Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Parenthood Blessings, Part 7 – by Clint

Tommy and I playing at the park just a few days after returning to San Antonio

In the last installment, I related how we had our application to have Tommy considered a part of our family by the US Government had been rejected. Our home study and other requirements were not adequate. So I contacted the lady who had done our home study a year earlier for Estonia and she agreed to redo the home study. I got detailed instructions from the Dept. of Homeland Security on what was necessary and together, she and I crafted a home study that would be acceptable.

In the meantime, I had to pursue several other issues. We also had to have FBI fingerprints taken and sent to the FBI in Virginia to make sure that Debbie and I were not hardened criminals. While we knew that there was no real danger of anything coming back in the report, it turned out to be quite an ordeal. The first fingerprints we gave were not up to standards, either, so we had to go do them again. That added to the time that we had to wait.

Not only did we have to do all of these things, but once we finally had an acceptable home study, we had to be “approved” by a licensed adoption agency in the US. Honestly, we were blessed in this regard. Normally, the approving adoption agency must be from the home state in which the adopting parents reside. But since we lived in Estonia, any agency within the US would work. I sent out about 8 billion emails to various agencies to find out what we needed to do to gain their approval, as well as the cost. I heard back from several. Prices ranged from about $500 up to several thousand. I am pretty cheap, so I went with the lower price.

Honestly, that wasn’t the only reason. In reality, this agency (East West Adoptions in California) was the only one that didn’t just try to treat us like we were beginning the adoption process and was willing to work with us from where we actually were. They had experience with Estonian adoptions, as well. So we sent all of our materials to them and had everything approved. It then had to be sent to the State Capital in Sacramento to receive an Apostille. Then it was forwarded to us so we could resubmit it to the DHS office in Copenhagen – again.

I won’t go into more detail, but suffice it to say that I have greatly shortened this process for this brief article. There were actually quite a few things that we had to get done. I was paying for FedEx on just about everything to speed up the process. Our $5 adoption had gotten quite a bit more expensive.

Unfortunately, by this time the 90 days that we had been allotted by our sponsoring church was running out. We had submitted all of our documents, but had not heard back whether they were approved or not. Some numbskulls back at the sponsoring church, who did not have all of the information about the situation, but who thought they knew what was going on did some internet research and using that inadequate knowledge and some hearsay informed the rest of our “missions committee” that it would take over a year at a minimum to get this done. Our church was not willing to wait for such an extended period of time.

They told us to find someone in Estonia to watch Tommy for us and to come home. Needless to say, that was not an option for us. Those who know me would be proud of me. I was actually civil and kind when I told them to go jump in a lake. In fact, I don’t even think I was THAT harsh. But they got my point. The talk of us immediately returning without Tommy was dropped.

However, they begin to reduce my salary. Rather than receiving my monthly paycheck in the normal way, they reduced my salary by 20% every two weeks and paid me bi-weekly. They had decided to put the squeeze on me.

Of course, not only was I losing income each month while I was in Estonia, I had no real job prospects for when I returned to Texas. It is hard to interview from 8000 miles away from the job. But I began to search for options in earnest. I considered teaching English in China, but we had the same immigration issues there. In fact, I began to search for a job ANYWHERE in the world where I could take Tommy.

Finally, our sponsors told us to purchase tickets for all five of us, even without the required visa for Tommy. They promised to not make us return without him and agreed that if the visa had not been issued by the time the tickets were scheduled for, that we could reschedule and they would pay for the added cost. I looked at what time I thought the soonest we could possibly be ready to return and purchased the tickets – October 29.

Joey and Tommy had a "late" birthday party right after we returned to San Antonio - Tommy was 2

One week before our departure date, on October 22, God smiled on us and our paperwork was approved in Copenhagen. Of course, that wasn’t the final step. We had to take Tommy to Helsinki, Finland to get the immigration visa. Our paperwork was forwarded to the US Embassy in Helsinki and we made an appointment for Wednesday, October 27 to get the visa.

Then we ran into another snag. Because Tommy had the non-citizen gray passport, he could not freely go to Finland, but needed a visa from the Finnish government in order to enter their country. So I went to apply for one on Monday, October 25. They said it would be no problem; it would be available for pickup in three weeks. That obviously was not going to work with our schedule. So I contacted the US Embassy in Estonia and they pulled some strings for me and Tommy received his Finnish visa on Tuesday, October 26.

We went over on the 27th, received his visa, and returned to Tallinn, Estonia that same day. We had been packed for three months. We hugged all of our friends and loved ones in Estonia goodbye and boarded our plane right on schedule. In one week, we went from not knowing when we would be returning to sitting on the plane. It was a great week.

We landed in Dallas, Tommy had his visa stamped and we continued on to San Antonio, where Debbie’s family met us at the airport. You would think this should be the end of the story, and it should be. Tommy’s visa was the type that, once it was stamped in Dallas, made him automatically be a US Citizen. We simply had to wait for the paperwork to be mailed to us.

When it arrived, we found out that we were not quite done with paperwork and the government on this issue…


Fr. James Early said...

My goodness! What an ordeal!

Anonymous said...

It is almost unimaginable that ANYONE could expect you and Debbie to leave your child,a little toddler in the hands of someone on the other side of the world for even a few days, never mind an undeterminable amount of time. I am agast!

Clint said...

Fr. James,
Yes, it was quite an ordeal. I actually shortened it quite a bit to get it to fit. I probably spent over $1000 on FedEx alone and another couple hundred on phone calls to Denmark, Finland and the US to get it all done.

Suffice it say that leaving him behind was NEVER an option. I really think that the suggestion to do so was hastily thought out and once I let them know what I thought of the idea, they realized what an imbecilic idea it really was.

Deborah said...

Yeah, there was no way we were leaving him...I still can't believe they said it.

It was a very stressful time!