First, I’d like to give some heartfelt thanks for all of the supportive comments, emails, FB posts, texts, phone calls, and any other means of communications I’ve missed! We are so touched. It means the world to us to know that our family and friends are so happy for us. I’ve even heard from people I’ve never heard from before – and I love that! As I said in my last post, we know you’ve been waiting with us. And we thank you for that. We might well have been lost without you.
Now, while some reading this blog know the rest of this process like old pros, I know many are wondering what happens next. So, I’m going to do my best to outline next steps here. Of course I’ll be providing more information as things happen and as we learn more along the way.
Essentially, there are two big phases to the post-referral process: court and embassy. These relate, respectively, to the Ethiopian government reviewing and approving the adoption, and the U.S. government reviewing the adoption and authorizing a newly adopted child to enter the United States.
On the Ethiopian side, the government will review our dossier and Baby K’s file. [I think that’s what I’ll call her on the blog, at least for now. Her name starts with a K, in case that wasn’t totally obvious!] The Ministry of Youth, Children, and Women’s Affairs (MOYCWA) is the agency responsible for final review. They will examine our fitness as adoptive parents and also the circumstances surrounding Baby K’s status as an orphan to ensure that she is indeed eligible for adoption. At the end of the review, if everything looks good, MOYCWA will write a letter that supports the completion of the adoption and send that letter to the court. The Ethiopian court then hears the case and makes the determination on the outcome.
We will attend the court hearing on our first trip to Ethiopia. Our agency predicts that this hearing will occur sometime between two and four months after acceptance of referral. So, this means that we will likely travel to Ethiopia sometime in May or June. We will probably get 2-3 weeks notice of our court date.
That first trip will just be a few days long in terms of official business. The purpose of the trip is to meet and spend time with Baby K (yay!) and then to testify in court that we want to adopt her. We are also thinking about adding a few days of extra travel to this trip to explore a bit outside of Addis Ababa, the capital city (where Baby K will be and where everything official happens). Once the court approves the adoption, we will be Baby K’s legal parents. At this point things like a birth certificate and passport will be issued by the Ethiopian government.
Then the U.S. government, via the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, steps in. Their job is to issue the visa that allows this newly adopted child to enter the country. (Obviously, the whole entering the country thing is pretty important!) In order to do this, the embassy must review the adoption file, conduct a medical exam, make sure that we have our valid paperwork, and investigate the circumstances leading to orphan status. At the end of all of this, if all goes well, we will have an appointment at the embassy for processing of paperwork.
Our agency predicts that the embassy appointment will occur approximately 3-5 months after the court date. We will only get about a week’s notice of this trip, which will be about a week long.
So, that’s the general process and timeline. I think it is safe to say that we are looking at a minimum of six months until homecoming, and quite possibly longer. I’m thinking September or October are reasonable months to have in mind, so that’s what I’ve set my mental calendar to at this point. We will be able to predict a little bit more on the second trip once we know when our court date is scheduled.
I do have to note, as we shared with family and friends, that there are still things that could be bumpy along this next stretch of the road. And honestly, there are still things that could happen that could result in the termination of this particular adoption. We are not focusing on that possibility, but we have to be aware that the next several months may not be entirely straightforward.
There you have it: A general explanation of what happens next. There is much more, of course, and I will share that as I become aware of it and as we go through the process. Stay tuned!