Adopting through the China special needs program is different than the original program where you put all your paperwork in and then are given a referral for a healthy, baby girl. In the special needs program there are, as far as I can tell, just as many boys as girls. They are from about 7 months all the way to 13 years old, when they reach age 14 they are no longer allowed to be adopted. They have problems ranging from an unsightly birthmark, missing digits, cleft lip/palate all the way to HIV+ and severe heart defects. Any kind of medical condition or "abnormality" that you can imagine would fall under the SN category. Also, sometimes just the fact that they are older kids is considered a special need.
In July, we received a packet from Wasatch with pages and pages of contracts to sign before we could get started. It took us a few weeks to get through the contracts and for Steve to feel good about signing them. We checked around and made sure they were standard adoption contracts and we also made sure there were no red flags in the contracts like a gag clause (something that would prevent us from saying anything about the agency if anything went wrong.)
When we were done with those, they had to be notarized and then sent in with a big chunk of change. At this time we also filled out a form with about 100 different medical conditions, and we checked off a box if we were open to adopting a child with that condition. I wrote up a thing with an explanation of all the conditions and a basic description of what they were and then Steve and I filled out separate forms individually. Then we got together to see which conditions we were together on. It was interesting to see how we were mostly on the same page but there were a few conditions that we each had that the other did not have. For example Steve put deafness was OK and I was floored! He thought it would be cool if we all learned sign language. I said no thanks to that! (Although I would do it if I had to, I just think we will have enough on our plates without having to learn sign language!) I thought a missing limb was OK but Steve wasn't too comfortable with that. We came up with all the conditions we both agreed on and made a master which we sent into the agency so they could start looking for a child who fit into our criteria of age and special need.
In this program, you can be matched with a child before you pick an agency and start the process, or at any stage in the process. Our plan was to not match with a child until we were DTC (dossier to China) because we knew it would be hard to wait so long having a name and a face to put with our child.
After the contracts were signed, we were sent a CD with 2 manuals on it. One manual was to explain the entire paperwork process, it was 200 pages long! The other manual was our mandatory 10 hours of education that every international adopting family is required to do, it was also 200 pages. In addition to reading the 200 pages of education we had to answer questions that turned out to be about 10 pages worth of answers. It took us way longer than 10 hours but was all very good information and we are glad we had to do it. We learned a lot!
At this stage we were gathering all of our life's history of documents, doing our education and having our home study visits completed. The home study was finally written up and completed the first week of October, and then had to be notarized. Then, it was sent to us and we mailed it with a bunch of documentation to the US immigration service, called USCIS, who will give us permission to bring an "orphan" into the US. Before we can get that permission we have to be fingerprinted. We are going to get fingerprinted this week and hopefully will have our approval soon after. That is the stage we are in right now. In the meantime, while we are waiting for our approval, a whole packet of our documents is at the state capital and Chinese embassy getting authenticated by each. As soon as we get our approval, we will send all those authenticated documents, called our dossier, to China. Then we will be DTC!
After we are DTC, we wait for our LOA (letter of acceptance), then we have to file some other stuff with the US government, then we have to wait for another approval from China, then we will get an invitation to travel (TA) and pick up our child! Travel is usually 2-3 weeks after TA so we won't have much time to book our travel arrangements. This is it in a nutshell and I have not researched it all that far ahead so I might be over simplifying it. Also, it seems like it will only be a short while from DTC until TA but it can be 6-8 months. Bummer. We hope it goes faster but we don't want to be disappointed so we are trying not to be overly optimistic.
Coming tomorrow... pictures! And our story of being matched before DTC.
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