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Why China?

Summary: One of the first questions people often ask of prospective parents who start the international adoption process is "why did you pick that country". More curiosity than anything else, people are interested in what draws you to the country. China is know different, so it leads us to the question, why China?


When people find out that we are adopting from China, one of the first things we are asked is "Why China?". Although often asked by well meaning people, the hidden question behind the question, is "Why not in the U.S.A.?".

Our answer to the "Why China?" question is usually a simple "Why NOT China?"...but for this page, we will go into a little more detail about why we decided on China and Russia for our adoptions and why, specifically, we chose not to pursue adoption in the U.S.A. Here are the most frequently asked questions in relation to our adoption.


Why don't you want to adopt from the United States?

This question is actually easier to answer than it may seem at first. Yes, it's a complicated issue, but for us, the decision to adopt internationally was a simple one. As soon as we attended our very first domestic adoption seminar in 1996 before our daughter was born....we knew if we were to adopt - it wouldn't be domestically. We would go on to have our daughter in 1997, but true to our word, when we decided to adopt in 1999, we went straight to international adoption, Russia to be specific. For some people the decision whether to choose international or domestic adoption may be a very long and complicated one. For us, after we learned about domestic adoption, we knew that it was not for us.

Here's why:

The domestic adoption agency seminar that we attended in 1996 in Pennsylvania dealt only with domestic adoption. We were told that we would create a book about ourselves that would be added to the much larger book filled with other potential adoptive parents. This book would be looked at by the birth parents who were looking to relinquish their children for adoption. We were told to create this book with the idea of 'selling' ourselves and our lifestyle to the birth parents. Right off the bat, we didn't like this. We simply felt unwilling to try to convince anyone that we were the parents they should choose. Then, they told us that we would most likely participate in an open adoption. Open adoption is an adoption where there is some sort of relationship with the birth parents. The amount of contact with the birth family is dependent on the family and the specific circumstances of the adoption. While we weren't sure about this, we thought maybe we could handle this. After all, every expert said this was best for the child. But then, as we listened further, the deal breaker became clear. We were told, that after all of the time, expense and emotion that we would put into a domestic adoption - there were no guarantees. The birth mother could change her mind at any time up to six months after the baby was placed in our home. There was NO way we could bond with a child knowing that the birth mother could come back and reclaim our child. So, from there, we knew that for us, we could not deal with a domestic adoption arrangement. It just wasn't the best solution for us. Which brings us to our next FAQ.

Why China?
I'm not sure I can really explain why we are choosing to adopt from China this time around. For our last adoption, after looking at many different adoption programs, we just felt that our son was in Russia. When we decided to adopt again, there was almost no discussion as to what county we would adopt from. We had long seen a little Chinese girl in our future, although we weren't always sure that it would become a reality. In our heads, when we pictured our next child...she was Chinese. Perhaps that makes no sense to the more logical among us - but to us, we knew it in our hearts. We did give a cursory glance at other adoption programs to verify our decision, and that is just what it did. No other program 'seemed' right, and the China program seemed absolutely right. The China program is a little longer than most other programs, but that was OK with us. For anyone that knows me, they will know that patience is not my virtue- so to decide to actually take the long road, for me, was further proof that I knew where our daughter was. The Chinese adoption program is also very stable. It is longer because all adoption petitions go through one Chinese government agency, the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). The CCAA handles all petitions in order of arrival, whereas in some other countries, such as Russia ,handle their programs regionally. The regional approach has many disadvantages. The main disadvantage being an adoption process that is at the whim of the government officials in the regions. We weren't looking for any surprises, so again, we had further proof that China was a good program for us. (See below questions for more information on the adoption process).

So, on September 22, 2003 we made the final decision to adopt from China! The process has been long and as of this writing, is not over yet- but we are content in knowing that we will meet our daughter soon. You can look at the timeline to your left to see the status of our journey so far.

So, how does this adoption process work?
The process to adopt from China begins the same way that all international adoption begins. You must file an I-600A form at the Bureau of Immigration Affairs (Formerly INS). The I-600A form is the advance processing of an Orphan petition. You can read about the I-600 and it's purpose by going here. The I-600A must be submitted with a completed home study and documentation of citizenship and marriage (if married). The home study is completed by a social worker licensed in your state, and does NOT have to be the same agency that you choose to use to complete the adoption. In China, there are 4 required visits to complete the home study. If the social worker approves you, then you have 'passed' the home study and the social worker has recommended that you should be allowed to adopt. Home studies are required for domestic adoption as well, although each country sets it's own rules on number of acceptable visits.

After the home study is submitted to Immigration, all you can do is wait for approval. You cannot adopt without the INS approval. I should say, you cannot adopt and bring your child back to the U.S.A without INS approval..your child would not be permitted back in the country. If, however, you wanted to live somewhere else, I suppose you could do that - but don't quote me on that. While you are waiting for your INS approval to come through, you can gather the rest of the dossier, and choose an adoption agency to help you complete the complex process.
The INS approval is usually the last thing you are waiting for. The INS approval will be sent to you via form I-171H. After you have compiled all of your documents for your dossier, your completed dossier is sent to your adoption agency. The entire dossier process takes between 2 and 5 months. Because we had adopted before, the INS in our area was extremely efficient, and I knew exactly how to get started, our dossier was complete in less than 2 months. I was very happy with that!

After your dossier is submitted, you wait again! This time, the wait is longer. Currently, as of this writing (April, 2004) the wait between dossier submission and referral is about 8 months.

Once you receive your referral, you send back your acceptance for your child, and your agency will start working on your travel arrangements. The biggest arrangement to make is the appointment with the U.S. offices in Guangzhou, China. It is at this appointment that your child will receive their final permission to return to the U.S. This appointment is at the end of your trip. The adoption trip is about 2 weeks in length, although you will usually receive your child by the 3rd day.

How long does it take?
Well, as you can see from the process above, it's not a quick process. We started the process in September, 2003 and are hoping to travel by August 2004. In our case, it will be just about One Year from start to finish. However, if it takes longer to get your dossier completed, or the CCAA changes it's timeline, then the time can be different. One year ago, the process from dossier submission to referral was taking about 14 months. The CCAA did a wonderful job of speeding the process to the point where now it takes only 8 months from DTC to referral. The process can speed up or slow down at any point. Once the dossier is in China, however, you are on their timetable. The only time you have control is when you are compiling the dossier. Given that it took us 2 months to compile the dossier, and referrals are coming at 8 months, then that means we should have our referral about 10 months after starting the process. Travel is usually between 4-8 weeks later.
About right now, however, being 7 months into the complete process, our referral could not come soon enough for me!
How much does it cost?
This is one I won't answer, because the answer can vary so much between agencies and options chosen. Some agencies have a dossier service where they help you compile your dossier, others don't. Some list ALL of their fees, some list only some (so be careful about that when chosing an agency). Some agencies list travel as part of the fees, others don't. Also, some people fly coach class to China, and others fly business or first class - and depending on the time of year, the flight costs can vary greatly. I could only comment on what WE have paid, but I'd rather not do that. We feel that our agency provides excellent service for a very reasonable price - and I would highly recommend them to anyone. I think that to get an accurate idea on fees, you should request information from several agencies and compare their programs. Also, you can put "China Adoption" into google and you will come back with a wealth of information on different agencies. Many agencies list their fees online, many do not. Be prepared, however; Adoption requires many fees, from notary fees, filing fees, agency fees, to travel costs, etc...It is not an inexpensive venture. But, I honestly can't think of anything more worthwhile on which to spend our money. We want another child, and we know she is in China. We need our agency's help and we need our government's help to get her here - so we pay for services that will help us achieve that goal. Do your homework though - because some agency's fees are much higher than others, and some agency's fees may seem higher because they list EVERYTHING in their packet, while others list only some fees. Always check for hidden fees.

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