So, obviously, there was a gap my blog posting. You might think that my problem with blogging is that we have six kids and things are busy here, but that is not really the issue. The problem is that we are adopting again and adoption involves a ton of paperwork. Only a government agent could grasp just how much paperwork we are talking about here—gazillions of pieces of paper full of nit-picky details that have to be just right. There is no fudging anything. This is a bad medium for me.
If it seems like I’m exaggerating with that gazillion, trust me, I am not. Among other things, we’ve had to hand over all of our legal certificates (birth, marriage, former adoptions, etc.), all our financial information (income, out-go, two years of w-2’s, tax returns, car/house payments, investments, deeds, etc.), our driving records, our medical records, proof of life/medical/dental insurance, two sets of fingerprints, a criminal record check for every state we have lived in since we were eighteen and a copy of our dog's license and vaccine record. The checklist for our US homestudy was seventy items. The checklist for the China study is fifteen SETS of documents, and I don’t have patience to figure out how many that is in total.
Here is the story of just one set of forms. I want to make sure everyone knows how much I am suffering here, even though this is not my fault (mostly). I am not making any of this up.
We started thinking about adopting sometime in December 2011. I found a child sometime the next month-- January, found a homestudy agency in February, started the interviews in March and started the paperwork in April.
There were two sets of physical exam forms that we needed to have filled out by our doctor. One set for our US homestudy agency and one set for our dossier that will go to China. They were essentially the same forms, both involving a general physical exam, blood work and a urine sample. The exception was that the China form required extra blood tests and notarized signatures. Bill and I went to our doctors office on separate days, with both forms in hand, so the doctors could fill out the forms and get the blood work started. I miraculously found a date in April that all four of us could meet (me, Bill, the doctor and our notary, who is now like a member of the family). By that time, I thought the results of the blood work would be in and we could complete all four forms in that one day.
Visit Number One: All four of us met at the doctor’s office. The two physicals for the US homestudy were completed, the blood work results filled in and the doctor handed them over. This is an entire box checked, which is no small feat. We started on the papers for China, only to find that Bill’s entire China form was missing. He had left his forms with the doctor, while I had taken my forms home so I could keep them safe. We can call Bill’s China Forms: Missing Papers Number One.
There was a scramble in the doctor’s office as three nurses and two office managers searched high and low looking for the missing form. I noticed that they focused specifically on a letter size wire basket in the front office, painstakingly looking at every paper in the basket. No form. I did not want to arrange another meeting. So, I was about to call the Chinese agency to see if they could fax a blank copy, when the doctor found Bill’s form. It had already been electronically downloaded into their medical records system. We printed a copy of Bill’s China Form and as they were filling out the blood work portion, the doctor realized that Bill and I needed extra blood tests for the China forms. Bill and I gave another vial of blood, the missing tests were ordered, and we all agreed that the easiest thing to do was to notarize the doctors signatures now* and then fill in the results for the missing blood tests when they arrived.
Visit Number Two (Still in April): The blood work returned, the forms were completed. The receptionist retrieved them from the wire basket with what I now consider remarkable ease and I sent them off to our Chinese adoption agency along with a two inch pile of papers to be added into our dossier headed for China. I naively checked off another box.
Visit Number Three (Sometime in May): I got an e-mail from our China coordinator that said this: “I just received your Mailer 1. The only concern I have is on the medical forms. The HbsAG test is not circled on your form or Bill’s form- negative/positive. Your form is also missing the liver function test- normal/abnormal. In order to avoid having to redo and re-notarize the forms, can you have the doctors write up a letter stating these tests were completed and the outcome? They can scan and e-mail the letter to me or fax it.” (NOTE TO THE READER: you must not fault my doctor for this. That form is endless and unorganized, with check boxes everywhere.)
It would have been so easy if I could just forward this e-mail to my doctor, but they protect his e-mail like it’s the recipe for Coca-Cola. I left a few messages with the receptionists, but I never got a call back and after a few attempts, it looked like I was going to actually have to make an appointment to get these three letters. Thanks be to God, sometime in June, I actually saw the doctor at our local pool. He is an outgoing, friendly sort and I was able to walk straight up to him and explain the situation. He asked me to print out the e-mail (WHY did I never think of this?), drop it off and he would write up what I needed.
Visit Number Four (Sometime in June): I got a call. The letters were done. I couldn’t get to the office before closing, so they decided to put the letters in an envelope and tape it to a back door for me to pick up over the weekend. I’m not really sure why we didn’t just use the USPS, but for some reason, the plan was that I would pick up the letters at the office. Of course, I didn’t get to this over the weekend, and it actually wasn’t until Tuesday that I was able to stop by the office. I checked the back door. The papers were not there. I asked at the front desk and the receptionist went to that same wire basket. She did a quick glance through the papers. And when she didn’t find any letters, she grabbed a bar stool and got comfortable. Then she painstakingly looked over every paper, taking them out one by one and making a pile next to the basket. While she was looking we chatted a little about her family. Her dog didn’t seem to be doing well and they were about to hold a yard sale. Her daughter was leaving for college in August. She finally got to the end of the basket and came up empty handed. She checked a few more spots, then admitted defeat. We’ll call these letters Missing Papers Number Two. The receptionist said they would have to print up some new letters.
About this time, Bill joined some sort of company wellness program and needed proof of a recent physical. Bill handed over the form and asked me to drop it by the doctor’s office. Bill was essentially in the dark about what was happening with the adoption paperwork. I told him I’d get to it, but the truth is there was no way I was going to complicate things by adding another form into the mix. I kept it in the car.
Visit Number Five (Also in June): I got a call. The letters were done. The receptionist walked over to the wire basket, picked up a stack of three letters and handed them to me. Everything would have ended right there, but I made a tragic mistake. I thought the liver function letter was for Bill. Something about his liver is always screwing up blood tests (he can’t give blood) and I stupidly thought we needed a liver letter for him. So, I left my liver function test letter with the receptionist and asked her to make a copy for Bill, sending us ALL back into the frying pan.
Visit Number Six (Also in June): I sheepishly stopped by the office a few days later. By now I’d figured out that I didn’t need a letter for Bill, but hoped I could just pick up the two letters and no one would ever know. Of course, when I saw the receptionist, she walked over to the fickle wire basket and took out one sheet of paper that was on top of the pile. It was the liver function test letter for Bill that we never really needed. I asked her if she still had the liver letter for me, but sadly, I’d said that it wasn’t necessary and they had shredded it. I now had to admit my mistake and ask the doctor to write up a THIRD liver function test letter for me. I was so embarrassed, I got out of there as quickly as possible. I forgot to ask about the dog.
Visit Number Seven (Now it’s July): The receptionist saw me walk into the office and headed straight for the wire basket. After the customary glance through the pile, she reached over and grabbed the bar stool. While she was looking, we chatted about her daughter, her still ailing dog and the sale of her family car. We were just about to enter the realm of her husband’s upcoming operation when she hit the bottom of the wire basket. She didn’t find the third liver function test letter for me, but, she did find an envelope at the very bottom of the basket. She smiled, walked back to the glass window and gleefully handed me the original envelope, with the tape still on it, that was waiting for me at their back door sometime in June. Missing Papers Number Two had been found.
Now that I had all the letters I needed for China, I went back to the car and got out the Employee Physical Form for Bill from the glove compartment and I handed it to the receptionist. I explained what we needed and, by force of habit, agreed to pick up the forms in a few days.
Visit Number Eight (still in July): I stopped by the office to grab the Employee Physical Form for Bill. The receptionist went to her perch next to the wire basket (the stool was already in place) and started going through the papers. In case you are wondering, her family was fine, but the dog had died. Well toward the bottom of the stack, she looked up at me, smiled and walked back to the window. She triumphantly handed me a form with Bill’s name right at the top. It was the medical form for China that had been missing since that first meeting back in April. I am not making this up. Missing Papers Number One had been found.
I thanked her and explained that, while this was very helpful, what I really needed was the Employee Physical Form, a different form, a green form, that I’d dropped off a few days ago. She looked around a few more places in the office and finally decided the form was missing. She would talk to the doctor and give me a call.
Visit Number Nine (the end of July): I got a call. The form was found and ready. The receptionist saw me walk into the office and headed straight for the wire basket. I remembered not to ask about her dog. She grabbed a form at the top of the pile and handed it over to me. It was the Employee Physical. I smiled, thanked the receptionist for her help and gave her a warm handshake. We both knew that this meant goodbye for a while, at least until flu season.
This is why I haven’t been blogging. Adoption paperwork is always like this. The thought of putting words on a page was enough to make me vomit. Think of it as a type of paperwork induced morning sickness. It’s almost as annoying as pregnancy and it certainly takes longer. Nevertheless, we got all our paperwork done last month and sent everything into the INS in early September. And now we wait.
*NOTE: a notary doesn’t verify that anything on a form is true or false. A notary just verifies a signature—that the person signing the form is writing his true name.