6 Essentials For International Adoption
We failed in our 1st attempt at international adoption. In doing so we talked to hundreds of people, some who succeeded and some who failed. What we learned is that, while luck and timing have a lot to do with many successes and failures, there were some common threads amongst the those who managed to succeed. What you read here will not be tricks or secrets…in fact you may read it and think, “duh!” But slow down and really think about if you are following what we recommend. If we had slowed down a bit we may still be without our little girl, but it we would have less regrets. Please read on and share if you have any “rules” to share.
#1 – Research your consultant/agency.
I’m not just talking about internet searches for the name of the agency and talking to the agency themselves. I’m talking about tracking down people who have used them and doing some advanced sleuthing like searching for, “XXX agency +Scam” on Google. It’s amazing what kind of horror stories will appear. For example, after we had issues with our first provider we discovered some allegations of child trafficking etc. We may have dismissed it, but at least we would have known. In addition search the better business bureau and other review sites. It will be hard to find an agency with a completely clean record, but if you see multiple complaints from different sources I would certainly run away.
In addition, the agencies would love to just talk about the good stories and the happy adoptions. Don’t just talk to them about about successes. Ask them about some of the failures and some of the mistakes they have made. An honest organization will be honest with you. Finally, have them walk you through the entire process from beginning to end (acknowledging that there are going to be bumps in the road). If they are unsure at any point or if they deviate from what you know to be true…run.
How will I know what is true?
#2- Know the law
Get on the United States Customs and Immigration Website located here: https://www.uscis.gov/adoption and the state department website, located here: https://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en.html
State will give you all the country specific rules/regulations, while USCIS will give you the immigration rules. If you read our adoption journey you’ll see that we came to a point where the country would not give us a piece of paper, “the Article 16 report” and USCIS demanded it. We came to an impasse and had to abandon the Adoption. We did not look at these websites until we were months into the process…big mistake.
Protip: When you are on those websites go to the forms you will be using I800A, I800, I600 etc. Go through them and fill them out. If you don’t understand something, ask your agency. If they don’t ask…check out #3
#3 – Be your own advocate
You need to fully understand every step and if you don’t, make the person responsible for that step explain it to you.
Protip: If the agency can’t explain it, both USCIS and the responsible embassy have e-mail addresses and phone numbers for questions. I recommend going straight to the sources. Here’s an excerpt from the USCIS page:
“Non-Hague: If you have already filed a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, and/or a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, and need assistance with your case, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hague: If you have already filed a Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, and/or a Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, and need assistance with your case, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.”
Beyond asking questions, make sure you are checking your paperwork. We found multiple errors in addresses, names etc that could have delayed our process if we hadn’t caught it. In addition, our agency forgot to submit one of our background checks. It was only our follow-up that made things happen.
It’s not just your agency you need to watch…if you happen to be in touch with the central authority of the country you are adopting from you need to watch them too. (Note: This is rare, and usually against Hague rules if you are using that process)
The fact that we were in Thailand really helped with this. We were able to engage with both our Thailand Adoption Authority and our Agency in the United States. We had equal problems with both of them and needed to contact them all the time to keep them on track. Both required different skills and a different approach, but both were equally important.
The last three are brief and more big picture, but they are really the cornerstones of this whole process.
#4 – Know your Why
This will keep you going. Seriously, sit down and have a conversation with your partner or in the mirror if you’re a single parent-to-be and figure the why. Write it down and keep it to one or two sentences. It needs to be big, not just “I Want to adopt because I want to help kids”. Also, go on the internet and read all the counterpoints to adoption and all the horror stories from adoptive parents and adoptees. Be prepared…you’re going to hear it all. If you can get through that and still have the desire you’re on the right track.
“Here’s a trick. Ask why 3 to 5 times.”
“I want to adopt”
“Because I want another child in my family.”
“Because I feel like my family is not complete.”
“I really have a desire to have a girl.”
“I saw a homeless girl being used as a prop for a beggar here in Bangkok and it tugged at my heart.”
“Because I realized there are so many little girls out there who need homes and I knew I had the capacity and the desire to love another child…it broke my heart.”
BOOM! There it is! There is your why!
Your why doesn’t have to be that great. Maybe it is, “I can’t have a child of my own biologically and I have a strong desire to be a mother.” That’s great! I would still encourage you to drill down on why you have those feelings, but whatever your reason
#5 – Patience
Years. Adoption can take years…that being said, don’t forget about #3. If you rest on your laurels, you will get run over. Have patience, and know that it will take a long time, but realize you still need to be tracking your progress and knowing that you’re timeline makes sense. If you see that things are going slower than usual, be that advocate…if you’ve run into an insurmountable roadblock be prepared to go to #6.
#6 – Pivot if Required
Sometimes it’s time to pivot. Thailand didn’t work for us. We are pivoting to another option (more on that later). This is not quitting, because we are patient! You may come to this point too. If adoption is truly what you want, be open to other possibilities and never give up hope. We here at Wanderlust and Mayhem are always willing to chat with you. We are certainly not professionals, but we do support all adoption journeys. Share yours in the comments!
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