Monday, September 01, 2008

Adoption Update

We have heard from our social worker. Allow me to recap the situation up to now, before providing the update.

The U.S. adopted the Hague Adoption Convention on April 1, 2008. The Hague Convention sets a standard for international adoptions, and holds every signing country to this international standard. To date, nearly 75 other nations have signed this treaty. China is one of those nations.

The bottom line of the new convention is that the U.S. State Department is now under new regulations governing international adoption. In any organization, a whole new set of rules can slow everyone down for a while. This is certainly true within the U.S. government, and flows quickly down to all of the adoption agencies and providers. It seems that no one fully understands every rule and regulation.

One regulation that the state department seems to understand quite clearly is the one that flumoxes our original plan. Our social worker here in China has been facilitating expatriate adoptions of Chinese children for years, having worked successfully with hundreds of families. As an individual, she conducts the family's homestudy and then helps them put together their dossier to the Chinese government. Her connections within both the state department and the Chinese government ensured that her clients could safely and smoothly work the system without needing to hire an agency. This saved her clients money, but also removed a few levels of bureaucracy for everyone involved.

But the state department, through its adoption of the Hague Convention, now requires every social worker to work in conjunction with an agency located within the United States. On this point, they are both quite specific and apparently immobile. Our social worker tried admirably to make a change in the policy. She pulled her connections in the state department, the U.S. Embassy, and the Chinese government to amend the policy, but to no avail. It seems that the State Department has no interest in amending foreign policy for one person, even if that one person makes an exceptionally good point.

We feared that this result would spell the end of our adoption journey.

As it turns out, it does not. Our social worker is now busy making contacts with agencies in the U.S., willing to take on her clients for a minimal fee. Paying this fee and signing their contract will bring our adoption process into compliance with the Hague Convention. The only change made to our process will be an added layer of bureacracy, in that we must submit our paperwork to an agency, who will submit to the Chinese government for us.

Simple enough. We agreed to move ahead with our social worker. Our home study takes place Wednesday through Friday of this week.

For those unexperienced with the international adopt process, allow me to break it down into a few broad steps.

Step 1: The family makes the decision to adopt, and finds an agency and/or social worker to help.

Step 2: The family does quite a bit of background paperwork. Once compiled, this is know as the Dossier. This includes gathering background checks, financial statements, medical records and birth certificates. Everything must be authenticated by the Chinese government. Stateside, this means that all documents must be notarized, sealed by the secretary of state, and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy. In China, it simply means that each document must receive an official chop from the organization which created it.

Step 3: The Home Study. This is where a social worker interviews us in-depth, both as a couple and as individuals. She will determine whether we are suitable as potential parents of a Chinese baby. In our Home Study, this will be a 3-day process. On Wednesday night, she will help us put together our dossier, checking everything for suitability. On Thursday morning, she will talk to Dave and I as a couple. On Thursday afternoon, she will speak with each of us individually. Friday morning will be a training, to explain to us the intricacies and pitfalls of adopting a child from China.

Step 4: Completing the Dossier. With the Home Study finished, and the paperwork written up, we can finish compiling our dossier. At this point, the process includes applications to the U.S. government for permission to adopt a non-citizen.

Step 5: Once we have gathered all of the paperwork necessary for our Dossier, we will send it to our agency who will forward it to the Chinese government. Because we qualify for expedited processing as residents of China, it should be 12-18 months from our submittal until we receive Mei Mei.

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