1. Get a passport or renew your passport in plenty of time - even if you are planning to use an escort. Photocopy the front page and carry it with 2 passport pictures in a separate place from your passport in case you lose it and need it reissued.
2. Get vaccinated. Check with the Center for Disease control or your physician for recommended vaccines. Some shots are most effective when given in a series (like Hepatitis B) so start them well in advance.
3. Learn to speak some basic words in your child's native language (hello, thank you, goodbye, etc.). A tape in a child's language can also be a soothing sound for your child during the first few weeks
4. See if you can find some music from your child's country and buy a CD. http://www.celebratechild.com is a good place to start looking
5. Read books, articles & websites about the country and its culture
6. Explore international adoption web sites - some of them have bookstores/gift shops that have items unique to different countries.
7. Read books & articles about baby & child care and development. Some tried and true stand bys include:
• "What to Expect the First Year & ""What to Expect the Toddler Years"
• Sears & Sears "Baby & Child Care"
8. Read books & articles about attachment, bonding, strategies for developmental delays, especially if your child is over 2 years old. Also read some books on parenting in general and on parenting an adopted child. Try RainbowKids.com.
9. Join an e-group or support group for your country. If you don't want to actively participate, you can still learn a lot from reading about other people's experiences and questions. You might try http://www.yahoogroups.com or http://www.adopting.com/mailing.html.
10. Get 3 years of W-2s, tax returns and employment letters ready -- you'll need these for the I-864 (Affidavit of Support) for your child's embassy appointment -- remember to get tax returns and the I-864 notarized.
11. Gather any other travel documents you might need (passport, other documents required by your agency). Get extra authenticated copies of your adoption documents when the legal process is completed; they'll be needed for other legal processes when you return.
12. Keep track of your adoption expenses. There is a substantial tax credit available to many people in the year they adopt
13. Get forms you'll need when you return:
• Know the process/forms for adding your child to your insurance plans. Some insurance plans may let you add the child to your coverage effective on your court date rather than waiting until you are home.
• Form SS-5 social security application (you'll need a SS# for your tax return
• Get the forms for re-adoption and/or name change if applicable in your state
• G-884 form (file with INS to get original documents back)
• Citizenship (N-643 Citizenship on Behalf of Adopted Children)
• Employer's reimbursement (if applicable), state/federal subsidy forms if applicable
14. Make a will; be sure to designate a guardian for your children!
15. Select a pediatrician/doctor. Make an appointment for the week after you return.
16. Talk to your agency about the appropriateness/advisability of donations/gifts for orphanage, foundation, or foster care family, escort (ask your agency for guidance and suggestions)
17. Make a list of questions to ask your child's have the opportunity to meet them. Some things to consider: favorite foods & drinks; sleep habits; favorite toys, blankets and activities; napping; habits; general likes & dislikes; bath routine.
18. If you are traveling and you have other children who will be staying home while you are gone, write a letter/form of consent for your family or friends so they can make medical decisions for your at-home children while you are gone.
19. Explore your child care options, as well as early intervention options for learning disabilities, sensory integration & attachment etc. Many child care facilities have lengthy waiting lists. If you need to arrange child care, select a caregiver and get on the list as soon as you know you are going to adopt.
20. Make a week's worth of meals and freeze. Find recipes and practice making quick meals. Dust off your crock pot and its cookbook. Stock up on non-perishables for your pantry and paper goods (paper towels, Kleenex, toilet paper, diapers, wipes, etc.).
21. Get your annual medial exams, dental exams, eye exams (take an extra pair of glasses/contacts with you), fill your prescriptions.
22. Decorate the child's room. Furnish it with the basics: bed, rocking chair, dresser. Maybe add a touch or two representative of their birth country.
23. Clean out and organize garage, closets, basements, attics. Have a garage sale or donate to charity.
24. Nest - do chores that you have been postponing: shampoo carpets, clean out refrigerator, have the furnace and air condition serviced, have the car tuned, paint walls, organize your photos, etc.
25. Start a lifebook for your child! You will never have time when you get home, so beginning this project now is a must.
26. Write a journal for your child about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences during the adoption process.
27. Order or create a Time Capsule to fill with mementos like the outfit your child wore home, airline tickets, your referral, a newspaper from the day they arrived home, your journal, well-used translation book; etc
28. Participate in an on-line chat about attachment, adopting. RainbowKids.com has numerous chats every month.
29. Childproof your home - outlet covers, blind cord ties, safety gates, child locks, cabinet latches. Do you have a car seat appropriate for the size and wt of your child?
30. Write your "new addition" announcement. Address & stamp them so they can be mailed as soon as you are home with your child (or even at the airport if you're meeting an escort).
31. Buy "thank you" cards for the gifts, meals, and time others may give you.
32. Buy film or additional memory for your camera; take pictures now, on your trip/at the airport meeting your escort & when you return home. Make an email distribution list of all the people you want to share those first pictures with.
33. Make a little photo album of your family and home to show your child on the long plane ride home.
34. Make a packing list
35. Do you crochet? Make a blanket in the color of your child's country flag.
36. Collect some recipes for the country your child is from. Try some out.
37. Make a country book for your child - include geography, culture, flag, trade & industry, economy etc. Also include some news articles from the time your child lived in the country
38. Subscribe to an adoption or parenting magazine or both
39. Re-file all the important documents, especially those compiled in the past year. But know where they are because you will need some of them again for paperwork you'll need to do when you get home.
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There is more to that child than the special needs glaring at you from the page
It is important that you find a professional who has specific training, continuing education and experience in the areas of childhood trauma and attachment
In an advocate's words
Lessons learned through a personal journey to grow his family through adoption
Only two US adoption agencies are accredited to provide adoption services in South Africa