How does all of this work?
When will you get to bring your child home?
These are probably the questions I get asked most often. Now that our large church family knows of our adoption, it never fails that every single Sunday someone will approach me and want to know more about our adoption, specifically when we get to bring our little one home. The truth is that it's a long and very detailed process. I'm beginning to understand the timeline and am learning all the adoption lingo and all the abbreviations, but trust me there is a lot to learn.
I spend time every single day reading about China and this process and the potential needs our child may have. In fact even since I wrote some of my earlier FAQ posts, I now better understand a lot more about the orphan crisis in China and how things are drastically different than they were even 10 years ago. (Some GREAT links can be found here.)
One of the things that is pretty reliable with the China special-needs adoption program is how the process works. Here it is in a nutshell:
Clear as mud, huh?
To make it as concise as possible, our adoption process will take 12-15 months and is pretty much split into 2 parts. The first part is everything we have to do to get things in order on our end. This includes our home study, our dossier, mounds of paperwork, and many appointments. Once all of our documents are in China, we are on the 2nd half of the journey and will wait for a referral. After we are matched with a child, we will have a very short window of time to make the decision if we would like to adopt that particular child. From that moment on the wait will be horrendous and it will take every ounce of will power I possess to not jump on the next plane for China. I will no doubt be a nervous wreck for those next several months, will probably gain 10 pounds from stress-related eating, and will wait for all the final approvals and authorizations to come together before so we can finally get the green light to travel.
A little bit about the referral. Once our dossier makes it to China and is logged in, we will be able to be matched. A list of children is released once a month and on that particular day agencies all over the country scramble to see if there is a child that will be a good fit for each of their families. It is going to be a highly emotional day when we have our first possibility of a referral and I'm sure I will be positively glued to my phone. Some families are matched on month 1 and some families have to wait several months. It all just depends on the sex/age/needs of the children and what specifications each family has requested. For our family, we are wanting to adopt a little girl under the age of 3 (because we want to keep birth order and have a year between Titus and his little sister) and we are open to a long list of special needs.
Our agency has 7 partnership orphanages that they work with in China. This is a wonderful thing and says a lot about the respect this agency has earned in China. They help provide the medical treatment and care that these orphaned children need and they also send American physicians there at least twice a year to build relationship and assess the children. If our child happens to come from one of these orphanages we will be comforted that they received better care and we will also have more accurate medical information available to us.
It is possible to adopt without going through the referral process, although it is not nearly as common. There are thousands of children in China right now that are paper-ready and able to be adopted, but for whatever reason have not been. Usually this is because they are older children or have more severe special needs. You can search photo listings on agency and adoption advocacy websites (Rainbow kids is a great site) and see their precious faces. It is hard not to fall in love with these forgotten children and I find myself looking over them every single week, praying a family will find them soon. If a family finds a child this way and wants to pursue the adoption, the process works a bit differently and it definitely moves a little quicker. I've read of families that have bonded to a photo of a child before they even applied to an agency and they just worked extra quick to get everything done and bring their child home.
Just last week we actually requested more information about a little girl that we found on our agency's special focus list (China gave our agency the opportunity to advocate for these specific children for 6 months). A family currently has her file on hold and there are additional families that are interested as well, but we were included in this group and were given access to her medical file as well as additional photos. Let me tell you, she has completely captured my heart!
I don't believe in coincidences and last night I happened to be online reading about a well known organization that helps with orphan care in China (especially those that are critically ill) and this baby girl's photo popped up on the screen. Millions of orphans in this large country and there she was. I would recognize her anywhere...the little girl whose photo I saved to my phone so I could look at it all throughout the day. I was speechless.
I learned even more about her medical situation and what obstacles she has already overcome and I can hardly type this through the tears in my eyes. She has struggled through so much and my heart breaks for her and the hundreds of thousands like her. I very seriously doubt we will be given the opportunity to pursue her because it appears that many families contacted the agency before we did and that is okay. Her situation is much more severe than we realized and she needs to go to her forever family as soon as possible and there are many families further along in the process than we are. I am praying a wonderful family will decide to adopt her and that she can get the medical treatment that she desperately needs in the United States. And in the meantime maybe we were meant to stumble upon her so that we can pour our hearts out to God on her behalf. She is definitely getting prayers from this mama, half a world away. I ask that you pray for her as well.
So where are we in all of this?
We are still very early in the process. We have submitted all our home study documents and are working on our education hours (which consists of lots of reading and lots of adoption training online). We are hoping to hear from our social worker this week so we can get our visits scheduled. After that we'll get working on our dossier and it'll go from there.
Please continue to pray for our family and specifically for our precious child, whoever and wherever she is!
And if you are interested in learning more about the process, I found the following outline on another blog and thought it would be a great reference to have on hand...
Homestudy — We will have four visits with a social worker (Matt and I together, Matt and I separately, and a family visit in our home). During this time our social worker will learn everything about us and determine if we are capable to continue the process. We provide her with all sorts of supplementary documents like letters of recommendation, birth certificates, marriage certificates, pet records, physicals on every member of the household, every financial document we have, proof of health insurance, child abuse and neglect clearance from every state we’ve ever lived in and on and on and on. We have to be fingerprinted for clearance from the State Police and FBI. All of this information is compiled into a long document that is the approved by USCIS and then sent off with our I-800A application and dossier.
I-800A/ I-797 Approval — This is our application to the federal government asking permission to adopt internationally in general. Once the application along with our home study, birth and marriage certificates and appropriate fees have been received, we will be sent a notice with a date to be fingerprinted for another FBI clearance. Once those are done, we should receive our notice of approval (called, for whatever reason, the I-797) within a couple of weeks. That will be the last piece of paper needed to complete our dossier.
Dossier — This is the huge stack of papers that gets sent to China for the government officials to review. In addition to a copy of our home study and our I-800A approval, it contains a wide variety of documents, all of which have to be notarized, then certified by the secretary of state and then authenticated by the corresponding Chinese consulate. By the time we have our I-800A approval, we should have accumulated all the other documents needed. So once that last piece of paper is notarized, certified and authenticated, we will send our dossier to our agency, who will then send it off to Beijing.
Dossier to China (DTC) — This is when the agency has triple checked the documents, and ask for anything else they found missing. Once it's perfect they submit it to China to get logged in.
Log in (LID) — Within 3 weeks or so of our dossier’s arrival in China, it will be logged in.
Referral — Once our paperwork is logged in, we wait for a call from our agency saying that they have matched us with a child. We will have a short description, medical information, and several photos. However, we can't share with anyone this news until preliminary approval.
Letter of intent (LOI) — After reviewing whatever medical information is available and consulting physicians if needed, we send a letter requesting to adopt that particular child and outlining how we plan to take care of her and any medical needs she has.
Preliminary approval (PA) — This signifies that the officials in China have our paperwork and will review it. PA usually comes within a week or two of submitting LOI.
Out of translation (OOT) — When your dossier is translated in China... making LOA possible (maybe in 2-4 weeks).
Letter of approval (LOA) — This is potentially the most important of all the paperwork steps. This is China’s okay to adopt our child. It usually takes anywhere from 1-3 months after PA for this letter to arrive.
I-800 — And now more paperwork on the American side. This is our application to adopt our specific child. We need our LOA to file this application. Processing times fluctuate, but it’s usually 3-4 weeks.
NVC letter — Once our I-800 is approved, our information has to be sent to the American consulate in Guangzhou, China. When we receive notice (the NVC letter) that this has happened, we can send in our paperwork for the next step.
Article 5 – It usually takes 2 weeks once our agency sends the necessary paperwork to Guangzhou for the consulate to issue our Article 5. It explains our paperwork is in order and we are adoption-ready on the American side of things.
Travel approval (TA) — Once our agency delivers our Article 5 to Beijing, our travel approval can be issued. This usually take 2-3 weeks.
Consulate appointment — When our agency receives travel approval, they request an appointment at the US consulate in Guangzhou. This date, towards the end of our stay in China, determines the rest of our travel dates.
GOTCHA DAY —The day we have been waiting/dreaming/praying for...we will finally at long last be united with our daughter.
FAQ Part 4
FAQ Part 3
FAQ Part 2
FAQ Part 1