Families who have navigated the process - domestic or international - all agree: Start the paperwork early and be thorough.
Alan Lessig, who, with wife Robbyn, adopted twin girls from China, says "Start the paperwork as soon as you've made the internal commitment to do it. Processing can take years." Up to five years, according to Melody Zhang of adoption agency Children's Hope International.
This paperwork - called a dossier in international adoptions - presents you to the country from where you decide to adopt. Completing all the paperwork and clearances can take months, so get on it.
In addition to completing paperwork and clearances, singles and couples seeking adoption undergo a home study. Adoption agencies conduct home studies for three basic reasons:
- Gathering family information to help make a match
- Educating the family about the adoption process
- Evaluating the family's fitness and home environment
Birth parents never see this paperwork or home study. During domestic adoptions, birth parents may see an album put together by prospective adoptive families for selection and placement purposes only.