Posted to thailandadopt listserv 8/25/2006
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Kim Longfield" <kim.longfield@...> wrote:
My name's Kim and I'm new to the group. I have a bunch of information to share other [American expatriates] adopting in Thailand.
We worked directly with DPW to be placed with our daughter (Thai name = Kanokrat; Western name = Kaelin; current age = 10.5 months). We received Kaelin at the end of March and are still in our probationary period. We hope to legalize the adoption under Thai law on November 22nd (the date of the registration meeting).
Although it can be frustrating and confusing at times, I suggest you work directly with the DPW. Since you're here, it doesn't cost anything to adopt through them. The cost is incurred when you start the US visa process. As you know from living in Thailand, you'll need to "jai yen yen" (be cool), but you'll eventually navigate the process.
Here's some information I prepared for friends that outlines our experience. Hopefully you'll find it helpful.
*Conception:* Before starting the process, we cruised websites, spoke with Thai friends, spoke with contacts at BAMBI (Bangkok Mothers and Babies International, http://www.bambiweb.org/), and met with other parents (living in Bangkok) who'd adopted locally. Based on information collected from these sources, we contacted the DPW in May 2005 and requested an informational interview with a caseworker suggested by one of the adoptive couples we had met. As it happened, we never actually ended up meeting with that particular caseworker; instead, we were assigned a different caseworker by the DPW.
At this interview, we received a list of materials required to apply, about 20 documents in total plus a few others (not on the list) that our caseworker identified. The list of materials is outlined in the brochure they likely gave you - a new document, I think, that's much more informative than anything we received during our application process. The other materials we needed were a personal biography for each of us, a description of our family backgrounds, updated c.v.'s, and an explanation of how long we plan to live in Thailand.
Compiling the materials took approximately three months. The hardest item to obtain was the FBI background check because we had to obtain fingerprint records from the Thai police headquarters in Bangkok, then find a Thai bank that would issue a money order in USD. (Note that the bank to go to is Siam Commerical on the south side of Chitlom across from the InterCon and Holiday Inn. It's in the back of that goofy building with the Watsons out front).
Letters of recommendation from our friends and colleagues also took some effort (we drafted a letter and had them edit it to suit their preference – most people don't know where to start writing such a letter).
Once compiled, all materials were about as thick as an In Style magazine - most of the bulk was from financial documents (copies of all bank accounts, lists of assets minus debts, retirement funds, investments, etc.). When we turned in our paperwork in August, our caseworker said we needed a few more items in order to complete the application, including a statement from my husband explaining why he didn't have a work permit in Thailand, photos of the inside of the house, a statement saying that we agree to finalize the adoption according to Thai law, and the FBI check (which we hadn't yet received).
In addition to the above listed documents, we needed to complete a home visit and did so on September 5th. Our caseworker took a cursory glance around the house and then started interviewing us: "Describe your spouse," "What's your parenting style?" "How much experience do you have with children?" "What role does religion play in your life and what role will it play in your child's life?" and several other open-ended questions. Our caseworker's English is limited and she nodded a great deal during the interview, indicating to us that her understanding was limited. It also appeared to us that the content of our answers was less important than her impression and the "feeling" she got from us (something very important in Thai culture).
*Gestation:* Then we waited, and waited, and waited. We decided to start bugging our caseworker on a monthly basis after the New Year (but in a very friendly, Thai way). In January, my husband called and reminded her of our application and the fact that we were planning to leave Thailand in Fall 2006, which had implications for the fostering period (described later). I called her in February and she asked us to send a letter to her boss, the Director of the Child Adoption Center, stating our case and asking that she expedite the process so that we could complete the 6-month fostering period and legalize the adoption while still living in Bangkok. The letter appeared to have done the trick. We received a call from our caseworker two weeks later explaining that we had been matched with a 5-month old baby girl. We were overjoyed and surprised to learn that we'd been matched with a child so young – our understanding was that we wouldn't be able to adopt a child under one year old (perhaps a misunderstanding on our part).
*False labor:* After our caseworker explained that we'd been matched, she asked that we submit additional paperwork (an updated copy of my work permit and copies of our updated Thai visas). We also understood her to say that after the Adoption Board approved our application on March 8th, we'd "have" the child on March 9th. We waited anxiously by the phone on the 8th; and called our caseworker that afternoon who told us that she'd call us back with the results by 4pm – she didn't. We called the next morning and she said, "Good news, the Board approved the match. Would you like to see a picture of your daughter?" I said, "I thought you said we'd 'have' her today." "You do have her, but only picture" (like I said, her English isn't so great). We then dragged a Thai friend along with us to the DPW, met with our caseworker, and tried our best to understand the delivery process. This misunderstanding was especially frustrating since I'd planned to start parental leave on March 9th and had made all arrangements to do so.
*Continued Gestation:* After receiving a picture and having a brief glance at Kanokrat's medical and family history, our caseworker explained that the following needed to happen before delivery: 1) Submit two letters, an intent to adopt Kanokrat and an intent to attend the April 12th Board Meeting where we'd be interviewed along with other parents on the same adoption schedule; 2) Visit the Phayathai Babies' Home along with a representative from the DPW to meet Kanokrat for the first time; 3) Visit the Babies' home twice on our own and take Kanokrat home on the third visit; 4) Translate the medical records and family history into English (DPW does this).
*Labor pains:* We received Kanokrat's translated medical records and family history on March 24th. We also met Kanokrat for the first time at the Babies' home. When we first saw her she was lethargic, her head floppy, breathing labored, and eyes drawn and heavy. We worried that something was seriously wrong with her. We worried for two days and then took friends (with children) to visit her again on March 26th. We played with Kanokrat for approximately two hours and she looked and acted better than during the previous visit. After looking her over and asking the caretakers very specific questions in Thai, our friends assured us that Kanokrat was normal, but a bit sick (given the hot, humid conditions at the orphanage, which had air conditioners installed but not turned on, this was not surprising).
*Delivery:* We returned to the Babies' home the next day (March 27th) and brought Kanokrat home. We immediately took her to a pediatrician at BNH (Dr. Kwanmuang - excellent) who examined her, gave her a follow-up DPT vaccination, and prescribed some medications for her congestion. After that, we visited a pulmonary/child allergy specialist at Bumrungrad (Dr. Karl - also excellent). Kanokrat was a little below average in size and muscle development, and was diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Airways Disease, essentially asthma). She had some fungal and bacterial infections on her skin (likely from living in a hot orphanage and having sweat trapped in her folds of skin), and she had some eczema. She's fine now, but still on allergy medication and will likely continue to be until we move out of Bangkok.
*Post Delivery:* Shortly after receiving Kaelin, we obtained her birth certificate and went to the passport agency to get her Thai passport (all the children in her cycle were there getting theirs at the same time along with some of the ladies from Phayathai Babies Home). On April 12th, we attended a Board meeting to confirm that we'd continue fostering Kaelin for the next six+ months and then adopt her. Our caseworker conducted a home visit in June and then we took Kaelin to the DPW for the second visit in August. Our daughter's great and the love of our life. Now that she's in her 10th month, she's doing more interesting and clever things every day. She's still a little small and weak in the upper body, but otherwise appears fine. She loves her classes at the Little Gym (Paragon) and will soon start swimming lessons at Bangkok Dolphins. Her favorite things are the sky train, apple sauce, sweet potatoes, avocados, the snuggler, our cats, and books. She also loves attention, especially from Thai ladies. Our biggest challenges have been getting her to eat and sleep enough. Hopefully we'll conquer both fronts soon: eating is happening faster than sleeping. Bonding was not an issue - we all quickly took to one another.
*What Remains to be Done:* There's one more home visit to complete in October. On November 22nd, we'll finalize the adoption by attending a registration meeting. Now that we've started the I600 process, we understand that what's acceptable for the Thai government (home visits, finger prints, background checks, etc.) isn't necessarily acceptable for the US government (hence my question above). Expect to duplicate your efforts and produce a similar set of paperwork for the I600 and the US visa. Also, just because you have friends who work at the Embassy doesn't mean they'll necessarily be helpful. We have friends who work there too and they can't tell us much, if anything, about other departments. As a user, expect to know the system better than they do. We've completed most paperwork for the I600 but need to complete the home study. Once we do and we have a decree that the adoption is final (under Thai law), we can apply for the US visa. I'll start that paperwork well in advance of November, just so we're safe and can move back to DC in December as planned.
Other Things You Should Know:
When you receive your child and his/her birth certificate, you should have it translated into English - it should be certified translation. You can do this at Siam Translation at the bottom of the Ploenchit BTS stop on Wireless Road. There are several translation places clustered together, but this one is for sure acceptable to the US Embassy and certified.
During the fostering period, your child will have a Thai passport. You can tiaow (travel) with him/her as much as you'd like within Thailand. However, if you travel with him/her outside of Thailand, you must get permission from the Director of Adoptions. This can take some time so plan ahead. You'll need this letter and the translated birth certificate in order to obtain most visas. You'll also need your Memorandum of Agreement and the "To Whom it May Concern" letter that your caseworker will give to you.
Hopefully you find this account informative and helpful. Best of luck and let me know if you need any more information. Other parents and contacts at BAMBI helped us a lot. I'd be glad to put you in touch with them too.
Posted 8/26/06 by robynn:
Congrats on your adoption. It sounds like it went pretty quickly. I bet your were quite pleased. Thank you SO much for the extensive informtion you provided to me. It will be very useful in the coming months.
I have been going around and around on the police check requirement. At first the social worker said we just go in to the Bangkok police to get it done. I called her to see if we perhaps needed an appointment and she said - oh - you need an application from me, so I have to go back to her to get that. However, while at the embassy, they told me to go to the dept of homeland security to have the background check done. So, I called them. They said no, call the FBI. So, I called them and they said I needed to come to their office to get the fingerprint cards, then give those to the Thai police for fingerprinting, then bring them back to the FBI for the check. I asked for the floor or suite number where I could pick them up and was told "oh you are not allowed in our building - you have not had a background check!" Duh! Anyway - I have to call from the street and someone will come down and hand them to me! Geez!
So, I guess I am off to the social worker next week to get her form, then to the FBI to get their forms. Then to find the police station where we can get this process moving. It sure seems like a lot of hurry up and wait! I've pretty much got everything else done. I want to get this filed asap so that we will be able to get a placement and still have at least 6 months in thailand. I'll let you know how this week goes.
Posted by Kim, 8/27/06
I had forgotten about the confusion and hassle getting the finger print cards. I did meet someone at the gate of the Embassy (the other side of Wireless, the compound with the Ambassador's residence) and she gave me the cards. Then we went to the police station and got the Thai background check.
Remember that there are two background checks: one for the FBI and one for Thailand. The Thai police are certified to take your finger prints on behalf of the FBI (on the official blue and white cards). Try to get both checks completed during one trip if possible.
If it's any consolation, the Thai police were absolutely charming and efficient. They even offered to retake my picture when I told them it was "mai sewai" (not pretty).
You know that the police station is at the corner of Henri Dunang and Rama I, right? It's easy to get to if you get off at the the Siam BTS, walk along the south side of the overhead walkway toward Chitlom, and then come down the stairs nearest Henri Dunang. I wish I could describe how to get to the correct office in the police compound b/c we got lost the first time we tried to find it. I do remember that it's on the first floor and near a noodle stall or some such stall selling food.
Posted by Kim, 8/27/06
The UCIS office (US Citizen and Immigration Services, aka Homeland Security) requires their own fingerprints on a fancy schmancy new machine (they're electronic). The FBI, I believe, still requires the hard copy of the finger prints on the blue and white card.
When we completed the I600 application last month, Khun Sumee at UCIS said that we couldn't use our FBI fingerprints for their forms. UCIS is in the Sindhorn Building (Wireless Road, across from American Citizen Services), 15th floor.
In terms of the FBI cards, ours were mailed back to us with a stamp across them that said "no criminal record" or some such thing. We then gave the originals of these cards to our caseworker to complete the application.
Posted by Robynn, 8/30/06
I just got back from the DPDW. I submitted my application and all the necessary paperwork and photographs. Khun Sangkana then asked about my police check. I reminded her that she had told me I needed to bring in all the paperwork, then she would issue me the form I needed to get the check done. She also reminded me about the need for US background check. I told her they had to be done at the same time, and I couldn't do anything without her form. She glanced over my papers that I submitted and said the form would be mailed to me in a week. It takes about 1 month for the Thailand check and up to 2 months for the US check. So, now more waiting I guess!
I was only there about 3 minutes in total. I know there is a lot more still to come, but this seems like it is too easy (lots of waiting, but painless).