Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Information about international adoption

We have learned many things about international adoption. Each country does things a little differently and have different expectations, but there are some things like the paperwork that is pretty much the same. These are some of the things that we have learned and have had to do for our adoption from China.

The Process:
I've been wanting to take some time and share a little bit about the process we went through to get our dossier together. Of course, I should have been better with the record keeping but I didn't document timeframes for each step. So I don't remember how long each step in the process was exactly.

--We began to think about adoption, more me than Ron. Then we went to an adoption conference in the fall of 2005 to learn more about adoption.
--We submitted our application to the adoption agency that we decided to use, Great Wall China Adoption (GWCA) at the end of November 2005.
--Our application was approved by the agency in early December 2005, and so the journey officially began. I waited until January 2006 to begin gathering the documents we needed.
--These are the things we needed to do and paperwork we needed to gather together for the dossier:
--write a letter to the Chinese officials explaining why we would like to adopt from China
--birth certificates for each of us
--marriage certificate
--medical forms: we each had to have a physical completed by our doctors and then a form completed and signed by the doctors saying that we are in good health and we would make good parents
--employment status letter: we each had to get a letter from each of our employers stating that we were currently employed with them, what our salary is
--financial statement: we had to complete a statement giving our financial status
--police report for each of us
--home study report*
--CIS approval -- approval to adopt an orphan**
Some of the documents we had to obtain we had to get more than one since not only did we need it for the homestudy but also for our dossier. So some things were double which of course doubled the expenses. Many things we had to complete consisted of waiting on others for an appointment or to complete something for us on our paperwork, etc. So no matter how quickly we complete what we needed to do, we still had to wait on others. Their urgency in completing things wasn't the same as ours! But for the most part things seem to move along rather smoothly.

*For our home study we had to be fingerprinted at a state police headquarters. We were fingerprinted with the black ink. It was an interesting experience since neither one of us had ever been fingerprinted before! We had to meet several times with the social workers from our home study agency. In their report they included (and so of course had to ask us tons of questions) our motivation to adopt; each of our family backgrounds including education level completed, employment history, religious information, our interests, etc.; marital status and our relationship with each other, and our relationship with extended family; health status - the medical form we had completed by the doctor; our financial status; criminal history - finger printing and background check; a description of our home and neighborhood; what we've done to prepare to be a parent; references - we had to have 3 non-family members write references for us; and then they included their recommendations for adopting a girl from China between the ages of 6 and 15 months old.

**For the CIS approval we had to submit an application with our birth certificates and marriage certificate and then we were given a fingerprinting appointment. We went to Indianapolis and had our fingerprints taken electronically. Then a background check was done on each of us. After the background check came back we were sent a form saying we were approved.

All the above things had to be notarized, state certified (sent to Indy to be certified that each notary was truly a notary)--so a signed page was attached to each of our documents and then returned to us; and then we sent them to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago to have them authenticated. These came back to us with another page signed and stapled on top of each document.

Other documents we had to obtain were passports. Ron had to get one and I had to renew mine. We had to include some photos of us around the house and outside the house doing things we normally do.

All of these things were compiled and sent in to our agency in Austin, Texas. We had to have it to them before Wednesday of a week and if so and everything was okay they would send it to China the Friday of that same week. So we made sure we had it there before a Wednesday and they reviewed it and found it okay to send on Friday.

Our agency would send us chapter of the adoption manual they have as we needed them to complete the next step in the process. So to complete all the paperwork needed was outlined in detail in the information they sent us. Also, I communicated with them many times through email. I could scan things and send them in an email to see if we had completed paperwork correctly before submitting it. That was great, so then if it needed to be fixed, we could fix it before submitting it and wasting the time of having it returned to us to fix and then resubmitting it. So that helped alot.

What we're learning....
During this waiting time I am educating myself on what to expect when we meet Marisa for the very first time and what to expect after that. It is all very interesting and heartbreaking as well. First of all I'm beginning to understand the effects of being institutionalized (being in an orphanage). As good as the 'aunties' (that's what the caretakers are called in the orphanages), they can't care for all of the babies/children like parents would in their home. They have to divide their attention among many, many children and can't possibly meet all of the children's needs on demand. It is sad but a fact. And this will have an effect on Marisa. How could it not?
Many times when parents are first handed their babies in China, the babies tend to be crying, listless, won't make eye contact, have poor muscle tone. First of all, of course they are going to be crying and listless. They are being placed in the arms of a stranger and being taken away from the people they've known. Plus we don't look like them. We may even appear ugly and very scary to them. We're just thinking, 'oh this is our baby and we're going to give her a much better life than she had in the orphanage' but needing to realize it's not about us but about her and how are we going to make sure that she feels safe and know that we are not going to leave her. Something that will take time. As far as the poor muscle tone, since the children are in cribs for most of the day they don't develop the muscle tone children do when they get out of the crib and crawl and sit up, etc. But it is encouraging to learn that with encouragement and the one-on-one care the children receive after they're adopted, they develop that rather quickly.

I know once we return home with Marisa, there will be many people that will want to see Marisa and hold her, etc. But that will really have to be limited. This poor child will have gone through so much already that we need to limit the amount of stimuli and chaos in her life until she is comfortable and ready for it. This could take several months.
There are also issues with children forming an attachment with their adoptive parents. When a baby is born to a parent, the attachment usually begins at birth. Well, Marisa may have attached to her mom only to have been relinquished to an orphanage. Then at the orphanage she has either attached to an auntie or learned not to get attached to people. So we will need to try to change her way of thinking. That is why when we first arrive home from China, Ron and I may be the only ones to hold her just to help with that whole process of attachment and bonding to us her parents. I know this is going to be difficult for relatives but we need to put our own feelings aside and do what's best for Marisa. There will be time when everyone can love on her later, but at first their love will have to be shown by giving some space and time.

I've also learned that parenting will be very different for an adopted child compared to a biological child. From the things I've read, the child may question where they belong, have difficulty dealing with the whole issue of being relinquished and are they going to be left by the adoptive parents, finding their identity especially in the teen-age years could be a very difficult time. So are just some very different issues that we, as parents, may be facing compared to things you've come across with your biological children. It will be very important for Ron and I to have decided how we will tell Marisa about how she came into our family and what happened before in China. We always want to be open with her but put things in a positive light because none of this was due to a mistake she made or something she did.

As I'm learning, it's not just about taking a child into your home, giving them a family, and loving them, it will take much understanding and trying to figure out what the child is thinking and how they can be made to feel secure. I realize that we may not have these issues with Marisa. Some parents have these issues with their adopted children and others don't. I do feel it is important to be educated and know what to expect and what the warning signs could be to these things. I'd rather be prepared and not need the information, than to not be prepared and feel helpless.

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