For some people the adoption process is a bit (or a lot) confusing. If you are going through it, there are a lot of hoops to jump through, and if you are observing someone go through it, you will think they are speaking a different language. There is a general pattern to things, although different countries have different processes. I’m going to attempt to give a general breakdown of our process in order to help ya’ll see where we are.
1.Apply for and receive a home study.
All adoptions, whether domestic or international, must have a home study. This is a process by a social worker/agency to investigate the potential adoptive parents and deem them fit to adopt. This process involves background checks, financial checks, reference checks, doctor appointments for the whole family, and a home inspection. There must be copies of birth certificates for each member of the family, reference letters written, letters from employers, lots of forms by the parents, and interviews between the social worker and the family.
2. Decide on a country and agency.
If one did not already have a country in mind, and the adoption agency isn’t doing the home study, this is the time to find one. The home study will need to include specific information for different countries, so deciding on a country will help to not need it updated. The initial application to an agency is fairly standard, and once accepted and a country decided upon, the contracts will be completed. These will detail the agency’s fees, what they are used for, their liability, the process, the country’s process, the commitment of the adoptive parents to complete necessary regulations for adoption, and an agreement for post adoption follow up. Most of these will need to be notarized.
3. Compile Dossier
In order to adopt from a foreign country, the adoptive parents must compile a dossier to send to the government in the country they are attempting to adopt from. This is the “paper baby” that you may have heard about. Our adoption had 21 papers that needed to be completed and notarized. These were certified copies of birth certificates for the entire family (hello money), notarized copies of our passports (if you don’t have a passport, apply for it while working on your home study), letters from employers, letters from the realtor about the home value, a detailed workup of the finances, reference letters, letters from the doctor (and a detailed physical), letters to the country of intent, contracts, and whatever else the country requires. For our Ukraine adoption, we had to have our house appraised since our county didn’t have an office to provide the form needed. This is usually a tedious but necessary process. Once all of the papers are compiled, they must be authenticated according to the country. Our state requires that all papers be authenticated at the county level and then at the state level. I didn’t have the same notary from the same counties for all papers, so I drove all day to different counties for the county level certificates.
4. Apply to USCIS
Immigration must approve the adoption, this requires fingerprinting and application. Once the home study is approved and complete, it should be sent along with the application and fee to the immigration office. They will schedule an appointment for biometric fingerprinting. This appointment is the “big” one, once it is complete, they will send approval for adoption of an orphan. This is the last piece of the dossier.
In our case we identified the child we wanted to adopt before even beginning the adoption. We did the same with the adoption of Anna and Tanner. So, once our home study was complete, we were able to formally accept the referral for Glory. This allowed us to see her complete file with medical records, although currently hers are incorrect due to a change in diagnosis. Some countries will do a referral after the dossier is received, for Anna and Tanner, we had to wait until we were in country in order to get the official referral. If the child has not been identified, the country will review the dossier, and the desires of the potential adoptive parents. They will then match the family to a child. This can take some time, and this is often why there are such long waits listed for different countries. The more selective a family is, the longer the wait will be.
6. Dossier Submission
Once approved by immigration, the adoptive parents will submit their dossier. The agency will translate it, and then they will submit it to the government in the child’s country. This process can be a bit lengthy, or in our case with the first adoption, within a month’s time. Some countries will also require the adoptive parents to submit other forms and letters of intent, this is a very country specific process.
Yes, this is the waiting process of waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. Some parents will be waiting for an official referral, and in our case, we will be waiting for travel dates. Once our dossier and PAIR letter are sent to country, it is all submitted, we will be waiting for our travel dates to go meet her.
8. Travel to Country
When given the date to travel, the parents will often arrive and either meet with the government or the orphanage. Our country this time requires two trips, so the first one, we will get to meet Glory. John will be travelling on the second trip by himself. With A&T, we met with the facilitator, then accepted their referral, and then we traveled to their region. We were able to meet them, talk with the orphanage, and proceed through the in country paper chase and court. We spent a little over a week in their region visiting them each day after the first week we had spent in Kiev. We then travelled home, the courts took ten days okay the adoption, we went back to country for a few weeks in order to get the kids, get their passports, go to visa appointments, catch scarlet fever 😉 and finally bring them home.
Some countries require one short trip, some require lengthy stays, and some will have the parents to come back. John will have to go back to get Glory. So we will come home and wait. The process and wait is fairly standard in Ukraine, but for some countries the wait can be months…..I know….how am I going to meet my baby girl knowing her medical needs, and then leave her for who knows how long?!
10. Bringing the child home.
In country to bring the child home, the parents meet with immigration to secure a visa. This usually entails a medical physical by immigration. Our appointment for Anna and Tanner was quite interesting, they had scarlet fever, they had the rash that goes with it, and so we were sent to a hospital in order to make sure they didn’t have some crazy awful contagious disease. It rained so hard, in a span of 10 minutes sitting in traffic, that I was certain our car would be carried away in a flood. Eventually we were able to secure visas and paperwork, and get on a plane to the states. Once arriving on American soil, the paper work must be handed over to immigration officers at the airport. This will give the child a certificate of citizenship, it will be mailed to the adoptive parents.
11. Post adoption visits.
This is a big part of the adoption completion. Some countries will require the parents to re-adopt the child in the U.S. We will do this for Glory. The child will also have follow up by the social worker from the home study. Different states and countries have different requirements for this one. DO THESE VISITS! I need to impress this fact upon all readers who may adopt, do not skip out on these. The country seeing that parents are caring for the child is important, the post adoption information is why adoption get to continue. If they are not done, it is very possible that a country would shut it’s doors to adoptions by citizens of our country.
This is again, a very general outline of the process for international adoption. We just received our USCIS appointment for next week! We have accepted Glory’s referral, and our dossier will be state certified next week as well. Once we receive our immigration approval (hopefully mid July), we will send our dossier off! I don’t know how long it’s going to take in order to translate it and get travel dates, but as it stands, it feels like and eternity. I don’t think we will get such luck like we did with A&T, their whole adoption process from start to finish (although we already had a home study) took less than six months.