If you were to ask any hopeful adoptive parent what the most frustrating part of the adoption process is, I can venture a relatively educated guess that they would all come back with a variation of the word waiting as their answer.
The adoption process requires waiting at nearly every single turn. You’ll wait for paperwork to be processed, for approvals to be granted and for travel to come. No one anticipates the struggles that come with finding the child you’ve envisioned joining your family. Waiting for a referral can be very difficult. Depending on what special needs you feel comfortable with, the age and gender of the child you’re envisioning in your heart, your wait may not be long.
There are a few different paths for finding a child available for adoption in China. If you have signed on with an agency, they may have an individual list of children assigned to them that are available for families registered with the agency. Some of agencies won’t require you to sign with them as an agency to review a file. Usually, they will have you fill out a small form with some basic information before you can view the file in its entirety. When the files are first assigned to their agency though, they will usually see if the needs, age and gender match those of a client already registered with them. If you aren’t one of those clients, you may have to wait until all other families have passed. If an agency can’t find a match for a child assigned to their individual list within 90 days, the file will be returned. Some of these files are labeled as Special Focus, and some will require that a family already has their dossier logged in to China. These designations are usually made based on the child’s age and medical needs.
Agencies also receive files through partnerships. Some agencies have partnerships with specific orphanages in China. These partnerships are formed to allow agencies to support an advocate for the children of a specific Social Welfare Institute. Agencies will often travel to visit their partner orphanages and gather more information about the health needs and temperaments of the children who currently reside there. When the children’s files are prepared, they are sent to the partner agency first. This agency then has three months to match the “special focus” children (older children or children with needs considered moderate to severe by many families) before their file is returned. If a file is considered “LID only” or “dossier first” (usually very young, needs that will be considered minor by many families), then the agency has 3 weeks to place them before the file is returned to the shared list.
The Shared List is also available to any agency with a China adoption program in any country of the world. This list contains over 2,000 names of children who are either older or have more severe medical needs. This list is ever-changing and only agencies have access to it in real-time. Any agency can lock a file for review.
Each adoptive parent has to decide their comfort level with viewing files. It is important to keep in mind that even when pictures aren’t included, each one of these files represents a child, and it is an enormous privilege to be allowed to view their birth and medical history. There is such a thing as file review overload. I have seen several families review so many files that they become overloaded with the weight of the decision that they are being asked to make. At this point, it’s okay to take a break, reconnect with your support team and move forward again when you’re ready. No way is the wrong way.
You will find the child that is perfect for you.