So you’re thinking about adopting a child from another country? Wonderful! International adoption can bring huge amounts of joy and love to both the children who are adopted and the families who adopt them.
At first glance, the international adoption process can seem pretty overwhelming. But we promise it’s not so bad– and parents who have gone through it will add that it’s all absolutely worth it.
And that’s why we’ve put together this guide. In the slides that follow, you’ll learn about the twelve main steps involved in completing an international adoption. We’ll also provide links to resources that will help you decide if international adoption is right for you, choose a country to adopt a child from, and become a little more familiar with each of the steps involved in the process.
To get inspired before you plunge into the rest of this slideshow, we encourage you to watch this. It’s one of our favorite videos about a family who has adopted children from around the world. Grab a tissue! It will pull on your heart strings.
Want more on international adoption? Click here.
When children who were adopted ask, “Where did I come from?” they may be looking for more than an explanation of the birds and the bees. What these kids may be hungering to hear is their personal story – how they came to be living in this country with this specific adoptive family.
Developing friendships with other families who have adopted internationally can be a great way to help your child develop his or her own identity within the context of a multicultural family. It is good for children of international adoption and blended ethnicities to see other families who look like their family – i.e., families where the parents and the children don’t necessarily look alike.
To learn more about help your child embrace his or her culture, check out our Transracial and Multicultural Adoption Guide.
It is essential that you openly and frequently acknowledge and address the fact that your child has (or had, in the case of orphans) biological parents. Some countries open to international adoption keep very meticulous records about the birth parents -- some even have medical histories on members of the extended biological family. In other countries, however, the majority of children placed for international adoption do not have any information available to them about their birth parents.
Do you have family or close friends of other racial, cultural, or ethnic groups? If so,
these people can be a valuable support network and a great source of information on being a minority. If you do not currently have such friends, you should examine the reasons for this and explore ways to develop such relationships.
Prepare yourself to patiently educate others about these issues as well. Over the years you will find yourself fielding questions about your transracial family; these questions will provide a wonderful opportunity for you to patiently and compassionately help others learn as well.
Do you want to give a child a forever family? Do you want to help a child overcome some of the challenges he or she has faced early in life? Are you willing to be there as a support for the child through thick and thin?
Once you have an approved home study, parents and children are matched by either your adoption agency, the country’s adoption committee, or during an in-country visit.
You know (more or less) what the costs will be before you ever begin the process. While the costs of international adoptions can vary markedly, your adoption agency should give you a printed schedule of all the fees before you begin the process.
You will (probably) get to travel to another country and learn about another culture. If you are going to give your child a sense of his cultural identity, what better way than by experiencing his birth country firsthand?
You will not be able to adopt a newborn infant. The infants available through international adoption are under a year old. Depending on the country you choose, some children may be as young as three or four months.
The child’s background and family medical history may be unknown. Although you will get your child’s medical history when you receive your referral, you may not know anything about the health of the birth mother or birth father. If not knowing your child’s family medical history makes you uncomfortable, you can turn to modern genetic testing to fill in many of the blanks.
If the child was in an orphanage, he may experience developmental delays and other problems related to institutionalization. Not all children who spend time in an orphanage are developmentally delayed. Children who do experience delays as a result of institutionalization usually rebound to the norm very quickly once they have a supportive, loving family to attend to their individual needs.
The child’s birth mother may have received poor (or no) prenatal care. This depends on the health care system of the country-- some nations provide medical care to all their citizens, while in other nations almost no one receives preventive health care.
It is unlikely that the child will be able to trace her birth parents. This may or may not be true-- it all depends on the record keeping of the nation from which you adopt, attitudes in that country, and the adoption agency you work with.
There is a lot of paperwork required. Yes, the paperwork can seem endless at times. However, international adoption agencies, along with the social worker who completes your home study, will assist you with filling out all those forms. And the paperwork isn’t difficult, just tedious.
Click here to learn more about adoption in different countries.
You can also check out our photolisting of international children waiting to be adopted.
Issues to consider:
Check out our international adoption forums to learn more about your chosen country and other useful information.
Some countries have no problem with single parents adopting their children, while other countries won’t even consider single parent adoption. The same goes for same-sex couples. Doing your research will help you find the country that is right for you and your situation.
Learn which agencies do adoptions in which countries-- not all adoption agencies handle adoptions from all countries.
Find out which countries utilize orphanages and which rely on foster care for their children prior to adoption. Try browsing our Reviews/Directory as a starting place.
Find out which countries provide medical histories on the children’s birth parents, and which countries provide no information on the birth families. Know which countries require traveling abroad and which countries have a “travel optional” policy. Make sure you keep the child you are hoping to adopt at the forefront of your thoughts while making these decisions.
For more information about each country’s requirements, spend some time learning about International Adoption in the Adoption.com Wiki.
Here are some more questions to ponder:
Is your heart set on raising a child from infancy, or would you like to adopt an older child?
Do you feel you need the experience of parenting an infant?
Do you want to parent a girl or a boy, or do you have no preference?
Do you want to parent a sibling group or are you hoping to adopt one child at a time?
Your answers to these questions will help guide your country decision, since some countries have more girls available for adoption, some countries have more boys available for adoption, and the ages at which children are placed for adoption vary from nation to nation.
Application Fee: $150-$300
Home Study: $1,500-$2,750
Dossier Fee: $2,700
Adoption Program Fee: (varies by country): $4,750-$12,250
Travel For an Escorted Child: $1,500-$4,000
Post Placement: $700-$1400
Orphanage Fee (required by some agencies): Varies
One very important question to ask the agency is whether there is an additional
orphanage fee. Some orphanage adoptions will require a donation to that orphanage
(this is in addition to the country fee). In China, for example, this generally runs between
$3,000 and $4,000.
Adoption Tax Credit
Adoption Grants (add info about grants from Guide)
Remember that some adoption agencies may lower their fees for families adopting older children or children with special needs. They will also typically lower their fees if you are open to adopting multiple children at a time or if you use the same agency more than once. Even if the agency doesn’t offer to lower the fee, you should always ask. It can’t hurt and you never know-- you might end up saving some money!
Need a little inspiration? Here’s a story about a family who had no idea how they were going to fund their international adoption.
• Review the eligibility of prospective adoptive parents;
• Provide home studies, or can recommend someone in your area to conduct your homestudy;
• Assist you with preparing your adoption paperwork;
• Coordinate the referral of children;
• Provide adoptive parenting programs
• Provide post-placement services and file post-placement reports.
You can check out reviews for international adoption agencies here.
Check out our Reviews/Directory. Gather all the information you can about the agencies you’re interested in--call or e-mail the agencies and ask for more information. Be sure to ask for references and be sure to check them! When you get the deluge of brochures and pamphlets from all those international adoption agencies, be sure to take the time to read them thoroughly--even the small print. This is not the time to skim through your reading assignment!
On the other hand, adoption agencies are accredited by outside organizations. Accreditation certifies that an adoption agency’s operations are the best that they can be. Among other criteria, accreditation standards include effective operation as a non-profit organization, effective and accountable management operations, sound financial management, effective personnel practices and training, effective client services, documented and effective procedures, and, most importantly, effective and ethical international adoption practices.
Requirements in each of these areas are set forth in extreme detail by the
Furthermore, some countries will only allow international adoption agencies that are accredited by their country’s government to place children for adoption. Before you settle on working with a particular agency, check to see if they are approved by the government of the country from which you are adopting.
While most international adoption agencies are legitimate and truly have the best interests of the children at heart, some agencies are nothing short of fraudulent. The international adoption process is rife with stress and emotion without mixing in the specter of fraud. During your research process, review agency literature, attend international adoption seminars and open houses, and talk with agency staffers.
1) You are suited to be an adoptive parent
2) You have an appropriate place to raise a child.
This doesn’t mean that you have to transform into Ward and June Cleaver overnight. (If you did, you’d probably scare the daylights out of your social worker!) The home study lets the adoption agency get to know you while you learn more about the adoption process. The entire home study process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on how quickly the meetings with your social worker can be arranged and how quickly you can gather all the necessary information.
The home study will involve a lot of paperwork, so plan on gathering up all your official documents, all your financial documents, completing a criminal history background check, and making a visit to your doctor.
Click here to learn more about getting a home study and request information from a home study professional.
You’ll start by submitting the I-600A: Application for Advancing Processing of Orphan Petition. If something goes wrong or you need extra help you may need to call the office of your Congressional Representative for help getting your child’s paperwork processed correctly.
Compiling a dossier involves gathering documents, having these documents notarized, and then adding various seals from your county, your state, and the U.S. government.
Is it complicated? Well, yes and no. Click here for more information and read on.
The bad news is that the vast majority of these documents need to be notarized, certified, apostilled, and authenticated. What does this mean? Read on!
Here’s a notary tip: Before you hand your local Notary Public a stack of documents that are bound for your dossier, ask when the notary’s commission expires. Most countries require that the notary’s commission be valid for at least a year past the date they witness a signature.
Putting an apostille on something is the equivalent of having the Notary Public’s seal notarized. When a document is apostilled, the governmental body that registered the Notary is certifying that the Notary’s signature, seal, and license are valid. The government official will look at the signature and seal of the Notary on your notarized documents and then check their records to validate the signature and seal. They will then attach another paper to your document with their authorization seal and official signature.
You are waiting for the phone to ring and your social worker to say,” We have a child for you!” With every phone call, your heart momentarily stops as you ask yourself, “Is this it? Is this the call where I learn about my child?”
The average wait for an international adoption is 12-18 months, but this varies from country to country and from situation to situation. Your adoption agency will give you a ballpark estimate regarding the length of wait you should expect before being matched with a child.
If you can get through the frustrations, keep your hope alive (and your sense of humor!), learn patience, gain faith, and absolutely refuse to give up when you confront an obstacle, you will have a child once your homestudy is approved. You will be the forever family a child is waiting for.
Click here for a list of ways to make your wait bearable.
The fee for this is usually part of the country program fee. Your adoption agency and/or your foreign attorney also can assist you in securing a passport for the child to enable travel to the United States.
But the first time you meet your child is truly breathtaking-- all those long hours of getting your paperwork together, worrying, praying, and waiting have come down to this one moment when you can see and touch and hold your child for the first time. Even if things don’t unfold like a perfect fairy tale (and they rarely do!), the first meeting with your child will be a magical memory you’ll treasure your entire life.
In addition to going to the foreign government, these reports are usually shared with the orphanage personnel and/or the foster family who cared for your child. Post-placement reports demonstrate that a child has made a successful transition to life in an American family. The same officials who approve new international placements rely on post-placement reports as an indicator of the success of their efforts. In other words, you can help other families who are hoping to adopt children from the same country you adopted from by complying with the post-placement requirements! This is a time when you can “pay it forward” and assist future adoptions.
If you're looking for resources on parenting and adoption, you can check out this list of recommended books for preparation and support.
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