It has been a rollercoaster of a month for the McGowans. I'm not sure I can say that I want to ever relive what will forever be known in New Hampshire as Snowtober. Yet it's safe to say that the storm that led to a multi-day power outage was the least of our concerns. It felt like a rather fitting way to finish off what's usually a gorgeous month in autumn; in darkness... with little information as to when light might be restored.
The last day of September held good news. We were submitted to the Embassy! We were one email away from bringing home our sweet, sweet girl. Well, in early October the email came... but it didn't quite say what we'd expected.
"...insufficent evidence... cannot approve... sending to Nairobi for review..."
Wait. WHAT? It was like that email was in another language. But it wasn't. It said, pretty clearly once I could find the power to comprehend it, that more proof was needed to classify Acacia as an orphan. The entity to do this? The closest Central Immigration Office (USCIS)- in Kenya. It would take 1-2 months before Nairobi even RECEIVED the case, never mind beginning an investigation on it.
As I'd heard it before, very, very few cases were ever forwarded to Nairobi. It seemed dire... until I signed on to my trusty Facebook group of other adoptive parents to break the news. Turns out, the news had already been broken by one, two, three families. We made four. Another had gotten the news a few days prior. How could this very unlikely outcome be the fate of FIVE families from my very own agency?
One of the moms started a new Facebook Group for those of us in this predicament (from all agencies, not just our own). A few weeks later, that group grew from 5 members to 50. To date, there are 87 of us there, and we have learned that Nairobi has about 60 cases awaiting them.
USCIS had to react. Instead of the cases going to them (via diplomatic pouch, I might add, which is like snail mail in the pre-Pony Express era), THEY are attempting to expedite their lengthy process by going to the Embassy where our cases lie. I'd like to think it was a mixture of their common sense, and our relentless questions and rallying. We contacted our Senators, we berated the Embassy with emails. We created enough of a stir for USCIS to hold a 90 minute conference call with over a hundred stakeholders, including ourselves, and a rep from our Senator's office on our behalf. We have challenged our agencies to change their processes to be proactive rather than reactive. And we got somewhere with it.
The team of USCIS officials from Nairobi arrives in Ethiopia on Monday, 11/7. We have all our ducks in a row. We have faith they just might look at our case, and just might find the 51% proof they need to deem Acacia an orphan and let us, her lawful family, bring her home. They stay for two weeks. We will be holding our breath the whole time. Should they not find enough proof to rule our case approved, we have 90 days to gather their requested evidence to again attempt to get our kiddo home.
So, these next two weeks are pretty big. Those thoughts and prayers and energy you've directed our way? Please, please keep it all coming now more than ever. Not just for us, but for all the amazing beautiful children I've come to know through sharing photos and swapping stories with their parents. Children whom are being held in institutions while their loving families are left at the mercy of the US government. The process is meant to protect the children, I get that. However, for the stage we're in, we're truly caught up in messy, inconsistent processes that are still being defined. We pray that the USCIS swoops in on 11/7 and sorts it all out.
So, there's a light at the end of the tunnel... and we just have to hope that we can reach it before another outage hits. If October brought snow, perhaps November will bring sunshine and rainbows.
And now, if you haven't read enough already... I want to share the words of a fellow adoptive parent with a true gift for erecting a window into the world of adoption. So many of you have written us, or timidly asked us how to help us through this. This blog entry not only addresses that, but also explains what life is like from our current perspective, and what it will be like going forward. (Funny enough, the waiting is apparently the "easy" part!) Enjoy:
Jen Hatmaker - How to Be The Village*
* Don't get caught up in the Christian nature of her writing should you not be of Christian faith. I'm not, but I still relate to the true essence of her speech on every level.