Depending on the nation the child is coming from, the age and disability, and the child’s most recent living environment (orphanage, foster home, living on the streets, etc.), the needs of families adopting internationally will be mildly to radically different from those adopting domestically. Children from other countries may have ESL (English as a Second Language) issues, may need extra time to adjust to the change of culture and the level of care, and may arrive with health problems not commonly seen in the USA, such as parasites picked up from unsafe drinking water.

For these reasons, it is paramount that people adopting internationally maintain close ties with their adoption agency and international adoption support group for specific help and information. Here are some more tips:

  • If you do not have any friends of the same race or ethnicity as your new child, find some. These friends will also serve as mentors to your child as he or she grows up and goes through a natural process called “racial identity development.” Consider living in a diverse neighborhood and attending a church, temple, or synagogue with members who also belong to your child’s race or ethnic group.
  • If you are adopting transracially or internationally, ask your adoption agency to assign you a volunteer “buddy family.” A buddy family is a family that has adopted a child very much like the child you are about to adopt. Your buddy family will be of priceless help to you in dealing with unique cultural, linguistic and health issues.
  • Take an online or offline course in parenting transracially and transculturally. The Foster Parents Community at offers such a course and some of the best materials ever offered on this subject are available from the North American Council on Adoptable Children. There are also some excellent book titles available.
  • Eventually, you will want to look into ways to help him or her stay in touch with the culture of birth. Ask your support group about “culture camps” that often take place in the summer, and tours of the child’s first country that are sometimes organized for adoptive families whose children, now teens, express an interest in visiting their countries of origin.


Copyright © 2003 Rita Laws and Nancy Ashe. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form without written consent.