One of the first steps in the adoption process is to gather and complete several documents that will become your dossier. Your dossier gives all the authorities involved in your adoption process a “window” to analyze your family, your home and your life. The purpose of the dossier is to show that you meet all requirements to adopt a child, or children, in both the US and the country from which you are adopting. The dossier documents will be reviewed by the US Embassy, USCIS and the government in the country from which you are adopting. Your dossier is very important as it is a representation of your family and how these entities get to know who you are and if you meet the requirements to adopt.
For families working with MLJ Adoptions, a dossier checklist and example forms will be provided to help you in gathering your documents. Common documents that are required for dossiers in most countries include such documents as:
- A Home study and/or update or addendum (Home studies may expire. Please consult your home study provider if you have any significant life changes during your process; i.e. move, change jobs, have changes in your financials or additional household members. All changes in your home or life situation must be reported to USCIS).
- Form I-171H (This is one of the few documents that don’t require an original. The I-171H approval and fingerprints have expiration dates; please keep track of these dates throughout your process and do not let them expire.)
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates (if applicable)
- Criminal history checks (copies of your criminal history checks that were submitted for your home study will be submitted with your dossier)
- Mental health letters (a letter from a licensed mental health provider stating you have received a mental health evaluation and are mentally healthy enough to adopt a child or some countries may require extensive mental health testing)
- Passport copies
- Financial Documents such as bank statements and proof of income
Depending on the agency and country you are adopting from will determine the documents you will need to submit and the number of originals you need. It is also important to remember that all documents with a signature usually require notarization. In addition to notarization, if you are adopting from a non-Hague country, some documents must also be authenticated by the Secretary of State of your home state prior to sending them to your agency. Hague countries have some documents that may require an Apostille issued by the U.S. Department of State or the local state. For MLJ families, instructions on the authentication and apostille processes can be found on your personal Client Care Page.
Here are some additional helpful hints:
- Take your time! Don’t rush…a mistake in your dossier could cause delays later in your process
- Use the instructions provided to you and read them carefully
- Stay organized and submit your documents in an organized manner
- When ordering originals-get more than you need, never hurts to have extras!
- Keep a copy of your dossier
Remember, the presentation of your dossier is a presentation of who you are. It is one of the first important steps on your adoption journey. While it may seem tedious and complicated, it is necessary and well worth the work and effort you put into it. Best wishes on your adoption journey!
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Photo Credit: Beatrice Merch