So far we have detailed the first steps of our adoption in Chapter’s I – V. Little did we know that this seven month adventure turned out to be a sort of preamble. It really only brought us to the starting line of what would be the “official” adoption journey. Remember how terrifying it was when Frodo was chased through the dark by the petrifying ring wraiths on his way to the Prancing Pony–but that this distressing pursuit occurred before he even started his journey toward Mount Doom?
(That’s how it was for us)
We were now at the point where it was clearly established that Jonathan’s mother wanted to move forward with the adoption. This is when our true journey began. One by one we contacted the necessary people and agencies, and one by one they gave us tasks to complete. Over the following months, the tasks kept coming . . . and coming . . . and coming . . . Now, get ready, folks! I’m going to start using the word “journey” a whole, stinkin’ lot! I’ll spare you every once in a while and use some lovely synonyms like saga, expedition, odyssey, pilgrimage, quest, and the oddest synonym I found, peregrination. (Yes, peregrination is really a word, and yes, Peregrin Took is a character from The Lord of the Rings [he’s the lovable hobbit better known as Pippin]) As you read on you’ll find that excessive use of the word journey is very appropriate, because that is precisely what our adoption experience has been. The journey hasn’t been along just one, straight path, either. It’s been a journey of constant detours—again similar to what the Fellowship of the Ring faced. As we progressed through the adoption, our journey forward would periodically be halted until we completed the quest at hand. Then we could progress a little closer to the destination, but only until an entirely new expedition halted our progress once again. So, pull up a chair, grab a piece of lembas bread, and join us as we recount this insane journey and remind ourselves that the incredulousness of the journey is actually what speaks most of God’s miraculous, unlimited abilities and the strength He provides in grueling pilgrimages.
- We needed to find a lawyer who practiced in Dominica to oversee the legal aspect of the adoption. God provided us with a wonderful, Christian lawyer who was supportive and encouraging through the whole saga.
- The first thing our lawyer required was signed consent from Jonathan’s mother, Estelle. Obtaining a signature sounds like a simple task, but even this turned into a quest. Her signature had to be accompanied by some form of identification, and Estelle didn’t have any. This called for an extra trip to the capital, Roseau, which is an hour drive. Once there, we were sent back and forth between several government buildings until someone finally knew how to help her get a government-issued ID. There was still a hold-up; Estelle was only eligible if she had employment, which she didn’t. We called our lawyer in a panic, wondering if we had hit a brick wall already. Thankfully, we had one more option. Our lawyer took the time to personally visit the government office and vouch for Estelle; this won her the ability to get an ID! One month after beginning this quest for the consenting signature, another trip was made to Roseau to pick up that ID and have Estelle sign the form. With detour number one completed, our lawyer was able to begin taking real steps.
- We also needed a Dominican social worker. This person’s most important task was to complete the home study on Nic and I that would be reviewed by the judge in the Dominican court. In the two months following our first visit, we had FOUR rather useless meetings with this social worker where nothing new was discussed and no directions were given. Of course, these meetings were an hour away in Roseau, necessitating four expensive trips with Estelle and the three children. Finally, one of those meetings provided some useful, albeit frustrating, information. Turns out this social worker wouldn’t begin her Dominican home study until we could give her a home study completed by a US adoption agency. That was going to hold up the process in Dominica significantly. So, we didn’t see our social worker for three months and the adoption process in Dominica didn’t move an inch while we attempted to complete the colossal quest before us.
- The first step in this side journey was to choose an adoption agency. We have been very happy in our selection of Adopt Abroad, Inc. And, just as God provided an excellent attorney, the social worker assigned to us by the agency was so helpful and generous with her time. She answered our endless questions, and did everything she could to expedite our process. The most expensive part of this journey was, oddly, the easiest. We had to fly this social worker to Dominica to complete the home study. This meeting ended up being scheduled during the one week I had to study for my third semester final. There really isn’t a week more stressful for med students. This was bad timing, but it was our best choice. So, believe me, it is no small miracle that the hours I lost to this home study didn’t affect my performance on the final. It’s likewise a miracle that I was able to present myself coherently during our interviews, because we med students are ridiculously exhausted and frazzled by the end of a semester.
- Next came the process of obtaining the information that would build our dossier with the adoption agency; I believe this warrants the title of an odyssey. It is a massive undertaking. We’re talking references, bank statements, birth certificates, tax returns, marriage licenses (how do we keep misplacing that thing?!) autobiographies, background checks from every place we’ve lived in the past 10 years (darn our habit of moving!), a background check from none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation, something I’ve never heard of called a social security statement, and even shot records for our Chihuahua. Looking at that list always made my head spin. Yet, step by step it was completed.
- With pride and a sense of accomplishment, Nic and I turned in the last piece of required information! We felt like someone out there should congratulate us! Instead, the adoption agency replied with, “We’ll look at this for review and acceptance in the next two or three months”. We sputtered in disbelief, “We’ve already been working on this for two to three months! It can’t possibly take longer!” She replied by informing us that the turnaround is usually 6 months. Now, here is one process that worked in our favor. Due to the fact that my fourth and final semester on the island would soon finish and we would need to move, the agency kindly reviewed our dossier in record time. This was partially due to some kind “nudging” by our amazing social worker. Three weeks later, a copy of our certified US home study was on its way to Dominica.
- With intense excitement, we delivered a copy to our Dominican social worker. Finally the in-country process could proceed! Our social worker did not share our enthusiasm. She calmly scheduled an appointment for 6 weeks later. What?! Another six weeks? We first met with her in June, and she did not begin any official processing until November. Yes folks, we’re into November now.
We were getting dangerously close to the end of my last semester in Dominica. More important to me, we were getting dangerously close to Christmas. For those of you who don’t know, I pretty much love the season of Christmas with all my heart. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to have our first Christmas as the Fantastic Four at my parents’ house, surrounded by family with all the wonderful trimmings of the most blessed season of the year. However, timing was starting to get really tight. The Battle of Christmastime had begun.
Ah, yes. Nic and I liken these home study journeys to the first steps of the Fellowship of the Ring. When these nine attempted to pass the mountain Caradhras, they were stopped by Saruman. Resourcefully, they detoured beneath the mountain through the Mines of Moria. This path seemed to promise deliverance . . . until Pippin unwittingly alerted nearby Orcs. A new battle began. Then, as if the Orcs weren’t bad enough, the Balrog appeared. I’ve seen this creature described as “an ancient demon of fire and shadow”. Most of the group finally escaped, but they suffered a devastating casualty. See the resemblance between our stories?
Join us next time for, “A Sentimental Journey”. The battle of Christmastime was indeed a desperate one, but it pales in comparison to the Battle of Miguel that shall next be told.
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