“How do I get started? We have decided we want to adopt a child from China through the special needs program, but what do we do next?”
Once you’ve chosen an agency, the real work begins.
It’s time to start the mind-numbing process of collecting paperwork for your dossier.
And as ridiculously long winded and painfully difficult it might seem at times, believe me, it’s totally worth it in the end.
Whether you’ve ‘found’ your child yet or not, you still must complete all the necessary paperwork to be approved both by the USCIS and the CCAA to adopt from China. This phase of the adoption is knows as the “paperchase”. Each adoption agency has specific guidelines to follow for compiling this paperwork, which is one of the reasons it’s generally recommended to sign up with an agency before starting your paperchase.
Shortly after applying to and being accepted by an agency, you should receive a very large binder, or something similarly gargantuan, that will spell out in great detail how to compile your dossier. Expect this binder to be the place in which you will spend every spare moment for the next several months.
I’m not gonna lie. This phase of the adoption process is no fun. But, like I said, every ounce of effort is totally worth it when you are holding your newly adopted child.
The *key* component to a dossier is the USCIS approval, also known as the i800A. It is so important because firstly, you can’t adopt an orphan without it. And secondly, it’s generally the most time consuming portion of the dossier compiling process.
The documentation required to apply to USCIS for your i800A is as follows:
1. Proof of U.S. citizenship
2. Proof that you are married and that any previous marriages ended legally (ie. divorce decrees)
3. A complete and current home study
4. Proof that you have complied with the pre-adoption requirements of the state in which you will live with your adopted child, if necessary
5. The required filing fee for your application
6. Fingerprints for all household members over the age of 18, collected by the USCIS
*more information here
Because a homestudy is required to apply for USCIS approval, the best and most expeditious way to get started on your dossier is to get started on your homestudy. Generally, four or more visits with your social worker are necessary. And that takes time. Also required are state clearances, financial information, autobiographies, reference letters, physicals and, depending on the state in which you reside, various and sundry additional information.
Soooo, the sooner you can get started on your homestudy, the sooner you can apply to the USCIS for your i800A.
Typically, a homestudy takes 4-6 weeks to complete, but much depends on your social worker and your homestudy agency. A good question to ask when interviewing a homestudy agency is their timeframe for a completed homestudy. I made the mistake of not asking this question with our first adoption and our homestudy took a ridiculously long four months to complete. Believe me, once you’ve seen your child’s face, four months waiting on your social worker will be way too long.
While your homestudy is in progress, you can begin to collect the other documents required for your dossier.
Dossier documents you’ll need to collect are:
- Birth certificates for each parent (less than one year old)
- Marriage certificate (less than one year old)
- Physical for each parent
- Employment verification and, if necessary, non-employment verification
- Letter of Intent to Adopt written to CCAA
- Financial Statement
- Police Clearances for both parents
- Passports ~ copies of photo pages of each parents’ passport (so if you don’t have a passport yet, apply for one right away)
- Photos ~ depicting family life, number varies by agency
- I800A approval from USCIS
Some agencies require a completed dossier before you are allowed to review a child’s file, while others will allow you to review files before you’ve even begun your paperwork. So if you’re committed to bringing home a child from China, even if you haven’t *found* your child, it is the perfect time to start climbing that mountain of paperwork. Yes, now.
I promise, it will be totally worth it in the end
Next post up in the series ‘adopting SN: the process’…
Finishing The Paperchase: Authentications, Certifications and Notarizations.
**This post is not, in any way shape or form, intended to be the difinitive guide on compiling your dossier. It was composed under the influence of a faulty memory, mothering many small children, and extreme jet lag. Your opinions, comments and corrections are greatly appreciated.**