of the two of us together, 2 of our family, photos of the front and the back of our home, and several photos showing the interior of our home. Due to cultural differences, we had to ensure that there are NO pets in these photos.
- an official notarized copy of our home study report, with a copy of our agency's license attached.
- signed and notarized letters from our employers, stating the length of our employment and our annual income.
- a signed and notarized financial statement for the household, including a list of assets, insurance coverage and income.
- certified copies of the birth certificates of both of us.
- certified copy of our marriage license
- a medical form for each parent, stating that we do not suffer from any infection or "mental inferiority" that would hinder our ability to parent a child. The doctor's signature must be notarized on this.
- a criminal check for each parent, stating that we are clear from any past criminal history. The person who completes the background check must have his or her signature notarized.
- 2 signed and notarized letters of recommendation - one from a family member and one from a friend - recommending us as parents of an Ethiopian child.
- a signed and notarized "Post-Adoption Commitment" letter, promising to meet the country's requirements for post-adoption reports on the child. Ethiopia requires 3 reports during the child's first year home, and then once a year until the child reaches the age of 18. These reports must include a description of the child's physical, mental and emotional development, a description of his/her relationship to the family and community, explanation of major events that have affected the family and/or the child, and recent photographs of the child.
- and now, a signed and notarized copy of our FDL
Speaking of Ethiopia, we celebrated Ganna, or Ethiopian Christmas last Friday evening. We dressed in our Ethiopian garb, listened to some Amharic music and ate injera and shiro. I will say that the onion that I chopped up for the shiro was the MOST powerful onion that I've every encountered. We were all crying for well over an hour, and Yikealo was NOT impressed with the way his eyes were burning. He asked if we could please "go somewhere to eat our injera and shiro next time - like we did that other time? Mom, they make it better than you do!" That's probably true - or at least we don't have tears running down our faces at the restaurant!