Friday, November 30, 2007

More Progress On the Dossier

We received our Notice Of Favorable Determination Concerning Application For Advance Processing Of Orphan Petition (otherwise known as our I-171H approval) from the USCIS today, so our dossier is mainly just waiting for our FBI background check to come back. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that performs a background fingerprint check and homestudy review in order to determine that we are mentally and financially stable enough to adopt internationally. The USCIS has approved us to adopt up to two children and they forwarded our advance processing application to the American embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan so the pre-approval will be there waiting until next year when we are in Kazakhstan preparing the exit paperwork.

The rest of our dossier papers are coming together rather quickly and it looks like our only hurdle will be with notarizing our medical exams. Since the adoption process might not get finalized until late next year, we need to make sure that every notary that we use does not have their commission expiring next year. Unfortunately for us, the only notary at the doctor's office has to renew their notary license next spring. We know of a traveling notary who we can use, but the hard part is really just getting a time that works for both the doctor and the notary.

We appreciate all of the wonderful comments that we have received over the past few days and we certainly feel your love and support. Take care everyone and have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Adoption Process in Kazakhstan

Once we receive travel dates and have visas in hand, then we expect to probably fly Lufthansa through Frankfurt, Germany to Almaty, Kazakhstan. A driver and interpreter will pick us up from the airport and we will stay in a hotel that first night. The next day we will meet with the directors who live in Kazakhstan and they will go over all of the information that we need to know. The directors in Kazakhstan are very well respected and they take care of all travel and lodging arrangements along with all of the required adoption paperwork. By the end of the meeting, we will know whether we are flying or driving to the particular region where the adoption will take place. Once we are in the adoptive city, a local coordinator will handle our day to day plans. Since our adoption agency is quite large, we will probably be sharing the coordinator, interpreter, and driver with other families.

Once we arrive in the adoptive city, we will go to the baby house (orphanage for children under 2 years of age) and meet with the house director. The baby house director will introduce us to the child at this time and hopefully we will get some time in the play room this first day. From this point on we can expect to visit the baby twice a day, each time for two hours. The standard adoption process then goes as follows: we visit the child for 14 days, then we petition the court for a hearing 7 days later, next once the judge makes a decision, we wait 15 days for the ruling to go into effect, finally we proceed over the following week with completing all of the necessary paperwork and return to the American embassy in Almaty where we receive approval to leave Kazakhstan with our new child. Although we have described the usual process, every region is different so we have to expect these time estimates to possibly change dramaticly. Once we receive a letter of invitation to a specific region, we will have much better idea of what process to expect. The biggest decision that we will have to make is whether to return to the United States for two or more weeks after the judge's decision is made. We are certainly leaning towards staying in Kazakhstan for the entire time, but if we end up in a region where the judge's decision does not become final for 30 days, then we might consider returning home for that period of time.

There are many good blog links posted on our home page and these websites definitely demonstrate the differences between all of the regions, but the best part by far is how all of the adoptive families remark how greatly the caregivers love the children. Hopefully this information helps you all understand the process that we will be going through. We appreciate the love and support that we are receiving from all of our family and friends and feel free to ask us questions if there is something that you want to learn more about.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The First Blog Entry

Welcome everyone to the first entry in the Sommerhauser family blog. We had a wonderful long weekend in St. Louis visiting family and friends for Thanksgiving and now it is back to work and back to the preparation of our adoption dossier. For those of you who are wondering, the dossier consists of all of the paperwork that must be submitted by us in order to adopt from Kazakhstan. All of the dossier documents must be notarized first and then taken to the Secretary of State's Office where they place an apostille seal on the document which verifies the qualifications of the notary in that county. The paperwork chase is going very well so far and mainly we are waiting to get two documents back from the government: our FBI background clearance letters and our pre-approval form I-171H to adopt internationally from the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) division of the Department of Homeland Security.

We hope to have the dossier completed by the middle of December and then the paper journey truely begins. One original of the dossier and four photocopies (over 200 pages in all) will be sent to our adoption agency so all of the paperwork can be translated into Russian. After translation, our agency then sends all of the documents to the Kazakh Consulate in New York City who in turn forward everything to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Astana, Kazakhstan. It can easily take over a month to complete the translation process and the New Years holiday certainly won't speed things up.

Once the Kazakh officials verify that the translated documents are in order then we are merely waiting three or four months for a specific region to determine if a child is available for us to adopt. We are not requesting a specific sex or a specific race of child so our wait time should be pretty typical. We are obtaining USCIS approval for the adoption of up to two children so we are leaving open the possibility of adopting either twins or siblings. Once a region in Kazakhstan has been chosen for us, the government will issue us a letter of invitation for us to travel. Now the process speeds up dramatically as we will then need to quickly apply for visas and make final travel plans because adoptive parents are usually invited to travel less than a month after receiving their letter of invitation.

That is a quick summary of what we are currently working on and what we are expecting throughout this winter. Tomorrow we will share some details about what we should expect during our trip and what the process in Kazakhstan should be like.