My answer, originally published on Quora.

Q: Why is it so difficult (time, money, etc.) to adopt a child?

It seems like there are plenty of people in the world that would like to adopt a child and plenty of children that need to be adopted. Why isn't the process a little easier?

My Answer

We are in the US and we adopted a child from Korea. Our process had many, many steps in it it took 16 months from initial paperwork until the child was placed with us, and then another 9 months for the adoption to be finalized.

Most of the steps are designed to protect the child by making sure the adoptive parents have truly thought through their decision, are healthy, financially stable, have no history of criminal activity, drugs or child abuse, live in a place suitable for raising a child, etc.

To prove my point, here is my exhaustive list of to-do items from our adoption in 2005-2008. Each of these items took time and many steps required extra fees.

File "Getting Started Paperwork" with Agency

  • Fill in & file agency's preliminary application
  • Send agency photos of us and our house
  • Write a medical statement, elaborating on our treatment for any medical conditions
  • Line up four non-relative references
  • One copy of tax returns from past three years
  • Pay $200 fee to adoption agency
  • Notarize agency's adoption services agreement

Fill in the "Home Study Part 1 Paperwork." Each spouse does the following:

  • Fill in "Personal Data" form with 67 essay questions
  • 1 photocopy birth certificate
  • Complete Authorization of Release of Information - Employer Verification
  • Criminal Record Statement
  • LiveScan fingerprint form (for State of California: criminal and child abuse index)
  • Schedule & attend LiveScan fingerprinting appointments
  • Medical Exam, including HIV and TB tests, with Medical Report filled out by doctor
  • Complete detailed Financial Statement
  • 1 photocopy marriage license
  • Photo of baby's future room
  • Print Map & directions to home
  • Copy all, keep for records
  • Each of 4 non-relative references return 3-page, 10-essay questionnaires directly to agency

Home Study Part 2:

  • Receive & pay invoice for home study
  • Schedule social worker visits
  • Social worker visit #1 (both husband and wife)
  • Acceptable Medical Conditions Form filed
  • Social worker visit #2 (wife only)
  • Social worker visit #3 (husband only)
  • Sign up & take module 1 & 2 of agency's parenting class
  • Receive 2 completed, certified, notarized copies of Home Study from social worker
  • Agency sends completed Home Study to Korea (HSTK)

Post Home Study:

  • Sign up & take modules 3 & 4 of agency parenting class
  • I-600A filed with US-CIS (Advanced Processing of Orphan Petition for Visa) (4/6/2006), including the I600A form, Copy of certified home study, copies of each spouse's birth certificate, photocopy of marriage license, copy of most recent federal tax return, proof of medical insurance, $800 fee, cover letter.
  • FBI Fingerprinting
  • Receive I-171H (Approval of I-600A) from US-CIS

Get matched with a child (they call this "getting a referral"):

  • Receive Referral to a Child, which is a packet of information with the child's history, photos, medical records, etc.
  • Medical evaluation of Referral by Oakland Children's Hospital
  • File Referral Acceptance Paperwork to agency, along with huge fee to adoption agency.
  • File 3 Placement Agreements with agency - all notarized
    husband: 4 Statements of Adoption (for child's Korean passport) - all notarized
  • 3 Travel Option forms
  • 1 Foreign Travel Release - notarized
  • husband: 2 Affidavit re INS Vaccination Requirements
  • husband: two I-864 Affidavit of Support for Immigration filed with US-CIS
  • wife: two I-864A Contract between Sponsor and Household Member filed with US-CIS
  • Send US-CIS: copy of entire last year tax return, last year's W2 & 1099s, photocopies of both our birth certificates (again), copies of both our paystubs, Photocopy of marriage license (again)
    Receive child's "legals" from Korea (in English & Korean)
  • I-600 visa petition form filed w/ US-CIS. Includes copies of legals, I-600, I-171F, child report & photos, copy of most recent 1040 tax form, copy of I-864, copy of I-864A, letter to American Embassy in Seould with visa cable instructions

Meanwhile, the Korean adoption agency worked away:

  • Our application was translated into Korean
  • Korean agency applied for Emigration Permit ("EP") with Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • Ministry approves Emigration Permit
  • Agency gets I-171 (I-600 approval) cable from US Embassy in Seoul
  • Visa physical for baby, including Hepatitis B & HIV tests
  • Submit application for baby's IR-4 Visa
  • Resubmit our I-600 visa petition after US-CIS screws up and loses the first one

Then, we went go the "Travel" call and flew to Korea.

  • Plan trip & travel to Korea
  • In-Korea pre-flight medical exam
  • Go to US Embassy in Seoul to process Class-B Waiver (acceptance of medical condition)
  • Get the final Visa paperwork
  • Take custody of child!

Once home, there was more paperwork:

  • Receive Placement Confirmation Notice from Agency
  • Receive baby's Green Card in mail
  • Get social security number under baby's Korean Name as permanent resident
  • 4 post-placement visits from social worker, where I also had to create 5 page "progress reports" with answers to questions and photos.
  • File US Physician's Examination Report with Agency

Our adoption agency finishes the "post placement phase" and gives us approval to officially adopt the child in American court:

  • File Adoption Finalization Paperwork in our county in California: Forms ADOPT-200, ADOPT-210, ADOPT-215, and ADOPT-230
  • Receive "Consent to Adoption" from agency
  • Adoption Finalization hearing in County Court
  • Send agency/Korea copy of child's adoption decree (child is no longer considered a Korean citizen)
  • Secure proof of US citizenship for child: Complete & file N-600 with US-CIS, pay fee
  • Receive Certificate of Citizenship
  • File child's US passport application
  • Receive passport
  • Apply to Social Security Administration to get child's status changed from resident alien to citizen, SS# name changed (passport is proof)

And then start the process all over again for kid #2!