Friday, July 31, 2009

The Wait

The Wait is what China AP's refer to as the length of time from when your dossier is registered by the CCAA to when you are referred your child.  The wait is one of the most important factors for many families when choosing a country to adopt from for obvious reasons.  No one wants to wait several years to start or add to their family and the wait times from country-to-country vary quite a bit.  The most frustrating thing has been that agencies can really only tell you how long their adoptive parents are currently waiting, as things can change quickly and often in any country with IA programs.

The families now receiving the referrals of their children were logged in late March of 2006 and have been waiting 40 months.  That is nearly 3 1/2 years, which may not seem too terribly long but when these families were logged in the wait was 8-12 months so for them it has been an eternity.  The program has slowed down considerably and the wait steadily grown longer and longer.  For example, the wait was 31 months when we first met with our agency and grew to 40 months just in the 11 months since then.  We were told about the current wait, but also that they hoped for the process to speed up soon.

We know other families currently waiting to adopt girls from China, so we knew about the "slowdown" and the increasing wait.  We had already decided China was the program for us and were confident adopting a child with minor medical needs was the right path for us, so weren't too worried about it.  What we didn't know was the huge backlog of families waiting to adopt a healthy child from China. 

Back in 2005 the program was moving very quickly and was reliable so China was flooded with applications.  Then, in late 2006, China announced new parent requirements to be implemented as of May 1, 2007, in attempt to allow only the "best families" to adopt their children.  Some of the changes were income and asset requirement, minimum and maximum ages, length of marriage, BMI maximum and number of children currently in the home.  They also decided to exclude single women from adopting.  This led to another flood of applicants getting their dossier in before the new rules took effect.  Many of these families who have been waiting in the Non-special Needs program are switching to the Special Needs program in the hopes of finding their child sooner.

There are many theories as to why the wait to be matched with a "healthy" child has steadily increased over the past three years.  The CCAA has said in no uncertain terms that due to the thriving economy and the slowly evolving view of the value of daughters, the number of abandonments are down and there are not as many children available for adoption.  China also became a party of the Hague Convention on International Adoption, which requires countries to make every effort to find adoptive families domestically before children can become available for international adoption.  According to the Chinese authorities, the domestic adoption program is thriving which mean less children available for those of us in other countries around the world.  Fewer children available than familes waiting = longer wait.  Plain and simple.

The Adoption Home Study

The home study can vary by country you adopt from and state you live in but the basics are the same.  Our agency assigned us a Social Worker and she was responsible not only for verifying a ton of information including our identities, but also determining if we were suitable prospective parents.  She was also responsible for helping us determine the age and health of our soon-to-be child, as well as making sure our home was safe and kid-friendly.  Being this was our first home study and we didn't really know what to expect (and we had heard stories!), we were a little nervous about it.  In the end, we were fortunate to have been assigned a wonderful social worker who not only did the paperwork she was responsible for, but really helped to educate us on international adoption and the issues we may face while raising an institutionalized child and becoming an trans-racial /trans-cultural family.

Our homestudy consisted of four meetings -- one with the both of us, one with each of us individually, a visit to our home and a second meeting with the both of us.  Prior to meeting with our social worker we were given a long list of documents she would need to finalize our homestudy.  This list was probably the most work for us and included:

  • 14 page autobiography

  • Child abuse clearances from each state we have lived in since the age of 18

  • Letter from local police department stating we have no criminal record

  • Tax returns

  • Pay stubs or income letter

  • Birth certificates

  • Marriage documents - license and divorce records for previous marriage

  • Financial statement

  • Documents to back up financial statement - copies of mortgage, credit card, auto, bank accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance statements

  • Monthly budget and copies of statements to back up budget amounts

  • Copy of medical insurance policy - proof child can be added with no exclusions

  • Proof of current vaccinations for all pets

  • All addresses lived at for the past ten years

  • Personal references

Needless to say, it took time to get all of this info together and the entire adoption process started to feel a bit like being put through the wringer.  But we did our meetings with the social worker in the meantime and they were not stressful at all.  We did clean like crazy the day before she came to our home but it wasn't really necessary.  While we are not total clean freaks, we certainly aren't slobs and she wasn't expecting our house to be so clean you could eat off the floors!  We know we will be great parents and provide a loving home to our child and knew if we remembered to just be ourselves, it would all work out fine.  In the end, our social worker gave us glowing reviews and gave us the official rubber stamp of adoption approval.

Next stop: sending the homestudy and I800A application (along with other docs) to USCIS for approval to bring an orphan in to the country.