Friday, November 18, 2011

Important Update from USCIS re visa processing

I'm posting this for all my friends (and friends I haven't met yet:-) who are still in process in case they haven't seen it yet...

Dear Stakeholder-

A USCIS team of four officers arrived in Ethiopia and began working
at Embassy Addis Ababa on November 7, 2011. As of the date of this
notice, the team has received 63 "not clearly approvable"
cases from Embassy Addis, and expects to receive at least 1 more case
before they depart on Friday, November 18, 2011. The following provides
a summary of the results of the team's review of the cases as of
November 15, 2011:

Approvals Issued: 36

Requests for Evidence Issued: 9

Notices of Intent to Deny Issued: 1

Under USCIS Team Review 9

Pending Birth Relative Interview 8

Pending Physical Transfer 1

During the team's first days in Addis, they began reviewing the
cases, and established procedures necessary for completing
adjudication and issuing notices. Embassy Addis is providing the
resources necessary for USCIS to be able to adjudicate the not clearly
approvable cases. Although the team has encountered some technological
challenges, the team has been issuing decisions and notices as soon as
they are able.

All cases that the team is able to approve before they depart from
Addis Ababa will stay with the Consular Section in Embassy Addis Ababa,
for immediate scheduling of immigrant visa processing. Families that
receive an approval notice will be contacted directly by the U.S.
Embassy within three business days. We strongly recommend that
families wait to be contacted regarding an immigrant visa interview
before making travel arrangements. Cases that require a Request for
Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny will be sent to the USCIS Rome
District Office for further processing.

Each family that received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent
to Deny should carefully read the instructions regarding where to send
additional evidence to avoid delays in processing that could be caused
by sending the evidence to the incorrect USCIS Office. USCIS has
decided to utilize additional resources at the Rome District Office in
the ongoing processing of some of the affected cases in an effort to
ensure that they are processed to completion as quickly as possible.

In the coming weeks, USCIS and DOS will schedule another stakeholder
call to provide a briefing on the team's work in Addis Ababa, and
an update on how processing will proceed going forward for any new
cases identified by Embassy Addis Ababa as not clearly approvable.

Kind Regards,

Office of Public Engagement

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services <>

November 16, 2011
Notice: Procedure for Processing Adoption Cases
This notice provides supplemental information to the adoption notice
of October 7, 2011, adding additional details on the process
applicable to orphan petitions filed with a U.S. Embassy Consular
Section overseas. While the description has been tailored to answer
inquiries specific to Ethiopia, the steps described in this
explanation apply to all non-Hague countries. This notice only
describes the process for Forms I-600 filed with U.S. Embassy Addis
Ababa. For processing information on cases filed domestically with
USCIS through the National Benefits Center (NBC), please refer to the
USCIS website at

Once adoptive parents are in possession of the final adoption decree
from the Federal First Instance Court, approval letters from the
Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, the child's birth
certificate and Ethiopian passport, and all other required Form I-600
supporting documentation, they (or their authorized agent) may file
Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, with
the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa if they have met the physical
presence requirements for filing a Form I-600 petition overseas.

Upon receipt of the Form I-600 and accompanying documentation, the U.S.
Embassy begins the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption,
orphan status investigation – the process to determine if the child
meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law. The time
frame for completion of the Form I-604 determination depends on the
circumstances of each case, but can take up to several weeks or
months. During this time, additional information or documentation may
be requested by the U.S. Embassy for cases with insufficient or
deficient supporting evidence to determine orphan status.

In certain cases it may be necessary to interview the child's
Ethiopian birth parent(s) or guardian, or the individual who found an
abandoned child, to resolve errors or discrepancies discovered in the
case file. The U.S. Embassy conducts such interviews for cases in
which the consular officer deems interview(s) necessary to make a
determination on the child's orphan status. Birth relative and
other interviews are often an integral part of the Form I-604

The U.S. Embassy must then determine whether the case is clearly
approvable. If a case is clearly approvable, the U.S. Embassy approves
the Form I-600 petition and issues an immigrant visa. If there are
questions regarding the child's orphan status or the information is
insufficient to make a determination, federal regulation requires that
the U.S. Embassy forwards the case as "not clearly approvable"
to the USCIS Field Office in Nairobi, Kenya, for further processing.
When this occurs, the U.S. Embassy sends out a transfer notice to the
petitioners when the case is physically forwarded to USCIS Nairobi, and
provides contact information for further questions.

Upon receipt of a petition identified as "not clearly
approvable," the USCIS Nairobi Field Office notifies the
parent(s) that the case has been received and issues requests for
additional evidence and other notices, if necessary. Upon review of
all available evidence including any response to a Request for
Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny, USCIS issues a decision and
notify the petitioners. For details of the USCIS process, please
visit USCIS' Ethiopia Q&A page
<http://www.uscis. gov/portal/ site/uscis/ menuitem. 5af9bb95919f35e6 6f61417\
6543f6d1a/?vgnextoi d=7c82d1f2465ae2 10VgnVCM10000008 2ca60aRCRD& vgnextchan\
nel=ecab18a1f8b7321 0VgnVCM100000082 ca60aRCRD
> .

If the case is approved, USCIS Nairobi returns the case to the U.S. Embassy for visa
processing. http://adoption. country_informat ion/country_ specific_ alerts_no\
tices.php?alert_ notice_type= notices&alert_ notice_file= ethiopia_ 13

<http://adoption. country_informat ion/country_ specific_ alerts_n\
otices.php?alert_ notice_type= notices&alert_ notice_file= ethiopia_ 13

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Families stick together!

We had our first post-placement visit tonight.  Everything went really well and B was in a great mood, just talking to me the whole time.  He really wasn't interested at all in talking to the social worker.  it was nice to see him want to stick with us and not try to reach out to strangers!

But oh, my heart...after she left Ababa gave me a hug in the kitchen which B saw so he ran over to hug us too (he has started doing this recently, we love it, it's a big family hug!) and B gets a shy but huge grin on his face and says "families stick together" while he stretches his arms around Ababa and me!   

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dasicho Bib!

Betcha don't know what a dasicho bib is:-)  All in good time...all in good time...

We have had a big past few days:

  • B's Dr's appt--where he had his first blood test
  • Finding out that B has lost 2 pounds since we got home
  • scooping vials of poop at home for a stool sample (this was all Ababa)
  • family pictures by a professional photographer (really hope they come out well as B's undertaker look was in full swing
  • B's baptism-very exciting for us and our church, but a little stressful for B so we're trying to make time for extra cuddles today
  • a big Fresh Direct order...hey, that's major excitement in our house, especially since our elevator has been being replaced for the past month so we currently live in a 4th floor walk-up:-)

I'll probably post about each with photos (oh yeah, I totally took pics of the poop vials)...but for now, just know that we've been busy... very, very busy and our gem of the week in terms of B-isms is "Dasicho Bib".

What is a dasicho bib you may ask?  Well, "dasicho" means "bug" in Amharic, "bib" is pretty self-explanatory.  So, what's a "bug bib"?

Well...when B was getting his blood drawn at the Dr. they told him it would feel like a bug bite.  Then they put a bandaid over the draw site.  For some reason B decided this was a bib.  So, he started calling all bandaids "dasicho bibs"...

That's my funny, funny little boy!:-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yummy things to eat!

Oh my sweet child cracks me up everyday:-)

His newest thing is to say "this is B's yummy things to eat" whenever we are having something he likes for a meal.

The other day, Ababa told B what they were having for lunch, but kept checking his email for a minute.  B excitedly bounded off towards the kitchen, stopped halfway there, turned around, deliberately held out his hand to Ababa and said "Ababa, let's go, we have yummy things to eat!"

He is also convinced that any box or envelope that arrives is a present for him and will very determinedly declare, "mommy, this is B's present" if I try to open the box.

He also now thinks that all boxes should be opened with knives (since we get everything in the mail and it usually has packing tape, we run a knife through the tape before opening).  It will be a LONG time before he gets to open a package on his own.

He calls (m&ms--our current potty training treat) m-ms (the "and" just doesn't seem to stick) and his typical potty monologue goes something like this "mommy, diaper dry...B shinte on the po-po....mommy, he'll be back (we're still working on pronouns:-)...mommy's getting potty treat...mommy's getting m-m"

His favorite books now are "The Snail and the Whale" "My Lucky Day" "Chicken Soup with Rice" and "The Little Engine That Could" but he still loves any and all books, including his faves from ET.

His singing repertoire now includes "eeesseee beeesseee spidah (itsy bitsy spider)" "roooooowroooooowroooow (row row row your boat)" and "twinkle (twinkle twinkle little star)" as well as "Jesus loves me" and "Where is Thumbkin". He's learning patty-cake and the hokey pokey and is getting pretty accurate with his letters and r/l hands (obviously ababa is teaching him that, since mama still has issues with r/l:-).  Numbers are still interesting, 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 3 anyone?  In our house, that's how we count right now:-)

Thank you so much for all the lovely presents and notes we've received in the mail.  We're slowly but surely sending out thank you notes, so hopefully by Christmas we'll be caught-up:-)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First World Problems...and however many million orphans...

Since we've been back in the US, life has been challenging in many ways.  In terms of bonding, attachment, becoming a family, we've been doing pretty well, 1. b/c of God's grace ('cause goodness knows we are far from perfect parents) and 2. b/c we've been working very hard on those things in positive, age-appropriate ways and in keeping B's world as close and Mama/Ababa centric as possible.  He's still figuring out what a family is and how to be part of one and we are still trying to figure out how to be his parents:-)  He may look quiet and shy and like we're one big happy family and everything is ok when we are out and about.  He's not, we're not, it's not, and we are all working very hard and processing a lot.   Please remember this and be sensitive.

Coming home from Ethiopia was hard for me.  We lived there for 3 months.  I went from 24/7 with B to back at work at a crazy job and on a good day only getting to see him for 30-60 minutes in the morning and about 1-1.5 hours in the evening.  I'm wading through insurance paperwork, readoption paperwork, our finances, post-placement report scheduling, figuring out childcare, making decisions about my school schedule and how I am going to finish my MBA (oh yeah, life is going to get even more "fun" in January), and trying to spend every minute I can at home with B b/c I feel like I don't have nearly enough time with him.

Ababa has been a great SAHD and is rocking out in his EMT class and figuring out his classes for January, but we're still navigating all the other aspects that go along with him being the stay at home parent and figuring out how to shift some of this crazy load from my plate onto his.

Last week I had one particularly awful day where I got stuck at work with my boss on one of the craziest tirades ever, waited for a subway for 40 minutes, made Ababa late for class and he missed a quiz, he had burned dinner and not done the laundry (which meant no clean pajamas or diapers for B), and when I met him by his class to hand-off/pick-up B I was near tears.  It didn't get better as he told me about dinner and the laundry and I walked home while pushing a cranky B (did I mention that transitions are still pretty tough for B?).

I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated.  I was fighting back tears and on the verge of just sitting on a stoop and crying.  A giant rat ran in front of us which B was convinced was a squirrel and thought was great, me not so much!  I ordered a pizza and kept it together enough to feed B, play with him, give him a bath, and put him to bed (in a disposable diaper I found in the closet, a long sleeved tshirt, a pair of babylegs, and an extra blanket).

Then I pretty much zoned out on the couch (literally, like clutch a pillow and stare into space zone out, b/c your brain is to fried to do anything) until Ababa got home and we discussed how to make things better and not have so much of this fall on me right now.  We're still figuring that out, but we're working on it.

The thing that is especially weird/hard/poignant/ that while I am stressed about all these things in my life, I am painfully aware of how insignificant these things really are.  We saw suffering and poverty that I couldn't even imagine while we were in Ethiopia.  We became very aware of the vast number of orphans (147 million is that statistic frequently bandied around, though that number is significantly larger than the number of orphans who need/are legally free to be adopted and significantly smaller than the number of people who live in abject poverty).  How do we help them?  How do I freak out about not spending enough time with my son and about my insane job and about our $1250 a month health insurance premium (yes, you read that number right!) when I have seen people who don't have enough to eat or drink, who can't walk, who are covered with visible tumors, who have nowhere to sleep and no one to love them or take care of them.

When I learn of orphans like the 6 month old baby in the DRC who was deliberately thrown into a deep cistern and left to die (he was rescued but was infested with maggots and will likely have long-term medical issues from that) or the precious little girl I met while in ET who was given to a witch doctor by her mother and was horrifically mistreated by him, and is now stuck in an orphanage but not able to be adopted (despite there being a family in the US who met her and desperately want to adopt her) or the little girl in fostercare her in NYC who has been returned to her birthmother but continues to be neglected and while the fostermother (who would be overjoyed to adopt her and/or to be part of her life) is still in her life in someways is very limited in how she can help.

How do my problems fit into this much larger web of problems?  Our world is sick and broken and in need of redemption!  That's really all I know.

Two videos that pretty much sum this week up for me (the first is about first world problems and the second was my anthem in ET.  They played it my first week at church in Addis and the tears just rolled down my cheeks for about 1000 reasons).