Here is a general idea of the adoption process we went through to adopt from Ethiopia.
1) Complete home study. The home study is a document that a social worker writes about the prospective parents’ life. It covers education, upbringing, family, finances, interests, and an evaluation of our fitness to parent, among other things. To complete this step, we had a meeting in the social worker’s office, then we had a meeting at our home (while remodeling the bathroom! There were drywall and tools everywhere!), filled out questionnaires, had a police background check, and complete physicals. We received our completed home study on 9/5/08.
2) Apply for USCIS approval. This is where we fill out a form requesting advance approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to adopt an unknown orphan. We had to send an original of our homestudy, and copies of our birth certificates and marriage license, and a fee to Indianapolis. We will be scheduled for fingerprinting, and then about 3 months after that, we will receive our approval. We had our fingerprints taken on 9/26/08, and received our approval on 10/8/2008!
3) Compile Dossier. In the midst of waiting for the home study and CIS approval, we are to compile our dossier, which is pretty much our life on paper to be sent to Ethiopia. In it we have a letter from our bank, three recommendation letters, letters from our employers stating our salaries, 3 years of tax forms, birth certificates, marriage license, our home study, several agreements to do what Ethiopia requires of adoptive parents, and quite a few other documents. Once all the necessary papers are gathered and notarized, we send a couple documents to the Secretary of State to be authenticated (kind of like notarized for the notary). Once the papers are authenticated, we make lots of photo copies to send to our agency. They’ll look it over and make sure things are ok, then send us a couple other documents to include. Then we ship the whole thing off to DC to for federal authentication (notarization for the notary that notarized our notary!). Once that is complete, the dossier goes to our agency, who sends it to Ethiopia! Also at this stage, we will be filling out grant applications and doing some fund raising to offset the costs. We mailed our dossier to DC for authentication on 10/8/2008. From DC, it will go to our agency, who will hold it until we pay them! Then, they’ll send it to Ethiopia. Paid 11/24/08. The dossier was sent 12/11/2008.
4) Waiting/Referral. The next stage is to wait for a referral. We get in line when Ethiopia receives our dossier. The wait is expected to take around 2-3 months, and we’ll have some paperwork and fund raising to do during that time. When we get a referral, our children will be living in an orphanage. We will receive photos and a report of medical report and social history, including a test for infectious diseases. We’ll probably have the medical reports checked out by an adoption doctor so that we can prepare for any special circumstances the doctor suspects we will encounter. Then we will accept the referral, and the children will be moved to a care facility in Addis Ababa, the capital city. When they arrive in Addis, they will have another medical exam, and pictures. We received the first call regarding our first referral for Emet on 12/11/2009. The second referral for Jamin was made 1/20/2009.
5) Court date. Once all the medical testing is complete, the agency will schedule a court date for us. The agency will represent us at this hearing and the desired result is that Ethiopia will approve our adoption! We passed court May 13, 2009, officially becoming Emet and Jamin’s mommy and daddy!
6) Travel. At this point it will be time for us to book our plane tickets and make reservations at a guest house. We will travel about 4-6 weeks after the court date, and take custody of our sons soon after our arrival in Addis. We will have an appointment with the US Embassy in Addis, and a few days after that, we’ll bring our boys home! Our Embassy appointment was held on June 16, 2009. I (Amber) traveled two weeks early in order to spend some time with Emet on familiar ground. I met the boys on June 1, 2009 and took Emet to stay with me in the guest house. Jesse joined us on June 14th, and we picked up Jamin on June 15th. We arrived home in Indiana a family of four on June 20, 2009.
7) Readoption and post adoption report. When we get home we will prepare for readoption here in Indiana, which will make our sons citizens and entitle them to Indiana birth certificates, Social Security numbers, and passports. We will compose the first of many post adoption reports that we will send to Ethiopia telling them how the boys are doing. We will continue to send post adoption reports until they are 18 years old. We have completed our post adoption reports that must be written by a social worker. For the next 16 years we will submit them on our own! Readoption paperwork was completed in November, 2009. The boys have their Indiana birth certificates and Social Security cards. Certificate of Citizenship papers were filed in May, 2010, and the certificates arrived sometime thereafter.