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The Adoption Process

This should only be used as a general guideline for the Korean adoption process. Each agency has different procedures and policies, so be sure to follow the information your agency sends you.
 

    PRELIMINARY APPLICATION: Once you have selected an adoption agency, you request that a preliminary application be sent to you. There is usually an application fee, which can be anywhere from $25-$200. depending on the agency. Most agencies hold General Information Meetings every few months for prospective adoptive parents to attend.  We attended one at WHFC and it was a very exciting night for us! There was a presentation on the different country programs, and a question and answer period. There was also a family who had recently returned from Russia with their new son there, to answer questions about adoption in general, the feelings that go with it, etc.

    PRE-ADOPT CLASSES: Some agencies require you to attend "pre-adoptive" classes.  If they are optional, I would encourage you to attend if you have not adopted before. Even if you don't learn anything new, you will be networking with other adoptive parents, who you can stay in touch with during your wait.  I kept in touch with 2 other families for our entire wait, and it ended up that one of the couples' baby came home on the same flight as our daughter. We were able to wait (and pace) together at the airport, and it was so exciting to share that experience with them.

    FORMAL APPLICATIONYour agency will send you a formal application upon approving your preliminary application. The formal application can be kind of mind boggling at first due to all of the information, forms, etc. that are requested. Just take it one page at a time!

    Some of the information you will be asked to provide with your formal application are as follows:

    • Physicians report - Ever member of the household will need to have a complete physical done.
    • Financial statement
    • Recent photos of the outside of your home and all family members.
    • Reference letters
    • Copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates
    • Copies of final divorce decree or death certificates (if applicable)
    • Proof of health insurance
    • Directions to your house

    You will also usually be required to write an autobiography. Some agencies require husband and wife to write separate ones, while other agencies allow one person to write the autobiography about both of you. Our agency gave us an outline to refer to, of what information they were looking for. The agencies typically request information such as a physical description of both of you, information on other children in the household, strengths and weaknesses of each parent, what each of your lives were like growing up in your families, your parenting skills, how you feel about discipline. They also might ask for a description of your house, reasons why you are adopting, whether or not you are acquainted with others who have adopted, how your families feel about your adopting, etc.

    Filing the I-600A: Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. The forms are available for downloading on the USCIS web site:(http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/i-600A.htm). Our agency also included those forms with the formal application packet. All family members who are living in the home, and are age 18 and over must be fingerprinted. You will receive a letter from BCIS with an appointment time and location to be fingerprinted.

    NOTE: If you tend to have dry, chapped hands, start NOW to put cream on them daily to moisturize them. Otherwise, they will have trouble getting readable fingerprints and you may be rejected and have to have them redone!

    SOCIAL WORKER'S VISITS:  You will then be assigned a local social worker (also known as case workers) who will visit your home, ask you some questions, and write up a report (the "Home Study") about your family. There are different regulations, depending on the state and the agency. Our agency required a total of 4 visits. The first one was at the agency and both my husband and I were present. The 2nd one was myself alone, the 3rd was my husband alone, and the fourth was a visit to our home with both of us present. If you have other children living at home, they must also be present. She basically just reviewed all of what we had written in the autobiography, and asked more specific questions about various things. The home visit is the one that everyone stresses out over the most. Don't! They want to be sure that you have running water, heat, electricity, a room for the baby (other than your own), and that the premises are not a health hazard. I spent days on end cleaning, from top to bottom. The case worker might possibly have spent 20 seconds looking in each room! It's not required of course, but I think its a nice touch to have a fresh pot of coffee (some other type of beverage in case they don't drink coffee) and some coffee cake or cheese & crackers (depending on the time of day), or some thing for them to nibble on. Not only is it nice because they may not have had time to eat in between appointments, but it also tends to break the ice some. You can just sit and chit chat for a few minutes while you are eating, until everyone feels more comfortable.

    HOME STUDY REPORT: Once you have completed all your required visits, the case worker will write up your Home Study. Our case worker sent a draft to us to be sure there weren't any typographical errors with dates, etc. Once approved it is submitted to BCIS with your I-600A.  A copy of the home study will also be sent to the agency in Korea that your agency works with. Different agencies have different procedures as to when you are officially "on the referral list". Some agencies do not add you to the list until your home study has been sent to Korea.

    I-600A APPROVAL: Also known as "favorable determination", this can take up to a few months to receive. They will be running an FBI clearance on your fingerprints, checking for arrest records and child abuse charges. If you have previously been arrested for anything, your agency will most likely have already asked you to submit an explanation in your home study autobiography. You must also request certified copies with the court seal of the final court disposition for any court appearances. This even includes "sealed records". Some BCIS offices also require you to submit a letter of explanation to them, before they will grant favorable determination. Once you have cleared all these hurdles, you will get a form in the mail that states you have "favorable determination". A day to celebrate! BCIS agrees you are fit to be parents!

    REFERRAL:  When you receive that glorious call that you have a referral, you will most likely go into the agency to meet with your social worker. They will give you the babies background information, photos of your baby, and a full medical report. You are encouraged to take that medical report to a pediatrician for examination, and then make your decision to accept or decline the referral. If you decide to accept the referral, then you get a HUGE stack of paperwork to fill out! Youll feel like you did when you applied for your mortgage! Some of the forms and paperwork you will be required to provide are:

    • 3 complete copies of your tax returns, W2's and all schedules for the past 3 yrs.
    • More birth certificates, marriage certificates (divorce decrees if applicable) (note that some agencies and INS offices require "original copies, with embossed seals" and others allow photocopies)
    • Statement of Acceptance and Responsibility

    At this time the agency will request payment of the balance of your fees, which usually includes the agency fees, country fees, orphanage fees, travel/escort fees, etc. If you decide to travel to Korea to pick up your child, they will deduct the escort fees, of course.

    LEGALS: The next wait is for the "Legals" to be received from Korea. These are the legal documents stating that the child is legally available for adoption.

    INTERSTATE COMPACT: For those living in a different state than the adoption agency, an Interstate Compact is required. This is filed after the legals arrive, but before the I600 is filed. The agency will send you a DSS-4291 form to sign that lists all fees that have been paid and for what. You then complete the form, have it notarized and return it to the agency. They will then file that form, the legals, the interstate compact application and some add'l paperwork with the ISC office in their state. When that office approves it, they send it to the ISC office in your state for approval. It is then returned to your agency. All of that paperwork is then sent with the I600 to BCIS. Some agencies submit all of this paperwork for you, and some have you submit it yourself.

    For additional information on interstate compact, check out the following websites.

    http://www.adopting.org/compact.html
    http://icpc.aphsa.org/
    http://www.casanet.org/reference/interstate-compact.htm

    BCIS I-600: Once the legals are received, they are sent to INS along with the I-600 form that you have completed. Our agency hand delivers the paperwork to BCIS each week, but other agencies mail them.  Each BCIS office unfortunately, has different time frames as to how long the I-600 will take to be approved. You can download the I-600 form at their website:  http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/i-600.htm

    VISA APPROVAL: Once BCIS has granted the I-600 approval, they issue your child's entry visa. You should receive notification in the mail of this. Time to celebrate again! The visa will then be cabled to the U.S. Embassy in South Korea, by the adoption agency. The Embassy will then inform the Korean agency that your babies entry visa has been approved.

    PASSPORT PHYSICAL: One last physical is required for the baby before a passport can be issued. If something out of the ordinary is noted, you will be notified. Occasionally, parents have to complete a medical acceptance form, stating that they are aware of a particular issue. (Called a Class B Medical waiver)

    EXIT VISA:  The Korean government reviews all of the paperwork and if anything does not seem to be in order they will request clarification. Hopefully everything was submitted properly and nothing is missing, and your babies exit visa will be issued immediately.

    EXIT VISA ISSUED:  The Korean government informs the Korean agency when the exit visa has been issued. The Korean agency will then call your agency and inform them that your baby is ready for travel. If you have requested that your child be escorted, the Korean agency will start the process of locating an escort and making travel arrangements.

    "THE CALL": That wonderful, joyous, long awaited call!!!! This is the announcement that your baby is coming home. Time to try and get some sleep!!!

    GOTCHA DAY: The amount of advance notice you will have of your babies arrival varies greatly. It can be anywhere from 2 days to a week. If you are picking up your child at the airport, you will be required to provide identification and sign some forms. Most agencies have a "greeter" at the airport, to guide you through the process, have you sign the forms, answer any questions, and help you pace!!!!