The first step for us to start gathering our paperwork for the Home Study and Dossier. I had heard and read things about this intensive process which is referred to as "the paper chase" by the adoption community. Once you begin this process, you quickly realize why it is called the paper chase -- for the next few months you will be ordering copies and sending them here and there and keeping track of who has what and what needs what. Makes perfect sense, right? Many adoption agencies, including ours, will handle the paper chase as an included service or will charge an additional fee to handle part of this process for you. We decided since I work from home and am pretty organized it would be interesting to learn about the process and do it ourselves.
The first step for us was to order "Certified" copies of our birth certificates directly from the vital records department of the states we were born in.
The next step was to send our certified birth certificates to the Secretary of State from where they originated from to certify them -- or verify the signature of the notary or public official who signed the certified copy of the birth certificate. Did you get that? The Secretary of State then sent them back to us with a sheet attached which included their seal and certification.
Then we had to send those certified birth certificates to the proper Chinese Consulate for "Authentication". This is authentication is necessary for any legal document being sent overseas to China, whether it be documents for adoption or for business purposes. The Chinese Consulate authenticates the Secretary of State's certification and places a sticker on the back. The tricky part of this is all documents sent for Authentication must be less than six months old and none of our documents for the dossier can be more than 9 months old when submitted to our agency or one year old when received in China. So, if we had ordered the birth certificates too early in the process, we would have had to re-order them and pay the fees again. Additionally, since Brandon was born in Virginia we had to send the certified copy of his birth certificate to the Secretary of State in Washington D.C. for their certification first and then on to the Chinese Consulate in D.C.
All of the documents in our dossier that are notarized (15 total) will go through this same process. Twelve of them were notarized here in Texas so will go to the Texas SOS and then to Chinese Consulate in Houston. That's $10 per page for Texas, plus $20 per page for the Consulate. Phew!
All in all this process took a good couple of months and cost close to $1200. In the end, I did not find it too complicated once I understood the necessary steps and what each step was for. Our agency provided us with plenty of checklists that clearly laid out which documents needed which process and at what age the documents would expire. It was also very helpful to set up an account with FedEx and keep a supply of envelopes handy. This way I was able to set up and track my shipments online and easily drop off packages at the nearest FedEx center. It's a good thing we knew to budget for this since it is an added expense not usually included in the fees for the adoption program!