I've decided to write this post because I couldn't find anything like it when we first started the process, and I hope to help other families who are just starting on their journeys. I know that most of my readers are not currently in the adoption process, but maybe sometime in the future you will be. Or maybe you stumbled across this post while you were searching the internet trying to make sense of the overseas adoption process. (I know I spent many a late night doing just that when we were first starting out seven months ago!)
If we were to adopt again, I feel like I could get through the paperwork more easily, simply because the mountain of paperwork makes sense to me now. When we first received our zillion page handbook back in August, I didn't know what to fill out when and how or who needed it.
Of course, my advice applies to international adoption and the process as it is now. Hopefully, it will be simplified sometime in the future, although I'm not holding my breath. Also, we are adopting from Ethiopia, and each country is different in how they do adoptions. There are many similarities between the countries, though, and the U.S. legal side of it is pretty much the same.
Here is what I wish I'd known when we first started all of this:
Focus on your home study first
I was trying to get my dossier and home study done at the same time. As a result, it took me longer to get our paperwork together for the home study. I didn't realize that it would take a few months after we finished our final visit with our social worker for the home study to be finalized. I could have used that time for our dossier. Also, it will take a few months for your USCIS approval to go through and, at least for the country of Ethiopia, that has to be completed before your dossier can be sent. Speaking of USCIS approval...
Have your I-600A form ready when your home study gets to you. That way, you can send it ASAP.
Once your home study is complete, you can send off your I-600 application to the U.S. Department of Immigration. This process takes a few months, and you have to get fingerprinted yet again. I didn't understand the process or how long it would take, so I held on to our home study for a week before I had our I-600A application ready. Again, once you've finished your I-600 and are waiting to hear from the government, this is another good time to work on your dossier.
Get help if you have small children (especially if they do not nap)
The paperwork process was especially frustrating for me because Izzy just does not sleep well, and you really need a couple of uninterrupted hours a week to get all your papers out, spread them out, figure them out, and then file them all away in the proper place when you're done. If you can afford it, hire help. If not, find someone to trade with - maybe they can watch your kids a few hours a week and you can watch theirs.
Use your "waiting time" to fundraise and learn
I keep hearing about how hard the period between finishing your paperwork and receiving you referral can be. It's a helpless feeling. We are just entering that phase, and I am going to use these months (and more realistically, years) to do the fundraising we need and also to learn more about some of the special concerns that come with adopting. My social worker says there is something known as "post homestudy blues" where women get depressed after they finish all of their paperwork and there is nothing left to do but wait. I really can't imagine being sad about finishing all of that paperwork! I'm already dreading having to do it all again in two years. (Yeah, unfortunately, it all expires and you basically have to start over in two years if the adoption has not been completed by then. Major bummer.)
Take that paperwork mountain range in chunks, and attack them (mostly) one at a time -
1. Home study
(while you're waiting for your homestudy to be finalized, work on your dossier)
(while you're waiting to hear from the good ole U.S. government, work on your dossier some more)
3. Send off that dossier. You do want to have it completed by the time your USCIS approval comes through.
4. Fundraise and read some books!
Oh, yes, and if you're like us and you wait until the last minute to get your life insurance, be prepared to wait 2 months to be approved! We waited and waited for that little piece of paper, and it luckily came in last week, 2 days before our USCIS approval
Lastly and most importantly, don't forget THE ONE who adopted you into his Heavenly family, the One who called you to this journey. He has a perfect plan and he will not abandon you. Twice we have come upon a very expensive portion of our application, and God has chosen to provide, almost to the dollar, what we needed the very month we needed it. Just today, as I was in the middle of writing a ginormous check and working myself into an anxiety fit (even though God has already provided the money for that check), I had a knock at the door and the UPS man delivered me a package containing 3 books about Ethiopia, the country our beloved child calls home. I took it as a confirmation that we are indeed on a worthy journey and it helped me, leafing through those books, to remember that this is worth all of the money and time we've invested in it.
If you're reading all of this and you haven't already jumped into the crazy world of adoption paperwork, don't be frightened off! It will all make sense as you get to that point in the adoption process, and if your agency is like ours, you will have a great family coordinator to help you sort through it all and make sure you get it all done correctly!
Those of you currently in the process, or who have been through it, what would you like to add?
If you are just starting out, do you have any questions for me? I would be so excited to help someone else out in this process!
|This is the agency we used, and|
we have loved them!