Third time’s the charm
When we started the process to adopt a child from India, we were warned that we would need to be extremely patient since the process could take a long time and be full of surprises and bottlenecks. While we did not take this advice lightly, we could not foresee that we would have to go through the referrals of three children before finally bringing our son home exactly three years after we started the process.
After completing the home study and Dossier, we applied with CARA on February 1, 2014. Since we wanted a child who was under two years of age and with limited special needs, our agency set expectations that the referral could take anywhere between 12-24 months. So we went into wait mode and followed the regular updates that were being provided by our agency. CARA made some changes to the adoption process in mid-2014, which were meant to expedite referral, so we were hopeful that we would get a referral soon. However, we were a bit disappointed to learn that other parents who applied much later than us got referrals, but we didn’t. Upon further inquiry, our agency said that since we selected a state preference, our referral was not coming up from the central pool of child referrals being assigned by CARA. We asked our agency to remove the state preference, which took over two months to change and required many follow-ups with CARA.
A year quickly passed by since our CARA application had been submitted and we were wondering when our turn would come. One chilly February morning, while driving to the office, I got a call from our agency with good news that we got a referral for a child. Since we only had 48 hours to respond, I immediately turned around and went home to look into the details along with my wife. The referral we got was for an 18-month-old girl child from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. This was a place where I grew up and so was quite excited about that connection. We immediately contacted a pediatrician (based in the U.S) that specializes in international adoption and sent her the Child Study Report (CSR) and Medical Examination Report(MER). She understood the need to respond quickly and when we met her the next day, the doctor pointed out that the child’s age might have been misrepresented, since some of the milestones indicate she might be over three years old. There was also a date discrepancy in the CSR, which showed that she was registered with CARA before her birth date. We pointed this discrepancy to CARA and asked for clarification, which was not provided with in the time we had to reserve.
After consulting with our pediatrician, we decided to not move forward and let CARA know that since the child referred did not meet our age criteria, we should not be put back at the end of the queue. Our agency warned us that CARA generally did not consider these type of requests, but we were persistent and followed up directly with CARA many times. CARA eventually provided a clarification that the date discrepancy in the CSR was just an error that was corrected and informed us that since we did not reserve the child, we were placed in the back of the queue.
The second round of waiting began and we began losing hope. Eight months passed before we got the referral for another child. This time it was a 1-year-old boy from the state of Manipur. We were excited, but cautious given our first experience.
We followed the process of providing the CSR and MER to our pediatrician and she raised some concerns around the child’s health, which we requested clarifications on. The clarifications could not be provided within the 48 hour window, but we decided to take a chance and reserve the child as we still had 30 days to conduct further medical check ups. Since we didn’t know anyone in Manipur, we started making plans to have someone go to the orphanage and get some medical tests done.
Within a day after we made the reservation, CARA informed our agency that the child assigned to us was not available for international adoption and should not have been assigned in the first place. We were beyond upset that something like this could happen. I contacted CARA and got in touch with the regional coordinator responsible for child referrals and made my case that since this was a mistake committed by CARA, we should be given priority for our next referral.
The person I spoke with was responsive, but non-committal. So we did not have much hope and were thinking that this will be another year of wait time at best.
However, we were quite surprised to get our next referral within a week. This time it was two referrals – one for a two-year-old girl from Chennai and another for a six-month-old boy child from Bangalore. We followed through with diligence on the MERs & CSRs with our pediatrician and decided to move forward with the baby boy, due to his age and better clarity on the MER documentation. The orphanage was also very responsive and provided clarifications within the 48 hour window.
Within the next two weeks, my brother and brother-in-law both went to Bangalore, saw our son, had some basic medical tests done and reassured us that this was a healthy baby with no issues to report. We were ecstatic and confirmed the referral immediately.
Once we confirmed the referral, the next step was to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from CARA, which is a certificate proving that the child is legally free and clear for adoption. The regulations state that it should be issued within one month, but thirty days passed and there was no sign of the NOC. By this time, I was directly in touch with the orphanage and the Director told me that CARA is objecting to give NOC for a healthy child for international adoption. This gave us another scare and I started aggressively following up with the people responsible for giving the NOC at CARA. Finally, after two months, we got the NOC and were able to move forward with the court process.
The court process took around three months, followed by a month for passport and visa.
In the end, we brought our son home ten days before his first birthday. Even though it was an arduous process with many ups and downs, I am glad we were persistent and aggressive in following up with CARA and escalating at every point there was an obstacle. While we went through a roller coaster ride of emotions, setbacks and breakthroughs, I am glad it turned out to be a fairy tale ending.
Some advice I would offer other prospective families:
- Be patient, but persistent throughout the process.
- Do not hesitate to contact CARA directly and escalate as needed.
- Do your diligence on medical exams, so you’re well informed.
- Don’t feel guilty about passing on a referral. In the end, you and your family should be comfortable with the decision. No one else’s opinion matters.