Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Days, 30 Posts: Adoption...Adopting as an Expat

Adoption is complicated anyways, but moving, even just to another state, can add some more challenges.  Thankfully, we were mentally prepared for a move. We were just surprised it was to China!

When we were choosing our homestudy agency and our placement agency (the agency that will wait for our match from China and collects all of the documents for our dossier) we knew that a move overseas might, just might, be in our future.  Because of this being a very real possibility, it was one of the first things we mentioned to agencies when we were deciding which one to use.  The placement agency we chose actually listed working with expatriates as one of their services.

Jamie and I had a shared goal of getting our paperwork to China, move overseas, and then see where we were in the process.  Being a slightly impatient person (or maybe it’s being Type A and always looking ahead to the future), it only took me about 6 weeks after we moved, to begin entertaining the idea of switching from the healthy child list to the special needs list.  As it turns out, it was a good thing I had already starting thinking about what our next step would be.  Our agency contacted us in the fall of 2011 to tell us that we had 6 months until our USCIS (US immigration) approval to adopt would expire.  (There is a set time for all approvals until they expire.)  We needed to decide whether we would let the approval lapse and reapply in about 5 years when we were matched with a healthy child from China (yes, no joke, that is how long the wait is) OR, submit an extension and move to the special needs list.

We decided to switch lists and ask for an extension.  Any changes in employment, place of residence or change in the family has to be updated in the homestudy and submitted with the USCIS application.  In short, we had to re-do our homestudy...again, but this time in China.  

Normally, I would have freaked out about finding a US licensed social worker to conduct our homestudy, but wouldn’t you know it, there is one!  It has been such a blessing to move from one adoption community to another because it is really helpful to have the shared knowledge that everyone brings.  This coming Friday’s Family, the Everitts, had done the same thing as us and knew of a US agency with licensed social workers (yes, there are more than one!) in China.

During the fall of 2011 we had police clearances collected in China (and, boy, was that an experience and maybe a future blog post), were re-fingerprinted (this time at the US consulate’s office), and had a social worker from Shanghai come and spend a weekend updating our homestudy.  Now, I fully appreciate why our agency had us start working on the paperwork 6 months before our approval expired.  Our paperwork eked in just before the deadline.

Even though it has meant more paperwork for us, the process has been pretty logical and straightforward, minus the police clearance debacle. 

I think the important things to remember in this situation are:
  1. If moving overseas is a possibility, find an agency that has worked with other expat families and has experience.
  2. Join an online group, such as an Yahoo group or Facebook group, for expats adopting while abroad, they can be a wealth of information.
  3. Check and double-check, if something doesn’t sound right, ask.  Have your agency double-check their answers, talk to the nearest US Consulate’s office, contact USCIS.  
  4. For adoptions that are outside of the Hague Convention, it might be necessary to consult a private adoption lawyer.
  5. Be aware of what happens after the child is placed with your family.  Is the adoption completed in-country or do you need to return to the US to do that?  Is there a window of time (such as 6 months) that the child must return to the US? Can you immediately return to the (expat) country where you are living or must you travel to the US first?      What visa will your child be returning to the US on?  Are there any challenges in applying for the Certificate of Citizenship (COC)?
  6. Remember it is possible!  Through the online communities and my own connections, I have heard of people adopting from the country they are living in, another family from the US lives in another country and adopted from a third, one family adopted relatives through a private adoption lawyer, others are in the military and have adopted from the US, foster care, and internationally.

Don't miss a thing! Follow the entire 30 Days, 30 Posts: Adoption series.


  1. Hi Kara,
    I was so happy to find your blog. Adopting has been something on my husband and I's hearts for a few years but we live in China. It seemed impossible. We didn't know anyone who had adopted while living overseas. We are both teachers. We just moved to Suzhou this year from another city in China. We had kind of given up on being able to adopt while living here. Then I found your blog, started searching expat adoptions, began finding information, we started believing it was possible again. I would love to get in touch with you and ask you questions. My blog is

    1. Jenn-Hello! Yes, it is possible! I will try to contact you directly so that we can chat privately. I would love to help in any way possible. Kara