Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Process

I often get asked how long it takes to adopt a baby from China. The
five-second answer is "about a year and a half." Here's what my
answer would be if you had fifteen minutes:

Orientation to submission of dossier
Most agencies have an initial orientation where they tell you how they
do the process and more about their organization in general. You
might have to go to a few different agencies before you find one
you're comfortable with, but Amy and I lucked out in that we liked the
first one we attended. From there, there are a set number of required
meetings you need to have with the agency in order to satisfy the
requirements of the Chinese government. I believe the number is four:
the initial orientation, two trainings, and then a home study. We got
these done in about a month and a half, from mid-July to early
September 2004. From there, it's a lot of paperwork. What sort of
paperwork? Medical exams, financial records, proof of employment,
child abuse and criminal checks, form letters stating our intent to
care for our adopted child, reference letters, and so on.
Unfortunately, it's not all in parallel: in other words, it's not like
you can fill out everything, send it to all the different places, and
then wait for it to get returned to you. Some stuff you have to fill
out, send out to be processed, and then wait for it to get returned
before you can move on to another thing. If my memory serves me
right, the thing that took the longest was getting our fingerprints
cleared by INS (it can take anywhere from two to four months; I think
we waited a hair shy of three months). That took us to late November
2004. We hustled as much as we could from there, getting stuff
notarized (thank goodness for my friend who's a notary), and then
certified (by the state from which the paperwork originated, so our
birth certificates from the capitals of our home states, and
everything else from Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania), and
then authenticated (by the Chinese consulate closest to where the
paperwork originated, so New York for almost all of our stuff).
Finally, in late December 2004 we sent it all to our agency for its
review, and they included it in their January 2005 shipment of
applications. It got logged in China on January 20, 2005.

Submission of dossier to notification of referral
At this point, on our side, it's just a long waiting game. They told
us at the outset that they were averaging six to seven months for this
stage; by the time we get to this stage for our second adoption, the
average will probably be closer to nine to twelve months. In China,
of course, Jada was being born, abandoned, discovered, and taken to
the local orphanage. A notice of abandonment goes in the local paper,
and the process for matching her with adoptive parents begins. We got
the call in late July, a little over six months after our dossier was
submitted and logged in China.

Notification of referral to pick-up of child
The agency told us this part would take six to eight weeks, but it
ended up taking ten weeks, partly because China was overwhelmed with
demand and had to push some adoption procedures back a month, and
partly because we had to work around national holidays there. These
ten weeks, as you can imagine, were a harder wait than the six months
before, because at this point you know there's a little one waiting
for you, and you've even seen a picture or two of her. During this
time, we ramped up our baby prep (no sense in buying a bunch of baby
stuff if you don't know if there's a baby on the way, right?) and took
care of travel arrangements. We left for China in early October 2005.

Pick-up of child
You can see more details on this part by looking at blogs I posted
during this time, but essentially this part takes a little less than
two weeks. The way we did it, we went to the capital city of the
province in which the orphanage Jada was in was located, leaving
Philadelphia on Friday the 7th and (having crossed the International
Date Line) arriving in Nanchang on Sunday the 9th. We got Jada on a
Monday, filled out a bunch of paperwork the next day, and then hung
out until Friday, when that paperwork was done being processed. Then,
over the weekend we flew to Guangzhou, where the US consulate is
located, and did more processing on the next Monday, Tuesday, and
Wednesday, including getting her sworn in as a US citizen (an act that
would become official once Jada arrived on US soil and got her papers
stamped). We flew out that Wednesday evening and (because of crossing
the International Date Line) arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday evening
the 19th and in Philadelphia the next morning (20th).

So all told, from our first orientation to arriving home with Jada, it
took us about fifteen months. As we look ahead to number two, from
what we've been told we're anticipating an additional three months of
waiting for the referral. So God willing, about a year and a half
from when we start this up again, we'll be hoping to arrive home with
another baby girl and a little sister for Jada. (PS One other
constraint is that you can't submit another dossier within a year of
adopting, so since we adopted in October 2005, the earliest we can
have our next dossier logged is November 2006.)

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