Adoption 101

I get lots of questions about adoption, and I love answering them!  Here’s hoping that I can help you readers out by answering some of those questions.  Many people are interested in adoption, how do you start, why do you do it, how long does it take, what does it cost, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera*.  (*To be read with the voice of the King of Siam.)  You are also probably seeing a lot of unfamiliar terms and abbreviations.  Let’s shed some light on all this.  ***Disclaimer:  I’m not an adoption professional, nor do I have all the answers.  I’m only answering these based on my personal experience on our adoption from China.


  • Waiting Child Program:  China’s adoption program for children with special needs.  (FYI, “special needs” can include things as minor as facial scars, birthmarks, or missing fingers!)
  • Dossier: (pronounced daw-see-AY) a packet of documents and photos that gets sent to China.  It includes birth and marriage certificates, police reports, physical exams, financial statement, employment verification, a homestudy report, I-797 (see below), and an adoption petition (something you write saying why you want to adopt).  It also includes couple and family photos.
  • LID:  Log in date.  The date that China officially logs your information into their system.
  • LOI: Letter of intent.  A letter you send to China stating you want to adopt a specific child.
  • PA: Pre-approval.  A letter from China saying that, based on the preliminary info they have of your family, you are pre-approved to adopt a specific child.  The PA is significant because it means it’s “official.”  You can share the news of your child with the world at that point.
  • LOA: Letter of acceptance.  A letter from China saying that they’ve reviewed your file, it meets their requirements, and you are approved to adopt from China.
  • TA: Travel approval.  An official invitation from China to travel there to get your child.


  • How long does it take?

First, every adoption is different.  Every country is different and they each have their own rules, regulations, and timelines.  That said, I will answer this question for China adoptions.  Currently, non special needs adoptions from China take YEARS.  There are people who started this process in 2006 and haven’t even been matched with a child yet.  China is waaaay behind in matching families with children and I wouldn’t even recommend it.  The Waiting Child program is MUCH more reasonable.  With our agency (CCAI) the typical wait is roughly 10 months to 2 years from application to receiving your child in China.  Your wait will depend on if you want a boy or girl, what age you’re looking for, and which special needs you are considering.  For example, most people request a female, under 2, with a very minor special need.  Those people will wait a bit longer.  Those requesting a boy who are open to older ages or a lot of different special needs will have a much shorter wait.

  • Why does it take so long??

Ahh…I wish I knew!  For us, the longest part of this process has been compiling our dossier.  The homestudy took months longer than it should have (because we needed clearances from Taiwan).  But for the most part, you submit paperwork, and wait for it to be returned.  You can get your stuff done lightning quick, but then you have to send something to a bureaucratic agency and wait for 2-6 weeks for them to process it!  A little frustrating at times, but that’s the name of the game.  Then, when you finally have everything sent to China, you wait for China to process it.  Here’s a general process/timeline from our agency.

  • How much does it cost?

I think everyone wants to know this, but most people are polite and don’t ask it.  So here’s the answer from our agency.  (Prices are very similar through other agencies.)

  • How do you afford that??

Ok, so no one has actually asked me this.  But I’ve seen it in the faces of the few who were bold enough to ask “How much does it cost.”  Honestly, I don’t know other than divine intervention.  We’ve done our part to scrimp, save, get creative with our money, and Heavenly Father is taking care of the rest.  That was part of the leap of faith we took when we decided to adopt.  (We certainly didn’t have that much money just sitting in the bank!)  So far, when the time comes to make another payment for the adoption, the money for it is there.

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