Q. Why intercountry adoption?
A. There is little likelihood of the birth parent ever being involved. Many ages of children, including infants, are available. The criteria for applicant specifications may be more flexible than adoption in the U.S. There are not enough children readily available from domestic adoption sources.
Q. What does an intercountry adoption require?
A. Three things are required:
1. A HOMESTUDY - A homestudy must be completed by a social worker from an INTERCOUNTRY adoption agency licensed within the state where you reside. In some states, like California, the agency must be licensed in the county where you reside. This homestudy document is required and recognized by the state, federal and foreign governments. This is a description of your suitability to be adoptive parents.
2. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) APPROVAL which fulfills the federal requirements.
3. A DOSSIER - This is a major portion of the international process. It is the collection of documents, listed below, which you need to present to the foreign country prior to adoption. The dossier verifies who you are and that you have met the criteria for intercountry adoption.
Q. How much time does it take?
A. There are the three processes outlined above. First, the homestudy evaluation can take weeks to several months. Second, a petition with USCIS takes from four to six weeks from the time USCIS receives your homestudy. Third, working with an international facilitator to locate your child and adopt could take six months to one year, depending on the country you select. (During this time you should be working to prepare your dossier.)
Q. What would the costs be?
A. Expenses will vary depending on the agency you select. Most agencies will charge an application fee of $200-500. Homestudy fees will probably be around $1,800 - $3,000. While you are collecting documents for the homestudy, you will need to be fingerprinted for the state, get a good conduct letter from the Sheriff, marriage certificates, birth certificates and have medical examinations. The costs could be $150-200. You need to petition with USCIS to bring an adopted orphan into the United States and their fees are $670 (plus fingerprint costs of $80 for all persons living in the home 18 years or older). There will be another process to connect with the facilitator who will link you with the children in the country you have selected. These fees vary and can be $10,000 - $20,000, if they include travel expenses. You could spend $1,500 for one person to travel for airfare, $1,000 for lodging, travel and a guide within the foreign country. You may need another medical exam within the foreign country. All documents for your dossier will need to be notarized, authenticated, apostilled, and translated. Those fees are estimated to be $500 -$2,000 depending on the area you live and the length of your homestudy. In most cases, you will be paying for a contribution to the orphanage for services, medical supplies, clothes, etc. You should know these amounts from the facilitator prior to deciding which country you will select. USCIS could require another medical examination of your child in that country (this would be covered with your health insurance).
DEFINITION OF TERMS
HOMESTUDY - The document which approves (or disapproves) you for suitability to adopt in a foreign country. It serves as the key to the door with the borders. The organization who is connecting you with the foreign country will probably want an original of your homestudy to be produced in your home state by an adoption agency licensed to conduct INTERCOUNTRY adoptions.
DOSSIER - A collection of documents which verifies who you are to the foreign country. There are different documents from those you provided for the homestudy, and it includes your homestudy. The dossier can be handled by a facilitating agency which may not be located in your state. To prepare a dossier, all documents must be notarized, authenticated and apostilled and comply with USCIS and foreign criteria.
NOTARIZATION - The process of having a notary public watch your documents be signed and verify that this signature is in fact that of the signer(s). Many of the documents are signed and thus will require this.
CERTIFICATION (ALSO KNOWN AS AUTHENTICATION) - The process of verifying that the notary is licensed currently in the county where she/he is practicing.
APOSTILLE - A step where your documents which have been notarized and certified are taken to the Secretary of State for a special seal to make them official and recognized by the foreign government as acceptable documents.
Hopefully you have understood these procedures and are ready to make your decision about international adoption. The period of time to complete all this - nine months on average, similar to gestation - will enable you to adjust to the upcoming international travel and adoption. The wonder of it all is that you will likely end up with a beautiful child! Good planning!