The next phase of our adoption process, which lasted from July until January was the HEAVY paperwork phase. In an international adoption there are two really big groups of paperwork you have to do, the home study and the dossier. For us, the home study was longer, but the dossier took more time to complete.
Now, this phase is so long and boring that it scares a lot of people off. And after having gone through it, I understand why. Aside from the expense of adoption (which is enough of a barrier for most middle class families- ouch!) the paper work is a massive time commitment. There were months where I felt like it was my part-time job.
I tried to take breaks and pace myself, but the drive to finish is INSANE. I have never put so much pressure on myself in my entire life.
When the time comes to do it again, I feel like I’ll be able to go faster because I have a basic understanding of all the paperwork now. I will definitely set aside 2-3 months, with no travel, because travel slows you down. I will have timeline goals and a checklist from day one. And I won’t have to google every single adoption term six times… haha! But honestly, no matter how organized you are- everyone has unexpected bumps and hurdles in their process. It just happens.
So, in July of 2016 we met a social worker locally, to begin our home study process. Now, this is no regular application. We worked on it every day and it took us almost two months to complete. There’s a lot to it, like each of us writing an autobiography of our lives and answering the most personal questions you can imagine about your marriage and every aspect of your lives.
At the end of August we turned in our 99 page application, kind of the first of the two big groups of paperwork. Included in that were all kinds of things that we had to get notarized, old documents we had to request from Missouri, reference letters, a fingerprinting appointment… all kind of things. It was overwhelming at first, but then once we got into it, it was pretty damn exciting. And honestly, we’ve never felt so LEGIT.
We were so proud of every step, every trip to the post office, every night spent filling out questionnaires. Adoption is no joke. They kind of force you to be prepared in every possible way, I mean- I wrote a fire escape plan and map for our home. We have life insurance, we know our exact net worth and we have had a multitude of backgrounds checks and medical checks… even our dogs had to have official paperwork proving their vaccination history.
It doesn’t get much more adult than that.
The home study also includes the infamous “home visit” where a social worker visits your home to supposedly check all your cabinets and closets and peep in all your drawers. In the weeks leading up to our visit we went a little crazy cleaning, organizing and baby proofing. Buying a baby gate was one of the cutest days ever because we got to feel like REAL parents for, like, five whole minutes. haha.
The home study day came and went without a hitch. It wasn’t as scary as I imagined it would be. It was honestly pretty simple compared to all the paperwork.
After we turned that stuff in (in late August) we thought it was all downhill. We were told the dossier was “much easier”.
Then I started the dossier documents. Ha!
I think I cried the first night I really went though it and saw what all was on my checklist. Lots more supporting documents, letters to write, reference letters to have written, photos of our home (no pets allowed!)… you get the idea. It had its own set of doctors notes, separate from the ones we’d already completed. The list goes on…
Much documents. Many revisions.
I had one document, in particular, that I had to go back to get redone so many times. I had a couple mini breakdowns over that one. I cried to a complete stranger. It was honestly pretty embarrassing. But I was desperate and I did what I had to do to get my papers. I begged another stranger to drop what she was doing and come notarize something for me. Then after I finally got it all completed and turned in, it got rejected (over a minor detail that I still don’t completely understand) and I had to start over.
There were days it felt impossible. There were tears. There were late nights and early mornings. Almost all the appointments happen during working hours (doctors, police stations, notary etc…) so we spent our lunch breaks in this way multiple times each week for about six months. Let’s just say, our notary know us very well by now.
I struggled with guilt. I eventually had to draw new boundaries in my life. I realized that in this season of our life our family has to come first, that means our marriage and our adoption. After that my biggest priority is my work, we own two companies now. It takes more than ever to keep up with and balance these two priorities. After that I barely have time for our close friends. I had to realize I have zero time to go out and make new friends. As much as I want to, I don’t have the bandwidth for new girlfriends and cute coffee shops and girls nights. Maybe someday, but not today.
For almost seven months we did paperwork and more paperwork.
And then one day it was over.
So we turned in our dossier and completed home study (which is basically a 20 page reference letter, written by a social worker, detailing every aspect of your lives). Next, we started immigration applications. And finally… it was all turned in. Our to-do list was empty.
Now that’s not the last paper work we’ll be doing, but the really time consuming ones are behind us. Now it’s basically just waiting on things to come in the mail and keeping up with next steps for the next few months. We are now entering a waiting period. Our dossier documents are processing. And for the next who-knows-how-long (we’ve been told to expect a wait of up to 10 months) we’ll be waiting.
We’re waiting for a match (also called a referral sometimes). This is the magical day when you get an email with a child’s photos, sometimes a video and their medical history.
Until we have been matched we won’t know the timeline of when we’ll be traveling to bring our daughter home, we won’t know her age or her medical conditions. These are all things I am incredibly anxious to find out.
During the applications you fill out a medical condition list, which includes a checklist of maybe 40 medical conditions. You check off all the ones you are open to. We studied and studied, talked to medical professionals, talked to other adoptive parents and talked to each other for hours on end. Checking off those boxes was not easy. There are so many unknowns.
In the end, we just went with our instincts. You also have the option to choose the gender and maximum age for your match. There’s also an option to adopt twins or siblings. We feel really good about everything we checked. In my heart I feel like I have some premonitions about our child… but I could be wrong. I’m curious to find out.
Now we wait.
I am using this season to decorate a nursery and a playroom. It’s the biggest joy to me! I also made some personal goals to keep myself busy. Will I get anxious- obviously, yes. But it’s fine! This process wasn’t made to be easy. It tests every part of you. And in the end, I feel like it might be the most beautiful human experience of our lives.
We can wait.