When you’re first trying to choose a country for international adoption, start by thinking about your comfort level. Think about how open you are to someone who is culturally or racially different– if you would not consider marrying someone from a particular background, you probably should not consider parenting a child from that country.
Consider your friends and support system. Who is coming over for dinner on Friday night? In other words, how isolated will the child be in your community? Do you speak another language? Have you visited or lived in a foreign country that is open to international adoption? How will you bring some of the culture and traditions of that country into your home? What about visiting that country later on?
Your age and marital status will help narrow down the countries you can adopt from. Some countries prefer younger parents, and some even go so far as to set limits on how much older than the child a parent can be. Other countries are more amenable to older parents, and some even prefer slightly older parents– they must buy into the adage “with age comes wisdom.” Some countries have no problem with single parents adopting their children, while other countries won’t even consider single parent adoption. As you can see, there are a myriad of things to consider when pondering international adoption. It is also important to remember that many countries will waive age and marital status requirements for the adoption of a child with special needs. Furthermore, many adoption agencies have their own age and marital restrictions for adopting parents, so be sure to ask the agencies you are considering.
So what should you do first? After you weigh all the issues, do some research– correction, do LOTS of research! 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. Find out which countries provide medical histories on the children’s birth parents and which countries provide no information on the birth families. Make it your business to know which countries insist that you travel abroad to bring your child home and which countries have a “travel optional” policy.
Then, once you’ve learned the ins and outs of international adoption requirements of the various countries, you should close your eyes and picture in your mind the child you wish to adopt. Who do you see– a girl or a boy? An infant, a toddler, or an older child? What does the child look like? If you really can’t see the details in your mind’s eye, this is perhaps an indicator that you don’t care about the ethnicity of the child you want to parent, but it doesn’t really help you narrow down which country to adopt from. On the other hand, if you “see” an Asian child or an African child or a Caucasian child in your mind’s eye, then you know where you should focus your research.
Now it’s time for more soul searching. (Better get used to it! You’ll be doing a lot of soul searching during both your international adoption quest and also once you are a parent.) Here are some more questions to ponder:
- Is your heart set on raising a child from infancy, or are you willing to adopt an older child?
- Do you feel you need the experience of parenting an infant? Or are you just as happy to skip middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes?
- 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 do you want to take it one child at a time?
Your answers to these questions will help guide you in 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.
Most people starting out on the road to international adoption usually find that one country becomes more appealing than the others. It may be that your best friend in college was from China, or your family may have distant East European roots, or maybe you traveled to Asia as a child. In the end, many adoptive parents will say, “Country X just called to us. We knew in our hearts that it was the right choice for us.” Even though you may feel like you are miles away from making such a statement, you too will get to this point– don’t worry!