On Monday morning we got the final thumbs up on our homestudy and were informed that the letter that needed to accompany the study to USCIS with the I-800A would be in the mail that afternoon. Unfortunately the elation that I felt with that news was short lived. About an hour later I received an update from our Bulgarian agency who explained that she had just spoken with the Ministry of Justice and had learned that, two of our girl's files were still with the original Bulgarian agency who had requested them. Before I go any further I should take moment to explain how the rotation of files is SUPPOSED to work in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian Ministry of Justice (the central adoption authority in Bulgaria) maintains a list of 700+ children who are older, special needs or part of a sibling group. All Hague-accredited US adoption agencies must work in partnership with a Bulgarian agency. Bulgarian agencies are allowed to request the files of up to 20 children at a time. Those files are then given to the Bulgarian agencies who have 2 months to try and find families for those children. They do this by sharing the files with their US partner agency (or agencies in some cases). At the end of the 2 month period, they must return the files to the Ministry of Justice who then gives them to the next Bulgarian agency who has requested them.
The Bulgarian agency that originally requested the files of two of the girls is one of the bigger agencies in Bulgaria and they work with several US agencies. Rather than returning the files of the children who they had not found families for at the end of their 2 month period, it appears as though they have simply been rotating those files between their US partner agencies every 2 months (after doing a few minutes of research I was able to find both girls listed on another agency's "Waiting Children's List"). At this time there is no monitoring system that the Ministry of Justice uses to keep track of when files must be returned, they simply trust that the agencies will abide by the rules that they have set, so, until our Bulgarian agency pressed to find out where the girls files were, the Ministry was unaware that the original agency was still in possession of them (and have been since the beginning of the year). Unfortunately, there is also no real penalty for not returning files in a timely manner other than not being able to request new files until the previous files have been returned, so this agency likely felt no pressure to return them. Our agency informed us that the woman at the Ministry who is helping with our case was quite upset that these files had not been returned and informed our agency that she would be contacting the other agency and sternly requesting that the files be returned. How soon that will be, we do not know, but our facilitator has been a strong advocate for our family and for our girls and she follows up with the Ministry every week. And, although I know that the Lord's timing is perfect and I have seen the "wisdom in the wait," it is still hard knowing that we could have had these files MONTHS ago and that our girls would be closer to coming home.
In addition to that news, we were also informed that, the file of the third little girl that we had requested (who is in the same orphanage as "D"), was at the Ministry but is incomplete and cannot be given to any agency until it has been updated and completed. We were also told that, once the file is complete it must go to the first agency that requested it before it will be given to our agency. This was possibly the most difficult news of all because we are ready to commit to this little girl TODAY. If we could do it without her file we would, but we have to wait until it is in the hands of our agency. So the thought of that file being given to another agency, who may or may not be able to find a family for her, is difficult to take. The thought of her sitting in an orphanage without a mommy and daddy to love her for two months longer than is necessary is heartbreaking. We have asked our agency to make one last plea to the Ministry to give us this little girl's file first because we are ready, right now, to make a commitment. We hope and pray for this little girl's sake that those pleas will not fall upon deaf ears.
The icing on the cake (yes, there's more. . .when it rains, it pours!) was learning Monday evening that there is a new Hague requirement for homestudies, effective immediately, which means that we must add an addendum to our homestudy before we can submit it to USCIS with our I-800A. We are hoping that this will be quick and easy (it is just one sentence clarifying our understanding of domestic violence and child abuse) and that we will still be able to send off our I-800A within the next week, but it is a speed bump that hit us hard on an already difficult day.
In the end, no matter how hard it pours, we simply raise our umbrellas of faith and know, without doubt, that our Heavenly Father's plan is perfect, that His timing is perfect, and that, the children who are meant to be with our family will be. Rain brings growth and, although weathering the storms can be difficult, we welcome the opportunity and blessing to be refined by our trials.
Not all things in the adoption world have been bad. In our quest to become more familiar with Bulgarian cusine we experienced this wonderful, rainy day, Bulgarian soup this evening. It definitely hit the spot!