Once you have decided to adopt, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the options available to you. Should you adopt through foster care? Should you choose a private, domestic adoption? Should you work with an agency and go international? There are many factors to consider, so take your time to think about what avenue would be best to grow your family.
If you feel a tug toward international adoption, then there are several steps you need to take before making the plunge.
1. Think carefully about your reasons. There are many issues to consider when adopting a child from another country. There may be cultural barriers, language barriers, or even physical and emotional barriers. Many children in foreign orphanages have severe developmental delays and may even struggle to bond with you. If you are looking for an easy way to grow your family, then this is probably not the route for you. But if you want to help one orphan have a forever family, then move on to the next step.
2. Gather information. In our social media age, it is very easy to find other people who can give you advice on adopting internationally. Find a Facebook group of families who have adopted from the country you are considering. Ask about reputable agencies, who have years of experience working in that country. Compare their costs, wait times, and reputation.
3. Decide on a country. Once you have all the information you need, now you need to choose the country you want to pursue. Find out everything you can about the country's culture, adoption laws, orphanages, and children. Some countries don't even allow children to be adopted from birth, so that is something you will want to consider as well. Again, make sure that you are working with an agency that has experience working with that country. They will know all of the laws and regulations you need to follow to adopt legally.
4. Consider the sex, age, and race of the child you want to adopt. This may also help you choose which country you want to consider. China, for instance, has a higher adoption rate for girls. Other countries may not allow infants to be adopted but will have many older children available. If you want to adopt an infant, then you may want to consider a private, domestic adoption instead.
5. Learn what "special needs" means in international adoption. Many countries only allow children with special needs to be adopted internationally. But what does that mean? It can mean that the child is older, so the agency has a harder time placing them. It can also mean that the child is part of a sibling group, whom the agency wants to keep together. Or it can mean that the child has a medical issue (such as a cleft palate) that can easily be repaired here in the States. Do your homework and find out what "special needs" means in the country you are considering.
6. Satisfy your state's and the Citizenship and Immigration Services' (CIS) requirements for adoption. This means you need to get your home study done, which will include background checks, medical records, and financial statements. Be prepared to bury yourself in paperwork as you will be required to provide many documents for both your state and the CIS. Many of these documents will require notarization, so be sure to find a notary nearby.
7. Meet the requirements of your child's country of origin. Before you dive in too far into the adoption process, you need to know if you meet the requirements for that country. Some countries have an age requirement, while others emphasize a certain minimum income. Other countries won't consider couples with certain medical conditions, even if they aren't terminal. Know the requirements before you spend a lot of time and money in a country you aren't allowed to adopt from.
8. Consider the child who is assigned to you. Once you have completed all of the requirements and paperwork needed for that country, you will be matched with a child. At this point, you will be shown pictures and given a report on the child. This is the time to ask questions. What are the medical concerns? Behavioral issues? How old is the child? Take the medical information to a doctor and ask for a professional opinion. During this time, if for any reason you feel that there are red flags, then trust your instincts and say no. This does not mean you are closing the door to adoption, but you may be put back on the wait list as the agency seeks to match you again. However, if you choose a child despite the red flags, you could be setting yourself up for heartache.
9. Commit to your child. Once you have made the decision to proceed with the adoption, you need to start committing to that child. Prepare their room. Learn their language and culture. You will most likely make a trip to meet your child as well before you bring them home. Getting to know your child during this time through emails and phone calls will help with the bonding experience for both of you.
10. Complete the paperwork, and bring your child home! Once you have completed all the requirements of that country and your state, you will be given the necessary documents for your child to be able to return home with you. Plan to take some time off of work to travel to get your child and to acclimate yourselves as a family when you get home.
International adoption can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but many families have successfully completed the process and can share with you their experiences. With over 130 million orphans in the world, the need for families is great.
Once you are back home, you will need to re-adopt to make the adoption legal in the States. An adoption attorney can help you go through the process needed to help you with the final steps. Call our office to find out how we can assist you in the final stage of your adoption.