About Us – Commonwealth Adoptions International, Inc.
Commonwealth Adoptions International specializes in international adoption to help orphaned children overseas find safe, loving homes. Recently, Commonwealth Adoptions has started a domestic adoption program to assist children in the US find forever families as well.
Commonwealth Adoptions currently assists families to adopt children from Russia, China, Colombia, Kazakhstan, India, Vietnam, Ukraine, Taiwan, and Brazil. We are very proud to announce our newest adoption program in Nepal!
Imagine this: families from Iowa adopting from Colombia, families from Puerto Rico adopting from Russia, families from Wisconsin adopting from Kazakhstan. All this happens at Commonwealth Adoptions International! We help families from all over the US and overseas!
Families come to Commonwealth Adoptions with a vision of fulfilling their dream of a family. The Commonwealth Adoptions family has a shared commitment with families to help them fulfill their dream. We believe that family is what you choose it to be. We believe that adoption is not only one of the best choices possible for creating your family — it makes us all ONE family.
Commonwealth combines years of expertise in international adoption with a supportive adoptive parent education program, assistance throughout the dossier stage and travel guides for your international journey. We have earned an excellent reputation as leaders in the field.
Commonwealth Adoptions International places hundreds of children with loving families every year. Our mission is to find as many safe, loving homes for internationally orphaned children as possible.
This is why we need you!
How It All StartedCommonwealth was founded at the very beginning of Russian adoption in 1993.
Marina Mayhew, originally from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, is the Executive Director. Marina oversees more than one hundred international and US staff — all dedicated to making your adoption possible.
Commonwealth Adoptions now works with over ten nations, all with different laws, all with different children. We are truly experts at negotiating the complexities of international adoption!
Marina is also an adoptive parent, as are many of the Commonwealth Adoptions international staff. They understand the decisions involved in adoption — the yearning, the hope, the challenge of putting your trust into other hands. We are professionals, driven by our mission and an abiding respect for the value of family. We will make your dream a reality.
Meet the staff
Marina Mayhew, MBA, is Commonwealth’s dynamic President and Executive Director.
She is originally from Krasnoyarsk, Russia and her daughter, Natalya, is adopted from Ekaterinburg.
Judith Dakin, MBA, is Commonwealth’s Administrative Director. Judy ensures agency compliance with U.S. and international laws.
Carolyn Breed, BA, is Supervising Social Worker and Adoption Educator. Carolyn was a volunteer at orphanages in Romania.
International Adoption Dossier
Getting Started: An Overview of the Dossier Process
Talk to us. We will help you learn about the children, countries and programs.
Fax your Commonwealth Application to us with a copy of a check for $200. (If you are Adopting through the Adventure Russia program, the application fee is $1,000.) We will review your application to be certain you and the country you wish to adopt from are compatible.
You may fax your Application to Commonwealth headquarters in Arizona (520) 327-8640 or to the office closest to you… in PA (724) 772-8190 or FL (813) 269-7722 or to one of our Outreach offices in CO, TX and MI. All phone numbers are on the cover.
After reviewing your Application, we may wish to discuss details about your background and the program(s) that interest you. When approved, mail in your Application and $200 check. If you have spoken with a Commonwealth representative over the phone or at a seminar, they may have already approved you and, in that case, you may go ahead and mail in the Application and check.
You will receive a Commonwealth Adoption Agreement. Send in two signed copies with $2,000 in a week. Next, we will assign a Case Manager who will call you to schedule your first appointment.
Commonwealth U.S. and overseas staff will assist you throughout your adoption. You will have regularly scheduled appointments for Adoption Education and dossier preparation. Commonwealth coordinates the variety of requirements that create the path to your child.
If you have not yet started your Home Study, ask us about Social Workers in your area. We may have some who are experienced in international adoption to recommend.
You’ve chosen Commonwealth for good reasons.
Have confidence… we will help you find your Child!
· Commonwealth is an established expert in the field of international adoption.
· We believe in adoption education.
· We provide full fee disclosure.
· Our overseas Associates are Commonwealth employees, not foreign adoption facilitators.
· We have a shared commitment with you – to place a child in your loving home.
· We initiate many Humanitarian Aid projects every year with our orphanages.
What sets a family apart who has a happy adoption?
Flexibility. People from the U.S. often expect similar standards of efficiency and service in other countries. Sometimes this is true; mostly it is not. Other countries have cultural differences that affect all aspects of life there, including how adoptions are processed. So… stay flexible and pay close attention to detail with your paperwork. Learn all you can about adoption from the perspective of a child. That is the best way to prepare for your adoption and to make your experience happy and fluid.
Things to learn about
The components of the adoption process and paperwork are almost as foreign as the travel to most families. There are several new terms and acronyms that will, very shortly, become familiar to you. These include Dossier, US CIS, Home Study, Referral, Post Placement and I-171H.
What is a DOSSIER?
· The bundle of documents required by a foreign country to approve your adoption is called a “Dossier.”
· Each Dossier is country-specific, which means that each country or region has different requirements.
· The universal ingredient is the Home Study. The rest of the documents generally include the I-171H form from the US CIS, medical forms that attest to your health, income statements and police clearances.
· Dossier documents are often time-sensitive, which means they expire in a specific amount of time.
· Documents submitted to a foreign government must meet certain internationally agreed-upon standards for authenticity, such as apostilling or certification, and the requirements for each country are different.
Commonwealth will provide explicit Dossier Instructions. Sometimes requirements from countries change while you are mid-adoption; this is not unusual. Occasionally foreign courts will require additional documents, even while you are in the country. This is an infrequent but also not unusual.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Step 1: Call 800-870-3676 to order your “International Adoption Packet, including the I-600A” from USCIS OR go the US CIS Website (http://uscis.gov) and click on “Immigration Forms, Fees, and Fingerprints” to download the I-600A.
Step 2: Fill out the I-600A.
Need help filling out the I-600A? Read the US CIS HELP SHEET at the end of this guide.
More questions? Call us.
Step 3: Submit your I-600A with a photocopy of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, and/or divorce decree to US CIS. Don’t forget to include the US CIS Fee ($545, plus $70 extra for each adult in your household for fingerprinting); they prefer money orders rather than personal checks. Your money order should be made out to “US CIS.”
Don’t know where to send your I-600A?
Call US CIS to find the local US CIS office near you.
Step 4: After you submit your I-600A, fee, and photocopies to US CIS, they will wait for your home study and then send your fingerprint appointment. Get your fingerprints taken as directed in the US CIS letter. The fingerprint results will automatically go to US CIS.
Every family must complete a Home Study to be approved to adopt from USCIS. Some States require that the Home Study be submitted before they will schedule taking fingerprints.
Your Home Study and I-171H may need to be “state certified” or “apostilled” depending upon the requirements of the foreign country.
Step 5: When your Home Study is complete, your social worker will mail it to US CIS. US CIS cannot issue the pre-approval to adopt until AFTER they read your home study.
Step 6: US CIS will mail to you pre-approval to adopt an orphan from overseas. It’s called an I-171H and is a one page white letter. US CIS sometimes sends an I-797 instead. It’s basically the same thing, except it has wavy lines in the background.
Your I-171H from US CIS is very important. We will send it to the country from which you are adopting along with your Home Study as part of your Dossier.
The Home Study
Step 1: A social worker familiar with international adoption working for a Licensed Agency in your state of residence is best person to prepare your Home Study. Commonwealth is licensed in several states and has a database of experienced social workers. Call us for home study assistance.
Step 2: Complete the home study paperwork that your home study social worker gives to you (usually fingerprint forms, medical forms, police clearance forms, etc.) and your home study visits. Your home study must meet the requirements of your state, USCIS, and the foreign country.
NOTE: Home study paperwork is NOT the same as dossier paperwork. You will have to do some things twice — once for your home study and once for the foreign country.
Occasionally, home studies need revision. A Commonwealth case manager will review your home study BEFORE it goes overseas. Please ask your home study social worker to mail or fax Commonwealth a copy for review PRIOR to finalizing and notarizing it.
Step 3: Once the Home Study is complete, your home study social worker is responsible for sending an original, notarized Home Study to US CIS for you.
Step 4: Ask your social worker to give YOU one (1) original, notarized Home Study. If you are adopting from RUSSIA: Ask for TWO (2) original, notarized copies of your Home Study.
Step 5: Make a photocopy of the Home Study for your records. You must hand carry that photocopy with you to the foreign country.
· Referral, in adoption language, means the child (or children) referred to you for adoption.
· This process is country-specific; each country offers referrals in different ways. Some countries send a photo, other countries send a video, and some countries have you to go there to meet a child.
· In most cases, children receive medical testing for HIV, hepatitis and TB.
· In some countries, detailed medical histories are provided; other countries provide minimal background information.
Commonwealth wants you to feel as secure and informed as possible about your adoption process and about your child. HOWEVER, we cannot guarantee foreign governments will not change their requirements nor can we guarantee the health of a child.
As mentioned in the Adoption Agreement, most countries give priority in adoption to their own citizens. While is it not common for a foreign family or relative to request to adopt a child after the child has been identified as available for international placement, this can occur. Your referral (child) is totally yours only after court and/or the legal mechanism that confers adoptive parenthood in that country.
If an impediment to your adoption arises after you commit to a child, we will research the situation and inform you of your options. Generally, families may choose to wait until the matter is sorted out or they may opt to request another referral.
Things to do to get ready for the trip of a lifetime!
· Passport: If you don’t have a passport yet for international travel, you should apply for one as soon as possible. If you don’t know where to apply for a passport, check out the Passport Office Website: http://travel.state.gov/passport_services.html
Click on “Where to apply for a Passport nationwide.” You can then enter your zip code and a list of locations closest to you will appear.
· Vaccinations for Travel: Talk to your health care professional or local public health department to find out what immunizations are recommended for travel. If Hepatitis B shots are recommended, the series can take up to 6 months to complete.
· Another excellent resource is the Center for Disease Control. Their website is www.cdc.gov. Click on “Traveler’s Health” and choose the region of the world you will be going to.
Commonwealth provides detailed travel guides
to help you arrange your travel. Read your travel guide carefully.
Post Placement Reports
You may think it’s all done, and you are home with your new family, and you never have to face paperwork again, but you do. Your post placement reports are essential for the future of international adoption.
· Post Placement Reports are required by all countries, by some states and by Commonwealth.
· Post placement reports are country-specific; some countries require 2, most countries require 4, some countries require reports until your child is age 18. Whatever it is… it’s the law and families must comply.
· Reports are prepared by the home study Social Worker, or by the family, or both, depending upon the requirements of the foreign country.
· Photos are part of the report. We love to see them!
Other Stuff You Need For Your Adoption
· Vital Records: You will need to order a certified copy of your birth certificate and/or marriage certificate. If you are adopting from Russia and are married, order two (2) marriage certificates. If you are adopting from Russia and are single, order two (2) birth certificates. If you are adopting from Ukraine and are married, order one (1) marriage certificate. If you are adopting from Ukraine and are single, order one (1) birth certificate. If you are adopting from China, order both your marriage certificate AND your birth certificate, regardless of your marital status. For other countries, check with your Commonwealth Adoption Manager or your local Social Worker.
To order a certified copy of your birth certificate and/or marriage certificate, you will need to contact the Vital Records or Vital Statistics office in the state in which you were born and/or married. To find out the contact information for the Vital Records offices throughout the nation, you can go to: www.asststork.com/pages/myvitalrec.html
Please check out the Resource page on the Commonwealth website
You will find an excellent agency for Travel arrangements, Travel-On, which has a contract with Delta that allows for refundable and returnable tickets with no penalty at discount fares.
The Commonwealth website is constantly growing…
in information, content, recommendations and encouragement.
Please see the Seminar schedule for information about Meetings and Picnics
and Special Events every month across the U.S.
US CIS I600A – Answer Help Sheet
Answers to questions in Block II on the I600A
Question # and Answer
10. Commonwealth Adoptions International, Inc.
the address of the office serving you – AZ, FL or PA – addresses are on front of this Guide
13. To Be Determined (write this in all three answer spaces)
16. Specific for country, write on the middle line, above “The American Consulate or Embassy At”
Russian Adoption = Moscow, Russia
Kazakhstan Adoption = Almaty, Kazakhstan
Ukraine Adoption = Kiev, Ukraine
China Adoption = Guangzhou, China
Viet Nam Adoption = Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
Colombia Adoption = Bogota, Colombia
Panama Adoption = Panama City
Taiwan Adoption = Taipei, Taiwan
Guatemala Adoption = Guatemala City, Guatemala
India Adoption= New Delhi, India
Even if you plan to adopt one child, if there is any possibility at all of you adopting more than one child, you should mark “yes” and 2 or 3 plus, which ever is applicable. If you only mark 1 child, you will only receive US CIS approval to adopt one child. If you mark “yes” and 2 or 3 you will be approved to adopt 1, 2 or 3 children. It is perfectly fine if you say 2 or 3 and only adopt one child. REMEMBER: Your home study must also approve you to adopt up to the same number of children as stated in this answer.
The documents that you mail to the US CIS along with your I600A form are as follows.
These can be simple photocopies; the US CIS reserves the right to review originals at any time.
Birth certificates or passports
Marriage license (for married couples)
Divorce Decree if either parent has previously been married
Fee payment—the US CIS prefers money orders. The base fee is $545 plus $70 per fingerprint card. Thus, the fee for a single person totals $595; the fee for a married couple or a single person with another household member over 18 years old totals $665.
Cover letter saying you are adopting from “country name” and, when your home study is complete, a copy will be forwarded to the USCIS.
Call 1-800-375-5283 – This automated service will give the address where to mail the I600A form according to your zip code.
After you mail your I600A form to the US CIS, they will wait to receive your home study before they mail your fingerprint cards and your fingerprint date, time and location.
Final step is: the US CIS will send your final approval, the 171H. This form is required in your dossier.