One of the biggest worries many prospective parents have when considering international adoption is ensuring their adoption is on the up-and-up both legally and ethically. There are oodles of stories of adoption scams as well as human trafficking and black market baby practices in both domestic and international adoption. So how can you protect yourself and—more importantly–how can you protect the rights of the child you hope to someday parent?
1. Be selective in selecting your adoption agency.
Choosing a credible and licensed agency is one of the most important things you’ll do as part of your adoption journey, and you should do plenty of research before signing on any dotted line. If you don’t have a physcial contact to start with, the U.S. Department of State’s website offers a comprehensive list of accredited agencies, including those affiliated with Hague Adoption Convention countries.
Although starting the adoption process can be intimidating, do not—I repeat—do not be afraid to ask questions. Your agency should have the answers and no problem sharing its policies and practices with you, including:
- Contract information
- A valid license
- Their fee schedule (including legal fees and overall estimated adoption expenses)
- Information about their in-country relationships with social services, facilitators, and private orphanages
- Its overall mission/philosophy concerning the well being of the children and birth families it represents.
Good agencies also strive to maintain healthy relationships with families who have completed the process and will often work with these families to share with you these firsthand experiences—both the positives and negatives—to provide you with a clear picture. Should you feel like your concerns are being dismissed or that you are being ignored, you may want to keep looking.
2. Know where you’re going.
Just as important as selecting your adoption agency is doing your homework regarding which country you want to pursue an adoption in. Each country has different requirements, and these requirements are ever-changing due to both internal and external influences. Work with your agency to ensure that you have the most current information to avoid issues down the road. A good agency will stay current in country policies and provide this to you so that you don’t have to dig on your own—although you should anyway.
In addition, while more than 75 countries are affiliated with the Hague Adoption Convention, others are not. Entered into force in the United States in 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. While it added more regulations and requirements to an already complex and confusing system, the hope was that it better protects the rights of children placed for adoption, their birth families, and prospective adoptive families. Whether or not you choose to adopt from a participating country, you should take it upon yourself to learn about your country of choice: learn about its adoption history, judicial practices, and in-country rights for adoptive parents to determine if a country meets with your principles and expectations. Remember–this country will forever be your child’s first home.
3. Avoid scams.
If an agency or affiliated service provider/facilitator/orphanage seems sketchy to you from the get-go, you can be sure they do not have your best interests at heart and even more sure they are not working in the best interest of waiting children. The same holds true for countries with troubling histories concerning adoption scandals and overall human rights violations.
Keep your eyes and ears open. Large, unexplained fees or requests for pre-payments, shoddy background checks and insufficient health histories, lack of communication, promises that sound too good to be true—these are all red flags that you are working with someone who is working around the system. If it sounds unrealistic—it probably is.
4. Find support.
First, make sure you feel comfortable talking to your adoption provider and that they are there for you and your forever family-to-be—not the other way around.
Now spend some time finding friends within the adoption community. One of the best ways to know that you are making the best decisions for yourself as well as your family member(s) to be is to seek out fellow adoptive families, particularly those who have gone through the process in the country of your choice.
Search online for groups that may meet in your area or a neighboring state. It may be worth your while to plan a trip to meet with others who have walked in the shoes you’re just starting out in. Often, you can make great connections this way so far as finding the in-country support you’ll need while you finalize your adoption. Just as important, support groups are a wonderful resource to have once your family is home and long after–who better to turn to with concerns or questions you or your child may have well into the future?