Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Better New Year!

I know it's not socially accepted to not be all cheery and happy on New Year's Eve. I know every single one of us is expected to smile so wide our cheeks hurt when we distribute happy and hopeful wishes to those we love.

But Hey! It's my party and I cry if I want to!
So if you're going to be shocked to read something depressing on New Year's Eve, have a happy new year and skip the rest of this post.

In all honesty, I don't feel like celebrating much today... I'm usually the first to wear Christmas lights earrings and to write long emails to reminisce all the sweet moments of the old year. But this year, the holidays are bitter-sweet.
I've spent 2011 in a job I love. Pablo and I have traveled a lot this year. We spent the very first minute of the year hugging my sister and brother-in-law with the Sydney Harbour fireworks in the background. We got married and decided on a beautiful way to have a child. We got an adorable new niece. I spent my 30th birthday being spoiled big time by my friends and family. For all that, I am grateful. Yet, I have a hard time seeing 2011 as an overall positive year. I have spent most of the year navigating from Hope to Shattered Hope, or trying to fill empty hours, days, waiting for time to pass.
And I dread the year to come. 2012 is going to be another 12 months of waiting, with a fun little surgery in spring, just to make it spicier. It's also going to be another childless Christmas and another bitter-sweet New Year's Eve.
I'm going to try very hard to have a good New Year's Eve party (we're having a friend over tonight).
I'm also going to remind myself the cool stuff that this new year has in store. A trip back to Australia, a new goddaughter, 2 very much anticipated visits from friends in out little western heaven, another year with the man of my life.

To all of you, I wish a healthy, happy 2012, filled with love and good surprises. For ourselves, I wish a lot of courage and resilience.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Best Pho in Town

Everytime we go to Calgary (or almost), Pablo and I go to the same Vietnamese restaurant.They make a great Pho Ga that warms you up from the inside...
The lady who owns the place is this lovely vietnamese woman with a very limited knowledge of the English language. She always walks the rows to chat with the customers in her broken English, making sure the food is to their taste. Because we go there so often, she knows us. She often comments to Pablo on how pretty his girl is (how could I not love her?!), or just throws a few words on how long it's been since we last went for her soup. What she cannot say with words, she makes up for with her smile.

We went yesterday. They had decorated the restaurant for Christmas and Christmas music was playing in the background. The Buddha that always stands on the counter was still in the same spot. Before we left, this lady just yelled across the restaurant: "Merry Christmas! Baby boy this year!".
I laughed and said we were working on this. We never told her we were adopting...

I sure hope she has a gift of foresight!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Image from http://images.elephantjournal.com/
A very Merry Christmas to all!

Regardless of your religion, background, beliefs, age or situation, may Santa bring comfort to the grieving, health to the sick, hope to the hopeless, satisfaction to those waiting and love to all!

Have a wonderful Christmas time and remember to enjoy every moment with the ones you love!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dear Birthmother...

There is a good chance you don’t celebrate Christmas. But for me, it’s a time to think about family and loved ones, near or far. And I can’t help but think about you.
Who are you? Where are you? I hope you are well... Are you already pregnant? Have you already made a decision for the future of your child? If so, you’re probably going through the most difficult moments of your life...
I hope you are living well. I hope you have all the food and water that you need, a roof over your head and all the love and support that you deserve.
I wish I could tell you that you are in our hearts and that you will not be forgotten.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Waste Two Months for Nothing

There is an expression in French - To Cut a Hair in Four...
That's along the length of the hair, of course... It means to spend tremendous time and energy on tiny little details that are perfectly useless.

Well I think our government is trying to cut a hair in four! We got a call from our agency. Apparently, our government doesn't know what to do with our Home Study since Pablo's name is not exactly the same on all documents. I'm not talking John vs Pablo!
You know how, in Canada and the US, we have middle names? These second names appear on the most official documents (birth certificates and such), but most people never use it and have only one first name on bank statements, passports and driver's licenses.
Well in Ecuador, where Pablo is from, there is a similar concept for last names. Every child receives the last name of the father and that of the mother, without a hyphen. Most people just use their dad's last name and most documents only show one last name. But the birth certificate and other government issued documents have 2 last names. Actually, Pablo has 4 names (including first and middle) on his birth certificate and passport, and only 2 on his driver's license.

For some reason, it's OK for me to omit my middle name for not for Pablo to go by only one last name!
Our agent said she would talk to her government contact and let us know if we had to do anything about this. She said we may have to re-sign our Home Study.

I don't know if that'll be necessary, but if we have to re-sign the whole thing, I'm estimating a 2 months time loss. What a silly reason to delay getting our child!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Requirements to Adopt from Sri Lanka

Thanks to Dean, a reader of this blog, I have gotten much more precise and reliable information to hand down to you! He has obtained documents that detail the actual requirements to adopt in Sri Lanka from another country. We knew we were eligible, but some people asked me if I thought they were and I couldn’t tell for their specific situation... So here it is:
-          You must be legally married. There is nothing about same sex couples in the document, but I doubt they would be elligible.
-          Both parents must be over 25 years old, and at least 21 years older than the child they wish to adopt.
-          A Home Study done by an organization that is recognized by the country of residence must be sent with the Dossier.
-          Both parents are required to attend the Court hearing in Sri Lanka. There is an exception to this: If one of the parents is too ill to attend and obtains a Medical Certificate issued by a practitioner recognized by the government of their country of residence.
-          There is a 4 to 6 weeks stay in Sri Lanka. The applicants are expected to travel only after they have received the Letter of Allocation from the Commissioner.
-          The Dossier has to be sent to the Sri Lanka diplomatic mission in the country of origin for authentication. They will then send it to the authorities in SL.
That’s it! No minimal marriage time, no maximum age or specific financial requirements! Thank you Dean!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Some Good News!

Pablo phoned our agency in Alberta today, to get a status update on our Home Study report. It turns out it has been sent out for government approval earlier this week!
So we can expect an approval letter in the second half of January.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Any News?

I have been keeping an eye on the news stories from Sri Lanka, but haven't seen anything new with regards to the Mother Teresa convent arrest.

So I want to offer this post as an opportunity to share our information. We have quite a few silent readers from around the world. I'm assuming some are waiting adoptive parents. Please leave a comment to this post to share with other waiting parents any information your agency has given you.
Even in a little while, when this post starts getting a bit older, I would love to know when one of you first hears of a post-arrest child match from Sri Lanka!

After all, we're all in the same boat!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hail to the Hague Convention!

As you can imagine, we called both our agencies today.
I'm glad our Home Study agency is separate from our matching agency, it gives us access to knowledgeable professionals who are unbiased, as they have no particular interest in seeing us adopt from Sri Lanka.
We were both very worried about the risk of adopting a child from illegal traffic without knowing. I'm not saying that the child trafficking allegations are true, but it's not completely impossible... And I don't want to spend my life wondering if our child has been abducted or bought from their birth family!
Our agent in Alberta has assured us that the adoptive family would almost certainly be aware of the situation, if the child was trafficked. She says they would have to be involved in the crime. Also, Canadian immigration and adoption laws are very tight. If our Ontario agency is licensed and we obtain the legal paperwork to adopt, it's that every little detail along the way, including the child's situation, has been closely monitored by Canadian authorities. I believe this also applies to a lot of western countries. It was a huge relief to know that we would not unknowingly be involved in such horribly unethical actions!
Our matching agent, the one in Ontario, did not sound too worried for the future of the program. She said adoptions may slow down for a little while, but she trusts it will go back to normal. We'll have to wait and see...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Facts About the Adoption Ban

Talk about a bump on the road!
There are rumors circulating...

Here are the available facts:
The superior nun of a catholic convent South of Colombo has been arrested last Friday. The Mother Teresa convent in Moratuwa is suspected of having sold children for money by the National Child Protection Authority of Sri Lanka. The sister has since been released, but there is a ban on foreign adoptions in this particular convent. The sisters, backed up by the catholic church, deny all involvement in child trafficking.
Sri Lanka is a member of the Hague convention and has strict adoption laws.
There is a BBC article here.

So far, the impact this will have on international adoptions from other convents and orphanages is unknown. We do not know what the consequences on this particular convent will be. We will be sure to call our agent in Ontario on Monday!

I have no idea wether these accusations are true or not. I sure hope this will be investigated fairly and thoroughly. Pablo and I really want this Cinnamon Baby and we can't wait to meet him/her. But NEVER in the world would we want to adopt a child who has been bought from his family!

I'll keep you posted as we find out more. In the meantime, my thoughts are with those who have a child waiting for them in this convent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Update on Nothing

I know, I haven't posted much lately...
You know why that is? BECAUSE NOTHING IS HAPPENING!!!
I was all optimistic after we signed our Home Study report and sent it back. Our agency got it alright, but it turned out our agent had not reviewed it all. She had signed it so it could be sent as soon as she's reviewed it, even while she's travelling. So I guess she is reviewing it right now and will approve it sometime this week.
I just hope our government doesn't take too long to approve us. Our file will be with them over the Christmas holiday!
Oh well!
In the meantime, we're still trying to get our Ontario agency to send their registration package to us...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tio R.

My Brother-in-Law has translated our Birth Certificates to English for us. He's such a sweetheart! He did it in less than a week, and for a kiss on the cheek!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Across the Country and Back

The timing wasn't the best. But then again, it's never perfect...
Pablo and I are in Montreal, celebrating my birthday with our friends and family. I'm glad we came, it's great to spend some time with the family, go back to places we used to love when we first started dating and eat at our favorite latino restaurant.
But our Home Study report is ready, we're 4000 km from our agency's office, and our agent is on vacation right now... So we have spent the last week coordinating our report's signature... It has to be signed by our social worker, our agent and both Pablo and I. Thankfully, our agency recognizes how important this is for us, and they rushed the editing of our report so that our agent could sign it before leaving for her vacation. They sent it to my Mom's house, in Montreal, via Purolator. It cost $40, but it was there overnight. Pablo and I signed it over the week-end and we mailed it back to the office in Calgary, for the social worker to sign. It should be there on Wednesday. Once it's signed by everyone, our agency will send it to the Alberta government for approval. In total , it will probably cost us around $150 just in courrier services for the Home Study report. Oh well... at least it's going fast! So far, we're about 1 week earlier than I had planned.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In Labor...

They say (jokingly) you get enough paper cuts to make up for the pain of delivering a new born. Adopting involves a lot of paperwork, and with is comes a lot of time and efforts invested in trying to deal with institutionnal bureaucracy and its bland representatives. There is also the indiscretion of the Home Study, and the feeling of being constantly judged. The social worker, the extended family, the agency (and we have two of these), even the random strangers who learn about our adoption have an opinion about us and about our project, and somehow feel entitled to sharing it with us. And there is the constant edginess that all this intrusion has left me with, I don't even recognize myself. There is also a lot of frustration, worry and uncertainty.

But you know what I find really difficult? It's the slow ticking of the seconds when nothing is left to do! At least, when we are chasing paperwork, there is something to be done, there is a sense of moving forward. I hated the Home Study interviews, but it felt awesome to cross these on my to-do list.

I can only imagine how hard it will be to wait for a referral once our Dossier is gone!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Lied to You!

I just got my Birth Certificate by mail. And IT'S IN FRENCH!!!
I already have that, thank you very much! I needed an English copy to avoid having to translate it... Well it turns out I was mistaken. The original act can be filled in French OR in English. The parents decide this. Once this is done, the certificates and copies of the act will always be delivered in the original language. My parents filled my act in French when I was born, so I can't get a certificate in English.

I realize this is of little interest to most of you, but I think I have to correct the information I gave you...

Thank heavens for my professional translator brother-in-law :-D

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Results are in...

Our social worker is a super-woman: she has produced a 23 pages report, which represents us fairly and accurately, in just one week!

She sent her first draft today for us to review. She was missing a few dates and facts, but most of the report was done.

At the end, a section called Recommendation states the following:
It is recommended that Pablo and Genevieve be approved, to adopt a healthy male or female infant, or twins, under the age of 13 months old at the time of adoption, from Sri Lanka.
Yippeeee!!!!

She will now send it for editing and it will be sent to the government for approval.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Way Ahead

Right now, we have one foot in the Home Study process, and the other foot in the Dossier Preparation process. While our social worker is writing the first version of our Home Study report, we have started to gather information from our Ontario agency.
Our Dossier will consist of:
- Our approved Home Study report
- Our approved International Adoption Application
- Both our Birth Certificates, translated to English and notarized
- Our Marriage Certificate, notarized
- Our Medical Reports, notarized
- Our Interpol and RCMP police checks, notarized
- Our Employment Letters, notarized
- Copies of our Passports, notarized
- 2 Passport Photos each, notarized
- A few forms that our agency will send us once we register with them

In the next few weeks, while we wait for the Home Study report, I need to get my passport redone (it's expiring in December!), Pablo has to get his Birth Certificate translated and we both need to get passport photos taken. Then, we will make an appointment with a lawyer to notarize everything. We should also have received the forms from our agency, so we can fill these out.
If we manage to do all this by the end of the year, we should be ready to send our Dossier as soon as the approved Home Study comes in!

The interview weeks were somewhat of a break from paperwork. Now here we go again!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Few Hints for the Home Study

While we’re waiting for the report, here are a few things you might like to know before you start the Home Study process:
-          Prepare! They want to know that you’re not just diving head first into this. Do you know a little about the country? What is the language, the religion? Why are there kids available there? How old are they? Is it mainly girls? Boys? Are there any health issues that are particularly relevant? How much time will you have to travel for? How much money will it cost you? When will you need to pay? If at all possible, try to get in touch with other adoptive families. Even if your social worker does not ask all these questions (ours did), it’s information you will need at some point anyway.
-          You also should prepare by reading on adoption, attachment and how to promote it, trans-racial families and the issues they face...
-          The government (in Alberta at least) is not a big fan of physical punishment. So if you think spanking your child is the solution to everything, think about other disciplinary actions you would take before getting there. I’m not saying lie about it, but there may be a way of putting it that won’t get them thinking your kid is going to be spanked every day!
-          We were also told that the government really prefers the parents to take the full parental leave before returning to work, when adopting internationally. This is because the first months are so critical to attachment.
-          Not all agencies have a Home Study Self Report. Some ask for an autobiography, others don’t ask for this type of preparation. If your agency does not require it, have a look in my previous posts about the Home Study Self Report and take some time to think about some of the issues there. You need to discuss this with your partner, if you are couple. An interview with your social worker may not be the time and place to start arguing about who is going to take time off work when kiddo is sick.
-          Get a fire extinguisher and test your smoke detectors before the home visit.
-         They will ask where your medications and cleaning products are in the home. They don’t have to be in a childproof place yet, but you should have a plan. And if you already have children, you may want to have it done already before the home visit.
-          If you already have kids, your social worker will want to talk to them. So make sure you have discussed adoption with them and that you managed to get them onboard.
-          Look for trouble from a child’s point of view. Is there a pool to fall into? Drugs they can grab easily? Cleaning products to gulp down? Electrical outlets to stick tiny fingers into? Here again, you don’t need to have everything safely put away yet, but you should have a plan to make it safe before your child is there.
Our agency kept telling us: “Be yourselves”. You’re not expected to be perfect, there may have been issues in your past or traumatic events in your extended family. You will have to explain them and how they got resolved, but it doesn’t mean you can't be an awesome parent.
And keep in mind, although it sucks to feel judged like this, it will only last for a few weeks... 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3rd Home Study Visit

That’s it! Our third and last meeting with the social worker is done! We met her yesterday at the agency’s office. She went over each our personal histories, from before we were together. It was mainly stuff that was covered into the Self Report, so it wasn’t difficult at all.
At the end, she said that there would be no surprise in her report, that we would pass with high marks. I never thought there could be any reason for them to not approve us, but for some reason, I felt tremendous relief!
So her report should be done for the end of next week. She’ll email it to us for review and approval, before sending it to editing, where it should stay for about 2 weeks. When it’s all nice and ready to go, we will have to go to the agency to sign the final report and they will send it to the Government of Alberta. There, it is supposed to take 4 to 6 weeks for them to approve us. Because that’s going to be during the Christmas holidays, I am expecting a full 6 weeks.
Mid-January seems to be a good estimate of when our approved Home Study can be sent to our Ontario agency...
So now, our goal is to have all the other documents required for the Dossier ready by then... And here goes the documents gathering again!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quebec Birth Certificate

I got some good news last week. I doubt anybody reading this blog will find this useful, because I have never heard of a Quebecois adopting from SL, but here it is anyway: It is possible to get a Birth Certificate in English directly from the Directeur de l’Etat Civil in Quebec.
This means we won’t have to get mine translated, only Pablo’s! I have ordered my English language Birth Certificate, it should be here in about 3 weeks.

UPDATE: Oups! I had misunderstood Quebec's law... This post is wrong. See the truth here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Crash Course on Sri Lanka's People

Sri Lanka has a little bit of everything: sandy beaches on the coast, fertile plain and tropical forest all around, and high lands in the center.
With a population of 19 millions, its density is quite high, at about 300 people per sq. km. Most people live in the countryside.
Roughly 72% of the population is of Sinhalese descent. Their language is Sinhala and most of these people are Buddhists.
The Tamil minority, which accounts for 20% of the people, are mainly descendants of South Indians migrants who arrived on the island thousands of years ago. Most of them live in the North East of the country. They  speak Tamil, which is now recognized as an official language. They are mostly Hindus.
The Burghers are descendant of the white settlers who married sinhalese. They are only 1% of the population and live mostly in the biggest cities. Most are Christians.
There is also a Moorish and a Malay population. Those people are mainly Muslims.
I find it striking that such a small country can have so much cultural and religious variety!
Luckily for us, most educated people speak english.
We don't know yet what ethnicity our child is going to be. I am guessing either Sinhalese or Tamil, as they are a large majority. Also, I believe the Burghers are richer and are less likely to make adoption plans for their babies...
It seems like one thing brings all these people together: Cricket! It's almost a religion down there! Sri Lanka won the world cup in 1996.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Second Home Study Visit

Our Social Worker just left... The second visit was at our place. Since I had found the first interview so uncomfortable, I was awefully stressed out about having her come to our house.
We had tidied up the house. And when I say "tidied up", I mean even the contents of our drawers had been examined... We had made sure that no medication was accessible from a child's perspective, double checked that our smoke detectors worked and opened up our windows for fresh air.

And it went really well!
In fact, she didn't even fully tour the house! She did not open any drawer or cupboard, and we did not have to function the smoke detectors for her. She asked if we had them, asked about the baby's room and accepted a cup of coffee while she quizzed us on our families, our marriage and the town we live in. Most of her questions were already covered in the Self-Report, so it wasn't painful at all. This time, I didn't feel challenged. She even complimented us on our home.

We had researched all the questions she had brought up last time that we did not have answers for. I was glad we did, because she checked!

She brought up a few more interesting questions for us to research. We have to find out if our town offers ressources for parents and kids (from mom and baby swimming lessons to counselling for teenagers). One important thing she made us think about is that we have to check with our insurance company if our child is covered after we have officially adopted him/her but before we come back to Canada. And we have to get a fire extinguisher.

I'm relieved it went so well... It's not that I worried she was going to fail us, but I didn't want to go through the same kind of discomfort I had experienced last time.

Next step: our last interview, on November 2. This one is in Calgary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More About the Sri Lanka Process

We are slowly getting into the technicalities of the Sri Lanka process, as the end of the Alberta process is in sight.
Once our Home Study is all good and approved, it becomes a part of our Dossier. Our agency in Ontario will help us put together our Dossier. It will contain a bunch of documents, some of which we already have (Birth Certificates, Police Checks, etc).
Before being sent to SL, every single page of every document in the Dossier has to be notarized. Luckily, English is widely used in Sri Lanka for business. Our Dossier has to be sent in English, so all we will need to have translated is our Birth Certificates (from French and Spanish).
When this is done, our Dossier is sent to Sri Lanka. There is a little detail our agency has to figure out here... The province of Alberta requires that the Dossier be sent to them and that they forward it to the Sri Lankan authorities. My agent told me that the Sri Lankan authorities want to receive it via the Consulate. I am not sure yet what the path will be for our file to make it to the country, she is checking into that.
Once the Dossier is in Sri Lanka, it is in a black box... We won’t know what’s happening until they assign a child to us. In the meantime, an agent over in Sri Lanka will go to orphanages to liaise with the authorities.
And then, one day, our agent in Alberta will get a referral for us. Hopefully this is sooner rather than later! We were told to expect up to 2 years wait.
They will call us and make our day. I mean... our year!
We will review the proposal and have a doctor look at the referral pictures. If the doctor recommends more medical tests, our agent in Sri Lanka will take the child to a doctor over there. If we do accept the child, then we will enter the next stage of the process: the adoption and immigration.
I expect we will have to wait a long, painful 3 months before being able to travel to meet our child. There is only one trip required. Both parents have to be at the court hearing, but then only one parent is required to stay in the country for 4 to 6 weeks before they can take the child home with them.
If we do get our approved Home Study by mid-January, it will probably be a few more months before our dossier is all ready to be sent to Sri Lanka. So this is for next year... For now, we still have 2 Home Study interviews to go through...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What If?

This post is about a difficult issue, which I hope we never have to worry about... Our social worker has raised questions about it, and I called our Ontario agency today to discuss this possibility.
I’m talking about having to refuse a referral.
It happens that the proposed child is not right for the adoptive family, that a doctor specialized in international adoptions raises concerns about the health and development of the child before the adoption takes place and the parents feel that they cannot take proper care of this child.
I wish I could say we are above this. But I have seen and heard of too many good adoptive families who have had to make that excruciating decision, and it would be pretentious (and unfair to the child) to think that we are limitless.
So I have clarified with our Ontario agent what would happen exactly, if this was what life had in store for us.
In Sri Lanka, the children do not get proposed to the agencies. They are matched directly with the adoptive families by Sri Lankan officials. Because of this, there is no way of knowing how far up on the list we are. I am not even sure they refer kids according to the order they received the dossiers...
If we were to refuse a referral, we would not necessarily be proposed the next available child. We would go back into the bucket and wait for Sri Lanka to match us with another kid. There is no telling how much longer we would have to wait.
On the other hand, our agency has never had a family refusing a referral from the Sri Lanka program. That is somewhat reassuring... I realize it is a small program, but it has been around for 11 years.
It’s painful to even think about such issues, but I am grateful that our social worker asked about it. Well informed adoptive families are better suited to make the right decisions.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Why Adoptive Parents Get Less

Our social worker has clarified something that really made no sense to me... In Canada, the federal government has a plan for parents to be able to take some time off work when they have a new child. By law, the employer is required to allow this time off and guarantee the same (or equivalent) position upon return. The new parent is also entitled to Employment Insurance during this period.
This time off is divided into Maternity Leave, which covers 15 weeks and can only be taken by the mother, and Parental Leave, which consists of 35 weeks that both parents can share as they like.
It turns out that Maternity Leave is not available to adoptive parents. When I heard of this, let’s say I found it a little peculiar... We keep hearing how important the first year as a family is for attachment. Yet, we get to stay at home for 15 weeks less than everybody else!
It didn’t make any sense to me, until our social worker explained that, in a domestic adoption, the birth mother gets the 15 weeks Mat Leave, and the adoptive parents get the 35 weeks Parental Leave. That makes sense... A young mother who has just delivered a baby and made the most difficult decision of her life sure needs time to recover! It just happens that international adoptions fall in a crack.
 I wish I could donate those 15 weeks off (and the Employment Insurance pay) to the birthmother of my child, in Sri Lanka... I’m sure she could use it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Home Study Interview

We had our first meeting with the social worker today. It was over at our agency's office, and took about 2-1/2 hours.
Our social worker is this sweet young woman. She has 3 kids. I don't know if she has personally gone through the adoption process, but she told us about a lot of her friends who adopted from many different countries.
All in all, I think it went well. Her questions were mainly stuff we had already covered in the Self-Report.

But for some reason, I found this quite uncomfortable... I guess it's being put under the spotlight that made me nervous. It is, after all, our intimacy we were discussing there. A few times, I felt like the questions were challenging our views and it was uncomfortable.

It's funny how I was fine writing the Self Report, while Pablo got grumpy over the task, and now I'm the one who's all grumpy and Pablo seems all right!

In addition to what was already covered in the Self Report, she asked a lot of questions about the process (specific to Sri Lanka), the kids that are available there and the country itself. She asked what the fee schedule was, what the main religion was in SL, how long we had to travel for, how many families had adopted succesfully from SL into Canada and so on. She wanted to check how much research we had done. I'm glad we asked all those questions to our Ontario agency, and I started reading on the country! I need to ask more questions about the process though.

Anyway, we're a little closer to our goal! Next meeting is on the weekend of the 22nd, at our place... I'm already nervous about it...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving

It has never been a tradition for our family to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to take a minute to think about what's good in my life...
Today, I am grateful for my family and friends, for my health and that of the ones I love, of course. Also (dare I say this), I am grateful for the challenges that I have had to deal with in the past few years. Not that I would like to relive them, but they have made me what I am and I would not want it to be any different.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Introduction on Sri Lanka

Picture taken from http://www.srilankatravelcentre.com/
I have to admit I don't know much about Sri Lanka, so I have started reading on the country a little bit.
Sri Lanka is a relatively small country (remember I live in Canada), with 435km at its longest and 225km at its widest. It is a tear-drop shaped island, south of the tip of India. At its closest, it is about 50km from the coast of India, and it seems like there used to be a natural bridge between the two countries.
About 72% of the population is Sinhalese, 20% is Tamil. There is also a Moorish population, and some other smaller groups. The most commonly used language is Sinhalese. The majority of the population is Buddhist, but there is a wide variety of religious backgrounds.
The modern history of Sri Lanka is anything but boring! The island was colonised by the Portuguese, then taken by The Netherlands before falling into the hands of the British. It was then known as Ceylon. It became independant in 1948 and is now a member of the Commonwealth. Since independance, there have been tensions between the Tamil population and the Sinhalese majority. Violent events started in the 80s, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam demanding an independant Tamil state. The civil war ended only very recently, in 2009.
The country is still quite rural. Its population is around 19 millions, with 2 millions living in the capital (Colombo). Sri Lanka is one of the largest exporters of tea (you know, Ceylon tea?). Textiles and garment-making are another very important part of the economy. The country also exports rubber, coconut products and precious stones.
It still is a developping economy, with a very low average income and 20% of its inhabitants living below the poverty line. Still, the literacy rate is high, around 90%.

I realize this is a very general introduction, but you gotta start somewhere! I will post more as I learn... I will tell you more about the climate and geography in a later post. I am also really curious about the ethnic groups and their customs...

Friday, September 30, 2011

We Have A Date!

That' it: we're stepping into the next part of the process!
The social worker called and we have dates for our meetings with her. The first one is on October 12.
The home study will require 3 meetings, including one at our home. This one will be on October 22, and the last meeting will be in Calgary on November 2. The meetings should last about 2 hours each.

She then takes about 4 weeks to write her report, and it takes 4 to 6 weeks for the government to review it. If everyting goes well, we should have a completed home study by mid-January!

Our social worker sounded really nice. I'm looking forward to starting work with her!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Home Study Self-Report - The End

We’re done putting our Self Report together! The result is pretty seamless, and I find it does a good job at representing who we are...
The final version has 18 pages.
Both our SAFE Questionnaires are completed as well. Bring on the social worker: we’re ready!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Medical Reports

We just had our medical appointment. Our doctor had to fill a form on each of us to verify that we are healthy enough to adopt.
He had to ask about our medical history, from past ulcers to neurological disorders and susbstance abuse. Then, he asked about our family history with regards to deafness, epilepsy, developmental delays and psychological disorders. I think they want to know if we are at risk of developing any of these illnesses in the upcoming years...
He had to report any prescribed medication we're taking, check our ears, skin, eyes, throat, abdomen, blood pressure, pulse and reflexes, take urine samples and test our sight...
I wish they would give us as much information about our child when they send us the referral!
They had us booked for 15 minutes each, it took an hour and a half in total!

The doctor says he thinks this will be accepted as a routine medical and we should be covered by Alberta Health Care. I expected a fee, but I'll take the free exam, thank you very much!

At the bottom of the form, our doctor had to say if he thought there was any medical issue which may affect our ability to adopt. And he checked "No".
That's all that really matters!

A copy of this form is now going to our Alberta agency. We're keeping the originals for our dossier.

Also, we got our clear Alberta Children and Youth Services Intervention Checks back today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Interesting Bit of Information

Here is something really cool we learned at our International Adoption Seminar: it is legal, in Alberta, to pursue 2 adoptions at once! From what our agent said, Alberta is the only Canadian province to allow it.
What this means is that you could register for 2 programs (say, the United States and Sri Lanka), obtain 2 separate International Adoption Application approvals from the Alberta government and put together 2 different dossiers.
You still cannot have 2 children placed in your home within a 12 months period (unless they are siblings), so the second process would be suspended for a year as soon as you get a referral. But this would allow a quicker second adoption.
For a couple who knows for sure international adoption is how they want to create their whole family, this seems like an awesome option! Of course, it would be a financial challenge, having to pay for both adoptions in a relatively short period, but if you can come up with the money, you can save some time there...
As for ourselves, we’re still too unsure what our family is going to look like to get started on a second process. But I thought this piece of info could be great news for some families... If you’re interested, talk to your Alberta agency, they can tell you all about it!

Oh and, on an other note, it worked!!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Send Some Positive Thoughts!

Please, send all the positive thoughts and energy to A, who should know tomorrow if her IVF has worked. She and her husband have been waiting so long for their child. If it’s true that patience makes good parents, they will be the best in the world!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where Are You?

We don’t know what life has in store for us. I would only be moderately surprised if we ended up adopting a Martian child.
But let’s play pretend for a second...
From what I have seen, the home study process can take a few months. Say we expect it could be done and ready to go by January at the earliest. March at the latest.
Then, we were told the quickest referral for a Sri Lankan child in Canada was 8 months, but it can take up to 2 years.
We have requested a baby less than 12 months old. Kids are available from 4 months on.
So if the home study takes really long, and our referral takes really long, we could get matched around March 2014. Let’s just say I’m not a big fan of this option...
On the other end, if the home study goes really quick and our referral goes really quick as well, we could get a referral around September 2012. If this is for a 4 months old baby, it would have been born in May 2012. It would have been conceived in August 2011! Maybe we have a little embryo, somewhere on the planet!
And if we get a quick home study and quick referral, and our child is 12 months old at the time of referral, it would have been born around September 2011. Yes. RIGHT NOW!!!
It’s completely crazy to not know if you have a child in this world...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Quick Update on Long Process

It's awesome how much progress we have made in the past little bit! I just hope it keeps going!

Since we have officially registered with our Home Study agency (the Alberta one), they have asked for a number of documents. We have to provide copies of everything and keep the originals to include in our dossier to Sri Lanka.
Our file contains:
- our Agency Registration Form
- copies of our RCMP checks
- copies of our Interpol checks
- a copy of our wedding certificate
- a copy of my birth certificate
- a copy of our approved International Adoption Application from the Alberta government
- a copy of my T4
- a copy of Pablo's Notice of Assessment
- a picture of us together
- a permission to check with Alberta Children Services if there was any intervention at our home
- forms filled by our 4 references

We are still missing:
- Pablo's birth certificate (it's on its way from Ecuador)
- Medical forms filled by our family doctor (we have an appointment on September 28)
- An employment letter from my employer
- International adoption training certificates (they are on their way)

Then, when we get our first meeting with the social worker, we need to present to them:
- our completed Home-Study Self Report (we still need to put it together)
- filled out copies of the SAFE questionnaire our agency has just sent us by mail (they are questionnaires about our relationship with our parents as we grew up, but they are multiple choice questions, so it's not too much work)
- Originals of all of the above

I think we may have killed a tree, with all that paperwork...
If everything goes as planned, we should hear from our social worker sometime next week... We can then book our first interview! Wooohooo!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Home Study Self-Report - Part 5: Motivation to Adopt

This part is subdivided into 3. First, it asks why we want to adopt and how we came to the decision. We have to explain our views on adoption and our understanding of the challenges ahead. Then, we have to describe the child we wish to adopt in terms of health, age, gender, race and any other requirement. The last bit is about our views on open adoption.
Of course, we had already talked about why we want to adopt and what adoption will be like, but it got us thinking about stuff we had not really thought about so much. We had never considered how being an already bi-cultural family could make it easier for us to integrate our child’s culture into our family. Also, Pablo growing up so close to his extended family, with so many younger kids, has been a really good experience for him. That’s probably why he is so comfortable holding a new born baby (where in the world does a man with no children learn how to do this?!?).
But to me, the most important learning from that section was about the birthparents. I am slowly coming to the understanding that these people are making decisions that will give my child the best life they can have. It’s probably the most difficult thing they will ever do in their lives. Birth mothers don’t make adoption plans because it’s the easiest solution; they make them out of pure, uninterested love. I am going to tell my kid that they were not abandoned, and that they were loved so much that their birth parents had to let go of them to save their life.
And when things get tough, emotionally, I am going to think about these people, and keep in mind that I am on the easy, happy end of this adventure.
We are done putting out thoughts together for the Self-Report. We have 20 pages so far, but it’s mainly bullet points... We still have to write the final thing. It has to be done by the time we meet our social worker for the first interview.

Monday, September 19, 2011

International Adoption Seminar

The law in Alberta requires that potential adoptive parents obtain an International Adoption Training Certificate before they can have their Home Study finalized. The course is given by the same agencies that do Home Studies.
So we spent all day Saturday in a classroom, along with about 10 more couples, hearing about all things international adoption. It was really good! I’m glad the training is mandatory; it raised new questions for us to think about, comforted us in our decision, gave us a much better general understanding of the process and made us feel kind of normal among other adoptive families. I took lots of notes, to share with you guys...
We found that we were on the right track with the process. We’re actually farther along than I thought... They divide the process, in Alberta, in three steps:
-          Home Study: A registered Alberta agency has to approve our application. To do this, they need to be 100% sure that we are suitable parents. They need to see our police clearance, intervention checks, marriage certificate, financial statements and proof of employment, get references for us, have our health verified, interview us and see our home. They then write a nice long report on us. The government of Alberta will then review it and approve it.
-          Dossier: Once we have an approved Home Study, we start working with an out-of-province agency. Ours is in Ontario. This agency will put our Dossier together. The Dossier contains all our original documents and our Home Study. It has to be translated and notarized before being sent to Sri Lanka. Our agency will then work over there to match us with our baby. When they find the right child for us, they will send us a referral (via the government, then our Alberta agency).
-          Immigration: We can start this process before we get our referral. This way, we won’t have to wait months to bring our little one home. I don’t know much about this part, yet, as it is still in a little while. It’s the process that will give our child Canadian citizenship, and allow us to bring them in Canada.
We have applied for the Home Study and should get a call within a week or two to make our first appointment with the social worker. We already have most of the documents. It’s a big step, I’m excited!
We also talked about attachment disorder and how to increase our chances of successful attachment, trans-racial issues, developmental delays and much, much more.
We had 3 families come over to show their adorable kids (from the US, Ethiopia and China) and tell us about how the adoption adventure has been for them. Nobody had a smooth, easy road... I guess that’s something to keep in mind...
Our agent kept telling us to talk openly to our kids from the get go. She recommends we talk about their adoption, the birth parents and their racial difference before they’re even able to understand. She also said we should acknowledge the grief they are going through as they grow up without knowing their birth families.
I also picked up a few really interesting tips that I will share with you in a later post.
Saturday was big day: We got our mandatory training done and we officially started the Home Study process on the same day! (It also cost us $1600 in one day, but whatever!) After the course, we went to a BBQ restaurant we both like and celebrated with a good, unhealthy meal and a pint of Traditional.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Home Study Self-Report - Part 4: Home and Community

The fourth section is about where we live: our house and our neighbourhood. It is a lot less personal than the previous parts, and is less intimidating. We’ll see if I still feel that way when a social worker comes to look at every corner of my condo to decide if it’s an appropriate place to raise a child!
We do have an extra bedroom for the baby. They will probably ask that we baby-proof our home, but that’s something we can do while we wait.
Again, some things we have included in there:
-          The town we live in being so small, everything we need is close: the school, stores, community center, city parks and hospital are all within 15 minutes of our home, by foot.
-          It is a very friendly town, where people say hello to strangers walking by and it’s considered acceptable to slow down the queue at the grocery store because you’re not done chatting with the till attendant.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Interpol clarified!

Now that we have our Interpol checks, I can tell you what it took to get them...
First, you need to go to your local RCMP station and get fingerprints. They will charge $50 per person for that. They will then send your fingerprints to get checked (I think they scan them). You will get RCMP checks, back at your police station, within a few days.
After the prints have been made, they give them to you right away. You can send these to the address (in Ottawa) that is printed at the top, along with a money order or certified check to the Receiver General for Canada for $25 per person.
It took about 3 weeks for us to get our clearance, by mail.

I have read there is another way of doing this, in an L-1 office... I don't know about this, but if anyone does, please leave a comment for my fellow adoptive parents!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Home Study Self-Report - Part 3: Relationship

This section was easy! It’s about us, as a couple.
If I had to pick one aspect of my life that is going steadily at its awesomest (yes, this word exist. No need to look it up), it would be my relationship with Pablo in the last few years. I already told you how good a father he will be, but you have no idea how good a partner, husband and best friend he is!
So when I’m asked to describe our relationship, talk about how we met and what I enjoy about Pablo, it’s easy.
My thoughts:
-          Seeing how happy I am now in my relationship, all the work and growing pains were well worth it (and believe me, there were some).
-          It’s important to me to be able to provide a model for a healthy, loving marriage to my children. That’s how they will learn to interact with their partners when the time comes. I want them to know that it’s not supposed to be always easy, but that it’s worth the effort.
-          I also want us to be a model of respect for each other and for ourselves.
-          It feels good to read a description your partner makes of you… I know Pablo loves me, but it’s sweet to read details about what he likes in my personality! :D

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home Study Self-Report - Part 2: Family

Once the personal section is completed, the rest of the Home Study Self Report has to be written together. We have decided to jot down a few ideas on a shared file. Next week, we have a date to get working on the final document. How’s that for a romantic date?
This way, we are going to be able to organize the ideas from both Pablo and I and put them together in a nice, seamless report! I think we can do the final redaction in one day, if all the ideas are already written down.
The second section of the Self-Report was about family. It asks about us as a family, but also our views on what being a family means. It covers activities we do together, our views on parenting and values that are important to the family.
I talked a lot about outdoors activities, being that Pablo and I enjoy camping, hiking and skiing together so much, and that it’s something we want to pass on to our children.
Here are a few thoughts that came out of it:
-          Pablo and I enjoy our time together tremendously! Even the unexciting, day-to-day stuff is more fun when he’s around...
-          A lot of our favourite traditions revolve around holidays. I am an unconditional fan of Christmas and I think I have infected Pablo over the years. I was really glad he mentioned our tradition of taking a drive around town on an evening, around Christmas time, to take in the colors and the joy of Christmas lights. It’s something that I used to do with my family as a kid and have carried over to our family.
-          It’s crazy how similar our answers are... Either we have developed such a strong common culture that we are slowly turning into the same person, or Pablo has copied my answers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

They're here!

Yay!
Pablo just told me that we got our International Police clearance by mail!
It's perfect: we will put our application package together and take it all to the agency on Saturday, when we go for the International Adoption course!

I will make sure to publish more details about how exactly to get the Interpol clearance in the next little bit. I thought the information was hard to find, given that nobody at our local RCMP knew how to proceed! For now, I feel like celebrating...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Home Study Self-Report – Part 1: Personal Description

We have to write the first part of the Home Study Self Report separately. It has lots of questions about your personality, childhood and upbringing. It asks about the health history of your family, the parenting techniques your parents used, your religious beliefs, the house you grew in, your employment history, what you do to relieve stress and much, much more.
And it’s not a form, we’re talking about. Oh no! It’s more of an essay, we have to write!
I have been honest through it all. I have nothing to hide and, although I am not perfect, I doubt they will judge me inapt to raise children because I am uncomfortable with confrontation.
A few good things have come out of it and, once I was done writing my part of it, I was excited for Pablo to read it! It’s not that he doesn’t know me. Sometimes, I think he does more than myself. But it felt oddly satisfying to have put words on so much of myself!
Anyway, here are a few thoughts that this part of process has left me with:
-          I was blessed with an amazing Mom.
-          I love my family very much, and what I call family is much more than those who share some genes with me (although my sister has a really special place in my heart).
-          I can’t wait to watch the Muppets’ Christmas Carol with my kids (it’s my guilty pleasure).
-          I wouldn’t even have dared to ask life to give me a husband that would carry over the one family tradition that I am so attached to. It’s unbelievable that Pablo plays guitar so well!
So far, our Self Report has 5 pages.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Night in Paradise

And I'm not talking about  my wedding night!
This is where we had our coffee, this morning, after an overnight camping in the backcountry of our beloved Rocky Mountains.
Pablo and I are both outdoors enthusiasts and I can't wait to take our kids out! I would have loved to wait for the bald eagle to come back alongside the excited looking face of a little one, or for Pablo to explain to them how to hold the fishing rod and wait patiently.
My Mom always loved everything outdoors and I spent most of my childhood vacations biking, canoeing, hiking, skiing and camping. I don't think it's a coincidence if I am happier in a tent than at home, and if I spend all fall looking forward to getting my cross-counrty skis out on the trails! Kids learn to appreciate what they are exposed to. I also learned really young that a little bit of discomfort is nothing, when it means waking up to the first ray of sunshine crossing the walls of the tent.
I keep beautiful memories of the times we were outdoors with my family and, as an adult, I have just kept adding to these memories with Pablo.
I consider myself infinitely lucky to have this heritage, and I can't wait to pass it on to the next generation!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Home Study Self-Report - Prologue

I already told you about our Agency Application Form, and how it was some sort of a mini rehearsal for the Home Study.
Between being asked what our strengths and weaknesses are and having a social worker questioning, live, every single little detail of how we manage the frustration surrounding a pair of dirty socks left on the floor at the end of a stressful day, the step is gigantic!
So to make things easier for us (I believe that’s what their intention is), our agency has kindly provided another step along the way. It is called a Home Study Self Report, and is somewhat like a biography we have to write. It has several sections, each divided in specific questions we need to elaborate on. It covers details from childhood memories to family traditions, all the way to anger management, relationship history and medical background.
It is a lot of work. But it also is a great reflection tool. It’s not something you do in one afternoon. We are working at it little bits at a time. In fact, our goal is to have it ready around the time we get our training, which is on September 17.
As we work our way through this document, I will share with you some of the thoughts that arise from it.
And I thought making babies only involved having one glass of wine too many and a friendly state of mind...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tu Papá

I was 19, when I met Pablo. I was closer to being a child than to having one, and babies were not really on my mind. So it’s safe to say that his potential as a great dad for my offspring was not exactly a selection criteria when I fell in love with him...
I was unbelievably lucky, though. Because although it didn’t seem important back then, it is of utmost priority now!
My husband is one of those men who wear time well. He doesn’t get older; he gets wiser. Experience and self-knowledge have turned him into the greatest partner ever. And he will be a perfect dad, too!
He is a family man, that’s for sure. Family is probably at the very top of his list of values, and he will always be loyal to his family (extended and close). He’s also really good with kids. I can’t explain why, but he’s got a lot more patience for kids than for anything (or anyone) else in life. I’ve seen him take half an hour every night to care for little playground scratches that didn’t actually require any treatment, when our nieces were staying with us. He also is sooooo much more laid back than I am, he often brings me back to earth when I get worked up on silly details. And because I know how involved he will be with our children, I am trusting him to stop me when I get too protective or overthink the whole parenting thing.
Yep! Without even knowing it, I have picked THE perfect father for my kids.
And no, he is not for sale.