Adoption and orphan care is Team Huss' irresistible calling.  We are passionate about caring for the orphan, including: orphan PREVENTION (mentor an at-risk teen, support an organization like Heartline in Haiti doing great things in maternal health) to ADVOCACY (get trained to be a CASA, share photos of waiting children on social media) to SPONSORSHIP (Hawassa Hope is a favorite of ours) to orphan HOSTING (this played a huge role in how well our boys adjusted to family living--it is SO important!) to FOSTERING (we need foster parents in a bad way, y'all!) to ADOPTION (obviously the largest commitment of the list, but so, so worth it!).

Below are the stories of how we are building our family (3 adoption stories and 1 biological addition so far).  We LOVE to share our adoption journeys with others, so please get in touch with us if you want to know more!  

Here's the low-down on our adoption of our first child, Edeneku Lee Huss.

Our unique journey: Our adoption story is a bit different from others I’ve heard.  Our desire to adopt did not stem from a painful road of infertility, nor was it something that either of us grew up knowing we wanted to do.  It came on fast and we acted on it immediately.  

The drivers: 1) being challenged from blog reading (specifically, the story of Katie Davis in Uganda), 2) not being pregnant already (we had been “trying,” but had not experienced any loss associated with infertility)

The “calling:” On the evening of September 16, 2009 (which made it September 17th in Ethiopia—a year to the day of Eden’s birth), Ben and I discussed how we should respond to a specific blog post regarding orphans.  As I rattled off things…should we give financially, should we pray, should we adopt…Ben stopped me.  He said that he felt a jolt through his body when I said “adopt.”  I asked what that meant…and he said we should adopt.  It was that simple.  We started requesting free packets of information from adoption agencies the next day!

Some “feelings:” From the beginning, Ben always felt like we would get matched with a girl and that it would be before Christmas.  The realist in me just “knew” that it would be a boy and that there was no way it could be before Christmas (based on where we were on the waitlist).  

Our specifics:  The calling that we felt was very clear to us. Adopt an infant. Adopt internationally. Adopt right now.  We based all of our decisions (what agency, what country, what age child, etc.) on those 3 things.  If there was a decision we had to make that was not clear based on those 3 parameters, we prayed and researched and went with the one where we felt God’s peace.  

“Healthy:” When we first submitted our adoption application, we had to select whether or not we were open to a child with special needs.  (Note that “special needs” is a broad term that covers medical needs, physical deformities, chronic diseases, etc.)  Ben and I talked a lot about it and decided to say “no” and thus submitted our application for a healthy baby.

A big change:  Fast forward almost one year.  I (Lauren) hadn’t exactly been feeling at peace with that “healthy” selection.  Through a series of things including another blog and a small group study, I felt challenged to consider adopting a child with HIV (you might need to give that a moment to sink in, but please don’t be scared!).  

The discussion:  Ben and I spoke about it over dinner on September 3, 2010.  Ben mentioned that he could definitely see us raising a child with some sort of special medical need—he just didn’t know what kind of special need, and he didn’t anticipate it being our first child.  But he said that if God was speaking something to me, he was certainly willing to listen!  In order to stay true to the 3 things we felt called to, we decided that if it would delay our process at all, we wouldn’t do it this time around (because of the “adopt right now” calling).  We left dinner that night feeling excited and nervous of the possibilities.

Slam dunk:  God knows what He’s doing, people.  His timing is perfect.  And if He sees His children needing confirmation of a calling, He’ll give it to them.  When we got home from dinner that night, our agency’s update email had come to our inboxes and the headline was “Introducing AGCI’s Positively Chosen Program.”  There you go.  Our agency had decided to have sub-program where you can adopt children who are HIV positive.  And after talking to our case manager and finding out that it certainly wouldn’t delay us—if anything, it would speed us up, that just sealed the deal.  

Getting educated:  In the following months, we completed a long list of training and eligibility requirements for the Positively Chosen program and got all of our paperwork updated to reflect our change in parameters.  We had an overwhelming peace about our decision and were certain that this is what God had called us to do.  We went into this knowing there would be additional challenges we would face, but firmly believing that God would provide in every way for our family.  We have a TON of great resources on HIV and how it is and isn’t transmitted (if you think you know, you’re probably in for a surprise).  This YouTube video and the Project Hopeful site it mentions are my favorite—check them out!

Tough road:  We only mentioned our change in parameters to immediate family members and a few very close friends.  As you can imagine, HIV is a very sensitive topic that many people are scared of.  In fact, you might be looking at Eden in a different light just from hearing our story thus far…  Well, we encountered a couple of very tough responses regarding our change in parameters and simply prayed (and cried) to God that He would be glorified and that He would protect our child from any discrimination once he/she was home with us.  It was a very tough road.

Best Christmas ever:  On December 22, 2010, we got a phone call from our agency with a little girl they had in mind for us.  We were told that her birth mother had HIV, Hepatitis C, and TB—the “triple crown” of infectious diseases, our pediatrician said.  After that phone call, and officially accepting our referral, we were on cloud nine!  Edeneku was SO precious and we couldn’t wait to share the news with our families for Christmas! 

Prayer works, people!  To say that we had a lot of people praying for Eden would be a drastic understatement.  We were seriously SO blessed to have so many people praying for her!  And let’s just say, it worked!  Long story short, Eden is healthy!  When we were matched with her, we knew she didn’t have TB.  Before we even traveled to Ethiopia to meet her, we were told that her bloodwork came back negative for HIV.  And now that we’re home, our pediatrician can’t even find anything that would lead him to believe she has Hepatitis C.  He said he couldn’t explain it.  We said that anything could happen through prayer—that’s explanation enough for us!

Bottom line:  We love Eden no matter what her health status.  We had people praying for her health in general (they had no idea of any of this) and for God to protect her.  And, of course, we prayed that our child would be protected from harm of any kind and we trusted that God would take care of our family.  God chose for Eden to NOT have these infectious diseases and for that we are grateful.  However, please understand that health status does not define her—or anyone.

Eden’s birth mother:  We had the wonderful opportunity to meet Eden’s birth mother while we were in Ethiopia (on our court date of March 17, 2011).  She was very kind to let us videotape and photograph our entire meeting and she spoke very openly about Eden’s story.  We know this information will be invaluable to Eden when she is older!  As with all adoption stories, there is pain…however, there is a LOT of love in the story and that is what I know Eden will cling to!

Our takeaways:  Give God complete control, be obedient to what He says, allow Him to show off, and give Him the glory!  Oh, and pray with persistence and confidence!

If you want to see the blog posts (with pictures) of our journey once we were in Ethiopia, go to the "in the past" section and read the posts from March 2011.

For some further answers, here are some FAQs about our adoption…

Why adoption?
Ben and I felt a strong calling to adopt in September 2009. We can’t really explain it in any other way than that—a calling. We had been trying to get pregnant for about a year prior to that, but thankfully had not experienced any loss associated with infertility and had not exhausted our fertility options. The fact that we did not already have children and were not pregnant certainly made it easier to say “yes” to adoption; however, this journey is about so much more than our desires to have children. 

Why international? Why not domestic?
The calling that we felt was very clear to us. Adopt an infant. Adopt internationally. Adopt right now. The beauty of the body of Christ is that we are all called to different things and we have different passions. Our particular calling and passion was to international adoption.

Why Ethiopia?
Ethiopia kind of picked us. You see, Ben and I initially did not feel a strong calling to any particular country. We based our country search on what we felt called to do (adopt an infant; adopt internationally; adopt right now). We started by selecting an agency (All God’s Children International—or AGCI), then we gave our information to see which countries matched with us. Since we were adopting an infant, that narrowed it down significantly (some countries only adopt toddlers and up). Then they take into account your ages, years of marriage, etc. For us, all signs pointed clearly to Ethiopia!

How did you decide on an agency?
We googled “Christian international adoption agencies” and requested free information packets from several of them (yes, it was a very scientific process--haha!). As they arrived in the mail, we reviewed the packets, most which have DVDs. All God’s Children International is the one we felt most comfortable with. One of the main reasons is that they have Hannah’s Hope houses in the countries they adopt from. Knowing our child would be waiting for us in Hannah’s Hope rather than in a government orphanage was a huge comfort.

Were you open to either a boy or a girl?
Yes, Ben and I were open to either gender. We even put on our paperwork that we were open to twins!

How long did your adoption take?
With adoption you have to “expect the unexpected” and every adoption journey is unique. When we started the process, the estimate for someone with our parameters (infant, Ethiopia, either gender) was approximately 8 months from the time the dossier is submitted to the time you are matched with your baby. We feel extremely blessed that we actually came in a month shorter than that estimate! We started the process in October 2009, got on the waitlist in May 2010, got matched with Eden in December 2010, and were home with her in April 2011. Although it felt like an eternity at the time, it is actually fairly quick in the adoption world.

Here are the specific dates of the main milestones of our journey:
9/16/2009 – Felt God telling us to adopt
10/19/2009 – Applied to All God’s Children International
11/24/2009 – Visit from social worker for home study
4/27/2010 – Home study approved by AGCI
5/6/2010 – Sent completed dossier to AGCI
5/24/2010 – Officially on the waitlist (#60 on the girl list; #40 on the boy list; #33 on the sibling list)
9/11/2010 – Received FDL from U.S. CIS
12/22/2010 – Got matched with our baby girl!
1/6/2011 – Mailed our completed referral packet to AGCI
1/18/2011 – Received our court appointment date (of 3/17/2011)
3/13/2011 – Flight to Ethiopia
3/15/2011 – Held our daughter for the first time!
3/17/2011 – Court appointment with Ethiopian judge / met birth mother
3/23/2011 – Received our MOWA letter, which meant we officially passed court
4/12/2011 – Received our US Embassy appointment date (of 4/20/2011)
4/15/2011 – Flight to Ethiopia
4/17/2011 – Our daughter is forever in our arms!
4/20/2011 - US Embassy appointment
4/23/2011 - Arrived home as a family of 3!

How much did it cost? Why so much?
Adoption is a wonderful way to grow a family, but it is an expensive venture. Our adoption expenses were in excess of $30,000. This includes legal fees, travel expenses, training programs, administrative fees, etc. Our adoption agency provided us with all of the services associated with our adoption including serving as liaison with foreign authorities and orphanage personnel in Ethiopia. One of the many comforts we had with our agency is that they were among the first group of agencies to receive Hague Accreditation. The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption is an international agreement between participating countries on best adoption procedures. To receive accreditation signifies the highest standards in integrity and leadership among adoption providers.

Since it was so expensive, did you do any fundraisers?
Yes. We believe that adoption is a team effort and that God calls a lot of people to be involved by giving financially—and they want to be obedient to that! So, we opened our hearts, prayed, and allowed people to bless us financially. This is the area where we saw God move in the biggest ways (because finances can be one of our biggest hurdles to "give up"). He seriously "funds what He favors"...and He favors adoption! 

We also opened 2 online “stores,” selling coffee through JustLoveCoffee and t-shirts through Adoption Bug. God totally blessed our journey through friends and family like you, so THANK YOU! 

Did you change her first name?
When we were in the waiting stage, we thought about this and decided that we would do whatever was best for our child. While we wanted to keep her connection to her birth mother and her birth country, we also wanted to ensure that her name also reflected us. Thankfully, we were able to do both! Her name is Edeneku Lee Huss.

Her birth mother gave her the name Yideneku, which means "to be in awe" in Amharic. We have changed the spelling to match English phonetics, and will call her "Eden" as a nickname. Lee is a family name on Lauren's side of the family. It is the middle name of Lauren, Lauren's mom, and Lauren's maternal grandmother.

What background information do you know about her?
Since we were able to meet Eden’s birth mother, we are blessed to have a ton of information about Eden! Her birth mother kindly let us videotape our discussion and take lots of pictures. We know that will be invaluable to Eden one day! Please understand that only a handful of people know her full adoption story. We ask that you respect the fact that we want Eden to decide when she is older who she wants to share that story with. 

What is the orphan situation in Ethiopia?
The country has more that 4.6 million orphans. Approximately 800,000 children have lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. Starvation and diseases such as malaria are other problems that have affected the Ethiopians. Orphaned children often become invisible to society because they are left with little choice about their own future. Orphans taken in by extended family often work on rural family farms and are therefore not able to go to school. Working is more a necessity than a choice. Orphans who do not have extended family go to orphanages run by the government or private organizations. Because most orphanages have little money, the orphans live in desperate conditions; nevertheless, these orphans are given food and clothing and they are able to go to school.

Are you going to adopt again?
Yes. We’re 100% sure that God wants us to adopt again. We are praying for guidance on when and where. 

Will you try for biological children as well?
Yes. Thankfully, infertility is not the road that led us to adoption, so if God blesses us with biological children, we will happily grow our family in that way as well.


Callie Jeanne Huss is the second addition to Team Huss, and our first biological child. This is her story...

Planned or Surprise?
Because we are growing our family in a non-traditional way, we get this question quite a bit. While Ben and I certainly tried to have a biological child back before Eden, we thankfully did not experience any infertility. As soon as we felt God calling us to adopt in September 2009, we stopped trying to get pregnant (because pregnancy would have impacted our adoption), but certainly didn't rule it out for the future.

Once we got home with Eden in April 2011, we began talking about our plans for the next member of Team Huss. We prayed for God to give us clear direction on how long to try to get pregnant or when to begin our next adoption (and where, what age, etc.). God answered that prayer faster than we expected when we found out we were pregnant in July 2011.

While we certainly feel blessed that God chose this path for us, we want to make it clear that both of our daughters were meant for our family in the exact timing they came to us. We serve a mighty God who we trusted and obeyed and this is where we are thus far.

A Healthy Pregnancy...
Throughout the pregnancy, I was blessed to never have any morning (or any time of the day) sickness. I maintained very good blood pressure. I passed all of my tests (no gestational diabetes, no group B strep, etc.). And I gained a total of 36 pounds. My doctor was happy that she never had to scold me about anything. ;)

...But Some "Abnormal" Lab Results
At my 17 week appointment, my doctor ran some bloodwork for a Tetra screen. My results were positive, meaning I had a high risk for chromosomal abnormalities (example, Down Syndrome).

When I first heard this news from my doctor, and then shared it with Ben, I was unusually calm and content with whatever path God chose for our little Bean. You see, God had specifically placed Down Syndrome on our hearts when we were in the adoption process for Eden and had been researching children with special needs. We felt God calling us to a different special need at the time (see "Our Journey to Eden" for more details), but we felt confident that our family would include at least one little lovie with an extra chromosome at some point.

Due to the fact that we felt content with either diagnosis, plus the risks associated with an amniocentesis (1 in 500 chance of a miscarriage from the procedure), we chose not to have any invasive testing done to confirm or deny the results of my screen. However, we were referred to a doctor who specializes in prenatal diagnoses such as this. We prayed that God would give us clarity after our appointment with the specialist so that we would be able to prepare for any special needs of our little Bean.

At our first appointment with the specialist, he completed an in-depth ultrasound and determined that there was a 99% chance that our Bean did NOT have Down Syndrome. This may sound crazy, but I felt a sense of disappointment at the same time I felt a sense of relief--very conflicting emotions! It was a similar feeling when we found out that our little Eden was completely healthy. We naturally want our children to be healthy, but that's not our first prayer for our children. Our first prayer is that they come to know God personally and that they glorify Him with their life!

It just seems interesting that the stories of both of our children include a specific call to a special need...then God ultimately says "not now--not this child." We'll just continue to listen to Him, be obedient to Him, and see what happens next!

Lots of Appointments and Lots of Pictures!
We had a ridiculous amount of doctor's appointments because I was considered "high risk." Looking back, it seems like overkill for sure...but I was just following my doctor's orders...and we have good insurance so it didn't cost us anything out of pocket. The benefit of that is the amount of pictures we have from all of the ultrasounds! And our specialist always took the 3D photos, so they are very clear of our little Bean.

Upside Down (or right side up?)
As the pregnancy progressed, I could feel Bean's head on my upper right side and her feet on my lower left side. In the evenings when I would relax on the couch after getting Eden to bed, Bean would stretch out her legs, which made my stomach look so weird and lop-sided! She remained breech the entire pregnancy, so we took the advice of our doctor and delivered via c-section.

Our Doctors
We were blessed with amazing doctors! I especially love my OBGYN, Dr. Yetunde Adigun at Kelsey-Seybold. Dr. Adigun is so friendly and she truly cares about her patients. She always gave advice and answers to my questions like I was her sister. So refreshing!

Our OBGYN specialist was Dr. Brian Kirshon at Houston Perinatal Associates. He wasn't exactly friendly, but he was very informative and did his job very well (and with a lovely South African accent!).

Key Dates
5/2011 - began praying for our second child
8/20/2011 - found out we were pregnant!
9/16/2011 - first appointment with OBGYN (saw "Bean" for the first time--all is well / did bloodwork--Prenatal Profile)
9/17/2011 - shared the exciting news with family (at Eden's 1st birthday party)
10/14/2011 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Bean's heartbeat--all is well)
11/11/2011 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Bean's heartbeat--all is well / did bloodwork--Tetra screen)
11/17/2011 - found out about abnormal Tetra screen--possible that Bean has Down Syndrome
11/20/2011 - first felt Bean move!
12/5/2011 - first appointment with specialist--after ultrasound, 99% sure that Bean does NOT have Down Syndrome
12/5/2011 - found out that Bean is a GIRL; named her Callie Jeanne
12/6/2011 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well)
1/3/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well)
1/5/2012 - gestational diabetes screen (passed with flying colors!)
1/18/2012 - appointment with specialist (saw Cal via ultrasound--all is well)
1/26/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well)
2/21/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well)
3/8/2012 - appointment with specialist (saw Cal via ultrasound--all is well)
3/8/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well)
3/20/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well / did Strep B test--negative!)
3/24/2012 - took a childbirth and breastfeeding class (didn't learn anything new) and toured the hospital (very helpful)
3/27/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well)
4/3/2012 - appointment with specialist (saw Cal via ultrasound--all is well)
4/5/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well / still breech, so set delivery date of 4/16 if she hasn't flipped)
4/12/2012 - appointment with OBGYN (listened to Cal's heartbeat--all is well / still breech)
4/16/2012 - welcome to the world, Callie Jeanne Huss!


Our second adoption journey really took off on April 1, 2013 (no foolin').  Here is the low-down for those with inquiring minds...

We are pursuing the adoption of a sibling group of 3 boys from the Ukraine! They are handsome, blonde-haired boys and we can’t wait to squeeze them! Val is 15, Vlad is 13, and Vik is 10. We can’t show their pictures on our public blog, but if we see you in person, we would love to show you their sweet faces!

Our story of finding them is a cool one with God’s hand all over it--click here to read it!

Some Q&A:

Do the boys know about you yet?
Yes!  Once we submitted our dossier (huge packet of paperwork), the orphanage director felt comfortable enough to tell the boys about us!  They have now seen pictures and videos of their new family and their new home.  (Apparently they squealed like little girls when they saw their new bedrooms!)

When will you get to go meet them?
We have our appointment with the SDA on February 25th and will get to meet the boys shortly after that!!

The full details of our timeline and what the process will look like once we're in Ukraine is at the bottom of this page.

Will you both travel to the Ukraine?
Yes.  We will attend our SDA appointment in Kiev to officially receive a letter of referral, allowing us to visit our boys.  Then we get to travel to their orphanage to meet them, learn more about them, and officially accept our referral.  The file for our case is then presented to a judge in the region where our boys live and we will attend the hearing where the judge hopefully approves our adoption.  This portion will take approximately 3 weeks.

After court, I (Lauren) will come home while Ben stays in country with the boys to finalize the adoption, get new birth certificates, passports, and visas.  This portion will take approximately 4-6 weeks.

Then, Ben and the boys will fly home!

The full details of our timeline and what the process will look like once we're in Ukraine is at the bottom of this page.

What is their story?
We'll give you the basics, but will protect the details of their story like a mama and daddy should.  Especially since our boys are older, we want them to decide who (if anyone) and when (if ever) they want to share their full story. 

The basics: their birthmother died (no, we're not sure how long ago--at least not yet--one of the many unknowns of international adoption); they are biological brothers; they are ages 14, 13, and 10; they are eager to be part of a family!

Do you know anything about their personalities?
Yes!  We are SO blessed to have some details about our boys from folks who have recently spent time with them.  Between the information we received from another adoptive family who spent time with them last August and a girl from Alabama who spent time with them this March (on a mission trip to their orphanage), this is what we know...

Val (15) - loves to play soccer (and is apparently really good!), absolutely handsome, sweet, hilarious, cool, has lots of friends, and might be a bit of a ladies man!  Very involved, outgoing, and very smart. 

Vlad (13) - loves to be on stage (a ham!), ridiculously cute, active, funny, sweet, and very cool!  Always smiling.

Vik (10) - a sweet little thing, very silly, polite, helpful, loves electronics, and has mad skills on the dance floor!  Still very much a baby boy who wants to be snuggled and "mommied."

Do they know Jesus?
We are SO thankful to know that the seed of Jesus has been planted in their lives (specifically, we know that a team from Alabama shared the Good News with them)!  We are humbled and excited to be able to teach them more about our amazing Savior and show them what grace, forgiveness, unconditional love, and redemption looks like.

Will you keep the boys' names as-is?
We are leaving that up to them.  It's possible that they will want new names to signify a fresh start in a new family.  However, it is also possible that they will want to cling to one of the few things that is theirs and that links them to their birth mother and birth country.  We will be respectful of our boys and allow them to make that decision.

Do they speak English?
Not much.  However, our boys are smarty-pants who are already bilingual!  They speak their native tongue, as well as Spanish!  The Spanish was picked up while they were hosted by families in Spain and Italy for an orphan hosting program.  We are confident that they will pick up English quickly, and Ben and I are doing our best to learn at least a preschool level of Ukranian before we travel.  We will need more prayer in that than our boys will!

What will you do about school for them?
We plan to homeschool for at least the first year and then play it by ear after that.  However, we will be in the "cocoon" period for a while when they get home and will only be working on getting to know each other as a family, etc. 

Our Timeline - for those who like details

Finding Our Sons (read more about that here)
March 23 – Lauren attended a Noonday fundraiser at Mindy’s house—Mindy was fundraising for 3 boys from Ukraine who she had selected to be their “FIG” (Family in the Gap)
April 1 – Ben shared with Lauren about a dream he had been having about 3 blonde-haired boys who were part of our family; this started a cool conversation that lead to us praying for God to give us clear direction about these 3 boys from Ukraine
April 2 – we got the confirmation from God that we needed—these are definitely our sons!

The Paper Chase
April 4 – we decided to use About A Child for our agency (Victoria is the director) and Olga for our in-country facilitator
May 30 – social worker visit for our home study (done by Bernadette from International Family Services)
June 27 – received finalized home study document
August 2 – USCIS fingerprinting appointments (to complete our I-600A application)
August 20 – received our I-171H, Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advanced Processing of Orphan Petition (or FDL)
September 9 – drove to Austin to get all of our documents apostilled and sent our completed dossier to Victoria
September 17 – Victoria approved our dossier and sent it to Olga
October 2 – got confirmation from Olga that she received our dossier and sent it to translation (and that she planned to submit it on the nearest date after October 14—because of the October 1-14 break)
October 9 – got a call from Victoria saying we needed an Affidavit of Identity for our dossier
October 10 – got the Affidavit apostilled and sent to the Isaak’s for them to hand-deliver to Olga
October 16 – Isaak’s hand-delivered our document to Olga

A Bump in the Road – The Paper Chase (round 2)
November 11 – got news from Olga that our dossier was never submitted and several documents had now expired (read more about that here)
November 14 – were re-fingerprinted to have new background checks run
November 15 – Lauren’s mom drove to Baton Rouge to get newly certified marriage licenses
November 22 – drove to Austin to get all of the newly dated documents apostilled and sent the updated dossier to Olga
November 27 – received delivery confirmation that the dossier got to Olga

Review and Process on the Ukrainian Side
December 4 – dossier submitted
December 20 – officially registered (Registration Notification)
January 2 – received our Registration Notification via email from Olga (it was dated December 20)
January 30 - received our SDA appointment date of February 25th!!

Next Steps

The Process once we’re in Ukraine
- BOTH of us attend the SDA appointment in Kiev to officially receive our boys' files and receive a letter of referral, allowing us to visit them.

[the formal referral paperwork is issued the day after the appointment at 4-5pm; we can go to Volodarka as soon as the referral is in hand]

- BOTH of us travel to Volodarka to meet our boys, learn more about them, and officially accept our referral.

NOTE: From this day on, we are allowed to visit the boys and spend time with them in the orphanage, regardless of what step of the procedure we’re in.  

[it is approximately 5-7 days for the documents to go back to Kiev for final authorization for court; delays only come if the orphanage cannot provide us with all documents required by the SDA or judge]

- The file for our case is presented to a judge in the region where our boys live.

[it can take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks, depending on the judge's schedule, to get a court date]

- BOTH of us attend the hearing where the judge hopefully approves our adoption.

{Lauren will go back home at this point.}

[10-day waiting period when the decision could be appealed]

 - The final decision takes effect and we have full parental rights and legal responsibility for our boys.

 - We apply for a new birth certificate for each of the boys.

[it can take anywhere from 1-3 days to receive the new birth certificates, depending on where they were all born]

NOTE: As soon as we are registered as legal parents on their new birth certificates, we can move the boys out of the orphanage.

- After receiving the post-adoption birth certificates, we apply for a Ukrainian passport for each of the boys. 

[10-day waiting period for issuance of the passports]

- After receiving the passports, we apply for a U.S. Visa from the U.S. Embassy for each of the boys and email the Embassy a Letter of Request for a Visa appointment. 

[no delays here--as a rule, the Embassy approves the date we request in our Letter of Request]

- Visit the U.S. Embassy for final review and approval of our I-600 petition and to obtain a visa for each of the boys.

- Ben and the boys travel HOME to Texas and our family is united together under one roof!!

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