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SO much has happened since the last time I posted about our China adoption. In a never-ending cycle of hurry up and wait, this year has simultaneously been the most painfully slow and unbelievably fast of our lives thus far.
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For anyone considering the process or just curious, here’s an updated look at our timeline. Big, milestone steps will be in blue while financial obligations will be in red. I spent forever going back through e-mails to put this together, but even so, I’m sure there are steps missing. The 4,232 trips to the post office. The required on-line parenting classes. The fun stuff, such as shopping for a little boy’s room! It’s a tedious process, for sure, but what labor isn’t?
July 1, 2015: General inquiry e-mail to CCAI
July 2: Complete a CCAI Family Information sheet
July 3: Complete the Medical Conditions Checklist
July 7: Accepted into CCAI’s Waiting Child Program
August 4: Receive Zeke/Chen Shuo’s file
August 11: Accept the file
August 12: Receive a primary to-do list from CCAI
August 14: Send our Letter of Intent to adopt Chen Shuo
August 19: Decide to use New Beginnings as our home study agency and contact them for initial paperwork
August 24: Upload our adoptive family application to CCAI and pay the first program fee
August 25 –File locked for Zeke/Chen Shuo with the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption).
September 2 – Application approved with CCAI. Parent Training and Dossier Instructions sent. The paper chase begins!
September 8 – Submit our application to New Beginnings for the home study.
September 9 – The CCWA grants Pre-Approval!
September 17 – Mail Care Package #1 to Chen Shuo
September 21 – Fingerprinting for background checks
September 28 – Camille’s physical, drug test, TB test, HIV test
September 30 – Home Study Visit #1
October 6 – Finish on-line parent education requirements
October 8 – Charlie’s physical, drug test, TB test, HIV test
For a more detailed explanation of any of the above including all my crazy emotions, visit an earlier blog HERE.
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October and November: Work diligently on completing the home study requirements. This includes four visits with Charlie and me as well as some visits that include all the kids and Jenessa and Kaylee, the young women living in our home. Jenessa and Kaylee also have to get physicals, drug tests, background checks…..the works.
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December 4- Send attachments of completed dossier documents to CCAI for review before beginning the notarization-certification-authentication process. Each sheet of paper required to go through this process must be notarized and then go through three separate government offices before it’s ready for the dossier. It involves a lot of driving to downtown government offices and Express mail.
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December 8 – Receive a rough draft of our completed home study and return to the agency with the requested corrections the same day. However, our social worker departs on extended medical leave, and we are assigned to a new person with New Beginnings who catches several mistakes that must be remedied in the study. Having thought we were done with this momentous step, I pitch a fit involving ugly-crying, spirited words, and more than one glass of wine. Then I find my big-girl panties and continue on. Because he’s waiting.
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December 14 – Receive our first update on Chen Shuo. Cry and CRY because he is there and we are here and it’s about to be Christmas and I want him home NOW.
December 22-23 – Exchange a million e-mails with our new social worker as we finish the home study repairs
December 29 – Social worker sends completed home study to CCAI for review
January 6, 2016 – Send dossier documents to Washington for authentication
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January 11 – Mail the I-800A application and supporting documents to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Include a large check to cover fees and fingerprints for four adults, a G1145 form for e-notification, two Supplement 2 forms, two Supplement 1 forms, four separate birth certificates, a marriage license copy, Charlie’s passport and certificate of naturalization, the actual I-800A form, and the very last of my working brain cells.
March 1 – Receive I-800 approval. Begin the notarization-certification-authentication process. Again.
March 2 – Mail sealed dossier to CCAI
March 4 – CCAI receives dossier and begins the review process
March 10 – Mail the second agency fee and the CCWA fee to CCAI
March 16 – Dossier extension granted automatically
April 11- CCAI sends our dossier to their Colorado offices for translation
April 15 – Our dossier goes to China! Party like rock stars! (Which basically means we order pizza for dinner and sneak chocolate bars from the secret candy stash to go with our wine after the kids go to bed.)
April 17 – Learn that I’m PREGNANT. Panic. Cry. Laugh. Cry some more. Bury my head in the sand and refuse to process for a few weeks. Because whaaaat?!?! You can read more about that little surprise HERE.
April 19 – Our dossier is delivered to the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption), otherwise known as the coveted LOG IN DATE. Wahoo! Download the LID packet with more to-do lists.
May 16 – Pay the third program fee to CCAI, the post-adoption deposit, and the BLAS translation fee
May 20 – Soft LOA!!! (Letter of Acceptance) from China. Time for a dance party! And a little panic attack, because this is REALLY happening!!!
May 22 – Mail more forms to CCAI (I-800 application, the I-800 Supplement 1, the I-864W form and form G1145).
May 24 – Official LOA
May 25 – Wire orphanage fees to CCAI
June 3 – Receive Travel Packet #2 from CCAI
June 13 – Receive I-800 Provisional Approval. Email the National Visa Center (NVC) for a GUZ case number and Invoice ID number. Complete the DS-260 U.S. visa application for Zeke/Chen Shuo.
June 16 – CCAI submits the visa application and other necessary paperwork to the US Consulate in Guangzhou. (At some point before this, we had already applied for and received Charlie’s Chinese visa. I think in April?) And after months of debate, finally decide that Chen Shuo’s American name will be Ezekiel Chen Shuo Lebel. Ezekiel means “strengthened by God” and in so many ways, we pray strength for him.
June 24 – Second update on Zeke/Chen Shuo. Cry HAPPY tears as my heart melts, realizing that we are SO CLOSE to a travel date!!!
June 30 – CCAI’s Guangzhuo staff pics up the Article 5 (signed 2nd acceptance letter) from the Consulate and sends it back to the CCCWA. It’s the last document before travel approval!!!
July 5 – TRAVEL APPROVAL!!!
July 6 – Consulate appointment confirmed for August 3, 2016. The trip is planned backwards from the Consulate appointment.
July 15 – Pay travel expenses to CCAI. (It’s up to each individual family to book plane tickets to a from China. However, once there, the agency handles all in-country transportation, hotels, and tours. CCAI provides an amazing staff member at each stop throughout the journey who is on-call 24/7 for adoptive parents.) Receive final travel packet and commence packing and putting together the dozens of documents needed in China.
July 20 – Charlie departs for China to bring home our son!
Okay, so I realize that about .02% of you lovely readers needed that much detail, but just in case we decide to do this again (I mean, not anytime soon obviously, but we’ve learned saying we’re done doesn’t mean much to God), I wanted to have an easily accessible reminder of what to expect. A reminder that we made it! And when Zeke asks a million questions about how he came to be here, I won’t have to dig back through my e-mail for specific answers.
Coming soon: Charlie’s China travel itinerary and trip update. He’s going to have Zeke in his arms any moment now, and we’re both feeling so many emotions. I want to be there so badly, but I’m also grateful to be home with the girls, helping them get ready for such a huge change in our lives. Charlie is thrilled, of course, but also terrified. Since our son’s life has been filled with primarily female caretakers, Charlie is nervous about how Zeke will bond with him. There are so many unknowns.
Please lift up Charlie in your prayers as he begins forming a relationship with our son, and please, please pray for Zeke. In a few hours, he will leave the only home and caretakers he has ever known and given to an almost-stranger who doesn’t speak his language or look like him. He’ll be staying in a hotel for the first time, riding on trains and planes, eating new food, meeting new people….so many hard things for one so young. I look at Ellie, and I imagine all she would feel if this situation were reversed. Despite the best of explanations and preparation, I imagine her fear. Her sadness. Her anger. And my heart breaks that this must be part of my child’s story.
Adoption always begins with loss. With brokenness and heartache. There is beauty too, as shattered pieces become something new and strong, but creation takes time. Pray that we have patience, compassion, and understanding as we honor our son’s grief, and that we are able to make him feel safe and loved as soon as possible.