A Newsletter from Families Thru International Adoption, Inc.
We are thrilled and blessed with the growth of our work and our team over the past several years. While we have grown in numbers here at our office and we have increased the number of children we have served through international adoption, it has always been and always will be our goal to provide personal service to everyone of our adopting parents. Our current offices are quite cramped, and we are unable to add staff that we think would allow us to better continue our quality of care and service to you and the children we serve. Therefore we initiated a building program last fall and hope to move in to our new offices sometime in March. As you might imagine this will be a major event, but we hope to keep it as a minor disruption in our service to you. Our new quarters should allow for future growth for years to come and will allow us to work on developing an entire department committed to humanitarian aid projects that really make a difference in the lives of children around the world. We also hope our additional space will provide us opportunity and staff to provide additional post placement services far beyond what we currently provide. We will have a grand opening of our offices sometime this spring and will send out a postcard to everyone inviting you to the Grand Opening. However, we will always remember that the building is just brick and mortar and that our mission is serving you and children.
Many of you know that the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption will be ratified by the U.S. Senate when the implementing legislation passed last year is fully in place. The implementing legislation calls for federal regulations to be drafted and approved. The final "proposed" Code of Federal Regulations either have been or soon will be printed in the Federal Register after which time there will be a formal comment period. After the formal comment period, the "final" regulations will be approved
Doug Regin has been added to the FTIA team as Associate Director. Doug comes to us from California where he had worked for several different social service organizations including a term as an Executive Director of Catholic Charities in San Diego, California. Doug has both an MSW and a MBA and will work primarily in Operations and Administration. We are excited to announce the addition of Erin Elpers to our FTIA team. Erin is working with Chris Huber in our Guatemala Program. Lisa Matthews, who has been working in our Guatemala Program, has moved over to be one of our China Coordinators. Mary Obermeier, who has been a China Assistant, is moving to General Office Support Services. If you are calling for Guatemala, please call for either Chris or Erin. And if you are trying to reach our China team, please call and ask for one of our China Coordinators: Megan McGinn, Kate Boyd or Lisa Matthews. Tina Ji, our China Program Manager, is also available, but I would ask that you first try to speak with one of your China Coordinators unless it is an emergency and you need to speak with Tina Ji.
Everyone at FTIA wants to express a special Thank You for the cards, pictures and gifts you sent during this holiday season. I assure you that everything edible that was sent was eaten with great appreciation. But the cards, letters and pictures are special, and each and everyone were read. Thanks again.
We recently sent a letter to all of our families in process asking for an email address that we can send adoption-related emails. If you did not receive the letter, we are sorry, but we request that if you have an email address that we can send adoption related emails to that you specifically send that email address to our general email address: firstname.lastname@example.org with your permission to send adoption-related emails. Please note that you will continue to receive critical information like referral letters and travel letters through FedEx or through the mail. We will be using the email for reminders and just to touch base to see how you are doing on occasion. Our new application specifically asks for an email address to send adoption-related emails..
We will be hosting Informational Seminars around the mid-west over the next couple of months. The date and time of these seminars are posted on our web site. Please encourage anyone you know who may be interested to attend one of these seminars. Of course we would like to present our Informational Seminars across the country, but time and money limits our efforts to the mid-west. But we continue to work with adopting parents from coast to coast, and even with American citizens living overseas.
I once heard a famous person say that when we have experiences of great joy and sorrow in our lives, we should share them with others to possibly help our fellow man. This story is one of great joy, it is Abigail’s story.
Abigail is adopted. She is not different from you or I, but she does have a rather special beginning. Eleven months into her life we met, and I must admit it was the moment of my life. Her story began in a park, and to this day she and I pay tribute to her birthparents. She sees the birds, the trees, and the swings. I see the life they gave to her.
One must believe in a higher power for International Adoption to feel right. I cannot even begin to tell you the similarities between the two of us, some big, some small, but nevertheless, there. You will have days you wonder about your plans, but let me remind you that life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan, and in our case, that is the best part. I feel adoption is one of the best blessings in our world, and you’ll soon realize just how small our world is.
This process is a remarkable one, and in some ways, I miss the excitement of waiting for Abigail’s referral, the time around the travel days, and the trip of a lifetime. Upon traveling, you’ll see how the magic continues. You will meet people so far away who at one time seemed so different. No longer.
My referral came on a day you wouldn’t believe and was unexpected for another 4-6 weeks. The most beautiful six words I’ve ever heard were "we have a baby for you" from a dear woman I’ve never met. As you wait for this phone call, beware....it just may take your breath away.
There is a great demand for balance now that we are home. A growing vocabulary, nap time routines, and mastering pizza with two chubby toddler hands. Every day is a gift, and my wish is for you to experience this feeling in your lifetime. Oh, how sweet it is!
The families of Families Thru International Adoption soon realize that they have searched the globe and found the most perfect people to work with. We realized their devotion is balanced with their love for the children. We experienced their hard work and saw firsthand their respect for the countries they serve. We then learned that our experience became their experience, and this is no job, but rather their mission. Congratulations on finding FTIA, and consider yourself one step closer in seeing we truly do live in a small world after all......
Best wishes from our family to
China by Tina J.
The past year sure has been a very busy year for China. So much has happened! Here is update since last Newsletter. At the end of October, the CCAA issued a notice to most of the agencies in the States and other countries regarding a quota system they were going to implement starting December 1st, 2001. This quota system set a limit for the number of dossiers each agency can submit to the CCAA from December 1st, 2001 to November 30th, 2002 time period. It also limits dossiers from single applicants to only 5% of the total quota for each agency. This quota system was put in place by the CCAA in response to the backlog of dossiers at the CCAA and the concerns on the increase of wait for referral. Even though we don’t necessarily believe this is the best solution for the situation, we understand the difficulties the CCAA is facing and respect their decision. This new policy affected all of our families who submitted a dossier after November 30th, 2001 and all of the families who wanted to turn in an application for China. We stopped accepting new applications temporarily out of fairness to all families actively working on their dossier. It has been a very stressful time for us at FTIA and our families, but things are moving along. THANK YOU for the support and understanding to the families who worked hard to turn in the dossier before November 30th, the families who responded quickly to our inquiry so that we could best advise all families on our next steps, and all the families who waited so patiently for us to sort things out during this difficult time. For more information and updates on this new policy, please visit the China Updates on our web site at www.ftia.org/hotnews/china_adoption_updates.html . Confirmed by the CCAA in their posting dated on November 28th, 2001 on the CCAA’s web site, this quota system will not affect families adopting a child from our Waiting Special Needs Children Program. We really appreciate the CCAA making this exception. In the past year, we were able to find families for 26 out of the 31 children in our Waiting Children Program. We are very excited about this success and are looking forward to helping more children find loving homes through this program in the new year. The CCAA continues to hold their requirements on submitting two post-placement reports at 6 months and 12 months, and a copy of the child’s Certificate of Citizenship. While the CCAA sent the notice of the new quota system to a lot of agencies, they also suspended some agencies due to their failure of complying with the CCAA’s post-placement requirements. We have done a very good job with the post-placement reports and we are very thankful for all the support and cooperation we have received from our families and home study agencies on this matter. Let’s keep it up! Now the wait for a referral is now around 13 months. Travel still takes about 6-8 weeks after the time we submit the acceptances to the CCAA. To find an update on new referrals, please go to our China Referral Update under "Hot News" on our web site. We post update every time we receive new referrals, which typically runs about every 4-6 weeks. With the support from families, our Foster Care Program in Hunan has been going very well. The 25 children in the program have really been thriving. The Orphanage director and care-takers have communicated to us how impressed they are to see the big difference. We are hoping to expand the program in the new year and would love for your support. There have been some staff changes with our China team too. In Evansville, Lisa Matthews joined Megan, Kate, Cheng and myself on the China team, Mary was transferred to Administration. In China, Cynthia came on board in October and Ruth left at the end of November. Best wishes to Ruth!
Happy New Year!
Guatemala by Chris
Since our last newsletter, we have had many families travel to Guatemala. While we are happy for those whose adoptions have gone quickly and smoothly, our hearts ache with those of you who are still waiting patiently for your child to come home. As most of you are aware, there has been a lot of turnover within the INS in Guatemala. As of this writing, there is still not a permanent person assigned to oversee the adoption unit. With the constant turnover recently, following up on cases has been more challenging than normal. We hope to see a permanent INS officer in place very soon. In spite of the problems, we have seen a significant improvement in the processing of the DNA approvals at the embassy. The INS is also planning a meeting with attorneys and agencies working in Guatemala in the next couple of months. FTIA will be at this meeting along with the attorneys we are working with in Guatemala. Another significant change in the Guatemala program is within our own staff here at FTIA. As most of you have heard, Lisa Matthews has begun working as one of the coordinators of our China program. All who have spoken with her know that she will be missed here and will make a great addition to the China program. Erin Elpers joined our Guatemala team in December and very quickly has jumped into learning the program. Those of you who have already talked with her know that she is very friendly and always ready to serve. While the Guatemala program has been growing quickly in the past months we continue to strive to offer very personal service.
Russia by Tina H.
The past year has been very busy for FTIA’s Russia Program. In March 2001, we received our accreditation from the Ministry of Education in Russia. Since that time, we have experienced a few changes in the referral process. In mid December we were notified that effective immediately, all families will receive referral information during the first of two trips and all regions will require two trips. This change in process is directed from Moscow and will be the case for every region in Russia. For more detail regarding the changes of the referral process, please visit the "Hot News" section on FTIA’s web site. During the next few months, as we have families travel to Russia on the first of their two trips, we will be able to get a better idea of what to expect during the first trip. Due to the changes, as we have updates, we will post information to the "Hot News" page of FTIA’s web site. After submitting a completed dossier to Russia, families can expect to receive an invitation for their first trip in approximately three to six months. The wait for girls continues to be longer than boys. For families wishing to adopt a infant or toddler female, the wait is closer to four to six months. As a reminder, please be sure to get your post placement reports completed and forwarded to FTIA prior to your anniversary date. In addition to the actual report, please submit eight to ten photographs.
Vietnam by Megan
The months of November and December were exciting for the Vietnam Program, as quite a few families traveled to finalize the adoptions of their children. The families enjoyed smooth visits to Vietnam with our facilitator’s hardworking staff. FTIA is pleased to confirm that none of our families who most recently traveled experienced any sort of delay or any problems with the INS office or the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City when working to obtain visas for their children. In fact, there have been zero FTIA families (through either of our two Vietnam program facilitators) who have ever experienced a delay with INS in Ho Chi Minh City due to problems with documentation or their child’s orphan status. As many adopting parents may be aware, there have been highly publicized problems with delays in visa issuance or visa denials by the United States government in Cambodia and Vietnam. Citing ‘irregularities in the methods used to identify children for adoption,’ the United States INS office in Vietnam has launched investigations into the status of numerous orphans whose newly adoptive parents have traveled to Vietnam and applied for a visa for the child to legally enter the United States. As reported by many media sources (including a 20/20 segment in December), these investigations have caused a handful of American families to remain in Vietnam (and Cambodia in the case of Cambodian adoptions) for many weeks at a time while awaiting either the issuance of the visa or a notice of intended denial. (Again, these were not FTIA families.) On December 21, the INS Commissioner, James Ziglar, announced "an immediate suspension of the processing of adoption petitions in Cambodia and a review of the adoption process in Vietnam." It is uncertain if any suspensions in adoption petitions in Vietnam will result due to these investigations. The INS web site also states: "Please note that recently uncovered irregularities have almost exclusively involved directed adoptions, where the adopted infant has been obtained by the adoptive parents directly from a natural mother instead of through an orphanage." Through our two facilitators, Asian Children Services and International Assistance and Adoption Project, families adopt children who have been relinquished to one of several government orphanages in Vietnam. FTIA does not work with organizations that facilitate directed adoptions. Our hope is that the problem areas or organizations will be identified and dealt with on an individual basis. Many other agencies just like FTIA work with Vietnamese adoptions in an ethical and proper way, and we all hope to be able to continue well into the future. FTIA will continue to monitor the situation and notify our families in the event of any developments. More announcements from the CIS/INS can be found at CIS - What's New?. An interview with the Officer in Charge at the INS office in Ho Chi Minh City can be found at www.adoptvietnam.org.
You know the saying "God opens doors for you", well for us, He pushed us through them. When my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted to start a family right away. We attempted fertility measures for only six months and knew that this wasn’t the way it was suppose to happen. We could have taken additional treatments, but my heart was in adopting. It took a little more convincing with my husband as he had the yearning to "see his own eyes". While doing the fertility route, my husband was working on a room addition for someone who turned out to be our home study coordinator. She had given us a FTIA brochure to read. At that time in October, I put it aside, as we had not decided on adoption. December of 2000 was my last month of fertility with no luck. In January, I found the brochure and began reading it and found the website. I checked out the FTIA web site on January 10th to discover, ironically, that there was going to be a meeting in Indianapolis that upcoming Saturday. The meeting was very informative and it made it "real" to see the families and their children and to hear their stories. We were anxious at that point to the get the process started. Brian and I went home and started filling out the initial application for Russia, thinking that we wouldn’t travel until the Fall of 2001. Little did we know that our son was anxiously waiting for us to come and bring him home earlier. The process went very quickly. We turned in our application around January 20th. We received Brent’s referral on April 30th. We were so very excited, and remember earlier when I told you that my husband was apprehensive as he wanted to "see his own eyes", well, he immediately fell in love with our son and knew that God had sent him to us. The time went so quickly after that. Everything fell in place and I took my first trip to see Brent in late June. It was the most wonderful feeling when they put him in my arms and I could hug and kiss him. He was everything I expected…and so very much more. Of course, one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life was to leave him on that Friday knowing that he wasn’t going home with me. As the Judge was going to be on vacation, we knew that we wouldn’t be going back until August…date unknown. We were very excited to hear the news that we would be leaving Indianapolis August 3rd and our court date was August 6th. We arrived in Rostov-on-Don on August 4th but we didn’t get to visit Brent until August 5th. That was a long/short day as we had traveled so far and our body hadn’t adjusted to the new time zone yet and we were so anxious to see Brent. We were very fortunate in that we stayed at a house where we were taken very good care of and at any time there were three other families so the time that we couldn’t spend with Brent, we had someone to talk to and someone to play board games. Sequence, UNO and Yahtzee take on a whole new meaning these days. The first time Brian met Brent was precious. Brent was a little apprehensive as the children at that particular orphanage weren’t around very many men as it was a female staff. It didn’t take long, though, for them to warm up to each other. We went to court on August 6th, which was a little scary but nothing that isn’t worth it to bring your child home. Everything went fine and we were told that we would get custody of Brent on August 17th. We were not looking forward to the wait, but we knew we would live, as it would be worth it when we were on that flight home to the USA. We were able to visit Brent every weekday for 1 hour. So everyday we went and saw our little boy counting down the days that we would have to leave him. On August 17th we got an early start as we had to do plenty of paperwork before we could actually pick him up from the orphanage, i.e. getting his court documents, adoption certificate, birth certificate etc. That process did not go fast enough as I kept asking, "When can we go and pick Brent up?" We finally got to pick him up around 12:30pm and of course, I was crying because now as a Mom it felt like birth. It was unbelievable that he was really ours. We left Rostov-on-Don on August 23rd bound for Moscow. As soon as we arrived, we had to go to the clinic to have Brent’s medical exam in which he let us know in no uncertain terms by screaming at the top of his lungs that he did not care for. While there, we stayed at a very nice hotel that had a crowing rooster clock that was entertaining to Brent (Mommy and Daddy too). On August 24th we went to the American Embassy to get Brent’s visa. It was a very simple process that our translator (Irena) mostly handled. The only thing we had to do was fill out some paperwork and go to the actual Embassy to turn the paperwork in and get Brent’s visa. It took about 20 minutes. We left for home on August 25th. We were happy to be heading home but not looking forward to the long flight to JFK. Don’t worry though, it goes very quickly when you are attempting to entertain your child as well as the other approximately 10 children that were on the flight. We were very fortunate that we got to sit by one of the families that we had been staying with us in Russia, so we helped each other out, as they adopted 2 boys ages 12 months and 15 months, they really had their hands full. We arrived in JFK and made it through immigration without any problems. Brent, along with the other children on the flight, instantly became a US citizen. It’s now 8 weeks later and it seems as if Brent has always been in our life. There was essentially no adjustment period as he fell immediately into a routine and is growing like a weed. He was about 17 pounds when we left Russia and he now weighs 22 pounds. He has also grown an entire inch in this time. He hasn’t missed a meal. Finally, I would just like to say that the entire time we were in Russia, we never felt unsafe. There was always someone there to help us if/when we needed it. FTIA took care of us. We feel truly blessed that Brent has been brought into our life. We are the lucky ones!!! He brings us joy and smiles every single day. Brian, Jeanna & Brent Phillip Dmitrywampcat@yahoo.com
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