Becoming a parent, no matter how it happens, is never easy. But for those just looking into the possibility of adoption it can seem positively overwhelming. It is our hope to change all that. This 8-post series will go step-by-step through the process to adopt through the special needs program for those of you who are just starting out on the adventure of a lifetime. Join us.
Here are the topics that will be covered:
1. Why China?
2. Special Needs and the Medical Conditions Checklist
3. LID vs. Special Focus
4. Picking an Agency – Part 1
5. Picking an Agency – Part 2
6. The Steps of the China Adoption Process (Acronyms Decoded)
7. Beginning the Paper Chase and Homestudy
8. Things to Read, Do and Study While You Wait
I have a Chinese son — a beautiful boy whose big black eyes crinkle when he smiles at me, whose shiny black hair and soft brown skin look nothing like my own. This boy of mine has become fully immersed in American culture and life as weeks and months fly by at breakneck speed, and despite our struggle to find meaningful ways to honor his heritage in our home, he remains at the core of him wholly Chinese. My boy lives for the tastes of congee, rice, and perhaps most of all, for Asian oo-dohs (his word for noodles). (As an aside, he eats said oo-dohs by holding them high above his head with his tiny, greasy fingers, letting them drop into his mouth, and erupting into near-constant giggle fits at the dinner table. He’s pretty hilarious.)
He is the joy of my lifetime, and yet even a few years ago, I never would have dreamed that a little boy from China would call me mama. Visiting China was not on my bucket list. Adopting a child with special needs was more than my husband and I could possibly handle. The truth is, I just didn’t know. I’m so very grateful for the friends and resources that put us on the path to China and our amazing little boy.
And now, I am here to share some of what I’ve learned along the way with all of you.
This will be the first in a series of posts about how to get started with an adoption from China, so if you’ve already decided that this is the path for your family, I will try to provide some more practical advice in the posts to follow. In the meantime, for those of you who are still unsure or stuck trying to figure out if China adoption is for you, this post is for you.
I remember how overwhelmed my husband and I were when we started to research adoption. We didn’t know how or where to begin. I scoured the internet for resources, and wished for a knowledgeable friend to break it all down for me. I stumbled upon some things on my own, but remained fairly clueless until well into our own process. I don’t want this to happen to you. And while I won’t even attempt to fully dissect the gigantic topic of adoption for you, I will try to walk you through the beginning stages of the process as best I can, first by trying to explain, from my perspective at least — why China?
I should start with who China adoption is for. China adoption is for the couple who has struggled for years with infertility, and for the family who has four biological children and thinks it might finally be time to add a fifth through adoption. It’s for the single woman who yearns to experience motherhood, and yes, it has recently become for the single man who dreams of becoming a father. China adoption is for those who feel that God is leading them to an orphanage on the other side of the world, and it is for families that have never set foot inside of a church. It’s for the mother who worked in a Chinese orphanage in her teens, never forgetting the faces of those lonely little babies, and for the mother who has never had a passport. It is for the family who has saved $35K to bring home their child, and it is for the family that will fundraise every penny of their adoption fees.
You might think that I mean to say that China adoption is for everyone. It’s not. First there are China’s requirements: You must be 30. One parent must be a US citizen. You must be married for a certain amount of time — this varies depending on whether you’ve ever been divorced. You must meet basic income requirements. You cannot have a substantial criminal history. You must generally be in good health. You must complete a home study complete with adoptive parent training, and go on to complete a dossier — a stack of documents summarizing the lives of every member of your household.
After you find your child, you must wait for final approval by both the United States and Chinese governments, and finally, travel to China for two weeks during which you will meet your child, complete the adoption, and gather the final documents that will allow you to bring your child into the United States. (You can find lists of these preliminary criteria on most adoption agencies‘ websites. A good place to start is assessing whether you meet those criteria, and if you don’t meet one of them, contacting an agency to see if you qualify for a waiver, which are commonly granted. The one category on which a waiver is never granted is age, both parents must be 30 to adopt from China.)
In addition to the guidelines established by both the Chinese and United States governments, there are also the practical considerations. On the lists of reasons many of my friends have chosen China adoption as opposed to either domestic adoption or a different country’s international adoption program, the number one reason is this: the China adoption program has been around for a long time, and it has the reputation of being predictable, stable, and reliable. Other things that ranked high on our own list: you are only required to travel to China once, for about two weeks at the end of your adoption process. At the end of that trip, you will return home with your child. Additionally, China adoptions can be completed relatively quickly; most families complete the process in approximately 12 to 15 months, and sometimes much more quickly than even that. They’re relatively inexpensive — most are completed for between $28K and $35K depending on many factors including your agency and the time of year that you travel.
In addition to all of those reasons, there is: China… the land of a Great Wall and Forbidden Palace, of beautiful people and ancient history, of amazing food and fantastic scenery. China is a country filled with a cultural richness that permeates even the new construction of seemingly infinite skyscrapers, bigger and grander cities, and always more, more, more. There’s something intangible about the wonder of China — once China grabs a piece of your heart, it tends to take up residence there, and its presence grows in ways that you wouldn’t have dreamed. I think you’d be hard pressed to find an adoptive mama who doesn’t long to return to China as soon as possible, if not to adopt her next child, to experience more of its magic.
And if, after reading all of the above, you’re feeling ready to jump in, know this: this process will cause you to be brave — braver than you ever imagined you could be. It will grow your patience enormously. At the end of mounds of paperwork and months of waiting, you will meet your China boy or girl — maybe a toddler, maybe a tween or even a teen. You will become your child’s forever family and they will become yours. Your child will bring with him all of the wonder of China, he will make you work to be a better mom or dad, and he will enrich your life in countless ways.
While it is very easy for me to get carried away writing about the beauty of China adoption, the bottom line is, it’s all about these sweet children. It’s not all about our China trips, or our personal growth. It’s about the children. We can’t ever lose that perspective when we are trying to figure out how to grow our families. These children are beautiful, and they are amazing. They are the bravest little things, and they need moms and dads. Orphanages are no places for these little ones, and what a gift it is to be able to provide your child with proper medical treatment in the US.
Special needs do tend to cause people the most trepidation at the beginning of the China adoption process. If this is the case for your family, stay tuned to read more about special needs and filling out the Medical Conditions Checklist in the next post.
– image courtesy of Krissi Trusty