Diary of a China Adoption
If you're anything like
me, then once you make the decision to adopt a child from China, you want to
get on with it. It's clear that the trick to expediting the process is to jump
on the paperwork right away. The most important piece of paperwork is the I-600A
form, which must be filed with the INS, along with fingerprint cards. According
to reports, it typically takes 3 months for the INS to process the fingerprints.
(I was lucky, and my approval came through in only 2 months)
Adoption expenses to date:
Travel Expenses (for 2) to date: $ 3,182.47 (airfare and hotels)
Additional Travel and adoption expenses: $5,000
Postplacement Supervision: $600
Post Adoption Paperwork: $245
Total Adoption Costs: approx. $14,500.00 from start to finish
Started the adoption process
September 16, 1995
Left for China March 22, 1996
Adopted Lara March 29, 1996
Returned home to Colorado April 5, 1996
[Our Travel Itinerary] [My
6/10/98 note: I wrote
this diary during the winter of 1995-1996 while going through the process of adopting
my daughter, Lara, from China. Although the process is very similar today, the
paperwork is more complicated and the delays have grown much longer, both on the
American side (INS approval) and on the Chinese side. At the time, I thought my
six 1/2 month process to get Lara was interminable. Now, I realize how lucky I
was to get her so quickly. Currently, it is taking a minimum of eight months from
the time a dossier reaches Beijing until a referral photo is sent to the adopting
parents. (I received Lara's photo exactly one month after my dossier reached Beijing.)
To get a better idea of
what's involved in the China adoption process now, I highly recommend Kris Laughlin's
A Journey to China and Heidi
Schnabel's Our China
By the way, I originally
picked my agency, CCAI, without a lot of thought. They were the local agency,
and I knew a couple of people who had used them without problems. I guess there's
a lot to be said for being lucky, and I do recommend them without reservation.
Not only does CCAI provide among the very least expensive adoption services,
it also has an excellent reputation for its service and commitment to families
adopting from China, and has already helped facilitate more than 700 China adoptions.
(one of the families in our travel group adopted the 200th CCAI child only two
Anyway, here's the
blow by blow of my adoption experience:
Thanks for reading
my adoption diary. Adopting Lara has proven to be the best decision I ever made.
She is a bright, beautiful, outgoing and very happy child who has brought my entire
family nothing but pleasure and joy.
- September 16,
1995: Called Chinese Children
Adoption International (CCAI) in Littleton, Colorado, to request an application.
I was asked several qualifying questions over the phone. (age, marital status,
how I heard about CCAI, etc.) I guess I passed because Nicky say she'll mail
out a preliminary application.
- September 19,
1995: Called the State of Texas - Vital Statistics, to find out how
to request 2 certified copies of my birth certificate. Sent off request along
with $22 to Austin. (NOTE: If you don't already have your passport, order
- September 20,
1995: Mailed off preliminary application along with check for $50
- September 22,
1995: Went to the library and skimmed through several books on adoption.
One mentioned that the home study social worker always checks for smoke detectors
and that prospective parents tend to sit in the back row at adoption orientation
- September 23,
1995 - Went out and bought 3 smoke detectors.
- September 27,
1995: Attended CCAI's Introduction Night with my parents. Sat in
the second row. Joshua introduced his agency and did a nice sales pitch on
the benefits of using CCAI if you want to adopt a Chinese baby. Most of the
people attending seem to still be "shopping around". Picked up my
formal application, and asked what I can do to speed up the process. (This
went over like a lead balloon.) Lily gave me an INS I-600A form plus 2 fingerprint
- September 28,
1995: The application isn't too bad. They only grim part is that
I have to come up with 3 personal references, plus employers. I haven't even
told anybody except my family that I'm going to do this! Oh well, time to
bite the bullet, I guess and at least let my references know what's coming.
- September 29,
1995: Dropped off my formal application along with a check for $100.
Asked Suzanne what sorts of paperwork I could go ahead and get started on.
She gave me a Physician's report form to be filled out, plus a specifications
outline for an 8-10 page autobiography I have to write for the home study
- October 2, 1995:
Jefferson County Sheriff's Department fingerprints and police clearance -
$5. Immigration and Naturalization Service - $155.
- October 10, 1995:
My INS I-600A application was returned, because they don't accept personal
checks. Got a bank check and remailed the application.
- October 11, 1995:
Sent off a photocopy of one of my certified birth certificates, along with
a check for $10 to the Secretary of the State of Texas, so that the signature
could be certified as authentic.
- October 19, 1995:
Went down to Kaiser and got a physical. $10. Blood and urine taken for a variety
of tests, mostly involving sexually transmitted diseases. An AIDS test is
required, you have to sign a release form before they'll give you one. The
examining nurse says she's going to adopt a child from Latvia in a few months.
- October 30, 1995:
Got a phone call from my social worker to be. She'll be doing my home study
and will meet me at the orientation meeting next week. She called to let me
know that she'd be late, and not to worry if I see other families meeting
with their social workers earlier in the day. Bettye lives in up here in the
mountains, too, so she won't have to drive too far to get to my house.
- November 4, 1995:
All day orientation meeting at CCAI. Wrote them a check for $2,000. About
27 people attended, including approximately 5 other single women. The morning
was spent having all the paperwork we're going to have to gather explained
to us. CCAI is able to charge lower fees, because they have the adoptive families
do a lot of the legwork needed to gather and process the paperwork.
Before we can adopt our babies, we have to be approved by both the U.S. government
(INS - Immigration and Naturalization Service) and the Chinese government.
First the Americans: For the INS, we have to send in 2 filings. The first
filing consists of the I-600A form and 2 fingerprint cards for each adult
in the household. Apparently the INS takes its own sweet time processing the
fingerprint cards (approximately 3 months), so it's important to get this
filing in as soon as possible. (I'm glad I sent that in last month.) The second
filing will include the Affadavit of Support form, along with supporting documents
(home study, birth certificate, copies of savings and investments statements,
copies of tax return.) CCAI will file this after the home study is approved.
Next the Chinese: The Chinese government requires a chain of authentication
for every document that goes into the dossier CCAI will send them about me.
This means that every single document must be 1) Notarized by a notary public,
2) Certified by the Secretary of State, and 3) Authenticated by the Chinese
Couldn't help myself. At the break, I mentioned again to Joshua that I wanted
to hurry this process along as much as possible. Didn't get any better reaction
from him than I did the first time I mentioned this. Frankly, being reminded
that it takes 9 months to give birth through pregnancy doesn't give me any
more patience to put up with any delays in processing an adoption. Besides,
I've been trying to have a baby, one way or another, for two years now. Never
heard of a two year pregnancy!
Met my social worker, Bettye, for a couple of seconds at the end of the day.
When she asked me when I want to meet, I took a deep breath, screwed up my
courage, and said, "As soon as possible." So she's coming next Wednesday!
No question about it, I'm going to be swamping out the house tomorrow.
- November 7, 1995:
I took a personal day off from work. First stop: CCAI to have my dossier documents
notarized by Suzanne. (Birth certificate, Physician's report, Police clearance,
adoption application, Financial Statement, Verification of Employment) She
photocopied each of them and notarized the copies. I also left all the documents
for the INS second filing with her, along with a check for $140, made out
to Adoption Alliance for approving the home study. Stopped by the post office
to purchase a $65 money order for the Chinese Consulate (6 documents X $10
each, plus $5 handling fee) plus a bunch of Express mail stamps and envelopes.
Next, I drove downtown to the Colorado Secretary of State's office, to have
the 6 notarized copies certified. $12. I left them at the Notary desk along
with a self-addressed pre-paid Express mail envelope. They wanted to know
what country the documents were for. Apparently, different countries have
different certification requirements.
- November 8, 1995:
My dossier documents arrived in the mail. I sent them off to the Chinese Consulate,
along with the money order and pre-paid return envelope to be authenticated.
Bettye got to my house a few minutes after I did. Our first interview went
well, I think. And thank goodness the house passed inspection. She didn't
even ask about smoke detectors. She says that she thinks we'll only need one
more interview to finish up. She's going to come back Saturday. She told to
go ahead and start getting Lara's room ready.
- November 11,
1995: Bettye returned for her second interview. You know, writing
that long autobiography has really made the home study process go a lot easier.
I gave Bettye copies of all the documents I've been gathering, and she says
that she'll try to get my home study written up as soon as possible.
- November 24,
1995: Bettye called to tell me that she's finished the home study
and will turn it in on Monday.
- November 25,
1995: Emptied out, and started painting Lara's room.
- November 26,
1995: Finished painting, bought a crib and accoutrements. Lara's
got a room!
- November 27,
1995: Turned in my supporting documents for the second INS filing
(Affadavit of Support) to CCAI. Gave CCAI a check for $2,250. As soon as they
receive and approve the home study, they will send it off to the Adoption
Alliance for approval. Then they will send off the INS second filing.
- December 12,
1995: Received my INS approval! Got it notarized by CCAI, and certified
by the CO Secretary of State. ($12) Overnighted it to the Chinese consulate
in Chicago. ($35 to consulate, paid extra for 1 day service) $23.75 for shipping
- December 14,
1995: Didn't get my authenticated INS approval back from Chinese
consulate. Tried to call, but no answer.
- December 15,
1995: Still can't reach Chinese Consulate.
- December 18,
1995:CCAI gave me another number for the Chinese Consulate. They
answered, and promise to send my INS approval back today.
- December 19,
1995:Received my authenticated INS approval form. This is the final
document for my dossier. Drove it over to CCAI. Tried to get Joshua to provide
me with some specific information about when he'll send it off to China and
when I can expect to receive Lara's photo, and when we can expect to to to
China, but he clearly didn't want to commit himself, so I'm still having to
depend on my internet information, and experiences of friends. Still, I hope
that he'll send off my dossier soon. Then, with luck, I'll get Lara's photo
by late January, and maybe we'll get to China in February.
- December 28,
1995:My last childless Christmas! The holiday was very quiet. We
didn't do much. I've spent my spare time shopping for Lara, sewing for Lara,
and fixing up Lara's room. (not mention working on my web pages.) I think
this idle waiting is going to be the hardest part of the process.
- December 29,
1995:I received confirmation today that my dossier has been in Beijing
since 12/26/95. Delivered cashier's check for $455 to CCAI to be forwarded
to the China Adoption Organization.
- January 9, 1996:Started
on the vaccinations today. The travel nurse at Kaiser wanted to make sure
that I was up to date on the basics (mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox)
and advised me to get the Hepatitus B series, (which will be good for life)
the Hepatitus A series (which will be good for 5 years) a tetanus booster,
(10 years) oral polio booster, oral typhoid vaccination. I got my tetanus
booster, and first Hep B shot today. ($10). Hep B isn't needed for regular
tourists, but since it is transmitted by bodily fluids, it's a reasonable
precaution for me, and for my mother.
- January 19, 1996:I
called CCAI. Debbie says that my baby's referral and photo should come in
next week. I went over to Kaiser for my first Hepatitus A shot, and a polio
booster. Picked up Typhoid oral vaccine, along with some other travel prescriptions.
I met Lara's pediatrician to be, and we discussed possible medical problems.
I got just-in-case prescriptions for scabies and infection. As soon as we
return from China, Lara'll get a thorough check up.
- January 26, 1996:Lara's
photo and physician's report arrived today! My mother and I drove over at
lunch to get them. I was very concerned to discover how much older Lara is
than I had requested. (born June 9, 1995) But there's no denying that she
is a beautiful baby, and her health report was absolutely excellent. Joshua
assured me that she's been receiving special care ever since she was put in
for international adoption, but I still spent all afternoon worrying about
her. I've requested an updated health report and photo, and I can't wait to
go get her.
- February 3, 1996:My
mother and I attended an unofficial travel meeting for groups getting close
to leaving for China. We got to meet 4 of the other 8 families of our group,
Group 23, and see photos of their babies. We also got lots of useful tips
on things to take on our trip, and what to expect while we're there.
- February 8, 1996:Got
my second Hep B vaccination, and picked up my prescription for malaria preventative,
and jet lag sleeping pills.
- February 9, 1996:My
parents and I went to CCAI for a Chinese survival course. The main thing I
learned is how difficult Chinese is to pronounce! But I'm glad I'm making
the effort, even if my attempts to speak Chinese are pretty feeble.
- February 15,
1996:I received a semi-form letter addressed to each member of our
group. It had a little piece of paper attached to it telling me that as of
February 2, Lara was in good health, weighed 14 1/2 lbs, and measured 25 1/2".
This information made me feel much less worried about her. And now I know
what size diapers to bring! After work, we went to the second Chinese Survival
class at CCAI. I think maybe the language is starting to sink in, just a little
bit. During the break, the teacher told me that Joshua says that we will be
able to visit Yangchun!
- February 19,
1996:Happy Chinese New Year! Lara was born in the year of the Pig.
I was born in the year of the Pig, and both of my parents were born in the
year of the Pig. 2 years ago, when I first started trying to have a child,
I found the most adorable fabric, in bright tropical colors, featuring flying
pigs. I bought it for the baby's room, and started collecting stuffed pigs
for Lara, long before I had any idea that all of us were 'Year of the Pig'.
According to tradition, people born in the year of the Pig are happy, good
natured, outspoken, but a little too trusting. Suggested careers include craftperson,
art collector, or comedian.
- March 4, 1996:We
have a travel date! Well, almost. Nicky told me this morning that we will
be leaving for China sometime between March 20th and March 22nd. Our travel
meeting is scheduled for next Monday night at the CCAI offices. We'll hear
all the details of our trip then. Hooray! I'm more than ready to leave!
- March 6, 1996:I
stopped by my bank to start collecting new currency for the trip. I'd prefer
to wait until close to the departure date, but my bank has been so negative
about being able to supply me with new bills, that I decided to get an early
start on it.
- March 11, 1996:Group
23 held its travel meeting this evening. The 6 families from the Denver area
met at the CCAI offices. The 3 families from Georgia attended via telephone
conference call. First, a family who went to Guangzhou last December talked
about their trip. (and of course, showed off their adorable 8 month old baby!)
Then we got the details about our trip.
We will fly out of Denver
on the afternoon of March 21st to Los Angeles and spend the night there at
a hotel near the airport. Then we'll fly out of L.A. on Friday at 12:30pm,
arriving in Hong Kong on Saturday evening. We will take a group day tour of
Hong Kong on Sunday, then have Monday free to shop and sight see. We fly to
Guangzhou (Canton) on Monday night. Tuesday will be a free day, but we will
get to meet group 22 on Tuesday evening, when they arrive from Sichuan Province
with their babies. On Wednesday, we will spend most of the day completing
preliminary provincial paperwork, then on Thursday the five families adopting
from the Yangchun orphanage will take a 6 hour chartered bus ride to Yangchun.
(about 160 miles southwest of Guangzhou) We'll probably get our babies Thursday
afternoon after we arrive. On Friday, we'll complete the adoption paperwork,
and then we'll return on Saturday. Sunday, March 31st is a free day, then
we continue the passport and VISA paperwork during the next week. Finally,
on Friday, April 5, we'll fly back home.
Joshua announced that each family needs to give CCAI a certified check for
$856 to prepay the hotels and certain other miscellaneous expenses. I guess
I'll have to make a special trip to the bank and the postoffice. I certainly
don't intend to spend 2 hours driving it back over to CCAI.
- March 12, 1996:My
mother and I called the travel agent and gave her our credit card info for
our airplane tickets and China visas. We decided to live dangerously and have
the San Francisco travel agent mail us the tickets and passports, instead
of paying an additional $25 for Federal Express. We'll know next week whether
our frugality pays off, I guess. (The tickets came to $1090 each plus $89
for Lara's ticket) We got the certified check from the bank, and mailed it
via certified U.S. mail to CCAI. ($856 for the two of us, plus $2.52 for postage
to CCAI. This covers 7 nights at the White Swan Hotel at $75 per night, 2
nights at the Golden Eagle hotel in Yangchun at $50 per night, transportation
and a day tour in Hong Kong for $90, and a single airflight from Guangzhou
to Hong Kong at $141)
- March 18, 1996:
We received our passports and airplane tickets, via Federal Express, no charge.
I guess the travel agent was more worried than we were that the U.S. Postal
service mightn't come through. We finished packing
our suitcases over the weekend, and have double checked our currency for newness
and the anti-counterfeiting strip. 3 more days and we're off!
To hear all about our trip
to China, please read Lara's China Scrapbook.
| [LARA] | Last updated: