A lot of people are surprised to hear the details of what you need to do and gather in order to adopt. If you're curious, this post is for you! This is a high-level view of what our process has looked like so far...minus the freak-outs, worries, celebrations, tears, and papercuts. :)
WHERE DO YOU START?
To adopt internationally, you need a home study and a placement agency. Sometimes, those are accomplished by the same agency, but in our case, we chose a placement agency (CCAI) located in Colorado. They don’t have an office in Nashville, so we had to find a home study agency that could complete our home study according to CCAI’s guidelines.
HOW WE FOUND OUR AGENCIES:
We relied on the recommendations of other friends who have gone through the process (and our own gut feelings). My coworker and his family used All Blessings International for their home study, so I reached out to ABI for more information. Andy and I met with Natasha from ABI for breakfast and she gave us a lot of information on their home study services as well as their placement services. We instantly clicked with her and relied on our instincts that she would be a good fit for us. (Spoiler alert: we love her.)
My former coworker had just brought home a son through CCAI and I knew that she is a super organized and research-oriented person, so I trusted the research she had done. We had a conference call with CCAI and heard the founder talk about his experiences and we really liked him. He is from China, moved to the US to go to seminary, and started adopting children from China with his wife.
We researched CCAI and saw how respected they are and loved that they host summer camps for the kids as well as take families on “heritage tours” so that you can take your child back someday when they’re older. We loved that they give money to the orphanages so that the waiting children have extra resources. We followed our instincts with CCAI, also. They have been fantastic. Our point-person (Jaime) in Atlanta is awesome. She's super helpful and encouraging.
We applied to both agencies at the end of February and were accepted. Woohoo! Then the paperwork began.
WHAT IS A HOMESTUDY?
I had misconceptions about the home study process. I thought the social worker would come over and do a white-glove-test on our furniture and look at us disapprovingly when she found a speck of dirt.
It wasn’t like that at all!
The Home Study is a process of interviews and a lot of paperwork. They DO look at your house, but just to make sure it's safe and suitable. Natasha makes sure we have smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, baby gates, childproofing, etc.
She met with us both, asked a bunch of questions and took a bunch of notes. Then, we each met with her individually to tell her more about our life and personal history. Then, she met with both of us again to finalize her questions. We were so happy to find such a caring ally and friend in Natasha. After our last meeting, we ordered pizza and hung outside by the fire pit together. It was so wonderful to have someone on our side who cares so deeply about adoption.
After Natasha interviewed us, she wrote and wrote and wrote. The Home Study is a 20ish page document that details our whole life - including our childhoods, family history, our personalities, and more. It is based on the interviews as well as lot of documents that we had to turn in.
The Home Study is one (major!) piece of our Dossier, which is what CCAI will send to China so that they know who we are so they can match us with a child.
WHAT KINDS OF DOCUMENTS ARE NEEDED?
We had to collect and create documents for both CCAI and ABI.
For the dossier, we had to write a financial statement showing our assets and liabilities, get medical exam forms filled out, get letters from our doctors saying we’re in good enough health to raise a child, get letters from our employers, police background checks and so much more. We have to turn in 3 photos of us as a couple and 8 photos of us with other people.
For our home study, we had to provide tax info from the past 3 years, W2s, proof of car/home/health/life insurance, plus photocopies of our passports and driver’s licenses. We had to turn in photos of the front and back of our house, photos of the main living areas, and a photo of the future child’s room. We had to have a veterinarian sign a form saying that Lucy is not a threat to a child and much more!
We also had to ask 8 friends/family members to fill out a recommendation form and then ask 3 to write reference letters. (Everyone wrote such lovely things and we’ve heard that’s not always the case. Yikes.)
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE DOCUMENTS?
Almost all of the documents in the Dossier have to be “sealed.” They have to be notarized, then you have to take them to the County Clerk who makes sure the notary is legit, then you take them to the Secretary of State who makes sure the County Clerk is legit, then you send your documents to a courier in Washington, DC who walks your documents into the State Department so that Rex Tillerson’s office can make sure the Secretary of State is legit, then the courier walks the documents into the Chinese Embassy in DC and they make sure the State Department is legit. It’s a long process and so detailed! (Also, super scary to ship these precious documents to DC and wait for them to return safely!)
Here's the kicker: you have to work quickly because documents can expire! We had to reorder certified copies of our birth and marriage certificates because the Embassy requires them in their office within 6 months of the date on the document. Unfortunately, they were the first things we sent away for and the document-gathering process took so long that we weren’t sure they’d get to the Embassy on time so we had to reorder them.
You have to be very, very detail-oriented. I’m pretty good at paying attention to the particulars, but I messed up a few times during this process. I sealed the wrong pages of our police background check so I had to go back to the central records office in Madison and get the same person who originally notarized the background check to notarize a new version. Since the same person notarized them, the new pages can be added to our dossier as an addendum and not have to be sealed again. Whew!
Aside from our background check debacle, everything is sealed except our immigration approval, which we’re still waiting on. A lot of families are tracking their wait times and the wait time seems to be creeping toward 75-80 days, so we may not have it until some time in December, then we’ll have to go through the sealing process with it.
Once it’s sealed, we will send it to CCAI and they will triple-check everything and bind our Dossier and translate it and send it to China. China will receive it and we we will get “logged in,” meaning we are then eligible to be matched and the real waiting begins.
The process seems so huge and I have learned over and over again to focus on each step as it comes. The rest of the process is a bit of mystery to me - I don’t know the details because I don’t need to know them right now. Knowing everything that comes next would just stress me out!
I’m learning a lot through groups I joined on Facebook, but I’ll share more once we get further into the process and learn the rest of the ins and outs.
But for now, it's one day at a time and we're so grateful that all these checkmarks mean we're getting closer to bringing home a child.
Note: All agencies are different and policies vary from state to state as well as by country if you are adopting internationally. If you are interested in adopting, please consult a local agency to find out what requirements you will need to meet.