• Important Adoption Announcement

    Important Adoption Update!!

    ast month we were informed by the State Department that they would be enacting yet another round of heavy regulations for international adoptions. We were given only 42 days to process and respond to these new laws that will forever effect all adoption programs. The adoption world is still coming to grasps with the limiting regulations of the UAA regulations that went into effect in 2014. Due to those regulations, the TOTAL number of adoptions to the US last year was 5,647. That is an incredibly low number considering the amount of children living in institutions around the world, or worse. These are not just infant adoptions. Existing laws have already limited the options for relative adoptions, and older child adoptions. In 2015, just 6% of intercountry adoptions were infants, and 72% of intercountry adoptions were children over the age of three. Perhaps most telling is that 13% of intercountry adoptions in 2015 were of children aged 12 or older! Our government should be supporting the permanent placement of older children with approved US families, however now we are faced with another round of overreaching and crippling laws that could result in the mass shut down of even more agencies. The concerns around adoption do not justify this over regulation, and children and waiting families are the ones who will pay the cost. We ask that you help us advocate against these new laws, which are being hidden from the public and put into effect before anyone can realize what is happening. Agencies are working together to get the word out to families who may never get the chance to adopt if these go into effect next year so that you can help us advocate for children in need! Please visit http://saveadoptions.org/ to learn more about how these new rules could impact your ability to adopt, and sign the petition. The State Department can enact these new rules with no oversight, warning or accountability thanks to special allowances given to them by Congress years ago. That means just a few people are deciding these laws and there is no direct representation of the American people, no voting, no popular approval. We ask that you educate yourself and call your Senators and Representatives to stop this unnecessary over reach by the Office of Children’s Issues. Please share with your family and friends and help us save adoption!

  • Introducing sweet “Matthew”, waiting for his forever family!

    “Matthew” is an adorable, HAPPY little boy who happens to have extra lower body parts due to having an incomplete conjoined twin. He has underwent surgery for some of the physical ramifications of this conjoined twin, but he still other malformations that the doctors decided were too dangerous to perform surgery on at the time they were going to do so. He may need continued surgeries to correct the complications.

    His China list diagnosis states 1.Tailend duplication malformation (post-surgery conjoined twins); 2.bilateral Undescended testes; 3.retarded growth.

    The orphanage personnel and doctors were amazed when he started to walk and play. He is able to coordinate his malformed and conjoined legs to walk steadily and even competes with his friend to slide down a slope riding a swing car with both of his legs slightly hanging in the air. He also enjoys music time where he dances to his favorite song A Small Apple (we have video of him dancing!). He is starting to speak and is said to be a child full of wisdom with his own unique view on things. He does not fight for toys or food as other children does, but will instead walk over to take a caregiver by the hand and show them the child who has taken his toy or food with a grieved look on his face. He seems to be loved by all.

    A careful review of his medical documentation should be made by an international adoption specialist and preferably with a specialist in conjoined twin separations to understand the level of surgery he has received, what his current situation is and what he may need in the future. Much information is available, including VIDEOS.

    Please consider bringing this delightful boy into your heart and homes! We are all just in love with his simle, and hope we can find him a loving family soon!

  • India Waiting Kids: Special Need Spotlight on Ambiguous genitalia

    This Blog post is written by one of our Adoption Coordinators, Angela.

    As an experienced international adoption specialist for 11 years, I’ve seen a variety of medical conditions with children available for adoption with various international programs. However, a recent agency change has opened my eyes to a country I had always been interested in, but never had the opportunity to serve through adoption: India.

    As I search the waiting child list issued by India, I am amazed and perplexed at the number of children available with conditions that are either correctable or manageable. Some of the conditions are even sought after in other countries as a humanitarian choice in adoption. Babies, toddlers, young children and older children with HIV, club foot, cleft palate and/or lip, heart defects, limb differences and other such conditions have waited years for families on the India list. One condition I had not previously seen appears quite often on the India list: ambiguous genitalia or other gender disorders. Of the 82 children ages 0-2 currently listed on the India waiting child list, at least three have some type of gender condition. The Mayo Clinic defines ambiguous genitalia as-

    “Ambiguous genitalia is a rare condition in which an infant’s external genitals don’t appear to be clearly either male or female. In a baby with ambiguous genitalia, the genitals may not be well-formed or the baby may have characteristics of both sexes. The external sex organs may not match the internal sex organs or genetic sex.Ambiguous genitalia isn’t a disease. It’s a sign of a condition that affects sexual development, and it’s referred to as a disorder of sexual development.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ambiguous-genitalia/basics/definition/con-20026345

    More information about ambiguous genitalia, including causes and treatment, can be found at the above referred-to link. There are many options for corrective treatment for a child born with ambiguous genitalia, all that is needed is the right family that is able to care for the child. With the medical resources in the USA, many children with this condition get proper treatment, and thrive with their families. In India, where conditions like this carry heavily negative social stigmas, these children may never get the care or love they deserve, and for many is the sole reason why they are in the orphange.

    Due to privacy regulations, India does not allow children to be photolisted on such sites as RainbowKids. While I understand the reasons for the privacy of the children, these limitations can decrease the chances that these beautiful children will find homes, simply because they do not have the exposure as children with other programs may have. However, if more people knew about the India program and the wonderful children that are available, more people would open their hearts and homes so these little ones would be orphans no more.

    To adopt from India, parents must be physically, mentally, and emotionally stable with no threatening medical conditions, as well as be financially stable. Married couples must have been married at least two years. Single women can adopt children of either gender, while single males are only allowed to adopt boys. India does impose age limits as follows:

    Families are not allowed to already have more than four children in the home. As always, USCIS and state regulations also apply with regard to qualifications of adoptive parents.

    Families must first complete their adoption paperwork and obtain USCIS approval before being eligible to be matched with a child. However, once a family’s paperwork is complete, their agency can immediately start searching the waiting child list for a child that meets the family’s desired and approved criteria. The more open a family is with regard to age, gender and special needs, the more likely they are to be matched with a child quickly and start the official adoption process.

    To find out more about this program, please contact International Adoption Net, info@internationaladoptionnet.org , or by calling 1-877-672-2971 .

    Child in the photo is a stock photo and not available for adoption. International Adoption Net suggests all families talk to a licensed pediatrician for all medical advice and information when considering a child for adoption. Families are approved for children with medical conditions on a case by case basis after reviewing the family’s qualifications as best determined by the placement agency.

  • 5 Questions to Ask If You Are Considering Adoption

    /contact/ This is a guest post from our partner Diane Hogan. She is an adoptive parent twice over, adoption and education expert, and President of A Step Ahead Adoption Services.

    Are you a family who want to start or build your family and don’t know if adoption is right for you? If so, you have probably been on the Internet looking at all the choices, options and decisions you would need to make to just take the first step into adoption. Hopefully this article will help you understand your choices, fine tune your options and guide your decision-making process.

    There are 3 primary paths to adopting a child – domestic (US) adoption, international adoption and/or foster-to-adoption. How do you know which path is best for you? Consider the child you see coming into your home and ask yourself these 5 simple questions:

    1) What age is this child? Most domestic adoptions are newborn-to-1 year of age placements; most international adoptions are toddler-thru-school aged; most foster-to-adoption placements are 1-year to 18-years of age (after 18, most children “age out” of the foster care system).

    2) What race or races of child can you consider? In domestic adoption, you have children of all colors of the rainbow and racial combinations; however, the least placed race (in the US) is Asian. For foster-to-adoption, again all the possible racial combinations of children are eagerly awaiting their forever families. International adoptions, you have to be country-specific, thus you will be defining race(s) upon selecting a country. To get an overview of options in this area, see: https://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/adoption-process.html

    3) What timeframe are you considering? Most domestic (US) adoptions can occur in 1-year or less unless you are gender-specific and then that could take up to 2 years. International adoptions are country-specific and will be dependent on how well your US agency or attorney is connected with the foreign country’s embassy, orphanages and laws. Generally speaking allow a minimum of 2 years for the process. For foster-to-adoption, you would need to be able and willing to foster a child until they are eligible for the adoption rolls. That process is often 1-2 years depending on your county’s policy for a birth parents time to attempt reunification – the goal of the foster system.

    4) Are you gender-specific? If so, then focus more on international or foster-to-adoption because it is much easier to select a boy or girl, or both! In domestic adoption, you become dependent on a gender-defining ultra sound or waiting for a born baby.

    5) Do you have a budget defined? Most domestic and international adoptions are running $30,000 -$50,000 for the cost of preparing, adopting and traveling. Foster-to-adoption is more affordable as you may only be asked to pay for legal fees and travel. Remember, we currently do have an adoption tax credit that may assist you after you adopt. For more information, see: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html

    Still confused? Feel free to send us an email or give us a call. We provide adoption education, guidance, support and resource referrals for many various aspects of adoption. If you are a family desiring a domestic adoption or adoption education, we have consultants across the US to talk with you and discuss the process of domestic adoption. If you are considering an international or foster program, we can connect you with agencies speializing in the programs you are interested in.

    Diane Hogan is an adoptive mom of two “babies” (now respectively 21 years of age and 18 years of age). Along with her husband she adopted domestically and has two open adoptions. She hold BS and MA degrees in education. Worked for 20 years in public education (classroom teacher, curriculum developer, program specialist, teacher trainer). Besides her two children, she is most proud of her 2-years or remission from Hodgkins’ Lymphoma! Diane now owns/operates A Step Ahead Adoption Services for the last 16 years from Colorado Springs, CO. A Step Ahead Adoption Services (ASA), in the big picture, is a consulting services designed to help adoptive parents seeking a domestic adoption through an agency or attorney in the US. We educate, guide, support our client families who are seeking a domestic or international adoption. ASA also provides education for agencies and law firms that work in adoption. They can offer 1:1 classes, workshops and seminars. They have an extensive online adoption & parenting library for client families (over 80 documents), a prerecorded 20-minute class on the domestic adoption procedure and 45 short vignettes of interviews with adoptees, adoptive parents and an occupational therapist. Our ASA clients have access to all of those educational materials. ASA contracts with consultants who work for us across the US to support adoptive families and agencies. If you prefer to go international or foster-to-adopt, we will happily refer you to professionals in your area. ASA website is: www.astepaheadadoption.com .

    If you would like your article posted as a guest on our blog, please contact us.

  • Uganda Update

    Please see below the latest update from the State Department concerning the new regulations from Uganda (found here- http://www.mglsd.go.ug/laws/ The%20Children%20Amendment% 20Act%202016.pdf (start page 32) and here http://www.mglsd.go.ug/laws/children%20act%20Chapter_59.pdf (start page 22)

    These new regulations went into effect on June 2nd. The Laws were signed in May, but it had previously not been clear as to when it would go into effect, so some had hope that cases this summer would not be impacted. It seems now that this means any referrals made after June 2nd will need to abide by these new laws. IAN will keep its license in Uganda should a family want to adopt under these new regulations, however it seems that as things stand, it would be very difficult for any families living in the US to meet these standards. Here is a run down of the main things you need to know:

    ​A person who is not a citizen of Uganda may in exceptional

    circumstances adopt a Ugandan child, if he or she—

    (a) has stayed in Uganda for at least one

    (b) has fostered the child for at least one year under the

    supervision of a probation and social welfare officer;

    (c) does not have a criminal record;

    (d) has a recommendation concerning his or her suitability to adopt

    a child from his or her country’s probation and welfare office or

    other competent authority; and

    (e) has satisfied the court that his or her country of origin will

    respect and recognise the adoption order.

    45. Restrictions and conditions.

    (1) An adoption order may be granted to a sole applicant or jointly

    to spouses where—

    (a) the applicant or at least one of the joint applicants has attained

    the age of twenty-five years and is at least twenty-one years older

    than the child;

    (b) in the case of an application by one of the spouses, the other has

    consented to the adoption.

    (2) The court may dispense with the consent required under

    subsection (1)(b) if the spouse whose consent is required cannot be found or

    is incapable of giving consent, or the spouses are separated and living apart

    and the separation is likely to be permanent.

    (3) An adoption order shall not be made in favour of a sole male

    applicant in respect of a female child, or in favour of a sole female applicant

    in respect of a male child, unless the court is satisfied that there are special

    circumstances that justify, as an exceptional measure, the making of an

    adoption order.

    (4) The application shall not be considered unless the applicant has

    fostered the child for a period of not less than thirty-six months under the

    supervision of a probation and social welfare officer.

    (5) The probation and social welfare officer shall be required to

    submit a report to assist the court in considering the application; and the

    court may, in addition, require some other person or the local authority to

    make a report in respect of the adoption application.

    (6) Except where the application is by spouses jointly, an adoption

    order shall not be made authorising more than one person to adopt a child at

    the same time.

    The main thing is that these requirements used to be able to be waived by going through guardianship decrees and then finalizing the adoption in the US. However guardianship is no longer an option if you are not a Ugandan citizen under the new amendments, so these residency rules now apply to all international cases. Obviously we understand that most families can not move to Uganda for an extended time. The state department is updating its Uganda adoption information page, and as soon as we have any more information about how this is playing out, we will be sure to let you know.

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Adoption < Adoption@state.gov >
    Date: Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 7:48 AM
    Subject: Notice: Uganda Announces Effective Date of June 2 for Amendments to the Children Act

    Adoption Notice: Uganda

    July 6, 2016

    Notice: Uganda Announces Effective Date of June 2 for Amendments to the Children Act

    As reported in the Department of State’s June 2 Adoption Alert , on May 20, 2016, the Ugandan president signed into law amendments to the Children Act. The full text of the amendments can be found on the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development’s website . Ugandan officials have informed us that these amendments went into effect on June 2.

    If you have questions about your guardianship or adoption case, please write to adoption@state.gov . We also encourage you to work closely with your adoption service provider.

  • Announcing our Florida Branch Office!

    We are so excited to announce that this month we have been approved for our Child Placement license in Florida ! We are opening our branch office, and will be starting up our programs there in the coming weeks.

    Angela K. Vance, MSW will be our new Branch Director. This office will be able to provide homestudy and post adoption services to families living in Florida, as well be a part of our placement services for our International and Domestic programs. Angela has served hundreds of children and families through international adoption since graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Central Florida in June 2005. Her love for adoption led her to being the mother of her beautiful daughter, whom she adopted from Ethiopia in early 2012. In her free time, Angela enjoys church activities and spending time with her daughter. Angela is available to assist all IAN Florida clients with a full range of services, and will be heading up our China Program as well. Welome Angela!

  • Ethiopia Update from Department of State

    By now, many of you have seen the update posted on the Department of State website regarding Ethiopia. You can find the article here if you have not already read it: http://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en/country-information/alerts-and-notices/ethiopia15-05-08.html . As some of you have reached out to your coordinator to further understand this update, we wanted to post a quick blog to explain the information to everyone.

    The update starts by letting families know that the Department of State has been discussing with the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs the adoption delays various regions in Ethiopia is experiencing. In this update, the Department of State only speaks about the changes that affect adoption referrals in Ethiopia, and does not mention post-referral delays. First, they highlight the Tigray Region. While IAN used to work with the Tigray region, we have not had a working relationship with them for quite some time. We are no longer accepting referrals from this region as the Regional MOWA is no longer signing covering letters allowing the children to be adopted internationally. We do have a few children from the Tigray region that are currently in the process of adoption. These families should not worry as we received the children’s information before this region stopped processing international adoptions. We were recently able to bring home two boys from this region. There was a little difficulty in completing the final steps of their adoption because of a change in the process (i.e. A new representative to sign off on adoption decrees and birth certificates), but we were able to coordinate with the proper channels to advocate for these children to come home. As the process of adoption in Ethiopia changes frequently, we are always adapting and working as quickly as we can to comply with the latest update. As the article pointed out, changes in the region began showing around November 2013, so since this time, IAN has not received any referrals from the region.

    The same holds true for the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). We facilitated our last adoption from the southern region last year. This little girl was able to come home almost one year ago. Since this time, we have not received any referrals from this region either. For the regions Addis Ababa, Amhara, Dire Dawa, Harar, and Oromia, we have not received confirmation from MOWA whether the bans on relinquishment are officially in effect. We are hoping to hear some input from MOWA soon. At the end of this paragraph, the Department of State points out something that is very important to keep in mind. They say, “In some cases, the supporting documentation…may not match the true circumstances of the child’s situation. In such circumstances, adjudication of the Form I-600 petition for the PAIR filing may take additional time.” We have seen this statement to be true as the Embassy recently took several months to verify the orphan status of some of our children. We even had a few families who were in the PAIR process for almost 1 year waiting for this verification. We are thrilled to report all of these families have finally received their PAIR letter and are waiting to receive a court date and finally meet their children! As all of these cases were abandonment, we have seen firsthand that Embassy is going to great lengths to verify the orphan status of a child. So please know that the PAIR process may take longer than expected, especially if the child you are adopting was abandoned. Don’t be afraid when we say that a few cases took 1 year to process, we have also had families clear PAIR in about 4 months as well! Whether the child is abandoned or being relinquished, know that USCIS and Embassy will still process the case. This potential ban on relinquishment cases only affects new referrals we will receive.

    We know that adoption is a long and frustrating process. New changes in the adoption process can be hard for families to adjust to new procedures and know how that will impact their adoption. We appreciate your flexibility as you adapt to any new procedures or delays in process that you encounter. Knowing the end goal is to help provide a loving home for a child in need is a great way to remain motivated when it seems that everything is not progressing smoothly at the time.

    Many families have asked about the slowdown of adoptions in Ethiopia, as we addressed in a previous blog. The climate of Ethiopian adoptions has changed over the years. We see that adoptions are being processed at a different pace than they used to be. This is why it is very difficult to give accurate timelines for your adoption. While things slowed down for a while, we are excited to see some positive movement in Ethiopia as well! We have received positive MOWA comments and court dates, which has been slow to receive recently. We are excited this seems to be picking up and that things are continuing to move forward. We know there are several families still out there waiting for their positive comment or their court date. We know the wait is frustrating, but know that we are doing everything we can to advocate for your adoption. We want to remind you to not give up hope yet!

    Some families ask us to involve a lawyer to move their case along. While we have lawyers on staff and that we contract with, the way we are able to keep the process moving in Ethiopia is through relationships we have built. Our in-country director, Yared, has spent many years building relationships with all of key adoption personnel to help our adoption process. He has to be very respectful, and knows the cultural and ethical ways to advocate on behalf of our families. Overall, the officials in Ethiopia do not respond to the pressure of a lawyer as individuals culturally do in the United States. Because of this, we try to be respectful of the individuals we speak with so the adoption process can continue. Going outside of this can damage adoption for everyone. In the past, we have seen the negative effects of families pushing too hard with the Ethiopian officials, and this has in turn affected the process for everyone else. We try our best to move forward in a way that advocates for all cases and does not negatively impact other cases that are waiting.

    There are a lot of steps in the adoption process, and a lot of people involved. When there is a delay in the process, it is not just one person holding up the adoption. The individual has supervisors who have people above them that they must answer to. We have to communicate with all of them to know exactly what is needed for your specific adoption. The adoption process can change at any time, and we must then address these changes as they come. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed in adoption until you are home with your child.

    Through all of the changes and updates in the adoption process, know that we are doing all that we can to keep up-to-date with the process so your adoption can go as smooth as possible. We may not be able to update you with every change that happens, but we are on top of it and continuing to push forward. The update from Department of State was information that we have known for a while and nothing to worry about. We are very exciting for the movement that is coming out of Ethiopia and we look forward to seeing what Ethiopia has in store for us next!

    On an additional note, MOWA has reached out to us with a request to assist the older children in Ethiopia who are not adoptable. They are trying to create a plan to help get these children off of the street and get them the care that they need. To get the program started, MOWA has requested that we donate $6,000 to one of our orphanages who has agreed to take in 20 children from the streets. This money will go to help provide them with shelter, food, clothes, and other essential necessities for one month, as well as help build the beginning stages of the program. With this money, MOWA hopes to create a stable program to provide more support for these children in need. If you are interested in helping us support this exciting new program, please reach out to your coordinator and let us know.

    We hope that this update provides you will a little insight on what is happening in the Ethiopia program. We are hopeful for continued movement and exciting things to come from our Ethiopia program soon!

  • Ethiopia Program Update and Hosting program!

    Over the past year or so the Ethiopian program has seen many changes, both with the US side of the process as well as the process with the Ethiopian authorities. As many of you know the PAIR process, which went into effect late 2013, has added several months to the processing times for our cases. Some families are unfortunately experiencing a greater wait time than others. Additionally, more and more paperwork is now required to complete an international adoption, both from US Embassy and for the Ethiopian authorities. While we support these measures as a way to cut down on unethical adoptions, we do understand that this is frustrating for families both on the waitlist and in process to see such a slowdown.

    Here are few things to keep in mind as things stand now with Ethiopia:

    • Wait times for referrals are getting longer. While we can’t say exactly how long the wait will be for a referral, we do know that all agencies in Ethiopia are experiencing a slowdown in the process. We can promise you that our staff is working very hard to gather all necessary paperwork and complete investigations in order for us to give referrals. There are several steps a child’s case must go through before they are available for international adoption. First, MOWA has to approve the child for international adoption, then the agency is referred the child, initial paperwork is gathered and then we refer the child to the adoptive family.
    • The process is taking longer. We currently have families that have been in process with a referral for over a year. We are doing everything we can to keep the process moving forward as quickly as possible, but there are several steps that need to happen in the adoption process, and many of these steps are currently taking longer and requiring more to be completed.
    • The process can change at any time. Both the PAIR process and the Ethiopian side of things can add or change requirements at any time. We do our best to keep up with and anticipate those changes, but sometimes they can add significant time to processing time. It is important to be flexible with estimated wait times and to know that your case may hit a bump in the road to extend your overall time in process. These additional changes are out of our hands, but we do the best we can to gather the necessary information as quickly as possible.

    As of now we are still receiving referrals, though on a much smaller scale than a year ago. We are continuously working hard to continue adoptions in Ethiopia because we know there are children that need loving families. We have been assured that Ethiopia has no plans to officially close anytime soon, but it is no longer a quick or easy process. The slowdown, as far as we can tell, is a rather intentional move to minimize the amount of children internationally adopted in order to better regulate the process and verify orphan status.

    We do not share this to be discouraging, but we just wanted to update our families on the current climate of Ethiopia. As always, please feel free to contact your coordinator for more details about any changes in the process or concerns you may have. We know this is not an easy process, and we will continue to work to make improvements to the process where we can.

    In other news, we have learned of a small change that will make the process a little easier on our adoptive families! Now, whenever you apply to update your I-600A fingerprints, you send in your request, and they will send out an updated I-171H form with a new expiration date. You will not need to actually go to the USCIS office anymore to have your fingerprints taken again. So is great news! You will still need to submit an updated homestudy to extend the actual I-600A form, so please keep track of those expiration dates so you can update them when the time is right.

    Finally, as many of you know, we have partnered with Project 143 to start a hosting program for older children in Ethiopia! We have had several families contact us to learn more about hosting and we are so excited to see the involvement from all of you! This is such a great opportunity for these children as they are often overlooked for adoption purposes. By hosting, the child gets to experience American culture while meeting several potential adoptive families in the process. If you decide not to move forward with the child’s adoption, maybe one of your friends will. We hope that through this program, we can promote older child adoption and find some of these children that have been waiting so long wonderful families! For more information about the hosting program and the children available, please visit http://www.projectonefortythree.com/ .

  • Melkam Gena (Merry Christmas)!!

    Hello all! To celebrate Gena with our Ethiopian children today, Heaven would like to share her memories of the holiday from when she was a child in Ethiopia. We hope you enjoy learning about these beautiful traditions.

    Selam Gena, enkun dena metash!!

    Well, where should I start?!

    Here it goes a trip to memory land, Gena (Christmas) celebration in Ethiopia! Gena is one of my favorite holidays!!

    The festivities for the children of Ethiopia starts two days before Gena. The preparation looks something like this, the neighborhood gang (groups of friends that play together) gather two days before Gena to work on our musical instrument (made up of beer caps & cloth hanging wires). The boys bring the hanging wires from where ever and the girls will gather bottle caps from our games (game called pepsi- another blog). We set up our equipment (stones) and beat on the caps to make them thin enough to create a hole in them. We straighten enough of them to have about 10 caps line up together. That usually takes about 4 hours to produce enough for 6-10 musical instruments (for most of the group). Now, the hard part of preparation has been completed. We take a break to play for the rest of that day.

    On Gena eve, we start our day early (6am). We get together to find & cut our Gena tree from areas most of us would go to each year. We go with our musical instruments and an axe. The time of us walking to the location and returning home with our trees is some of the most fun (full of laughter, wishes, desires, hopes, jokes…). Right when we get home, most close friends (at least mine) would decorate the Gena tree together. Our parents usually buy us whole bag of candies for ornaments (candies = ornament in Ethiopia at least when I was there). These candies would be colorful – green, yellow, red, blue, purple, brown, orange, gray, black …..You get the picture!

    Imagine this with me?! About 6-8 of us (children from the neighborhood) in one home. We break into groups, two people per job.

    • Thread team – puts the thread on the candy and pass it on to candy team
    • Candy team – Puts on the candies evenly colored
    • Lights team – try to surround the tree evenly
    • Tree team – make sure the tree stands

    We do this house to house in the neighborhood until every house is decorated. Then on Gena day, everyone wakes up early and puts on their new clothes. Right after, each one of us (children) go outside of our houses to show off the new clothes. After the admiration of “wow, that’s cool, wow can I borrow that after Gena, wow make a turn, do circle for me, wow you are lucky, wow this is the best Gena ever….” We go back to our homes to get our musical instruments (that we made two days ago). Right after, we meet to go sing to the neighborhood. We go house to house with Gena songs for an exchange of money and blessings from the elders (forehead kisses with whisper of blessings – my most favorite part). Then around 11am we stop to eat breakfast. We eat breakfast and brag about how much money and treats we got to our families.

    As you can imagine breakfast looked different in every family. In my house at breakfast, blessings get started by my grandpa. He starts blessings my parents then blesses me (the youngest). By the end there is joy, happiness, grace, and overwhelming cheerfulness. My family starts to get ready to go to our other family houses (where I make more money). After going from family to family houses and enjoyment of cousins, I would always end up in the arms of my dad passed out asleep.

    This is my Gena. Please be mindful, this is written from an eye of child…. The festivity of Gena is different for people all across Ethiopia. If I start writing all the traditions that Gena entails, I would be here for days. But these are my happy memories that I wanted to share with you, and I wish you all a Melkam Gena!

    ~ Heaven

  • CItizenship Certificates and Social Security Cards

    Citizenship Certificates and Social Security Cards

    Hello Families!

    We have a little update for you about post arrival documents. First, it seems to be taking longer for Citizen Certificates to come in via the mail than the stated 50 day period. We are seeing an average of about 3 months. If it has been about 3 months since your child arrived in the US (with an IR3 visa) and you don’t have the citizenship paperwork yet, you can check the status by emailing childcitizenact@uscis.dhs.gov and giving them the registration number off your child’s visa. This seems to encourage them to mail it out, so definitely give this a try!

    For Social Security cards we also have lots of families wondering about where these are! With the DS 260 online Visa application, the cards are supposed to come automatically in the mail like the citizenship card. This does not seem to be happening for all of our families. We even had one family home with two children, where one got their card and the other didn’t! So we have been trying to get answers from NVC, USCIS and the Social Security Administration for several weeks now. Today we got what will probably be the most helpful answer that we will get:

    Good Afternoon,

    Thank you for your patience. After further research it appears that this issue is not related to the electronically filing of the DS260. It appears to be an unrelated processing exception that will be further reviewed.

    However, if it has been more than three weeks since the applicant applied for the SSN and was admitted into the U.S., then he or she will need to go into the local SSA office with all of his/her evidence (birth certificate, foreign passport, immigrant visa, (I-551) to apply for the SSN.

    If there is anything else we can do to assist you, please do not hesitate to let us know.

    Warm Regards,

    National Visa Center

    So unfortunately, if you have been home over a month and not gotten your social security card, it looks like you will need to apply at your local office. We were hoping that the DS 260 would allow our families to skip this added paperwork once home, but it looks like the system is not processing like it should. Instructions for applying for the social security cards can be found in your welcome home packet or here http://www.ssa.gov/people/immigrants/children.html

    If you have any further questions about this please contact your coordinator or email info@internationaladoptionnet.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

    Thanks and hope you are all having a great start to the Holiday Season!