International Adoption Vocabulary

When you start looking into international adoption there are so many terms that you may not understand. Here is the beginning of a vocabulary list to help you understand this new language of adoption. We will add to it during the next few issues and then make it into a resource list available at the general meetings.

USCIS: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS or BCIS) is the governmental agency who issues a visa to bring internationally adopted children visa's to enter the U.S. You must complete a form I-600A or I-600 and receive approval in order to adopt internationally. If the child you are adopting does not meet the INS standard of an orphan you will not receive a visa and cannot bring the child into the U.S.

HOME STUDY: Both state and federal law requires prospective adoptive parents to complete a home study, in NJ a home study must be done by a licensed social worker in employed by an adoption or home study agency. The report is a summary assessment of the prospective adoptive parent's physical, mental and emotional capability to parent a child. The home study should be no more than 6 months old when submitted to INS and after approval by INS is valid for 18 months. There should be an update or amendment done if any significant changes take place after the original home study is written.

PAPER READY: This is the term used to describe having your home study complete and INS approval. Once you have reached this point many agencies will accept you for a referral of a child. For example children you see on the Internet on the waiting children lists or hear of at a meeting when an agency has exhausted their waiting list and still have children to place. If you have designated a country to INS and the child you are interested is from another country, you file a form I-824 after receiving your referral. You will still need to do a Dossier specific for the country you are adopting from many have already been gathered for the home study, some may need to be updated such as letters of reference or medical reports. Your home study may need to be customized for the country or summarized, but this can be done relatively easily.

POST-PLACEMENT REPORTS: Most countries now require post-placement reports to be made after the adoption is final and the children are in the home. This has always been a requirement of domestic adoption. Each country has it's own requirements as to the number of reports and the content. Pictures are always an important part, some countries require a social workers report others just ask for the family to file a report on the health and well being of the child. Many families feel these reports are unnecessary since the adoption is final what can the do to me. But the real importance of these reports are it shows the birth country that the child is doing well in his/her new family. These countries don't want to send their children to a foreign country to live and many times there are rumors as to why these foreigners want their children. The post-placement report can combat these rumors and show the very positive side of adoption; further adoptions could be jeopardized if reports are not filed. The important thing to remember you adoption is not in any danger for filing these reports. You agency will advise you on what should be included in your report and the number and how often reports are needed.

DOSSIER: This is your complete package to be sent to the country of choice. The contents may differ from country to country but in general it contains your homestudy, medical and bank statements, pictures, another set of certificates -- marriage, birth, divorce, etc., and possibly additional letters of reference including clergy or religious affiliation. There may be time limits on certain documents, which means you may need to redo certain documents if to much time expires after preparing the documents and submitting your dossier. Remember each country has different adoption laws and different requirements for their dossier. Most documents need to be notarized, some require certification and some also require an apostille by the Secretary of State of the state where the document originated. Countries that do not require an apostille will probably require authentication by their embassy or consulate.

CERTIFIED: Some countries may require notarized documents to be certified by the county clerk in the county the notary is registered. A certification is a page attached to the document, certifying that the notary public is currently on the county's registry.

APOSTILLE: This is an official statement from the Secretary of State that an officeholder held a particular office at a particular time. It makes no attempt to certify the veracity of the contents of the referenced document. The typical document for which a prospective adopter will request an apostille will be an affidavit, an acknowledgment, or a copy certification signed in the presence of a notary public. It is then signed and stamped by the notary public.


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