If you are new to international adoption and in the research phase, you may not know about post-placement reports. If you have been around a while, you’ve probably completed more than a few. Post-placement reports are required by most, if not all, countries that allow inter-country adoption. Their purpose is to show the sending country that the children they allowed to be adopted overseas are alive and well.

How often and for how long these reports need to be completed depends on the country. When we first adopted from Vietnam, we agreed to send yearly reports until the age of 18. (Vietnam has since changed that rule.) With our daughters from China, we have five years of reports; some are self-reported and some are completed by a social worker.

These post-placement reports can be problematic, though. It seems as though more than a few adoptive parents see them as optional or intrusive or just too much bother to complete. Let’s talk about each of these excuses.

I’ve already done so much paperwork to get this child home, I really don’t think I should have to do any more.

Yes, adoption, particularly international adoption, is a paperwork nightmare. I’m sure I am responsible for whole forests of trees disappearing to complete our five home studies and dossiers. It really can feel as though the paperwork should stop once your child is home. Sadly, this is not the case. Dealing with birth certificates, certificates of citizenship, social security cards, passports, re-adoptions, and insurance records can feel almost as bad as the paperwork before you brought your child home. None of these is truly optional if you are going to ensure that your child is a legal and permanent citizen.

And just as these bits of paperwork are important, so are the post-placement reports. Just because you did a lot of paperwork on the front end does not mean you do not have to fulfill your obligations on the back end. Just because you still have a lot of paperwork to do to ensure you child can function as a citizen in his or her new country, does not mean that you do not have an obligation to the country your child came from. To not send the post-placement reports is to expose a very deep disregard for the country of your child’s birth. It says that you do not see keeping your end of the agreement with that country to be worthwhile. It also says that you attach no importance to the laws of that country. You may not think that your child’s country of origin cared about your child, but I believe that is to put on some pretty significant cultural blinders. One country’s required paperwork is not more or less necessary than another.

I have my child home now. I am a good parent. I shouldn’t have to continue to prove that.

If only it were so simple. Before I go on, let me just list a few names for you: Sherin Mathews, Max Shatto, Hana Williams, Alex Pavlis, Hyunsu O’Callaghan. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. If you don’t know these names, go and Google them. Each of them was a child brought to the US via international adoption and subsequently killed by their adoptive parents. These parents all had to go through the same process (home study, including home visit, dossiers, immigration approvals) as any one of us parents who have adopted. It is an intrusive process. It is not a pleasant one at times. And yes, it is flawed, because no matter how much we would like it to, it cannot predict if this particular parent will snap and kill their child.

I cannot blame sending countries for wanting to hear that their children are alive and well. I’m actually surprised that so few of the post-placement reports are to be done by a social worker. You see, I think we have the wrong idea about these social worker visits and reports. It is easy to see them as being a test of your parental abilities. How well you are doing, what a good parent you are, how your child is thriving, and if you are not each of these things, then you somehow fail. No one likes the idea of their life being examined and judged.

Yet, what if we looked at these post-placement visits and reports the other way? What if we saw the social worker as our ally instead of as our judge? Because that is really what the situation should be. Social workers want you to thrive as a family, and if you are struggling, they want to hear about that, too, because they can probably help. A good social worker can tell you if behavior you are seeing is normal. A good social worker can help provide resources. A good social worker can help you over the inevitable hurdles of bringing a traumatized child into your home. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are struggling. There is everything wrong if you are struggling and you do not reach out to someone . . . anyone . . . for help. No one in any part of the adoption world wants another child’s name to be added to that list I gave, and post-placement reports and visits are one way to help prevent that from happening.

My child is home, what’s the worst that could happen if I don’t do these reports? It’s not as though someone is going to come and take my child back.

On one level, this idea is absolutely correct. The sending country is not going to come to the US and take back the child because post-placement reports were not completed. This is a particularly selfish view. Let me quote from the 2016 Report on Intercountry Adoptions put out by the Department of State. (You know, that government entity which negotiates treaties and whatnot so that we US citizens can adopt children from other countries.)

“The importance of timely completion and submission of these reports is paramount, as it may influence a country’s perception about adoption to the United States. Even after adoption, countries maintain a strong interest in knowing how children from their countries fare. Officials become concerned when they receive no reports about a child after adoption, often fearing that the adoption has disrupted or dissolved, or that the child has been harmed. When parents fail to fulfill the obligations they agreed to, it reflects badly on U. S. adoptions and impact the country’s willingness to continue to engage and partner with the United States.”

Shall I summarize? Sending countries do care about the post-placement reports, and fear the worst if they are not received. If enough reports are not sent, it could jeopardize all future adoptions from that country. So, yes, your negligence in sending your post-placement reports might not affect you, but it could certainly affect families behind you and the children who will miss out on having a family.

The take home to all of this? Do the reports. Do them because you said you would. Do them because it helps to ensure the safety of your family and child. Do them because to not do so, could mean many children do not get the luxury of living in a family.