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Monday 22nd of May 2017

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Preadoption

Information for families thinking about adoption.

What We Wish We'd Read While Waiting

The long, long months before meeting our first child -- my husband and I will never forget how we couldn't seem to find right-feeling activities then to prepare for the big changes ahead. In retrospect, we realize we could have read and studied books and articles that we need now for the little treasures in action but have little time to consult. Even better, we could have supplemented that reading with lots of talking with adoptive parents who were several years into their parenting. Here's our family's pick of written resources from popular presses in late 1995, probably more reading than even Homer could digest! We invite other families' recommendations and follow-up articles.

First off, a special task: Join the organization called Adoptive Families of America (3333 Hwy. 100 N., Minneapolis, MN 55422, 800-372-3300) and then visit a friend or the local library to peruse back issues of AFA's bimonthly, Adoptive Families (formerly OURS magazine) which includes articles on the financial, medical, cultural, emotional, and other practical matters of adoption. The AFA membership fee of $20 -- which includes a year's subscription to Adoptive Families and AFA's heritage catalogs delivered to your door -- may be the best single investment you make in adoption literature.

For the long view of becoming a multi-cultural family, plus ideas of what to document on your adoption trip, see "Are Those Kids Yours?": American Families with Children Adopted from Other Countries by Cheri Register (New York, The Free Press, 1991, 235 pp., $24.95). Roughly similar fare is available in two compendia of Lois Melina's articles, The Best of Adopted Child for New and Waiting Parents and The Best of Adopted Child for Parents Adopting Transracially or Transculturally (Adopted Child, P.O. Box 9362, Moscow, ID 83843, 208-882-1794, $12 each set).

The International Adoption document for adopting in China which is now online. Some of the State Department's information may be outdated, so supplement it by talking to your adoption agency and families recently returned from China. For a loving first-person account of an adoption trip, read "I Met My Daughter at the Wuhan Foundling Hospital" by Bruce Porter in the April 11, 1993 issue of The New York Times Magazine. To capture the right frame of mind for your trip to China, study the maxims in "The Journey" by Deborah Pope in the July 1994 issue of New York's Families with Children from China.

Even if you don't have the energy and inclination to study the Chinese language now, bring to China Chinese at a Glance by Scott D. Seligman (New York, Barron's Educational Series Inc., 1986, 257 pp., $6.95) or Berlitz' Chinese Phrase Book and Dictionary (Oxford, UK, Berlitz Publishing Co. Ltd., rev. ed. 1993, 192 pp., $6.95). Before you travel, tab the pages about ordering food in restaurants to better ensure you'll get the dishes you want on those occasions when a local menu does not include good English translations. Most families get by in China just fine without speaking or reading a word of Chinese, but if you like learning languages and want a simple and fun introduction to Chinese characters commonly used in place names and appearing on public signs, see I Can Read That! A Traveler's Guide to Chinese Characters by Julie Mazel Sussman (San Francisco, China Books & Periodicals, Inc., 1994, 161 pp., $8.95).

To help prepare family and friends who are not familiar with adoption, get a copy of When Friends Ask About Adoption: A Question and Answer Guide for Non-Adoptive Parents and Other Caring Adults by Linda Bothun (Chevy Chase, MD, Swan Publications, 1987, 88 pp., $4.95). Send a single-stamped, self-addressed envelope to Perspectives Press, P.O. Box 90318, Indianapolis, IN 46290-0318, for two free fact sheets: "Speaking Positively: An Information Sheet About Adoption Language" and "Adopt-a-Confusion: How Using Adoption to Catch Attention, Touch Heartstrings, and Raise Big Bucks Exploits Children Who Were Adopted and Those Waiting for Permanency." To ready yourself and your child for unsolicited, intrusive, and sometimes offensive comments from third parties, read "Finding the Right Words" by JoGene Kapell in the November 1994 issue of Seattle's Little Treasure and "Is Her Father Chinese?" by Anne Brittle in the April 1995 issue of the same newsletter.

For overviews of the physical health of China-born children, see "A Report on the Medical Condition of Children Arrived from China" by Michael Traister, M.D. in the April 1994 issue of New York's Families with Children from China, and "A Pediatrician's View" by Nancy Hendrie, M.D. in the May 1995 issue of New England's China Connection. Growth charts for Chinese girls, a list of screening tests for international adoptees, and a report on hepatitis B transmission risks and medical issues are available at no charge from the University of Minnesota Adoption Clinic (Box 211 UMHC, 420 Delaware St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, 612-626-2928 for Dr. Dana Johnson; 612-624-1164 for assistant Sandra Iverson, R.N.; 800-688-5252 for the University switchboard).

For more specific medical information, see "Amelia and the Worm" by Sheryle J. Augustine in the August 1995 issue of Families With Children from China -- Texas; "A Trip to the Dentist" by Beth Perry in the January 1995 issue of Seattle's Little Treasure; "Mongolian Spots" by Carrie Krueger in the April 1995 issue of Seattle's Little Treasure; "Scabies" by Denise Shields in the July 1995 issue of New York's Families with Children from China; and "Childhood Immunizations for Chinese Adoptees" by Jacqueline Gindler in the October/November 1995 issue of China Connection published in Roanoke, Virginia.

For hepatitis B information, read "Is There Life After Hepatitis B?" by Jerri Jenista, M.D. (551 2d St., Ann Arbor, MI 48103, 313-668-0419) available in full text by written request with a single-stamped, self-addressed envelope to New York's Families with Children from China; and an anonymous letter detailing the experience of one family who learned in the U.S. that their daughter has chronic hepatitis, which appeared in the September/October 1994 issue of Los Ninos News (Los Ninos International Adoption Center, The United Way Bldg., 1600 Lake Front Circle, Ste. 130, The Woodlands, TX 77380-3600, 713-363-2892).

Additional information on hepatitis B is available from the American Liver Foundation (1425 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove, NJ 07009, 800-223-0179); the Hepatitis B Coalition (417 University Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55103-1934; Dr. Deborah Wexler's newsletter is also available by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..); and the CDC/NCID Hepatitis Hotline, Hepatitis Mailstop GS7, Division of Viral Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA 30333, 404-332-4555). The names of local hepatitis experts are available from Dr. Jane Aronson, International Pediatric Health Services, PLLC 151 East 62nd Street, Suite 1A New York, New York 10021 e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. web site: www.orphandoctor.com 212-207-6666 office 212-207-6665 fax Drs. Johnson, Jenista, and Aronson are also willing to talk to adoptive parents by telephone regarding infectious disease questions.

If you are adopting a toddler or a second child, read a personal account in "Bringing a Toddler Home" by Sarah Young in the January 1995 issue of Seattle's Little Treasure. For a family's first six months with a toddler and a continuing relationship with the child's foster mother in China, read "You Can Cry When You Are Happy" by Ruth Laseski in the April 1995 issue of the Delaware Valley's China Kids. One parent's experiences in choosing a pre-school for her China-born daughter is recorded in "`I Don't Know Her Name, But I'd Like to Enroll Her in Pre-School'" by Patty Cogen in the October 1995 issue of Seattle's Families with Children form China (formerly Little Treasure). The same issue also includes Barbara Knapp's "What We Learned from Our `Older' Girls" which describes the overall very positive experiences of four families who adopted girls ages six to eight years from the Hangzhou Welfare Institute.

Information on adopting older children is also available from other adoption circles. Korean adoptees' adjustments to American homes are chronicled in Oriental Children in American Homes: How Do They Adjust? by Frances M. Koh (Minneapolis, MN, EastWest Press, 1981, 132 pp., $12.95). Counterbalancing the social scientist's analysis, Koh's Adopted from Asia: How it Feels to Grow Up in America (Minneapolis, MN, EastWest Press, 1993, 95 pp., $15.95) focuses on the thoughts and feelings of 11 Korean-born children ages 14 through 23 who were adopted into Euro-American families before age seven. U.S. domestic adoptions of older children -- challenges and tips -- are described in Adopting the Older Child by Claudia L. Jewett (Boston, MA, Harvard Common Press, 1978, 301 p., $9.95) and A Child's Journey through Placement by Vera I. Fahlberg, M.D. (Indianapolis, IN, Perspectives Press, 1991, 432 p., $20.00). For more information on moving children of various ages, see relevant chapters in Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child by Holly van Gulden and Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb (New York, Crossroad Pub. Co., 1994, 279 p., $24.95) and The Whole Life Adoption Book by Jayne E. Schooler (Colorado Springs, Pinon Press, 1993, $12.00).

For any age child as she begins to comprehend and struggle with the ideas that she had a home, life, and birth parents in China, read Helping Children Cope with Separation and Loss by Claudia Jewett-Jarratt (Harvard, MA, Harvard Common Press, 1994, $12.95). A second compelling reason to read this book: to learn, when you're not under pressure, how to talk with a child about a divorce or a sudden death or disability in the family. To understand a child's adoption-related issues as they arise at each developmental stage, read Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by David M. Brodzinsky, Ph.D., Marshall D. Schechter, M.D., and Robin Marantz Henig (New York, Anchor Books (Doubleday), 1992, 213 p. $12.95). See also the various books by Lois Ruskai Melina including Raising Adopted Children: A Manual for Adoptive Parents (New York, Harper & Row, 1986, 274 p., $12) and Making Sense of Adoption: A Parent's Guide (New York, Harper & Row, 1989, 277 p., $12).

Finally, some near-classic titles on the behavior of school-age children, adopted or not: Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D. with Vicki Soltz, R.N. (New York, Penguin Group, 1964, 335 p., $11); Redirecting Children's Behavior: Discipline That Builds Self-Esteem by Kathryn J. Kvols (Gainesville, FL, INCAF Publications, 1979, 228 p., $11.95); and two books by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (New York, Avon Book, 1982, 242 p., $10) and Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too (New York, Avon Books, 1987, 219 pp., $10).

 

Ruth Laseski and husband Sandro Serra have two daughters, Annie from Fuzhou, Jiangxi Province, born in May 1992 and adopted in May 1994, and Ellie from Nanping, Fujian Province, born in June 1993 and adopted in July 1995. The family can be reached at 4502 Elm St., Bellaire, Texas 77401. This article is based on Ruth's article with a similar title that appeared in the August 1995 issue of Families with Children from China -- Texas.

Addresses for Departments of Vital Records & Secretaries of State

Adoption from China requires the prospective adoptive parents to assemble a variety of documents. These include certified birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees among others. These can be obtained from the State Vital Records agency and authenticated by the Secretary of State of that state.

There is a service called "VITAL CHECK" that can obtain your Vital Records for you. They are a bit expensive, but they get the job done. Their number is: 1-800-669-8309 and their webpage address is: http://www.vitalchek.com

No matter where you order your Vital Record from, be sure to ask for a "certified original" of your Vital Record. Many states also require a "live signature" on your records. Ask your Sec. of State's office for their requirements.

ALWAYS mention which country you are adopting from on every request. Always include a daytime phone and always include a Prepaid Mailer with all your requests.

If you live in a state that requires county authentication of your documents, please be aware of the county in which your notary was registered. It may be different than the county you believe. Check with the notary! This will save you extra steps.

These addresses and phone numbers have been assembled from a variety of sources. They are accurate to the best of my knowledge. If you find that some of this information is incorrect, please help us by sending corrections and updates to: Laura Morrison at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


States:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Born Overseas to American Parents

 


Alabama 
Alabama Center for Health Statistics (updated 8/98)
Department of Public Health
PO Box 5625
Montgomery, AL 36103-5625
334-206-5418
Fee: $12/doc, $4 for 2nd copy of same doc
Check to "Department of Public Health"

DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State (updated 6/99)
State Capitol
600 Dexter Ave., Rm. E 204
Montgomery, AL 36104
334-242-7210 or 800-274-8683
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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Alaska 
Bureau of Vital Statistics
Dept. of Health and Social Services
PO Box 110675
Juneau, AK 99811-0675
907-465-3038 Ask for Terry
Fee: $10/doc, $10/Attestation for each type of doc
(i.e. If you needed 2 cys of your birth certificate, it would be
$20 plus $10 for the attestation for both, equaling $30)
Check to "State of Alaska"

Office of the Lieutenant Governor
120 Forth Street
State Capitol Building 3rd Floor
Juneau, AK 99801
907-465-3520
Fax: 907-463-5364
Fee: $2/doc, Check to "State of Alaska"

 

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Arizona 
Vital Records Section 
Department of Health Services
Office Address: 2727 West Glendale Avenue
Mailing Address PO Box 3887
Phoenix, AZ 85030 602-255-3260
Fee: $9/doc, CERTIFIED CHECK OR MONEY ORDER to "Office of Vital Records"
you must also include xerox of picture ID

Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
1st Floor, Suite 103, State Capitol
1700 W. Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007-2808
Attn: Alice Guzman 602-542-4285
Fee: $3/doc, Check to "Secretary of State" http://www.sosaz.com/

 

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Arkansas 
Division of Vital Records (updated 11/97) 
Department of Health, Slot 44
4815 West Markham Street
Little Rock, AR 72205
501-661-2336
Office open: 8AM-3PM
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Vital Records"
http://www.state.ar.us

Secretary of State
256 State Capitol Building
Little Rock, AR 72201
Attn: Corporation
501-682-3409
Fee: $5/Certification, $10/Apostille Check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.sosweb.state.ar.us/

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California 
Office of Vital Records 
304 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-445-2684 (recording)
Fee: $12/doc (for 16-20 wks processing time)
Check to "Office of Vital Records" You can also charge it for $7 additional fee
(for 3 wks processing time)
Fax: 1-800-858-5553
http://www.dhs.cahwnet.gov/

As of 7/99, California prefers you obtain your vital records from the
county.


Office of the Secretary of State
(current 6/99) Notary Public Division
Office Address: 1500 11th St., Second Floor;
Sacramento, CA 95814
Mailing address PO Box 942877;
Sacramento, CA 94277-0001 916/653-6814
Fee: $20/doc, Check to "Secretary of State" If you come in person,
you also pay $6 per different notary "expediting fee"
http://www.ss.ca.gov/

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Colorado 
Vital Records Section
Department of Health
4300 Cherry Creek Drive
South Denver, CO 80222-1530
303-756-4464
Fee: $15 first copy/$6 for additional copies
Check to "Vital Records"

Secretary of State
Suite 200, 1560 Broadway
Denver, CO 80202
Attn: Elections Division
303-894-2680 ext 1 (Believe me)
Fee: $2/doc, Check to"Secretary of State"

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Connecticut 
Vital Records
Department of Health Services
150 Washington Street
Hartford, CT 06106
860-509-7897
Fee: $5.00

Secretary of the State (updated 1/99)
Attn: Authentications
30 Trinity Street
Hartford, CT 06106
860-509-6135
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of the State"
Regular documents are $20 each, but adoption paperwork is only $5 each

 

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Delaware 
Office of Vital Statistics (updated 3/97)
Jesse Cooper Building Room 144
Federal & William Penn Streets
Dover, DL 19901
302-739-4721
Open: 8AM-4:20PM
Fee: $6/1st copy, $4 each additional copy of same doc
Check to "Vital Statistics"
DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State (updated 4/99)
Division of Corporations
Federal Street Dover, DE 19901
Attn: David Krauss
302-739-6479
Fee: $2/doc, Check to "Delaware Secretary of State"

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District of Columbia 
Vital Records Office (updated 5/99)
825 N. Capitol Street, NE Washington, DC 20002
202-442-9009 8:30AM - 3:30PM
Fee: $18 for form needed for adoption (be sure to tell them you need it hand-signed)
Check to "DC Treasurer"

Marriage Certificates from: District of Columbia Superior Court
Marriage Bureau
500 Indiana Avenue, NW Room 4485
Washington, DC 20001

Notary Commissions and Authentications Section (updated 10/98)
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street, NW Room 1C090
Washington, DC 20001
202-727-3117
Open 9AM - 1PM Fee: $10/doc, Check to "DC Treasurer"

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Florida 
Vital Statistics (updated 7/99)
1217 N. Pearl St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Attn: Patricia Hasan
904-359-6932 or 6934 904-359-6900 for recording
Office Hours: 8AM-5PM
Fee: regular birth certificates are $9 in FL, but the exemplified copies
are $29 for the first one, $14 for the 2nd.,
You must request an "exemplified" copy of your birth certificate
for adoption purposes
$5 Marriage & Divorce (takes 3-4 wks);
Rush service: add $14.50 PLUS one must include a separate check for $10
payable to Secretary of State, for each copy.
This is for the notary verification. Make the check to "Office of Vital Statistics"

Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
Bureau of Notaries Division of Elections Room 1801,
The Capitol Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
850-413-9732 or 850-921-5268
Fee: $10/doc for birth, marriage or divorce State Sealed certificate,
$10/doc for APOSTILLED birth certificates, $20/doc for APOSTILLED
Marriage & Divorce certificates
Money Order or Cashier's Check to "Florida Department of State"

http://election.dos.state.fl.us/notaries/notproc7.htm

FL also has branch offices: Tampa: 1313 Tampa Road, room 712

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Georgia 
Vital Records Unit (updated 3/97)
Department of Human Resources
47 Trinity Avenue SW, Room 217-H
Atlanta, GA 30334-5600
404-656-4900 or 7456
Fax: 404-524-4278
Office Hours: 8AM-4:45PM
Fee: $10/1st copy, $5/each additional cy of same doc
MONEY ORDER or CASHIER'S CHECK to "Vital Records Service"
For $5 extra you can fax the request and pay by credit card

Divorce certificates are available from the County, not Vital Records
DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


FOR STATE SEALS:
Secretary of State
Elections Division Suite 1104,
West Tower 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr, SE
Atlanta, GA 30334
Att: Sue Moreland 404-656-2852
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

FOR APOSTILLES: (for countries which signed the Hague agreement)
Notary Division
1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30345
404-327-6023
http://www.gsccca.org/notary
Fee: $3/apostille, check or money order to "GSCCCA"

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Guam 
Office of Vital Statistics (updated 12/98)
Dept of Public Health and Social Services
Government of Guam PO 2816
Agana, Guam 96910
671-734-4589
Fee: $5, Check to "Treasurer of Guam"

Lt. Governor
Authentication Office
ATTN:Sandra Marlow
Lt. Governor's Chambers
RJB Complex
Adelup, Guam 96932
671-475-9211
Fee: -0- NOTHING, Free!

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Hawaii 
Vital Records Section (updated 2/99)
State Department of Health
PO Box 3378
Honolulu, HI 96801
808-586-4533
Fee: $10/1st doc, $4/additional copies,
Check to "Hawaii State Department of Health"
All documents except those that are to be APOSTILLED,
must go to the Circuit Court before going to the Lieutenant Governor's office:

Circuit Court of the First Circuit (updated 5/99)
Legal Documents Section
777 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
Attn: Elsie
808-539-4301
Fee: $3/doc Company Check or Money Order to
"Chief Clerk First Circuit Court"

Office of the Lieutenant Governor (updated 5/99)
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
808-586-0255
Fee: $1/doc, Check to "Office of the Lieutenant Governor"

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Idaho 
Vital Statistics Unit
Department of Health and Welfare
450 West State Street
Statehouse Mail
Boise, ID 83720-9990
208-334-5988

Secretary of State (updated 7/98) Office Address: 700 W Jefferson, Room 203;
Boise ID 83702
Mailing address: PO Box 83720;
Boise ID 83720-0080
208-334-2300
Fax: 208-334-2282
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.idsos.state.id.us

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Illinois 
Division of Vital Records (updated 9/98)
Department of Public Health
605 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62702-5097
217-782-6553
Fee:$15 for 1st cy, $2 each additional copy
check to "Illinois Department of Public Health"
http://www.idph.state.il.us/

Illinois Secretary of State
Index Department
111 E. Monroe
Springfield, IL 62756
217-782-7017
Fee: $2/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

Secretary of State - Chicago Branch
17 N. State Street, Suite 1137
Chicago, IL 60602
312-793-3380 (main office)
312-814-2067 (certifications)
Hours: 9-11:30AM and 1-3:30PM
Fee: $2/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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Indiana 
Indiana State Dept of Health (updated 5/99)
Office of Dept of Vital Records
2 North Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317-233-2700 (Recording)
fee: $6 for 1st cy/$1 for each additional,
check to "Indiana State Dept of Health"
NOTE: Indiana requires you to get birth records from Vital Records or they
will NOT State Seal them


Marriage certificates are available from the County Clerk in the
county where the marriage license was obtained.

Secretary of State (updated 1/99)
Room 201 Statehouse
200 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317-232-6531
Fee: $0 per document - FREE!

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Iowa 
Vital Records Section (updated 9/97)
Department of Public Health
Lucas Office Building
321 East 12 Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-5871
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Department of Public Health"
NOTE: Iowa prefers you get all Vital Records from the Main Office in Des
Moines, NOT at the County Clerk's office.
This way, they can walk your record over to
the Secretary of State's office for the State Seal

Secretary of State
1305 Walnut Street 2nd Floor
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-5204
Fax: 515-242-5952/5953
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.sos.state.ia.us/

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Kansas 
Office of Vital Statistics
900 SW Jackson Street
Topeka, KS 66612-2221
785-296-1400
Fee: $10 for 1st copy/$5 each additional
Check to "Vital Statistics"

Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
300 SW 10th Street,
Room 231 2nd Floor,
State Capitol
Topeka, KS 66612
Attn: Georgia
785-296-4564
Fax: 785-291-3051
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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Kentucky 
Office of Vital Statistics (updated 10/97)
Department for Health Services
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621
502-564-4212
Fee: $9/doc, $5 extra handling fee for Credit Card
DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
Corporate Records
Attn: Pat McLean
700 Capitol Building, Rm 156
Frankfort, KY 40601
502-564-7330
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "KY State Treasurer"

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Louisiana 
Vital Records Registry (updated 7/99)
Office of Public Health
Office Address: 325 Loyola Avenue;
New Orleans, LA 70112
Mailing Address: PO Box 60630,
New Orleans, LA 70160-0630
504-568-8353
Fax: 504-568-5391
$15.00 per copy for birth certificate $5.00 per copy for marriage certificate

Secretary of State
PO Box 94125
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
504-342-4479
Fax: 504-342-5577 Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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Maine 
Office of Vital Records (updated 11/97)
Human Services Building
11 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
207-287-3181
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Treasurer of the State of Maine"

Department of Secretary of State
Notary Public Division
101 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0101
207-287-4181
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.state.me.us/sos/sos.htm

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Maryland 
Division of Vital Records (update 4/99)
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
6550 Reisterstown Road
Baltimore, MD 21215-0020
410-764-3038 Fee: $6/doc, Check to "Division of Vital Records"
http://www.dhmh.state.md.us/html/vitalrec.htm

DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State (updated 5/99) Office Address:
16 Francis Street; Jeffrey Building, 1st Floor
Annapolis, MD (right off State circle)
Hours: 8:30a-1:00p and 2:00pm-4:00pm
Mailing address Certification Desk;
State House;
Annapolis, MD 21401
410-974-5521 ext 460
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.sos.state.md.us/sos/admin/html/certif2a.html

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Massachusetts 
Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
470 Atlantic Avenue, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02210-2224
617-753-8600
Fee: $11/doc, Check to "Registry of Vital Records"
Secretary of the Commonwealth (updated 1/99)
Commissions Office
1 Ashburton Place Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
617-727-2836
Fee: $3/doc, Check to "Commonwealth of MA"

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Michigan 
Michigan Department of Community Health (updated 7/99)
Office of the State Registrar
PO Box 30195
Lansing, MI 48909
517-335-8000/8656/8666
Fee: $13 for the first copy, $4 for extra copies of birth, death, marriage, divorce.
If you need the Great Seal, add $3 for each copy. Check to "State of Michigan"
http://www.mdch.state.mi.us/PHA/OSR/VITALREC.HTM
No shipping/handling charges if you order by mail. $5 regular mail,
$19 Federal Express if you order by fax (517-321-5884). You can use VISA,
MC for fax orders but not for mail orders.
Address for 2-3 weeks service:
Secretary of State Treasury Building,
1st Floor 430 W. Allegan St
Lansing, MI 48918
517-373-2510
Fax: 517-373-0727
Fee: $1/doc, Check to "State of Michigan"
Address for 1 week service:
Office of the Great Seal
Michigan Historical Center,
First Floor 717 W. Allegan
Lansing, MI 48915
(517) 373-2531
You must include a prepaid ExpressMail envelope to use this service
Fee: $1/doc, Check to "State of Michigan"
http://www.sos.state.mi.us/greatse/authentication/apostill.html

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Minnesota 
Section of Vital Statistics
(updated 2/99)
Department of Health
717 Delaware Street SE
PO Box 9441
Minneapolis, MN 55440
612-676-5120
Fee: $14/1st cy, $8/each addt'l cy
Check to "Minnesota Department of Health" $5 extra handling fee for charge card
http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/data/birth_phon.htm

Secretary of State (updated 4/99)
180 State Office Bldg.
100 Constitution Ave
St. Paul, MN 55155-1299
651-296-2803
Fax: 651-297-5844
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.sos.state.mn.us/

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Mississippi 
Vital Records
State Department of Health
2423 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39216
601-576-7981
Fee: $12 for long form needed for adoption

Secretary of State (updated 2/99)
ATTN: Nan
202 N. Congress 6th Floor
Jackson, MS 39201
601-359-1615
Fax: 601-354-8243
Fee: $2/doc, check to "Secretary of State"
http://www.sos.state.ms.us/

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Missouri 
Bureau of Vital Records
Department of Health
PO Box 570
Jefferson City, MO 65102
573-751-6387

Secretary of State (updated 2/98)
Commission Division
Office Address 600 W. Main, Room 367;
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Mailing Address PO Box 784;
Jefferson City, MO 65102
573-751-4756
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "State Director of Revenue"
http://mosl.sos.state.mo.us/index.html

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Montana 
Bureau of Records and Statistics (updated 5/99)
Department of Health and Environmental Sciences
Helena, MT 59620
406-444-2614
Fee: $5/birth certificate

Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
Mike Cooney Room 225,
State Capital
PO Box 202801
Helena, MT 59620-2801
406-444-2034
Fax: 406-444-3976
TDD: 406-444-3976
Fee: $2/doc

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Nebraska  
Bureau of Vital Statistics (updated 3/97)
Department of Health
301 Centennial Mall South
PO Box 95007
Lincoln, NE 68509-5007
402-471-2871
Fee: $10 for birth certificates, $9 for divorce decrees

Secretary of State State
Capitol, Suite 1305
PO Box 95104
Lincoln, NE 68509
402-471-2558
Fax: 402-471-4429
Fee: $10/doc, check to "Secretary of State"

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Nevada 
Division of Health-Vital Statistics
Capitol Complex
505 East King Street
Carson City, NV 89710
775-885-4480

Secretary of State (updated 7/99)
Capitol Complex
101 N. Carson St. #3
Carson City, NV 89701-4786
775-684-5708
Fax: 775-684-5725
Fee: $20/doc, Check to "Secretary of State" Turnaround time is 5-10 days!
You can expedite For an additional $25 per document
http://www.sos.state.nv.us/

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New Hampshire 
Bureau of Vital Records
Health and Human Services Building
6 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301
603-271-4654
Fee: $10/doc

New Hampshire Dept. of State
Statehouse, Rm 204
107 N. Main St.
Concord, NH 03301
Attn: Jinx
603-271-3242
Fee: $5/doc

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New Jersey 
Bureau of Vital Statistics (updated 4/99)
Department of Health
Office Address: South Warren and Market Streets, CN 370
Mailing Address:
PO Box 370
Trenton, NJ 08625
609-292-4087
FAX: 609-392-4292
Fee: $4/1st doc, $2/each addt'l for regular processing,
additional $22.75 for fax service *takes 8-10 weeks unless you fax them*
FAX requests are processed in 4 days! You can request up to 3 different documents
by fax (copies count as 1 document) You need to include a major credit card #,
a day time phone #, and all the pertinent information for your request
NOTE: New Jersey requires you to get marriage and birth records from Vital
Records or they will NOT State Seal them


Office of Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
Division of Commercial Recording
Office Address 820 Bear Tavern Road;
West Trenton, NJ 08628
Hours: 9AM-1PM and 2-4:30PM
Mailing Address: PO Box 452;
Trenton, NJ 08625;
Attn: Notary Section
609-530-6421 (main) 1-800-669-8309 609-292-2121 (charge)
Fee: $25/doc or $35/doc for "expedited" service
Check to "State Treasurer"
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/revenue/dcr/dcrpg1.html

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New Mexico 
Vital Statistics
New Mexico Health Services Division
1180 St Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87503
505-827-2338

Secretary of State (updated 1/99)
State Capitol, Room 420
Santa Fe, NM 87503
505-827-3600
Fax: 505-827-3634
Fee: $3/doc, Check to "Secretary of State" All orders processed within 24 hours

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New York 
Vital Records Section
Department of Health
Empire State Plaza, Tower Building
Albany, NY 12237-0023
518-474-3075

For New York City: (updated 3/98)
Bureau of Vital Records
Department of Health of New York City
125 Worth Street New York, NY 10013
212-788-4520 or 4500
Fax: 1-800-908-9146
Fee: $15 per Birth Certificate, Money Order to "New York City Department of Health"
Ask For "Vault Copy Long Form with Letter of Exemplification"
Get Marriage Records through city clerk's office in borough where license was issued
NOTARIZED DOCUMENTS AND NY CITY VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED
BEFORE GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE

The address for NY City County authentications: (current 6/99)
New York County Clerk/Notary Section
60 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007
212-374-8589
Fee: $3/doc, MONEY ORDER to "New York County Clerk"

Secretary of State (updated 7/99)
Certification Unit
123 William Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10038
212-417-5684
Fee: $10/doc, MONEY ORDER to "Secretary of State"
or Miscellaneous Records (updated 3/99)
Department of State
41 State St.
Albany, NY 12231
518-474-4770
Fee: $10/doc, MONEY ORDER to "Secretary of State"
http://www.dos.state.ny.us/

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North Carolina 
Vital Records Section (updated 6/99)
1903 MSC (Mail Service Center)
Raleigh, NC 27699-1903
919-733-3526/3000
Fee: $10/1st copy, $5/each addt'l
Expedited Service: (use credit card) $38.50 for first document and $20.00 for
each after from Vital Records.
As of 7/99, North Carolina no longer requires documents to be county
certified!

Note: Notarized Documents must have embossed seal with County and State on seal -
some notaries have incorrect seal

NC Secretary of State
Authentication Division
300 N. Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27603-5909
Attention: Bernice Pruitt
919-733-3406
Fee $10/doc,
check to "Secretary of State

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North Dakota 
Division of Vital Records (updated 9/97)
State Capitol
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismark, ND 58505
701-328-4508
Fee: Birth Cert: $7 for 1st cy, $4 for additional cys of same record
Marriage Cert: $5 for 1st cy, $2 for additional cys of same record
Check to "Vital Records"

Secretary of State (updated 6/99)
600 E. Blvd Ave, Dept 108
Bismark, ND 58505-0500
701-328-2900
Fax: 701-328-1690
Fee: $10/document, check to "Secretary of State"

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Ohio 
Division of Vital Statistics
Department of Health
G-20 Ohio Department Building
65 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43266-0333
614-466-2531
Note: You can also get a certified copy from your county health dept
DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State (updated 7/99)
Elections Division
180 E. Broad St. 15th Floor
Columbus, OH 43266-0333
Attn: Vera Clark
614-466-2655
Fax: 614-544-0649
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Ohio Secretary of State"

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0klahoma 
Vital Records Section
Department of Health
1000 Northeast 10th Street
PO Box 53551
Oklahoma City, OK 73152
405-271-4040
DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Oklahoma Secretary of State (updated 3/97)
Certifications Office
State Capital Building
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 101
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
405-521-3911
$20/doc, CASHIERS CHECK OR MONEY ORDER to "Secretary of State"

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Oregon 
Oregon Vital Records (updated 4/99) Office address:
800 NE Oregon St. #205
Portland OR 97232
Mailing address: PO Box 14050
Portland OR 97293
503-371-4095 $15/1st doc, $12/ea. addt'l.
Expedite with Cred Card, next day, addt'l $10
Make Cashiers check out to Oregon Health Division

Secretary of State (updated 7/98)
Notary Public - Authentication Corporation Division
Suite 151 Public Service Building
Salem, OR 97310
503-986-2200
Fax: 503-373-7414
Fee: $10/doc
http://www.sos.state.or.us/corporation/notary/ntryauth.htm

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Pennsylvania 
Division of Vital Records (updated 1/99)
Department of Health
Central Building
101 South Mercer Street
PO Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103
724-656-3100 or 724-656-3143
Normal processing time - 6 weeks from date check is cashed
http://www.health.state.pa.us

Department of State (current 6/99)
303 North Office Bldg.
Harrisburg, PA 17120
717-787-5280
Fee: $15/doc, Check to "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania"

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Puerto Rico 
Demographic Registry (updated 1/99)
Department of Health
PO Box 11854
Fernandez Juncos Station
San Juan, PR 00910
787-728-7980

Secretary of State
Department of State
Box 3271
San Juan, PR 00902-3271
787-723-4334
787-725-7303

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Rhode Island 
Division of Vital Records (updated 4/97)
Department of Health
3 Capitol Hill, Room 101
Providence, RI 02908-5097
401-277-2811
Office open: 8:30AM-4:00PM
Fee: $15/doc, $10/additional copies
Check to "Rhode Island General Treasurer"

Secretary of State
100 N. Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
401-277-2357
Attn: Kristen
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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South Carolina 
Office of Vital Records (updated 7/99)
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201
803-898-3630 or 3631
Fee: $17/doc, Check to "Vital Records"
Expedited Service: (Credit Card) $22/document

Secretary of State
Edgar Brown Building
1205 Pendleton Street
Columbia, SC 29201
803-734-2512 or 2119
Fee: $2/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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South Dakota 
Vital Records
Center for Health Policy and Statistics (updated 4/99)
Department of Health
523 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
605-773-3355

Secretary of State
500 East Capitol Street, Suite 204
Pierre, SD 57501
605-773-3537
Fax: 605-773-6580

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Tennessee 
Vital Records (updated 2/98)
421 5th Avenue North 1st Floor
Central Services Building
Nashville, TN 37247
615-741-1763
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Tennessee Vital Records"
DOCUMENTS OTHER THAN VITAL RECORDS MUST BE COUNTY AUTHENTICATED BEFORE
GOING TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State (updated 7/99)
James K. Polk Building
Suite 1800
Nashville, TN 37243-0306
615-741-3699
Fax: 615-741-5962
Fee: $2/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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Texas 
Bureau of Vital Statistics (updated 11/98)
Department of Health
Office Address 1100 West 49th Street;
Austin, TX 78756-3191
Mailing Address PO Box 12040;
Austin, TX 78711-2040
512-458-7111
Fee: $11/birth certificate, check to "Bureau of Vital Statistics"
http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/bvs/registra/certcop.htm

Secretary of State
Notary Public Division
Office Address 1019 Brazos, B-13;
Austin, Texas 78701
Mailing Address
PO Box 12887; Austin, TX 78711-2887
512-463-5701
Fax: 512-475-2761 1-800-252-8683
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Secretary of State" Expedited Service: $15/doc
http://www.sos.state.tx.us
Don't send original documents - send either photo copy of notary public's
sig/stamp and/or vital records/county clerk's sig/stamp or a list of notary
public/vital records/county clerk's names. They will send you the state
certification forms to attach to the originals.

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Utah 
Bureau of Vital Records
Department of Health
288 North 1460 West
PO Box 16700
Salt Lake City, UT 84116-0700
801-538-6105

Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office (updated 10/98)
210 State Capitol Building
Salt Lake City, UT 84114
attn: Courteny
801-538-1040 801-538-1513 801-538-1977
Fax: 801-538-1557
Fee: $5 for vital records (birth/marriage certificates)
$10 for all 'other' documents checks to "Lt. Governor"
http://www.governor.state.ut.us/menu/html/document_certification.htm

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Vermont 
Vital Records Section (updated 6/99)
Department of Health
Box 70
80 Main Street
Burlington, VT 05402
802-863-7275
Fee: $7/document

Office of the Secretary of State (updated 6/99)
26 Terrace St.
Drawer 9
Montpelier, VT 05609-1103
Attn: Kathy Watters
802-828-2308 or 802-825-2363
Fee: $2/doc

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Virginia 
Mrs. Linda Whitaker (updated 3/99)
Department of Vital Records
Third Floor James Madison Building
Office Address 109 Governor's Street;
Richmond, VA 23219
Mailing Address PO Box 1000;
Richmond, VA 23208-1000
804-225-5000
Fee: $8/doc Ask for live signature
Check to "State Health Department"
Vital Records will walk your docs to Sec of State if you include fee
for Sec of State and prepaid mailer for State to send back your docs

Secretary of the Commonwealth (updated 4/98)
Attn: Lois Hurst or Helen Payne Office Address
Capitol Square;
Old Finance Building;
Richmond, VA 23219
Mailing Address PO Box 2454;
Richmond, VA 23218
804-786-2441
Fee: $10/doc, Check to "Secretary of the Commonwealth"
http://www.soc.state.va.us/index.htm

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Washington 
Vital Records (updated 1/98)
PO Box 9709
Olympia, WA 98507-9709
360-753-5936
Fee: $13/doc for 5 week turnaround
Check to "Department of Health" Charge Card $23 for one day turnaround
Nan Johnson (updated 4/99)
Document Specialist
Office of the Secretary of State
State of Washington Legislative Building,
2nd Floor P.O. Box 40220
Olympia, WA 98504-0220
Telephone: (360) 902-4161
Fax: (360) 586-5629
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fee: $15/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"

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West Virginia 
Office of Vital Registration (updated 3/09)
Room 165, 350 Capital Street
Charleston, WV 25301-3701
304-558-2931
fee: $5/doc for birth & marriage certificates after 1964
$12/doc for each State Seal Make two checks. One to "Vital Records" and
one to "Secretary of State of WV" The people in the Vital Records office
will walk your documents down to the Secretary of State office

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Wisconsin 
Vital Records (updated 1/99)
1 West Wilson Street, Room 158
Madison, WI 53702
608-266-1374
Fee: Birth Cert= $12/1st cy, $2 each addt'l Marriage Cert=$7/1st cy, $2 each addt'l
http://www.dhfs.state.wi.us/vitalrecords/

Secretary of State (updated 5/99)
30 W Mifflin St 10th Floor
Madison, WI 53702
Phone: 608-266-8888
FAX: 267-6813 FAX Contact: 266-1437
Fee: $5/doc, Check to "Secretary of State"
http://badger.state.wi.us/agencies/sos/authen.htm

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Wyoming 
Vital Records Services (updated 4/99)
Hathaway Building
Cheyenne, WY 82002
307-777-7591
Fee: $12/doc, Cashier's Check or Money Order only
For faster service and for the small fee of $27.75, you can fax all
the pertinent info. Call: 307-635-4103 In that case, you have to provide a credit card#.

Secretary of State (updated 7/99)
State Capitol Building
Cheyenne, WY 82002
307.777.5333
Fax: 307-777-6217 TTY: 307-777-5351
Fee: $3/doc
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
http://soswy.state.wy.us/

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Born Overseas to American Parents  
Correspondence Section - Passport Office
1111 19th Street Suite 510
Washington, DC 20524
202-955-0307
Fee: $20/1st cy, $10/each addt'l Make check or money order
out to: "Department of State" Your birth certificate is called a "DS-1350."
Call first to get a handle on everything you need to send them.
WARNING! They take 4-8 weeks to process your request!

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Contacting the State Department about Adopting from China

If you are planning to adopt from China, or just thinking about the preliminaries and trying to decide what to do: Get the China Adoption information packet from the U.S. State Department. It is available by writing to:

U.S. Dept. of State, Office of Children's Issues
Rm. 4811 N.S.
2201 C St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520-4818
(202) 736-7000.

The State Dept. China Adoption information packet is also available online online. We now have a link to the current document on the U. S. State Department web site. This is a good overview of adoption from China, this lengthy document (29 printed pages!) details the current situation and requirements for adoption from China.

This detailed package contains a translation of the Chinese adoption law, key contact names and addresses, and phone numbers. As well as a thorough discussion of the document authentication process and a description of the adoption procedure. If you get absolutely nothing else, and regardless of whether you decide to use an agency or go the independent route, get this. It is the definitive and official word on Chinese adoptions.

The State Dept. rotates the staffers who work the "China Desk". The current person is (as of October 9, 1999):

Marc St Victor
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Room 4817
Washington DC 20520-4818
202-736-7000

U.S. Government Information Sources

  • Contacting the State Dept. about adopting from China.
  • The State Dept. China Adoption information packet is also available online online. We now have a link to the current document on the U. S. State Department web site. This is a good overview of adoption from China, this lengthy document (29 printed pages!) details the current situation and requirements for adoption from China.
  • The U. S. State Dept. Consular Affairs website. Has general travel related information.
  • The Consular Information Sheet from the U.S. State Department has the general information about travel to China and any current advisories or warnings.
  • The US Embassy in Beijing has a website that includes official announcements from the China Center for Adoption Affairs.
  • The entire U.S. Justice Department document The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children that details the U.S. government procedures required for China adoptions. Also available as a PDF file (note 2,580 KB file size).
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services page with information about USCIS best online pokies procedures for adopting a child from abroad. This includes links to other related USCIS pages.
  • Adoption from China requires the prospective adoptive parents to assemble a variety of documents. These include certified birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees among others. These can be obtained from the state vital records agency, and authenticated by the Secretary of State of that state. These addresses and phone numbers have been assembled from a variety of sources. They are accurate to the best of our imperfect knowledge. If you find that some of this information is incorrect, please help us by sending corrections and updates to Laura Morrison at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Here in the link to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Website. Parents assembling their dossiers may wish to check here to see if there are any recent changes concerning the I-600A rules and fees.
  • Here is the current info on applying for a Certificate of Citizenship using the USCIS form N-600.
  • The official US INS statistics on numbers of international adoptions as measured by IR-3 and IR-4 visa numbers.

Preparenthood

The Social Worker is due in a few hours. We're basically ready. I mean, we've cleaned this house like nobody's business. And we've put rock salt all over the driveway so she won't slip. I was going to make applesauce so the house would have the warm, welcoming smell of cinnamon. But now I'm thinking I should bake bread instead. Or how about a fire in the fireplace? The smell of a fire definitely says: Home.

But what is the smell of: Parent? More specifically, what is the smell of: Good Parent Material? The social worker is coming to consider us. She's coming to our house today to do a "home study," step one in the adoption procedure.

Alex and I have decided to adopt a baby from China. Well, we haven't decided decided. But we're deep into the decision process. The deeper you go, the more your heart starts pounding.

There's a lot you can do before you commit. Lots of paperwork you can get behind you. So this is what we are doing. This is our way of deciding, of tiptoeing, of cracking open the door to the unknown.

"Do you think we should have the smell of baking bread wafting through the house?" I ask Alex.

"Might be a little contrived," he says. "We never bake bread."

"Okay, applesauce."

"We don't make that either," he says.

"I made it in seventh grade," I point out. "It was the first thing we cooked in home ec.''

"All right," he says. He knows to surrender when I am being driven by stress.

"But will the smell get all the way back to the family room?" I ask. "Should we bring a fan in here or something and aim the aroma toward the back of the house?"

"No," he says. "No-we-should-not." He knows to speak clearly, definitively when I am losing my marbles.

I'm nervous. I've never had a home study before. I've never had to put my domestic self out for review. It is not my most developed self. My inner Martha Stewart is not what you'd call a fully actualized identity.

It doesn't help that it's raining. That the ice outside is slowly giving way to a yard that looks like soup. "Welcome to the ugliest day on our farm!," I imagine saying to her when she pulls up. But then she might think I mean its ugly because she's here, so, no, I'd better not go there.

I'm nervous. I want this to go right. I'm peeling apples. I'm wiping the counters again and again to show off what a good counter wiper I am. I am sprinkling cinnamon on the, apples, lots of it to make sure the aroma of my own domesticity, of my promise as a mother, is unmistakable.

I could, of course, be insulted. I mean, maybe that's the more empowering emotional direction to go in right now. The outrage! A home study? Why should I have to prove my parental potential to a complete stranger? Any wacko with the right plumbing can make himself or herself a parent. No forms to fill out. No history to reveal. No how-do-you-handle-conflict essay questions to answer. Why me? Poor me. Its not fair. Life isn't fair. Which, of course, is only half of the story. Life seems unfair only when its throwing curves. But what about when its sending out those equally rare perfect pitches: a good job, a good husband, a happy home, a supportive family, a baby who needs a mom. In China, we're told, that would be a girl.

Okay, here comes a car. A white car. Make that a muddy white car. Oh, dear. I should have prepared her. She pulls up the driveway, sits there for a few minutes. She's flipping through papers, writing things down. She's, giving us bad marks for mud. I can just tell. I am biting my nails. I am pacing. "Just be yourself," Alex says. He has an umbrella. He is going outside to her.

"Brilliant idea!" I say. "Bring her an umbrella! Blind her with chivalry!"

"It's raining," he says.

When she gets in the house I begin my apologies. For the rain. For the gray sky. For the ruts on Wilson Road. For the way the kitchen is not yet renovated. For the light bulb that is out on the porch. For the way the cat sleeps on the satellite dish receiver despite the fact that I have provided him with a perfectly good cat bed.

"You seem nervous," she says, smiling. "Please don't be. This is not an investigation. This is a ... warm-and-fuzzy. You know? I'm just here to help you bring your daughter home."

My ... what? Excuse me? This is the first time I have ever heard that word used that way. That is one big word. "Daughter." "My daughter." "Our daughter." That has a ring to it, all right. Alex looks at me. He is smiling, I am smiling. The social worker is smiling. Three people enjoying the same music. Decisions are like music. New songs you try out The more beautiful the sound, the more your heart starts pounding.


You can reach Jeanne Marie Laskas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or care of the Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW Washington, D. C 20071.

Reprinted by permission of the author. Copyright ©1999 by Jeanne Marie Laskas

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