Saturday, October 30, 2010

Money, money, money, money...(think the O-Jays:-)

"How much does adoption cost?"  and "How are you going to pay for it?"

We've heard these questions a lot in the past month, and we asked these questions a lot ourselves before we committed to starting the adoption process.

Adoption involves a lot of different people whose jobs are a necessary part of the process...attorneys, social workers, administrators, government workers, childcare providers, in-country workers (in the case of international adoption), etc.  Of course they all need to receive payment for their work; however, when all the financial costs are tallied it becomes a pretty big number.

One of the reasons we chose not to go with domestic infant adoption is that the fees are so high (often $30,000-$50,000+), and most of the money goes to whomever "finds" the baby (usually attorneys and/or the placing agency).  We weren't comfortable with the dollar amounts these individuals "made" on each adoption or with the profit-driven mindset that seemed to come across in conversations with several individuals.

Although the international process is certainly not perfect, the numbers make more sense to us.  Here's where our money will be going (all numbers are approximate and rounded for simplicity's sake):

1. Homestudy--$2000
2. Agency fee--$4500 (this fee underwrites our agency's administrative/operating costs)
3. Dossier Authentication and Home Study Review--$850
4. Fees to Ethiopia--$8000 (almost $5000 of this goes directly to humanitarian work in Ethiopia-which is required of all agencies adopting children from Ethiopia-and to supporting the orphanage, the rest supports our agency's administrative in-country work in Ethiopia and expenses for our child--medical, childcare, etc.)
5. Government paperwork, documents, and visa fees--$1,500
6. Travel to and from Ethiopia--$8,000 (we'll post more on this another day, but we either have to take two trips to Ethiopia or take one big trip and remain in-country for 5-12 weeks depending on our court date)

Grand Total for one child's adoption: $24,000

If we adopt more than one child then there is an additional fee of $8,000 (which is the same regardless of whether we adopt two or more children).

Grand Total for multiple children's adoption: $32,000

Money Tree

Gulp! That is a lot of cash! Since we don't have a money tree in our apartment, and we aren't gazillionaires (in fact we are a one income family now, with both of us in school), how are we going to pay for this?  Well for starters there's a hefty tax credit in 2011 that will refund about $13,000 of adoption expenses per child IF our adoption is finalized by the end of 2011. That would help a lot!

We've already paid the homestudy fee ($2,000), the first part of the agency fee ($2,300), and a chunk of paperwork fees ($500), a total of $4,800.  We will need to pay the balance of the agency fee ($2,200) as well as the dossier authentication and homestudy review fee ($850) in late Nov/early Dec if things go according to plan.  Depending on how we time our tuition payments we are pretty sure we can squeeze this out of our savings account.  After that, we're stepping forward in faith, our liquid assets will be pretty much tapped out so, at a minimum, we could have some cash flow issues.

We have investments that can be liquidated if absolutely necessary, and hopefully we'll get a decent tax return on our 2010 taxes, but we aren't totally sure where the funds will come from for the $8,000-$16,000 we'll need to pay for the Ethiopia fees when we accept the referral of our child/children, or how we will pay the $8,000 for travel to Ethiopia.  Since we don't know how long we'll be waiting for referral, we could need those funds in 3 months or in 2 years....we just don't know. It's nice to know that we have investments that could be sold if we get stuck, but we'd like to save those as our back-up plan for when we are actually raising children (since we hear there are lots of expenses--like childcare, braces, college--and since we both have a significant tuition/student loan bills looming in our immediate future).

Despite the fact that I'm a "professional fundraiser" (whatever that means:-)) we're not going to "fundraise" through this blog for our adoption.  I know, I know, here I go breaking all the cardinal rules of fundraising....:-)

If you feel led to help us out with adoption and travel costs we will gratefully and gladly accept any help that is offered, but at this point, we're not planning to put a paypal link on our blog or sell t-shirtscoffee, or ornaments.  We love the t-shirts, coffee, and ornaments (in fact I own a t-shirt and don't be surprised if you get coffee or ornaments for Christmas:-) but we don't feel right about actively fundraising through this blog for our adoption, particularly since we have investments we could liquidate if we absolutely had to and because we might be eligible for the generous 2011 tax credit.  On this blog, we will just be open and transparent about the financial costs associated with adoption and where we are in meeting them.  If you feel called to help us, THANK YOU!

If we are fortunate enough to be the recipient of financial gifts for this adoption, and if we receive all or part of that money back through the tax credit, rest assured we will only use the tax credit funds for costs associated with bringing our child/children home (car seats, cribs, strollers, necessary childcare...) or for humanitarian work in Ethiopia.  Our hope is that with tax refund funds we would be able to build a well in Ethiopia in honor of our child/children's birth mother through Charity: water and to provide funding for our child's orphanage in Ethiopia. So, if you do give us money and we do get the tax credit, your money could accomplish two amazing things--helping us through the adoption process AND providing aid in Ethiopia.

Whew, this ended up being a  Hopefully it helped to shed some light on the financial side of the adoption process and where we are in it. We are more than happy to discuss this in greater detail (we have itemized break-downs of all line items from our agency--yet another reason we are so comfortable with them) but this should give you a good starting framework:-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Update #2 we are, somehow it is Friday again!  How did that happen?!?!?!?!?

I got my case study done last week (yay!) and have my midterm tomorrow (nay!).  We'll see how it goes, there is just something weird to my little liberal arts heart about "studying" marketing:-)

Here's our weekly update:

We've initiated the name change process on all my bank accounts, added Ababa to them, and requested the notarized bank letter for our dossier. It looks like we're going to have to print out all the statements from our checking account for the year, manually tally the amount deposited for the year, tell that to our bank, and get them to include that on their letter.  Really USAA?  You are so awesome in all other ways, why  are you our only bank that is not able to pull this data out of your system?!?!?!

Ababa's wallet arrived intact:-) He's now waiting for his NYS license (but he has a temporary license) and he applied for his passport.

We sent the notarized release for clearance form to our home study agency

We sent the briefing and info to our references and asked for their letters to be done by Nov. 14

Our list for this week:

  • Apply for my new passport (will do tomorrow)
  • Get all of our bank letters straightened out (including the manual statement stuff for USAA)
  • Schedule a meeting with my CFO (yep, that's right, no HR department at my job...) to get my notarized employment letter and notarized proof of insurance for adopted child/children
  • Figure out how to get the notarized proof of no criminal activity form (somehow we need to show up at our police precinct, bring our own notary, and get this done...yeah, that's going to be an interesting experience in NYC:-) Ababa went by our local precinct today and it was full of people getting booked...
  • make sure all homestudy paperwork is done and they have submitted all of our criminal and child abuse clearances
Please pray that our passports and criminal/child abuse clearances all go through quickly!  Everything else seems to be coming together to be done by November 15th.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Update #1

I think I am going to try to give an update of where we are in The Paper Chase each Friday (if nothing else it will give my procrastinating-self a deadline to get that week's stuff out:-)

This week was a little touch and go as I've been sick with a nasty sinus infection and Ababa has been figuring out his next steps following the lay-off. Also, his wallet was left at a Taco Bell en route back to NYC from Virginia last weekend, so we can't get forms notarized or apply for his passport until we have his license (we spoke to the manager 3 hours after we left Taco Bell--when we realized it was missing--and they are mailing it, it's just taking a while to get to NYC.  We're monitoring our bank account closely just in case:-)'s our first official Friday Update.

1. YAY! We got an email today saying our escrow release has been approved.  This is awesome as it means we can send the next big check to our homestudy agency and apply for our passports (first one ever for Ababa and first one with my new married name for me)
2. We are all set for our Drs appts in mid-Nov to get our homestudy and dossier forms signed and notarize--the appointments are made, our Dr takes our insurance, and we have a notary lined up to come to our appointments with us.
3. All of our criminal and child abuse clearances have been sent off and are in process, I sent the final one to PA today.  (We do need to get a form notarized ASAP and send it to our homestudy agency to   release the results of these clearances to them.)
4. We sent in the request for more notarized copies of our marriage certificate today

I have a big marketing case study assignment due at school tomorrow so this will be short, but goals to be done by next Friday (provided Ababa's wallet shows up) are:

1. Mail letters to our other two banks to change my name on the accounts and to request the notarized bank letter for our dossier.
2. Apply for our passports (Ababa's will have to wait until his license arrives)
3. Send notarized release for clearance form to our home study agency
4. Draft briefing for our references and give them the info to write our reference letters

*Sigh* This definitely makes my head hurt, but I know in the end it will all be worth it!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weddings, lay-offs, and paperwork

We've had an interesting past few days....

My little brother got married this weekend (congrats to D&A!).  It was an awesome wedding and a great weekend with family.

We're still slogging through the paperwork for our adoption.  We need to make a trip to the notary, so that we can send in the latest round of paperwork, which is difficult given both of our demanding work schedules...but our schedules may have just become a little easier as Ababa was unfortunately laid off today.

Ababa knew that a large round of lay offs was happening at his company during October, but his boss thought Ababa's job was safe.  Well, at the last minute his whole division (except his boss who is very senior) was added to the list.  Obviously this is not ideal,  but it may be a blessing.  He was starting school part-time in the spring semester to prepare for his career transition into medicine and now he has more flexibility in terms of classes/schedule/school...and may even be able to go full-time. So, we'll see what the job market offers and what school situations seem best for our family.

We are still moving forward with the adoption (Ababa may even get to be a daytime stay-at-home dad/nighttime student for a while:-) but obviously this does change the financial picture for our a family.  Many thanks to those of you who have offered direct financial support, funding from tax returns in the spring, hosting yard sales, etc. over the past few weeks.  We would probably have taken you up on it either way, but we are definitely going to be taking you up on it now:-)  Thank you for your amazing generosity!  I'll post more details about the financial side of adoption later this week so that you have a full and transparent view of the costs and how that money is spent.

We knew adoption would be a big adventure.  It's shaping up to be an even greater adventure than we thought, but we know that we are so blessed in every way possible and believe that even if our financial situation is a little less flush that we have much to offer a child/children and that God has given us much to share--financially, spiritually, and emotionally.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Status Update: We both got fingerprinted today and we scheduled our physicals for early November.  Ababa's birth certificate arrived in a record 24 hours!  We got our money's worth out of that express service fee! I changed my name at Social Security and submitted or bank letter requests...but...I am sending in some additional paper work so that the letter will have my new full legal name b/c apparently foreign governments are even more picky about names matching than the U.S. government. We'll give another update on Friday but it's looking good to accomplish all our tasks for this week.

For fingerprinting we each went to different places near our work.  Gone are the days of ink fingerprinting, it's now all done via a scanner.  I took a cab to my appointment, but traffic was horrible.  I needed to get to 36 and 7th Avenue.  On the west side of 9th Avenue and 34th my cabbie decided he was off-duty and refused to go any further.  So I speed walked/jogged to the appointment.  Needless to say my usually sweaty palms were out of control and the technician and I were both uncertain if the scan would work...but it did!  Thanks to some persistent paper toweling:-) For some reason we'll have to get finger printed again after our I-600A form is filed.  That's called biometric fingerprinting. I'm not really sure how that's different than what we got done today, but our home study agency said for sure we'll have to get another set of prints done then.  I'll keep you posted:-)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Papers, papers, papers

We got our dossier guide on Friday.  Whew!  I can't even imagine how many trees are being killed in this process...

Here's our current to-do list.

This week:

For homestudy
-Return a notarized release form so they can run our criminal clearances
-Each of us needs to get fingerprinted
-Each of us needs to schedule physicals with our Drs
-Change my name at Social Security (I got the DMV part done, but need to try to catch SS when they open, usually the wait is too long and it doesn't work with my work schedule)

For Dossier
-Order notarized letters from our banks and investment accounts (this is supposed to be a giant pain in the you know what...I sent the initial inquiries today so we'll see how it goes)
-Order the transcript of Ababa's 2007 tax return from the IRS b/c we can't seem to find it
-Order extra original certified copies of our marriage certificate

Still left:
-Order Ababa's passport (can't do this until his birth certificate arrives) and a new passport for me with my married name
-Give our references the guidelines for reference letters
-Have our in-person homestudy visit
-get notarized employment letters
-get notarized physician statements (yep...we have to bring a notary to our Dr's appointments!)
-Type and notarize some misc. documents for the dossier and homestudy (adoption petition, etc)

Right now we're just moving forward one step at a time.  Our goal is to have the dossier and homestudy wrapped up before Christmas--ideally Thanksgiving! (The biggest potential hold-ups are the criminal and child abuse clearances, the bank letters, and NYS approval of our home study.)  Once our dossier is complete and approved then we will officially be on the waitlist and the official waiting countdown can begin.

Once our homestudy is approved then we can get biometrically finger printed and submit a form called the I-600A to USCIS (US Customs and Immigration Services).  This form is the "Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan".  Once the US government determines that they approve our adoption an Ethiopian child then we get the I-171H.  This is the form we have to have in order to be able to accept the referral of a child. Processing time is quite variable and can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months!

The whole long homestudy and dossier process exists just so you can get this form.  Kind of anti-climactic, right:-) I think we'll be grinning from ear to ear the day this form shows up in our mailbox!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Prayer and other things...

An awesome lady in our church hosts a women's prayer group the first Friday of every month.  Tonight was a great and much needed night of prayer, and our adoption process got lots and lots of prayer:-)  I had a crazy thought tonight though...Odds are really good that our child/children are already born.  If we don't get matched with a sibling group (in which case there is huge variability), our child is probably a little boy between 0-18 months right now. We prayed for this child, for his mother, for their whole family, and for whatever circumstances would lead to him being put up for adoption.

Adoption is a wonderful miracle; but it also stems from a horrible tragedy.  In order for us to experience the amazing joy of meeting our child and having the privilege of parenting him, his birth mother and extended family have to experience truly untenable circumstances.  

We believe in adoption and that it is a joyous and amazing thing to commit to unconditionally loving a child and to become a family; however, that joy has a dark side.  There is a horrible, painful, jagged scar on the other side that effects many people.  It may fade somewhat with time, but it is always there.  So, tonight we prayed for that.  For healing, for peace, for protection... for my child's mother, for her life, for her circumstances, for her extended family.  I don't know what to pray exactly, but I know that God knows them, he knows their life, He loves them, and he hears my prayer.

At some point down the road we'll probably need to start fundraising to provide the necessary funds to complete our adoption and we hope you'll consider helping to support us at that time.  In the meantime, if you feel called to give, here is one of my favorite organizations.  Just the seemingly simple act of having access to clean water can transform lives.  Watch the video and take a minute to think about what exactly clean water can provide.  

$20 can give one person clean water for 20 years

$5000 can provide clean water for an entire village of 250 people for 20 years

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's really happening!

Today we got confirmation from our agency that they received all our documents and are processing them. Also, the homestudy agency is starting our child abuse and criminal clearances (these typically take the longest of all the components of the homestudy so it's important to start them first) so...we're on track to meet our goal of getting all our paperwork done, approved, and sent to Ethiopia before Christmas (but we're only one step into this journey, so a lot can change!)

Hopefully, we'll get the dossier preparation guide by the end of the week and we can start to tackle that giant heap of paperwork.  In the meantime, we're hoping the co-op will approve the release of our escrow tomorrow so that we can pay the next round of checks:-)

Monday, October 4, 2010

We're off and running!

Today I made a big trip to the post office:-) Yep, I mailed the two items someone recently purchased from me on ebay...

Just kidding (well, I did that too) but the really exciting news is...

We mailed our long application, autobiographies, and policy forms with the non-refundable "big check" as well as our homestudy agreement with the child abuse and criminal checks. I think it was about 80 pages of documents in total.  You can't quite tell from the photo, but the express mail envelope could barely close and the right-hand corner kept popping up:-)

Yep, I was the loon taking pictures of her envelopes at the post office in mid-town Manhattan:-)  (excuse the extra priority labels, a girl has to keep somethings--like her address-- a mystery right?)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The paper pile gets bigger:-)

We've now doubled the size of signed papers on our dining room table:-)  We chose a homestudy agency, so we completed all of that initial paperwork tonight and I now have a GIANT stack of papers to take to the post office tomorrow!

  • 1 stack for our placement agency-with a check for $2150 for the first half of our agency fee
  • 1 stack for our home study agency-I think we send this $1850 check later, but I'll call in the morning to confirm
  • 1 stack for our co-op board-with a $50 check for the mandatory credit check (I'm actually going to need to have this delivered tomorrow-depending on how my work day unfolds I'll either hand deliver it myself or pay for a messenger service)

We had a clothing swap at our church today and I may or may not have brought home 2 shopping bags of adorable clothes-mostly gender neutral-for ages 12-36 months....they were cute, pretty much new (some still had the original tags on), and free.  I figure it doesn't get better than that:-)

Thanks so much to everyone who wished us Happy Anniversary. We can't believe it's been a year!!! We missed our tour of Kykuit due to INSANE traffic (it took almost 3 hours to get there, including a cab hitting a pedestrian which blocked traffic for quite a while) but we had a wonderful time exploring Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown by car and on foot.  Then we had dinner at Castle on the Hudson. The cheese course was delish!

We accidentally wandered into the Westchester Art Festival and we bought our first piece of art!  Ababa and I both loved this artist's work so we thought it was a great way to commemorate our first anniversary and purchased a piece.  We're going to hang it in the front hall for now, but in the future we'd love to have a tryptic to hang over our living room sofa.

Here's the link to the artist--the birch series is AMAZING:
Steve Ward

Our painting is from this series (but the colors in ours are darker, it's smaller and square, and has more aggressive movement:-).  It is framed in a simple birch floating frame and really looks fantastic!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First set of notarized papers!

There's a big stack of papers sitting on our dining room table!  They're official and ready to go on in the mail on Monday!!! It's our policy documents which will officially start this process in motion:-)

They are signed, sealed, notarized and ready to go!  Yay!!!  We'll be dropping them in the mail on Monday along with our financial documents for the co-op board to officially release our escrow so we can pay the first set of fees.

Our first wedding anniversary is officially tomorrow (though we celebrated today by spending the afternoon in Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow and going to the Castle on the Hudson for dinner).  Ababa is THRILLED that LSU managed to win at the last minute today (and I am thrilled that he's thrilled:-) All in all, it's been a great day:-)

We should get the guidelines for the dossier sometime next week (once our agency processes our policy documents) and I'll be back with all the gory details for the step-by-step of the dossier process. In the meantime, we are starting the documents for our home study, all 56 pages of them!  They don't call this The Paper Chase for nothing!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why adopt now?

I was talking to one of my brothers today and he asked me why we chose now to start the adoption process, we have demanding jobs, are in school at night, and are still relatively young (at least for New Yorkers:-)

I have wanted to adopt for as long as I can remember.  Ababa has been considering it, but in the year since we got married he's really started seriously contemplating adoption.  We decided for sure that we would really like to have a children join our family through both birth and adoption.  We thought given biology, finances, space, etc. that we would wait to adopt until later on.

A few things prompted us to start the process now...

1. We both feel ready/called/and very eager to become parents now
2. Our hearts and minds have become more and more open to and aware of the tremendous need for adoption
3. We haven't gotten pregnant (and even if we become pregnant during this process there is flexibility to complete our adoption if we've been matched to a child)
4. There is a tax credit that expires in 2012 which will help us afford the legal and other fees associated with adoption (the 2011 tax credit is $13,701 and the 2012 credit is slated to be $5000--obviously we're hoping to complete our adoption in 2011:-)
5. Although our schedules are currently busy, we do have the flexibility to scale back for a while when a child/children joins our family, this will be much more difficult when Ababa goes to medical school in a few years

So, after much prayer and considering we are stepping forward in faith, joyfully waiting to see where God leads us and how he grows our family!