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 7-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 we will cover:
1. Why China?
2. Special Needs and the Medical Conditions Checklist
3. LID vs. Special Focus
4. Picking an Agency
5. The Steps of the China Adoption Process (Acronyms Decoded)
6. Beginning the Paper Chase and Homestudy
7. Things to Read, Do and Study While You Wait
LID, SF, Agency Partnerships, and Advocacy Resources
I remember the first time my husband and I reviewed a child’s file for adoption. We had signed with an agency thinking that we’d done all of the necessary preliminary research, and quickly found that we were incredibly naïve about the process. Our MCC was on file with the agency, and about a week after it was filed, I received a call from the agency. They had a child for us to consider! I was so shocked when I opened the email containing this little guy’s file.
If you haven’t looked at an adoption file yet, I’ll tell you a little bit about them. Generally, you will receive at least a few pictures of the child. If you’re lucky, you might receive some video of the child. You will receive translated reports from China — there will be a narrative about how the child came into the care of the SWI (Social Welfare Institute, or orphanage), some medical information about the child’s special need(s), and some developmental information about the child. Sometimes the agency will send pictures of the child’s disability, if it is something visible. Often the information in these files is quite dated, but sometimes the file will contain updates over time. The file may be redacted to exclude the child’s name, location, and date of birth (if it is known).
There are two major classifications for China adoption files.
The first is LID (or Logged in Dossier). LID files require that a family has completed dossier paperwork and home study, sent these things off to China, and that the dossier has been filed in the CCCWA computer system with a Log in Date. Once the family is logged in, they are eligible to review LID files. These children are typically younger. Children with LID files may have more “minor” or “correctable” special needs. Girls with LID files may have more moderate special needs, as girls tend to be easier to place with families.
The second is SF (or Special Focus). SF files make up the vast majority of files and are available to families at any time throughout the adoption process. Before even starting the process, you may look at the files of waiting children on your adoption agency’s website. These children are considered by China to be more difficult to place. They may have more moderate or severe special needs. They may be older. Many boys are classified as Special Focus because they are typically harder to place with families.
Some SF files are harder to place than others, and you will see these children featured on agency websites and advocacy groups. You might hear these children referred to as Waiting Children. Many agencies will not require that you pay them any money or sign a contract with them before you are allowed to review the files of their waiting children. Often, you will be asked to fill out a preliminary application to review a file — this application includes questions which ensure that you meet China’s requirements for adoption before the agency will release the file to you.
Many of these SF files will be designated to your agency directly by the CCCWA. When you start talking to adoption agencies, it is important to ask them about their SWI partnerships — how many they have, and how many children they place through these partnership programs in any given year.
A partnership program is an agreement between an agency and a specific SWI through which the majority of the files from the SWI will come to that agency. The nice thing about partnership programs is that they allow for agencies to keep in close contact with the SWIs regarding the children. Often you will find that agencies visit these children more often, sometimes providing them with medical care and supplies. In so doing, they are able to get more current medical and other information about the children in their partnership orphanages. (Another good question to ask perspective agencies is whether and how often their staff visits with children at their partner orphanages.)
The CCCWA allows for the agency to keep SF files for 90 days in order to allow them time to attempt to place the child. The CCCWA also allows for the agency to keep partnership LID files for three weeks in order to allow the agency to place the child. If the agency is unable to place the child for adoption within the allotted timeframe, the child’s file will be released to something called the Shared List.
The Shared List is the master list of waiting children across China. Agencies can pull files from the shared list, and lock them in order for a family to review a child’s file. Only agencies have access to the shared list; however, you will find that some children from the shared list are advocated for on Facebook and other websites.
Our son was advocated for on a website called Rainbow Kids. Although his file was agency designated through a partnership, he was listed there as a harder to place child. You can search waiting children there, including parameters such as age, gender, and special need.
So those are the basics for files. I want to loop back around to what I was talking about at the beginning of this post. As I said, my husband and I received a little boy’s file about a week after we signed with our first agency. We reviewed his file and immediately we both knew that he was meant for another family. About a week later, we saw our little guy’s picture on Rainbow Kids and we switched agencies in order to submit our Letter of Intent to adopt him. Thankfully, the other little guy was quickly matched with his forever family.
For what it’s worth, my advice on reviewing files is this: We are entrusted with a great responsibility when an agency gives us a child’s adoption file. When I read those papers, I am always in awe of the privilege of holding a child’s life and medical history in my hands. That said, it is imperative that we review a child’s file with practical considerations in mind, specifically, how this child’s needs — medical and otherwise — will fit into our own unique families and lives.
There is no guilt in declining a referral after you review a child’s file. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s important to have a feeling of peace when you say yes to your child. You will need that sense of peace to accompany you throughout not only the months of waiting, but through an incredibly stressful journey halfway around the world to meet your new child. And even then, the real journey is only just beginning.
Next post in the series: how to pick the adoption agency that’s the best fit for your family.