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Adoption – The Paperwork Mountain

The paperwork! As I said in the first installment Getting Started, the paperwork mountain was the most daunting part of the process for us. What made it so additionally difficult was collecting all the paperwork. It seemed like every time we had everything together, we needed one more form, address, or certificate.Paperwork Mountain

Each state or agency will have its own list, but this list will get you started.

  1. Pet vaccinations and statements of health. You need to provide copies of all pet records
  2. Personal statements of health from your physician and lists of any medical conditions or medications.
    1. For private or agency adoptions any kind of major illness might be a deal breaker. If you have any condition, ask before you jump through hoops and spend money.
  3. Birth certificates for both prospective parents
  4. Marriage certificate
  5. Divorce decrees from any previous marriages
  6. Location and date of parent’s birth, marriage, etc. as well a current address
  7. List of all addresses for both adoptive parents for the prior ten years
  8. Employment history for ten years for both prospective parents
  9. Locations of fire station, police station, hospital and shopping in relation to home
  10. Pay stubs, Tax documentation, and bank statements
  11. Verification of all insurance (health, life and disability)
  12. Letters of reference from both family members and friends for both parents
  13. Diagram of the home, including room dimensions, with photographs of the exterior front and back of the house.
  14. Background checks – child protective services check, criminal check, FBI check
  15. If necessary, arrest records, court documents regarding arrests and disposition of criminal charges or other legal issues. This could include civil cases as well.

If you have an agency that you think you will use, ask them if they have a list of all the paperwork required. Then you can be ready once you decide for sure.

If you can start gathering this paperwork and just keep it all handy and accessible, you could probably get a home study finished very quickly. For us, the hardest part was tracking down all the documentation of our pasts. My husband had probably 15 different addresses in ten years being so transient in the military. I hadn’t kept copies of my divorce decrees and had to contact the courthouse in our home state for copies.

Having to make doctor’s appointments for check ups and a vet appointment for pets also were things we failed to anticipate nor were we maintaining documentation of our pay, insurance, disability coverage, life insurance, etc. It just took a long time to gather all the necessary pieces and get them all in one place. If you’re in the process of still thinking about it or researching agencies or saving money toward adoption, now would be the time to start building a file with all the necessary documents. Then when you’re ready to get started, you can just pull it out, make copies and mail them off or fax them. We gave copies to our social worker or faxed/emailed what we could prior to his home visit.

For me this was the most stressful part of the process. I felt like everyday I was digging for something new, that the second I mailed off a set of documents, I had to find something else. It felt like jumping through hoops. My husband went away for military training during this part of the process and trying to use a POA (power of attorney) to get his documents and necessary copies made it extra challenging. I had to be willing to fax documentation of my POA before I was even able to talk to people sometimes. It was frustrating. Who even has a fax machine anymore? You might want to make sure you have access to 1)fax machine, 2)notary, 3) a copy store.

Of course, all of that hassle is nothing compared to actually to actual parenting. Looking back, this part of the process was stressful because I wanted to get it done, I didn’t want to miss a chance to have our baby. But of course, God was in control, our the perfect baby for our family was right on time.

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Adoption – Getting Started

If you’re considering adoption, getting started doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are a few tips based on our family’s journey.

Adoption – Getting Started

  1. Decide your time frame for really starting the adoption process.
    • We spent 2-3 months researching before taking the first step.
  2. During the research process, decide on a budget and financing.
    • Start saving money at first glimmer of choosing adoption to build your family.
    • Most agency adoptions cost between $20,000-40,000, you may be able to find the agency’s basic costs outlined online which will help you formulate a budget and choose an agency.
    • You can raise funds, get a loan, and expect a tax rebate.
  3. Research agencies
    • I googled ‘adoption agency’, researching every agency’s Better Business Bureau reviews, grades, and resolved/pending cases.
    • I googled ‘experiences with ____’ agencies. We eliminated any agency with negative experiences by verified customers.
    • Then I talked with an agency representative from promising agencies, read their literature and websites, eventually narrowing down the field and learning a lot.
    • If you have a local agency, make an appointment to talk to them. You may eventually go a different route, but we met with a few local agencies and learned a lot about the process and what type of adoption we wanted to pursue.

We got some information from a legal adoption network, more of a facilitator than traditional agency. Their basic costs, not including any potential birth mother living or health expenses were going to start at $48,000. We didn’t have that much saved, and we were determined not to start our family life in debt. Kids cost enough once they’re born! We told her we would get back to her.

In the meantime, she did give us the name of a social worker to complete our home study.

Adoption Getting Started A home study is the first real step in any adoption process.

We started gathering the massive amounts of paperwork required. A basic list to get you started:

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates,
  • bank statements
  • check stubs
  • social security cards
  • passports
  • driver’s licenses
  • divorce decrees if applicable
  • medical evaluations (for every family member, including pets)
  • letters of recommendation for each parent
  • drawing to scale of our home
  • pictures of the house

We finished gathering paperwork and preparing the house while we waited for our social worker to do our home visit.

Home Visit –

Each state has different mandatory standards adoptive parents must meet. Most are just good baby proofing. Then each agency can add requirements, and different social workers can interpret rules differently.

Basic Baby Proofing Steps:

  • Every outlet must be covered in those pesky plastic covers.
  • We had to have a fire extinguisher.
  • We had to install cabinet baby latches, and secure medications.
  • Outwards doors needed baby proof handles (yes, before we even applied to adopt), including the entry to the garage
  • Keyed deadbolts on front and back doors
  • Additional security for any pools or spas
  • A carbon monoxide detector

The home study seemed terrifying. Someone comes into your house and judges how you live and what type of people you are. He had to ask really personal questions about everything, like everything. Luckily, our social worker was friendly and really put us at ease.

Following the home study, we applied to an agency our social worker recommended. They were less expensive than the legal network and seemed friendly, had great testimonials, and lots of success stories.

Unfortunately, the FBI fingerprinting process was really lengthy as it was paper and ink, which prolonged the completion of our home study. Hopefully, the FBI process is faster and all digital by now.

Adoption can seem overwhelming, but try to keep it in perspective. Building a family isn’t about getting a baby, it’s about trusting God is bringing you the right child for your family.

Be patient, pray a lot, and take one step at a time. Don’t let the huge mountain seem scary, just do what’s on the to-do list for each day and let tomorrow take care of itself.

Matthew 6:34 ESV  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The patience you’ll learn now will be a good resource once you’re a parent, trust me, 😉