One of the best (and hardest) lessons I learned with my own adoption was to always have copies and backups of everything, and store them in an organized file system, either hard copy, digitally, or both (this is best!).  Adoption involves a mountain of paperwork, and even with the availability of digital contracts, file sharing systems, and affordable storage, inevitably documents get lost or misplaced.


Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind for your files:


Official Documents

Always make a copy of official documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.  These are things that are not easily reproducible and having a back-up copy, even if it isn’t “official” can be a great benefit.  It can also save time if you need to order another official copy, most professionals can make due with a copy until the official one arrives.


Hand-Written Documents

Be definition, unless you make a digital copy, hand-written documents don’t have an automatic back-up.  This can be things like letters of recommendation or character references. It may be forms, like a medical form, that your home study provider gave you that your doctor completed.  Typically, if lost, you need to ask for it all over again.


Completed Forms

After completing the home study application, writing your hobbies, history, and more, it can be daunting to be told it was lost and needs to be redone, especially if some of your answers were in cooperation with your spouse and not something you automatically know but worked hard on together.


Access to Backup

If you are across the country and your backup copies are on an external hard drive in the top right drawer of your desk, they won’t do you much good if your attorney needs a copy to get interstate clearance so you can go home.  Plan to carry important documents on a password protected flash drive when traveling for your adoption.


These tips all came from lessons learned in over 30 years of assisting with adoption.  I hope that they help you too!