Several people have asked us about what the adoption process looks like, and I thought I’d do a quick (ha! not really. very long. saddle up.) blog post to kind of at least give an overview of what this process has looked like for us.
We made the decision to adopt sometime in January and started researching countries and agencies. For us, China made the most sense because it’s a well established program, and the wait in relatively short. It also requires a comparatively short travel time. Once we picked China, we started researching agencies. We ended up choosing CCAI (Chinese Children Adoption International). They are an agency that has been working in China from the beginning of it’s international adoption program, and have facilitated 11.000+ adoptions, so we feel like we’re in good hands.
The first step once we decided on an agency was applying. The application is a very basic overview of our lives, and it also certifies that we meet China’s conditions to adopt, which include age, BMI, income of at least $10,000 per family member, and a significant “net worth” requirement. We also simultaneously applied to our home study agency, Options for Families and Youth in the Cleveland area. We were accepted by both agencies and we got started!
A home study is a set of face to face interviews with a social worker to determine whether you’ll be a suitable parents to the child you adopt. Most people, us included, find it terribly intimidating and spend obscene amounts of time cleaning all the things and setting out ridiculous snacks because you want the social worker to think you’re awesome. Every article I read kept saying that it wasn’t a big deal, to just relax and HA!, have we met? I did not relax. But I’m here to say… it was no big deal. Our social worker, Ginger, is the absolute best. We liked her right from the start. She was kind and funny, and walked us through the whole process. She is a gift and we are so grateful to her. We did one longer visit at our house, just Josh and I, and then we went to her office for fingerprints and a training required by Ohio law. She also did one more visit to our house (I cleaned a lot less for this one!) and interviewed Eden. She did a quick walk through of the house to make sure that we didn’t have any torture chambers or, you know, doors that a child could lock themselves in with, and it was super easy. Along with the home study, we did background checks, a fire inspection (we own a fire extinguisher now… exciting stuff!), and some personal narrative work as well. And best of all, when she asked if I spoke any languages besides English fluently, and I replied “sarcasm” she laughed because she is the awesome. The other piece of that is asking people to write letters of recommendation. We can’t say thank you enough to Phil and Kristina, Dave and Karen, Danielle, Melissa and Michelle. It’s a scary thing to ask someone to tell a social worker their honest opinion of your parenting and we are so grateful that they said “yes” when we asked them, and that, we assume, they said nice things.
Medical Conditions Checklist (MCC):
The MCC is what gets the clock ticking for when you’re matched with your child. It’s pretty much what it sounds like; our adoption agency has an extensive list of conditions and you go through and check which ones you would accept and which ones you would not. It is an incredibly bizarre experience to sit on the couch with your spouse and say “yes, I could deal with this, but no, I couldn’t deal with that.” It was one of the more humbling experience of this journey so far for me, because behind each condition you say yes or no to, there are actual kids waiting for their families to find them. In the end, we said yes to lots of conditions, such as cleft lip/palate, heart defects, limb differences, skin conditions, some feeding and digestive challenges, and a lot more. As I said above, submitting this starts your clock to match, so we pushed hard to get this done. Once we are “Documents to China” (DTC), this is what they will use to match us, and our openness to conditions will shorten or lengthen our wait. People open to boys with Down Syndrome, or significant heart issues, or older children etc will be matched sometimes before they even complete their dossier. People who are requesting a girl under 3 with very minor health concerns might wait 24 months+. So, the MCC is really important. Our clock started running on July 17th, 2014, so we’ll see when it stops!
Oh, the dossier. Say this word to any adoptive parent and their eyes immediately glaze over in exhaustion. A dossier is a look at our lives on paper and includes birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, the home study, immigration approval, a petition to adopt, physical exams, blood work, and a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting. Once it’s completed, most of it has to be notarized and then the notary seals have to be authenticated in the county where the notary has their license. THEN, it goes to the Ohio Secretary of State to be certified again and THEN it goes to the China Counsolate in New York (by courier! because you can’t just mail it!), and THEN it goes to our agency for critical review, and THEN it’s bound and sent on it’s way to China. Head spinning yet?! Now that I’ve had some time to wrap my head around this part of the process, I’m good, but when I read through all of that for the first time, it was pretty intense. I will be so happy when that part of this process is over and our documents are in China!
Documents to China/Log in Date (DTC/LID):
Once our dossier gets to China, we are logged into their system, and that is when doors really start to open up. Once that happens, we are able to be matched with any child in the system. If we are following a “typical” timeline, we may be waiting for a while after LID, but our MCC is fairly open, so who knows? This is both a relief and a whole new kind of stress because now every phone call and every email could be “THE ONE”.
Special Needs (SN) vs. Special Focus (SF):
We are adopting through the special needs program, which encompasses the “traditional” special needs program and also the special focus program. Basically, special needs are considered mild to moderate and correctable in the US. The special focus program are kids who have multiple special needs, are older, or who have more severe conditions that may be on going once they’re home. The other difference is that for SF, we can request their file without having our dossier logged in. For SN kids, we have to be logged in.
Still with me?! Phew! That’s at least an overview of what we’re doing right now, and where we’re going. It’s a long process, but so worth it, and our agency is amazing and has a fantastic guide that is walking us through the process so we feel confident we know what we’re doing. We are currently waiting on our home study and then we’ll be working on immigration. Progress is happening, and we’ll keep moving forward!