I almost hesitate to write how adoption from China works because the second an article is published, some change could happen and the information might be outdated. This is true for any intercountry adoption program and not unique to China. Intercountry adoption is an ever-changing thing. That said, given how many things can and do change in international adoption, China’s program is pretty stable and consistent. This is all to say, while it was true when I wrote it, it may not still be true when you read it. Always double-check information with your placement agency.
So, you want to adopt from China. Usually, this is because it is something that a person has considered for a long time and is finally prepared to take the plunge, or it is because a person has seen the face of a child who is in need of a family and feels strongly that this is their child. These are two slightly different paths to the same goal. In either scenario, the first step is locating a placement agency with which to work, then comes choosing a home study agency if that is to be a different agency, and finally, having a home study written.
The placement agency is the agency which is licensed to conduct international adoptions with China. They will be the ones to facilitate the information and paperwork which is required to bring a child home. The placement agency is also the entity which will be responsible for your travel and for your time in country. This may or may not also be your home study agency. The home study agency is the entity who is in charge of writing your home study. The social worker is also your direct contact and provider of information, training, and help should you need it. Your home study agency needs to be licensed in your state to conduct home studies for international adoptions.
These two entities are vital pieces in completing an adoption from China. Please, do your research before you fall in love with a face and be sure that the agencies you work with are not going to make this complicated road more difficult. I would suggest joining the Facebook group, Rate Your China Agency, which will give you more than enough feedback in order to make an informed decision. Just because an agency sounds nice on the phone does not mean they are a great agency. It is the prospective adoptive parent’s job to do due diligence.
Now that you have these agencies in place, let’s take a look at what happens next. If you are following the more traditional route of being matched with a child, not only will you need a completed home study, but you will also need to complete and submit a dossier to China. The dossier is a stack of documents which lets China know that you are qualified to parent a child. As well as the home study, it includes medical reports, police clearances, financial statements, and immigration pre-approvals as well as other documents. Each of these documents needs to be notarized, certified by the Secretary of State where they originated, and then authenticated by the Chinese consulate. Once all the documents have been completed and authenticated, the placement agency then translates it all, binds it up, and sends it off to China to be logged-in with the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA).
Once your dossier is logged-in, you wait until your agency receives the file of a child which matches the medical conditions you felt comfortable with on the medical conditions checklist (MCC) which your placing agency will have asked you to complete.
All adoptions from China are special needs adoptions. In order to be matched, you will need to have researched medical conditions and decided which you are open to, as well as the severity of each of these needs. You will also be allowed to choose an age range, though be aware that there are extremely few children under one who are waiting for families. Gender is the last choice you will need to make. There are far more boys waiting for families than there are girls. Currently, if a family is waiting for a young girl with minor special needs, they may wait up to two years to be matched with a child. A family waiting for a young boy with minor special needs will wait a fraction of that time.
But let’s say that you have seen the photo of a child who is waiting for a family, and you believe this is your child. Due to a change in U.S. policy, before you can see that child’s file, you will need to first complete a home study. With that you will be able to view a child’s file. If it happens that this child is both with an agency you can work with and has needs you feel comfortable with, you may send a letter of intent to adopt. If China approves, you will be issued a pre-approval and will have six months in which to complete and send your dossier.
At this point, both families are at the same place. Both have been matched with a child and both have submitted their dossiers. Now the wait for China’s official approval happens. This can take anywhere from three to six months depending on a wide variety of factors. Once approval has been issued, the adopting parents send back a signed letter of intent and begin work on the next stack of documents: the immigration forms.
As part of the dossier, you will have already submitted paperwork to the U.S. government for preliminary approval to bring an adopted child into the country. Now that you have agreed to adopt a specific child, you need to submit that child’s information in order to obtain approval for his or her visa. With this approval, you are very close to traveling; there are just a few interim steps that happen between the U.S. and China before you can be issued your travel approval and are invited to travel to adopt your child.
To travel to China, everyone going will need a visa. These can be applied for during the wait for immigration approval, and if you do not live in a city with a consulate, you will need to hire a courier to submit your application and passports. Though anyone who works in the news media or with a religious organization will have special rules, and it will take more effort.
In general, you will be in China for about two weeks. The first week is in your child’s province. It is then that you meet your child and sign the paperwork making everything official. You will also apply for your child’s Chinese passport. The second week is spent in Guangzhou, where the U.S. consulate is. There, you will complete the visa physical and apply for your child’s U.S. immigration visa. Once you receive your child’s visa, you are free to return home. Your child will be a U.S. citizen upon entering the U.S., and their certificate of citizenship will arrive in the mail a few months later.
While there are more details to each step, these are the broad strokes as to how adoption from China works. Currently, when you add together all the costs including placement agency, home study, dossier compilation, immigration and fingerprinting fees, travel visas, and travel expenses, they can add up to between $25,000 and $35,000, depending on agency and time of year you travel. Thankfully, this is not all due at one time.
Adopting from China can be a great choice if you are open to slightly older children and to special needs. While international adoption always has a bit of a roller coaster feel about it, China’s program is stable and predictable.