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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Steps to the Court Date

So, tomorrow will be 3 weeks since we saw our son for the first time. Lots of people have been asking, "What now?" or "How long until you go to Ethiopia?"

Here are the steps that have to be completed prior to us recieving our court date:

  • Step One - Upon acceptance of the referral, a Contract of Adoption is signed between the child's legal guardian (the Orphanage) and the adoptive parent(s), or the agency representative (Girmachew). If the legal guardian is also the agency that is processing the adoption, another licensed orphanage can sign on behalf of the child. This contract is the basis for the issuance of the adoption decree, which shows that the guardian or the orphanage has relinquished their parental or guardian right in regard to the adopted child. The contract must be taken to the Inland Revenue Administration office to be stamped. There is a nominal fee.
  • Step Two - The parents’ dossier is returned to MOWA (Ministry of Women's Affairs) . MOWA will then affix a summary sheet, on which will be noted items such as court decisions, background data on the adopted child or children, and the names of Adoption Committee members who will complete the form at a later date (see below). At this point, for private adoptions only, MOWA usually asks the U.S. Embassy to provide a letter of support for the adoptive parents.
  • Step Three - MOWA submits the parents’ dossier to the Adoption Committee for review and approval to adopt. The Adoption Committee meets periodically, sometimes as often as every week, to review cases. The Committee either approves or rejects the prospective adoptive parent(s), based on Ethiopian guidelines for international adoptions. Given the volume of work before the Committee, it can take weeks before the Committee reviews a dossier. Further investigation into the parents' qualifications is done if deemed necessary, and a recommendation is made. Only if all the members of the committee agree, and sign the recommendation, is the request approved.
  • Step Four - Once the Committee has approved the parents’ dossier, MOWA opens a file at the Federal First Instance Court to apply for an appointment date for the adoption hearing. The court date could be one to two months from the date of filing.
  • Step Five - CYAO opens a file at the Federal First Instance Court to apply for an appointment date for the adoption hearing. The court date could be one to two months from the date of filing. The Court generally is closed between three and twelve weeks between July and October. The dates change every year.
  • Step Six - A notice seeking any other claimants to the child is published in the local press stating the child's name and the name of the adopting parents. Anyone opposed to the adoption is requested to appear at MOWA by a certain date and time.
  • Step Seven - When the appointed court date arrives, the prospective parents or their agency's local representative will be asked to appear in court. Final decisions can be handed down quickly, but delays of weeks are not uncommon. Adoptive parents must obtain at least two originals of the court decree. One will be retained by MOWA and one must be submitted to the U.S. Embassy for the visa application. The original submitted to the Embassy will be returned to the parents.
  • Step Eight - After the adoption is complete, MOWA prepares a request to the city of Addis Ababa for the issuance of a new birth certificate, and a request to the Office of Security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs for an Ethiopian passport for the child in its new name. The U.S. Embassy needs both the new birth certificate and the passport to complete the child's U.S. immigrant visa application process.
  • Step Nine - The court decree must be translated into English. The original and the translation are submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for authentication. The authentication stamp, seals and signature are placed on the back of the translation. If the adoption contract was made in Amharic, it too must be translated into English and the original translation authenticated by MOFA.

According to our program director the entire process will take 6-8 weeks. This of course is ideal and not a guarantee. We are praying that we will hear when our court date is any day! The last group received notice of their court date about 3 weeks prior to it. At this rate, we may be traveling to pick up our son right around my 30 birthday in the beginning of June!

We are doing our best to use this time wisely to prepare our hearts and home for this little boy! I am reading "What To Expect The First Year", and I am learning a lot!

This week a wonderful family in our church bought us several ADORABLE baby outfits! We are so blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives!

Happy Sunday! Love you all!

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