• Erica Rosi Tham

International Adoption Tips 2

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Here are a few tips on the medical appointment, the paperwork, telling family, and the psychological evaluation. Review tips 1- 4 here. Or read our story.

5. The Medical Appointment

Look for an experienced doctor who understands how to notarize documents. As I began the paperwork process, I decided to get the medical appointment done and out of the way. Unfortunately, as a result, I secured a quick appointment with a very young doctor who pushed me to take every test—which increased my stress level—and who did not know about notarized documents. I had to find my own mobile notary and pay extra for her service time. My doctor was kind-hearted, sympathetic and ultimately helped me, and I certainly respect her professionally. However, my husband had a completely different experience. His doctor suggested extra tests, but did not push, and happily agreed to walk three blocks from his office to a local bank where two copies of the medical form were notarized for free.

Keep that in mind: most banks will notarize documents free of charge.

In short, when you do your medical appointment, it pays to call around in order to work with an experienced person, especially someone who has notarized documents. This is the story of my visit with the doctor.

Make all appointments that you need to make quickly; this way, you can wait two months or even more to meet the right person. You can fill your time with other tasks while waiting; the average home study takes 4-6 months to complete. It seems hard to believe, but it took us six months, and I was working steadily for about 10 hours a week during most of that time.

6. Paperwork leads to more paperwork.

Here’s a quick follow-up to the point above, but an important one. I initially did not understand how the process could take months given the list of documents on my agency’s website. It looked daunting, yes, but I naively thought that four months seemed like the outside figure. It was not.

Expect that when you turn in one document, you might get three more—or more than that. The first time this happened, I was irritated, the second frustrated, the third disheartened, and by the fourth time, I felt disgusted with the process. I had to give myself a week off to rest and let my patience replenish. Granted, I am not a paperwork person. I am sure that some people would take it more in stride than I did. But do know in advance that the list of documents you see originally is not the full list and that some listings that look short and innocent actually require research and hours of work.

Please pace yourself. Decide how many hours per week you can reserve for your adoption paperwork. Feel proud of completing your hours each week without worrying about how far along you are in the process. And whenever you need it, take a break.

I also comforted myself with this thought: I am trying to be a parent, not a document specialist. Yup. On the difficult days, I reassured myself with that idea over and over again.

7. Telling family and friends is the easy part. Communicating with them about the process is not so easy.

I believe we all have unique stories regarding our adoption decision and how or when we will inform those closest to us. I am sure that many people confide in family or friends while making the decision; others, like me, wait and inform them only after moving forward. I knew my family would support me; I only wondered if they would think I was crazy for embarking on this journey at the age of forty-eight. Happily, they loved the idea and were wonderfully reassuring.

Time passed. My sisters were texting; I was updating my mother during my weekly phone call with her. Their minds were full of ideas about home decorations, seeing pictures of our adopted kids, and sharing their parenting memories. Basically, they treated us the way they would treat someone who was having a biological child—with the fun encouragement given at a baby shower. Informing them about paperwork requirements and the uncertainty of the situation was challenging.

Paperwork is a funny word. So short. Even if you add to it and say ten documents, twenty-five documents, or fifty documents of varying lengths and difficulty, the listener will not necessarily grasp exactly how much you are doing and how much time and energy it takes. And it is tough to have to do it, discuss it, and witness your family’s gradual disillusionment and increasing worry on your behalf.

Here is when you have to start communicating a truth you will need to share often: adopting kids is a lot different than having biological children. Books and trainings will inform you that this is the reality. Recommended parenting techniques for adopted children are quite different than many traditional parenting strategies.

Treasure all the support you receive during the process. It might be fun to create a list of every person who contributes so that you can experience the full sense of gratitude toward all the people who helped you adopt a child. And get used to telling your loved ones that adoption is a unique journey, beginning with a process that takes twice or three times as long as having a biological kid.

8. Finding a psychologist may drive you crazy

India requires a psychological evaluation; if you are adopting from another country, this may not be required of you. If you have to do it, the first step is to get a clear definition from your agency of exactly what is needed. And the second step is to make an appointment early realizing that this will take some time to complete.

When I started calling psychologists in Seattle, I was amazed to discover how few, from the long list in my insurance network, considered themselves qualified to do a psychological evaluation at all. Among those qualified, the quotes on the time involved were both high and varied. Unfortunately, some psychologists take advantage of prospective adoptive parents, as we are obligated to fulfill the requirement.

My agency’s initial explanation of this requirement was vague; however, after I pressed them, they gave me quotes on the number of hours completed by other adoptive parents. Armed with that, I was finally able to find a good professional, though I had to wait a month for the first appointment. The entire process required 3 visits, about a month in total.

Nightlight’s website had warned me that this could be difficult, but I thought, Nah, I’m in a major city. There are plenty of psychologists in Seattle. My misplaced optimism led to this experience. If you can, make all of your appointments soon!

Erica Rosi Tham

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