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Friday, September 29, 2006
We have two of our close friends that have also adopted internationally. Interestingly enough, one of those friends who I use to work with shot me an email the other day saying they had heard from another one of the people in our old work group and that she too had just recently adopted from Russia.

She just got back a few months ago with an absolutely beautiful daughter, who ironically looks just like her (it's funny how that sometimes happens). Anyway, we traded a few emails and she asked that I give her a ring to catch up and talk about the whole adoption thing. She's one of a rare breed of people that are just truly nice and genuinely helpful (but thankfully also very funny and like me enjoys a sarcastic joke).

So we talked for quite awhile about how her adoption went and I also picked her brain on a few things. She highly recommended her IA doctor (International Adoption doctor). And Stef and I wanted to have two just in case we couldn't contact one (always have a backup plan). Anyway, I'll discuss the whole doctor thing in a separate post.

We've now got three friends all who have adopted internationally within the last year. It's been and will continue to be a great resource for us. Things change so much especially in Russia that having people that were just there is huge. There are just things you can't get in a book or on the web. Things that you really have to ask someone face to face and even more so, things that you may not feel comfortable asking a stranger.
posted by Steveg @ 10:38 AM   5 comments
Alfred, get me the Bat Phone.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Our agency has a special hotline that they update every week. It's really been great and as I've said before, I'm very pleased with the breadth and detail of information they provide.

This hotline, though is really just to convey information or updates on the NGO and accreditation processes. Of course they got their NGO a couple of weeks ago, so now they're providing some good inside info on how the accreditation (or really re-accreditation) is going. Anyway, they update it on Wednesdays and the current take is a pretty positive one in terms of when Government Decision No. 268 may get fixed.

And since our agency always seem to be on the more conservative side, if they are now optimistic that's really a good sign. But even assuming the best case scenario, we're still in for a few months of waiting for the accreditation stuff to get settled. However, as I mentioned all too many times now, we completely understand that there are going to be quite a few "waiting periods".
posted by Steveg @ 7:10 PM   2 comments
Nothing too interesting
Monday, September 25, 2006
We're going to have a couple of weeks here where not too much will be happening, at least from our view. Our dossier is in Moscow right now getting translated. And as mentioned that should take a couple of weeks to get done.

And we really just need reaccreditation to get going. We should be hearing pretty soon if the MOE has determined if they can get that started again or need some sort of rewording to Government Decision No. 268 (again that's the "instruction guide" detailing how exactly agencies get accredited).

Personally I think it's going to be the latter but that should get done fairly soon (hopefully just a month or two). But we're not really worried if it takes a bit longer. Of course we would like to traveling in the fast lane on the freeway, we also realize things have been moving quite quickly for us so a slow down here or there isn't the end of the world.
posted by Steveg @ 10:05 PM   0 comments
No change to the timeline but the fog is lifting
Thursday, September 21, 2006
We are, of course, pleased that our agency got the NGO registration done. But I feel like it's more of a "just nice to get it out of the way" kind of thing. Since the NGO is managed by the Russian Ministry of Justice which, until this year, really had nothing to do with international adoptions, getting the NGO is just a small (albeit important) step. And does somewhat make the analysis of what happens and when a little clearer.

And for those who are still waiting for their agencies to get the NGO, each NGO is a very good sign. I think you'll see NGOs dropping into the laps of agencies like ripe fruit off a tree from this point forward. It's pretty clear that the rate of agencies getting registered are increasing and I wouldn't be surprised if we see the total number (currently 15 or so over the past two months) double within the next 2 to 3 weeks.

And all that is great news for the bigger issue of reaccreditation and the fix needed to Government Decision No. 268. The more agencies that have NGO and thus can provide leverage to the Ministry of Education to fix 268 the better. I believe it's going to take a couple of months for 268 to get done but then just a few weeks after that for agencies to get reaccredited.

So best case the whole 268 thing is done in October and agencies are reaccredited in November, worst case (in my opinion) is 268 is fixed in February or March of 2007 with reaccreditation happening a few weeks after that.

So my own guesstimate on our timeline hasn't really changed much. Again assuming the best case (which I personally doubt will happen) and we may end up traveling to Russian in late October or November. A more likely scenario (and what Stef and I are betting on) is that the whole reaccreditation process meanders to completion in December'ish and we end up traveling on our first trip in January or February. And although I don't like the think about it, a worst case scenario would be waiting many months and not traveling until the summer or fall of 2007.
posted by Steveg @ 6:34 PM   4 comments
The paper trail to Moscow
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Our agency let us know that our dossier was sent off to Moscow yesterday. They mentioned that it typically takes about three days to get to Moscow. It then will be translated into Russian in their Moscow office and that usually takes anywhere from one week to two weeks. After that the documents will be sent to our region (Omsk) and to the officials there.

Since our dossier is quite large, I'm betting it will take a full two weeks for the translation. So my guess is by mid October we will be in a position to get into the queue for a referral. A very big however, as I've mentioned before we still must wait for our agency (and almost everyone else is in this same boat) to get reaccredited (see "The Whole NGO" post below for my pontification on that major issue).
posted by Steveg @ 9:40 AM   3 comments
It's official...our agency is great!
Monday, September 18, 2006
Well, it is official. Our agency has gained NGO registration.

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Huge and happy news. Not sure which number we were but certainly our agency was within the first 10 to 15 to get the coveted NGO.

Now we can't jump the gun just yet. Although this is a dramatic step, our agency (along with all the other ones who now have their NGO) must still wait to get reaccredited. And for that to happen we all must wait for Government Decision No. 268 (the decree that stipulates how accreditation is done) to be modified. For the gory details on this read my previous post "The Whole NGO".

But this is a major milestone and to maintain our positive outlook both Stef and I are celebrating (not to mention congratulating our agency who once again has shown itself to be totally on the ball).
posted by Steveg @ 12:57 AM   10 comments
The Whole NGO
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I wanted to just mention a few things about the whole NGO/accrediation process currently in flux in Russia. This is more of pontification for those who may be reading this blog with either a desire to adopt a child from Russia or those currently in the process.

First a quick recap. Russia, like all countries with a strong national self esteem, feel that it is not a good thing for foreigners to adopt their orphaned children. And Americans adopting Russians are probably viewed even worse, and based on our current concept of international morality who can blame them.

As a result, Russian adoption is, in a word, a quagmire. And one that is ever changing. Since opening up to foreign adoptions (in 1994) the process has changed almost every year due to the fact that adoption agencies are accredited only for a one year period. Some years the changes were minor while in others they were major.

This year, it was super major. The Russian government decided that all non governmental agencies (what we call non profits) had to be "registered" to do business in Russia. This was a significant hurdle for adoption agencies since (just like our government) the Russians made the law without detailing the process for registration. The law went into effect in mid April.

So far, 8 adoption agencies have the coveted NGO registration. However that is not only thing they need to work on adoptions in Russia. They still need to be accredited. And none of those 8 (to my knowledge) have been reaccredited yet. And until the first of those agencies get reaccredited it is impossible to how long the accreditation process will take.

The problem with why the accreditation is not quick this year is a result of the NGO thing which superseded the details of how accreditation has occurred in the past. There needs to be some changes to these details. Now, the reaccreditation may only require a change to the decree known as Government Decision No. 268. It is NOT a law but is a decree, and that's good news. Changes to decrees are much much easier to get done. A new law would require a full Duma (their congress) vote and that takes months upon months.

But no one is really sure if indeed the decree will be updated or if Russia will decided to implement a new law, hence the wildly differing time estimates. Most hope that a change in the decree (which is rumored to come out this month) will be what happens. However, if a new law is required, it will take several months before any agency will be reaccredited and as a result, international adoption in Russia will most likely come to a standstill.

Now how does this affect us you ask. It's a hurdle and a major one, but this whole process is nothing but hurdles. And again, our estimates were, and this was a very aggressive best case, to be traveling to Russia in the November timeframe with a more likely scenario being that we would be traveling in the January/February timeframe.

I'm still leaning towards the Jan/Feb time as the most likely with a worst case being...say next April or May. Net net, even that worst case is not so bad when you consider that we started this process in May of this year and one year is not long at all when you realize we've been waiting 13 years to get our family.
posted by Steveg @ 4:34 PM   3 comments
Dossier needed just a quick pit stop
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Thanks to the good people at our home-study agency the "redo" took like 5 minutes and the documents are being Fedex'd back to our placement agency today. That means early next week our entire dossier will be on it's way to Moscow. Our agency does the translation of the documents in their Moscow office. I'm not certain how long it will take but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a couple of weeks. We have a plethora of papers and I can't believe they all can be translated into Russian all that quickly, but we'll see. As always, I'd rather be a bit more conservative in estimating the time it takes to get things done.

Our agency had some optimistic comments on their hotline earlier this week regarding their NGO application. And considering the fact that they always try to err on a more pessimistic/conservative tone, we're feeling pretty upbeat. If you recall, my own guesstimate was that they would be getting their NGO registration in the mid September timeframe (which was more optimistic than what our agency felt which was end of September/early part of October). So we'll see, hopefully we'll have some good news in a few days.

Regardless, and to my knowledge, NONE of the 8 agencies who currently have passed the NGO registration have their accreditation done. And that must occur before they can continue operations inside Russia. The timing of when agencies will get their reaccreditation is about as clear as mud. But the current best/worst case scenarios are from several weeks to several months.
posted by Steveg @ 10:33 AM   2 comments
Our first "Do Over"
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
We got the two documents back today that we need to have redone, or more accurately have the notary stamp done on each page instead of just the final page. Both are from our home-study and the folks at our home-study agency also did the notaries. Which is nice because A) they did the notary for free and B) I can go to one place to fix both documents.

So I'll be running it up to them today to have them redo their stamp. Everything else in our dossier was fine and we just need the stamp done and nothing else, so once this is back in the hands of our agency they will get the entire document translated into Russian and sent to their Moscow office.

Stef made some brownies for our home-study agency since we're having to have them redo these documents and we have always found that it's a darn good idea to keep people happy with you when you may need something from them in the future. You get a lot farther in life (not to mention getting there faster) if you use more carrots than sticks.

Stef jokingly pointed out that now we've had to redo a document (well, more like amend one) she now feels like we're really into the adoption process.
posted by Steveg @ 8:32 AM   2 comments
After further review...
Monday, September 11, 2006
For you non football fans that's what the referee usually says after an instant replay challenge. Anyway, there was one issue (and pretty minor at that) on our dossier. We just need to get a few pages which had been notarized get a restamp. On just a couple of pages there wasn't the official notary stamp on each page but rather on the final page of the document (which is the normal practice here in the U.S.).

Thankfully (course that's what they get the big bucks for) our agency caught it during their review of our documents. They also explained the reason why and that is that the Russians don't "trust" the document unless the notary seal is on every page (or at least the folks in our region since policies are not exactly uniform in good ol' Mother Russia).

So we'll be getting the documents needing the corrections Fedex'd to us tomorrow and we'll clear this up this week and should be able to get them back to our agency by week's end.

As Stef mentioned in last week's post, I had one nasty cold. I'm just getting back up to speed after that bout which was the second cold I've had in the past 2 months (which also happens to be the second cold I've had in like the last 5 years). I guess I just needed to catch up on not feeling well. Unfortunately this time I got a little bronchitis with it, which is just a real pain to get rid of. But for the moment, I live. And will thankfully be able to watch my beloved 49ers this NFL season.
posted by Steveg @ 5:17 PM   1 comments
What a busy week
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Please forgive my first attempt at blogging. I'm already feeling inferior with no catchy title and can't be nearly as clever and witty as Steve is in his posts.

This week has been a busy one for us. Steve's been sick with a really really bad cold, please be sure and give him some get well wishes. It's really unusual for him to get sick but this cold has been horrible. I've also been really busy at work so haven't been able to take care of Mr. Sickly. I'm an IT project manager and had a software release over the long weekend (yeah I'm really popular with my team these days) so haven't had time to do much of anything.

Yes, we did finally get our apostilled marriage certificates back from Arizona. Let's just say the $20 version from California is more impressive than the $3 version from Arizona. Anyone else want to comment about their impression of their apostilles?

So the first version of our dossier is complete and made it to our agency today. So we're on our way but still waiting for our agency to get NGO registration and reaccreditation.

Congratulations to Elle and Captain Smartypants on their court date earlier this week. They're now a family of three!
posted by yorkiemom @ 4:16 PM   4 comments
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I'm Steve and this is my wife Stefanie. This is our story, mostly seen through my eyes, of the journey to create our family by adopting a child from Russia.

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