Where to start? Where to begin?
If God is calling you to adopt internationally it may be difficult to know how to begin.
I am in no way an expert, but here is how we have proceeded now through 4 International Adoptions..
1. The Country~ It is good to research different countries and their rules and regulations. The rules vary from each country. Rules can vary from age of parents, to length of marriage, income, family size, spacing of children already in the home, and sometimes there are even weight limits. Each country has their own standards.
Also, the process in each country is different. Some countries you will need to travel to appear in court. Others you will have agency representatives appear for you. Some countries require multiple trips, and several weeks in country... while others don't require you to travel at all.
You can find out most of this info by Googling, however, not all this information is current. You will want to confirm with the agency that you are interested in working with to make sure your family meets the country's requirements.
2. The Agency~ This is a BIGGIE. Research, research, research, and then research some more. You will be working closely and relying heavily on your agency. I would love to say that all agencies are wonderful, and have the best interests of children and prospective adoptive families at heart, but this simply is not so.
There are some wonderful agencies out there, and there are some who have done some heinous things. In the middle you will have some who are inefficient or poor communicators. You can not research your agency enough.
When we began our adoptions our source for info was very slim. Today, adoptive parents have set up incredible networks all over the internet where you can find out detailed info about adoption agencies.
A site I highly recommend is Adoption Agency Research
This group is set up so that no agency personnel are allowed to join. Adoptive parents and Prospective Adoptive Parents are able to exchange info freely without fear of threats of lawsuits or pulled referrals (Which in my opinion, no good agency would do, but sadly I have seen it happen).
Also, there are Yahoo groups for each specific country which allows adoption. You can learn quite a bit by reading and asking for info on specific agencies.
It is important to ask info from people in all steps of the process. Ask people in the beginning stages of the process, the middle, and those who have their children home. Make sure you speak with people who brought their children home years ago, and more recently to get a current view of how adoptions are going. Things change quickly. An agency who was performing stellar adoptions 3 years ago may be currently struggling.
There are no perfect agencies, and I do not expect perfection from ours. There are so many details in an adoption, and much of it can be out of the hands of agency personnel. What separates the good from the bad is how the agency handles the "bumps in the road" . Are they honest and forthright? Do they communicate openly? Do they place blame on others?
It is also good to know your communication style. If you are not comfortable with how quickly and thoroughly you are receiving info when you are first inquiring about an agency, imagine how hard it will be later in the process when you have a child you are waiting for.
Also, I just wanted to mention most people work with agencies who are out of state. People ask us about this frequently. It is very common.
3. The Homestudy~ Your Homestudy needs to be done by a licensed agency in your state. The homestudy will encompass background checks locally, through the FBI, the Child Services Dept. in your State, etc. You will need medicals, birth marriage certs, etc.
The homestudy also will include a series of interviews with your social worker. This can be very intimidating , but don't let it be. I was keenly disappointed after our 1st homestudy interview that our social worker did not check under our beds for cleanliness, as I had cleaned like a maniac.
4. Immigration~ You will need to file an I 600 A form with your local Department of Homeland Security Office along with your homestudy, birth certificates, marriage certificate, and fees for processing.
After they go over your application they will schedule you to be fingerprinted.
Yes, I know you have already been fingerprinted many times by this point, and try really hard not to focus on the fact that these fingerprints are going through the same FBI database as you just went to for your homestudy. Some things in the process just don't make sense.
Your agency will be walking you through gathering your dossier documents...
I hope this helps. I may have inadvertently left out some things. I am not an expert, and things change, but if you just do the next thing in the process, it is not all bad. It is more than worth it when your child is placed in your arms...and much like labor it all fades away until you find your self back in the throes of the paperwork process again ;o).