5 Myths About International Adoption: Busted

Here's what you need to know.

Susan Kuligowski September 27, 2016
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When it comes to the subject of international adoption, it seems everyone is an expert—especially those who have never adopted internationally. The truth is, like anything else, international adoption is an ever-evolving process that even the most knowledgeable have a hard time keeping up with.

Nevertheless, here are a few myths that aren’t too difficult to bust:

It’s easier than domestic adoption

International adoption, like domestic adoption, brings with it several unknowns, including wait times, changing regulations, varying costs, and medical concerns.

To start, adopting internationally involves an extra layer of paperwork. Intercountry adoption is governed by both the laws of the country in which the child lives and the country in which the adoptive parents live. And then there’s travel, which involves applying for passports and visas, as well as planning for overseas stay or stays, depending on the country.

Also, in addition to the typical home study, some Hague Adoption Convention countries require adopting families to fulfill a certain number of hours of online classes in preparation for their adoption and to continue with post-adoption visits for years following placement.

It’s more costly than domestic adoption

Not necessarily. International and Domestic adoption have differing costs for sure. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway,  the range of adoption costs is as follows:

Public Agency (Foster Care) Adoptions: $0 – $2,500

Licensed Private Agency Adoptions: $5,000 – $40,000

Independent Adoptions: $8,000 – $40,000

Facilitated/Unlicensed Adoptions: $5,000 – $40,000

Intercountry Adoptions: $15,000 – $30,000.

Time away from work as well as travel expenses—including airfare, lodging, and meals—make up a large portion of what may boost international adoption expenses.

International adoptions are closed

Not so fast. Yes, in many countries, finalized adoptions remain confidential under the legal system between the service provider and adoptive family; however, with improved record keeping and worldwide access to the internet, there is a greater chance that adopted children may be able to seek out their birth families and vice versa with little effort. As with any adoption, you have to consider the fact that at some point in time, an adopted child may have questions about, and wish to search for, her birth family. Social media has made what was once a difficult search just a click away. Once contact has been made, it’s up to each involved party to decide whether or not to pursue a relationship.

Greater risk of medical issues.

While it’s true that (depending on the country), medical reports may be sketchy and that living conditions can be bad compared to the United States, as with any adoption, it’s important to do your research, choose a credible agency, and have open communications with in-country staff (orphanage or foster care) throughout the process.

Many countries have made great strides in recent years to provide as much information as is available. Many countries also list available children as “special needs” who fall into a very wide spectrum of correctable conditions—often requiring minimal health interventions easily accessed in the United States (though not available in impoverished countries.)

Your agency is required to provide you with your child’s medical history ahead of time to ensure that you’re aware of and are able to provide services that are in the best interest of the child. Whether you adopt internationally or domestically, you will need to be active in ensuring you are receiving the most accurate information as possible, as it will impact your child’s life well into the future.

You can adopt from any country.

While many countries have children available for intercountry adoption, most also have specific criteria concerning children available for adoption as well as who may adopt available children. Other countries simply forbid international adoption altogether. Countries open to international adoption consider everything from age to marital status to the size of your family when determining eligibility to adopt.

Whether or not a country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention is another factor in whether or not a person qualifies for international adoption. The laws of countries with available children vary. In addition, prospective families also must  must comply with US federal law and the laws of your home state.

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Susan Kuligowski

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.


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