Why Do Some People Choose to Adopt Internationally Rather Than Domestically?

The paths that lead people to adopt internationally come from many different directions. So how do people choose their path?

Virginia Spence July 01, 2018
article image

When our family was considering adoption, we felt strongly led to adopt domestically from the United States. However, we have friends who felt strongly pulled to adopt internationally. We also have friends who have adopted from foster care. Neither method of adoption is wrong, but all three ARE right.  If all three ways are indeed right, how do some families come to the decision to adopt internationally rather than domestically? Here are a few thoughts that may affect their decision to adopt internationally.

First, there are the obvious reasons some families choose international adoption. International adoption has more predictable wait times and costs; therefore, it can be more desirable than the more unpredictable time frames and costs of domestic or foster care adoptions. Some families want to adopt an older child or have no age preference which are factors that can make international adoption a little simpler. Some consider it a positive thing that there may be no familial ties, and the adoption has a lesser chance of falling through. Many families are gifted with a passion and equipped for the possibility of a special needs adoption—something that is highly likely in international adoption. One or more of these examples are ones that may influence prospective adoptive parents to consider international adoption.

Another explanation for the pursuit of international adoption is that the eye affects the heart. What one sees and knows influences how one looks at things. A family may see a picture of a child in need or hear stories of children in orphanages, and their hearts cannot help but be stirred. The knowledge that international orphans have far greater needs than domestic orphans cannot be overlooked. This article aptly states that while the greatest need of orphaned children is the need for parents, adoptive parents drawn to intercountry adoption reason that children in developing nations face threats that U.S. children do not face. Orphaned children in other countries are:

1. at risk of death due to unclean water or malnutrition,

2. at risk of death due to insufficient or no shelter,

3. at risk of having no education or economic opportunity,

4. at risk of disease, even death by preventable disease,

5. at greater risk of sex trafficking,

6. at risk of being conscripted as child soldiers,

7. at risk of being conscripted for child labor.

While the American foster system has its flaws, children in foster care don’t face those horrors. Children in foster care have access to medical care, Medicaid, court reviews, and oversight from agencies. Granted, they may be at a higher risk for other problems and the lack of a life-long family connection, but some adoptive families are drawn to children with greater needs in developing countries.

Another reason that adoptive families may pursue international adoption is because they have a personal connection to that country. An individual may have been internationally adopted and desires to also adopt from his or her birth country. Or maybe a person’s ancestry traces back to that particular country, and he or she then wants to adopt a child who shares that heritage. A connection to a certain country can be formed for a variety of reasons: friends adopted from that country, acquainted with international adult or child adoptees, or trips to visit that country. However the connection is created, it can be a powerful motivator for one to pursue adoption from that country.

Probably the most important prompting for families who choose to adopt internationally is that they feel a “call” to do so. This is sometimes difficult to explain. For some, it is lingering heavy heart for orphans. Sometimes people cannot escape the feeling that they are meant to do something and are unable to escape the desperate need before them. David Platt, in his book Radical, said, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” Those who felt led to international adoption realize that it may not be meant for everyone, but it is definitely meant for them.

Ultimately, whatever avenue you choose to grow your family should be one that you have thought through. Each method of adoption comes with its own challenges, struggles, and joys, and no adoption journey is alike. I know a single mom who worked in U.S. foster care and domestic adoption, who—after running from her call to international adoption—surrendered to God’s prompting and now has a beautiful little boy. When I asked her why she chose to adopt internationally she said, “God calls everyone to different things. Never again will I try to figure out ‘why’ someone does something because God taught me clearly that He calls us all to different places/things. Just be willing to answer His call, no matter where He takes you.” Another adoptive mom stated it best when she said, “We are called to love God’s children regardless of their geographic location. You can argue one side vs. another until you are blue in the face, but at the root of it all, every child needs to have the unconditional love of a family.”

author image

Virginia Spence

Virginia Spence and her husband Eric are the proud parents of two awesome boys who joined their family via domestic infant adoption. Their journey through infertility and into the world of adoption awoke in her a passion for life at all ages/stages, especially the tiniest lives in the womb and the women who carry them, and a desire to champion the cause of those who choose to adopt. Virginia desires to be a voice for adoption through advocacy and education as well as an encouragement to those suffering through infertility. Virginia loves to read and considers herself a coffee connoisseur. When she isn't writing or drinking giant mugs of coffee, Virginia can be found watching Paw Patrol and racing hot wheel cars with her boys.


Want to contact an adoption professional?

Love this? Want more?

Claim Your FREE Adoption Summit Ticket!


The #1 adoption website is hosting the largest, FREE virtual adoption summit. Come listen to 50+ adoption experts share their knowledge and insights.

Members of the adoption community are invited to watch the virtual summit for FREE on September 23-27, 2019, or for a small fee, you can purchase an All-Access Pass to get access to the summit videos for 12 months along with a variety of other benefits.

Get Your Free Ticket


Host: ws02.elevati.net