Short answer---August 2007
More detailed answer:
Here is our timeline. Depending on whether a family adopts internationally or domestically the timeline can be very different and when adopting internationally each country has their own procedures and timelines. The following was our timeline, in relation to the international Korean adoption program with Children's Home Society and Family Services. I cannot speak to other international adoption programs or other adoption agencies.
To those whom we have not kept more informed about our adoption process, we are excited to share this information with you. Early on in the process, John and I never really felt like there was a "good time" to announce our decision to everyone. We in no way were trying to be "under cover agents on a secret mission". In the beginning, we talked to people and said it was something we were thinking about pursuing. We started to check into it and just kept moving forward with each step of the process. Our lack of announcement, if you were looking for one?-- I sort of compare to a couple announcing to family and friends. "Hey, everyone just wanting to let you all know were going to start trying to have a baby. Thought we should let you all know." Rarely, would any couple make that kind of announcment. In the early stages of the process there just wasn't much to say other than..."Hey everyone, we filled out an application today." Needless to say, I want to apologize if anyone has felt "left out" of this process, but the following info should fill you in on all the "exhilarating" administrative details......
July 2007- We attended an adoption information session.
August 2007- We filled out our basic initial application for the adoption process.
August 2007 - More detailed paperwork to begin adoption process. This paperwork included getting fingerprinted, background checks, medical check-ups and 3 personal references from non-family members. We received approval and there were adoption programs we were eligible for.... next step....
Oct 2007- PAC- Parent Adoption Classes- During these 3 days of classes (some 15 hours) we were given MUCH information about many aspects of adoption both domestic and international adoption. We learned about attachment, grief, cultural awarness and the additional considerations of raising a child that is of a different race than their parents. We listened to several guest panels of adult adoptees, new adoptive parents, and birthmoms. It was a very educational, overwhelming and valuable weekend of classes. Next step........
April 2008, Homestudy- From the time of our PAC classes we had 9 months to turn in our homestudy questions. We chose to wait about six months before turning in our homestudy questions because if we continued along with the process in Oct. there would've been a very good chance that Leo, our then 16 month old son, would've been 2 1/2yrs old by the time his sister would've joined our family. I wanted more space between children, so we waited until April 2008 to turn in our homestudy. The homestudy is all the questions that you are asked about your upbringing, family of orgin, marriage and parenting perspectives. There were 10 questions we were suppose to answer that included about 5 sub-questions withing each question. It was a... "describe your whole life in 10 pages or less" kind of assignment. Also included in that was a cultural worksheet about how we would prepare to raise a child in our family that came from another culture and/or was of a different racial background. Once we turned in these questions in April 2008 (before turkey hunting started) we had two meetings with our assigned social worker, Mary. We met with her once at the agency, to discuss our homestudy questions. We then had a second meeting with her at our home. She met Will and Leo and we had more discussion. We had to offically decide what adoption program we were going to work with - the Korean adoption program. We also had to turn in at that time a "medical checklist". In the medical checklist, we had to choose what kind of medical conditions we would be able to parent. The agency, CHSFS, does a very good job of supporting you in being realistic about what kinds of medical needs we would be able to parent. They wanted us to take into consideration what emotionally, practially and financially we would be able to knowingly handle, all things considered, especially the children we were already parenting and their needs. Once you We were pretty conservative about our choices. We were asking to parent a healthy, full-term infant girl.
At that point we had been approved by the agency, CHSFS to adopt a child. It was at that time that we were offically "waiting" for our referral. On May 6th, 2008 we were #33 on the "girl list". Next step........ live life and wait (and for me....read, read, read- you know, control what you can when you really don't have any control :)
August 27th, 2008- We went and had our fingerprints taken ( for the second time) for a background check and to receive federal approval to adopt internationally.
THE DAY!!!!!! The BEST Day!!!-Feb 20th, 2009- Our Baby Girl
The most wonderful phone call of my life came on Friday, Feb 20th ( a belated Valentine's Day present from the universe/God). We received a call that there was a referral that matched our critera (our daughter) and I was given all her background information. When Gracie was referred to us, I KNEW she was OUR child!! John had just left out of town with the boys for Chicago to see his brother for the weekend. He had only been gone for a hour or so. I called him and said, "We have a baby!!" He said, "You mean we have a referral." I responded, "No, we have a baby!!!" I knew she was ours. That evening when John got to his brother's house he looked at her picture. Immediately that afternoon I sent all the background information on Ye Jin Lee (yay jeen eee)to the International Adoption Clinic, IAC. At the IAC it is their specialty to reveiw referrals. They have seen thousands of Korean adoption referrals, they know what is typical or not for that particular country. All the information we received about Ye Jin/Gracie Mae was positive. The IAC did make a request for a picture that was closer up so they could do a better facial screeing for FAS, fetal acohol syndrome, which is a standard thing they do for all adoption referrals. The picture we had of her was too far away for them to do their best evaluation. We then went back to the adoption agency to request another set of photos that were closer up. The director of the Korean adoption program then contacted the agency in Korea, Eastern Social Welfare Services (ESWS). More waiting...... at Ye Jin/Gracie Mae's next monthly check-up they took another set of pictures and sent them to us. However, in the mean time, I was going crazy during the two week wait for the additional pictures. I really believed she was just fine. I knew she was my child. John and I discussed it and we were comfortable "accepting the referral". She was our child. We turned in the acceptance paperwork on 3/17, St. Patrick's Day (hoping for good luck of the Irish for our Korean baby girl ;-). Later that same day we received her additional pictures and forwarded them to the IAC. The next day, we receieved our response from the IAC. The IAC had confirmed what we already new, she is a beautiful, healthy baby girl...our daughter. That then begins our wait to travel........
Our paperwork reached the US National Visa Center on 4/10/09. Our paperwork left the National Visa Center on 4/13/09 and was sent to South Korea. Our paperwork has been with the Korean Adoption Authority, this process takes about 14 weeks. From what I understand, this part is getting her visa to leave the country, her passport etc. Once the paperwork is sent back to Washingtong DC it will be about a 3-4 week timeframe for traveling. So here we are, June 27th, our paperwork has been on the "Korean side" for 10 weeks and counting. Mid-July the paperwork should be back in the US. So in the meantime, I do more reading, reading, nesting, organzing and getting her room ready..... more controlling the things I can when really I have no control. :-)
Many people have a a reaction when I tell them about the our process - the classes, personal references, homestudy, two sets of fingerprints and background checks we went through during this process. The common comment reflects that "parents don't have to do all this to have children biologically" and this is of course true. I personally, was never bothered by all the "invasion" into our personal life... for us there wasn't much to "invade" in to. Overall, I am grateful that they do as much as they do to make sure that children are going to safe and loving homes. CHSFS says that they are there to provide children with families, NOT families with children. I believe their approach is "best practice" and one that tries to protect the vulnerable children they are serving. I was fine with providing what ever information was needed. I am grateful for it.