Adopting from China: The First Steps

We began the journey to adoption the way many parents start thinking about adoption: by realizing just how lucky we are. We have a beautiful family; we have food, clothing and the means to provide. We have all of these things but we know that there are a lot of people out there who have nothing.

It was a long road from thinking about adoption in a detached, distant way to thinking about adoption in “we could really do this!” way. And so, after months of discussing the idea, we finally started researching the process.

If you don’t know anything about adoption, prepare to be confused. We sure were. To start, it is an expensive, bureaucratic nightmare that only an insane person would ever try to navigate. And there are many beautiful, insane people out there who have trudged through the process because the end result is worth the agony.

I don’t know who made this graph, but it perfectly summarizes the clarity of the Hague adoption process.

International adoptions by Americans have declined between 65-75% in the last ten years. A fact that isn’t lost on anyone now navigating the Hague process, especially from abroad. People give up because of the cost, because of the paperwork required, because of how invasive the whole process is…

The average adoption costs about as much as a few cars. Once we looked at the cost this way, we realized we could do without some things to make room financially for the adoption. We don’t need a new anything. We can do without luxuries. When you wrap your mind around the total estimated cost and then decide not to let the little fees get to you, the process becomes much less stressful.

The money is spent in a range of fascinating and bizarre ways. First, home study and adoption agencies charge application fees, technology feeds, document fees, processing fees and so on. While they are accredited and must adhere to non-profit laws and Hague requirements, they sure find creative ways to nickel and dime prospective adopting parents. So, before you even officially get started, you toss away a grand.

Next you pay for your home study. Since we live abroad, we pay more to have an “international” home study. We filled out mountains of paperwork. We filed dozens upon dozens of documents. We wrote essays. We asked friends for recommendations. We ordered police certifications. We paid to fly an accredited social worker over and paid for his hotel, his flight, his transportation and even per diem. Then we paid the home study fee. Then we totaled it all up and said goodbye to another three and a half grand.

Then we called our adoption agency (not to be confused with the home study agency) and paid their first fee. Mwah, another three and a half grand. And in return, they send us another bundle of paperwork to fill out, documents to order, tasks to complete. If you want to adopt and don’t have access to a free notary, that’ll be a big part of your total cost. If you want to adopt and don’t have the patience for bureaucracy, that will add a lot of time.

After the dossier is prepared and the home study is done, we file with USCIS for approval to adopt. They, of course, also charge a fee.

So, this is where we are now. We’ve turned in every required document. We’ve jumped through every Hague hoola-hoop of bureaucracy and now we wait. We wait for our agency to: A) approve all of our documentation and; B) charge us the next three and a half grand fee to actually send all of this to China. At each step, you pay to play.

From there, we pay China. Then China matches us with a child based on our home study and dossier, and we accept or reject the match. Once we’re matched we’ll fly to China, pay the orphanage, and pay for visas and passports, do a bunch of paperwork, jump through more interviews, red tape and Hague hoops, and then go home with our child.

It’s so exciting and terrifying to think our kid is out there right now somewhere in China. Playing the same waiting game that we are. At least we will have patience in common with our child.

From other adoptive parents we’ve heard this is actually the hardest part of the process. The waiting. You do all the song and dance and then you sit on the sidelines and wonder what will happen. What our child will be like. What our family will be like. Just wait and wonder.

Wish us luck as we wait.


And Wait.



and wait.

Read the next post about our China adoption here: Adopting from China: A Bump in the Road

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