Adoption from Beginning to End!
Note: Before the entries of this journal, I would just like to mention that we used Holt International. I have noticed over the APV list that other agencies do the paperwork in a different order for some reason. We received our referral before our dossier went to Vietnam and if I am reading it correctly, other agencies do the opposite. Just wanted to mention that so there is no confusion!! Happy reading!
Early 1996 - We began to consider adoption. Attended a DYFS information session in Hammonton, NJ. Found out that the waiting list for a healthy, white infant is approx. 8 years long in NJ.
May 1996 - Sent away for an application for Holt International Children's Services.
- sent in initial application with $25 fee.
- received "formal" application and pages of instructions! Began to fill out application and collect needed documents, but before it was complete we decided to wait a few months before pursuing international adoption. (Romania)
- went to the doctor for physicals and HIV tests.
October 1996 - While on vacation in Vermont, we decided to finish "formal" application as soon as possible and start the process of adopting through Romania.
December 24, 1996 - mailed application with $125 application fee.
January 16, 1997 - Initial interview in Trenton with Pat (social worker). She told us that they had temporarily stopped taking applications for Romania. Then we considered the Philippines, until she read that they had just raised their age limit to 27! Our only other choice was Vietnam!! So, we decided to pursue adoption from Vietnam. We were also fingerprinted at this meeting.
March 10, 1997 - group meeting at the home of Tony & Chris.
April 1997 - homestudy. First apt. was cancelled because Pat was sick. Rescheduled. It was nothing!
May 14, 1997 - We were just about to leave for a short vacation to Williamsburg and Richmond, VA to visit John & Carrie when Pat called wondering why we had not sent in our "recitals" yet?! We had never received our "recitals" and had no idea what she was talking about, but she said she needed it right away, so we took a detour and stopped by Trenton on our way to Virginia!
May 19, 1997 - On our way home from Virginia, we decided to go to the "INS approved World-Wide Immigration Office" in Cherry Hill to be fingerprinted and have our passport photos taken.
July 1, 1997 - mailed our I-600A to INS.
July 26, 1997 - mailed our passport applications.
August 1, 1997 - New passports issued!
August 7, 1997 - spoke to Pat Keltie by phone. She said we could receive our referral "any day now"!
August 8, 1997 - Holt Day at Dinosaur Beach. Don & Krista & Tyler came down for the day!
September 25, 1997 - I-600A approved!
December 3, 1997 - Marco Island, Florida!! Pat Keltie called while we were eating a late breakfast to tell us that she had 4 snapshots of our baby boy in front of her!! He was born 10-10-96 weighing only 3.5 pounds! We could expect to go get him approx. 3-4 months after we send in our dossier! We tried to get an early flight home so we could use the rest of our vacation time to get all the paperwork done, but were unable to change our flight since it was the Christmas season! Pat said she would fed-ex the pictures to us. We will name him Jacob.
December 8, 1997 - I spent most of the morning in the front window or on the deck watching for the fed-ex truck! By lunchtime, he still had not arrived and I was going crazy with worry that they were lost in the mail (we were flying home the next day!!) so I made Jim take me out to a few stores to get my mind off of it - ha ha. When we got back from our shopping trip, they had arrived! What a cute baby he is!! We were so excited we thought we would burst. 3-4 months seemed impossible to bear!
December 11, 1997 - (Kristin's birthday) Yet another trip to the doctor for physicals and an HIV test.
December 17, 1997 - Day and night since arriving home from vacation, we worked on finishing our dossier. The doctor's note and one or two other things were holding us up a bit, but finally it was done and we shipped all 5 pounds of it by fed-ex to Minnie in Eugene, Oregon!
January 7, 1998 - Jim (my husband) hand-delivered Jacob's I-600 to INS in Newark, NJ.
January 10-18, 1998 - began to work on Jacob's room! On the 17th we picked up the crib and changing table from Tom & Debbie Jorgensen, Jr. Jim put it together on the 18th with lots of "help" from Calvin & Libby!
January 26, 1998 - (Jim's birthday). We received Jacob's I-600 Approval in the mail!! I quickly made the photocopies I needed and mailed off all of the rest of his "Important documents" to Minnie in Oregon. *We also went to the doctor for our first HepA and HepB vaccines. (OUCH!)
February 7, 1998 - Surprise shower at Krista's !! We had such a good time. It was so nice to see so many friends from Faith Church!
February 24, 1998 - Went to the doctor for our 2nd HepA and HepB. After I received my HepA, Dr. Haflin realized that I only needed one dose! (oh-well) I also had my Tetanus booster updated. Jim got his 2nd HepB.
February 25, 1998 - Last week of sterilization. Starting the first week of March, I will only be working Wednesdays (TMD) and filling in occasionally.
March 11, 1998 - We spoke to Pat on the phone. She told us that our dossier is at the Department of Justice as of the first week of March. This is the last step before we are notified of travel dates. However, she does not expect that we will be notified until some time in April! She also told us that a health update should be coming soon - it is now being translated into English.
March 14, 1998 - "Shower" given by both of our mothers. This party was not planned to be a surprise and it included all family members. They were collecting money to give to us so we can buy a video camera for our trip and everything that comes after that!
March 26, 1998 - went shopping with Krista and bought Jacob a stroller! It was on sale for $40. (originally $80.) Marybeth (my friend's baby from Korea) arrives at Philadelphia Airport tomorrow (3/27) at 9:45 p.m.
March 27, 1998 (about 2 p.m.) - Don't think I can take much more waiting!
March 27, 1998 - (about 8 p.m.) Went out to dinner. When we returned home, we noticed that Holt's phone number was in our caller I.D. box, but no message was left on our answering machine?
March 28, 1998 - (Saturday a.m.) Pat called with out travel dates!! This is our tentative travel schedule:
Sunday, May 3rd - arrive in Ho Chi Minh City
Monday, May 4th - Giving & Receiving Ceremony
Tuesday, May 5th - "Going" party at orphanage
*May 10th - Jacob turns 19 months old (Mother's Day!)
Friday, May 15th - fly to Hanoi
Tuesday, May 19th - fly to Bangkok
Wed & Thurs May 20-21st - visa interview and physicals
Friday, May 22nd - fly home!
Now we must get busy making our travel arrangements! (Thank God that's Jim's job!!) *We celebrated by going to the Water Lily Vietnamese Restaurant for dinner with Dad and Karen.
March 30, 1998 - Spoke to "Adoption Travel Service" and got our travel schedule
pending Pat's approval:
May 1st: Philadelphia to Detroit to Tokyo to Hong Kong (stay overnight - Saturday,
May 2nd) then on to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City at 9:30 am on Sunday, May 3rd!
May 15: Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi
May 19: Hanoi to Bangkok
May 22: Bangkok to Tokyo to Minneapolis/St.Paul to Philadelphia at about 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $1,423.00 each! Will speak to Pat tomorrow (hopefully) to confirm that this schedule is ok and to make sure visa applications are done right before I mail them!
March 30, 1998 (p.m.) - Spoke to Pat this evening. She said that our itinerary looked good to her. I need to mail her and the main office in Oregon a "clean" copy because the one I faxed to her was hard to read.
March 31, 1998 - sent off our visa applications today. They should return in about 7 days.
April 6, 1998 - Passports came back this morning with our visas stamped in them!! Now we are truly ready to go! Also, I picked up our Doxycycline from the pharmacy. (Anti-Malaria pills)
- Truck came this morning with the swingset that Uncle Allan gave us! What a project!! It took 4 of us working from 9:30 am until 2 p.m. and it still is not completely put together. Tomorrow, if we have time, we have to cement 5 of the poles in and start framing around it with landscaping ties to hold the recycled tire chips that act as a softer landing in case anyone falls. It is a very nice piece of playground equipment.
April 9, 1998 - FINALLY received that update we were promised on March 10th!! With 2 new pictures in it! He is very cute and the update sounds like he is doing well. He was transferred into a foster home in February to help prepare him for family life. He weighs 16.5 pounds and is 70 cm tall - that is 28 inches! Tiny!
April 15, 1998 - Wednesday. Just received 2 more pictures of Jacob in the mail today!! They look to be from around the same time as the last pictures. · I am beginning to feel more and more anxiety about the traveling. I have to keep focusing on the REASON for the trip - Jacob!! I feel like I have things under control. I try to do at least two things everyday from my big list of things that need to be done before we leave so it I will not feel rushed and overwhelmed during the last week of April. At the same time, I am battling the feeling that I just want to sleep until it is time to go to the airport!
April 16, 1998 - "Stephanie" from Blue Cross and Blue Shield called today to tell us that we need to send her proof that Jacob is going to be placed with us on May 4th before she can add him to our policy. So I called Pat to ask her to write me that letter so I can mail it to Blue Cross and Blue Shield. (Hopefully it will get to me before we leave!)
April 17, 1998 - One of those "stressful moments" occurred today when Pat called to make sure we had applied for our visas and when Jim looked at them he thought there might be something wrong with the dates. So, Pat said we better call to check. I was not looking forward to calling the Embassy of Vietnam again because the last time I called to request the visa applications, the man was pleasant, but did not speak English very well. The thought of trying to explain my question and then understand the answer did not thrill me! But I just got off the phone with him and he was very nice and our visas are ok! *Also, we faxed Angela in Oregon our choices for hotels during our trip.
April 18, 1998 - received the letter from Pat for our insurance company - proof that Jacob will be placed with us on May 4th. I am glad that I will be able to take care of that this week coming.
April 20, 1998 - Angela called today to tell us that even after much arguing with the office in Bangkok that is processing all our paperwork, they will not accept our I-864 because they have come up with a new format and ours is the old. On the old, you circled the answers to complete it, on the new one, you fill in little boxes?. Otherwise, it is exactly the same form. How silly! Anyway, Fed Ex should bring it to my door tomorrow and I just have to fill it out, get them notarized, and fed
ex one copy right back! She said I should carry one other notarized copy with us when we go.
*I asked her about the baby selling scandal and travel delays - she has not heard anything recently and they fax frequently back and forth with the office in Vietnam. They do not expect it to be a problem for us. *Sent off the letter to our insurance company today - certified/return receipt.
April 21, 1998 - Received the "new" I-864 be fed-ex this morning. I filled it out, went to Alice's work to have it notarized, then sent it back by Fed-Ex. Also received the address of the Christian family who lives in Ho Chi Minh City.
April 27, 1998 - "Stephanie" from Blue Cross and Blue Shield called again to inform me that the letter from Pat was not enough! They need a copy of the actual legal papers that give us custody of Jacob. (That's what I asked her last time!!) Anyway, she said that he will be covered from the time of placement even though they cannot officially add him to the policy until after a month or so after placement. No big deal.
April 28, 1998 - confirmed our flights for May 1st!! Began taking Doxycycline (anti-malaria).
Spoke to Angela (in the Oregon office) to confirm that the Holt-Vietnam office made our hotel reservations.
April 29, 1998 - Put car seats in both cars! I was invited out to dinner with Dr. Vecere and the girls tonight. They all had lovely gifts for Jacob. We had a nice time.
April 30, 1998 - We are leaving tomorrow - I almost cannot believe it!! Tonight at 6 p.m. we went for a massage and then out to dinner. Everything is packed except for those few last minute things that can wait until tomorrow morning. Just about everyone in our entire family, many friends, and many church people have called us to wish us well and to let us know that they are praying for us. I am not even nervous (yet) - I am just excited and ready to go! I guess the next time I add anything we will already be back home WITH JACOB!
Details of the Trip Entered on 6/5/98
May 1, 1998 - Our first flight from Philly to Detroit was late, so we just barely caught our next flight to Tokyo. That flight was also late, so we barely caught our next flight to Hong Kong!!
May 2, 1998 - arrived in Hong Kong about 10:30 p.m. Spent the night at the Regal Airport Hotel.
May 3, 1998 - flew from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City!! Four people from Holt were there waiting for us. Another couple (from Iowa) were also about to arrive. Checked into the Binh Duong Hotel. Later that afternoon we went to the orphanage to meet our son!! He was not thrilled to see us!! He screamed when the caretaker handed him over to me. We played with him on the floor for about 2 hours, but he would not let us hold him.
May 4, 1998 - Supposed to be our G & R date, but it was postponed until the next day. We visited Jacob again at the center, and we also went to thank the foster family who Jacob had lived with for a few months. Later that afternoon, we went back to the center. The caretaker handed him over to me and then disappeared! It was time for Jacob to get to know us!! He screamed for about one hour - then finally fell asleep in my arms. When he woke up it was my husband's turn. He only cried for a bit and then decided we were ok! There was a going away party for Jacob and 3 other children being adopted the next day. It was a nice dinner and the children sang some fun songs. I could tell that all the children were being well taken care of.
May 5, 1998 - G & R ceremony was just a matter of signing 10 copies of the same document. We were told that in the north, there usually is more of a ceremony, but in the south, they do so many that there is not time. After that, Jacob was ours. As he was placed on my lap in the van, he cried for a bit as we drove away from the orphanage, but then he fell asleep. It was about a 45-minute drive to where we would be staying in Ho Chi Minh City. We were just waiting for the passports to be done, then we could travel to our next stop, Hanoi. We ended up being in HCMC thru the 20th because the passports took longer to be issued than they had expected. In fact, it took so much extra time there, that our time in Hanoi was shortened to about 12 hours instead of 4 days. There was plenty to keep us occupied in HCMC. Shopping, parks, museums, more shopping, and just watching the people!!
May 20 - We flew to Hanoi and checked in to the Lavendar Hotel.
May 21 - Early in the morning we were picked up and taken to Holt's main office in Hanoi. We simply needed to pick up some paperwork and receive some instructions for our exit interview in Bangkok. Then we went to the Thai Embassy and just waited in the van while someone from Holt went in and picked up the children's visas. Then, by 10:30 am we were checking into the Hanoi airport for our flight to Bangkok!!
Once we landed in Bangkok, we had to go straight to a hospital where the children would be examined. Then we went to get more passport photos taken for immigration, and finally we checked into the Amari Boulevard Hotel. A very nice place! Holt's representative, named "Jintana" came up to our room to go over our paperwork to make sure everything was in order for the interview the next day.
May 22 - We arrived at the US Embassy early and waited to be called. Once they called us, it only took about 10-15 minutes for each family to be interviewed. I would not even call it an interview. My husband stood at a window while the man looked over everything and then said we were done. You are supposed to have to pick up your paperwork in the afternoon, but since Jintana already had to go there, she picked it up for us and brought it to our hotel room. So we could just relax the rest of the day and see a little bit of Bangkok!
May 23 - We had to leave the hotel at 3:30 am in order to catch our first flight. We had three flights to get us home and it went pretty well. I had envisioned a disaster traveling that long and far with a 19 month old, but he did great!
We entered the US through Minneapolis/St.Paul (that was not our final destination), so we had to take Jacob through immigration there. It was no problem. We gave them our unopened packet that we got from the US Embassy in Bangkok, and within 15 minutes, we were on our way. HOME!
May 26, 1998 - took Jacob to the doctor here. The doctor said to stop all medication that they were giving him in Vietnam. Generally healthy - needs to gain weight. (weighs 21 pounds)
June 4, 1998 - received the N-643 from INS that we will need to send in for citizenship once we re-adopt Jacob here.
June 8, 1998 - First post-placement visit with Pat.
That is where we are now. I plan to continue this journal until all the paperwork for Jacob is complete -probably another 6 months - just in time to start on our next adoption!!
Published on 6/1/98