So, after a year of our file waiting overseas I thought it might be time to write about our experience being approved to be parents! Why? Well, because this blog is so that later I can remember everything, the process, the waiting, the thinking, the feelings etc etc.

But also I am aware that others might be reading this blog who are starting the process, thinking about it etc and might be wondering what the process is like. Well if that is the case please bear in mind that this is not everyone’s experience – it is only my family’s experience. From friends I have in the adoption community I can assure anyone reading that each experience is quite different.

*warning* this is a really looong post! Sorry – but it was 18 months of our lives! Ha!

So Australia is a federation. Which means that although Intercountry Adoption is overseen by the Attorney Generals department, each separate state is responsible the actual process of approving prospective parents for adoption. So right from the start the process for people in Australia is quite different depending on which state (or territory) you live in. Although I believe each one will have some similarities and there are certain requirements that are standard, such as police checks and the requirements that parents have to meet that are set from the countries themselves, but fees, timeframes, information sessions, home studies etc are all different. Anyway – enough about that! That general info not MY experience, haha. If you want to know more about the Australian program then you can look here: http://www.ag.gov.au/intercountryadoption

What about our experience? Well. We started in October 08. Which here in NSW means we sent in our expression of interest form. From my remembering’s I believe it was a pretty straightforward form. Pretty much just name, contact details, ages etc. I think there may have been a very small fee at this point. Now, I had wanted to do this a bit earlier then Oct 08 – but Husbot wasn’t ready… at this point he was still saying things like ‘what is the rush’ and ‘I am not sure I am ready to be a Dad yet’ (!) I was trying to explain to him that there was NO WAY this process could be described as a rush! And you HAVE to apply before you are ready to be a Dad/Mum because it takes years and years and by that time we will be beyond ready… was I right? Well yes! He is ready to be a Dad now… and we still have a long wait ahead of us – the lesson –ALWAYS listen to your wife. : )

Anyway, back to the process. Quite soon after sending in the expression of interest we had a call from a member of the Intercountry Adoption team at DOCS. She was very lovely and friendly. She outlined to me the process, which would be a two day seminar that Husbot and I needed to attend, then a we would need to submit a formal application then there would be home visits etc. I do know that she estimated the timeframes to be like this – aprox 9 months for approval in Australia and at the time it was about 18 month wait… well… I wish! Is all I can say to that. If those timeframes were what we experienced then we would have been allocated some time around Dec 2010ish.

The next event was the seminar, in Dec 08. I remember before we left we were REALLY stressed about our presentation. I was stressed about my handbag, saying to Husbot ‘Argh!!! I only have hippy handbags!!! What if they hate hippies!!!” etc hahahaha! When we got there I think everyone felt the same as us! There were about 10 other couples – all were hetro couples, I am pretty sure all were married. I remember wondering if they did separate seminars for single people adopting etc. It was a session for intercountry but there were some couples who were still looking into local adoption and also fostering.

Overall we found the seminar to be really interesting. It was mostly about reminding us all that adoption was not about the parents needs (ie: your desperate need for a child) but that it was about the childs needs. I felt the information given was great and well presented. To be honest I wish there were more seminars! We were really happy to be there. I was really hungry for information and absolutely dying to get on with the process. I wanted to soak it all in. Husbot got a lot out of it too. I remember some couples who were very sceptical about the department – saying that they felt there were ‘hidden criteria’ etc that they were not being told about etc. I also remember there were other couples there who had been on IVF for years and man, they looked whipped. My heart went out to them. We were very obviously at the beginning of an exciting process – they were just on another up and down of the rollercoaster to parenthood. It was a real mixed group.

After the seminar it was up to us to put in our application. Now, here is where I have to confess that we did not turn this around as quickly as possible. (see lesson learned below). Why? Three reasons.

1) we bought a house. At the seminar we were told that it did not matter where you lived. Well we lived in a really lovely flat in Manly which is a really lovely suburb in Sydney. BUT, when we looked at the first page of application form it said ‘describe your house’. So… we bought a house! Hahaha! Well, we had been looking for a while in a casual way – but we looked with more urgency when it became a part of the process. We found our house in Jan 09 and bought it, but it took a few months to exchange etc and get in the house.

2) I travel a lot for work. So it was difficult to get appointments with doctors etc in a timely manner.

3) we were worried about the BMI thing. There was a new regulation (at the time) that if you were over 30 BMI then you needed extra medicals. Well both Husbot and I were just over so we made the decision to try to get under. I am not sure that was necessary at all in hindsight.

*lesson for anyone starting the process* the key for getting through the adoption process quicker is this. Turn YOUR paperwork around quickly. Because you can’t control how long the process will take for the department at any stage, you can only control your side. So if you want it to take longer… then sure, take longer with your paperwork (kinda like we did). 😦

Once the application was in it and the fees went off to the department. It was a bit of a waiting game. Your paperwork needs to clear, references checked, police check finalised etc. This took time – months actually. It was hard to be patient during this time, hard to not call the department to see what was going on… in fact it was so hard that I did call a few times. Each time I was terrified that they were write on my file something like ‘calls to much = should never be a mother :-(’ etc. But actually it was ok.

After the months and months of waiting we were finally at the stage of having the social worker visit us at home. Our social worker visited us 5 times, 3 times together as a couple and one time each individually. She (our social worker) was awesome! We really liked her visits.

She was great a working around my work travel, she made both of us feel really relaxed – which was a bit difficult at first I am sure because WE FREAKED OUT of course and cleaned the house like it has never been cleaned before etc. But our social worker was really helpful. Even Husbot thought so and he is really really shy and was very nervous before it all began. I think we just really enjoyed the part of the process where we were actually talking to someone and having them listen to us. It was different to just filling in paperwork and waiting around, you know?

So after her visits our social worker wrote a report for the department, we were able to view it before it was sent to them.

And then the next contact we were expecting from the department was our notice of approval. However, instead of that – the next thing we received was a phone call to say that Thailand was freezing its program and our file would not be able to be sent this year!!! AAAAAAAARGH!!!! This was terrible news. This all happened late Jan 2010.

We were told to look at the Attorney General’s department’s website and see what other programs we might be eligible for… What? We were never just ‘picking’ Thailand randomly. As I explained in this blog https://mysleepyfamily.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/13/ Thailand means something to us for several reasons. We think their program is ethically vigorous (where as there have been some programs that are ethical questionable) and that is important to us. So I expressed that to the Department case worker who called me. And in the weeks that followed we did not budge from this position.

We did discuss our options and thought that the only other option we might pursue would be to try to get the Attny Gens department to investigate another country that we had close connections with, such as Nepal, through the Ad Hoc process: http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/IntercountryAdoption_IntercountryAdoptionStrategicPlan2008?open&query=Ad Hoc adoption

But we never withdrew from Thailand. Thankfully and wonderfully our department case worker called us after just a few months and bit of email contact and one face to face meeting – to say that we would be able to send our file over to Thailand even though there was a freeze. Thailand was allowing for a few files to be sent over as ‘replacement files’. This means our file could replace a file of someone who has withdrawn from the process. I think they did really well to sort this out.

So it was all back on! We (or rather our file) was going to Thailand. Quite soon after that we received a letter saying that we were deemed to be fit to be parents – Yay!

Then we had to do final paperwork for Thailand;

  • Photos of our house
  • More medicals
  • Photos of us
  • More financial stuff
  • More references
  • All certified and official
  • Accompanied with more cheques for several different fees.

Then one by one the cheques cleared and our file flew away to Thailand, in July 2010. And that was how it all went!!! Wow.

Loooong post! Sorry for that but yes, it was a long process – 18 months to get approved, 21 months from the time of the expression of interest to our file going to Thailand.

Yes there were some frustrations but mostly it was just processes – expected delays, unexpected delays. We tried to remain positive – although I certainly did lose it when we thought our file was not going to go to Thailand! I think being positive helps. I mean we could have blamed the department for the length of time etc – but it was not all their fault. Sometimes things took longer because WE took too long to turn around paperwork. Sometimes it was just processes like the police checks – they take as long as they take – it is not the departments fault. But on the other hand we were not a difficult case – we are preferential adopters and so had thought of a lot of the issues and ethics of adoption for a long time, we have a straightforward history, and luckily no medical problems etc so maybe that’s why things were ok.

If you got through this then good on you!! I bet you feel like you have walked the whole process with us! Hahaha – was it similar to your process? Has it turned you off adoption or made you think it might be possible for you? What ever your situation – good luck!

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