International adoption isn’t for the faint of heart. It can be intimidating even to those familiar with the adoption process. Despite the obstacles, though, many families decide to adopt oversees each year, offering thousands of children in need permanent and loving homes.
Making the decision to adopt a child will forever change your life, as well as theirs, and there are several things you should know before you decide if international adoption is right for you.
Are you prepared financially to cover not only the cost of your home study, adoption fees, and legal fees, but also to finance travel expenses as well as lodging and food for an undetermined amount of time? In addition to these basic needs, you also need to figure in legal fees, translation fees, and in-country transportation fees.
Some domestic agencies who work with international orphanages and government social services require you to complete a pre-qualification form to determine if you will be able to afford the monetary demands associated with an international adoption. It would be wise, regardless, to run the numbers on your own. Remember that some of these fees and expenses can be written off using the adoption tax credit.
Come Fly With Me
Does the idea of spending time in a foreign country appeal to you? Are you comfortable stepping out of your norm and into a world where very few people speak your language, dress like you, serve the type of food you’re used to, or offer you the standard of living you’re accustomed to–like drinkable tap water?
You will be spending an undetermined amount of time with your child in unfamiliar territory. While all of the above is appealing to some, the idea of starting your family in another country can be a scary one, especially for first-time parents. At the same time, you will need to make arrangements at home. You should talk with your employer regarding what your options are so far as time off, the Family Leave Act, covering your health insurance while you’re away, and ensuring that your job will be there when you return. You should also speak with family and friends to make preparations so far as paying bills, mail delivery, home maintenance, and pet care.
Still, the benefits of spending time in your child’s birth country are overwhelmingly important and will offer you the opportunity to fill in the blanks for him at a later date. Often, no matter how difficult their stay may prove to be, adoptive parents look back on it as one of the best in their lives as a family–where they were able to devote time bonding away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Piles of Paperwork
International adoption requires an extra level of paperwork. After all, you’re not just dealing with the United States, but another country as well. The United States requires many extra steps in order to receive clearance to adopt overseas. Families sometimes find themselves having to send in three separate fingerprints to three separate agencies; running back and forth to have paperwork notarized, certified, and apostilled; and having to keep up to date with immigration forms and requirements.
This extra level of caution works to protect both adoptive families and adoptees. One reason for the extra precautions is to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interest of the children. Adoptive families who choose to adopt from a Hague Convention approved country also receive more protection.
Prospective adoptive families should be prepared for paperwork to feel as though it will never be approved while being processed both on the domestic and international end of things. It can be a frustrating process and one that requires tremendous patience.
Once the piles of paperwork have been signed, sealed, and delivered, and you’ve been approved to adopt by the United States government, as well as the country of your choice–the great wait begins to receive your adoption referral and an okay to travel.
Availability and wait times for international adoption varies greatly. Countries often have strict rules so far as who may adopt children and at what ages. The international adoption process typically takes between 18 to 48 months from start to finish. Just like with domestic adoption, there are no guarantees or set times, as each case is handled on an individual basis. With millions of orphans around the world, however, the need remains great to find homes for waiting children. Hopeful parents should not be deterred by red tape.
Unlike the United States, where open adoption has become more common and is generally encouraged, it is unlikely a child adopted internationally will be able to maintain relations with their birth family. Many countries enforce strict privacy laws, which means your child may not be able to search for or contacting a birth parent until the age of 18, if then.
While this may actually be appealing to some adopting families who have concerns about domestic adoptions being overturned later on down the line, it is still a consideration you should keep in mind if you’re of the mind that your child should have the right to know where they come from for social or health history reasons. Check with your agency to see if a social history will be provided that you may be able to share with your child.
Of similar concern will be your child’s medical records. Some poor countries simply don’t have the financial ability to ensure children abandoned or turned over to the system receive the health care they would in the United States or other developed countries. While many countries make an effort to provide complete health histories, you should be aware that often, even under the best of circumstances, these records may be inaccurate or incomplete.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
In addition to the formalities and legal aspects of international adoption, adoptive families should do their research on how best they can serve the needs of a child coming into their lives. There are many online classes, books, and articles that deal with adopting internationally and what to expect. Parents should also speak with and prepare their immediate family members and friends for this great change, which will no doubt impact their relationships.
More than anything else, you should be prepared to support your child as he transitions from his first home to his forever home. Remember that when you adopt a child from another country, you are adopting his culture as well. It is important to respect and honor his birth country. Be prepared to integrate your child’s customs into your family and celebrate them together. Be ready to deal with issues regarding race and what others may say to you or to your child.
International adoption can be a rewarding and wonderful experience–one that may not be for the faint of heart, but is made for those willing to open their hearts and their minds.