We hear these questions almost daily. We really wish we knew the answers to these questions. Heck, if someone could answer those questions for us, I'd throw a few more their way - like: What size clothing (or diapers!) should I stock up on? How long do we have to convert the basement into a guest room? What will it be like in our house when the adult:child ratio is equal? Or most importantly: When can I get my arms around that little boy?!
All we can tell you is the way our agency works and the estimated wait times (36-48 months) they are giving for families in their Ethiopia Adoption Program. Each agency is different. Each program is different. Each country is different.
Our agency does all the groundwork to ensure orphan status before referring a child. They launch a full investigation for each child and attempt reunification of biological families first. That means that once we are matched with our son, we can be confident that he truly needs a family, that there are no loose ends, and that he will be cleared for immigration. Because of this, there is more initial, up front, SILENT waiting for us. However, once we find out who our son is and we accept our referral, we are submitted to court in Ethiopia and get to travel as soon as our court date is scheduled. We will get updates about him at that point, and we will (hopefully) be able to travel to Ethiopia within 6 to 8 weeks of seeing his photo for the first time. This is not the way all agencies or programs or countries operate. Some people are matched with their child very quickly but then have to wait longer periods of time for clearances and additional paperwork. Some people know who their child is for months...or even years...but they are not able to bring him/her home yet.
There are pros and cons to the way all agencies do things. While it is difficult to wait years without knowing who we are waiting for, I truly believe it is better for my heart and soul. Seeing time pass, watching months go by, knowing our son is still in an orphanage would be difficult for me, as I'm sure it is for anyone in that situation. I know deep down that our son (whoever he is) is getting older each month and we are most likely missing those precious milestones that we've been able to experience with our daughter, but our waiting feels different somehow. We still long for him. We still love him. But the waiting and passing of time doesn't seem quite as heavy.
Some agencies also tell you your spot on The List. For example, some people might know that they are number 5 on the list to be matched with a boy. Their agency updates them each time their position changes, which happens intermittently and may take months to move one spot. But, at least they have an answer that satisfies those question-askers more than our typical, "Well, we're not sure, but we are praying we meet him this year." You see, our agency is not one of those agencies that tell you that piece of information. Sometimes I wish I knew our place in line, but I'm not sure that would be good for my anxious, (sometimes obsessive), sensitive personality either. God set our course the way it is for a reason, and we will continue trusting him through the silence, through the waiting, and through the longing.
Although it's "quiet," there are still things that go on to keep an adoption in process. As of recently, all of our adoption paperwork is updated again...for now. Each year we have to do a Home Study Update which includes: new physicals, new employment letters, new financial forms, an updated autobiography, our signature on a stack of papers, new background checks, and a meeting with our social worker. This year, though, there was a little more involved since we have a new person living in our house (our precious daughter, Eliza).
Side note- Did you know that your fingerprints can expire? Well, they can and they do...every year. I just wanted to warn you. I didn't want you walking around, being all attached to your fingerprints when they could just expire without warning. Okay, technically that's not true. I get a warning e-mail 6 months, 3 months, and 1 month before they expire so I can't really forget about mine. Don't you wish you were so lucky? Good news: we renewed our fingerprints for the year too.
We just finished everything we needed to acquire our new I-171H. This is the paper that allows our son to immigrate into the United States. It expires every year and a half, and it requires completion of the things previously mentioned to obtain it. We are hoping that we do not have to update it again...as that would mean ANOTHER year and a half will have passed without our son. (Also, this update was free...sort of like a BOGO thing they have going on...but the next one will be costly again.)
We just want to thank everyone who continues to pray for our process and for our son, even when it's quiet. Thank you to everyone who contines to ask about him, even though we don't have answers. Thank you to everyone who continues to encourage us, even when we appear patient. It means more than you know. We are praying that we will at least know who our son is in 2015 and hopefully travel to Ethiopia in 2016. BUT if God wants to move mountains (of red tape), we would happily embrace it all as soon as possible.