Every year, thousands of American families adopt a child from another part of the world By Susan FreivaldsFrom the 2012-'13 Adoption Guide
The modern era of international adoption began after the Korean War, when Korean and Amerasian orphans were placed with families living in the United States. Since then, Americans have adopted hundreds of thousands of children from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. In 2011 alone, U.S. families adopted 9,319 children from other countries.
Who chooses international adoption?
Families choose intercountry adoption for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the family does not meet agency guidelines for domestic adoption but qualifies for intercountry adoption. Sometimes families wish to adopt from the country of the family's ethnic origin, or they are acquainted with others who have successfully adopted overseas. Typically, the waiting time (and sometimes the total costs) for an intercountry adoption are more predictable than for the adoption of a child born in the U.S.
Often families who pursue an intercountry adoption speak of their desire to parent a child who really needs a family as much as the family needs the child. (However, the humanitarian desire to "save a child" is generally not considered sufficient motivation for a successful adoption.)
How do I adopt from another country?
Typically, intercountry adoptions are handled by private, nonprofit adoption agencies. Public agencies for the most part do not participate in intercountry adoption. Some agencies that handle domestic adoptions also work in intercountry adoption, although there are many agencies that specialize only in intercountry adoption. In a few countries families may adopt independently, either by hiring a local attorney to find an adoptable child or by using their own contacts in the country.
To enter the United States under current immigration laws, the child adopted internationally must be orphaned or abandoned or have only one living parent, who is incapable of providing care. If you are planning an independent intercountry adoption, make sure you receive knowledgeable counsel concerning the "orphan visa" law and understand your legal responsibilities and risks.
How has the Hague Convention affected intercountry adoptions?
The Hague Adoption Convention came into effect in the U.S. on April 1, 2008. Its provisions govern adoptions from other Hague countries, including China, India, Thailand, and Hong Kong. Adoptions from countries that have not joined the treaty, such as Ethiopia, South Korea, and Russia, continue as before.
Who are the children?
Children through age 15 are eligible to come to the United States for adoption, and children aged 16 and 17 are eligible if their siblings have been adopted by U.S. families. The majority of children from other countries who are adopted by U.S. families are young; in 2010, 21 percent were under one year of age and an additional 53 percent were between the ages of one and four.
Children who are eligible for adoption are most often those from Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, or Latin America. Most Middle Eastern nations do not allow intercountry adoption. Children from Western Europe, Australia, or Canada are generally not eligible for adoption by Americans.
What are the costs?
The cost of an intercountry adoption can range from about $15,000 to more than $50,000. The least expensive international adoptions occur with countries that do not require adoptive parents to travel or reside abroad to complete legal formalities.
If the adopting family has a lengthy stay in the child's country of origin, or is required to make multiple trips, the total cost of adoption can exceed $50,000.
Are there other considerations?
Families who decide to pursue intercountry adoption must understand that the background and health information they will receive about their child will likely be incomplete and may be unreliable. Frequently, changing political situations increase the uncertainties of intercountry adoption, and countries may change or close their adoption programs without notice.
Adopting a child from another country almost always means that the adoptive family will become a transracial or cross-cultural family, which brings special responsibilities. For the child to develop self-esteem and pride, family members must incorporate into their lifestyle elements of the child's original culture, including friendships with people of the child's ethnicity.
Arming your child against racism is another duty of transracial families. Many families report, however, that embracing another culture is one of the unanticipated joys of intercountry adoption.
How do internationally adopted children do?
Studies show that most children do well, often overcoming occasional early malnutrition and deprivation to become happy, emotionally healthy adults. Ongoing parenting education and support from competent and caring specialists in medicine, psychology, rehabilitation, or education, as required, contribute to a child's healthy growth.
With lots of love and patience -- necessary attributes for parenting any child -- the results can be magnificent!
Susan Freivalds is the Founder and Editorial Advisor of Adoptive Families magazine and past Executive Director of Adoptive Families of America.
Back To Home Page