Monday, June 22, 2015

"When will she be home?"

Most of you saw my updates last week involving Brad's quick trip to Africa and the great I-600 filing (near-)debacle of 2015. These updates have left many of you asking the same question: "When will she be home?"

Brody and Brecken were a bit mad when Brad returned without their sister. ("But I thought you were going to bring her here?!" one whined when Brad returned with only his suitcase and not their sister.)

Honestly, we are asking the same question. There are still a TON of unknowns in this adoption, but I'll fill you in as fully as possible so you can understand where we are in the process.

First up, a color-coded chart, because I'm a sucker for color-coding. (Click on it to make it better, if you wish.)


We started our adoption journey at the bottom of this chart. The short story here is that most steps in orange didn't take very long. This is partly because I'm an application- and paperwork-lover (NERD) and partly because we had a lot more control over the circumstances and timelines involved. Then we got to the purple part--the DRC side of things. This part took forever...over a year longer than it was initially supposed to take. (Obviously, we also lost twins, Omba and Shako, to dysentery in Congo at the very beginning of this process. This broke our hearts into trillions of tiny pieces and also took us back a bit in the process.) You can see specific timeline info from our adoption timeline here.

We are currently back into the orange (U.S.) side of things, at the part where it says "File I600" in the top-left corner. Brad filed that I600 paperwork last Wednesday, and at the end of that appointment (which took about 30 seconds after he received the original documents) the officials at the Embassy told him that, barring any red flags in our paperwork, we should expect them to complete their investigation in six weeks. This is AWESOME, because we had originally heard it can take 3-8 MONTHS for this investigations to take place (which is absolutely unacceptable, if you ask me). So, we are hoping and praying that the investigation is smooth and easy, and that we receive word that we have passed the investigation by July 29. 

This (hopeful) six-week time frame is what's referred to as the "Investigation wait process" in the chart above. One thing that can speed up the process is a birth parent interview or an interview of some other key individual with details about the night she was found. This interview serves a great purpose in providing a first-hand account of the events of that night and confirming that she is (rather, WAS), in fact, an orphan. 

Within a few hours of receiving our I600 paperwork from Brad, the Embassy sent me an email about a Child Finder interview. This interview involves our Embassy speaking to the person who found Clementine when she was a tiny infant. 

My email read like this, in part: 

"As you know, we are currently conducting our required I-604 Orphan Status Determination to determine whether the child you intend to adopt meets the legal definition of an “orphan” under U.S. immigration law and thus is eligible to receive an immigrant visa. From our review of the file, it appears that there is a known identified Congolese citizen by the name of .... who reported the abandonment of the child."

MY HEART STOPPED. My thoughts swirled. Did that email just say that someone, possibly a parent, had reported her missing? We are going to lose this girl!! Keep in mind that I had slept about 3 hours the night before, which explains why I read the email wrong. I reread that part, then remembered that I had already seen the name they mentioned in the paperwork that I sent them. They were just telling me that the person who FOUND her could be interviewed to help provide important information to help them make a determination on her case. SHEW. I resumed normal breathing.

I forwarded the email to my agency and got a quick response that an in-country rep from our agency knew the person who found her and had already informed him/her of the need for an interview at the Embassy. This is AWESOME, because sometimes it can take a long time just to find the people involved and get them an interview. I have already requested this "Child Finder" interview from the Embassy, so I hope to hear something from them about that today. 

After passing the investigation, we will get a passport for Clementine, and there will be a visa interview and a visa issuance for her. 

Now here is where it gets tricky. Normally, we would fly to DRC to get a Bordeaux Letter from DRC, then we would receive an Exit Letter and bring our daughter home. However, since DRC has halted the issuance of Exit Letters since September 2013, we can't really do anything else in the process until something in DRC changes. There are hundreds of families who have hit this point; they are STUCK in the process without a legal way to get their children home. In fact, there are quite a few people who are now living in DRC with their legally adopted children. It is an absolute tragedy that one document--the elusive Exit Letter--is keeping them from joining entire families and loving support systems in their home towns. 

There has been a continual stream of positive reports and rumors that kids will be allowed to join their families at home "soon." Since April 1, we have heard very promising news to that regard. However, not one child has received an Exit Letter yet. So this is the unknown. (See thisthisthis, and this post to see how rumors have continually kept us on the edges of our seats.)

One positive report from DRC came several weeks ago. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs put together a committee to review files of adopted children, then issue the B-Letter and then submit the files for an Exit Letter. (At least, this is how I understand the process at this time.) The Ministry requested people with completed adoptions to submit their information and their dossiers (official paperwork) for this review, and many reports say they have reviewed hundreds of files already. I have even heard that some people have been given the "ok." (I'm not totally sure what that "ok" means..."Ok, come get your kids," or "Ok, you've passed this part of the test," or something else...) 

But so far, no kids have come home. As of Friday morning, our dossier is in the stack of files waiting for review, which is a GREAT feeling, but we are SO ready to rejoice with people who are finally able to bring their kids home. Some have been STUCK waiting for 635 days. It is absolutely heartbreaking and so very hard to understand. 

So, here are some specific ways you can pray for us and the other DRC families: 

1 -- Please pray that children with completed adoptions are officially allowed to leave DRC and go home with their families VERY SOON. I am praying that several are officially given the green light to bring kids home THIS WEEK.

2 -- Please pray that our investigation goes smoothly, that there are no red flags, that our "Child Finder" interview is set up and completed quickly, and that we receive word that we have passed the investigation by July 29 (6 weeks from when our papers were filed).  It would be so nice to see something completed within the timeline we are given!

3 -- Please pray for the health and safety of the children who are waiting, as well as for the hearts of those children and their parents who have waited for so long and who continue to wait. This is really tough stuff. (Side note: When Brad left Clementine on the last day, she KNEW he wouldn't be back for a while because the nannies weren't telling her he'd be back tomorrow, as they had done the other two days. You can visibly see her sadness and confusion in the pics from his last day there. This BREAKS my heart, and I know there are hundreds of other adoptive parents who have felt this heartache. It's just unimaginable that so many families have had to feel this sadness and confusion for 635 days!!)

4 -- Lastly, we are praying 2 Corinthians 4:1,16-18 over this process for everyone involved. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, burdened, defeated, and hopeless. It is so easy to lose heart. But when we focus on the great calling God has given us--not only in adoption, but in life--our joy, faith, and peace is restored.

1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlywe are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We are so thankful for your prayers and continued support through this. We cannot wait to bring her home, and tomorrow I'll give you a glimpse into her personality (maybe some pics and videos) to show you WHY we love her so.