When my husband and I first announced that we had decided on overseas adoption, I’m not sure we were quite prepared for all of the curious looks, questions, and comments we received in return. “Why don’t you just adopt in the United States?” “Why do you want to adopt internationally?” “What do you know about that country?” “Why that country and not (insert another country)?” “I’ve heard it’s really dangerous.” “The kids come from horrific situations, so be careful.” “But there are so many kids in foster care.” “They could be unhealthy.” “Isn’t it too expensive?” “Will they speak English?”
To be honest, these questions often led to good conversation and gave us an opportunity to dispel or quell misinformation and adoption myths within our circle of family and friends while we learned more and more through the process ourselves. Still, it sometimes felt a tad bit annoying to be put on the spot and have to explain or defend what is a very personal decision about a very emotional journey with those who didn’t know much more than our first name(s)—all the while navigating the international adoption path, which can feel complicated and confusing enough! Adoption.com’s “The International Adoption Guide” offers step-by-step information that will help you figure out everything, from questions to ask yourself before deciding on overseas adoption to choosing a country to fees involved to post-placement issues.
Ten years later, just like our family, the overseas adoption landscape looks very different, misunderstandings and misconceptions still exist, international laws continue to change, making it difficult to maneuver, and millions of children across the world are still in need of homes. And while international adoption isn’t for everyone, it still calls to many, the way it did to us, in a way that can prove difficult to explain. For anyone considering adopting from another country, here are a few things to consider.
Overseas Adoption Requirements
Similar to domestic adoption where each state has its own laws and requirements, so do countries open to international adoption. Click here to research the requirements in your country of interest.
The United States Department of State’s intercountry adoption page provides a great step-by-step guide to the international adoption process:
1. “Child in need of placement.
2. “Child background study. A U.S.-authorized entity prepares a child background study and obtains necessary consents.
3. “Reasonable efforts to find a timely domestic placement. The adoption service provider makes reasonable efforts pursuant to 22 CFR 96.54 to actively recruit and make a diligent search for a timely domestic placement.
4. “Prospective adoptive parent(s) wants to provide home for U.S. child in need. A prospective adoptive parent(s) who is (are) resident in another Convention country decides to provide a home for a child(ren) in need of placement who is (are) resident in the United States.
5. “Home study. The prospective adoptive parent(s) has a home study prepared that meets the requirements of 1) the receiving country in which he/she is (they are) resident, 2) the State with jurisdiction over the adoption, and 3) 22 CFR part 97 if the prospective adoptive parent(s) seeks a Hague Adoption Certificate (HAC) or Hague Custody Declaration (HCD).
6. “Prospective adoptive parent(s) applies to adopt. The prospective adoptive parent(s) files an application to adopt with a foreign authorized entity. Once the application is approved, the prospective adoptive parent(s) provides the home study, the criminal background check, and the approval to adopt to the U.S. authorized entity.
7. “Placement proposal. The U.S.-authorized entity transmits to a foreign authorized entity for approval the child background study, proof that necessary consents have been obtained, and a proposed placement, along with the reason for its determination that the proposed placement is in the child’s best interests, based on the home study and child background study and giving due consideration to the child’s upbringing and his or her ethnic, religious, and cultural background.
8. “Prospective adoptive parent(s) agrees to the proposed adoption.
9. “Entry authorization. Once the prospective adoptive parent(s) has accepted the match, the U.S. authorized entity must seek and obtain the authorization from the foreign authorized entity that the child will be able to enter and reside permanently in the receiving country.
10. “U.S. State adoption court proceedings. U.S. State adoption laws and court procedures vary widely. In every case, the prospective adoptive parent(s) must petition a U.S. State adoption court with jurisdiction over the case to adopt the child, and must present all supporting evidence required by State law.
- “Preliminary review: A U.S. State adoption court with jurisdiction over the adoption proceeding may, depending on State law, preliminarily review the proposed adoption to determine whether it is appropriate to grant initial guardianship to the prospective adoptive parent(s) to travel with the child to the receiving country prior to a final adoption order. If guardianship is granted, the prospective adoptive parents will return to the U.S. State adoption court for the final adoption, if required.
- “Final review: After the foreign-authorized entity provides the entry authorization, the U.S. State adoption court performs a final review of the proposed adoption.
11. “Application for a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration. Any party involved in an outgoing adoption may apply to the Department of State for a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration, including but not limited to: adoptive or prospective adoptive parent(s), birth parent(s), and the adopted child.
12. “Issuance of a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration. The Department of State will review the Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration application, and either issue a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Declaration, or request additional information. If the party applying for the certificate fails to provide the required additional information within 120 days of the request, the application may be considered abandoned.
13. “Emigration of child to receiving country. The child and parent(s) enter the receiving country. Post placement monitoring is performed, if required.”
What Countries Can You Adopt From?
Now that you know that you want to adopt overseas and meet the requirements, you’ll need to think carefully about where you will adopt. Choosing a country is not an easy decision and should not be made lightly. It’s important to note that not all countries are open to adoption for political or other reasons. In recent years, due to the Hague Adoption Convention, many countries have limited international adoption and/or are closed to adoption in an effort to implement protections for children and families. Wealthier countries are pushing more and more to keep children within their borders.
South Korea, China, Colombia, India, and Haiti made Adoption.org’s list of the Best Countries to Adopt from in 2019. What constitutes “best”? Things like, a country that is open rather than closed, maintains consistent practices concerning international adoption practices, as well as a good reputation for children and family rights.
As of 2018, there were about 98 nations taking part in the Hague Adoption Convention. Click here for a complete list.
What is the Hague anyway? As defined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the Hague Process is “an international treaty that provides important safeguards to protect the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents who are involved in intercountry adoptions.
“The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force in the United States on April 1, 2008. All cases filed on or after April 1, 2008, seeking to adopt a child who habitually resides in any country outside of the United States that is a party to the Convention must follow the Hague process.”
Adoption.com’s “7 Things You Didn’t Know About The Hague Convention” provides some additional insight into this international treaty.
It is still possible to adopt from non-Hague participating countries, although prospective parents should note that unlike with Hague-participating countries, there are no requirements for medical information prior to accepting a child’s referral. Additionally, agencies working with non-Hague countries are not required to disclose any potential hidden fees. Typical overseas adoption requirements such as education, training, general reports, record-keeping, and translations, also are not as stringent or, in some cases, mandatory (although training may still be required by your home state).
Cost of Overseas Adoption
Private domestic and international adoptions can range from $35,000-$45,000 (or higher depending on travel, time away from work, and other “unknowns”).
It is important to communicate with your agency to determine the breakdown of the fees associated with your overseas adoption. A general listing of services and fees may include:
- Application Fee
- Home Study
- Dossier Fee
- Adoption Program Fee
- Passport Fee
- Legal Fees
- Translation Fees
- Travel For an Escorted Child
- Post Placement
- Orphanage Fee
Again, you will want to speak with your adoption professionals to confirm which of these may apply to your case.
And while the cost of international adoption can become expensive, there are ways to help. Check out Adoption.com’s “Affording Adoption Guide” for information about creative and common sense ways to put international adoption within your reach.
Finalizing Overseas Adoption
Once you and your child arrive in the United States, your adoption will be subjected to recognition and validation according to your state of residence. According to Childwelfare.gov, “An analysis of the information collected shows that approximately 29 states out of 50, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands give full effect and recognition to an adoption decree that has been issued in full compliance with the laws of the United States and the country that granted the adoption, although some of these states place conditions on full recognition of foreign decrees. Readoption or validation protects the adoption finalized abroad from a legal challenge in state court and ensures the adopted child’s ability to inherit from an adoptive parent. Also, readoption or validation provides the adopted child with an opportunity to obtain a U.S. birth certificate from the parent’s State of residence.”
Many states require that you undergo a readoption process, which is a lot easier than it sounds. Readoption is the process of adopting a child who had been adopted in another jurisdiction. The readoption processes requires adoptive parents to provide the court with:
- A certified translated copy of the foreign adoption decree.
- Proof of the date and place of the adopted child’s birth.
- Proof that the adopted child has an IH-3 or IR-3 visa.
Acquiring United States Citizenship
Along with readoption proceedings, it is imperative for adoptive parents to follow through on obtaining United States citizenship for an adopted child. Postponing this paperwork will most definitely make tasks like enrolling in school to applying for future scholarships, colleges, jobs, and voting difficult if not impossible. Most serious of all, in order to safeguard against deportation, it is recommended that parents ensure their adopted child has proof of citizenship as soon as possible.
Many countries, especially those affiliated with the Hague Adoption Convention require adoptive families to complete post-adoption reports and visits with social workers—sometimes for several years. The number of visits and the duration of visits varies between different countries.
Facts and Dispelling Myths
- Americans have adopted over 250,000 children from abroad since 1999.
- In 2018, Americans completed 4,059 international adoptions.
- Parents who choose to adopt internationally do not do so to be different or because a celebrity did so. Most adoptive parents probably couldn’t even name celebrities who have adopted (without a Google search).
- International adoption is not easier than domestic adoption. Maybe there was a time long long ago that this might have held some truth? But for at least the last 12 years, I can assure you, there was nothing simple or easy about it. International adoption basically includes the same requirements of domestic adoption, but with another added layer altogether. But that’s okay. The extra work is worth it!
- Infants born in other countries did not enter the delivery room speaking any set language. Children adopted from another country in infancy are going to pick up whatever language their parents speak; they do not magically know how to recite a poem in their native tongue just because they were born there five months or five years ago.
- Many poor countries lack basic necessities and so you can imagine that children residing in institutions or orphanages may not receive the best in medicine or education. In truth, children living in these institutions or orphanages are oftentimes at an advantage to those who are living in poverty or in the streets. Some institutions receive government and private donations and funding and as a result, can provide a safe and healthy environment. Some institutions have forged strong relationships within their communities and in these cases, are able to provide state-of-the-art services, including medical, therapy, education, and even art services. No two countries and no two orphanages are the same.
- Parents who choose to adopt overseas are well aware of children available for adoption in the United States. They are not heartless. Parents choose to start or grow families in all sorts of ways—for most biological families, no one questions these methods done in the privacy of their own home—or families who are the result of divorce, remarriage, stepparenting, etc. Similarly, the decision to adopt a child is unique to each person who follows this path and it’s certainly not a one-lane, one-way street. I’m sure if you polled 1,000 parents of internationally adopted children, you would get 1,000 different responses as to why they chose overseas adoption. Many of these same adoptive parents are also strong advocates of domestic and foster-to-adopt. All children everywhere deserve to have the love and support of a family.