Let's start with a few acronyms/terminology:
CCCWA: China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption--This is the Chinese authority for all international adoptions.
DTC: Dossier to China--The stack of paperwork that we've been assembling and sealing that tells the CCCWA who we are, our intent to adopt, etc.
LID: Log-in-Date--This is the date that our dossier is logged in to China's system.
MCC: Medical Conditions Checklist--A document each family submits stating openness in regards to a child's age, gender, and medical needs.
SF: Special Focus--This term generally applies to a waiting child with more significant medical needs and is assigned by the CCCWA. A family can be matched with a SF child at any point in the adoption process (before LID or after)
LID-Only: Logged-in Dossier Only--This term refers to children's files that are typically younger with more mild-moderate special needs, also assigned by CCCWA. A family can only be matched with an LID-only child once their dossier has been logged into the CCCWA's database.
I'm 99% sure that covers the majority of what we tend to refer to as "the conversational acronyms/terms" used in our house, posts, texts, and blog. No, I will not give up my Oxford comma; you cannot make me.
If you want further reading for more terminology, click here.
Home study: This consists of four home visits (two of them being one-on-one with each parent) as well as five reference letters, copies of insurance policies, bank and tax statements, etc...and about fifty essay questions that each parent has to write separately. Fourteen hours of parent training (online) is also required by our state. (We did this last time; no need to do it again!)
Once the home study is written, then we can apply for the I-800A, which is an application for our family to US Immigration to obtain approval to adopt a foreign born child. Once you send your application, you then get an appointment to be fingerprinted at your "local" USCIS office. (The closest to us is two and half hours away.) Then an officer reviews your information and hopefully sends your approval letter, and hopefully not an RFE (Request for Evidence, or more information).
Next, there's the sealing process and dossier compilation, which we are doing in four steps instead of three, just to make things the same across the board for all documents:
- Notarization of documents: Home study, I-800A, Adoption Petition, Financial Statement, Background Checks (x's 2), Medical forms (x's 2), and Employment Verifications (x's 2). (Since I'm a SAHM, I only need a letter stating that my income is $0 and plan to return to the workforce when kids are in school, or something like that.)
- Certification of documents at state level: This involves either mailing or driving to Springfield--we are driving because it's saving time and money! All of the above documents need to be certified (and that's what the above photo is of as well). If this was our first adoption, we would also need our marriage license and birth certificates certified.
- Certification of documents by State Department: Since some of our documents need to be authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., we chose to send all of them there for continuity. However, in order to do that, we need to have the U.S. Secretary of State Department certify them. Since we don't live in D.C., or near it, we will be using a courier.
- Authentication of documents by Chinese Embassy: Once our documents are certified by the U.S. State Dept., our courier will then take them to the Chinese Embassy in D.C. The Chinese Consulate in Chicago is another option, but many of our documents cannot be authenticated there because they were notarized as copies.
Once all of these documents are sealed, we will very carefully make copies (to not disturb any of the seals, staples, etc.), arrange everything in a particular order, and send the originals plus a complete set of copies to our agency and keep a complete set of copies for ourselves. We also will send photos of our everyday life, formal pictures, and passport size photos. Our agency will review and bind for us and then send express to China--thus making us DTC/LID. The CCCWA then starts the translation and approval process.
It really isn't hard, but it is time consuming and meticulous. One small mistake at the beginning that isn't discovered until it gets to China means you have to redo that document all over again from scratch. Thankfully, our placing agency looks at our documents before we get them notarized and then again once they receive the complete dossier.
Once we are LID, or sometime in the next few months, we'll be matched and then submit our LOI (Letter of Intent to adopt a specific child). We will wait for China to confirm that they've received it and then we wait for our LOA (Letter of Acceptance) from China, which is usually sent once our dossier is out of translation.
This is when things really start to move, on a weekly if not daily basis. At this point, everything is back in the USA's hands.
Next steps are:
- I-800: Child specific immigration approval
- DS-260: Visa Application for child to enter the USA
- Article 5 Drop Off / Pick Up: The is a letter issued by the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou notifying the CCCWA that the adoptive parents are eligible to adopt their child and that the child can enter and permanently reside in the U.S.A. No matter what, this always takes two weeks.
And then we throw it back to China, who then issues Travel Approval, which is the formal invitation to the adoptive family to travel to China to complete the adoption.
Once Travel Approval is issued, our agency requests consulate appointments in Guangzhou to get the immigration packet. Typically, travel can be anywhere from one week to three weeks from TA. If I recall correctly, we had about a week and a half from TA to leaving for China.
Right now, we are waiting for our home study to be written (completed hopefully any day now) which will then be looked at by our placement agency and us for errors (spelling, dates, wording, etc.), before we can get it sealed. We are doing things a bit out of order this time per our agency's instructions, and sent our I-800A this week which was received yesterday. We should get our fingerprint appointment in the next 7-10 days, and hopefully we will do that by the end of August. Typically the I-800A is sent once the home study is completed since a copy of your home study needs to go with the application; this time we will be sending the home study separately as soon as that's done to save ourselves a couple weeks (hopefully). Our agency/CCCWA is really wanting us to be LID ASAP, so that's why we're doing things a little out of order.
Most of our documents are notarized and certified, and we'll be sending those to the courier this weekend--hopefully to get them back by the end of August! We also hope that the last two missing pieces (I-800A and home study) we will have by mid-September to rush down and across and wherever needed!
We're also waiting for (the right) match for both the child and our family. We've had our MCC submitted since last July, but only opened it up to both genders a little before Jet's surgery--just to make sure we wouldn't be traveling too soon after arriving home and also to give us some time to figure out Jet's medical needs.
If you've made it this far, congratulations! I think you deserve a medal, but all I have are stickers (actually, bandaids). I know I threw a lot of information out there, and I also know this wasn't a "fun" post but more "educational" but hopefully it's organized enough to understand. The biggest goal though was for you to understand the process a little better and how both countries work together; as well as how imperative it is for everyone to dot every i and cross every t, no matter where we are in the process. Maybe, hopefully, this helps you understand why we're--ok, I'm--a bit frazzled or spacy--we thought we had six months to do it all, and now we have about two and a half instead. It can be done--no doubt--but there's a lot of rushing along with simultaneous waiting (not my favorite combination). Thanks for sticking with me for the entirety of this post, and as always we appreciate your prayers while we just keep running along!