What often scares people away from adoption?
Guess what scared me away from adoption?
Among other things, the paperwork.
There is a cloud of dread that hangs over prospective parents when the topic of adoption comes up because they have “heard” about the extensive amount of grueling paperwork involved. And to be honest, their fears probably aren’t too far-fetched.
When we started adoption paperwork back in 2013, I remember feeling like I was diving into a great unknown with my eyes shut tight, hoping we could plow our way through and make it to the child at the end of this drowning maze. I am pleased to report that my husband and I – common, semi-educated, quasi-normal people – claimed ultimate victory over the paperchase.
I admit that it was not an easy road. We began our paperwork for adoption from Ethiopia, and organized our fundraiser toward that end. Ethiopia closed its doors during our process, and we elected to redo paperwork for adoption from China. Then, before the adoption was complete, we moved. More paperwork.
For our first adoption for our sweet little four-year old boy waiting in China, we completed our first home study, and then updated it four times before he was ours. We were fingerprinted twice. We completed the dreaded openness form twice. And I remember that awful day near the beginning, applying for our initial immigration approval, when I finally had everything we needed to send in to that intimidating place called USCIS… I put all those papers in that manila envelope and made a special trip to the post office, arrived home with my little heart beating proudly. And to my horror I walked in the door to see our approved home study still sitting there on the counter. (If you haven’t gotten that far in your paperwork, I’ll just say that the home study is what you wait impatiently for to get this piece out to the post office, and the USCIS actually does need it.)
My blood pressure still rises just thinking of that day.
There was nothing I could do but wait until my manila envelope arrived at its destination, the kind government officers realized I was inept, and they mailed me a piece of paper requesting “evidence”. Evidence of my ineptness.
The home study is a feat in itself, but definitely not as scary as I’d been made to believe. There are doctor’s appointments to schedule, reference letters to obtain, insurance forms to find, and an autobiography to complete. Ok, maybe “autobiography” is a bit exaggerated… it’s just a bullet-point version! I admit, we tend to complain about all the work we need to do to finish these big steps, but huge kudos to the social workers and agency personnel who have to read everything and make sure it’s correct!
I will briefly address the dossier (pronounced with an “ee-ay” sound at the end, maybe it’s French?). This is a hefty stack of papers you collect from around the country (four different states, in our case) to prove your health status, your legal rights as a citizen, and your reputation in your community.
This process requires a lot of initiative on your part, unending patience, and forbearing grace. You need to cooperate with your medical team, the police station, experts in the fields of special needs, your employers, and your prospective guardians. It requires reading your dossier packet and the items needed, reading it again, and trying to communicate all of this to others.
Most of the dossier work from our first adoption is a blur, but we are preparing to travel within the next month or two for our second adoption and our most recent dossier is still very clear in my mind. It’s funny how we think we are experts if we’ve done something once already. And that doesn’t just go for us prospective parents. That goes for my doctor. I love her. But by the time she needed to redo our appointments again (and again!) because she used the same letter from our first adoption without changing the ages of our bio kids, then she didn’t date her letter the same as the notary, the notary’s commission expired too soon, and we forgot my hearing test, she was ready to kick us to the curb. It was a combination of mistakes from all of us, but it can really wear on you and your checkbook. We struggled with finding notaries that had longer commission dates, notaries willing to come with us to our kids’ schools and our doctor’s office, employers that were willing to provide what you asked them to provide, and letters from the police station that met our agency’s requirements. We needed to re-notarize several documents at the bank, the kids’ schools, the doctor, my husband’s employer, and the police station between both adoption processes. Certain items were easy to obtain for our first adoption, but proved more difficult for the second, and vice versa.
Wow, I hope it’s not normal for families to have as many problems as we had!
Can you see why the paperchase requires patience and grace? What a feeling of accomplishment once it is finished! What a combined effort of sweat, tears, support, and high-fives that goes into completing this! It is a possible feat; people do it all the time. Through all the tears, I encourage you think of it as a means to an end, a rallying of the troops, and a raising of your village. This should be worthy enough to put on a resume!
The dossier isn’t the end, though. Adoption paperwork involves referral papers, grant applications, fundraisers, another package sent to the USCIS, passport applications, something called the DS-260 and, depending on your country, visa applications. Give each piece its own time and energy, buy stock in your local office supply store (well…), and get excited that you are one step closer to an orphan who needs a family! You’ll make mistakes just like we did, you will forget things, you will need to redo things, and you will need to advocate for yourself and your child.
And even after all of this, surprises and changes will still take place. I am so thankful for a God who is even in this! He is watching the mail even closer than I am!
May He be glorified as we present ourselves humbly and confidently to our authorities and community members in this extensive process of paper chasing.
– guest post by Jennifer