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
OK guys, if you are sticking with me so far, we’ve covered a ton of ground about how to get started in the process. I also wanted to do a post about the process at a whole — so, defining each step of the process, and decoding some of the acronyms that you might see as you move through your journey to China.
We’ve already talked about the difference between SF and LID files, so I will skip over that part of the process, and assume that we are starting after you’ve picked your agency. If you are matched with a special focus child (SF), the first thing you will do is write a letter to China indicating your desire to adopt this child. You might hear that referred to as a Letter of Intent (LOI) or a Nurture Plan.
Once China accepts your proposal, they will issue what’s called Pre-Approval (PA). You are now assigned to your child, and must complete your paperwork within a certain timeframe. (Don’t worry — you can always ask for an extension for extenuating circumstances.)
Whether you begin the process with PA, or whether you are waiting to look at LID files, the following will apply:
You will be responsible for completing a dossier. The dossier is a compilation of documents that will be sent to the CCCWA in order to facilitate completion of your adoption. You can think of it as a snapshot into your life. The dossier consists of birth certificates, marriage certificate, employment verification, income verification, photos, medical exams, criminal background check, your home study, and finally, preliminary approval from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of a much-celebrated piece of paper called I-800a. The I-800a approves you to adopt a foreign child.
You can begin to compile the documents for your dossier while you and your social worker work together to complete your home study (HS). The home study is a written report about your family. The social worker will have several visits with you and your family, s/he will visit your home, and make sure that you meet all of the requirements for adoption from China, and also for adoption within your specific state. You will be required to complete training in order to complete your home study.
Once you’ve gathered all of the requisite documents you can begin the process of sealing those documents. (Some agencies complete this process for you. If not, you may want to begin the sealing process while you are waiting for some of your documents, such as the home study which can take several months to complete.) Sealing is the process through which each of your documents is authenticated, and it consists of having each dossier document notarized, and then sent to your secretary of state and the Chinese consulate. Depending on where you live, your documents may also be sealed at the US State Department. Once the Chinese government has authenticated each of your dossier documents, your dossier will be ready to send to China.
You will send your dossier to your agency (DTA), and your agency will send your dossier to China. This is a big day in the adoption world, because you are finally done with the bulk of the paperwork. You may see this referred to as DTC. Once your dossier lands in Beijing, you will wait for it to be logged into the computer at the CCCWA. Your agency will then inform you of your log-in date (LID).
If your family is waiting to look at LID files, you will be ready to find your child at this point in the process! Once you are matched with your child, you will submit the letter of intent (LOI) to adopt him or her, and await LOA. (If your family is already matched with a SF child, your next step after LID is LOA.)
LOA is (I think) the most exciting part of the whole adoption process. LOA means Letter of Acceptance and it is China’s formal invitation for you to say YES! We accept THIS child! (You may also see this called LSC or Letter Seeking Confirmation – both refer to the same thing.)
There are several steps that your dossier in China will take through the match room between LOI and LOA. Your agency may or may not inform you of each of these.
– First, your dossier will be completely translated into Chinese. This takes the bulk of the time and when it is completed, your dossier will be referred to as Out of Translation, or OOT.
– When your dossier has been reviewed by the caseworker at the CCCWA, it will be marked as Reviewed.
– When your LOA has been issued by the CCCWA but before the hard copy is received by the agency, it will be noted in the computer. You might hear this referred to as either Match Reviewed or, more frequently, Soft LOA.
– Once the agency gets that paper copy (Hard LOA), they will send it to you for confirmation that you wish to continue the adoption. You will sign and return to your agency for delivery to China.
At the same time, you will begin the process of obtaining official approval from the United States to adopt your child.
– The first step is approval from USCIS to adopt this specific child — the form is called I-800, and you will see people talking about waiting for I-800 approval.
– Once you’ve received I-800 approval you will fill out a form called the DS-260 (some agencies complete this for you), which is an application for an Immigrant Visa from the State Department.
– That application is submitted to the National Visa Center (NVC), who will issue final approval for your child’s Visa.
– The first thing you’ll receive from the NVC is your GUZ number. This is the case number assigned to your child, and GUZ stands for Guangzhou as your child’s Visa will ultimately be issued by the United States Consulate in Guangzhou.
– The NVC will also forward all of your child’s Visa paperwork to the consulate in Guangzhou, and they will issue a letter (called RTF or PDF due to the format). Your paperwork on the US side is complete at that point until you get to China.
(While your paperwork is going through this process, you will send off for your family’s visas. These will go into your passports, and allow you to enter China. Most people are eligible for a 10 year tourist visa, which is really nice because it allows for unlimited entry over the next 10 years.)
– A couple of weeks later, your documents will be ready for Article 5 pickup. This means that the consulate in Guangzhou (you might also see people shorten Guangzhou to GZ) has completed its initial review, and the documents can be picked up by your agency and sent to Beijing.
– All that’s left is a little more waiting for Travel Approval, aka TA. The TA will show up in the computer (soft TA), and then be sent to your agency (hard TA).
– Once TA is received, you can ask the US Consulate in Guangzhou for an appointment time and date for your Consulate Appointment (CA). As soon as you have TA and CA, you are ready to go get your child!