International Adoptions

Why consider international adoption?

Adoptive parents come to the adoption decision for many different reasons. Some adopt because of infertility, and adoption is their alternative way to grow their family; others adopt in order to add to their family, to help a specific child, or for social justice reasons.

Globally there are reportedly millions of children living in orphanages or on the streets. Should you choose international adoption for any of the reasons stated above, you will be providing a home for one of those children.

Why are so many children available?

In foreign countries and in the United States high poverty rates, high fertility and live birth rates, unemployment, lack of education and other factors most frequently lead to children becoming available for adoption. These reasons, combined with cultural stigmas such as unwed mothers, the lack of government-funded social service programs, family protection policies and a lack of economic resources provided by the government all contribute to a situation where families are faced to placed their children for adoption. It is in the child’s best interest that, whenever possible, a child remain with their birth families, followed by adoption within their own country. Poverty should not be the sole reason someone chooses to place a child for adoption, and in most cases it is not, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of families who live in poverty do not place their children for adoption. Complex pressures from both inside and outside the family virtually always contribute to the decision.

Who can adopt?

Foreign countries that allow their children to be adopted have guidelines regarding who can adopt such as age, length of marriage, health and other factors. This will vary somewhat from country to country. Sometimes an adoption agency itself sets specific or restrictive criteria for adoptive parents. That is one reason for the discrepancy of requirements which a prospective adoptive parent may find from agency to agency.

Choose Your Adoption Journey.

Not all countries permit foreign adoptions of their children. For those that do, some have ratifed the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (or Hague Convention) and others have not. Hague Convention adoption programs offer greater protection for the adopting parents and children being adopted. Agencies that place children from Hague Convention countries must be Hague accredited by the designated accrediting entity in the United States. We encourage you to read the Hague Convention Guide for prospective adoptive applicants as you make this most-important decision about where to adopt and which agency to choose. 

In addition to deciding whether to adopt from a Hague Convention or non-Hague Convention country, you will also want to consider cost and the length of time it takes to complete the process as this varies depending on which country you choose. 

The following is a typical process for international adoption:

Homestudy. The first step in any adoption is to complete a home study. The home study must be done by an agency in the state where you reside. During the home study process, you will explore in-depth issues related to being an adoptive family with your social worker.

Choose A Placing Agency. Simultaneously, you will need to choose a placing agency that is authorized to place children from the country you have chosen. Not all agencies are equal and you will want to research several agencies to determine how they stack up according to your needs and wants, your expectations for level of customer service, support, and accessibility, their reputation and their fees. 

In most cases the placing agency will be in another state from where you live, but you might get lucky and find an agency in your state that can do both your home study and act as your placing agency.

The placing agency and your home study agency will put in place an interagency agreement that will govern the relationship and the roles and responsibilities of each agency in your adoption process.

Apply.  Some agencies will want you to complete a preliminary online adoption application to get to know a little about your and your adoption plans followed by completion of a full application and payment of an application fee.

Apply for USCIS Approval. You must obtain permission from the U.S. government to bring a child into the United States from another country as an immediate member of your family. The placing agency will assist you with the filing of these petitions to ensure they are filed accurately and timely.

Prepare and submit the Dossier. “Dossier” is a term for a collection of documents prepared in a specific way for a specific country which will present information to the adoption officials about your physical, mental and emotional preparedness to adopt. Typically, it includes financial, employment and marital status verifications, health and criminal clearances, references, home study, family photos and other items as each country requires. The placing agency will provide you with a dossier guide with instructions and templates and will have a staff person assigned to provide guidance and support as you complete your dossier. 

Presentation of child referral. The waiting time for a referral varies greatly by country and depends on many factors including age and gender of child or level of special needs. Typically, applicants adopting an infant or young toddler will wait longer than those adopting a special needs child, large sibling group or older healthy child.

Travel to adopt your child. Your placing agency will provide you with a travel guide and recommendations for travel to your child’s country. Once you arrive in the country, the agency’s in-country staff and facilitators or persons from the Central Adoption Authority will walk you through the process of receiving your child and completing any necessary legal processes.

Post Placement. Upon your return home, a social worker from your home study agency will visit your family to assist you with transition issues, ask about your child’s health and developmental growth and transition, and provide you with therapeutic resources in your community. A report will be written containing information from the visit and together with photos of your child and family submitted to the foreign country of adoption. The number of reports varies by country. The home study agency will complete the required number of reports (usually three) after which some countries require the family to submitt “self-reports” for an ensuing number of years.

Next page: Philippine Adoptions

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