Why does this all take so long? Once we decided to have a family, we were ready for it to happen right away! It can be infuriatingly slow (so we've heard) but here's the process.
Step 1: Application
A pretty basic application form with information on our parents, siblings, marriage, and general health questions. After the application is approved, we are put on the official waiting list. From this point it's about 12-18 months before we can bring our Seoul-Baby (thanks to Seoul-Mama for her cleverness--I'm co-opting her baby name!).
Step 2: Self Study
This is a really detailed narrative that Scott and I must write about ourselves. The information is pretty personal. It covers dating, courtship, daily living and our marriage, information about our families of origin (parents, religion, financial situations, parental relationships, sibling relationships, etc.), and of course, info on ourselves such as our personalities, how we were as children, our education and occupations.
Step 3: The Home Study process
This process is to give the government of Korea an overview of our family and make absolutely sure that the well-being of the Seoul-Baby is ensured. This process lasts 2-4 months depending on how quickly we assemble all the necessary paperwork and complete the visits with our case worker. We must submit documents regarding our residence, marriage license, and US citizenship. We will be interviewed separately and together a total of at least 5 times. Our caseworker will also come to our home to make sure we have room for Seoul-Baby and verify that we are legit.
One of the hard things we'll have to do at this time is to address and specify what health issues we would be willing to accept. A child of low birthweight? A child with a surgically correctable need? A child who's mother drank throughout her pregnancy? There is an entire health checklist we must say "yes," "no," or "maybe" to.
We must be fingerprinted and have complete background checks through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. This ensures that we are who we say we are. We also will apply for a visa for Seoul-Baby to travel to enter the US.
Also during this time we are required to complete a set amount of parenting and cultural training classes. Training covers topics on adoption issues that will help us to create a strong family. Bonding & attachment issues, common health issues for international adoptees, and understanding multi-cultural family issues.
Step 4: Wait
After this point, it could be up to a year before we are matched with a child. From what we've heard, this is one of the hardest parts of adoption. You've done the paperwork and are mentally preparing to become a parent. And then you just wait. And wait. And wait. We'll just keep moving up the waiting list. When we are at the top of the list, and when a child matching our health requirements is available, we will receive a "referral."
Step 5: The Referral
We receive official information about the referred child. A birthdate, place of birth, usually a photo, some social information, and a medical report from their first 5-months of life. We are only allowed to refuse a referral based on medical reasons. We have a pediatrician who specializes in adoption and will review the medical report carefully. They will also look at the photo for signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, or other visual cues as to the child's health. If the child is healthy, we will accept the referral. We have about a week to do this.
Step 6: Wait some more
Official paperwork is sent to the US government and to Korea. We wait for the approvals. Right now, this process is taking about 7-months. We can send care packages over to Seoul-Baby at this time, and will receive (if we are lucky) updated photos and letters from the foster mother. We can also travel to Korea to meet the baby if we are able.
Step 7: Travel call!
We can't wait for this day! You'll receive a call telling you to come and get your baby!
Step 8: Finalizing the adoption
When we bring Seoul-Baby home, he's ours. But technically, we must re-finalize the adoption in a U.S. court. This is required after he's been home for 6 months.
Step 9: Live happily ever after