Hi. I just had my first homestudy visit and all went well. I had previously printed out a list of the docs I needed for my dossier and the lady who was here tonight gave me her list (same thing.) Anyway, she said that for an additional fee, she could do all the running around, including paying fees for certified docs and getting through my state and through the embassy.
She said if she does it, it will go much faster. The fee seemed high for something I was considering doing myself (nearly as much as the homestudy.)
After she left, dh thought that preparing the dossier myself would be too daunting of a task. I don't want to spend the extra $$$$ on running around and waiting on line.
Is it that difficult to get all the ducks lined up and authenticated and notorized and approved by the embassy myself? Do most people do it themselves?
My homestudy person kind of scared dh a bit.
Would love to hear from anyone about the ease or difficulty they've had with this task. Thanks.
I prepared the dossier all myself. I just told my husband where to sign and what checks to write. The only help I had was that my agency sent my documents to the Chicago Consulate for me. It is alot of paperwork and seems overwhelming but if you can break it down and prioritize, it can be done:) Definitely start with the things you count on others for..... current BC, BCIS, marriage cert., etc. Make sure the notary seal doesn't expire within a year. Triple check all you documents to make sure there are no clerical/typo mistakes, etc.
For me it really wasn't at all hard to assemble the dossier.
I will qualify this by saying that my process was simpler than some others because of the following: I'm single so I had fewer documents, I was born in NY state and have lived here all my life, I currently live in NYC and was therefore able to go to the Guatemalan consulate and simply wait for a half hour while my documents were approved, and lastly, I work in an office and had the flexibility to take some longish lunches, use the copier, access the internet and email. Also, I took a couple of vacation days to run things around -- one day to go through county/state/consulate for my dossier, and one to process my POA plus a couple of documents I had to redo.
Nothing about the process is *hard*, though, even if you don't have the advantages I mentioned. Weigh her fee against your time -- if her fee is more than a few hundred dollars, I'd maybe think twice.
I also did my dossier myself and did not find it difficult to do. However, it is very time comsuming. I am a stay at home mom so I had the daytime hours available to do all the running around. I am not sure how much of it someone else could do for you? Do they call your doctors, financial institutions, friends for references, etc. for you? It sounds like a great way to avoid a lot of running around, but I have trouble imagining that you wouldn't still have to do some of the work yourself. If you are working and are worried about the time involved, check into exactly what you would still need to do. If she is just proof-reading your papers and giving you forms to have completed, it is unneccessary. Your agency can do that. If it is just taking the paperwork you compiled in for county and state certification, it is also unnecessary. You can do that in one afternoon and mail it overnight to the state. However, if she is willing to call all your contacts, go to their offices with a notary to have them signed, then take them to the county and state offices for certification -- it may be worth the money. If it is only part of the job, it probably isn't worth it. Good Luck.
It sounds like the only part someone else could do for you is getting things certified by your secretary of state and getting them authenticated by the consulate. Those are the two easiest parts! If you keep everything organized, all you need to do is when you have the documents together put them in an envelope and mail them to the secretary of state with a SASE for returning them to you; when you get them back, do the same for the consulate.
The sometimes time-consuming part is getting the original notarized documents. But because these are things like employer letters, affidavits signed by friends, doctor's letter, state police fingerprints, etc., I don't see how you could pay someone else to do that. Are you reallly going to send a stranger to your friends or to your employer to get an affidavit signed and notarized? And things like the state police clearance you have to do anyway because of the fingerprinting.
If the service is just for certification and authentication, I say "pass". The two things I did to make the dossier easier were: (1) make a spreadsheet for yourself where you list each document plus a column for "have document," "notarized," "certified," "authenticated" and just check off each column as it's done. (2) Label three large envelopes "ready for certification," "ready for authentication," and "ready to send to agency." That way as each document moves through the process it's all organized. If you wait to certify and document all of the documents together at one time, then you really only need the first envelope so that as you get your notarized documents they're already in an envelope ready to go.
Personally, given how important these documents are, I would rather have control of them! That said, I know I've read of other people using services to walk documents in, etc. I just mailed via UPS or USPS and had the envelopes tracked.
Have fun with the paper trail!
Our dossier involved notarizations in more than one state ... so having them all sent off for cert and auth would have been a hassle. We got our documents signed and notarized (our agency has a notary which also helped us SUBSTANTIALLY), and our agency sent everything to states for cert and then all for auth.
With all due respect, what is your local agency fee and/or homestudy fee being used for, if they are NOT doing these things to help you?
I work full time and completed the dossier myself. We also had to deal with four states and four different consulates/secretaries of state. It was time-consuming, but a no-brainer. I did all of it alone and had to switch at the last minute and redo since we switched countries. It took 3-weeks to complete the whole thing.
Generally, I think dossier prep services take care of everything only from notarization on -- you still have to get everything together.
Also, the social worker is charging a fee for her service, so it would, after all, make sense that she'd want to encourage you to do it. My local agency and homestudy fee did not include sending anything for certification.
I did my dossier by myself. There is a lot of research involved and I am a very organized person. I feel like I completed my dossier faster than anyone else could have. If you need advice on getting the dossier done quickly, PM me! More than happy to give you my prep secrets! Good Luck!
The dossier was the easiest part of our adoption. Waiting was much much harder. I concur with the others that there is not much they could help you with once you have already gathered all the docs and did the leg work. I am certain they won't be making your doc appointments, writing up your name affidavit, knocking on your neighbor's door for a witness affidavit or speaking with your H.R. department for an employment letter... I could go on...why stop there - I am also certain they can't pose as you or your doctor (for instance) to get signatures notarized. These are really the hardest tasks because you will be relying many different entities at once and all signatures have to be notarized - which means dragging people to your local UPS store. Once the docs are complete and everything is notarized, it is only Secretary of state for Certification, then GUatemala Consulate for Authentication. Easily accomplished if you package it all up at once and stay organized. One step at a time, and you can do it. PM me if you would like some solid suggestions for staying organized.
Sorry to be krass, but scare tactics are a common theme (you will notice) in the adoption process. When it's attached to a suggestion of an additional service/fee, I suggest you look the other way and stay focused on your ultimate goal.
One thing our agency can offer is ... they regularly send express (generic term!) packages to the consulate. Since they do, why not add yours in and save the cost? (course if they are out of town and you must express it to THEM, nevermind that).
I am about at the same stage you are (although I may be a bit behind as I just mailed 1600 and don't have all my dossier documents together yet).
I cannot second enough someone's advice (maybe devora's) on another thread about getting a large three-ring binder -- I have those sheet protectors in mine (they double as pockets) and I keep stamps in there too (I started the notebook when organizing things for the homestudy).
Anyway, I just wanted to add a note about "dragging people to the notary"... I have heard some people mention "traveling notaries" which will accompany you or come out to you... and really, I simply thought I would do that and have a get together at my house and have people sign their witness letters with the notary present and then have lunch/dinner as well as anything that I need copies of with our signed statement "This is true to my knowledge." (doctors and police stations generally have notaries on staff, and marriage licenses and birth certificates can be ordered with notarized copies or notarized/certified).
Now I am not even sure I will do THAT, as I decided to use people for the witness statements that probably work near or with a notary (who will probably even do it for free!). Just have them inquire (I have a friend that works at a bank for instance, and they can get anything notarized for free there, so her statement won't cost anything). The cost isn't even an issue -- it is a time/convenience thing.
As for state certification, as others have posted, I planned on sending (or personally taking) the documents all together in one package.
I think if you have a good filing system and check list, as mentioned above, there shouldn't be a problem. I can't imagine the person actually calls all your contacts -- although she might! But I am pretty sure my doctor and friends would much rather talk to ME than an assertive stranger. Your placement agency SHOULD be checking your documents and answering questions you might have as part of their fee and service.
As someone else said, I am way too much of a control freak to let someone else do it, anyway... and there is so much that is out of control once things get to Guatemala, so I would rather follow it myself. You can be extra-extra careful and certify every mailing, etc., and this is probably what the lady is going to do, but I am sure that will cost you less than the amount she is going to charge you.
I mean, if anything goes wrong, you WILL have someone to blame, but what does that really get you?
-Also, is she going to prepare multiple official copies of the dossier, as someone wisely advised?
Good luck!
PS - Question for the forum...
I figured since I was waiting for 171 anyway, should I use the 2004 tax return that we are going to be preparing early next month? We certainly have last year's but I thought it would be inappropriate at this point.
Hello everyone!
Thanks for your great words, thoughts and ideas. I agree with all of you that I can do this on my own. It is a matter of being organized. I like the 3 ring binder approach or even a spread sheet. I'm going to prepare my outline now.
I also don't see how any service can get a state, county or embassy to move any faster than they do anyway.
So -- to the dossier! Away I go! And a great big THANK YOU to all of you! It's wonderful to hear from such great listeners!
Thanks again. Tracey
I agree that it can be done yourself. We just started a new dossier on "just one more" (an 8yr old girl), even as we wait to soon travel for our 10 yr old daughter after news in Dec. we are out of PGN. We previously completed two other dossiers for our two Guatemalan sons ( 10 and 8 us two sts of "twins" some day!). It's certainly a pile of papers, but take one at a time, and if you have questions, call your agency. You don't want to "guess" about anything and find out later you were wrong. Every detail is important to avoid delays further down the road, but you can handle it w/ the help of your agency. They are in the business and should be able to talk you thru any papers you have questions with...especially concerning orphan petition, I600A and I600...which still make me nervous after completing three/four.
To be honest, it sounds a bit fishy to me that she would offer such services, as others have said the paperwork is personal info about income, employment, taxes, dr, etc. I don't even see how someone else COULD do that for you. I also encourage you to contact your agency and voice any concerns you have along the way. Social workers shouldn't "scare you", but be in the business to encourage acceptable candidates. I also wondered from what you said if your agency didn't send you the packet? Never had the social worker bring it, but started on it before she even showed up. Just keep asking questions of your agency. If it's a good one, they will understand your concerns.
Hi Tracey,
I don't know what state you are in but we our in Georgia and I did our own dossier. It was a lot of work but you can do it.
Everything went well except for a few gotchas I did not know. In Ga for Guatemala because it is not part of the Hague, I had to get county, then state certifications for my documents. What happened is I went along getting notorized documents only looking at notory's license expiration, not looking at their county of license. I ended up with over 5 different county court houses to go to get county certification. So I would have to travel weeks to get the work done, I just redid the docs and consolidated notories to no more than 2-3 counties. Then luckily state certificate is only one office.
Also, we had a problem where one page of our homestudy the notary only signed her first name and the county would not accept it and I had to go back and get that page signed correctly, then back to courthouse, etc.
Your agency should be helping you with correct format and wording of documents and should proof them before sending to guatemala.
Good luck, you can do it.