Every November, during National Adoption Awareness Month, a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation. Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.

But what does it take to adopt a child? It’s a daunting task, even for the most eager and enthusiastic couples. Here, Nanette and Mark Greene share their observations on what it takes to become adoptive parents.

Adopting a child requires moving a Mount Everest of paperwork with your bare hands.

You bend to the task with hopeful determination, and finally, after a year or more of back-breaking labor, just when you think you’ve cleared a path to the summit, a freak storm dumps a foot of fresh forms and challenges on your hopes and dreams.

One hundred and twenty-page application—check.

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Forty-five good quality photos documenting that you really have a family and friends—done.

Essays from six of those same friends attesting to your potential fitness as a parent—finally.

Home study. Not easy to pass when the social worker asks your husband about the contents of his gun safe. But—OK.

Financial records—revealed.

Positive doctor’s report—hard to get if you’ve recently had a near death experience—signed off.

And this only scratches the surface of a bizarre and often confusing and always frustrating process. But your desire overrides the silly notion of stopping, giving up and putting aside your dream. You want a baby. And nothing’s going to keep you from achieving your goal.

Finally, they stop asking for forms and letters and documents.  And you wait. And wait. And wait.

The sky clears, you can see the summit.

One day the social worker calls you. This woman who has become your friend, your ally, your coach.

“Everything looks good.” She pauses. “But they can’t read your fingerprints.”

“My finger prints?” you ask, completely forgetting the inky session at your local police station.

“Yes. You need to do them over,” she replies. “And quickly.”

But it turns out that you don’t have fingerprints. The local police are stymied. You go to the state cops. They can’t find a ridge or a whorl. Your husband suggests a life of crime. You feel like killing him. Finally, your social worker suggests the FBI. You make an appointment and head to their office, suppressing an urge to confess your homicidal feelings toward your spouse. But the FBI strikes out. They tell you that you are an anomaly. One in million. You feel like killing the FBI. Finally, they suggest a letter. A letter attesting that you are who you say you are, written on FBI letterhead.

You call your social worker and explain. You ask, “Will that work?”

“I don’t see why not,” she replies.

You get the letter and send it in. It is approved and your application lurches forward through the system.

There are six million orphans in Africa. One will be yours. You wait and pray and even begin to fantasize about what it will be like to save a life, to have a family, to fulfill your dream of being a mother.

Then one day, your social worker calls. “About your marriage license…”

Despite what appeared to be an insurmountable process, on October 3, 2009, we welcomed home a healthy, beautiful 21-month-old girl. Abigail will turn seven this December and is already plotting and planning her birthday party.