We finally have a bit of news to tell! We finished our homestudy! Okay, well the final edits are being made now. We were expecting to have it finished about four weeks ago, but due to circumstances that have been out of our hands, things have taken longer than we expected. Once we get the final version we can send it in to the USCIS (U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services) along with our I-600A form. The purpose of this form is to process us as adoptive parents in addition to setting up Maria to become a U.S. citizen.
The past few weeks have been fairly slow. We have gathered some things for HAPS, the adoption agency that we’re using. I think we’ve had at least 6 different kinds of background checks. We’ve gathered references, wrote our personal biographies in multiple forms, filled out various documents, and lots more. We have also been in touch with various doctors and educational institutions in our area. Like we said earlier, God seems to have settled us in a perfect area for Maria to get the care she needs.
We spoke with an audiologist at UNC a couple of weeks ago. Just another way God is watching out for this little girl: the audiologist identified from the pictures of Maria that she already has a state of the art hearing device! She was surprised to see that Maria had access to it since many children here in the U.S. don’t have this high quality of a device. Of course we don’t know how she obtained it, but we’re so thankful that she has such good care. The device she has now (which you can see in the picture on our blog) is attached to a headband and sits directly against her skull bones. It amplifies the noise and sends it into her skull. The audiologist informed us that children with Treacher Collins often have perfectly normal middle and inner ear; it’s just that the outer part of their ear didn’t form properly. That means that if we can get noise inside her head, she should be able to hear fine. It appears this is already happening – praise the Lord! We also learned that instead of Maria likely being a cochlear implant prospect, she will probably benefit more from a bone-anchored hearing aid (“BAHA”). This is a hearing device similar to the one she already wears, except this one is a permanent hearing aid that would be implanted in the skull behind her ear. It would basically consist of a metal piece being implanted into her bone and a hearing device that would be attached. This would help the noise “get inside her head” much better than the device she has now which is only in contact with her skin. She likely wouldn’t be a candidate for the BAHAs for a couple more years, though.
Daniel and I also met with a craniofacial specialist at Duke last week about procedures that might be in Maria’s future – primarily cosmetic surgeries. Although we took in a lot of pictures of her, he said they really wouldn’t be able to tell us anything concrete until she is here. He also informed us that like all other children, her features will change as she continues to grow and develop. This should give us plenty of time before we have to make any decisions about possible procedures.
Another way in which God has placed us in such a great spot is the educational resources that we have here. CASTLE - the Center for the Acquisition of Spoken language through Listening Enrichment – is a part of UNC and provides therapy and even preschool for hearing impaired children. We have learned that families drive from hours away to visit, and it’s only 45 minutes from where we live! Additionally, the public school system that we’re in seems to have wonderful services for special needs children. We’ve been in touch with some people at the county office that are directing special needs education. Once Maria is here, we can have her evaluated, set up a learning plan for her, and pick a school based on location and her needs. It sounds like it’s very interactive and very focused on the children.
The last bit of news we have, which really isn’t much news at all since we don’t have much to say, but as of a couple of weeks ago, our contact in Russia had not heard from the other two families that had expressed interest in Maria in early February. While they could still be moving forward and gathering their documentation, we’re obviously hoping that no news is good news for us. Regardless, our prayer has always been and will continue to be that God would watch over and protect Maria and that He would place her exactly where and when He wills.
Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement!