Tuesday's Answers: Home Study/Dossier Tips

Our first dossier spread out over our ten foot long table – August 2006

Last week’s Tuesday Topic was:

What helpful hints do you have for families who are preparing their Home Study and/or Dossier?

Thank you to everyone who responded. Here are excerpts of what you had to say. The complete comments can be found in the comments section of the original post.

Blogger this is us said…

I remember this so clearly! During our first adoption, I was running to Office Depot ALL the time to make photocopies and the day we decided to start our second adoption, I bought a printer/copier/scanner for $79 – the first money we spent on that adoption. I was so thrilled to be able to handle that part of the paperwork right at home!

If you have to make a copy or order a copy of something (birth certificates, drivers licenses, tax returns, etc.), go ahead and make/order and extra 2 or 3 copies at the same time. It’s so nice to get a request for something and have an extra there already in your file (we found this handy especially for grant applications, etc.).Delete


Blogger triplehmoms said…

If you don’t have a check list, create one! Most documents need to be notarized, certified/apostilled, and then authenticated. Make a check off column for each step of these steps for each document. This will help you to be able to see some progress!
Look over the documents needed for both your homestudy and your dossier, if possible. There are somethings that you could get at the same time, like doctor/health letters, without having to go back again.
I realize that my scope is limited as I have only adopted from Guatemala which isn’t open right now but I’ve done 3 adoptions!

Blogger Mark and Sarah said…

I think getting organized is key. For our first adoption, we weren’t very organized and used post-it flags with the names of each document, but it felt chaotic. This time, I created two binders–one for our homestudy documents and the other for our dossier documents. Each binder had a checklist of documents needed in the front, with a checklist for where we were in the process for each document(request made, received). Each binder had a slew of pocket dividers that held each document separately. I can’t tell you how helpful this system was in keeping everything straight.Delete

Blogger Vicki said…

I am waiting for my caseworker to come to my house right now to do my homestudy. This is my second homestudy. I am trying to adopt an older child through the US foster care system. My first agency was more foster care than adoptive placement. My new agency is a small Christian agency that primarily does adoption. Regardless of where you adopt, I think keeping copies of everything is extremely important. It took me 4 months from start to finish for my first homestudy and that was working at a crazy pace. My second homestudy has only taken me two weeks from start to finish. My former agency wouldn’
t give up any part of my homestudy, so I had to start over. The only thing I didn’t have to re-do are the the classes because I kept proof at attendance.

I think to move quickly with a homestudy you need an agency that does not mind frequent calls. My first agency didn’t care for phone calls. My current agency is just as excited as I am to move this along quickly and welcomes the calls. I talk to the director as often as my caseworker and they will talk to me for an hour if I want… Small agencies have their benefits.

Blogger thecurryseven said…

Binders! Binders with clear plastic sleeve protectors, to be exact. I went through my list of required documents and made a plastic sleeve (labelled) for each one. In the front I made a check list of each document, so I could see at a glance what I had and what I needed and also which documents still needed work…certifications and what not. The minute I received a document, it went straight into the binder. That way I knew where everything was and what I still needed to do. It was the thing that saved my sanity. I did the same thing for collecting our sons’ visa application documents as well.Delete

Blogger Ann said…

Buy lots of computer paper, ink cartridges and manila envelopes. Find out where and how to mail things FED EX. Find a bank offering free notary service. Find a traveling notary service. Get several copies of everything–marriage, birth cert. etc.–read the dossier instructions over, and over, and over again! Keep an accordian folder with each dossier document in a labeled slot.

One last suggestion, when it all seems overwhelming, set the kitchen timer and work on it for just 30 minutes. Anyone can do anything for 30 minutes.

And of course, think about your child. Waiting even one extra day might mean a delay of several weeks/months if there are changes in process. If we had waited even one extra week to mail our dossier our son would have waited an extra three months because of immigration paperwork changes.Delete

Blogger Ajay said…

Buy a copier/scanner/fax machine combo! Just when you think you’re done making copies and sending faxes…get ready to make some more! Also, be prepared to become good friends with your local notary! =0)Delete

Blogger Nancy said…

A 3-ring-binder with lots of those clear plastic page protectors, divided into sections. Every document was photocopied with 3-4 extras and then the original slipped on top with a post-it that said “original” so I didn’t inadvertently give it away at the wrong time. Then each doc had it’s own page protector that kept everything neat and easily identifiable and no need to 3 hole punch precious documents. It also had lists of contact information with email and phone numbers… I was able to find a soft-covered 3-ring that was easy to tuck in our carry on luggage or my backpack when we traveled to adopt. That binder went everywhere with me, on any adoption related errand for almost 2 years! And I was amazed at the amount of times that I needed something in it when I didn’t think I would. It was a life and time saver.Delete

Blogger Michelle said…

Try not to get overwhelmed by the big picture. Just take it step by step and you’ll get it done.

Oh..and read everything you can about notaries in your state. One wrong statement/signature and you’ll have to start over with that document!Delete

Blogger Sean’s Ladies said…

Depending on the country…if you are doing a private or independent adoption- hire the professional translator. it may cost a bit more but they are used to dossiers. They know the technical language, formats, etc. and can usually turn around the docs in a couple of days. We lost months w/ well intentioned bilingual people. HTH

Thank you for these great answers! Here is mine:

The year before we began the adoption process, I bought a photocopier and thanked God for it multiple times throughout our homestudy and dossier pursuit. It was worth every penny and it continues to be used heavily for homeschooling.

My other bit of advice is make writing letters as easy as possible for your references. We gave our friends as much information as we could to save time, which resulted in a quick turn around. For less personal letters, such as Russ’ employer, we wrote a sample letter including start date, salary, etc. to save time for the person writing it. We also set up an appointment with the notary at our credit union, laid out our entire dossier (all three copies) on a long table, and notarized it all at once. I kept multiple check lists and slept very little, but we got our paperwork done quickly and it was worth it to me.

I hope this is helpful to families in process. Be sure to check this week’s Tuesday Topic!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Leslie
    October 27, 2009

    I meant to commment on this question but got sidetracked! What worked for me was to make an Excel spreadsheet with a list of all of the things needed for the homestudy in the rows and when they were ordered and received and how much they cost in the columns. Some of the same things are needed for the dossier, so I used the Excel sheet to also list out and check off (and date) the things compiled for the dossier. It really helped me because I'm not very organized but I was able to just think of it as checking them off one by one, which made it not so difficult. I also used the spreadsheet to list out the steps of the process, which for Haiti has a million steps, and that really helped me to check off those steps in the process one by one! I also, as suggested your post, wrote a sample letter for my references and doctor. Thanks for this post–I think it will help others! If you are starting this process, it really is doable and so worth it!

  2. Chantelle
    October 27, 2009

    I've done 4 dossier's before, but this was still helpful info!! Thanks, ladies! My favorite tip is STICKY NOTES!! I stick 'em on EVERYTHING so I can quickly reference what each paper needs done to it – (notarizing, sending somewhere, etc). Helps me! 🙂

  3. Amanda Kester
    October 27, 2009

    Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who responded.My husband and are right in this phase of our first adoption and this information is invaluable!

    Amanda Kester

  4. Jillian and Crew
    October 27, 2009

    I love all the advice and BTDT wisdom..love the "anyone can do anything for 30 minutes"…I am going to have to apply this to working out! LOL


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