To understand the process of international adoptions, you need to begin with a lot of patience, faith, stamina, tenacity, and unfortunately, money.
We decided that a South American child, would fit well within our family. That is the first decision a family has to make. For us, it was an easy one. We did not want a child that had been in an orphanage. Guatemala happens to have wonderful foster care. The foster families love the children and raise them as if they were their own.
Once we made that decision, we found an agency within our area that had a facilitator, or attorney, in Guatemala. We chose a reputable agency, that we could trust. Since there are many days of waiting, often with no answers to questions, it is important to have someone trustworthy to handle things.
After choosing a country for adoption, the prospective parents must complete a dossier; a list of documents that every country requires. For Guatemala, that package includes a home study completed by a social worker; birth certificates, employment letters and physicals for both parents; a marriage license, and letters of reference. Also, child abuse clearance, fingerprints cleared by the FBI, and police letters stating that there are no criminal charges pending. In addition, papers are sent to INS, which in effect approves you to adopt from the country you are requesting. That document is sent to the American Embassy, where you will eventually be interviewed.
After all these documents are collected, they need to be notarized. They need to be certified by the county office that holds the notary's certification. Then they go to the Guatemalan government for authentication. At each step, there is a fee. Once the packet is completed, our agency sent it down to Guatemala to await an available child. In our case, our daughter Rachel was waiting for us.
At this point, after reviewing her paperwork, pictures, physicals, and blood work, there is an agreement drawn up between the agency and us. It is notarized, certified and authenticated by the Guatemalan government, then sent to the attorney.