When you step into adoption, it is kind of like you need a dictionary to carry on the journey or a tour guide to walk you through the process. So I thought I would just walk through some of the basics, some of the terms that you will hear. And if you have friends adopting, it might help have some idea of what they are doing. And this is a very amature review of our adoption process. Each agency and country is different and things change all the time. This is meant to just give you an idea of the steps and some of the language used in adoption. It is really our experience, I am sure there are lots of things different or that I might be missing!
The first step is identifying an adoption agency. There are loads out there. I do not know anything about any of them. There are lots of ways about going about adoption, so that is probably the first decision to make. Am I going to adopt internationally or domestically? Am I going to foster children and see if it leads to adoption? Am I going to open my home to foster children without a plan of adoption? There are all sorts of decisions to make at the beginning. Once you know what kind of adoption you are going to pursue, or non-adoption/fostering, then you can pick an agency. It is probably a good idea to do some research. OR you can go the other route, the one we did. You fall madly in love with a child, and then just go with the agency they are matched with. I think it works this way in other countries, but in the one we are working with, the children who are waiting are divided among different foundations. These foundations then work with different agencies to advocate to find homes for these children. Every once in a while the children are moved to different foundations so that other individuals will have a chance to see them if they are with different U.S. agencies. And if a child is seen on a network as "waiting" they can request that the child be moved to a certain foundation so they can adopt them. Lost yet? Well, we were really blessed to have our agency be a really great one. We did not do any research. But I could not ask for a better case worker. However, she lives in a completely different state. Which means for the next step, Home Study, we needed a different agency. (just for home study, we could still use our agency for the adoption)
When we first told our agency that we wanted to adopt "Hamilton," we had to fill our paperwork to put him on "hold." Which seems weird, but it said, we want him, and we tell the country we are adopting from that he is who we want. And they gave us six months to get the paperwork complete.
We got fingerprints. And sent them off to the U.S. government to have them "apostilled." Apostilled, means having papers extra officiated. That is my definition. But basically it is saying, "these are real." Our fingerprints had to be apostilled at the federal level.
We requested birth certificates and our marriage certificate. And they had to be apostilled in the state they were issued. So the state goverment gave their official word that everything was real.
Our agency had a list of agencies they had worked with in our state successfully for home studies. So we went with them on this. The home study consists of four visits. But starts with an insane amount of paper work. The paperwork consisted of thirty pages each of our life stories. We had letters of recommendation written. And we had background checks done. We also had doctors visits done, blood work done to ensure we were healthy and more paperwork for agencies. The home study visits started once we had our paperwork complete. The first visit was a joint visit with Nathan and I. Then I met one on one with our caseworker, then Nathan met one on one. Then she visited our home and met with our children and made sure we had a place for Hamilton. I was really concerned about this and ran out of time to mow the lawn and my friend reassured me that if she says that your home is not fit for him because the lawn is not mowed than there is something wrong. It gave me some peace.
Then we waited for it to be written. Once it was written, and reviewed and fixed. We had all our documents notarized, this is done at bank or by anyone who is a notary. We learned the importance of wording after all our documents were notarized: passport copies, medical reports, home study, hold paperwork, other random paper work from our adoption agency; and it was sent off to be apostilled at the state level. It was all returned because we were missing a statement saying it was a true document and what county it was notaraized in. We had to redo all of our notarizing and send it back for apostille.
Once we had our homestudy complete we also sent off our paperwork for our I800A. This is a federal piece of paperwork that requests that we can adopt a child or two. This paperwork goes through the US immigration department and requires a copy of our homestudy and biometrics fingerprinting. Biometrics fingerprinting are done in certain cities in each state and done by appointment, electronically.
Once ALL this paperwork is complete you have a complete dossier! And you are so relieved to have gotten so far. The dossier is sent to the country you are adopting from.The dossier is then translated by the foundation your child is matched with. In the country we are adopting from, the translated dossier then goes to an International Adoption Committee that gives a verbal referral. If you do not have a child you are matched with, I am not certain what happens next. But for those matched this verbal referral is then made a written referral and translated. The referral is then given to the adoption agency and the family is notified. The family is then given dates they can travel. Often this is just a couple of weeks later.
Before we go we have to fill our paperwork for an I800, this petitions to classify a convention adoptee as a family relative.
Then all countries are different and there are probably different steps. In our country, the one we are adopting from we have to take two trips. In some countries it is just one. In the country we are adopting. We go for 7 days. Half way through we have the chance to say we are really committed. Then we take this child to apply for a Visa. We come home. And we wait for I800 to be approved and if it is and the child is found legal to immigrate to the U.S. an Article 5 is issued. And we have to get fingerprints done again and another doctor's note stating we are healthy. Then our case is seen before the court and then we get to go again. It is usually three to five months after our first visit . Then WE BRING HIM HOME!