Thursday, March 27, 2014

the ultramarathon {DRC adoption}

I have a deep admiration for cross country runners. They can be very eccentric (shorty shorts in 4-degrees Fahrenheit, anyone?), but they do something that not many of us regular, sprinter-type folk do: They finish, despite the challenges.

I once watched a state cross country competition in which a girl, the clear favorite to win the race, ran so hard that her body gave up on her. She collapsed and literally belly-crawled her way up the hill to the finish, a mere 100 yards away, yet so far away she couldn't get there without the help of all four limbs.

I've watched a lot of sports in my life, and it was one of the most incredible and heroic sports moments I've ever witnessed. And despite the physical pain she experienced, the humility she probably felt, and the after-effects of her middle-of-the-pack finish fall, I wish I was more like her.

Especially now, when our adoption is beginning to feel a lot like an Ultramarathon, complete with all of the ridiculous obstacles, adjustments and elements.

I'm coming to grips with the fact that it will probably be at least September before we finish this race and bring Sweet C home. The very day I posted an update on the adoption situation in DRC, the Department of State and USCIS hosted a conference call with adoptive parents seeking to adopt from DRC and those who have adopted from DRC but do not yet have their children home. The purpose was to discuss the recent State-USCIS visit to DRC and continuing efforts by the US Embassy.

I did not join that conference call, but after reading the notes, I will share with you what I learned about it:

There is basically nothing new to report, but here is some of the information we received:

1. The Exit Letter suspension will last up to twelve months, which puts the end of the suspension in September 2014. However, they are not guarantying anything.

2. A delegation from the US visited DRC a few weeks ago and talked with them about the US home study process, follow-ups and the investigation process in the US and DRC. A delegation from DRC is making a trip to the US to visit service providers and families who have adopted from DRC. Someone asked if the trip might help shorten the suspension on Exit Letters, and it appears that is not really all that likely, but it will aid the future of adoption in DRC. That's a positive.

3. They also discussed VISA issuance, the process of reissuing them, expiration dates, etc. Since we're not there yet, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

4. People who attempt to or succeed at illegally moving children will be arrested in the US or DRC. (Hallelujah. These people are putting the future of adoption in DRC in major jeopardy, because for some reason they think they are above the law and their kids are more important than everyone else. Argh.)

5. Requests for Evidence (RFE) is being requested regularly during investigations. Parents should submit as much documentation (regarding orphan status) with I-600s as possible and still expect to be required to submit more. It should not cause worry, as it is now a normal occurrence.

6. This is where it hurt a little: They recommend that all families file their I-600 stateside, as filing in DRC does not make the process go any faster at this point. This statement was sort of like a punch to my gut. I had tentatively planned to file in DRC and go meet our girl, but with this announcement I'm not sure that will happen. The reality is this: Even if they begin issuing Exit Letters in September, I would imagine that they will be so far behind (a year's worth!) that it will add many more months to the timeline. I can't be sure that's how it will go down, and I am leaving plenty of room for God to move mountains, but it is a bit discouraging to see that they are telling families not to file in DRC. That was kind of my excuse for going to meet our girl--not that I really need an excuse to visit a little girl I am calling my daughter, but with the minor financial setbacks we have experienced lately I did feel that a visit needed to be for a logically legitimate reason, such as decreasing our timeline, decreasing the monthly care costs, etc.

This is the Ultramarathon of adoption from DRC. I feel like in the beginning, we--along with every other family adopting from DRC--were pegged as the favorites in the marathon because processes were going so smoothly when we started running. We were well-trained and prepared, dotting our i's, and crossing our t's.

Then there was a little bump with a short halt in adoptions last Spring, then another larger bump as Exit Letters were halted. "Ok," we said. "Breathe in and out. It's just a bump in the road."

Then a blow to the heart as we learned of the twins' deaths and the devastation of dysentery in a land so remote we'll probably never even see it.

Next, several little bumps, bruises and cuts as we received news that some parents were cheating the system, skipping miles in the Iron Man by "finishing" the race but not meeting all of the checkpoints requiring proper paperwork.

And now, receiving updates from DRC that essentially say, "Slow down. Don't even bother with trying to sprint to the next checkpoint. You won't win this race, but we might let you finish."

But who's winning here? I'm not sure. I know it's not us. Not now anyway. And it for sure isn't the kids who are waiting for all of us at the finish line.

But maybe it will be all of us, and hopefully--prayerfully--the finish line is closer than we think.


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