April 2, 2019
How to Adopt: Homestudy &the Paper Chase

How to Adopt: Homestudy &the Paper Chase


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If you are ready to start your adoption journey here are some tips you need to read before picking your homestudy agency and starting the paper chase.

Adopting What you need to knwo about the homestudy and the paper chase

In case you are just joining our series, you might want to take a peak at:

Depending on what country you are looking to adopt from and the needs you are open to, it is usually possible to go one of two ways:

  • Get your homestudy and dossier sent to the country and then get matched (You will get “new” files which means you have access to the youngest, healthiest children but your wait will be 3-6 months longer)
  • Find a waiting child on an agencies list and prematch (to hold the child) before getting your homestudy and dossier in. This process usually helps your adoption to go quicker (9-12 months for an adoption from China), but children on these lists are usually harder to match because they are older or have more severe medical needs.
Confused about what needs are out there and what they mean? Here is a great resource for researching what needs you might be open to.

How to Adopt – Choosing a Homestudy Agency

We learned that hard way that not all agencies are the same. Sure they may eventually get there, but you can do a lot of unnecessary waiting and go through lots of frustration if you don’t pick an agency that is a good fit for you.
It all starts with a home study; but before you sign on the dotted line, PLEASE ask the following questions:
  • How long does the process take with your agency? Is that pretty fixed, or will us getting things done quicker impact the process?
  • Are your case managers full time or part time (we ended up with one that could ONLY work Saturdays which may be perfect for you, but really slowed down the process for us)
  • What happens if we are dissatisfied with our case manager – is their a recourse or are we stuck?
  • What “other” requirements are in place by your agency that may not be required by other agencies in the area? (for us it was a 4 hours face to face class that was no longer a state requirement, but they had chosen to keep it…. but they only offered it 4x a year which slowed down the process tremendously. Plus, the training was only offered in a remote town 3 hours away from our metro area)
  • What sets your agency apart from other agencies?
  • Take some time to google the agency to find out what others have to say about them, read reviews on forums, etc. Please remember that usually people only bother to post if they have a problem and no company is perfect. But you may see a pattern that will steer you one way or another.
  • How many meetings are required and what will you go through at each meeting? This can vary from 1-5 depending on agency!
  • Try to pick an agency that is similar in personality. Are they slow and steady, really taking the 3 months for every case study? Are they willing (and eager) to help you get through as quickly as possible if you are doing your part and available?
Once you’ve settled on a homestudy agency it’s time to get this adoption moving!
keep your eyes on the prize! Think of the sweet little face waiting for you at the end of the paper chase of adoption

#1 – Be ready for your first set of fees:

  • Adoption Agency application fee $500 (fee can vary)
  • 1st Agency fee with submitted contract (fee and timeline can vary)
  • Homestudy Fee (depending on state/agency) $2000
  • USCIS Immigration Fee $774+
  • Misc Fees for fingerprinting, adoption education
So start pinching pennies, fundraising, taking out an adoption loan, or whatever you are doing to finance your adoption.

#2 – Complete Homestudy

Your homestudy can take as little as 6 weeks or as much as 4 months depending on who your agency/case worker is. Some of it you can work ahead on so get started on everything you can to move it along quickly! And many of the documents you need to gather you will also need for your dossier (think of it as a portfolio or application to adopt from the other country)


#3 –  i800 Immigration Form

Once you have your completed homestudy you can send in your i800 Immigration form in which gives you permission from the US government to adopt. (fee involved)

#4 – Dossier (aka Paper Chase)

While you are waiting for the government to okay your immigration form continue working on gathering the documents you will need for the dossier. This does vary by country, but expect something like:


  • Application Letter
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage License
  • References 
  • Police Clearance Letter for each parent
  • Medical Forms
  • Financial Statement
  • Employment Verification Letters for each parent
  • 6-8 photos of family life
  • 2 passport photographs of each parent
  • copy of passport (make sure it wont expire soon!!)
Each country will have it’s own specifics that your agency will walk you through. But expect it to take longer than you think so get right on it. For China, each document needs to be notarized locally, state verified, and china authenticated at the appropriate agency. Depending on where your documents come from you may need to hire a courier.

Ours were particularly crazy as I was born in one state to get them authenticated & LA Chinese consulate verified, my hubby was born in another state that required his state verified and Chicago Chinese Consulate verified, husbands employer was in yet another state with New York Chinese consulate verification, and my employment letter was in a final state requiring that state verification and Texas Chinese consulate verification. YIKES! It was crazy and we paid hundreds of dollar in Fedex and couriers. It’s just part of the process.

My hint: Set-up a Fedex account online and pick up a slug of free envelopes so you are ready to zip things back and fourth. Fedex is generally cheaper and gets to the destination sooner in the day!

#5 – Send Documents to Agency

Once you have your completed immigration approval you can send it along with your dossier and signed contract to your agency who will forward it on the the country. Expect more fees to be charged for translating and logging it in and then a wait that seems to take forever.
Your caseworker should update you when you are logged in and then when you are matched. Depending on the country you may have possible files to look at in as few as 3 months or in several years.  (this part is a killer, I get it!)
Use this time as you wait to:
  • Read up on adoption
  • Clean things in your house that you keep putting off
  • Bond with your other children so those relationships are extra strong
  • Talk to others on the same journey – for me the Facebook groups for others in the same stage as us were indispensable! You could compare timelines, ask questions, and encourage each other along the way!
  • If you’re like me…. you may want to search listings like Rainbow Kids to see what files are out there to know what to expect when you do get a file. It’s all about realistic expectations and knowing what to expect.

Now that we’ve gone through one of the biggest hurdles in your adoption (getting your “file” to the country) let’s talk about Getting Matched.

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