I just reviewed the draft of our Home Study Report! Our social worker said that it should be finalized by the end of the week! Yipee!
The next step in the process is for us to apply with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), which can take 6-8 weeks to get approval. This part seems to be pretty simple (once you fill out the 16 page application!) While we wait for that approval, we will continue the "paper chase" gathering all of our dossier documents. The good news is that almost all of the documents needed for the dossier have been gathered and notarized, we just need to get them all certified and authenticated, which seems, at the moment, to be a daunting task! Then there are just a few small things that will require a little work on our end that don't have to be notarized like making copies of of our passports, and putting together a couple of family photo pages.
If you're wondering what certification and authentication involves--just about every document in the dossier has to be notarized. Then, each notarized document has to be certified at the state level (the state in which it was issued) and then authenticated at the appropriate Chinese Consulate. There are several Chinese consulates and each state has a designated one. Since we had to order certified copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate (from Alabama-where we were married, Louisiana-where I was born, and Ohio-where Todd was born), we've already sent those documents to the appropriate state for certification. Once we get those back, we will send them to the appropriate Chinese Consulate (LA and AL go to the Houston Consulate and OH goes to the New York Consulate, both of which don't allow you to mail the documents. You have to use a courier service). Here's the daunting part. All of our Tennessee documents not only have to be certified at the state level, but at the county level, as well (TN is one of the states that requires this extra step)--the county where the notary holds their certification. Of course, we ended up with notaries from three different counties we have to receive certification from. From there, we take it to the state, which thankfully, we can just drive everything up to Nashville and take care of in one swoop. Then, Tennessee's assigned consulate is the Chinese Embassy in D.C., which requires each document to be additionally authenticated at the U.S. State Department before going to the Embassy. So, yes, that's FOUR certifications/authentications PER DOCUMENT we have notarized in TN, which if your curious is about 15 separate documents.
Also during this waiting period before we complete our dossier, we will be working on completing the required training, which includes reading three books on adoption (the first one of which has been very good and informative so far) and 12 hours of online training (10 are China specific and 2 are for adopting an "older child").
The great news is that as soon as we can get all of this completed, we can submit our dossier to China because we now have enough money to make the payment that is due with that step!! All praise and glory be to God!! It will all have to be submitted to our social worker no later than the end of July so that it can get to China by August 15th, which is our deadline for holding Zack's file.
Once the dossier is submitted to China, I believe it will be 2-3 months before we travel. Not 100% positive on that timeline, yet.
Many have asked if Zack knows that he's being adopted. At this time, he does not. Once we receive our official referral approval (RA) from China, they will tell him and we will be able (required, in fact) to send him care packages (with photos of our home, family, etc., to help him begin to adjust to the idea of coming home).
Please continue to pray for us during this long journey: For us to persevere through these next steps. For our documents to arrive safely and timely to the designated places and back to us so that we don't lose any documents or have to do any over. For us to continue to be blessed with the funds needed to pay the fees for the future steps. And prayers for Zack, that he is healthy and happy, and has a sense of peace and knowing that he is soon to have a family.