I few years after I adopted Elle, a friend gave me the book, Clara: The Story of the Pug Who Ruled my Life. She gave me the book to read because it chronicled the author’s journey into international adoption. The author was adopting a baby from Russia, and since I had recently flown to Russia to bring Elle home, I could relate to the story…but just not to the pug.
One of the chapters of the book was entitled Birth by Paperwork. Those three words touched me. I didn’t give birth to Elle physically, I didn’t have stretch marks or morning sickness, but I was still invested in her life. She was my daughter; she just came to me in a different way. Her “birth” into my life was through paperwork, and anyone who has put together a dossier for a foreign adoption knows it isn’t easy.
When we started the process of adopting Elle, I remember attending a meeting at the adoption agency where they gave us the paperwork requirements for the INS, the paperwork that would be required for a home study, and then the paperwork that would be required by the foreign country. I felt like a college student on the first day of class when the teacher hands out the syllabus. I immediately asked myself, “What in the hell have I gotten myself into?”
As an A-type personality, perfectionist, I went into overdrive when it came to dossier preparation. My stress level went through the roof, and everyday entailed checking lists once, twice, three times. At the time of our Russian adoption, Russia required a raised seal notary. Apparently they didn’t trust anything they couldn’t feel, but raised seal notaries were becoming a thing of the past. A close friend of mine was a notary and I offered to buy her a raised seal if she would come to all my appointments with me. This alleviated some stress, but I began to hate raised seals.
I stressed and stewed about recommendation letters and documents we needed plus deadlines for documents. I was one document away from an ulcer when my husband was killed and the adoption came to a screeching halt. A few months later, the adoption received a green light and I was able to adopt Elle, but not after putting together another Russian dossier for a different region.
When we adopted Bunny, the birthing process started all over again, but I stressed out just as much. When documents were required, I would get them notarized and drive them to Topeka, KS to have them apostilled, turning them back around to the adoption agency overnight. This frantic process didn’t get us Bunny any sooner, it did require two sets of dossiers, one for Russia, and when they suspended their programs, another one for Guatemala.
The moral of this story is that international adoption is a birth by paperwork. It is going to take time, patience, and organization. Breakdown the requirements in smaller projects, and work on one project at a time. Keep track of everything and make friends with your local notary. But if this is all too overwhelming, do know there are dossier preparation services available to help complete your dossiers. If you don’t have the time, but have the money, this might be a good idea.
Photo Credit: Lanita M.