As promised, here comes my monthly update regarding the adoption process for us.
After our trip from Tokyo, I still had about another week until school resumed so I took advantage of the much-needed time off to relax and do absolutely nothing for those 5 days. I just sat under my kotatsu, played video games, and was generally being a couch potato for those 5 days. It was a long awaited vacation. Much appreciated indeed. Plus, we didn’t have the money to go out anywhere anyway and it was too cold outside.
Meanwhile, I worked on completing my puzzle piece fundraiser and creating a video to get it published. What is a puzzle piece fundraiser you ask? Well, I will tell you. Assuming, of course, this is the first time you have heard of it.
I designed a 500-piece puzzle. I plan to frame it and hang it in the child’s room once it has been completed. How do you complete it you ask? By selling all the pieces of course! Each piece costs $20. You buy a piece, then I write your name on the piece you have purchased. Your name will be memorialized forever in our picture. I will incorporate the names into the design.
You can buy just one puzzle piece, or you can buy two or ten if you feel so inclined. It really is up to you and what you feel is appropriate. If you want to participate in the fundraiser, then please see my crowdfunding page here. I tried to grab a widget to add to my website, but one is java script and one is html. I didn’t realize that they don’t mix very well, so I cannot add it to this site. Sorry about that. I will post links on my home page so it will be easier to navigate should you wish to donate more in the future.
During the first week of school, I received an email from our social worker asking about how we would feel if she came to Japan for our home study in January. We got the dates from her and realized that it was going to be in 2 weeks. Which meant that we had very little time to gather the cash together to pay for the home study as well as her visit.
We had to write a ridiculously long autobiography of sorts. That took us a few days to complete. Once that was completed, we sent it off and our social worker analyzed it. She needed to read it to study up on us before her visit. It is her job to write a report about us to submit to USCIS for us to be approved as adoptive parents. So this 50-page “essay” is very important.
We still hadn’t paid the home study fee by that point because we thought we had to have all our documents submitted beforehand. According to our social worker, that is not the case. Homes studies can be conducted with or without all your documents in order. Who knew? Because of this, we needed to gather what money we had in savings to send to the US. Sending money takes 7-10 days. On top of that, we also needed to collect USD cash to pay her as reimbursement for her travel to and from Japan. Getting the cash was the most annoying because everyone we asked kept saying to use the bank. The banks charge really high fees for exchanging currency. Plus, they would have had to order it. We didn’t have that kind of time. We finally found out that the post office exchanges cash for free. And a bonus! The employees speak English. The post office also has several different currencies on hand should anyone need it. That information will come in handy should we travel abroad again. We can forgo the fees and just directly exchange with the post office. That was exciting to find out.
Everything needed to be arranged by us before the social worker arrived. Aside from the flight, things such as hotel, transportation, and meals, all needed to be supported by us. Some people would find that a little ridiculous and unfair. Especially because we paid such a huge amount of money to even begin the home study and it is hard to see what the money is being spent on. I can’t go into detail, but we did bring this up and she promptly told us exactly how the money is being used.
About a week before our social worker was coming, the money for the fee made it to our bank in the US. I logged online to pay the fee, and there was nothing there. No documents, no invoice, nothing. I thought that maybe it was because our internet was acting up so I waited a day to try again. The next day, the same thing. I logged in and everything was gone. So I emailed our caseworker about it. The only problem is that you need to log in to this portal to email her, and the portal was not working. I tried sending an email, and it said I didn’t exist. Ok?? I emailed our social worker and she directed us to someone who could help us. By this point, 2 additional days had gone by. We only had 3 days to get this fee paid so she should come and do the study.
The person emailed me back, and said that it the portal was giving only us issues. No other families were affected by this glitch. After another day, she sent me another email telling me that it was fixed. I rushed online and paid the fee, then notified our social worker. Not sure why it happened to only us, but it did.
All we had to do was prepare for her arrival. We sent directions to our place, arranged meals, and paid for hotels, all she had to do was show up, receive payment, then interview us. Which is exactly what happened. Everything went smoothly. There were no delays at all. It was all a very pleasant experience.
I cannot divulge what we discussed or what exactly our home study entails because not only is it confidential, but each couple’s circumstances are entirely different. What I can say is what’s expected now. Now, we wait. We wait for her to finish writing up our home study, then show it to us to look over for a few weeks to make sure that everything is truthful, accurate, and nothing is missing. Then it will be submitted to USCIS, which will then take another few months to be approved. I am guessing, that it will be a total of 6 months before we hear back regarding approval of our home study or not.
Now, if we get an RFE (request for evidence) by USCIS, then that means there is some sort of problem that needs to be addressed by us before we can move forward, which unfortunately means beginning the home study process all….over….again… We would have to pay the home study fee, AGAIN. Have our social worker come and visit us….AGAIN. Then pay her for reimbursements…AGAIN. We do NOT by any means want this to happen. So we are praying that USCIS does not issue an RFE. Because the requirements for a home study vary case by case, there is no way of knowing for sure if we are in danger of an RFE or not. Some families get more than one and some families that you think would have one don’t. It is all up to each case and USCIS. The laws are constantly changing. So please pray with us that we do NOT get an RFE!
There will be one more fee for this home study, and that is once it is submitted to USCIS, we will have to pay the submission fee which is anywhere from $800-$2000. I don’t know how much we will have to pay because, again, it depends on our case. Hopefully, we will have enough time to come up with the money before that happens though.
Now that that is finished, we are on to the next thing! And that next thing is the home study for Japan. Which is another $2000-$4000, and another visit all together. We are saving in any way that we can. We have cut corners in basically every area of our lives. We just hope we can do this without having to take out any adoption loans.
Once our home study has been approved, we are eligible to apply for adoption grants. I guess they want to make sure our claims are legitimate and that is why they only accept applicants who have an approved home study. I did find one about a month ago, that accepted us even without a home study and did apply for that. It was a contest so I don’t know if I will be accepted or not. They are supposed to email us either way. I believe the winners are announced in mid-February. So I will let you know if I have heard anything from them in my next adoption update post.
Thanks so much for your support and for reading this post! I hope that our story helps/inspires others who are adopting in Japan.
Have a good winter!