June 26, 2001

C. Henrius

I agree that finances aren't the be all and end all of qualifying adoptive parents. We recently brought 2 children here from Haiti and are working on a third. I can tell you, however that the expense of just getting them here can be a strain even if you do make the salaries mentioned. These children are my step children so we didn't have the legal fees to pay for the adoption but the rest of the process is much the same.

To file the petition to apply, it was $110. The doctor's exams, plus vaccination were around $200 a piece (they will tell you at INS that it'll only cost about 20 bucks -- don't believe it). You file the first petition and then you can ask for an interview. It will take a while to get all the paperwork together to file for the interview so it probably means another trip. Then, if all your paperwork is perfect, you can get your interview within a few weeks (another trip) and then there's photos, all the documents, plus $260 for the interview, $75 for the actual visa.

We usually spend around $1,000 each trip counting airfare and expenses. That's if just one of us goes. When both of us went it was closer to $2,500. We made 3 trips, totally around $3,500 all said. Then the fees and doctors and such ended up totalling over $1,000 a piece counting passports and expense money for running down paperwork. We still have at least one more trip to go and we figure we will have spent around 7 or 8 thousand dollars on just the costs mentioned. Of course that doesn't count medical insurance or medical costs once the kids got here, clothes, or the months of child care paid during the enterim. And god himself knows it doesn't even touch the phone bills to get this all organized! If we counted all that it would end up being around 12 or 14 thousand minimum.

Quite a bit, all said. Now, that doesn't mean it will cost that much for everyone. You can file the paperwork here in the states but it will take a year or more whereas it's just a matter of months, perhaps weeks, if filed in Haiti. Still, the cost is heavy even if you do meet the income standard mentioned -- (I believe the 45K income was for 1 person and 2 people were around 60k.)

I'm not saying people who don't make that income shouldn't be considered as adoptive parents -- not at all! I am just trying to give those interested a little idea of the cost and how it all works. The good part is that it doesn't all have to be paid at once! We would have been sunk. :) And also, you have to remember that INS has income guidelines for anyone sponsoring an immigrant so if you don't meet those you have to find someone who does who is willing to make a long term commitment to pick up the costs of caring for that immigrant should anything happen that you couldn't -- and that's quite a commitment.

And the best part is that having them here is o much more than worth it. The cultural differences are really made obvious by having kids in our home who have never been out of Haiti before. We still speak Creole as a family even though we had thought perhaps it would help the kids learn faster if we'd switch to English. We couldn't do it. We've spoken Creole together since we met and can't seem to change it now -- it's the language of our relationship. I wonder if the kids will still speak Creole when they are older...

There are so many little things, like taking them to their first movie (Shrek), flash cards, McDonald's and the zoo... And then, there's just the day to day: looking for a cup to fill up with water for washing their face or brushing teeth... They'd fill it with water from the bathroom sink, leave the water running and bend over the bathtub and pour the water over their face. Lots of little stories like that. Waiting for a cab outside the Miami airport and looking over to find catch 3 year old just as she's squatting down to pee. When we told them people don't pee in the streets here our 5 year old said *he* was going to! His papa told him they'd circumcize him if he peed in public, then he decided it would be okay to go in and look for a restroom afterall.

Another cultural difference that's causing some confusion here is discipline. Frankly, these kids are so used to stern discipline that they think I'm just a hoot and don't listen to a darn thing I say. In Haiti, they'd get a spanking for acting out but do you do it here? This is an interesting quandary for me. And please don't get me wrong, I am not advocating spanking. I just wonder how many Haitian families have gotten in trouble with the state agencies for spanking their children. And if it is a cultural practice, do we as Americans have the right to judge Haitian immigrants for the way they discipline their children?


C. Henrius


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