Thursday, February 16, 2012

More on Paperwork for Adoption

Guest post from my wife, Annalisa

Why does it take so long to get our adoption paperwork done?  I like to think I’m a super-organized person, so it’s agonizing to me that it takes this long.  [How long so far?  I figure that since about Christmas time, I’ve spent about a half-hour a day, on average, pulling stuff together, and I’m still going strong.]

Here’s one example of why things take so long.

Item number 12 (of 14) on our list of needed-paper work is
            “12. police records for the county you reside in”.

Sounds fairly simple, right?  For us, this has meant the following steps.

1.  Get an FBI background check.  We registered on-line at Cogent (, paid our fee, and printed out our ID numbers.  Then we went to our local Fed Ex store and got the actual fingerprints.  We’ve done this several times now, so we’re getting to be “pro”s, but we’ve always found this visit takes at least an hour out of our day – fingerprinting never seems to work right the first time. 

2.  Get a Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearance.  This involves filling out a form that includes all our former addresses since 1979, plus the names and ages of all the people who have lived with us since then.  Again, because we’ve done this so many times I now have a spreadsheet. Gathering all those addresses and names of people is a pretty intensive endeavor, really.  To pay for this, we have to have a money order (no checks allowed), so that involves a trip to the bank.

3.  Get a Pennsylvania state criminal background check.  Another form, another money order. 

Steps 1-3  are required for the home study process, so we got them done fairly early – my records say we had all the money orders taken care of by December 30.  Are these three things enough for Haiti?  Are any of these pieces of paper, “police records for the county you reside in?”

We asked our Haiti adoption folks.  No, they said; we need a letter from our County Sheriff.  (I’ve now learned, finally, how to spell “sheriff”: one r, two f’s.)  I spent about two weeks calling our sheriff and leaving messages, asking for a criminal background check for both me and my husband.  No call backs.

After two weeks, Neil took over and called.  He finally got through to a real person, who told him that the county doesn’t do background checks; only the state does.

Back to our adoption folks: can we get our state to do the background check on us?  This time, the answer is “yes, but only if it’s a certified background check”.  We figured, great! We already did this! (See step 3 above).  We went back to the folks doing our home study – can they send us the state background check from their files, and is it certified?

Alas, the version they have is NOT certified; we have to do this over again.  So we hunted around on the web, found a bunch of forms, and finally found a web-based version at site looks like you need to be registered with the state agencies, but if you read it carefully, you’ll see you only need to have a credit card.  This is good, because it means we didn’t have to go to the bank for a money order).  So we ordered our certified Pennsylvania Criminal Background checks, and about a week later they showed up.  Yay!

But just as I was celebrating, thinking we were done . . . we had our home study visit.  And our social worker tells us that even though Haiti doesn’t care about this, for our home study we’ll need background checks on the 19-year old gal who moved in with us over the summer. So we still have to repeat steps 1-3 above for Kiersten. 

Total time working on this to date:  I’ll estimate about 6 hours, so far, with another 2 hours ahead of us.

Total money spent on background checks:  $130 so far, with the future needing probably $55 more for Kiersten’s background checks and $90 more for the apostilles. 

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