Adopting Overseas: One Family's Story

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It is rare that a story is both moving and informative. The cover story of the February/March issue of State, the magazine of the United States Department of State, managed to be both. The featured article explained how one U.S. couple in India adopted a boy and a girl after visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in Calcutta. Also, the article contained sound and solid advice on how to adopt if you are a U.S. national temporarily living abroad. Following is an extended excerpt from that article.

We began adoption proceedings for Jasmyn last September. Our lawyer, retained by the orphanage, helped us select an adoption agency in the United States on the Indian government's "approved" list. We had to provide seemingly endless "core documents" which included our income tax, wage and bank statements, medical papers attesting to our psychological and physical well-being, photos of our home and family, birth, adoption, marriage and divorce certificates, and home and follow-up studies.

As foreigners, we couldn't officially adopt, but were granted "guardianship" instead. Court documents gave us permission to take our child out of the country for adoption, and, as a federal employee, I was able to place her on Government orders. But before we could go to the States, we had to obtain an immigrant visa another exhaustive procedure involving more documents.

Less than half the couples we knew were able to get their children adopted during the first trip to the United States. Many states aren't accustomed to processing overseas citizens' adoptions, and each state has a separate set of laws, as well as judges who interpret the law differently. We avoided potential pitfalls by faxing adoption documents to our lawyer several months before our actual court date. Our lawyer discussed the documents with the judge and got back to us about any difficulties.

I'd like to pass on other "lessons learned":

-If you plan to adopt, establish a central location to store your paperwork - core documents, E-mail, faxes and other correspondence. We labeled it all and kept it in an accordion file we brought with us to the States.

-When you visit orphanages, take someone with you who speaks the local language. Being able to speak directly with day care workers is a real advantage. And understanding the language or culture of your child's origin pays off when they're older.

-Select your social worker carefully; that person writes the home and follow-up studies sent to the judge in the United States. If the court rejects this professional's work, new studies will have to be done, adding further costs and delays.

-Identify a reputable lawyer and adoption agency early. Make sure they've had experience handling adoptions in your home state.

-Visa requirements take a lot of time; submit your fingerprints as soon as your home study is approved. Before going to the States, contact the immigration in your home city, preferably several months in advance.

-Make sure you understand the requirements of the state in which you want to adopt.

-Finally, don't forget to update your will to provide for your adopted child's care, in case something happens to you.

Credits: National Council for Adoption

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