Before starting our Korean adoption we needed to choose an agency. With our China adoption we could choose any agency anywhere in the US. With Korea families must choose an agency authorized to facilitate adoptions in their state. Some agencies however can place children with special needs anywhere in the US. Some agencies are also permitted to place children in a state other than their own if they work with a “partnering” agency or social worker. Also, some agencies do not allow families to choose the sex of the child they want to adopt and some may not offer traveling to Korea as an option. These are things to think about when choosing an agency. In Michigan there are three agencies that we could choose from… Bethany, FAC, and AIAA. Our agency is AIAA. AIAA does have a special needs program, can place children anywhere in the US when working with a partnering agency or social worker, allowed us to choose the sex of our child, and allows families the option of traveling or escorting. We chose this agency because it was highly recommended and well respected by families who completed adoptions through them and the fact that they also had a very short wait time.
Each agency in the US works with one of four agencies in Korea. The agencies in Korea are Eastern Social Welfare Society (Eastern), Holt Children Services (Holt), Korea Social Services (KSS), and Social Welfare Society (SWS). These agencies are responsible for providing for Korea’s orphaned children. Our Michigan agency (AIAA) is affiliated with Social Welfare Society (SWS) in Korea. Depending on the agency you choose the wait time for a referral can very greatly. Here in Michigan one agency is quoting about 12 – 18 months for a referral, one is no longer taking applications until 2010 and our agency is quoting 6 months for a referral. Depending on how many families each agency has waiting and which Korean agency the US agency is paired up with wait times vary greatly. The agency that is no longer taking applications is paired up with KSS… the smallest Korean agency… thus less children and a longer wait.
Thus far, the process for our Korean adoption has been a piece of cake. Unlike China, Korea only requires a home study to determine if we are qualified to adopt. We met with our social worker twice. The paperwork was very easy and most of it we already had from our China adoption. Once all of the paperwork was completed and our home study was written it was mailed to Korea. As with all international adoptions we were required to apply with US immigration for permission to bring an orphan here to adopt. Once a family is granted permission they are issued what is called an I171. We already have a current I171 for our China adoption so all we needed to do was request a change of country. Our agency took care of that for us. Now we just wait for the phone to ring. When our paperwork was sent to China we were given a log in date or LID. This is the date that our paperwork as logged into the system. With this date we could track where we were in the process. Each month a “batch” of referrals were sent and families could see how close (more like how far) China was from their LID. With Korea, families are not given a LID. Also, referrals are not sent in batches. Here is how it works….
A birthmother decides to make an adoption plan for their unborn child. Sometimes she will live at the Social Welfare Society until the birth.
After the child is born, he/she is available for domestic adoption.
While waiting to be adopted the child will live with a foster family. Children are not in orphanages in Korea. Foster families are required to meet strict criteria in order to become a foster family.
After five months, if no one comes forward to adopt the child domestically, he/she is then available for international adoption. Babies are at least five months of age at referral for this reason.
Once a child is available for international adoption they are matched with a family. Our agency works with Social Welfare Society (SWS). SWS matches each child with a family. Matches are made based on sex, age, and health of the child and what each family is open to. Families will wait a shorter time for a boy or for a child with special needs. There are very few toddler age children available because babies are usually placed with an international family right away.
As soon as a child is matched with a family the file is sent to the agency right away… even if only one file is sent. Korea does not hold files to send in batches.
Once the file is sent to our agency it is reviewed by the agency director. The director will make sure that all the paperwork is in order. She will then give it to our social worker. Once our social worker receives the referral she will call us on the phone. We will then meet with her and review the referral together.
Then finally… the moment we have waited now close to three years for… the referral. Included in our daughter’s referral packet we will receive, medical information, information on birthparents (names, locations, circumstances leading to placing her for adoption), pictures, our daughter’s daily schedule, and other information. During one of our home study visits we were able to see an example of a referral. I was impressed with the amount of information we will receive.
We are then required to have the referral reviewed by a doctor. There are international adoption doctors who specialize in reading medical reports written for referrals and know what to look for. These doctors review the information and give their opinion on the general health of the child. Children from Korea are generally very healthy.
Once we sign and accept the referral a whole bunch of stuff happens behind the scenes. I have some of it listed on my timeline to the right. I can check in to see where our paperwork is in the process. This process usually takes about four months.
Once that whole process is complete we will receive our “travel call”. We have decided that having our daughter escorted to the US is the best option for our family right now. We will be told which day and time our daughter will arrive. Usually children arrive within a week or two from the travel call but I have read of some families having their child arrive two days later!
On the day of arrival we will drive to Detroit airport. I am not exactly sure yet where we will be waiting in the airport for our daughter to arrive. She will be escorted to the US by a worker from SWS. She will come with an updated schedule as well as a few things from her foster family.
I believe we will need to sign some documents there at the airport and then we will take her home. We will be required to have three post placement visits with our social worker before formally adopting her through the Michigan court system.
I tried to explain this as best I could. There is a very informative website for anyone interested in learning more about Korean adoptions. Click on the "Adopting From Korea" link on the right.