The struggle is real–there really is such a thing as adoption paperwork. And no matter how positive a person you may be, the obstacle course of following through (think certified, notarized, apostilled, and repeat), the inevitable mistakes that occur due to either human error or system flaws (“They told you to use that form? Well, you were misinformed.”), and the sometimes archaic rituals you find yourself following to take the paperwork from one level to the next (“We think it’s sitting on so-and-so’s desk, ma’am, but she had her gallbladder removed last night. Call back in a week.”) can wear even the most hopeful adoptive parent down during an already stressful and emotional time. No matter, adoption paperwork is not going to go away. So, you can either look at it as an unclimbable mountain, too difficult to scale or you can view it as a sort of puzzle paper trail rainbow leading you to where you want to be.

The good news is, you are not the first to have passed this way.

Your Path to Paperwork Success

Before you start on this paperwork journey, seek the help and services of your adoption facilitator, social worker, support group, and fellow adoptive family friends you trust. By fully understanding what will be coming your way and the proper order in which you should work your way through it, you will save yourself hours and possibly weeks doing things the right way the first time.

Organize, Organize, Organize

Get yourself a three-hole binder and be ready to fill it starting with a table of contents or checklist. Keep copies of everything. And using your table of contents or checklist, work your way through–filing everything as you go–replacing unsigned documents with signed ones along the way. Consider breaking up the information into sections that work for you. For example:

  • Adoption Agency Information, including everything from pre-adoption application forms, profile information, to interactions with your facilitator throughout the process.

  • Social Worker Information to include everything from home study to post-adoption visits (you’ll get to those, you really will!).

  • Legal Documents. If you’re adopting internationally, you may not meet your lawyer until you’re in-country. You also may consider retaining an attorney (although it’s not always necessary) for re-adoption once back in the United States.

  • Foster Care/Orphanage/Caregiver Information you may receive and/or need to provide, including referral information and important information about your child. You also may receive social history information regarding birth parents and/or birth family, as well as medical history information you’ll need.

  • Travel. Whether you’re going cross-country or across the world, keep track of everything from tickets to travel tips to your in-country itinerary.

  • Finances. It’s good to keep track of your expenses for obvious reasons. You’ll also want to retain records of everything spent for tax purposes.

  • Post Adoption. While you’re home, you are not finished just yet. There may be additional steps involving social security, birth certificate information, citizenship, re-adoption (for international), and other items that may be worth keeping.

  • Finalized Adoption. Keep extra copies of paperwork your child will need to enter school, leave the country and enter another country, need for future college applications, etc. You also may find yourself being asked to produce this information for tax purposes.

  • Education and Training. You may be required to complete adoption training classes or attend a well-baby class. Keep track of this as well. These classes are meant to benefit both you and your child and may prove to be a helpful resource.

Note: Backing up your paperwork electronically is a great way to ensure you have everything organized and ready to print copies should the need arise.

Realistic Expectations

While adoption paperwork can seem confusing and overwhelming, especially when you’d rather be focusing your energy and time on your child, it’s part of the process. It’s important to do your research, set goals for yourself, and work with your support network to ensure these goals are on track and achievable. While you may want to pull an all-nighter or two to get ‘er done, consider instead carving out an hour a day to give yourself the time to take inventory of where you are in the process, make sure you’re filling out the forms accurately and completely (it’s not wise to tackle these things on no sleep), and be prepared to respond if and when an issue does arise. This may mean a slight change in your daily routine (including stepping out at work to run paperwork to the necessary places), but this too shall pass.

Stay connected to others who have either gone through the process and/or are going through it with you. It’s nice to share stories to remind you that you’re not the only one dealing with the dreaded adoption paperwork. Good luck! You got this!

“Somewhere over the rainbow

Bluebirds fly

And the dreams that you dreamed of

Dreams really do come true ooh oh”




Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.