Monday, October 17, 2011

FAQs - The Final Chapter

Hi All. I wanted to add 3 more questions we often get. So, here goes...

1. What paperwork is needed for the Dossier?

The Home Study and the Dossier both require a lot of information, so I'll tell you about both. First you start compiling the documents your Social Worker is going to need for your Home Study. Here they are...

Official Birth Certificates of each family member
Marriage Certificate
Copy of latest tax return
Copy of Medical Insurance Cards
Copy of Drivers Licenses
Floor Plan of Home
Photos of our front and back yard
Immunization Records of any pets
Physical for each member of the family
Autobiography for Chris and myself
3 Reference Letters
Personal Data Form
Addresses for the last 10 years
Certification of 10 hours of Adoption Education for both of us
Extensive Application (Including Financial, Medical, Employment info)
Child Abuse Clearances from each state we have resided in since we were 18
The Social Worker will also make multiple home visits where they will interview each family member (yep, including the kids) , tour your home and discuss adoption, family, parenting issues with you.

With all of the info collected the Social Worker will draft your Home Study report. It ends up being about a 13 page document. Once you have your official Home Study complete (signed and notarized by your agency and Social Worker) you can file your I800-A. This is an application sent to USCIS requesting permission to adopt an orphan from China. This approval requires your fingerprints to be run through the FBI database and takes about 2 months to complete.

During that 2 month wait we compiled our Dossier documents...
Application Letter
Birth Certificates for parents
Marriage Certificate
Employment Verification (signed by employer) for both of us
Financial Status Certification (signed by your CPA - no, we couldn't sign our own)
Physical Exam for each of us
Police Clearance Letter for each of us (we had to go to the local police station for this one - FUN)
Agency Agreement Form between our placing agency and our Social Worker
copy of 1st page of Passport - both of us
2 passport pics of each of us
6 family pictures
Home Study Report
1800A Approval Letter

All of these items (except pictures, passport copies, birth cert, and marriage cert) needed to be notarized. Then, all the items (except pictures and passport copies) needed to go to Austin to be Certified by the Secretary of State. The SOS looks up the notary on each document and certifies that the person is indeed a true notary in the state of Texas. I made a trip to Austin to get this step done. THEN, all the documents (except pictures and passport copies) need to be HAND DELIVERED to the Chinese Embassy to be Authenticated. The Chinese Embassy will verify that the SOS Certification on each document is correct and authenticates it (adds a flashy holographic sticker to the back of each document). The closest Chinese Embassy for us was the one in Houston. We used a courier for the majority of the documents.

When we finally got our I800-A approval (2 months after we sent it in) Chris and I were more than ready to get our Dossier in the mail to China. We had already moved all of our other documents though the notarization, certification, authentication maze. We did this so that we could send the completed documents to our agency in California so they could review them and make sure everything was okay. Remember, if a document needs to be changed, it would have to go through all the steps and this would eat up precious time. So, when our I800-A approval finally arrived, getting it notarized, certified, authenticated and sent to our agency was the only thing standing in the way of getting our Dossier to China. We got the approval notarized the same day it arrived in the mailbox. The next day, I drove it to Austin to be certified and then a day later Chris and I made the trip to Houston to get it authenticated. Once we got that last precious document in our hands, with the cool Chinese sticker, we headed to Fed Ex and sent it to our agency. The next day our Dossier was in route to China. Running all over the state of Texas allowed us to process our last document in record time and get our Dossier off to China!!!

Getting all of this paperwork together and through the notarization, certification, authentication maze is referred to as the paper chase. When your Dossier goes to China, you are considered officially done with the paper chasing portion of the journey. The rest of the process is not without forms and more paperwork, but nothing as bad as the paper chase.

2. How much does it cost to adopt from China?

It's about $30,000 to $40,000. Travel costs are the big reason for the $10,000 spread. You are required to go to your child's province to get them and sign adoption paperwork. Then all families have to go to Guangzhou China where the US Embassy is located. There you get your child's medical check and US Visa to come to the US. If your child is in the same province as the US Embassy (Guangdong province), you just need to go to Guangzhou. If your child is from another province (like Hannah) you will need to go to 2 places. We are going to 4 places during our trip. We are starting out in Beijing so we can tour the sights there. Then we will fly to Hannah's province. The next stop is Guangzhou to go to the Embassy and finally, we will fly home from Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a quick van drive or train ride from Guangzhou and it was cheaper for us to fly home via Hong Kong. The extra in-country flights add to the trip costs. Traveling in the summer is generally more expensive too. We are taking the boys and that adds to the costs as well.

I hate to cover the cost of the adoption without mentioning what the Lord has done in our journey. Chris and I intended to start the process about a month ago. Yep, would have been in the thick of our paper chase about now. But in Nov 2010, Chris felt the Lord's prompting for us to GO. We allocated the money for the application fee ($500) from our personal budget, stepped out in faith that God was calling us to begin, and filed our application without any idea where the rest of the money would come from. God has blessed us with the funds we have needed (often right before we needed to make our next payment) and we are nearly there. This is his plan. Hannah is his child. He just wanted us to be obedient. He has provided and I have no doubt he will continue to do so. If God is calling you to adopt, He will make a way even when you don't see one.

3. Why are you adopting from China when there are so many children in America who need a family?

Simply put, God called us to China. The daughter he had designed for our family long ago was in China. We prayed about both domestic and international adoption, but over and over God confirmed that we were to adopt from China.

Let me just say, that this question is often asked with complete curiosity and a desire to understand how we came to the decision to adopt specifically from China. But, sometimes, this question is asked and it is clear that the inquirer thinks that your decision to choose a Chinese orphan over an American child, needing to be adopted or fostered, is inappropriate. Prior to beginning this journey, I would have never guessed that the issue of domestic versus international adoption could be so heated. Some people (including many within the adoption community) can be very passionate about domestic versus international adoption. But, in God's eyes there are no foreign or domestic orphans, just orphans. MILLIONS of children around the world need the love of a family. I rejoice when any child gets one! Whether they are from China, Ethiopia, Haiti, Russia or Dallas, San Antonio or Austin, it's always good to rejoice when there is one less!

Ok, that's it! I hope I have answered everything you ever wanted to know about adopting from China. Stay tuned beacuse we leave in just 15 days! It won't be long now!

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

1 comment:

  1. Amy, I have really enjoyed reading about your journey to bringing Hannah home. I am so happy for your family, and for her. I pray that your preparation for this huge trip goes very smoothly. Blessings to all of the Halvorsons!