Since enabling foreign adoptions in 1992, China has consistently been one of the number-one sending countries to the United States for intercountry adoptions. But what does the process look like for you as a prospective adoptive parent, and where should you begin?
1. Determine Eligibility
The first thing to do is to determine your family’s eligibility. In July 2017, China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption passed a new set of regulations outlining prospective adoptive families’ eligibility. Changes to the guidelines included age, number of children in the home, and marriage specifications. For a complete set of requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State’s intercountry adoption site.
2. Find an Agency
Once you determine your eligibility, the next thing to do is look for an agency. Due to China’s long history of intercountry adoptions, many agencies have been facilitating adoptions for over 20 years. Check what a prospective agency’s in-country partnerships are like. Do they have relationships with specific orphanages or regions? Do they help facilitate travel? Do they have in-country reps to help you when the time comes to bring your child home? Be sure to look for a Department of State–designated accrediting entity for your adoption service provider, since China is a Hague Convention country.
3. Conduct a Home Study
Whether you choose to adopt domestically or internationally, you will need to complete a home study. A home study is essentially a short history of you and your family. Information includes your health and financial history, your upbringing and parenting styles, and even fingerprinting and state child abuse or neglect clearances. You will also need to complete preadoptive parenting education. Hours of training vary from state to state, but Hague Convention countries require an additional 10 hours of training before your home study is complete.
4. Decide What You’re Open To
One of the most difficult elements to consider in international adoption is what special needs your family is open to. In China, there are two tracks for adoption: Traditional and Waiting Child. In the Traditional track, available children have minor or medically correctable needs (such as hearing loss, vision loss, limb differences, or cleft lip or palate). In the Waiting Child track, the children available for adoption have moderate to severe to lifelong needs (such as spinal conditions, Down syndrome, chronic heart conditions, or other genetic conditions). Your agency will provide a complete medical checklist for you to consider. Additionally, you will need to decide what age and gender you are open to for a referral.
5. Complete Your Dossier and Wait
Once your home study is complete and you are accepted into your agency’s China program, you will begin work on your dossier. The paperwork for your dossier will closely resemble the work you did for your home study, but additionally you will need to file an I-800A with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you are adopting via the Traditional track, once your dossier is complete, you will be logged into the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption system and await a referral. If you are adopting via the Waiting Child track, you may have already received a match through your agency or a waiting child listing site like Rainbowkids. Regardless of your track, you may experience a long wait for a referral. The wait can be hard after months of chasing paper, so find ways to take care of yourself and your family at this time.
6. Receive and Evaluate a Referral
There is nothing like getting the call saying your agency has a referral. Take the time to carefully evaluate the file, and if you can, have an experienced international adoption medicine specialist look at your prospective child’s file to help you determine if the match is a good one for your family. China gives you a 72-hour window to consider a file, and during this time you are able to ask clarifying questions of the orphanage. An experienced medical professional can help you do just that.
7. Accept and Complete More Paperwork
You said yes! Your child has a face, and you are ready to jump on the next plane! But there is still some paperwork to complete. You will need to file with USCIS again; this a DS-260 for your child’s visa, which will trigger your Article 5, stating the U.S. Embassy finds you eligible to adopt your specific child. After that, you will be granted travel approval.
Once travel approval is granted, you can begin to make your travel plans. At least one parent must travel, and trips are typically around two weeks. During this time, you will meet your child at his or her orphanage in province, then travel to Guangzhou to process your adoption at the U.S. Embassy. Be sure to check with your agency for a complete list of documents to bring with you!
Once you return home, you will be required to fulfill post-placement visits and reports with your agency and with China. Typically, agencies require a one- and three-month check-in once you return home. China requires a post-placement report be done by the agency at six months, one year, and two years. Then for years three, four, and five, you may self-report to China, which your agency should help facilitate.
Last but not least, now that you have returned home, you will want to make sure your child’s social security card and Certificate of Citizenship have been received. Depending on where you live, you may want to consider readopting your child to obtain a Certificate of Foreign Birth.
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller, and arts educator. In a small government office in China, Jennifer became an adoptive mother. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “Is this really us?!?” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.