Growing up, I always wanted children. Walking down the halls of my grandparents’ home I would study the photos of each generation that led to me. I couldn’t wait for my own children’s photos to hang alongside their ancestors. But then as an adult, reality hit. After months of struggling with fertility, my husband and I turned to adoption. At first, we didn’t even consider international adoption. It seemed too expensive, too involved, and too, well, foreign. But the more research we did the more it seemed like international adoption might be a good fit for our family. Here’s why:
Why You Should Consider International Adoption
At first, my husband and I didn't even consider international adoption. It seemed too expensive, too involved, and too, well, foreign.
When intercountry adoption first began in the 1950s, the process of adopting a child was completed when a social worker or agency representative traveled to the adoptive child’s birth country and brought them home to America. In the past 20 years, this landscape has changed significantly due to the changing face of international adoption and a desire for prospective adoptive parents to experience their adoptive child’s birth country. Almost all countries now require at least one trip in order for the adoption to be complete. For me and my husband standing at our very first adoption fair, the idea of traveling to China and experiencing their culture was very exciting.
At that same adoption fair was a sign that read “Adopt from China in a Year.” Having struggled with the unpredictability of infertility for months, this statement was extremely enticing to me and husband. Though in truth it came with some stipulations (the year really started once you completed your home study and had been accepted by the CCCWA, China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption), the sentiment was absolutely true. Most agencies will give you a fairly accurate timetable of how long each step of the process will take and the best agencies will be able to adjust their timetables based on what they’re seeing on the ground in-country. Of course, upsets can happen (government workers can go on strike, there may be a judgeship vacancy in family court), but for most Hague convention countries the process will fall within your agency’s timetables.
When considering adoption – either domestic or international – the most significant hurdle many families face is cost. When we looked over the cost sheets of various countries, the amounts seemed staggering, but there is good news. First, not all your fees are due at once. You will pay gradually for first your home study, then program coordination, then finally country fees. And all your fees are fixed. One of the keystones of the Hague Convention is a transparency of fees. This means that when pursuing intercountry adoption, all fees must be itemized and disclosed – both by the agency and the country – before the adoption takes place. This is a big difference with non-Hague Convention countries where sudden last minute “charges” to bring your child home or to process a document in-country may arise.
When you adopt a child internationally, you adopt more than just a child. You adopt a country. I understood this theoretically before my son joined our family, but today it means as soon as the Christmas lights come down, the Chinese New Year decorations go up. We love finding ways to incorporate my son’s heritage through foods, celebrations, language institutes, and outings. It has pushed my family out of our comfort zone but we have become the better for it. In fact, we loved bringing a new culture into our family so much, our second adoption is from India!
Standing at that international adoption fair, I remember distinctly a brochure with a little boy in a cap looking directly at the camera. He was four years old and still living in an orphanage in China waiting for his forever family. One of the main principals of the Hague Convention is that children available for intercountry adoption must first be deemed ineligible for adoption in their country of origin. Furthermore, every effort must have been made to find an adoption placement for the child in their birth country. Due to age, special needs, or circumstance, these children remain “waiting children.” For most, intercountry adoption is their last chance at a forever family.
Intercountry adoption is not for everyone, but whether you are dipping your toe in the adoption pool or are ready to jump straight in, the chance to parent a child from another country should be considered. It’s been five years since I stood at that initial adoption fair. My son has been home from China for three years, and next month we leave to bring our soon-to-be daughter home from India. I can say international adoption is one of the most incredible journeys I have ever embarked on. It will change you in ways you will never expect. It will challenge you in ways that will surprise you. And it will bring you more joy than you could ever imagine.
Jennifer S. Jones
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and "is this really us?!" whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at www.letterstojack.com.
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