Social Worker: Adoption Travel Options

What to consider before traveling to pick up an adopted child

Hannah Moore February 08, 2014
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So many questions come to mind. So many variables to consider.

There is no right or wrong answer to any situation, just pros and cons and food for thought. The right thing to do will differ from family to family. There are three key issues to consider:

  1. The maturity of your children you are considering traveling with or leaving at home.
  2. How long your trip will be.
  3. Your finances.

Just how mature are your children? Can they travel by airplane, car, or train for several hours? Are they flexible to try new foods? How much time away from school can they afford to miss? Will they resent their new sibling, or feel abandoned by you if they do not travel with you to pick their new sibling up? Will they bond well with their new sibling? The questions go on and on. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You know your family best, so no one else can make the “right” decision for you.

When traveling to pick up your child, whether it is domestic or international, you will need to consider how long the drive or flight will be, as well as the length of stay required. Most people assume that a domestic adoption is the quickest travel experience and overall this tends to be true. However, there are many families that will tell you that when they went to pick up their new baby, the birth mother was late to deliver or they were delayed in another state waiting for the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children to give them clearance to leave. You could potentially be “stuck” in a hotel room with a newborn and your other children for a minimum of a week to one month. Everyone knows that there’s a big difference between being gone for one week and being gone for four weeks! Food for thought: Can you be away from your children for an unexpected extended period of time if they don’t come, or can they be away from school for more than a week?

There are positive and negative aspects of bringing your kids along. On the plus side, international travel is educational. Your children will learn about their sibling’s culture and country of origin, try new foods, and begin the bonding process immediately. Bringing your kids with you to welcome their new sibling to the family lets them feel like they are an important part of the process. One needs to remember, however, that adoption travel is not for every sibling. Your child may suffer from jet lag and be susceptible to illnesses in another country. If they are very young, they may need a great deal of your attention, causing a stressful time to become even more nerve-racking. They may not have the patience to wait for visa appointments, as many families have to do when finalizing their adoption in other countries.

When traveling alone, you as parents are then allowed to completely focus on the new child and give him or her your undivided attention. Many will say that this one-on-one approach makes it much easier to get to know the personality of their new child and for the child to get to know and begin to trust his or her new parents. This familiarity and trust leads to attachment and bonding, especially in an older child adoption.

Adoption travel can be a wonderful perk, but it’s not a vacation. If you decide to leave the children home, they can still be very involved in the adoption process. They can help with getting the adoption documents together, decorating the new baby’s bedroom, choosing a name and planning a homecoming celebration. Help them prepare for their new sibling’s adoption with lots of family discussion. Discuss the trip and how much you’ll miss them, on their developmental level.

You may decide to travel alone or with someone other than your spouse or partner. If this is the case, then try to highlight their time at home alone with their Dad, Mom, relative, or caregiver as having them all to themselves. Leave them with a transitional object to help make the separation easier– such as a photo, toy, or notes to read while you are away. One advantage of not bringing the kids with you when you travel is for them to continue their normal routine, with minimal disruption to their life.

Lastly, travel can be very expensive, regardless of whether it is domestic or international. Even the cheapest coach-class tickets can cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention hotel expenses. It may come down to a simple matter of economics. Adoption is a wonderful way of forming a family. The travel part is only the beginning of this lifelong journey. Listen to the pros and cons, speak to others who have traveled with their children, traveled without their children, traveled alone, or with their partner, then make your decision based on your family’s needs and know that it is the right one for you and your child. 

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Hannah Moore


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