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October 11, 2006

What do you mean you’ve lost my fingerprints???

Here’s a quick lesson in one of the quirky little legal things that goes into an
international adoption.  Before you can even really begin the process you have
to go through the Department of Homeland Security for a background check.  I was
fine with that.  I know I’m not a crazed terrorist or anything like that, but I
can see how the powers that be would like to make sure of that before they’re
willing to entrust a child or children to me.  Good enough.

Here’s where the problem comes in though.  As part of the background check
process, you have to have your fingerprints taken at a USCIS office.  Great so
far… Yep, I did that, passed the background search with flying colors (sometimes
it pays to be dull), and all was well.  Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily
trust that just because you were good in the past that they can believe with any
certainty that you will continue to stay that way in the future.  Apparently you
can have a complete personality turnover and become a demented serial killer or
something of the like in a matter of 15 months.  I’m assuming that can be the
only reason that your fingerprints expire at the end of 15 months, and with that
so does your Homeland Security clearance.

Guess what happened on October 8th…. You got it.

But I was prepared.  I know that October 8th was coming and that my fingerprints
would be expiring.  I also knew that I wouldn’t be back in the country in time
to get them re-done before I had to leave again.  (And, in case you’ve missed or
forgotten this part, without fingerprints, no approvals… no approvals, no
babies!)  So, before I left on our first trip I contacted the very helpful folks
at USCIS to get my fingerprints re-done so there wouldn’t (or at least
shouldn’t) be a lapse in my approval.  Knowing without a doubt that I hadn’t, as
possibly suspected, been involved in any deranged criminal activity since my
last fingerprinting exercise, I was not worried about any of this.  I did the
new fingerprints and left the country perfectly content in the knowledge that I
was ahead of the game.  Or so I thought…

One of the first things I did when I got home last weekend was check all my mail
for my new approval statement.  I was a little concerned that it hadn’t come yet
but not necessarily panicked.  On Monday, however, I called the official
Homeland Security Customer Satisfaction line (yes, they have one… go figure),
and after 45 minutes of listening to very bad hold music interrupted every 30
seconds by some statement about how they would get to me as soon as possible, I
gave up.  I decided to follow the same route that got me to my quick fingerprint
appointment – even though that hadn’t turned out so well after all.  Sadly,
those nice folks didn’t know anything about what had happened after the
fingerprint appointment.

After two full days of ulcer-inducing panic, I finally found a number for
someone in USCIS who specifically works in the international adoption division. 
However, what she told me made me sick at my stomach.  They didn’t know anything
about my fingerprints, and there hadn’t been a new approval sent to them.  This
is really, really not good.

Apparently this nice lady in Atlanta recognized the sound of uncontrollable
terror in my voice and offered to chase my fingerprints down.  She sent me an
e-mail this afternoon letting me know that, because of my fabulous forethought
and planning, my fingerprints had gotten lost in a “does anybody know what these
are for??” file.  Fortunately, she found them there and put a rush on my
re-assessment  (by the way, I’m still good and honest in case any of you were
worried) and promised that I’d have my fingerprint approval updated, with
messages sent to all the appropriate concerned parties first thing tomorrow.

I really thought when I survived my court date that I had made it through the
worst of it.  Who knew there was still all this fun and stress to be had?  Oh