Deciding to start the process of international adoption can be very confusing. There is a lot of paperwork to fill out and many decisions to be made. It is important to know where to begin.
First, decide which country you wish to adopt from. This may impact which international adoption agency you choose. Many countries allow international adoption and each country has specific rules. The United States Department of State has a web site listing countries and what the guidelines are.
Once you have decided on a country or region, start looking for international adoption agencies. Ask for referrals from friends and family who have adopted children. Once you have narrowed it down to a few agencies, check their accreditations and licenses. Find an agency that is run by social workers with experience placing children through international adoption rather than an agency with no history of placements.
Next, the paperwork begins. Fill out and submit the international adoption application and get your passport. It can take quite a while for a passport application to be approved and for you to get it, so it is important to do this early in the game. Begin getting all of your legal documents together. You will need to have multiple copies of your marriage license and birth certificates as well as any other paperwork required by your agency. This is called your dossier.
After you have filled out your international adoption application and completed your dossier, you will have to have a home study. A home study is done by a social worker an takes several months to complete. The social worker will visit your home and complete interviews of the family members to determine the environment in your home. Children placed through international adoption require safety and stability and it is the social worker’s job to determine that you are able to provide it. Home studies also often require medical exams, criminal background checks, financial checks and references.
While you are completing your international adoption home study, you can begin the paperwork necessary through the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The first form you are required to fill out is the I-600A. This form is the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. This is done before a child is ever referred to you through the international adoption agency. To complete this form, at least one half of the married couple must be at least 25 years old and a United States citizen. After all of this is done, the agency is ready to refer your child to you. This is the point in an international adoption where you commit to adopting a child and planning your trip to get your child.