When we began our adoption journey over a decade ago, my husband and I had no idea it would lead us overseas. We started out, like so many, searching our state adoption website and photolisting as we slowly began to learn about adoption itself, the children who were waiting to be adopted, and the process of domestic, private, and foster to adoption and all that it entailed. International adoption, at that point, was not even on the radar. There were so many questions to answer and boxes to check—each box leading to more questions and new information to digest. We very quickly realized there was so much we just didn’t know and wouldn’t know until we were ready to take the next step and began to speak with adoption professionals and other adoptive families who could thoroughly answer our questions and fill in the blanks. Eventually, our search led us to Colombia, and we never looked back.

It’s ironic (to me anyway) that I’m writing an article on the best countries to adopt from because my husband will be the first to tell you that I typically steer clear of best and top 10 lists as I believe no two people are alike nor are the circumstances from where we’ve come and/or the paths toward where we’re headed. Still, in a world that includes millions of children who desperately need families and who are counting on those of us able and willing to be that family, I think it’s important to spread the word over and over and over until every last child has the opportunity to be united with a safe and loving forever family. Adoption.org’s article How Many Orphans Worldwide? What to Do?, states that “According to UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund), there are roughly 153 million orphans worldwide.”

What Makes a Country a Best Country to Adopt From?

The reasons people choose to adopt a child from a particular country are many. While, for some families, the decision to adopt may stem from the painful realization of infertility and/or age, others choose to adopt because they are open and excited to grow their family via another route. Still, many others have been through the foster or adoption system themselves and understand the importance and life-changing opportunity that adoption plays for so many waiting children—domestically and abroad. What qualifies a place as one of the best countries to adopt from for one, may not be the case for another. It’s no secret that there are children all over the world in need of families (see the staggering number above), some of whom will become victims on the street and many others who may spend their entire childhood in foster care or institutional settings before aging out of the system until they are put out on the street at 18 or 21 years old to fend (many times ill-prepared) for themselves. To many, this reality is a call to take action. Because of the varied reasons people have for adopting, their reasons for choosing a specific country is bound to be different.

“Each year, thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from abroad, and families habitually resident in other countries also adopt children from the United States,” according to Travel.state.gov, which describes intercountry adoption as “the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.”

It’s difficult to say without a shadow of a doubt which are the absolute best countries to adopt from as things change from year-to-year; international laws changed dramatically between the time we adopted our first child to the time we adopted our second; but overall, these countries below tend to remain high on the list year after year at promoting and providing healthy and safe opportunities for placement in the best interest of the child and within the international laws set up to govern intercountry adoption.

Colombia

According to Lovebought.com, in Colombia, around 820,000 children under the age of seventeen are orphaned. Many will grow up without a family. These children are vulnerable to recruitment by sex traffickers and street gangs in which drug abuse and high levels of violence quickly become part of their everyday lives. Since 1999, United States families have welcomed nearly 5,000 children into their homes; in 2018 this number was 229. It’s important to note that in 2013, Colombia’s Central Authority for adoptions, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), ceased accepting new intercountry adoption applications from non-Colombian citizens living abroad interested in adopting a child under 6 years and 11 months old, unless ICBF considered the child to have special needs. However, adoptions are on an upswing once again, especially for families open to adopting infants and toddlers (up to 59 months); sibling groups; or older children (up to age 16). Colombian children are most often of Spanish, Native, and African descent. Married couples, singles, and same-sex couples are eligible to adopt, though the country does have age, income, and health requirements. The process to adopt in Colombia can take anywhere from one to two years. Colombia has a heritage track, provided at least one prospective adoptive parent who has a Colombian birth certificate. Adoptive parents are required to stay in Colombia for a minimum of one week to begin the process, which typically spans three to eight weeks to complete. Costs range from $30,000–$45,000. Colombia complies with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

China

China has remained a popular country to adopt from for many years and more than 1,475 children were adopted by United States families in 2018. Chinese law permits the adoption of children up to and including age 13. Married heterosexual couples and single women are eligible to adopt. China does not currently permit lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, or intersex individuals or same-sex couples to adopt. The age requirement of a prospective parent is 30 years (min). Additional age restrictions apply depending on the situation and age difference between parent and child. China does not require prospective adoptive parents to reside in China for a specified time period; however, at least one adopting parent must travel to China to execute the required documents in person before the appropriate Chinese authorities will finalize an adoption. It can take up to nine years to receive a referral of a healthy infant from China’s central authority, with special needs and or older child adoption generally taking much less time. Families can expect to spend at least three weeks in China to finalize adoption and immigration procedures. According to Holt International, the estimated cost to adopt from China is between $30,000-$34,000. China complies with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

South Korea

Adoptive families welcomed 206 children from South Korea into their forever homes in 2018. Married couples are eligible to adopt from the Republic of Korea and prospective parents must be between 25 and 44 years old. Additional age requirements are in place depending on the specific adoption and age difference between parent and child. South Korea employs a five-month wait period before any child who has been deemed eligible for intercountry adoption to ensure that the child cannot be placed through domestic adoption. The adoption process may take approximately one to four years to complete depending on circumstances with the cost of adoption estimated at about $20,000 including child care fees, legal processing fees, administrative fees, social worker payment and counseling fees, and post-adoption service fee.

South Korea is not a Hague Convention-compliant country; however, it does enforce strict guidelines on the eligibility of available children and acceptance of prospective adopting parents.

India

Three hundred and two Indian children were adopted by United States families in 2018, the majority of whom ranged between 1 and 2 years of age. Children up to 18 years of age that have been cleared by the Regional Child Welfare Committees are eligible for intercountry adoption with sibling adoptions and children with special needs encouraged. Single people and married couples who have been in a stable relationship for at least two years are eligible to adopt from India. Prospective adoptive parents should be at least 25 years of age and no more than 45 years of age if adopting a child age four or younger. Other age restrictions apply depending on the specifics surrounding the adoption. Only families with fewer than four children (biological or adopted) will be considered. It typically takes between 18 to 24 months to complete an adoption from India, with a requirement of at least one of the adoptive parents traveling to India at least once with an average in-country stay between 10-14 days. Adoption from India costs between $30,000-$48,000. India complies with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. In addition, according to Adoption.com’s Adopting from India Guide, as of July 14, 2014, all individuals and agencies facilitating international adoptions must be in compliance with the Intercountry Universal Accreditation Act.

Ukraine

United States families successfully adopted 248 children from Ukraine in 2018. Ukraine law requires that children deemed as orphans be at least five years old before they are eligible for adoption. Exceptions may be made for relative adoptions, sibling adoptions, and children who are classified as special needs. Married couples are eligible to adopt from Ukraine. Single people are only able to adopt in the instance they are related to the child. Adoptive parents must be at least 21 years old and at least 15 years older than the adopted child. Adoptions in Ukraine typically take between three months and one year to complete. Prospective parents may need to wait an additional six to 12 weeks for the completion of all paperwork and hearings through to the end of the adoption process. While the country does not charge adoption fees to adoptive parents, some families have reported paying between $10,000-$40,000 to Ukrainian adoption service providers. Ukraine is not a Hague Convention-compliant country.

United States

While this country may not be one you were expecting to see on the list of best countries to adopt from, it most certainly fits the bill, and while many well-meaning people assume that the neediest of children are waiting in other worse off places, the United States is faced with a growing population of children in need of forever families due to the growing opioid addiction. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption indicates that more than 125,000 children across the country are currently waiting to be adopted. Furthermore, the organization states that over 20,000 teens age out of foster care each year, leaving these kids at a higher risk of homelessness, early parenting, and other negative outcomes.

According to Adopt.org, there are two stages in the adoption process, “pre-placement and post-placement.” The time frame varies with the type of child being adopted (typically two to seven years for a healthy infant with a much shorter wait for special needs children) and how long it takes prospective parents to complete their home study. Costs associated with adopting a healthy infant of any race through a private agency or attorney in the United States range from several hundred dollars to $30,000 or more whereas with foster to adopt and special needs adoption, agencies often have a slide fee scale with little to no cost. Additionally, children may receive subsidies to cover basic medical and other approved expenses.

You can learn everything you need to know about adoption in the United States, be it domestic, private, foster to adopt, special needs, or many other options by clicking here.

Taking Action

If you are considering adopting a waiting child, check out Adoption.com’s How to Adopt a Child Guide for everything you need to know about adoption and the next steps. You can learn more about international adoption here and everything you need to know about adoption travel here. Aside from these designated best countries to adopt from, you can find out important information for many other countries open to international adoption on the Travel.state.gov intercountry adoption page here.

Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.