Adoption Timeline

Adoption timelines can vary significantly – our adoption from South Korea has been a lengthy one, with both a pandemic and a cross country move slowing down our process. On average, international adoptions can take anywhere from 1-4+ years (country dependent) – here’s a wonderful resource that shares program overviews and timelines for many (not all) countries.

2 people outside of USCIS building

Our Adoption Timeline and Process

December 2019

Talked with 5 adoption agencies and 1 international adoption physician to learn more about which program and which agency would be the best fit for our family. The week of Christmas, we officially started the paperwork with our international adoption agency (placing agency).

In our case, we have 2 agencies: a placing agency (dossier) and a home study agency (home study).

  • The placing agency handles all of the logistics concerning placement of a child with a family (for us this means that this agency works directly with an agency in South Korea). This agency also compiles all of your documents to be sent to the country for processing/filing/matching – this huge stack of paperwork is called a dossier.
  • The home study agency is typically local to you and works with your family to complete the written documents that certify you as eligible parents (your home study that is included with your dossier) and helps prepare you and your home for adoption.
  • In some cases, the placing agency can also be your home study agency, but it’s dependent on where you live and what states the placing agency is licensed in. Our placing agency is located in New York and our home study agency is located in Illinois (before we moved, our home study agency was located in Arizona).

January 2020

Found out that the international adoption agency we originally chose was not going to renew their Hague accreditation, so we were back at square 1. We talked with a couple more agencies and chose an agency based in New York. Choosing an agency is such a personal decision – the one we are working with is small but mighty and when we call, they know us by name – something that was incredibly important to us.

On 1/29/20 we had our first home study visit with our social worker (in Phoenix) and completed our first round (of many!) FBI fingerprint clearances. I remember feeling so nervous to meet our social worker – but she was nothing but kind, caring, and supportive.

February 2020

Completed much of the home study paperwork – more fingerprints, physical evaluations from our PCP, documents about our finances, certified copies of our marriage license and birth certificates, applied for background clearances from every state we’ve lived in, home inspection, adoption trainings, personal recommendations from dear friends, and more.

March 2020

On 3/25/20 we met our social worker for the second home visit – our portion of our home study is now complete. At this point, our social worker has what she needs to put together her report about our eligibility as parents BUT we are still waiting on a couple state clearances to come back.

collage of 3 images of adoption paperwork

April 2020

With our home study paperwork complete, we focused on and finished all of the required documents for our dossier. Most of the paperwork was the same, but we also had to complete additional trainings and a psychological evaluation. On 4/11/20 we mailed our dossier documents to our international adoption agency!

June 2020

Finally received all of our state clearances (my WI clearance is what slowed us down – I had to receive state AND county clearance, and I think with the start of the pandemic, this clearance process slowed dramatically). Our social worker has what she needs to finish our home study and send it to the Arizona Juvenile Courts. (Arizona is one of a few states – or maybe the only? – that requires another level of home study approval.)

August 2020

Our home study is complete and sent to the AZ courts on 8/4/20. This court approval process should take less than a month.

October 2020

Received home study approval on 10/13/20! At this point, our dossier is ready to go and we are able to complete/submit our I-600A documents. The I-600A is an application form from the US Citizens and Immigrations Services (USCIS) department for “advance processing of an orphan petition.” This form is sent to USCIS to determine our eligibility as prospective adoptive parents. We’ll have an interview with USCIS and more fingerprinting before we receive I-600A approval.

Our dossier was sent to Korea on 10/23/20 and arrived in Korea on 10/26/20. Now we wait 🙂

collage of 3 images of adoption paperwork

December 2020

Make the very difficult decision to move to Chicago in the middle of the adoption process (we move next month). Because our current home study agency is not licensed in IL, we have to find a new home study agency and complete an entirely new home study for our new home/state – this is different than a home study “update.”

In early December we were notified of our appointment with USCIS in Phoenix and on 12/17/20 we had our appointment! We had been waiting on this appointment since October and was something we absolutely needed to fit in before our move (or would have had to fly back to Phoenix for). You are randomly assigned a time and a date and essentially have to show up – no rescheduling or choosing a time that is more convenient for you.

After the holidays, we started the new home study process with our IL agency – they have been nothing but helpful!

January 2021

Moved to Chicago and settled into our new home. On 1/19/21 we received our I-600A approval in the mail – the *very* first piece of mail we received in Chicago. If that isn’t a sign, I’m not sure what is!!

On 1/26/21 we had our first home visit with our new social worker. She is quite possibly the sweetest, most delightful person and we look forward to every visit with her!

March 2021

On 3/3/21 we received our approved IL home study in the mail. This was a much faster and more seamless process than our AZ home study.

We also received our revised I-600A approval – we had to update this with our new address/home study.

Summer 2021

From March (really the end of October 2020) to this point, we’ve been waiting on a referral. A referral is essentially a child’s file – all of the current, background, and medical information available about a specific child. Upon acceptance of a referral, it’s a “match.” We wait, wait, wait, and wait some more.

July 2021

No news all month long. I had heard stories about families going on vacation and unexpectedly receiving a child’s file while away – but thought there was no way that could happen to us! Sure enough, we were traveling to the west coast for a friend’s wedding and when we landed in Seattle, there was an email from our adoption agency that would change our life forever. “Grant, Would you or Hilari call me at your earliest convenience?” At that moment, we knew life was about to change. On Friday, 7/30/21, we received a referral, saw the sweetest face, and knew he was meant to be ours.

Our agency requires an international adoption physician to review the referral prior to acceptance, and it was the longest weekend of our life waiting on our doctor’s review!

August 2021

On 8/3/21, we accepted this child’s referral and told our families that baby boy is joining our family! We completed all of the acceptance paperwork and it arrived in Korea on 8/18/21. Now we’re waiting for Emigration Permit (EP) submission and approval – this grants our child legal permission to leave South Korea with us specifically, and takes us one step closer to custody. The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare is responsible for granting EP approval – they review our child’s file and our file before issuing this approval. This process typically takes 2-3 months.

We also mailed our first care package to Korea!

collage of 3 images of polaroid pictures, cocktails, and a kid's gift

October 2021

On 10/25/21 we were EP submitted! We’re hopeful that approval will happen sometime before the end of the year. We spent the month organizing and setting up his room, and are counting down the days until we can meet him!

January 2022

What a month!

  • We celebrated our little guy’s first birthday on January 4th with a homemade sprinkle cake!
  • A couple days later, we received EP approval on 1/7/22! Because we didn’t receive approval before the holidays, we anticipated another long wait. Little did we know that a week into the new year we’d receive this HUGE news!
  • And, 5 days later on 1/12/21, our case was court submitted. We now have a judge assignment and are waiting for a court date.
collage of 3 images of celebrating a birthday and preparing a nursery

February 2022

We have a court date! We have the Thursday judge and our court date is March 31, 2022 at 10:15am local time (so Wednesday evening in the US).

March 2022

Because of quarantine, we leave Friday, March 18 and land at ICN on March 19. We’ll quarantine for 7 days (though it may end up being 8 nights depending on what time we make it to the quarantine facility) and check into our longterm hotel the following weekend. We’ll meet our son sometime the week of March 28 and go to court on March 31.

We anticipate that we’ll take custody sometime the week of April 25, but won’t know a definite custody date until about 1 week prior. I booked an arbitrary return flight home that I imagine we’ll end up changing, but my guess is that we’ll be home around May 1!

3/31/22 Update: Our court date was cancelled because the judge had covid! This has never happened before so we are in a holding pattern.

April 2022

What a wild ride! After we met our son on March 28 and again on March 30, we found out that our judge had covid – meaning, we didn’t appear in the Seoul Family Court. Grant flew home on 4/3 and I stayed in Seoul for an extra week just in case I was needed in person. On 4/7, we received rumor of initial approval and I flew home on 4/8.

We flew back to Seoul on 4/23 and took custody of our sweet boy on Wednesday, April 27th. Our official “Gotcha Day!”

All adoption posts here.

2 people holding a package to mail