5 Things You Need to Know About Adopting a Child From China

5 Things You Need to Know About Adopting a Child From China

I started my career in adoption over 16 years ago and believed that God was calling me to not just work in adoption, but to one day build my family through adoption. Having studied Mandarin in undergrad and starting my career with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and then eventually the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, I was very well-versed regarding the process of adopting a child from China. Sadly, adopting a child from China was not a part of my life story, but I went through many of the steps and hope that my professional and personal experience can be helpful to other individuals and families looking to adopt from China. 

1. First Steps in Adopting a Child from China 

The first step in adopting a child from China is to find an agency that is accredited to work in China. In 2008, when I was Executive Director of Joint Council on International Children’s Services, the United States became party to a very important treaty on intercountry adoption called the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The treaty added lots of protection to both children and prospective adoptive families. It is only enforceable between countries that also have signed the Hague Adoption Convention. The process for adopting a child from China, which is also party to the Convention, is different from adopting a child from a country that is not a party to the Hague Adoption Convention.

Agencies who want to work in China and act as a facilitator for families adopting a child from China must be accredited to complete adoptions from China according to the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012

Adoption Directory is a wonderful site to find accredited adoption agencies near you that complete adoptions from China.

2. Who Is Eligible for Adopting a Child from China?

Due to the regulations in the Hague Adoption Convention, there are specific requirements prospective adoptive parents must meet according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. China also has specific requirements for families adopting a child from China. Finally, your agency may also have specific requirements unique to their agency for prospective adoptive families. It is important to do your research and understand all of the various requirements early in your adoption process. Some of these requirements change, specifically in regards to China’s requirements, so if you once were ineligible to adopt due to the number of children in your home or your age, that may have changed so keep following the new regulations. 

Before understanding the requirements to adopt, please know that sometimes China will approve prospective adoptive parents who may not meet all of the criteria to adopt. You can speak to your agency more about this case-by-case option.

Some of the current requirements for adopting a child from China include the following:

  • Prospective Adoptive Parents must be at least 30 years of age at the time the dossier is sent to China and 50 years of age or under. If both parents are over the age of 50 years of age, however, there must be less than a 50 year age gap between the child they are adopting from China. 
  • Couples who are adopting a child from China must have been married for at least two years when the dossier is sent to China. If either of the prospective adoptive parents has two divorces, the minimum length for the current marriage must be five years married or more. Time spent living together before the prospective adoptive couple was married can also be counted toward the total length of marriage per CCCWA’s policy. Neither couple can have more than two divorces. 
  • China is unique in that single women are eligible for adopting a child from China. Single women must have no more than two children under the age of 18 years in the home. Also, if you are a single woman, your youngest child must be at least three years of age when the dossier is sent to China.
  • The prospective adoptive family’s annual income must be at least $30,000. If there are children in the home, the adoptive parents must make an additional $10,000 per child. The net worth of the family must be at least $100,000.
  • Adoptive parents who are married must have no more than five children under 18 years of age in the home (the child you are adopting does not count).
  • The youngest child must be at least 3 years of age when the dossier is sent to China.
  • Prospective adoptive parents must have no major criminal history in their background check in the last 10 years prior to the dossier submission. If there is a minor indiscretion on the background check report, it will be considered by China on a case-by-case situation.
  • There must be no alcohol abuse for the past decade by either parent and no history of drug use or committing any abuse. 
  • Prospective adoptive parents must have a high school degree or GED.
  • Prospective adoptive parents must be in good health and if there is a history of mental illness it must be under control through medication with a favorable medical report and evaluation.
  • There are other requirements and specifics that your adoption agency can share, as they are often changing. 

3. Complete Your Dossier for Adopting a Child from China

After deciding on a Hague accredited adoption agency for adopting a child from China, the next step is to assemble all of the documents needed to form your dossier. These documents will be collected and completed over a 4 to 6 month period, depending on how quickly you can get them completed. Some of the documents are out of your control in terms of how long it will take to get them completed. However, with diligence and a good schedule, you can be closer to 4 months than 6 months. These dossier documents will be compiled and then they will go through several levels of authentication by the US and Chinese government officials. Each of the documents compiled in your dossier will need to be notarized, then certified by the Secretary of State in the state in which they originated.

Once that is complete, they then need to be authenticated by the Chinese consulate. The dossier is essentially the legal framework for adopting a child from China. Many families who have gone through this process refer to these months as a “paper chase”. Once your dossier is complete, the final compiled bundle of documents (and it is a bundle) will be sent to your agency where your social workers and adoption professionals review each piece of the dossier for accuracy and to ensure they were completed properly. Many agencies will have you send a copy of each form to ensure it was done properly before waiting until the end or sending for authentication. There were quite a few forms that were not accepted at that stage when I completed a dossier in that I placed medical data in the wrong columns or notaries completed the section in the wrong place (yes, many documents need to be notarized). Patience and resilience are key to getting through this part of the adoption journey.


Once the dossier is approved by your adoption agency, the entire package is sent to the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA). You will likely pay a translation fee for your dossier to be translated and then processed. The CCCWA is the central authority in China for overseeing all orphan care and adoptions. Once they have received your dossier it is considered “logged-in”. Many families adopting a child from China will discuss their log-in date and wonder how long it will be until they are matched with a child. 


4. Getting Matched with A Child from China

Once your dossier is logged-in with CCCWA you begin the second stage of the process of adopting a child from China. This stage entails waiting until you get matched with a child in China. During the home study process, you discussed with your adoption agency’s social worker the preferred age range and gender of the child you are hoping to adopt. You will also complete a medical conditions checklist stating what medical conditions you are able to handle as a family. Your social worker will help you understand what each condition may mean.

You will now wait during this stage for your agency to receive a file of a child who would be a good match for your family. This part of the process adopting a child from China is called the referral process. The timeframe for waiting to be matched can vary. Check with your adoption agency for the current wait times for being matched with a waiting child. The referral you will receive from your agency will include photos, videos and medical records on the child which will be translated. It may also include a short biography on their life or a developmental or social report on their time with their foster family or orphanage. Many prospective adoptive families will take their referral to an adoption medicine doctor for their review of the file. Once you decide if you are accepting your referral for adopting a child in China with whom you’ve been matched, you will begin the process for traveling. 

5. Adopting a Child From China – the Final Steps

Once you have accepted your referral for your child in China, you will work with your adoption agency to plan your travel. Most adoption agencies that are accredited to work in China will have a travel team who will help you with all of the planning and logistics of your trip to China. On average, most adoptive parents will leave for China to bring their child around on average two to three months after they accept their referral. Families will wait on their travel approval from China after they complete a few other items of paperwork.

Once in China, adoptive families will stay for approximately two weeks to complete the process of adopting a child from China. While in China, families will go to their child’s province to be united. After you meet your child, you will bring them back to your hotel for bonding and complete various adoption documents. You will have a medical check for your child and see many of the famous sites within the country to better understand your child’s birth home and culture. You will likely be in China with a group of other families adopting from your same adoption agency. You will work with a guide who is used to working with American families adopting a child from China. 

You will eventually travel to the province of Guongzhou to obtain your child’s visa from the U.S. Consulate there. If your child is over the age of two, in order for them to receive their visa they must have a physical, as mentioned above, which will include a tuberculous test. All children being adopted from children ages ten and over must also receive all of their vaccinations in China before returning to the United States. 

But now it’s time to bring the child you adopted from China home. After the long flight to your respective home state, you will file for their United States birth certificate. Your agency can help you with this process and also if you need to re-adopt them in the US.

It will be important that once you are home you complete all of the post-adoption reports required. China usually requires that your adoption agency social worker complete a total of six post-adoption reports. These reports will be filed on your family and child when they are home 1 month, 6 months, one year, two years, and 5 years after placement in your family. The first three reports will be completed by your agency social worker, the other remaining post-placement reports will be completed by your family and submitted. It is critical that families complete these reports to ensure that adoptions with China continue. 

If you would like more information on adopting from China, this Adoption.com Resource Guide provides additional valuable information.

Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon