Call me weird but there is something about adoption paperwork that I actually enjoy. My personality thrives on checklists and deadlines. I love completing a task and knowing that the work is bringing me one step closer to my son. Paperwork is a tangible way to show that I am making progress in our adoption.
However, keeping all of that paperwork under control is a whole other ballgame. Even the most administrative type A personalities have a hard time taming and organizing it.
Here are some tools I have found that can help you not only survive but also thrive in your paperwork pregnancy.
1. A printer/copy machine/scanner.
You do not ever want to let a piece of paperwork leave your house without copying or scanning it. Adoption paperwork is a part time job and you put too much work into gathering and filling out the documents to let them get lost in the mail.
2. A ton of paper for your printer as well as an extra set of printer ink.
When you have to print or copy an item quickly and send it in right away, it is not the time to realize your printer is out of ink and make a late night sprint to the store (not that I have done this or anything . . .)
3. Basic supplies like a stapler and a three hole punch.
Office supplies are an opportunity to get creative. If fun colored markers, patterned folders, post it notes with pretty designs, colored paper clips, and Washi tape are your jam, then go for it. You are going to be looking at these supplies A LOT so pretty designs can help keep you motivated with tackling the mound of adoption paperwork.
4. A system to keep all of your papers in one place.
There are several schools of thought on this. Some people use an abundance of magazine holders and others use a file box with hanging folders. My favorite system is a three inch binder with color coded tabs and a plethora of page protectors for important items you can’t hole punch.
No matter which system you use, you will want to have several categories so you don’t end up with a stack of jumbled papers.
Here are some suggestions for your tabs:
• Agency information (It is helpful in this section to print off the adoption timeline/checklist from your agency so you can check off and date completed items as you go. This section will also include agency contact information and policies)
• Agency application (This section includes any forms needed to apply to your agency)
• Home study (Any paperwork needed such as tax forms, bills, financial statements, copies of licenses, and online class certificates)
• Completed home study (This is the stack of papers prepared by your social worker)
• Dossier (Any and all papers to prepare for this step)
• Grant application (Forms and information needed for grants)
• LOI (In this section you will want to have copies of your Letter of Intent forms as well as a printed copy of your child’s entire file. You will refer to the file many times over the journey so it is helpful to have this printed out and on hand)
• LOA (Letter of Approval- one of the most prized documents)
• 800 (Forms to fill out for this section of the adoption journey)
• Travel (I like to print out posts and tips from others’ blogs to put in this section such as packing lists, restaurant suggestions in the city we will travel to, and any travel information from our agency)
• Financial (A record of all of the money you spend from agency fees to fingerprints and even postage to send documents. I have a separate piece of paper in this section that is entitled “God’s provision” and on that sheet I record all the ways God has enabled us to pay for this adoption such as lemonade stands, yard sales, consignment sales, and people’s donations. This is also a great place to keep receipts)
• Post adoption (This section is often forgotten but is very important. It includes papers such as re-adoption information, Certificate of Citizenship, and post adoption tips from blogs)
Once you have a picture of your child, it is so rewarding to put that in the very front of your notebook to remind you that all of the paperwork will be worth it in the end!
In the folders of your binder it is nice to keep a stack of thank you notes, envelopes, and stamps close by to thank those who give to your adoption.
You also many want to purchase a simple journal to place in your binder to jot down notes throughout the process. Perhaps you need to write down something from your conversation with your social worker or maybe notes about a doctor’s assessment of a file. It is also wonderful to record a Bible verse or a word of encouragement you received from a friend. It is extremely helpful to keep all of these notes in one place to reference later.
Staying organized is key. When you need a document, you don’t want to dig through a jumbled pile of papers because that only adds stress to an already overwhelming process. It is vital to be able to find a particular document at any given time. Plus as your binder grows fuller with all of your completed documents it is symbolic of a mother’s womb growing fuller with each month.